AS Percy ran down the stairs to the street door one day,
his mind was in a very contented state.
This unfettered life with a thoroughly congenial companion,
who lived wholly for him, and yet laid not one restriction upon his liberty--what
could be more delightful?
He had all the comforts and benefits of a home, with none
of the care or monotony of domestic life.
"I am the most fortunate of men," he mused, as he stopped
on the lower landing to light his cigar. ''Among the thousands in this
city who have their agreeable companions hidden away like choice gems from
the eyes of the world, I doubt if there is another Dolores. So beautiful,
so true, so sensible, and so perfectly satisfied with her situation.
Surely I am an ungrateful dog to ever feel discontented and restless, as
I do so often."
He opened the street door, and came face to face with
They greeted each other cordially, and passed down the
One of the first remarks the journalist made, put to flight
all Percy's sense of happy security and seclusion, and rendered him miserable
during the entire day.
"By the way," Homer said, "do you know if Miss King, at
whose rooms we met in Paris, is in New York? I was almost positive I saw
her on Broadway, recently."
Percy's heart fairly chilled with fear. Not for the world
would he have Homer Orton know, that Dolores was living in the very block
from which he had just emerged. For her sake, for both their sakes, this
must not be.
"It does not seem possible, that it could have been Miss
King:" he answered, evasively. "I gave her my address in Europe, and she
promised faithfully to inform me at once, if she returned to America at
any time, even for a brief visit."
"Well, I might have been mistaken," Homer continued, unsuspectingly.
"But it certainly was a striking resemblance. What a beautiful creature
she was! Too bad she was so carried away with her hobbies, though. I used
to think you might be able to talk her out of them, if any one could, and
overcome her objections to marriage."
"I am not a marrying man," Percy answered, coldly, "and
I respected the lady's views too much to wish her to change them. Good
He felt annoyed and irritated all day, at the recollection
of his morning encounter with Homer Orton.
But his annoyance settled into absolute alarm, when, two
days later, he met the journalist again, precisely at the same place.
"Are your rooms in this block?" asked Homer, in some surprise,
as he greeted his friend. "If so, we are near neighbors. I am boarding
in the block above."
"No I have been calling on a friend." Percy answered,
boldly. "He is ill, and I drop in often to see him." And then be
hastened to change the conversation.
He pondered on the situation all that day. Something evidently
must be done. With the journalist so near, Dolores was liable to be seen
by him any day, and then, who could say, that the story might not appear
with large head lines in the morning papers. It would make an excellent
sensation article. But even if the journalist should not make it public,
the very fact that he knew of Dolores' presence in America would destroy
all their comfort.
Before night, he resolved upon an expedient. Recently
he had been making some investments in South America. He had intended to
visit Valparaiso to look after his affairs, sometime in the future. Why
not go at once, and take Dolores with him? She was the most charming of
traveling companions, and the journey, which might occupy two or three
months, if they chose to make it, would be one more delightful experience
to add to their many adventures.
And the journalist would no doubt have changed his location
ere their return. Newspaper men never remained long in one place, he knew.
Before another week had elapsed the two comrades set forth
upon their journey.
It was nearly sunset. Two Americans, with native guides,
who had been leisurely making the wonderful trip from Arequipa to Santiago,
in Spanish saddles, were approaching a canyon, nine thousand feet above
the sea level. All day their gentle mules had carefully picked their way
on mere shelves of rock, twisting back and forth through fissures and crevices
that presented a kaleidoscopic scene to their wondering eyes.
Suddenly emerging from the narrow mountain pass, a valley
burst upon their view, like some beautifully-set stage scene when the curtain
rises. The area of the valley was not more than three acres : but all around
it were the giant steeples of Andean granite rising in tapering lines to
the very clouds : every crevice, every seam, covered with a magnificent
verdure of trailing vines, hundreds of feet in length, and heavy with delicate-leaved
blossoms. At the base of these mountains the cactus grows to perfection;
such gorgeousness of bloom bewilders the credulity of travelers. Ferns
that are indescribable in their sensitiveness of texture, interlaced this
marvelous floral display : and from various directions out from the fissured
rocks, flashed and sparkled bright rivulets, as they leaped from point
to point until lost in some underground cavern.
The guides swung the hammocks; the mules were unloaded
and allowed the freedom of the plateau. Off under a young palm the kettles
were swinging, while supper was prepared for the tired and hungry travelers.
As they arose from their repast of boiled yam, fried plantain,
smoked fish, and cocoa milk, with desert of mangoes and pines, Dolores
noticed the guides busily setting fire to a quantity of shrubs they had
gathered during the day. This shrub was heavily charged with capsicum qualities,
and at once filled the air with a stifling cayenne odor.
"What in the world are those men doing?" asked Dolores,
with her handkerchief to her mouth. "Do you suppose they are observing
some religious rite?"
Percy laughed as he assisted Dolores into her hammock,
and swung himself into his own close beside her.
' I fancy the ceremony you see will be of more practical
benefit to us, than any religious rite;" he said. "The guides are burning
the poteke--a native shrub, which brings sure deliverance from insects;
lizards, gnats, bugs and reptiles of all descriptions take an unceremonious
departure when that peppery perfume fills the air. We shall be insured
of a good night's rest by that means."
"Yes, if we are not choked to death by the odor," Dolores
mumbled from the folds of her handkerchief.
"Oh, Percy, look!'"
Percy looked in the direction indicated by Dolores, and
his eyes were greeted by a phenomenon seen only in the plateaus of the
Andes. It was the duplicating lines of the departing sun, upon the castellated
rocks, as they pierced between the apexes and the basin. They reached in
like silver threads, then flushed to gold and amber, as they fell deeper
and deeper into the valley and rested in a trinity of colors upon the wonderful
foliage, or hung like rainbows above the glittering brooks.
Percy and Dolores gazed, silent and almost breathless,
while the long lines of glory changed to softest amethyst and gray. The
guides were sleeping soundly; the tired mules were knee-deep in wild clover;
in among the leaves of the india-rubber trees, a bright-plumaged arajojo
sang out his saucy Ta-ha-ha--Ta-ha-ha.
Dolores reached out her hand and clasped Percy's, in the
fading glory of the wonderful sunset,
"Oh, love!" she sighed, "I wish God would let us die to-night,
life is so perfect. And something tells me we are never to be so happy
on earth again."