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Forty-one Thieves / A Tale of California By Angelo Hall Characters: 6848

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The Bridal Veil

"Where ancient forests widely spread,

Where bends the cataract's ocean fall,

On the lone mountain's silent head,

There are Thy temples, Lord of All!"

Andrews Norton.

As the trial and execution of J. C. P. Collins were the last acts in his worthless career, so they were the last but one in the courtship of Mat Bailey and Mamie Slocum. These comparatively young people were married soon afterward. They were married and did not live happily ever after; but they certainly enjoyed greater happiness than that which fell to the lot of their friends, John Keeler and Dr. Mason only excepted.

During a long life John Keeler reaped the reward of sterling integrity. To the end of his days he remained a poor man. But no one in all Nevada County was more highly respected. Not that he was much interested in what other people thought of him, as he strove simply to win the respect of his own exacting conscience.

Dr. Mason, having at last had the satisfaction of seeing one murderer brought to justice, felt that he might with dignity retire from the gold fields, where good Anglo-Saxon ideas of law and order were beginning to find acceptance. So he moved his family into the plains at the foot of the Sierras, where in the town of Lincoln, Placer County, they enjoyed a more genial and happy existence.

Mr. and Mrs. Mat Bailey also moved away from Nevada County. But Mat had become so strongly addicted to stage-driving that he could not give it up even to enjoy the continuous society of his bride. He might, for instance, have become a florist, and employed Mamie as his chief assistant. Instead of this he took her to what he considered the most beautiful place on earth.

He established his home in the meadows of the Yosemite Valley, where the clear waters of the Merced preserve the verdure of the fields the whole summer through. In midsummer, the floor of the Yosemite Valley is like an oasis in the desert. On all sides are rough, dry mountains; and if you follow the river down to the San Joaquin Valley it becomes lost in a vast parched plain. But between its mountain walls, where Mamie lived and where Mat pursued his vocation, all is beautiful.

From the mountain height across the river thundered the Yosemite Fall in all its glory, a sight that allures travelers from the uttermost parts of the earth. And down the valley a ways was the Bridal Veil, where Mat and Mamie paused to worship when first they entered that enchanted valley together.

Their first drive after they went to house-keeping was to Artist Point. Mamie felt that she never had loved Mat before as she did that day; for as he exulted in the glories of the valley, with Half Dome at the end and El Capitan standing in sublime magnificence before them, the scales fell from her eyes, and she saw in her stage-driver husband the poet and artist that he really was.

He was artist enough not to attempt to show his sweetheart all the glories of the Yosemite at once. He took the keenest delight in having them grow upon her. It was fully two months before they climbed up out of the valley to Inspiration Point, renewing their acquaintance with familiar scenes and experiencing more stupendous grandeur. It was two years after they came into the valley that Mat disclosed the most tremendous magnificence of all.

For years after it fairly took her breath away to think of it. First they took t

he familiar road to Inspiration Point, then made their way over the mountains where the Glacier Point Road now runs, and camped for the night in the highlands of never-failing frost. Next morning they pursued their way through the woods an interminable distance, as it seemed to Mamie, until finally they stood upon the brink of a huge ca?on, with a snowy mountain range in the distance beyond, and in the intervening space, a vast panorama of granite mountain sides, almost white,-here and there covered with a sparse growth of timber. The waters from these mountain reaches had cut a channel for themselves known as Little Yosemite Valley, where pour the two wonderful cataracts known as Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls. Their deep roar came up from the valley. Mamie felt that she would be content to watch that scene the whole day through.

But Mat took her on to Glacier Point, where you look straight down more than three thousand feet to the level floor of the Yosemite Valley. There below, more than half a mile below, she saw her neighbors' cottages; and the thought occurred to her, as she clung to Mat, that if she should fall over the precipice she might crash through the roof of one of these. She actually saw the good neighbor who was caring for her own child during his mother's absence. Before the day of aviators it seemed strange enough to look straight down from half a mile up in the sky.

Then came those scenes of terrifying magnificence when she followed Mat over the trail cut along the perpendicular walls of the ca?on five miles down to the floor of the Valley. One who has not passed over that trail can scarcely conceive of it; and one who has, brings away a sense of the sublime and the beautiful mingled with terror. There against the blue sky stands the perpendicular wall of Half Dome, almost within arm's reach, seemingly, in that clear atmosphere. There stand El Capitan and the Three Graces. And there at every turn of the trail pours the glorious Yosemite Fall, at first too far away for the ear to notice its distant thunder. Then on closer approach the faint roar is heard across the ca?on. The attention becomes fixed more and more upon this majestic cataract, to set off which the wonderful mountain walls seem to have been specially created. The trail from Glacier Point, beginning at an altitude above the top of the fall opposite, reveals it in its whole nakedness-shows its rise in the vast watershed of upland mountain valleys, and then by degrees leads you closer and closer to it until, at Union Point, its glory is perfect.

But why attempt to outline the wonders of that famous valley?

If Mr. and Mrs. Mat Bailey were not actually happy ever after, they found life worth living. As only people of humble fortune are likely to do, they lived the simple life. And they found it pleasant. They realized, as many people of humble fortune do not, that the sweetest pleasure can be derived from the cheerful performance of obvious and commonplace duties. Mat had always taken pride in his unpretentious calling, and his wife learned to love the blessed busy life of wife and mother.

Her sons and daughters, knowing no better because of their peculiar environment, grew up believing this old earth most beautiful, and the nobility of their world seemed to create in them nobility of character. The sheltered peace of that green valley entered into their souls.

THE END

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