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A Daughter of the Vine by Atherton

A DAUGHTER OF THE VINE

by

GERTRUDE ATHERTON

Author of "Senator North," "The Californians," etc.

New York Dodd, Mead and Company 1923

Copyright, 1899 By Dodd, Mead and Company

Printed in U. S. A.

A Daughter of the Vine

BOOK I

I

Two horses were laboriously pulling a carriage through the dense thickets and over the sandhills which in the early Sixties still made an ugly breach between San Francisco and its Presidio. The difficulties of the course were not abridged by the temper of the night, which was torn with wind and muffled in black. During the rare moments when the flying clouds above opened raggedly to discharge a shaft of silver a broad and dreary expanse leapt into form. Hills of sand, bare and shifting, huge boulders, tangles of scrub oak and chaparral, were the distorted features of the landscape between the high far-away peaks of the city and the military posts on the water's edge. On the other side of the bay cliffs and mountains jutted, a mere suggestion of outline. The ocean beyond the Golden Gate roared over the bar. The wind whistled and shrilled through the rigging of the craft on the bay; occasionally it lifted a loose drift and whirled it about the carriage, creating a little cyclone with two angry eyes, and wrenching loud curses from the man on the box.

"It's an unusually bad night, Thorpe, really," said one of the two occupants of the carriage. "Of course the winters here are more or less stormy, but we have many fine days, I assure you; and they're better than the summer with its fogs and trade winds--I am speaking of San Francisco," he added hastily, with newly acquired Californian pride. "Of course it is usually fine in the country at any time. I believe there are sixteen different climates in California."

"As any one of them might be better than England's, it is not for me to complain," said the other, good-naturedly. "But I feel sorry for the horses and the man. I don't think we should have missed much if we had cut this ball."

"Oh, I wouldn't miss it for the world. Life would be suicidal in this God-forsaken country if it were not for the hospitality of the San Franciscans. Some months ago two officers whose names I won't mention met in a lonely spot on the coast near Benicia Fort, on the other side of the bay, with the deliberate intention of shooting one another to death. They were discovered in time, and have since been transferred East. It is better for us on account of San Francisco--Whew! how this confounded thing does jolt!--and the Randolph parties are always the gayest of the season. Mr. Randolph is an Englishman with the uncalculating hospitality of the Californian. He has made a pot of money and entertains lavishly. Every pretty girl in San Francisco is a belle, but Nina Randolph is the belle _par excellence_."

"Is she a great beauty?" asked Thorpe, indifferently. He was wondering if the driver had lost his way. The wheels were zigzagging through drifts so deep that the sand shot against the panes.

"No, I don't know that she is beautiful at all. Miss Hathaway is that, and Mrs. McLane, and two of the 'three Macs'. But she has it all her own way. It's charm, I suppose, and then--well, she's an only child and will come in for a fortune--a right big one if this place grows as people predict. She's a deuced lucky girl, is Miss Nina Randolph, and it will be a deuced lucky fellow that gets her. Only no one does. She's twenty-three and heart-whole."


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