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A Piece Of Wreckage
by [?]

Delay not thy coming, my love, my own!
Though patient I wait thee, my love unknown,
Yet long I thy figure to see, and know
What form thou wilt have, and what face be thine,
And when thou wilt clasp me, dear love of mine;
For all that is left me is thy cold breath,
And wond’ring I wait thee, my sweetheart, Death!

It may be that the high tide of material development which in late years has been sweeping over Southern California has penetrated even to that isolated nook in the hills which, when I knew it, was the saddest place I had ever seen. It was a lonely region, miles and miles away from railroads, telegraphs, newspapers–all the mighty, roaring music of civilization. Off toward the east the desert stretched its level expanse of vague coloring, and westward the rounded hills, green in the winter, yellow as ripe wheat fields through the long, rainless summer, reared their mounds higher and higher until they stopped, as if cowed and ashamed, at the flanks of Monte Pinos. And the mountain, majestic and vapor-veiled, seemed always to be watching them in their work of protecting and comforting the wrecks that clung to their feet.

For that was why this region, despite its soft, reposeful beauty, seemed so sad–because of the wrecks, the human wrecks, who dwelt there, who had seized such fast hold of the sphinx-like hills that only death could unloose their grasp. Some of them were relics of California’s heyday, men who, when the waves of hope and adventure and endeavor were rolling fast and high over the Golden State, were so dashed about and bruised and beaten that at last they were glad to be cast ashore among these hills. Some had hidden themselves there because they were weary of the world and all its works, and wished to go where they could no longer hear even its heart-beats. Others there were who had fled thither to escape the scorn of men or the vengeance of the law. And there were a few who were staying on and on, and would always stay, because those enchantresses that whisper in the evening breezes of the mountains and the desert, that put forth caressing hands in the balmy air that bathes the hills and canyons in the early morning, whose wooing voices sing in the music of birds and chant in the cries of wild things at night, had taken captive their wills, and they could not go if they would.

Their cabins were scattered through the valleys, or on the sides of the hills, or in the recesses of the canyons, miles apart. Sometimes, though rarely, there was a little family in one. But usually the only occupant was an elderly or middle-aged man, who spoke but little about himself or his past, and was as destitute of curiosity as to what was going on in the outside world as he was about the former lives and affairs of his fellow wreckage.

Nevertheless, I had the good fortune to learn much of the story of one of these men. A member of our camping party chanced to make speaking acquaintance with him at the quaint old adobe house under its huge, spreading grapevine and waving cottonwoods, which served as stage station and supply store–the centre of such civilization as there was in all the region within a radius of thirty or forty miles. Every one in that country called him “Old Dan.” I found his name one day in the Great Register–twin relic, with the shabby old stage, of the outer world–which hung in the stage station. But as it was not his real name, nor probably any name by which he was ever known outside of those hills, it will be of no use to mention it here.