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In The Carquinez Woods Bret Harte

Chapter V

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The wind was blowing towards the stranger, so that he was nearly upon her when Teresa first took the alarm. He was a man over six feet in height, strongly built, with a slight tendency to a roundness of bulk which suggested reserved rather than impeded energy. His thick beard and mustache were closely cropped around a small and handsome mouth that lisped except when he was excited, but always kept fellowship with his blue eyes in a perpetual smile of half-cynical good-humor. His dress was superior to that of the locality; his general expression that of a man of the world, albeit a world of San Francisco, Sacramento, and Murderer's Bar. He advanced towards her with a laugh and an outstretched hand.

"YOU here!" she gasped, drawing back.

Apparently neither surprised nor mortified at this reception, he answered frankly, "Yeth. You didn't expect me, I know. But Doloreth showed me the letter you wrote her, and--well--here I am, ready to help you, with two men and a thpare horthe waiting outside the woodth on the blind trail."

"You--YOU--here?" she only repeated.

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Curson shrugged his shoulders. "Yeth." Of courth you never expected to thee me again, and leatht of all HERE. I'll admit that; I'll thay I wouldn't if I'd been in your plathe. I'll go further, and thay you didn't want to thee me again--anywhere. But it all cometh to the thame thing; here I am. I read the letter you wrote Doloreth. I read how you were hiding here, under Dunn'th very nothe, with his whole pothe out, cavorting round and barkin' up the wrong tree. I made up my mind to come down here with a few nathty friends of mine and cut you out under Dunn'th nothe, and run you over into Yuba--that'th all."

"How dared she show you my letter--YOU of all men? How dared she ask YOUR help?" continued Teresa, fiercely.

"But she didn't athk my help," he responded coolly. "D--d if I don't think she jutht calculated I'd be glad to know you were being hunted down and thtarving, that I might put Dunn on your track."

"You lie!" said Teresa, furiously; "she was my friend. A better friend than those who professed--more," she added, with a contemptuous drawing away of her skirt as if she feared Curson's contamination.

"All right. Thettle that with her when you go back," continued Curson philosophically. "We can talk of that on the way. The thing now ith to get up and get out of thethe woods. Come!"

Teresa's only reply was a gesture of scorn.

"I know all that," continued Curson half soothingly, "but they're waiting."

"Let them wait. I shall not go."

"What will you do?"

"Stay here--till the wolves eat me."

"Teresa, listen. D--- it all--Teresa--Tita! see here," he said with sudden energy. "I swear to God it's all right. I'm willing to let by-gones be by-gones and take a new deal. You shall come back as if nothing had happened, and take your old place as before. I don't mind doing the square thing, all round. If that's what you mean, if that's all that stands in the way, why, look upon the thing as settled. There, Tita, old girl, come."

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In The Carquinez Woods
Bret Harte

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