dwarf seemed to have forgotten her presence

So the lady entered the cottage, to find Gretchen bending over the now
sleeping child, with the flush of shame crimsoning her cheeks, for she
had heard Elizabeth’s coarse reply. But she rose and courtesied to the
lady, and, as she did so, the old broken comb fell from her hair, and a
shower of rich golden curls covered her neck and shoulders.

Poor little Gretchen! How the accident confused her. She did not
know that she looked very beautiful, and that her modesty was an
inexpressible charm.

“Sing again, my child,” said the lady, kindly.

And Gretchen sang a little German song, full of pathos and beauty; and
though her voice trembled with agitation, it lost none of its pure
richness.

Tears came to the lady’s eyes, and, as if speaking to herself, she
said:—

“My little Adela was about her age; these golden curls are like hers,
and she sang sweetly, but not like this child.”

Then the lady drew Gretchen to her, and asked her if she would be her
little girl, and love her.

She told her how her own little daughter had died, and Gretchen told
her of the dear grandfather; then she threw her little, weary arms
around the fair lady’s neck, and they wept together—the _childless
mother_ and the _motherless child_.

Elizabeth was very angry when she found the lady wanted to adopt
Gretchen. “The miserable Good-for-Nothing,” after all the trouble she
had had with her, and just as she was beginning to be able to “earn her
salt.” And she was to be the rich lady’s child, while her own children
must remain in poverty. ‘Twas too much, and she determined to prevent it.

She went out to meet Karl, and told him her querulous story.

But Karl loved his child, and when the lady told him she would make
Gretchen as her own child and love her dearly, he kissed his little
daughter, and placing her hand in the good lady’s, told her he had
never been able to do for Gretchen as his heart desired, and he blessed
the good Lord that she had at last found a friend who would give her a
mother’s care and love.

So they went away together, the high-born Countess and the beautiful
peasant child.

The little Good-for-Nothing grew up to be a lovely and accomplished
woman. Her matchless voice became the marvel of the gifted and
high-born, as it had once been of the village peasantry.

After she had arrived at a proper age she married the countess’s
nephew, who had loved her tenderly for years, and lived to see her
children’s children noble, prosperous, and happy.

In her prosperity, Gretchen did not forget her toil-burdened father,
and even Elizabeth and her children shared the favors heaped upon him
by the once despised _little Good-for-Nothing_.

CHING CHONG CHINAMAN.

In the “early days” a gallant ship left the harbor of Hong Kong, in the
land of the Celestials, bound for the port of San Francisco.

Among the emigrants was a young China boy, of the better class, whose
father and mother had both died suddenly, leaving to their son only the
memory of the happy days of the past, over which a fleeting prosperity
and paternal love had cast the halo of perpetual sunshine.

His father was a merchant, supposed to be immensely wealthy, but after
the debts of the house were paid Ching Chong found himself alone in the
world, and very destitute.

One evening as he walked out through the suburbs of the city, he met a
merchant who had been a great friend of his father. The old gentleman
stopped the boy, and kindly inquired what he was doing, and how he had
been getting along since his father’s death.

Ching Chong was feeling very desolate, and at these expressions of
interest the unbidden tears began to flow down his cheeks, till, unable
to restrain himself, he bowed his face upon his hands, and sobbed as if
his heart would break.

The old man gave him time to recover himself and when the boy dashed
the tears proudly away with the back of his hand, trying to call up the
dawning manhood in his heart, he said: “I will help you, you are the
son of the friend of my youth, you shall be my son.”

He took the young Ching Chong by the hand, kindly, led him home to his
own house, and provided him with the best instruction the city afforded.

At the age of fifteen, Ching Chong was as handsome and intelligent a
boy as could be found in the city of Hong Kong.

One day his benefactor called him to him, and told him of the distant
gold land. “There, my son,” he said, “you shall go to seek your
fortune. I will provide you with every thing necessary for the journey,
but you must keep a strict account, and at the end of five years
return, and share the gains with me.”

“If you do well in all things, I will reward you doubly, for I love you
as my own son.”

Here the merchant embraced him so tenderly, that the eyes of Ching
Chong were moistened with tears of gratitude.

Then the merchant gave him much good advice, which the young Ching
Chong promised faithfully to follow.

As the dusk of evening came on, both grew thoughtful and silent; at
last the old man took the boy’s hand in his, saying: “I have been
thinking of a curious legend which our fathers believed.”

Then he told him how years before two Chinamen, a giant and a dwarf,
went out into the great world, far beyond the shining waters, to seek
their fortune together. How, after a weary time and great labor, they
found a cavern full of gold and precious stones, but at the entrance
sat two men guarding the treasure.

The Chinamen were very cold and hungry, and the two men gave them food
and warm blankets, but they would not allow them to touch even one of
the lustrous gems that sparkled around them.

At last the Chinamen went away quite rested, and with plenty of food in
their sacks. They had gone only a short distance down the cañon, when
in the darkest shadow the giant stopped.

“Let us rest here,” he said, “and talk over our plans for the future.
There is a great treasure near us, I am strong, you are active, and we
are separated from our wishes by only two men of ordinary strength.”

The dwarf sighed heavily. “They have been kind to us, but for them we
must have died of hunger.”

“Fool,” replied the giant, “there is enough for all.”

Then it was they sat talking till the stronger prevailed over the
weaker, and, at the still hour of midnight, they went back to the
cavern of gold.

The dwarf had begged hard for the lives of the men, but the cruel
giant was obdurate.

“Let them die,” he said, “and the treasure will be ours.”

In the darkness he struck the blow, but instead of falling upon the
men, as he had intended, he struck the stone on which their heads
had rested. A harsh ringing sound resounded through the cavern, and
suddenly a great light flashed up, and almost blinded them, so that
they covered their eyes with their hands.

When a moment after they glanced fearfully around, they saw not two
common men, but two horrid monsters. Whether immense giants or genii,
they could not tell, but the giant Chinaman before them seemed but a
boy in size.

The poor Chinamen trembled with fear, and begged the monsters to spare
their lives.

“I did not wish to kill you,” said the dwarf. “Oh, dear! have pity!
have pity! and he clasped his little hands imploringly; while his teeth
chattered with the intensity of his fear.

“You would have robbed us,” replied the monster, “and for this you
shall be punished.”

Then he laid a spell upon them, condemning them to remain far from
their beloved China. Wandering through the gold land, and finding
treasures, but never possessing them.

To the dwarf he said, “because the good had not all gone out of your
heart, you may be permitted to aid the future gold-seekers, and they
shall be blessed by your guidance. But a curse shall follow the gifts
of the giant, and his bones shall bleach upon the mountains of the
stranger land.”

“Strive by deeds of kindness, poor dwarf,” he continued, “to wipe out
the stain of this present great sin of your life, so that at last, when
you die, your body may be wafted to the pleasant shore of the celestial
country.”

Then he drove them out of the cave, and they began their weary
wanderings. The giant filled with angry bitterness, and the heart of
the dwarf subdued and penitent.

For some time after the merchant had finished his story, Ching Chong
sat in silence. At last he exclaimed, eagerly, “who knows but they are
now in the gold-land to which I am going.”

“I had thought of that,” answered the old man. “It may be all a myth,
but as you say ‘who knows!’ At all events there is no harm in my
saying, _beware of the giant, and look out for the dwarf_.”

Just as the ship was about sailing, the merchant gave to Ching Chong
a curious black wand, saying, “this is a divining-rod, and will help
you to find the treasure. Remember all I have said to you. Especially
_beware of the giant_.”

Again Ching Chong promised, and they embraced with much affection.

At last the signal was given, the anchor weighed, and the merchant
hastened on shore, to look out upon the waters, till Ching Chong,
leaning over the railing of the deck, faded from his sight.

Thus Ching Chong became a gold-seeker, and many were the gorgeous
dreams that filled the mind of the youth, as the ship sailed lazily
over the placid waters.

At last, after the usual amount of winds and calms, storms and fair
weather, the good ship sailed through the Golden Gate, and into the
pleasant harbor of San Francisco.

Ching Chong disembarked with the other passengers, a stranger in a land
of strangers, where even the language of the country fell upon his ear,
the unmeaning jargon of an unknown tongue.

Fortunately for him, he was not the only Chinaman in the country,
though at that early day they were few in number. The Queen city of the
Pacific was then a city of many sand hills, and a few poor shanties,
but it was full of energy, perseverance, and hope.

Ching Chong was a quick, active lad, and soon learned enough of English
to procure a situation, and for some time remained in San Francisco.

At night, when his work was over, he would take a look at his
divining-rod, and he often noticed it would turn in his hand, till
it pointed to the mountain country, awaking all the wild dreams, and
eager longings that in the leisure hours of the sea-voyage filled his
imagination.

At last he could resist the impulse no longer, and joined a party of
prospectors for the mining districts.

For months Ching Chong wandered over the mountains with his comrades,
till his shoes were worn out, and his trousers and blue shirt so
patched with flour-sacks, that it was impossible for the uninitiated to
distinguish the original material.

Still he found nothing, even the divining-rod seemed to have lost its
power, save when he was alone.

One night he sat apart from the others, feeling very sad, and wishing
he had never left China. The homesick longing to see his native land
growing continually in his heart, oppressed him greatly.

The thought of the kind old merchant who had been as a father to
him, pursued him, but deeper down in his heart was cherished the
memory of the merchant’s daughter. The gentle Ah Zore maiden with the
almond-shaped eyes, and tiny feet.

Just as he was yielding himself to tender dreams, his wand rested upon
his bosom, and there he felt his secret talisman, the divining-rod.

Rising up hastily, he resolved to go off alone, and yield to the
impulse of the wand. Hoping he might be more successful than in the
weary months he had passed with his companions.

With this resolve, the pressure of the rod became greater, awaking
joyous hopes that had long been strangers to him.

He thought of the curious legend the merchant had told him, and
whispering softly to himself, he said: “Where the wand leads I will
go—on to fortune, or death; any thing is better than the weariness of
my present life.”

It was a beautiful, balmy night. The silvery moonlight and the stars
brightened even the dim cavern, and flooded the mountains with a
luminous beauty.

Ching Chong went silently up the mountain path until he came to a ledge
the miners had been prospecting that day.

Still the divining-rod urged him on, till he had gone miles farther
into the mountains than ever before.

About twelve o’clock, he began to be hungry and weary, for it was the
early evening when he started, and after a hard day’s work.

Suddenly the divining-rod changed, and pointed downward, and as Ching
Chong looked, he saw what appeared to be the entrance of a cavern, but
a huge stone was rolled against it.

He perceived a small opening which the stone left uncovered, through
which he might have crept, but the darkness within was so dense that he
dare not enter.

He threw himself down upon the ground quite overcome with hunger and
fatigue, and taking a piece of hard bread from his pocket, began
eating, and thinking almost hopelessly of the future.

He was aroused by a harsh voice, and looking up, saw, just before him,
the immense form of a giant Chinaman.

“What are you doing here, countryman,” said the giant, opening his huge
mouth, and glaring with his ugly eyes upon the startled boy.

“I am thinking of home,” replied Ching Chong, sadly, “and fearing I
shall never see that dearest spot again.”

“Thank God, the bodies of all true Chinamen are carried back to repose
in death in the bosom of their mother-land.”

“Do you mean to insult me, minion,” cried the giant, while his face
grew livid with rage, and he would have killed Ching Chong with one
blow of his heavy club, but the boy sprang lightly out of his way.

“Foiled again,” he muttered, between his teeth. “Come here, boy,” he
added, “I will not hurt you, silly fool.”

“I was only joking, just to see you jump out of the way;” and he gave a
loud laugh that made the mountains echo.

The rod in his bosom urging him on, Ching Chong drew cautiously near
the giant.

“Sit down, and tell me of your wanderings,” said the monster, with a
rough voice, into which he tried to throw the semblance of kindness.

Ching Chong told him all, only omitting the merchant’s story and his
secret of the wand.

“Never mind, boy,” said the giant, “you shall win the prize, and go
back to China a rich man. See, the morning sun is rising. Now we will
enter the cavern, and you shall have as much gold and precious stones
as you can carry away.”

Ching Chong felt a momentary thrill of joy in his heart, which was
saddened by the memory of the merchant’s last words, “beware of the
giant.”

“I have wandered in this cold, stranger land for three long years, and
found nothing until now.

“Wealth is within my grasp; if I do not seize it, I may never have
another chance! To be poor forever! No! no! I will take the risk.” Then
he spoke aloud, in a resolute voice, “Lead on, I will follow.”

The giant gave the great stone a push with his foot, and rolled it away
as though it had been a pebble.

As they entered he struck a torch, then, before proceeding, rolled back
the stone and closed up the opening.

When Ching Chong saw himself shut into the cave with the giant, he
trembled with fear, for he saw there was no way of escape. He felt now,
he had only to follow where the monster at will might lead him.

They went through a long, narrow passage, then down many steps, until
at last they entered a hall, which was lighted by a large lamp,
suspended from the dome of the cavern.

Ching Chong was almost blinded by the reflection of the luminous
crystals that, with curious prismatic effect, flooded the hall with a
hundred glowing tints.

Great masses of gold lay scattered about, and huge seams ran through
the rugged sides of the cavern.

“Is this rich enough for you?” said the giant, laughingly.

“Help yourself, lad, you remember I told you you should have all you
could carry away.”

The delighted Ching Chong began to gather up the gold and precious
stones into his sack, and when he had secured all he could carry,
throwing the sack over his shoulder, he thanked the giant, and begged
him to let him go out of the cave.

“Go on!” replied the giant, with a mocking laugh. “You’re welcome to
the treasure, but I’m thinking you’ll find it hard work to move that
stone from the mouth of the cave.”

Then Ching Chong threw down the treasure at his feet, crying, with
tears in his eyes, “Take back your riches, and let me go out into the
sunshine! the beautiful sunshine! Oh! good giant, take back your gold,
and give me my poverty, and my liberty!”

“What a pretty actor! go on! go on!” said the delighted giant, and when
Ching Chong threw himself on his knees before him, wringing his hands
in silent despair, he laughed till the mountain cavern rung.

“Do you think I will let you go? You are my slave now! and the
sunshine! the beautiful sunshine! you shall never see again.”

Ching Chong saw there was no help for him then.

He spurned the bag of gold and precious stones, pushing it with his
foot, as he followed the giant into the inner cave.

The giant ordered him to build a fire, and prepare supper, and, after
the master was served, he was permitted to eat and go to sleep upon
the rough but warm skin of a grizzly bear.

Weeks passed by! Still he was a prisoner in the cavern, serving the
grim old giant, who was very capricious, and hard to please.

One evening he came home in great good humor, and, while he ate his
supper, he talked and laughed with Ching Chong very pleasantly.

He told how that day he had given a quantity of gold to some miners.

“Great luck it will bring them,” he added.

“Already they are quarreling over it,” and a malicious grin disfigured
his monstrous face.

“‘Tis such fools as you, boy, who make things lively. Ha! ha! You may
have all the gold you can carry away!

“Why don’t you move the stone? Ah! boy, if you had the famous
divining-rod, you would only have to touch the rock, and it would obey
your wish, but you might as well hope to wake up in your beloved China,
as to obtain it.”

How strangely the words of the giant thrilled the heart of Ching Chong,
and, pressing his hand against his bosom, the famous divining-rod
awakened the hopes that in his heart lay sleeping.

In the excess of his emotion he was obliged to hide his face from the
giant, lest he should see his secret written there.

That night after the loud snoring of the giant announced that he was
sleeping soundly, Ching Chong rose carefully, and lighting the torch,
crept softly out of the large cave, and through the narrow passage that
led to the entrance.

He took nothing with him. “The treasure of the giant is cursed,” he
said.

When he came to the rock he took the divining-rod from his bosom, and,
pressing it lightly against the rock, said: “Giant rock remove quickly
at the spell of the divining-rod.”

Quick as thought the rock moved from its place, and the silver
moonlight poured in at the entrance of the cave, and lighted up the
face of Ching Chong, beaming with the bliss of recovered liberty.

Once more he touched the rock, saying: “Move back giant rock at the
spell of the the divining-rod, and remain forever so firmly fixed that
even the giant’s powerful hand cannot remove you.”

The great stone rolled back, striking the ledge with such force that
the whole mountain shook, and the mighty echo was reverberated from all
the neighboring heights.

This great commotion aroused the sleeping giant, and he called loudly
for Ching Chong, and, when he received no answer, he was very much
enraged, and searched the whole cavern in every nook and corner. At
last he rushed to the entrance, and pushed his broad shoulder against
the rock, but he could not move it one inch from its place; then he
became so furious that his voice sounded like the roar of a wild beast,
but with all his efforts he could not move the rock. Ching Chong sat
without in the calm moonlight, now and then calling to the giant to
come on, and that he was welcome to all the treasure he could bring
with him.

After a time the giant became so exhausted that he ceased his efforts
to move the rock, and begged Ching Chong to touch it again with his
magic wand, and let him out, promising him all the treasures of the
cave; but the boy only replied: “Your turn has come now, keep your
treasure, you are welcome to it, and to your underground castle.”

“Good-by, kind master, good-by! Come out when you can, and you may have
all the treasure you can carry.”

With this Ching Chong started for his old cabin, but for miles the deep
howlings of the giant were wafted to his ears.

He reached the cabin at sunrise, just five weeks after he left it.

When he entered he found his old companions just eating breakfast. They
were greatly surprised to see him, for they supposed he had been killed
by the grizzly bears with which that district abounded.

They gave him a hearty greeting, and he sat down to breakfast, telling
them only the last of his marvelous adventures, omitting the secret of
the divining-rod entirely.

When he had finished, he asked them what luck they had had.

Nothing very good, they replied. Some placer diggings of a little
promise, but their fortunes were not yet made.

Ching Chong went out with them, and entered again upon the hard life of
prospecting. Many months passed on in the same old way, and again Ching
Chong began to feel very much disheartened. Four years and a half had
gone, and still he was poor, no nearer the realization of his dreams
than ever.

The intense longing for home was ever gnawing in his heart. He thought
sadly of the old merchant who awaited his return, and sighed often as
he dreamed of the beautiful Ah Zore.

Again he resolved to follow the guiding of the divining-rod, hoping for
greater success than in his former expedition.

Again he started at nightfall, without saying any thing to his
companions.

He had provided himself with a sack of food, which he carried, with his
pick and shovel, upon his shoulders.

He was young, healthy, and accustomed to the hardships of a mountain
life.

For hours he walked on as the divining-rod guided him, until near
morning, when, overcome with fatigue, he threw himself upon the ground
among the thick sage brush, and soon fell asleep.

A thousand golden imaginings mingled with his dreams, and, when he
awoke with the sunshine pouring its flood of warmth and light upon him,
he rose full of bright hopes, ate his scanty breakfast, and started
upon his way with a happy heart.

Thus he wandered on for several days, carefully examining every ledge
of rocks that he passed over.

His stock of food was nearly exhausted. The divining-rod and his
hopeful nature urged him on, but his dread of a lonely death in the
mountains warned him to return.

One night he struck a fire in a lonely place, and sat down to eat his
supper, just as the twilight gave place to the stars of night.

He was getting quite disheartened. “I must start for the camp in the
morning,” he said to himself, “‘Tis no use of trying any longer.”

He fell into a sad train of musing, from which he was aroused by the
soft tinkling of a silver bell, and looking up he saw before him the
dwarf Chinaman.

He wore the round hat, blue blouse, big pants, and pointed shoes of the
Celestials, and his words fell upon Ching Chong’s ear in the language
of his native tongue. His face was wrinkled and sad-looking, yet there
was a kindliness in its expression, and Ching Chong’s heart warmed as
he pleasantly asked, “Why so sorrowful to-night, my boy?”

Then Ching Chong told his story.

When he had finished the dwarf said: “Be thankful that you did not
attempt to carry away any of the treasure.”

“If you had taken but one ounce of gold the wand would have lost its
power in your hand, and you would have been the slave of the giant as
long as you lived, and after death your bones would have whitened the
floor of the mountain cavern, instead of reposing in the dear native
land.”

“Your industry and perseverance shall now be rewarded. Lie down and
sleep to-night upon this soft turf. In the morning rise and follow the
direction of the divining-rod, and where it points downward strike your
pick.”

“Now good-night, my boy. In the days of your prosperity, sometimes
think kindly of the poor dwarf of the mountains.”

Before Ching Chong could reply, he found himself alone, and though he
looked round carefully, he could not discover where, or how the dwarf
had disappeared. So he lay down, and was soon sleeping soundly.

In the morning he rose early, and following the direction of his wand,
stopped where it pointed downward, and striking a blow with his pick,
turned up a beautiful pure nugget of gold.

He marked the spot, and collecting a few specimens, returned to the
camp.

Again his companions surrounded him to hear his story.

No one but the poor, toiling miner can understand the excitement and
delight of the weary prospectors, as they listened to him, and examined
his specimens.

“Now, boys,” said Ching Chong, “you have been the sharers of my bad
luck, and you shall share my good fortune.”

“There is gold enough for all.”

Then the happy miners all shook hands with Ching Chong, saying a hearty
“God bless you, boy,” while the tears glistened in their eyes, as they
thought of the dear ones in distant lands.

That night they all dreamed golden dreams, full of love and happiness.

In the morning they all went together to the newly discovered treasure,
which proved to be a large tract of the richest placer-diggings ever
known.

In six months they were all rich men, and left the mountains for their
different homes, blessing forever Ching Chong Chinaman.

About that time a good ship sailed for China, and on the deck sat the
happy Ching Chong, and all his great wealth was on board.

After a prosperous voyage, he reached his dear, native land, and
was able to give his friend the merchant, an account of himself, so
satisfactory that he rewarded him with the hand of his daughter, the
beautiful Ah Zore, and in all Hong Kong there could not be found a
happier man than Ching Chong Chinaman.

Once upon a time there lived in a little cane hut on the borders of a
hacienda, a poor old Mexican woman and her grandchild.

The parents of the little one were both dead, and the old woman
maintained herself and the child by spinning, sewing, and washing for
the rich Spaniards, to whom all the fine houses and cultivated lands of
the country belonged.

The mother of the child had been a beautiful señorita of good family.
She foolishly loved and married the poor but light-hearted Mexican, who
would have given his life for her, but could not shield her from the
misfortunes which poverty and sickness brought upon them.

After the birth of her little daughter, she died, and very soon the
father was lost in a fearful storm at sea; so the child was left
alone in the world, with none to care for her but the silver-haired
grandmother, and no home but the little cane hut.

For some years every thing went pleasantly with the child; she had
never known luxury, her necessities were supplied, she returned the
fond devotion of the old grandmother, with the ardor of her Southern
nature; and, all day long, her innocent voice, full of childish
happiness, woke cheerful echoes around the little hut.

One night, when she was about ten years old, the old woman fell sick.
She felt the dim shadows creeping over her spirit, and her strength
growing less; and calling the child to her side, she said, feebly: “I
have nothing but a well-worn distaff and the poor hut to give you.
The Holy Virgin pity and protect you; you have been a good child to
your old grandmother.” Then she kissed her, and blessing her, bade her
good-night, adding: “Never forget to say your prayers before you go to
sleep. God bless you, my poor, poor child.”

The grandmother turned her face to the wall, and folded her thin hands
as if in prayer, and Zaletta crept softly into bed beside her, feeling
very sad; but soon her innocent heart was happy, roaming through the
pleasant land of dreams. In the morning, Zaletta slept till the sun
rose above the hills, and cast its glowing warmth down into the shaded
valleys, then woke full of life and joyousness.

There lay the grandmother just as she had last seen her the night
before. “She sleeps long this morning, the dear old grandmother,”
said she to herself, as she moved round quietly, preparing the scanty
breakfast.

When it was all ready, she became impatient, and laid her little warm
hand upon the old woman’s arm. Cold, very cold, the poor child found
her, and motionless. She would never move again.

Zaletta called her, sobbing and weeping, but there was no reply. The
heart so ready to sympathize with all her childish sorrows was at rest.
The old grandmother had died, praying for the little lonely child, who
had been dearer than all the world to her.

The next day the people from the hacienda came and buried the old
woman. After the last sod was cast upon the grave, the innkeeper’s wife
took the child by the hand, saying: “Poor little thing, she can not
stay here alone, I will take her home with me;” and she smoothed the
tangled hair of the helpless orphan with her hand, and in her harder
heart she thought, “By and by this girl may be made of great service to
me, and even now I’ll see that she earns all that she eats and wears.”

She was very careful to take to the inn with her, all the poor little
hut contained. “‘Tis but little,” she said, “but I’ll take it for the
child.” All the neighbors said it was kind in the innkeeper’s wife, and
the rich señor, to whom the whole hacienda belonged, gave her a shining
gold-piece, saying: “‘Tis for your charity.”

The cold-hearted woman went home, leading by the hand a little weeping
child, very desolate and sorrowful.

The innkeeper was naturally a kind man, but he had become too indolent
and corpulent to resist the strong will of his termagant wife. “When he
saw the sad-eyed little one that she had brought home, he brushed away
a tear with his big brown hand, and determined to save the unfortunate
from all trouble, as much as he could; but when he thought of his
wife’s cruel disposition, he earnestly wished her in other hands.

“Poor little thing! poor little thing!” he said, pityingly, and calling
his own little boy and girl to him, he placed her trembling hands in
theirs, adding: “Here is a sister for you, be kind to her, my children.”

The daughter drew her hand away, and curled her lip in scorn. She was
like her mother, proud and cold in her nature, and, looking at the
coarse clothes of the child, she said: “Ah, no, papa, she is only fit
for a servant. Sister, indeed!” and she shook the skirts of her pretty
muslin dress, and ran away.

The boy felt the manhood dawning in his heart, as he saw the tears
glistening in the pretty dark eyes of the silent child, and the little
red lips quivered with suppressed emotion.

“She shall be my sister, papa,” said he, softly, as he took her by the
hand, and led her out in the clear sunshine. Children understand each
other best, thought the old man, as he sat watching them, while they
walked up and down the garden together, talking pleasantly.

Soon the mother’s sharp eye detected them, and with a harsh voice she
bade the little girl haste to the kitchen, and see if she could not
help the cook prepare the supper.

Then she called the young Guilerme to her, saying: “I hope to make a
rich señor of you, my son, though your father is only an innkeeper. We
are making money, and every year increases our gains. There is good
blood in my veins, and I am determined to raise my children above my
present condition. For this I save every thing. Every thing! For we
must have money; but remember, my son, I would not have you notice that
miserable girl I have brought here for a servant; by and by she may do
for your sister’s maid; now she is the kitchen scullion.”

Thus began the days of servitude and sorrow for the young Zaletta.

The inn was a spacious adobe house, with an open court in the center,
and surrounded on all sides by a broad piazza. The kitchen and
store-rooms were upon one side, while the receiving and sleeping rooms
were on the other sides of the square.

The hacienda was in the southern part of California, where though
the warmth of the days produces many kinds of tropical fruits, the
evenings are often quite chilly, and the excessive heat of the noon-day
renders all very susceptible to cold. In the large receiving-room (with
the bar at one side), on such nights, a cheerful fire always burned,
and there all the guests of the house assembled, and talked over the
news of the day. Sometimes ’twas of the discovery of a rich gold mine,
but often ’twas of a fearful robbery in the wood.

After all the work was done in the kitchen, Zaletta would steal
silently into the receiving-room, listening to the conversation, and
warming her chilled feet and hands before going to her miserable bed in
the out-house.

This did not please the señora. It did not look respectable to have the
miserable child about, she would say; but in this the innkeeper was
resolute. “The little one should warm herself before going to bed.” So
Zaletta came in at evenings, but very quietly.

Guilerme was always kind to her; indeed never a day passed but
something nice found its way to the hiding-place in the out-house, so
that the child was never hungry.

He brought her the ripest bananas, and the sweetest oranges, and when
she would look up to him, with her soft eyes dewy with love and thanks,
he would kiss her brown cheek, and say: “Never mind, little one, you
shall be _señora_ one of these days.” Then they would laugh and be
happy, till the mother’s sharp voice would ring through the house,
calling the unfortunate to some new task.

The sister was changeful in her treatment to Zaletta. Sometimes she
would call her pleasantly to come and play with her, but very soon
she would become angry and strike her, calling her “only a pitiful
servant.” Then the mother would whip Zaletta for making her little
mistress angry. The father and Guilerme always took her part, making
the mother more displeased than ever.

One day, when Guilerme was about fourteen years old, and the girls
were twelve, the mother called the boy to her, telling him in two
weeks a vessel would sail from the nearest sea-port for the Atlantic
States, and that, he must be ready to take passage in her, for she
had determined to send him to New York to school. “Your father is now
rich,” she said, “and you must be educated like other rich men’s sons.”

Poor little Zaletta! What a blow it was to her. Her best friend going
away so far over the waters. When he told her the morning before he
sailed what his mother had said, her pretty dark eyes filled with
tears, and she sobbed bitterly.

“Listen to me,” said the boy, soothingly; “I have something to tell
you, and must be quick, or mamma will call me before I can finish. You
know I am going away to be educated like a gentleman, and shall want
a lady for my wife; so you must study hard to become one, for I am
determined to marry you as soon as I come back. I have taught you to
read, and you will find all my books in the hiding-place, where I have
left them for you, and you must study hard and see how beautiful you
can grow while I am gone, for I shall make you the greatest lady in
the hacienda;” and he took the little eager face between his hands and
kissed it with much affection. Just then the mother called, “Guilerme!
Guilerme!” so he kissed her again, and said, “remember, my little
wife,” and was off in a moment.

That night Zaletta wept herself to sleep, and many succeeding nights;
but she did not forget to study very hard, and though she labored under
great difficulties, her progress was wonderful. She was working for the
approval of the only one that loved her since the dear silver-haired
grandmother died. After Guilerme went away the señora took Zaletta into
the house as maid for her young daughter, who every day was growing
more proud and selfish.

For some years the innkeeper had been greatly prospered. The family had
used economy in all things until they had amassed considerable wealth.

“Now,” said the señora, “the children are growing up, and we must not
spare the money—they must have position.” She engaged a governess to
teach her daughter, and a master to give her lessons on the harp and
guitar.

Zaletta always sat in the room with the young señorita, and listened
eagerly to every word the teachers uttered, though her hands were busy
with her needle.

Every day she grew in knowledge and beauty. Her dark eyes were soft as
a fawn’s, and her pure olive cheek glowed with a clear rose-tint, while
her form and features were cast in beauty’s most exquisite mold. Both
mother and daughter were often cruelly unkind to her, more especially
when they saw that her beauty, and innocent sweetness of manner,
attracted more attention than all the young señorita’s fine clothes
and accomplishments. The señorita was pretty and full of airs and
graces, but Zaletta, in her coarse dress, was far more lovely. Every
day increased the envy of the mother and daughter, and new and harder
tasks were invented for the weary little hands to perform.

One sultry afternoon all three sat upon the piazza of the inner court.
A ship had arrived from New York, with letters from Guilerme, and a
large box, filled with beautiful fabrics for dresses, shawls, and
ornaments, for the mother and daughter; but Zaletta received nothing,
not even a word of kind remembrance.

All the long night before she had wept. Guilerme, the gentleman, had
forgotten the poor maid; but she, alas! remembered him too well.

The mother and daughter sat looking over their treasures with great
delight, and for the time she was unnoticed. Stitching away upon a
beautiful organdie muslin, at last overcome by fatigue, loss of sleep,
and the excessive heat, she fell asleep, and in her dreams she called
out in a piteous tone, “Guilerme! Guilerme!” and the tears ran down her
pale cheeks.

“What is she saying?” said the mother. She rose and looked at her, and
again she called, “Guilerme! Guilerme!”

“Hear her, mamma,” exclaimed the enraged daughter, “I’ll give her a
lesson for her impertinence,” and she raised her hand to strike the
sleeping girl.

“Stop, daughter,” said the mother, softly, with a malicious smile, “we
can do better. The foolish Guilerme has sent her a letter and presents
of books. The letter I have burned. The books you can do as you like
with, but I have a present for la señorita, she will not like, perhaps.”

She shook the young girl roughly by the arm, saying, “What, sleeping
over your work. Wake, and hear what Guilerme says. He sends you this!”

The señora held out to the young girl a coarse apron, such as the lower
servants wore. “He hopes his sister will train you to be a good servant
for you must know he is in love with a rich and beautiful señorita,
and though they are both young now, it is thought best for them to be
married before his return, which will be in about two years.”

“Mamma, what is the matter with her? How pale she looks!” cried the
affrighted daughter, as Zaletta with closed eyes sank fainting upon the
floor.

“She has fainted, the miserable beggar. To try to creep into my family,
and to think that foolish boy should talk of love to her. I’ll fix them
both,” and in her anger the señora and her daughter left Zaletta lying
cold and pale upon the floor.

Evening came on, with the calm, silver light of the stars, before
Zaletta recovered. At first she could not remember what had happened,
and then it all rushed upon her, a mighty flood of sorrow.

“Guilerme has forgotten me! I remember now: this apron for the servant
of his bride. Ah! Guilerme! Guilerme!” Wrapping the apron about her
neck, she rushed out into the night. “I cannot stay in this house
another night. It will kill me!” she said, and she hurried on as though
she could fly from her great sorrow.

At last she came to a deep wood, and, after wandering about till
her wearied limbs refused to carry her any further, she saw a light
glimmering through the trees, and pressing on she came to a little
cottage.

Looking in at the window she saw an old woman at her distaff spinning.
The faggots upon the hearth burned brightly, and lighted up the little
room, but especially the face of the old woman shone with the glow
of a kind heart. Timidly she knocked at the door, but there was no
reply. Then she knocked again louder, and the old woman called out in a
cracked voice: “Who knocks at my door so late in the night!”

“Only a poor maiden, who has no home, no friend on earth. I pray you,
good woman, let me in. The night is cold, and the starlight chills me.
I am so tired! so tired! Good mother, let me in!”

The old woman opened the door and led her in. She sat down in the
corner, gazing silently into the fire and wondering why the good Lord
in pity did not let her die; and big tears ran down her pale cheeks.

The old woman baked a fresh tortilla and gave it to her with a cup of
milk.

“Eat, child,” she said gently, “you are hungry,” and she laid her hand
on the bowed head, saying again: “There! there! eat, child! and sleep
away the sorrow of youth which is fleeting as the dew of morning.”

Then she turned away and commenced spinning and singing in a low,
monotonous tone, which was strangely soothing, while Zaletta ate
her supper, and soon the sad, weary maiden fell asleep by the warm,
pleasant fireside.

For some time the old woman went on spinning and singing, till another
knock came at the door, and again she said: “Who knocks at my door so
late in the night?” “‘Tis I, mother,” replied a thick, rough voice.
She opened the door to a most curious looking dwarf. He was round
shouldered and thick set, with heavy, black hair covering his forehead,
and shaggy brows meeting over his eyes.

“How fared thee, to-day, son?”

“I haven’t struck the lode yet, mother,” said the dwarf, cheerfully,
“but I am sure the mine is rich. See what I have picked up among the
loose rocks!”

He handed her a small nugget of gold, almost pure, and turned to the
corner to put down his pick and shovel. “But who have we here? A young
girl, and very pretty,” he added, looking admiringly upon the sleeping
maiden.

“Only a poor friendless child, who came to the door a little while ago,
weeping and asking shelter,” answered the woman.

“Treat her kindly, mother; she will be company for you, and by-and-by I
may marry her, but I have no time to think of women now.”

The dwarf sat down to the hot supper the mother had prepared for him,
and ate heartily, for he was very hungry. Then he drew his chair near
the fire, and sat for sometime looking dreamily into its glowing
embers.

“I must strike the lode soon,” he mused. “Oh, my rich gold mine; it
must come at last.” Then he rose, saying, kindly, “Good night, mother,”
and climbed up into the little loft, where in a few minutes he was
sleeping soundly.

The old woman woke Zaletta, and they retired for the night, sleeping in
the same bed.

In the morning Zaletta was awakened by a kind voice calling, “Get up
now, daughter, and help me to prepare my son’s breakfast, he has been
at work for an hour, and will soon come in very hungry.”

Zaletta rose quickly and helped to prepare a breakfast of fresh
tortillas nicely browned, fried plantain, and venison, which, with
plenty of ripe fruit and goat’s milk, made a repast fit for a prince.

Soon the dwarf came in, so smiling and cheerful, that though Zaletta
thought him the ugliest looking person she ever saw, she felt sure
his heart was in the right place. “You are welcome, my pretty girl,”
he said, “but don’t mind me; I’ve no time to compliment women, though
by-and-by, when I strike a rich lode, I may marry you.”

Zaletta’s face flushed a deep crimson, and she looked as though that
would be any thing but desirable; but she made no reply, and in a
moment the dwarf seemed to have forgotten her presence, and she became
more comfortable.

Two years passed by and Zaletta remained at the cottage, helping the
old mother, who was very fond of her, and reading books with which the
dwarf kept her constantly supplied. All this time he was working hard
in his mine, but could not “strike the rich lode.” Sometimes he grew
quite disheartened, then he would be joyous and hopeful, and would say
to Zaletta: “Though I have no time to think of women now, by-and-by,
when I am rich, I will marry you.” She soon got used to this, and only
laughed, for he was always very kind to her, and she learned to look
upon him as a brother.

One dark night in the rainy season she and the mother sat by the fire
waiting for the dwarf to come in to his supper. The old woman was
spinning, and Zaletta reading a pleasant book of travels.

“My poor boy,” sighed the old mother. “How it rains; he will be wet
through. Oh, dear! I fear he will never be able to strike the rich
lode.” Just then a loud knock came at the door. “Who knocks at my door
so late in the night,” said the old woman.

A voice, young, strong, and pure, answered, sending all the warm blood
from Zaletta’s heart to her face: “A stranger, belated and lost in the
wood, begs for shelter from the storm.”

The old woman opened the door, and Guilerme—dear, handsome Guilerme,
dripping with rain, and very cold, entered.

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