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|Devil's Ford||Bret Harte|
|Page 5 of 9||
Jessie flew with mischievous delight to satisfy herself of the truth of this marvel. "It's so, Christie," she said laughingly-- "three flour-sacks apiece; but I'm jealous: yours are all marked 'superfine,' and mine 'middlings.'"
Mr. Carr had remained uneasily watching Christie's shadowed face.
"What matters?" she said drily. "The accommodation is all in keeping."
"It will be better in a day or two," he continued, casting a longing look towards the door--the first refuge of masculine weakness in an impending domestic emergency. "I'll go and see what can be done," he said feebly, with a sidelong impulse towards the opening and freedom. "I've got to see Fairfax again to-night any way."
"One moment, father," said Christie, wearily. "Did you know anything of this place and these--these people--before you came?"
"Certainly--of course I did," he returned, with the sudden testiness of disturbed abstraction. "What are you thinking of? I knew the geological strata and the--the report of Fairfax and his partners before I consented to take charge of the works. And I can tell you that there is a fortune here. I intend to make my own terms, and share in it."
"And not take a salary or some sum of money down?" said Christie, slowly removing her bonnet in the same resigned way.
"I am not a hired man, or a workman, Christie," said her father sharply. "You ought not to oblige me to remind you of that."
"But the hired men--the superintendent and his workmen--were the only ones who ever got anything out of your last experience with Colonel Waters at La Grange, and--and we at least lived among civilized people there."
"These young men are not common people, Christie; even if they have forgotten the restraints of speech and manners, they're gentlemen."
"Who are willing to live like--like negroes."
"You can make them what you please."
Christie raised her eyes. There was a certain cynical ring in her father's voice that was unlike his usual hesitating abstraction. It both puzzled and pained her.
"I mean," he said hastily, "that you have the same opportunity to direct the lives of these young men into more regular, disciplined channels that I have to regulate and correct their foolish waste of industry and material here. It would at least beguile the time for you."
Fortunately for Mr. Carr's escape and Christie's uneasiness, Jessie, who had been examining the details of the living-room, broke in upon this conversation.
"I'm sure it will be as good as a perpetual picnic. George Kearney says we can have a cooking-stove under the tree outside at the back, and as there will be no rain for three months we can do the cooking there, and that will give us more room for--for the piano when it comes; and there's an old squaw to do the cleaning and washing-up any day--and--and--it will be real fun."
She stopped breathlessly, with glowing cheeks and sparkling eyes--a charming picture of youth and trustfulness. Mr. Carr had seized the opportunity to escape.
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