Mr. Jack Hamlin's Mediation by Bret Harte


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Page 3

*END*THE SMALL PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN ETEXTS*Ver.04.29.93*END*





This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson, charlie@idirect.com.



MR. JACK HAMLIN'S MEDIATION

by

Bret Harte


From: "ARGONAUT EDITION" OF THE WORKS OF BRET HARTE, VOL. 12.

P. F. COLLIER & SON

NEW YORK



CONTENTS


MR. JACK HAMLIN'S MEDIATION

THE MAN AT THE SEMAPHORE

AN ESMERALDA OF ROCKY CANYON

DICK SPINDLER'S FAMILY CHRISTMAS

WHEN THE WATERS WERE UP AT "JULES'"

THE BOOM IN THE "CALAVERAS CLARION"

THE SECRET OF SOBRIENTE'S WELL

LIBERTY JONES'S DISCOVERY




MR. JACK HAMLIN'S MEDIATION


At nightfall it began to rain. The wind arose too, and also began
to buffet a small, struggling, nondescript figure, creeping along
the trail over the rocky upland meadow towards Rylands's rancho.
At times its head was hidden in what appeared to be wings thrown
upward from its shoulders; at times its broad-brimmed hat was
cocked jauntily on one side, and again the brim was fixed over the
face like a visor. At one moment a drifting misshapen mass of
drapery, at the next its vague garments, beaten back hard against
the figure, revealed outlines far too delicate for that rude
enwrapping. For it was Mrs. Rylands herself, in her husband's hat
and her "hired man's" old blue army overcoat, returning from the
post-office two miles away. The wind continued its aggression
until she reached the front door of her newly plastered farmhouse,
and then a heavier blast shook the pines above the low-pitched,
shingled roof, and sent a shower of arrowy drops after her like a
Parthian parting, as she entered. She threw aside the overcoat and
hat, and somewhat inconsistently entered the sitting-room, to walk
to the window and look back upon the path she had just traversed.
The wind and the rain swept down a slope, half meadow, half
clearing,--a mile away,--to a fringe of sycamores. A mile further
lay the stage road, where, three hours later, her husband would
alight on his return from Sacramento. It would be a long wet walk
for Joshua Rylands, as their only horse had been borrowed by a
neighbor.

In that fading light Mrs. Rylands's oval cheek was shining still
from the raindrops, but there was something in the expression of
her worried face that might have as readily suggested tears. She
was strikingly handsome, yet quite as incongruous an ornament to
her surroundings as she had been to her outer wrappings a moment
ago. Even the clothes she now stood in hinted an inadaptibility to
the weather--the house--the position she occupied in it. A figured
silk dress, spoiled rather than overworn, was still of a quality
inconsistent with her evident habits, and the lace-edged petticoat
that peeped beneath it was draggled with mud and unaccustomed
usage. Her glossy black hair, which had been tossed into curls in
some foreign fashion, was now wind-blown into a burlesque of it.
This incongruity was still further accented by the appearance of
the room she had entered. It was coldly and severely furnished,
making the chill of the yet damp white plaster unpleasantly
obvious. A black harmonium organ stood in one corner, set out with
black and white hymn-books; a trestle-like table contained a large
Bible; half a dozen black, horsehair-cushioned chairs stood,
geometrically distant, against the walls, from which hung four
engravings of "Paradise Lost" in black mourning frames; some dried
ferns and autumn leaves stood in a vase on the mantelpiece, as if
the chill of the room had prematurely blighted them. The coldly
glittering grate below was also decorated with withered sprays, as
if an attempt had been made to burn them, but was frustrated
through damp. Suddenly recalled to a sense of her wet boots and
the new carpet, she hurriedly turned away, crossed the hall into
the dining-room, and thence passed into the kitchen. The "hired
girl," a large-boned Missourian, a daughter of a neighboring
woodman, was peeling potatoes at the table. Mrs. Rylands drew a
chair before the kitchen stove, and put her wet feet on the hob.

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