Calico Palace

Calico Palace by Gwen Bristow Read Free Book Online

Book: Calico Palace by Gwen Bristow Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gwen Bristow
time set for the dance.
    “I have some packing to do tomorrow,” he went on. “Sutter’s agent brought an order for tools, to be sent up by the launch. I should be finished before dark, but if I’m not I’ll quit anyway.”
    There was a pause. Kendra asked suddenly, “Ted, if you could do anything you pleased, what would you do?”
    “Go places,” said Ted. “Not the regular spots but—oh, the inside of China, the lonesome islands, the dim far countries.” He gave her his happy smile. “And I’d take you with me.”
    At this moment Mr. Chase came blundering in to ask Ted if he had shown the young lady that cheese from the Columbia River country.
    They went back into the front room. Here Eva was holding court. Her clear, friendly voice drifted across to them.
    “I tell you, boys, it’s sheer nonsense. My husband told me a man came to the quartermaster’s office the other day, bringing some of those shiny flakes. He wanted to know if they were gold. The quartermaster looked at them carefully, and said they were nothing but yellow mica.”
    Standing by the counter with pencil and notebook, Ted was totaling the cost of Kendra’s purchases. He glanced at her sideways. “I’d rather have a dance with you than a bag of gold,” he said softly. “There’ll be two men there tomorrow night for every woman. But you’re going to dance with me twice. I said twice.”
    The next evening was cold, with a hard wind blowing the clouds across the moon. Kendra brushed her hair till it glistened, and put on a dress of white silk printed with little blue flowers the color of her eyes. With Alex and Eva she rode horseback to the scene of the ball, the Comet House on Dupont Street. When they had given their wraps to a soldier on duty they went into the parlor, a room with garish flowered wallpaper and pink-shaded whale oil lamps.
    Kendra had never been to a dance like this one. The men present were army officers and their friends: traders, ranchers, officers of the vessels in port, sixty men in all. The women were all the wives and daughters that could be scraped up. There were two army wives besides Eva, all who had made the long journey to San Francisco. Mr. Chase brought his wife, a lady stout and good-natured like himself, but he had brought no daughter because his three children were all sons. (Mr. Fenway, who had neither wife nor child, was absent.) Also there were women of the Mormon families, and several native Californians of Mexican descent, wives of British and Yankee traders.
    Altogether, to dance with the sixty men there were twenty-seven women. Only three of these, Kendra and two Mormon girls, were not married. While they danced, the extra men stood along the walls and gazed—no, thought Kendra, they gawked. They were not so bad as the loafers on the waterfront, but they did make her think of some farmers she had seen once, yearning over the prize pigs at a fair.
    Kendra had so many pleas for dances that she could say yes to only a few of them. But somehow, without any appearance of pushing, Ted found her and claimed her, and got her.
    Ted was good-looking in his black suit and white shirt and his well cut shoes. The music was provided by the army band, and they played well. Just now they were playing a frivolous little tune and singing the words that went with it.
    “Love is like a dragonfly,
    Here today, tomorrow gone,
    Love’s a teasing passerby,
    Blows a kiss and hurries on…”
    Ted and Kendra danced. Never had Kendra been so aware of a man’s arm around her, or of how the two of them almost melted together as they followed the music. Ted looked down at her, his gaze lingering on her dark blue eyes and the arrow of hair. Bending his head closer he whispered, “You’re beautiful.”
    Kendra laughed happily. “I’m not really beautiful,” she said. She said it because she wanted to hear him say again that she was.
    But Ted had a way of saying what she did not expect. His arm tightening around her, his

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