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A Treasure Of The Galleon
by [?]

Her father’s house was nearly a mile from the sea, but the breath of it was always strong at the windows and doors in the early morning, and when there were heavy “southwesters” blowing in the winter, the wind brought the sharp sting of sand to her cheek, and the rain an odd taste of salt to her lips. On this particular December afternoon, however, as she stood in the doorway, it seemed to be singularly calm; the southwest trades blew but faintly, and scarcely broke the crests of the long Pacific swell that lazily rose and fell on the beach, which only a slanting copse of scrub-oak and willow hid from the cottage. Nevertheless, she knew this league-long strip of shining sand much better, it is to be feared, than the scanty flower-garden, arid and stunted by its contiguity. It had been her playground when she first came there, a motherless girl of twelve, and she had helped her father gather its scattered driftwood–as the fortunes of the Millers were not above accepting these occasional offerings of their lordly neighbor.

“I wouldn’t go far to-day, Jenny,” said her father, as the girl stepped from the threshold. “I don’t trust the weather at this season; and besides you had better be looking over your wardrobe for the Christmas Eve party at Sol. Catlin’s.”

“Why, father, you don’t intend to go to that man’s?” said the girl, looking up with a troubled face.

“Lawyer Miller,” as he was called by his few neighbors, looked slightly embarrassed. “Why not?” he asked in a faintly irritated tone.

“Why not? Why, father, you know how vulgar and conceited he is,–how everybody here truckles to him!”

“Very likely; he’s a very superior man of his kind,–a kind they understand here, too,–a great trapper, hunter, and pioneer.”

“But I don’t believe in his trapping, hunting, and pioneering,” said the girl, petulantly. “I believe it’s all as hollow and boisterous as himself. It’s no more real, or what one thinks it should be, than he is. And he dares to patronize you–you, father, an educated man and a gentleman!”

“Say rather an unsuccessful lawyer who was fool enough to believe that buying a ranch could make him a farmer,” returned her father, but half jestingly. “I only wish I was as good at my trade as he is.”

“But you never liked him,–you always used to ignore him; you’ve changed, father”–She stopped suddenly, for her recollection of her father’s quiet superiority and easy independence when he first came there was in such marked contrast to his late careless and weak concession to the rude life around them, that she felt a pang of vague degradation, which she feared her voice might betray.

“Very well! Do as you like,” he replied, with affected carelessness; “only I thought, as we cannot afford to go elsewhere this Christmas, it might be well for us to take what we could find here.”

“Take what we could find here!” It was so unlike him–he who had always been so strong in preserving their little domestic refinements in their rude surroundings, that their poverty had never seemed mean, nor their seclusion ignoble. She turned away to conceal her indignant color. She could share the household work with a squaw and Chinaman, she could fetch wood and water. Catlin had patronizingly seen her doing it, but to dance to his vulgar piping–never!

She was not long in reaching the sands that now lay before her, warm, sweet-scented from short beach grass, stretching to a dim rocky promontory, and absolutely untrod by any foot but her own. It was this virginity of seclusion that had been charming to her girlhood; fenced in between the impenetrable hedge of scrub-oaks on the one side, and the lifting green walls of breakers tipped with chevaux de frise of white foam on the other, she had known a perfect security for her sports and fancies that had captivated her town-bred instincts and native fastidiousness. A few white-winged sea-birds, as proud, reserved, and maiden-like as herself, had been her only companions. And it was now the custodian of her secret,–a secret as innocent and childlike as her previous youthful fancies,–but still a secret known only to herself.