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Colonel Bob Jarvis
by [?]

I.

We were sojourning between Anaheim and the sea. There was a sunshiny dullness about the place, like the smiles of a vapid woman. The bit of vineyard surrounding our whitewashed cabin was an emerald set in the dull, golden-brown plain. Before the door an artesian well glittered in the sun like an inverted crystal bowl. Esculapius called the spot Fezzan, and gradually I came to think the well a fountain, and the sunburnt waste about us a stretch of yellow sand.

When I had walked to the field of whispering corn behind the house, and through the straggling vines to the edge of the vineyard in front, I came back to where my invalid sat beneath the feathery acacias, dreaming in happy lonesomeness.

“Did you ever see such placid, bright, ethereal stillness?” I asked.

Esculapius took his cigar from his lips and looked at me pensively.

“It may be my misfortune, I hope it is not my fault, but I do not remember to have seen stillness of any sort.”

Esculapius has but one shortcoming–he is not a poet. I never wound him by appearing to notice this defect, so I sat down on the dry burr-clover and made no reply.

“You think it is still,” he went on in a mannish, instructive way, “but in fact there are a thousand sounds. At night, when it is really quiet, you will hear the roar of the ocean ten miles away. Hark!”

Our host was singing far down in the corn. He was a minister, a deep-toned Methodist, brimming over with vocal piety.

“Nearer the great white throne,
Nearer the jasper sea,”–

came to us in slow, rich cadences.

The fern-like branches above us stirred softly against the blue. Little aromatic whiffs came from the grove of pale eucalyptus-trees near the house. Esculapius diluted the intoxicating air with tobacco smoke and remained sane, but as for me the sunshine went to my head, and whirled and eddied there like some Eastern drug.

“My love,” I said wildly, “if we stay here very long and nothing happens, I shall do something rash.”

The next morning a huge derrick frowned in the dooryard, and a picturesque group of workmen lounged under the acacias. The well had ceased to flow.

Esculapius called me to a corner of the piazza, and spoke in low, hurried tones.

“Something has happened,” he said; “the well has stopped. I thought it might relieve your feelings to get off that quotation about the golden bowl and the wheel, and the pitcher, and the fountain, etc.; then, if it is safe to leave you, I would like to go hunting.”

I looked at him with profound compassion.

“I have forgotten the quotation,” I said, “but I think it begins: ‘The grinders shall cease because they are few.’ Perhaps you had better take your shotgun, and don’t forget your light overcoat. Good-by.”

Then I took a pitcher and went down the walk to the disglorified well. The musical drip on the pebbles was hushed; the charm of our oasis had departed. In its place stood a length of rusty pipe full of standing water. Some bits of maiden’s-hair I had placed in reach of the cool spray yesterday were already withered in the sun. I took the gourd from its notch in the willows sadly. Some one had been before me and carved “Ichabod” on its handle. I filled my pitcher and turned to go. A tall form separated itself from the group of workmen and came gallantly forward.

“Madame,” said a rich, hearty voice, “if you’ll just allow me, I’ll tackle that pitcher and tote it in for you. Jarvis is my name, Colonel Bob Jarvis, well-borer. We struck a ten-inch flow down at Scranton’s last week, and rather knocked the bottom out of things around here.”

“But the pitcher isn’t at all heavy, Colonel Jarvis.”

“Oh, never mind that: anything’s too heavy for a lady; that’s my sentiments. You see, I’m a ladies’ man,–born and brought up to it. Nursed my mother and two aunts and a grandmother through consumption, and never let one of ’em lift a finger. ‘Robert,’ my mother used to say, in her thin, sickly voice, ‘Robert, be true to God and the women;’ and, by godfrey, I mean to be.”