The man’s suddenly whitened face made his unshaven beard seem to bristle over his face like some wild animal’s. “Well, ef you kalkilate to blow me, you’ve got to blow Wade and his widder too. Jest you remember that,” he said whiningly.
“I’ve thought of that,” said Brooks coolly, “and I calculate that to prevent it is worth about that hundred dollars you got from that poor woman—and no more! Now, sit down at that table, and write as I dictate.”
The man looked at him in wonder, but obeyed.
“Write,” said Brooks, “’I hereby certify that my accusations against the late Pulaski Wade of Heavy Tree Hill are erroneous and groundless, and the result of mistaken identity, especially in regard to any complicity of his in the robbery of John Stubbs, deceased, and Henry Brooks, at Heavy Tree Hill, on the night of the 13th August, 1854.’”
The man looked up with a repulsive smile. “Who’s the fool now, Cap’n? What’s become of your hold on the widder, now?”
“Write!” said Brooks fiercely.
The sound of a pen hurriedly scratching paper followed this first outburst of the quiet Brooks.
“Sign it,” said Brooks.
The man signed it.
“Now go,” said Brooks, unlocking the door, “but remember, if you should ever be inclined to revisit Santa Ana, you will find me living here also.”
The man slunk out of the door and into the passage like a wild animal returning to the night and darkness. Brooks took up the paper, rejoined Mrs. Wade in the parlor, and laid it before her.
“But,” said the widow, trembling even in her joy, “do you—do you think he was really mistaken?”
“Positive,” said Brooks coolly. “It’s true, it’s a mistake that has cost you a hundred dollars, but there are some mistakes that are worth that to be kept quiet.”
They were married a year later; but there is no record that in after years of conjugal relations with a weak, charming, but sometimes trying woman, Henry Brooks was ever tempted to tell her the whole truth of the robbery of Heavy Tree Hill.
Some forty years ago, on the northern coast of California, near the Golden Gate, stood a lighthouse. Of a primitive class, since superseded by a building more in keeping with the growing magnitude of the adjacent port, it attracted little attention from the desolate shore, and, it was alleged, still less from the desolate sea beyond. A gray structure of timber, stone, and glass, it was buffeted and harried by the constant trade winds, baked by the unclouded six months’ sun, lost for a few hours in the afternoon sea-fog, and laughed over by circling guillemots from the Farallones. It was kept by a recluse—a preoccupied man of scientific tastes, who, in shameless contrast to his fellow immigrants, had applied to the government