“Give me my wife!” muttered the old man hoarsely, between Bill’s fingers. “Where is she?”
A sudden fury passed over Yuba Bill’s face. “Where is your wife?” he echoed, pressing the old man back against the garden wall, and holding him there as in a vice. “Where is your wife?” he repeated, thrusting his grim sardonic jaw and savage eyes into the old man’s frightened face. “Where is Jack Adam’s wife? Where is my wife? Where is the she-devil that drove one man mad, that sent another to hell by his own hand, that eternally broke and ruined me? Where! Where! Do you ask where? In jail in Sacramento,—in jail, do you hear?—in jail for murder, Johnson,—murder!”
The old man gasped, stiffened, and then, relaxing, suddenly slipped, a mere inanimate mass, at Yuba Bill’s feet. With a sudden revulsion of feeling, Yuba Bill dropped at his side, and, lifting him tenderly in his arms, whispered, “Look up, old man, Johnson! look up, for God’s sake!—it’s me,—Yuba Bill! and yonder is your daughter, and—Tommy!—don’t you know—Tommy, little Tommy Islington?”
Johnson’s eyes slowly opened. He whispered, “Tommy! yes, Tommy! Sit by me, Tommy. But don’t sit so near the bank. Don’t you see how the river is rising and beckoning to me,—hissing, and boilin’ over the rocks? It’s gittin higher!—hold me, Tommy,—hold me, and don’t let me go yet. We’ll live to cut his heart out, Tommy,—we’ll live—we’ll—” His head sank, and the rushing river, invisible to all eyes save his, leaped toward him out of the darkness, and bore him away, no longer to the darkness, but through it to the distant, peaceful shining sea.
HOW SANTA CLAUS CAME TO SIMPSON’S BAR.
It had been raining in the valley of the Sacramento. The North Fork had overflowed its banks and Rattlesnake Creek was impassable. The few boulders that had marked the summer ford at Simpson’s Crossing were obliterated by a vast sheet of water stretching to the foothills. The up stage was stopped at Grangers; the last mail had been abandoned in the tules, the rider swimming for his life. “An area,” remarked the “Sierra Avalanche,” with pensive local pride, “as large as the State of Massachusetts is now under water.”
Nor was the weather any better in the foothills. The mud lay deep on the mountain road; wagons that neither physical force nor moral objurgation could move from the evil ways into which they had fallen, encumbered the track, and the way to Simpson’s Bar was indicated by broken-down teams and hard swearing. And farther on, cut off and inaccessible, rained upon and bedraggled, smitten by high winds and threatened by high water, Simpson’s Bar, on the eve of Christmas day, 1862, clung like a swallow’s nest to the rocky entablature and splintered capitals of Table Mountain, and shook in the blast.