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Considerably amused at the man's simplicity, Kane replied good-
humoredly: "Danced among some champagne bottles on a table at a
party, fell and got cut by glass."

The stranger nodded his head slowly and approvingly as he repeated
with infinite deliberateness: "Danced on champagne bottles,
champagne! you said, pard? at a pahty! Yes!" (musingly and
approvingly). "I reckon that's about the gait they take. SHE'D do
it."

"Is there anything I can do for you? sorry to have kept you
waiting," said Kane, glancing at the clock.

"O ME! Lord! ye needn't mind me. Why, I should wait for anythin'
o' the like o' that, and be just proud to do it! And ye see, I
sorter helped myself while you war busy."

"Helped yourself?" said Kane in astonishment.

"Yes, outer that bottle." He pointed to the ammonia bottle, which
still stood on the counter. "It seemed to be handy and popular."

"Man! you might have poisoned yourself."

The stranger paused a moment at the idea. "So I mout, I reckon,"
he said musingly, "that's so! pizined myself jest ez you was
lookin' arter that high-toned case, and kinder bothered you! It's
like me!"

"I mean it required diluting; you ought to have taken it in water,"
said Kane.

"I reckon! It DID sorter h'ist me over to the door for a little
fresh air at first! seemed rayther scaldy to the lips. But wot of
it that GOT THAR," he put his hand gravely to his stomach, "did me
pow'ful good."

"What was the matter with you?" asked Kane.

"Well, ye see, pard" (confidentially again), "I reckon it's suthin'
along o' my heart. Times it gets to poundin' away like a quartz
stamp, and then it stops suddent like, and kinder leaves ME out
too."

Kane looked at him more attentively. He was a strong, powerfully
built man with a complexion that betrayed nothing more serious than
the effects of mining cookery. It was evidently a common case of
indigestion.

"I don't say it would not have done you some good if properly
administered," he replied. "If you like I'll put up a diluted
quantity and directions?"

"That's me, every time, pardner!" said the stranger with an accent
of relief. "And look yer, don't you stop at that! Ye just put me
up some samples like of anythin' you think mout be likely to hit.
I'll go in for a fair show, and then meander in every now and then,
betwixt times, to let you know. Ye don't mind my drifting in here,
do ye? It's about ez likely a place ez I struck since I've left
the Sacramento boat, and my hotel, just round the corner. Ye just
sample me a bit o' everythin'; don't mind the expense. I'll take
YOUR word for it. The way you--a young fellow--jest stuck to your
work in thar, cool and kam as a woodpecker--not minding how high-
toned she was--nor the jewelery and spangles she had on--jest got
me! I sez to myself, 'Rube,' sez I, 'whatever's wrong o' YOUR
insides, you jest stick to that feller to set ye right.'"

The junior partner's face reddened as he turned to his shelves
ostensibly for consultation. Conscious of his inexperience, the
homely praise of even this ignorant man was not ungrateful. He
felt, too, that his treatment of the Frenchwoman, though
successful, might not be considered remunerative from a business
point of view by his partner. He accordingly acted upon the
suggestion of the stranger and put up two or three specifics for
dyspepsia. They were received with grateful alacrity and the
casual display of considerable gold in the stranger's pocket in the
process of payment. He was evidently a successful miner.

After bestowing the bottles carefully about his person, he again
leaned confidentially towards Kane. "I reckon of course you know
this high-toned lady, being in the way of seein' that kind o'
folks. I suppose you won't mind telling me, ez a stranger. But"
(he added hastily, with a deprecatory wave of his hand), "perhaps
ye would."

Mr. Kane, in fact, had hesitated. He knew vaguely and by report
that Madame le Blanc was the proprietress of a famous restaurant,
over which she had rooms where private gambling was carried on to a
great extent. It was also alleged that she was protected by a
famous gambler and a somewhat notorious bully. Mr. Kane's caution
suggested that he had no right to expose the reputation of his
chance customer. He was silent.

The stranger's face became intensely sympathetic and apologetic.
"I see!--not another word, pard! It ain't the square thing to be
givin' her away, and I oughtn't to hev asked. Well--so long! I
reckon I'll jest drift back to the hotel. I ain't been in San
Francisker mor' 'n three hours, and I calkilate, pard, that I've
jest seen about ez square a sample of high-toned life as fellers ez
haz bin here a year. Well, hastermanyanner--ez the Greasers say.
I'll be droppin' in to-morrow. My name's Reuben Allen o' Mariposa.
I know yours; it's on the sign, and it ain't Sparlow."

He cast another lingering glance around the shop, as if loath to
leave it, and then slowly sauntered out of the door, pausing in the
street a moment, in the glare of the red light, before he faded
into darkness. Without knowing exactly why, Kane had an instinct
that the stranger knew no one in San Francisco, and after leaving
the shop was going into utter silence and obscurity.

A few moments later Dr. Sparlow returned to relieve his wearied
partner. A pushing, active man, he listened impatiently to Kane's
account of his youthful practice with Madame le Blanc, without,
however, dwelling much on his methods. "You ought to have charged
her more," the elder said decisively. "She'd have paid it. She
only came here because she was ashamed to go to a big shop in
Montgomery Street--and she won't come again."

"But she wants you to see her to-morrow," urged Kane, "and I told
her you would!"

"You say it was only a superficial cut?" queried the doctor, "and
you closed it? Umph! what can she want to see ME for?" He paid
more attention, however, to the case of the stranger, Allen. "When
he comes here again, manage to let me see him." Mr. Kane promised,
yet for some indefinable reason he went home that night not quite
as well satisfied with himself.

He was much more concerned the next morning when, after relieving
the doctor for his regular morning visits, he was startled an hour
later by the abrupt return of that gentleman. His face was marked
by some excitement and anxiety, which nevertheless struggled with
that sense of the ludicrous which Californians in those days
imported into most situations of perplexity or catastrophe.
Putting his hands deeply into his trousers pockets, he confronted
his youthful partner behind the counter.

"How much did you charge that French-woman?" he said gravely.

"Twenty-five cents," said Kane timidly.

"Well, I'd give it back and add two hundred and fifty dollars if
she had never entered the shop."

"What's the matter?"




Under the Redwoods by Bret Harte
Category:
General Fiction
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