The young preacher recovered himself, and replied, briefly:
Matalette winced, and, in a weak voice, asked:
Crewne looked toward Helen; Helen blushed, and looked a little frightened; Crewne blushed, too, and seemed to be clearing his throat; then, with a mighty effort, he said:
The counterfeiter looked at his daughter for an instant, and then failed to see her partly because something marred the clearness of his vision just then, and partly because Crewne, interpreting the father’s silence as consent, took possession of the reward he had named, and almost hid her from her father’s view.
Matalette’s section was finally sold for taxes, and was never reclaimed, but the excitement relating to its former occupants was for years so great that the purchasers of the estate found it worldly wisdom to dispense refreshments on the ground.
As for Crewne—a few months after the occurrences mentioned above there appeared, in the wilds of Missouri, a young preacher with unusual zeal, and a handsome wife. And about the same time four men entered a quarter-section of prairie-land near the young preacher’s station, and appeared then and evermore to be the most ardent and faithful of the young man’s admirers.
The horse which Mr. Tom Ruger rode kept the path, steep and rugged though it was, without any guidance from him, and its mate followed demurely. They were accustomed to it; and many a mile had they traversed in this way, taking turns at carrying their owner and master. Indeed, the trio seemed inseparable, and “as happy as Tom Ruger and his horses” was a phrase that was very often heard in every mining camp and settlement.
As for Mr. Tom Ruger himself, very little was known of him save what had been learned during the two years that he had sojourned among them. Where he came from never was known, nor asked but once by the same person. All that could be said of him might be summed up in the following statement:
“The finest-looking, the best-dressed, and the best-mannered man on the Pacific coast, and the best horseman.”
These were the words of “mine host” at the Ten Mile House, and, as he was a gentleman whose word was as good as his paper, we will accept them as truth.
As Mr. Ruger rode down the mountain-side that beautiful Autumn day, dressed in the finest of broadcloth, with linen of the most immaculate whiteness, smoking what appeared to be a very good cigar, and humming to himself a fragment of some old song, he looked strangely out of place.
So thought Miss Fanny Borlan as she looked out of the stage-window, and caught her first glimpse of him just where his path intersected the stage-road; and she would have asked the driver about him, had he not been so near.