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In The Carquinez Woods Bret Harte

Chapter IV

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Whatever cause of annoyance to Low still lingered in Teresa's dress, it was soon forgotten in a palpable evidence of Teresa's value as a botanical assistant. It appeared that during the afternoon she had not only duplicated his specimens, but had discoverd one or two rare plants as yet unclassified in the flora of the Carquinez Woods. He was delighted, and in turn, over the campfire, yielded up some details of his present life and some of his earlier recollections.

"You don't remember anything of your father?" she asked. "Did he ever try to seek you out?"

"No! Why should he?" replied the imperturbable Low; "he was not a Cherokee."

"No, he was a beast," responded Teresa promptly. "And your mother--do you remember her?"

"No, I think she died."

"You THINK she died? Don't you know?"


"Then you're another!" said Teresa. Notwithstanding this frankness, they shook hands for the night: Teresa nestling like a rabbit in a hollow by the side of the campfire; Low with his feet towards it, Indian-wise, and his head and shoulders pillowed on his haversack, only half distinguishable in the darkness beyond.

With such trivial details three uneventful days slipped by. Their retreat was undisturbed, nor could Low detect, by the least evidence to his acute perceptive faculties, that any intruding feet had since crossed the belt of shade. The echoes of passing events at Indian Spring had recorded the escape of Teresa as occurring at a remote and purely imaginative distance, and her probable direction the county of Yolo.

"Can you remember," he one day asked her, "what time it was when you cut the riata and got away?"

Teresa pressed her hands upon her eyes and temples.

"About three, I reckon."

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"And you were here at seven; you could have covered some ground in four hours?"

"Perhaps--I don't know," she said, her voice taking up its old quality again. "Don't ask me--I ran all the way."

Her face was quite pale as she removed her hands from her eyes, and her breath came as quickly as if she had just finished that race for life.

"Then you think I am safe here?" she added, after a pause.

"Perfectly--until they find you are NOT in Yolo. Then they'll look here. And THAT'S the time for you to go THERE." Teresa smiled timidly.

"It will take them some time to search Yolo--unless," she added, "you're tired of me here." The charming non sequitur did not, however, seem to strike the young man. "I've got time yet to find a few more plants for you," she suggested.

"Oh, certainly!"

"And give you a few more lessons in cooking."


The conscientious and literal Low was beginning to doubt if she were really practical. How otherwise could she trifle with such a situation?

It must be confessed that that day and the next she did trifle with it. She gave herself up to a grave and delicious languor that seemed to flow from shadow and silence and permeate her entire being. She passed hours in a thoughtful repose of mind and spirit that seemed to fall like balm from those steadfast guardians, and distill their gentle ether in her soul; or breathed into her listening ear immunity from the forgotten past, and security for the present. If there was no dream of the future in this calm, even recurrence of placid existence, so much the better. The simple details of each succeeding day, the quaint housekeeping, the brief companionship and coming and going of her young host--himself at best a crystallized personification of the sedate and hospitable woods--satisfied her feeble cravings. She no longer regretted the inferior position that her fears had obliged her to take the first night she came; she began to look up to this young man--so much younger than herself-- without knowing what it meant; it was not until she found that this attitude did not detract from his picturesqueness that she discovered herself seeking for reasons to degrade him from this seductive eminence.

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In The Carquinez Woods
Bret Harte

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