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In a Hollow of the Hills Bret Harte

Chapter VII.

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"Well, it so happens that a friend of mine," continued Chivers slowly, "was in a train which followed that one, and picked up and brought on some of the survivors."

"That was the train wot brought the news," said Collinson, relapsing into his old patience. "That's how I knowed she hadn't come."

"Did you ever hear the names of any of its passengers?" said Chivers, with a keen glance at his companion.

"Nary one! I only got to know it was a small train of only two wagons, and it sorter melted into Californy through a southern pass, and kinder petered out, and no one ever heard of it agin, and that was all."

"That was NOT all, Collinson," said Chivers lazily. "I saw the train arrive at South Pass. I was awaiting a friend and his wife. There was a lady with them, one of the survivors. I didn't hear her name, but I think my friend's wife called her 'Sadie.' I remember her as a rather pretty woman--tall, fair, with a straight nose and a full chin, and small slim feet. I saw her only a moment, for she was on her way to Los Angeles, and was, I believe, going to join her husband somewhere in the Sierras."

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The rascal had been enjoying with intense satisfaction the return of the dull glow in Collinson's face, that even seemed to animate the whole length of his angular frame as it turned eagerly towards him. So he went on, experiencing a devilish zest in this description of his mistress to her husband, apart from the pleasure of noting the slow awakening of this apathetic giant, with a sensation akin to having warmed him into life. Yet his triumph was of short duration. The fire dropped suddenly out of Collinson's eyes, the glow from his face, and the dull look of unwearied patience returned.

"That's all very kind and purty of yer, Mr. Chivers," he said gravely; "you've got all my wife's pints thar to a dot, and it seems to fit her jest like a shoe I picked up t'other day. But it wasn't my Sadie, for ef she's living or had lived, she'd bin just yere!"

The same fear and recognition of some unknown reserve in this trustful man came over Chivers as before. In his angry resentment of it he would have liked to blurt out the infidelity of the wife before her husband, but he knew Collinson would not believe him, and he had another purpose now. His full lips twisted into a suave smile.

"While I would not give you false hopes, Mr. Collinson," he said, with a bland smile, "my interest in you compels me to say that you may be over confident and wrong. There are a thousand things that may have prevented your wife from coming to you,--illness, possibly the result of her exposure, poverty, misapprehension of your place of meeting, and, above all, perhaps some false report of your own death. Has it ever occurred to you that it is as possible for her to have been deceived in that way as for you?"

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In a Hollow of the Hills
Bret Harte

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