Part 1 out of 3
by BRET HARTE
Morning was breaking on the high road to San Jose. The long lines
of dusty, level track were beginning to extend their vanishing
point in the growing light; on either side the awakening fields of
wheat and oats were stretching out and broadening to the sky. In
the east and south the stars were receding before the coming day;
in the west a few still glimmered, caught among the bosky hills of
the canada del Raimundo, where night seemed to linger. Thither
some obscure, low-flying birds were slowly winging; thither a gray
coyote, overtaken by the morning, was awkwardly limping. And
thither a tramping wayfarer turned, plowing through the dust of the
highway still unslaked by the dewless night, to climb the fence and
likewise seek the distant cover.
For some moments man and beast kept an equal pace and gait with a
strange similarity of appearance and expression; the coyote bearing
that resemblance to his more civilized and harmless congener, the
dog, which the tramp bore to the ordinary pedestrians, but both
exhibiting the same characteristics of lazy vagabondage and semi-
lawlessness; the coyote's slouching amble and uneasy stealthiness
being repeated in the tramp's shuffling step and sidelong glances.
Both were young, and physically vigorous, but both displayed the
same vacillating and awkward disinclination to direct effort. They
continued thus half a mile apart unconscious of each other, until
the superior faculties of the brute warned him of the contiguity of
aggressive civilization, and he cantered off suddenly to the right,
fully five minutes before the barking of dogs caused the man to
make a detour to the left to avoid entrance upon a cultivated
domain that lay before him.
The trail he took led to one of the scant water-courses that
issued, half spent, from the canada, to fade out utterly on the hot
June plain. It was thickly bordered with willows and alders, that
made an arbored and feasible path through the dense woods and
undergrowth. He continued along it as if aimlessly; stopping from
time to time to look at different objects in a dull mechanical
fashion, as if rather to prolong his useless hours, than from any
curious instinct, and to occasionally dip in the unfrequent pools
of water the few crusts of bread he had taken from his pocket.
Even this appeared to be suggested more by coincidence of material
in the bread and water, than from the promptings of hunger. At
last he reached a cup-like hollow in the hills lined with wild
clover and thick with resinous odors. Here he crept under a
manzanita-bush and disposed himself to sleep. The act showed he
was already familiar with the local habits of his class, who used
the unfailing dry starlit nights for their wanderings, and spent
the hours of glaring sunshine asleep or resting in some wayside
Meanwhile the light quickened, and gradually disclosed the form and
outline of the adjacent domain. An avenue cut through a park-like
wood, carefully cleared of the undergrowth of gigantic ferns
peculiar to the locality, led to the entrance of the canada. Here
began a vast terrace of lawn, broken up by enormous bouquets of
flower-beds bewildering in color and profusion, from which again
rose the flowering vines and trailing shrubs that hid pillars,
veranda, and even the long facade of a great and dominant mansion.
But the delicacy of floral outlines running to the capitals of
columns and at times mounting to the pediment of the roof, the
opulence of flashing color or the massing of tropical foliage,
could not deprive it of the imperious dignity of size and space.
Much of this was due to the fact that the original casa--an adobe
house of no mean pretensions, dating back to the early Spanish
occupation--had been kept intact, sheathed in a shell of dark-red
wood, and still retaining its patio; or inner court-yard,
surrounded by low galleries, while additions, greater in extent
than the main building, had been erected--not as wings and
projections, but massed upon it on either side, changing its rigid
square outlines to a vague parallelogram. While the patio retained
the Spanish conception of al fresco seclusion, a vast colonnade of
veranda on the southern side was a concession to American taste,
and its breadth gave that depth of shadow to the inner rooms which
had been lost in the thinner shell of the new erection. Its
cloistered gloom was lightened by the red fires of cardinal flowers
dropping from the roof, by the yellow sunshine of the jessamine
creeping up the columns, by billows of heliotropes breaking over
its base as a purple sea. Nowhere else did the opulence of this
climate of blossoms show itself as vividly. Even the Castilian
roses, that grew as vines along the east front, the fuchsias, that
attained the dignity of trees, in the patio, or the four or five
monster passion-vines that bestarred the low western wall, and told
over and over again their mystic story--paled before the sensuous
glory of the south veranda.
As the sun arose, that part of the quiet house first touched by its
light seemed to waken. A few lounging peons and servants made
their appearance at the entrance of the patio, occasionally
reinforced by an earlier life from the gardens and stables. But
the south facade of the building had not apparently gone to bed at
all: lights were still burning dimly in the large ball-room; a tray
with glasses stood upon the veranda near one of the open French
windows, and further on, a half-shut yellow fan lay like a fallen
leaf. The sound of carriage-wheels on the gravel terrace brought
with it voices and laughter and the swiftly passing vision of a
char-a-bancs filled with muffled figures bending low to avoid the
direct advances of the sun.
As the carriage rolled away, four men lounged out of a window on
the veranda, shading their eyes against the level beams. One was
still in evening dress, and one in the uniform of a captain of
artillery; the others had already changed their gala attire, the
elder of the party having assumed those extravagant tweeds which
the tourist from Great Britain usually offers as a gentle
concession to inferior yet more florid civilization. Nevertheless,
he beamed back heartily on the sun, and remarked, in a pleasant
Scotch accent, that: Did they know it was very extraordinary how
clear the morning was, so free from clouds and mist and fog? The
young man in evening dress fluently agreed to the facts, and
suggested, in idiomatic French-English, that one comprehended that
the bed was an insult to one's higher nature and an ingratitude to
their gracious hostess, who had spread out this lovely garden and
walks for their pleasure; that nothing was more beautiful than the
dew sparkling on the rose, or the matin song of the little birds.
The other young man here felt called upon to point out the fact
that there was no dew in California, and that the birds did not
sing in that part of the country. The foreign young gentleman
received this statement with pain and astonishment as to the fact,
with passionate remorse as to his own ignorance. But still, as it
was a charming day, would not his gallant friend, the Captain here,
accept the challenge of the brave Englishman, and "walk him" for
the glory of his flag and a thousand pounds?
The gallant Captain, unfortunately, believed that if he walked out
in his uniform he would suffer some delay from being interrogated
by wayfarers as to the locality of the circus he would be
pleasantly supposed to represent, even if he escaped being shot as
a rare California bird by the foreign sporting contingent. In
these circumstances, he would simply lounge around the house until
his carriage was ready.
Much as it pained him to withdraw from such amusing companions, the
foreign young gentleman here felt that he, too, would retire for
the present to change his garments, and glided back through the
window at the same moment that the young officer carelessly stepped
from the veranda and lounged towards the shrubbery.
"They've been watching each other for the last hour. I wonder
what's up?" said the young man who remained.
The remark, without being confidential, was so clearly the first
sentence of natural conversation that the Scotchman, although
relieved, said, "Eh, man?" a little cautiously.
"It's as clear as this sunshine that Captain Carroll and Garnier
are each particularly anxious to know what the other is doing or
intends to do this morning."
"Why did they separate, then?" asked the other.
"That's a mere blind. Garnier's looking through his window now at
Carroll, and Carroll is aware of it."
"Eh!" said the Scotchman, with good-humored curiosity. "Is it a
quarrel? Nothing serious, I hope. No revolvers and bowie-knives,
man, before breakfast, eh?"
"No," laughed the younger man. "No! To do Maruja justice, she
generally makes a fellow too preposterous to fight. I see you
don't understand. You're a stranger; I'm an old habitue of the
house--let me explain. Both of these men are in love with Maruja;
or, worse than that, they firmly believe her to be in love with
"But Miss Maruja is the eldest daughter of our hostess, is she
not?" said the Scotchman; "and I understood from one of the young
ladies that the Captain had come down from the Fort particularly to
pay court to Miss Amita, the beauty."
"Possibly. But that wouldn't prevent Maruja from flirting with
"Eh! but are you not mistaken, Mr. Raymond? Certainly a more
quiet, modest, and demure young lassie I never met."
"That's because she sat out two waltzes with you, and let you do
the talking, while she simply listened."
The elder man's fresh color for an instant heightened, but he
recovered himself with a good-humored laugh. "Likely--likely.
She's a capital good listener."
"You're not the first man that found her eloquent. Stanton, your
banking friend, who never talks of anything but mines and stocks,
says she's the only woman who has any conversation; and we can all
swear that she never said two words to him the whole time she sat
next to him at dinner. But she looked at him as if she had. Why,
man, woman, and child all give her credit for any grace that
pleases themselves. And why? Because she's clever enough not to
practice any one of them--as graces. I don't know the girl that
claims less and gets more. For instance, you don't call her
pretty?" . . .
"Wait a bit. Ye'll not get on so fast, my young friend; I'm not
prepared to say that she's not," returned the Scotchman, with good-
humored yet serious caution.
"But you would have been prepared yesterday, and have said it. She
can produce the effect of the prettiest girl here, and without
challenging comparison. Nobody thinks of her--everybody
"You're an enthusiast, Mr. Raymond. As an habitue of the house, of
"Oh, my time came with the rest," laughed the young man, with
unaffected frankness. "It's about two years ago now."
"I see--you were not a marrying man."
"Pardon me--it was because I was."
The Scotchman looked at him curiously.
"Maruja is an heiress. I am a mining engineer."
"But, my dear fellow, I thought that in your country--"
"In MY country, yes. But we are standing on a bit of old Spain.
This land was given to Dona Maria Saltonstall's ancestors by
Charles V. Look around you. This veranda, this larger shell of
the ancient casa, is the work of the old Salem whaling captain that
she married, and is all that is American here. But the heart of
the house, as well as the life that circles around the old patio,
is Spanish. The Dona's family, the Estudillos and Guitierrez,
always looked down upon this alliance with the Yankee captain,
though it brought improvement to the land, and increased its value
forty-fold, and since his death ever opposed any further foreign
intervention. Not that that would weigh much with Maruja if she
took a fancy to any one; Spanish as she is throughout, in thought
and grace and feature, there is enough of the old Salem witches'
blood in her to defy law and authority in following an unhallowed
worship. There are no sons; she is the sole heiress of the house
and estate--though, according to the native custom, her sisters
will be separately portioned from the other property, which is very
"Then the Captain might still make a pretty penny on Amita," said
"If he did not risk and lose it all on Maruja. There is enough of
the old Spanish jealousy in the blood to make even the gentle Amita
never forgive his momentary defection."
Something in his manner made the Scotchman think that Raymond spoke
from baleful experience. How else could this attractive young
fellow, educated abroad and a rising man in his profession, have
failed to profit by his contiguity to such advantages, and the fact
of his being an evident favorite?
"But with this opposition on the part of the relatives to any
further alliances with your countrymen, why does our hostess expose
her daughters to their fascinating influence?" said the elder man,
glancing at his companion. "The girls seem to have the usual
"Perhaps they are therefore the less likely to give it up to the
first man who asks them. But the Spanish duenna still survives in
the family--the more awful because invisible. It's a mysterious
fact that as soon as a fellow becomes particularly attached to any
one--except Maruja--he receives some intimation from Pereo."
"What! the butler? That Indian-looking fellow? A servant?"
"Pardon me--the mayordomo. The old confidential servitor who
stands in loco parentis. No one knows what he says. If the victim
appeals to the mistress, she is indisposed; you know she has such
bad health. If in his madness he makes a confidante of Maruja,
that finishes him."
"Why, he ends by transferring his young affections to her--with the
"Then you don't think our friend the Captain has had this
confidential butler ask his intentions yet?"
"I don't think it will be necessary," said the other, dryly.
"Umph! Meantime, the Captain has just vanished through yon
shrubbery. I suppose that's the end of the mysterious espionage
you have discovered. No! De'il take it! but there's that
Frenchman popping out of the myrtlebush. How did the fellow get
there? And, bless me! here's our lassie, too!"
"Yes!" said Raymond, in a changed voice, "It's Maruja!"
She had approached so noiselessly along the bank that bordered the
veranda, gliding from pillar to pillar as she paused before each to
search for some particular flower, that both men felt an uneasy
consciousness. But she betrayed no indication of their presence by
look or gesture. So absorbed and abstracted she seemed that, by a
common instinct, they both drew nearer the window, and silently
waited for her to pass or recognize them.
She halted a few paces off to fasten a flower in her girdle. A
small youthful figure, in a pale yellow dress, lacking even the
maturity of womanly outline. The full oval of her face, the
straight line of her back, a slight boyishness in the contour of
her hips, the infantine smallness of her sandaled feet and narrow
hands, were all suggestive of fresh, innocent, amiable youth--and
Forgetting himself, the elder man mischievously crushed his
companion against the wall in mock virtuous indignation. "Eh,
sir," he whispered, with an accent that broadened with his
feelings. "Eh, but look at the puir wee lassie! Will ye no be
ashamed o' yerself for putting the tricks of a Circe on sic a
honest gentle bairn? Why, man, you'll be seein' the sign of a limb
of Satan in a bit thing with the mother's milk not yet out of her!
She a flirt, speerin' at men, with that modest downcast air? I'm
ashamed of ye, Mister Raymond. She's only thinking of her
breakfast, puir thing, and not of yon callant. Another
sacrilegious word and I'll expose you to her. Have ye no pity on
youth and innocence?"
"Let me up," groaned Raymond, feebly, "and I'll tell you how old
she is. Hush--she's looking."
The two men straightened themselves. She had, indeed, lifted her
eyes towards the window. They were beautiful eyes, and charged
with something more than their own beauty. With a deep brunette
setting even to the darkened cornea, the pupils were blue as the
sky above them. But they were lit with another intelligence. The
soul of the Salem whaler looked out of the passion-darkened orbits
of the mother, and was resistless.
She smiled recognition of the two men with sedate girlishness and a
foreign inclination of the head over the flowers she was holding.
Her straight, curveless mouth became suddenly charming with the
parting of her lips over her white teeth, and left the impress of
the smile in a lighting of the whole face even after it had passed.
Then she moved away. At the same moment Garnier approached her.
"Come away, man, and have our walk," said the Scotchman, seizing
Raymond's arm. "We'll not spoil that fellow's sport."
"No; but she will, I fear. Look, Mr. Buchanan, if she hasn't given
him her flowers to carry to the house while she waits here for the
"Come away, scoffer!" said Buchanan, good-humoredly, locking his
arm in the young man's and dragging him from the veranda towards
the avenue, "and keep your observations for breakfast."
In the mean time, the young officer, who had disappeared in the
shrubbery, whether he had or had not been a spectator of the scene,
exhibited some signs of agitation. He walked rapidly on,
occasionally switching the air with a wand of willow, from which he
had impatiently plucked the leaves, through an alley of ceanothus,
until he reached a little thicket of evergreens, which seemed to
oppose his further progress. Turning to one side, however, he
quickly found an entrance to a labyrinthine walk, which led him at
last to an open space and a rustic summer-house that stood beneath
a gnarled and venerable pear-tree. The summerhouse was a quaint
stockade of dark madrono boughs thatched with red-wood bark,
strongly suggestive of deeper woodland shadow. But in strange
contrast, the floor, table, and benches were thickly strewn with
faded rose-leaves, scattered as if in some riotous play of
children. Captain Carroll brushed them aside hurriedly with his
impatient foot, glanced around hastily, then threw himself on the
rustic bench at full length and twisted his mustache between his
nervous fingers. Then he rose as suddenly, with a few white petals
impaled on his gilded spurs and stepped quickly into the open
He must have been mistaken! Everything was quiet around him, the
far-off sound of wheels in the avenue came faintly, but nothing
His eye fell upon the pear-tree, and even in his preoccupation he
was struck with the signs of its extraordinary age. Twisted out of
all proportion, and knotted with excrescences, it was supported by
iron bands and heavy stakes, as if to prop up its senile decay. He
tried to interest himself in the various initials and symbols
deeply carved in bark, now swollen and half obliterated. As he
turned back to the summer-house, he for the first time noticed that
the ground rose behind it into a long undulation, on the crest of
which the same singular profusion of rose-leaves were scattered.
It struck him as being strangely like a gigantic grave, and that
the same idea had occurred to the fantastic dispenser of the
withered flowers. He was still looking at it, when a rustle in the
undergrowth made his heart beat expectantly. A slinking gray
shadow crossed the undulation and disappeared in the thicket. It
was a coyote. At any other time the extraordinary appearance of
this vivid impersonation of the wilderness, so near a centre of
human civilization and habitation, would have filled him with
wonder. But he had room for only a single thought now. Would SHE
Five minutes passed. He no longer waited in the summer-house, but
paced impatiently before the entrance to the labyrinth. Another
five minutes. He was deceived, undoubtedly. She and her sisters
were probably waiting for him and laughing at him on the lawn. He
ground his heel into the clover, and threw his switch into the
thicket. Yet he would give her one--only one moment more.
The voice had been and was to HIM the sweetest in the world; but
even a stranger could not have resisted the spell of its musical
inflection. He turned quickly. She was advancing towards him from
"Did you think I was coming that way--where everybody could follow
me?" she laughed, softly. "No; I came through the thicket over
there," indicating the direction with her flexible shoulder, "and
nearly lost my slipper and my eyes--look!" She threw back the
inseparable lace shawl from her blond head, and showed a spray of
myrtle clinging like a broken wreath to her forehead. The young
officer remained gazing at her silently.
"I like to hear you speak my name," he said, with a slight
hesitation in his breath. "Say it again."
"Car-roll, Car-roll, Car-roll," she murmured gently to herself two
or three times, as if enjoying her own native trilling of the r's.
"It's a pretty name. It sounds like a song. Don Carroll, eh! El
Capitan Don Carroll."
"But my first name is Henry," he said, faintly.
"'Enry--that's not so good. Don Enrico will do. But El Capitan
Carroll is best of all. I must have it always: El Capitan
"Always?" He colored like a boy.
"Why not?" He was confusedly trying to look through her brown
lashes; she was parrying him with the steel of her father's glance.
"Come! Well! Captain Carroll! It was not to tell me your name--
that I knew already was pretty--Car-roll!" she murmured again,
caressing him with her lashes; "it was not for this that you asked
me to meet you face to face in this--cold"--she made a movement of
drawing her lace over her shoulders--"cold daylight. That belonged
to the lights and the dance and the music of last night. It is not
for this you expect me to leave my guests, to run away from
Monsieur Garnier, who pays compliments, but whose name is not
pretty--from Mr. Raymond, who talks OF me when he can't talk TO me.
They will say, This Captain Carroll could say all that before
"But if they knew," said the young officer, drawing closer to her
with a paling face but brightening eyes, "if they knew I had
anything else to say, Miss Saltonstall--something--pardon me--did I
hurt your hand?--something for HER alone--is there one of them that
would have the right to object? Do not think me foolish, Miss
Saltonstall--but--I beg--I implore you to tell me before I say
"Who would have a right?" said Maruja, withdrawing her hand but not
her dangerous eyes. "Who would dare forbid you talking to me of my
sister? I have told you that Amita is free--as we all are."
Captain Carroll fell back a few steps and gazed at her with a
troubled face. "It is possible that you have misunderstood, Miss
Saltonstall?" he faltered. "Do you still think it is Amita that
I"--he stopped and added passionately, "Do you remember what I told
you?--have you forgotten last night?"
"Last night was--last night!" said Maruja, slightly lifting her
shoulders. "One makes love at night--one marries in daylight. In
the music, in the flowers, in the moonlight, one says everything;
in the morning one has breakfast--when one is not asked to have
councils of war with captains and commandantes. You would speak of
my sister, Captain Car-roll--go on. Dona Amita Carroll sounds
very, very pretty. I shall not object." She held out both her
hands to him, threw her head back, and smiled.
He seized her hands passionately. "No, no! you shall hear me--you
shall understand me. I love YOU, Maruja--you, and you alone. God
knows I can not help it--God knows I would not help it if I could.
Hear me. I will be calm. No one can hear us where we stand. I am
not mad. I am not a traitor! I frankly admired your sister. I
came here to see her. Beyond that, I swear to you, I am guiltless
to her--to you. Even she knows no more of me than that. I saw
you, Maruja. From that moment I have thought of nothing--dreamed
of nothing else."
"That is--three, four, five days and one afternoon ago! You see, I
remember. And now you want--what?"
"To let me love you, and you only. To let me be with you. To let
me win you in time, as you should be won. I am not mad, though I
am desperate. I know what is due to your station and mine--even
while I dare to say I love you. Let me hope, Maruja, I only ask to
She looked at him until she had absorbed all the burning fever of
his eyes, until her ears tingled with his passionate voice, and
then--she shook her head.
"It can not be, Carroll--no! never!"
He drew himself up under the blow with such simple and manly
dignity that her eyes dropped for the moment. "There is another,
then?" he said, sadly.
"There is no one I care for better than you. No! Do not be
foolish. Let me go. I tell you that because you can be nothing to
me--you understand, to ME. To my sister Amita, yes."
The young soldier raised his head coldly. "I have pressed you
hard, Miss Saltonstall--too hard, I know, for a man who has already
had his answer; but I did not deserve this. Good-by."
"Stop," she said, gently. "I meant not to hurt you, Captain
Carroll. If I had, it is not thus I would have done. I need not
have met you here. Would you have loved me the less if I had
avoided this meeting?"
He could not reply. In the depths of his miserable heart, he knew
that he would have loved her the same.
"Come," she said, laying her hand softly on his arm, "do not be
angry with me for putting you back only five days to where you were
when you first entered our house. Five days is not much of
happiness or sorrow to forget, is it, Carroll--Captain Carroll?"
Her voice died away in a faint sigh. "Do not be angry with me, if--
knowing you could be nothing more--I wanted you to love my sister,
and my sister to love you. We should have been good friends--such
"Why do you say, 'Knowing it could he nothing more'?" said Carroll,
grasping her hand suddenly. "In the name of Heaven, tell me what
"I mean I can not marry unless I marry one of my mother's race.
That is my mother's wish, and the will of her relations. You are
an American, not of Spanish blood."
"But surely this is not your determination?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "What would you? It is the
determination of my people."
"But knowing this"--he stopped; the quick blood rose to his face.
"Go on, Captain Carroll. You would say, Knowing this, why did I
not warn you? Why did I not say to you when we first met, You have
come to address my sister; do not fall in love with me--I can not
marry a foreigner."
"You are cruel, Maruja. But, if that is all, surely this prejudice
can be removed? Why, your mother married a foreigner--an
"Perhaps that is why," said the girl, quietly. She cast down her
long lashes, and with the point of her satin slipper smoothed out
the soft leaves of the clover at her feet. "Listen; shall I tell
you the story of our house? Stop! some one is coming. Don't move;
remain as you are. If you care for me, Carroll, collect yourself,
and don't let that man think he has found US ridiculous." Her
voice changed from its tone of slight caressing pleading to one of
suppressed pride. "HE will not laugh much, Captain Carroll; truly,
The figure of Garnier, bright, self-possessed, courteous, appeared
at the opening of the labyrinth. Too well-bred to suggest, even in
complimentary raillery, a possible sentimental situation, his
politeness went further. It was so kind in them to guide an
awkward stranger by their voices to the places where he could not
"You are just in time to interrupt or to hear a story that I have
been threatening to tell," she said, composedly; "an old Spanish
legend of this house. You are in the majority now, you two, and
can stop me if you choose. Thank you. I warn you it is stupid; it
isn't new; but it has the excuse of being suggested by this very
spot." She cast a quick look of subtle meaning at Carroll, and
throughout her recital appealed more directly to him, in a manner
delicately yet sufficiently marked to partly soothe his troubled
"Far back, in the very old times, Caballeros," said Maruja,
standing by the table in mock solemnity, and rapping upon it with
her fan, "this place was the home of the coyote. Big and little,
father and mother, Senor and Senora Coyotes, and the little
muchacho coyotes had their home in the dark canada, and came out
over these fields, yellow with wild oats and red with poppies, to
seek their prey. They were happy. For why? They were the first;
they had no history, you comprehend, no tradition. They married as
they liked" (with a glance at Carroll), "nobody objected; they
increased and multiplied. But the plains were fertile; the game
was plentiful; it was not fit that it should be for the beasts
alone. And so, in the course of time, an Indian chief, a heathen,
Koorotora, built his wigwam here."
"I beg your pardon," said Garnier, in apparent distress, "but I
caught the gentleman's name imperfectly."
Fully aware that the questioner only wished to hear again her
musical enunciation of the consonants, she repeated, "Koorotora,"
with an apologetic glance at Carroll, and went on. "This gentleman
had no history or tradition to bother him, either; whatever Senor
Coyote thought of the matter, he contented himself with robbing
Senor Koorotora's wigwam when he could, and skulking around the
Indian's camp at night. The old chief prospered, and made many
journeys round the country, but always kept his camp here. This
lasted until the time when the holy Fathers came from the South,
and Portala, as you have all read, uplifted the wooden Cross on the
sea-coast over there, and left it for the heathens to wonder at.
Koorotora saw it on one of his journeys, and came back to the
canada full of this wonder. Now, Koorotora had a wife."
"Ah, we shall commence now. We are at the beginning. This is
better than Senora Coyota," said Garnier, cheerfully.
"Naturally, she was anxious to see the wonderful object. She saw
it, and she saw the holy Fathers, and they converted her against
the superstitious heathenish wishes of her husband. And more than
that, they came here--"
"And converted the land also; is it not so? It was a lovely site
for a mission," interpolated Garnier, politely.
"They built a mission and brought as many of Koorotora's people as
they could into the sacred fold. They brought them in in a queer
fashion sometimes, it is said; dragoons from the Presidio, Captain
Carroll, lassoing them and bringing them in at the tails of their
horses. All except Koorotora. He defied them; he cursed them and
his wife in his wicked heathenish fashion, and said that they too
should lose the mission through the treachery of some woman, and
that the coyote should yet prowl through the ruined walls of the
church. The holy Fathers pitied the wicked man--and built
themselves a lovely garden. Look at that pear-tree! There is all
that is left of it!"
She turned with a mock heroic gesture, and pointed her fan to the
pear-tree. Garnier lifted his hands in equally simulated wonder.
A sudden recollection of the coyote of the morning recurred to
Carroll uneasily. "And the Indians," he said, with an effort to
shake off the feeling; "they, too, have vanished."
"All that remained of them is in yonder mound. It is the grave of
the chief and his people. He never lived to see the fulfillment of
his prophecy. For it was a year after his death that our ancestor,
Manuel Guitierrez, came from old Spain to the Presidio with a grant
of twenty leagues to settle where he chose. Dona Maria Guitierrez
took a fancy to the canada. But it was a site already in
possession of the Holy Church. One night, through treachery, it
was said, the guards were withdrawn and the Indians entered the
mission, slaughtered the lay brethren, and drove away the priests.
The Commandant at the Presidio retook the place from the heathens,
but on representation to the Governor that it was indefensible for
the peaceful Fathers without a large military guard, the official
ordered the removal of the mission to Santa Cruz, and Don Manuel
settled his twenty leagues grant in the canada. Whether he or Dona
Maria had anything to do with the Indian uprising, no one knows;
but Father Pedro never forgave them. He is said to have declared
at the foot of the altar that the curse of the Church was on the
land, and that it should always pass into the hands of the
"And that was long ago, and the property is still in the family,"
said Carroll, hurriedly, answering Maruja's eyes.
"In the last hundred years there have been no male heirs,"
continued Maruja, still regarding Carroll. "When my mother, who
was the eldest daughter, married Don Jose Saltonstall against the
wishes of the family, it was said that the curse would fall. Sure
enough, Caballeros, it was that year that the forged grants of
Micheltorrena were discovered; and in our lawsuit your government,
Captain, handed over ten leagues of the llano land to the Doctor
West, our neighbor."
"Ah, the gray-headed gentleman who lunched here the other day? You
are friends, then? You bear no malice?" said Garnier.
"What would you?" said Maruja, with a slight shrug of her
shoulders. "He paid his money to the forger. Your corregidores
upheld him, and said it was no forgery," she continued, to Carroll.
In spite of the implied reproach, Carroll felt relieved. He began
to be impatient of Garnier's presence, and longed to renew his
suit. Perhaps his face showed something of this, for Maruja added,
with mock demureness, "It's always dreadful to be the eldest
sister; but think what it is to be in the direct line of a curse!
Now, there's Amita--SHE'S free to do as she likes, with no family
responsibility; while poor me!" She dropped her eyes, but not
until they had again sought and half-reproved the brightening eyes
"But," said Garnier, with a sudden change from his easy security
and courteous indifference to an almost harsh impatience, "you do
not mean to say, Mademoiselle, that you have the least belief in
this rubbish, this ridiculous canard?"
Maruja's straight mouth quickly tightened over her teeth. She shot
a significant glance at Carroll, but instantly resumed her former
"It matters little what a foolish girl like myself believes. The
rest of the family, even the servants and children, all believe it.
It is a part of their religion. Look at these flowers around the
pear-tree, and scattered on that Indian mound. They regularly find
their way there on saints' days and festas. THEY are not rubbish,
Monsieur Garnier; they are propitiatory sacrifices. Pereo would
believe that a temblor would swallow up the casa if we should ever
forego these customary rites. Is it a mere absurdity that forced
my father to build these modern additions around the heart of the
old adobe house, leaving it untouched, so that the curse might not
be fulfilled even by implication?"
She had assumed an air of such pretty earnestness and passion; her
satin face was illuminated as by some softly sensuous light within
more bewildering than mere color, that Garnier, all devoted eyes
and courteous blandishment, broke out: "But this curse must fall
harmlessly before the incarnation of blessing; Miss Saltonstall has
no more to fear than the angels. She is the one predestined
through her charm, through her goodness, to lift it forever."
Carroll could not have helped echoing the aspirations of his rival,
had not the next words of his mistress thrilled him with
"A thousand thanks, Senor. Who knows? But I shall have warning
when it falls. A day or two before the awful invader arrives, a
coyote suddenly appears in broad daylight, mysteriously, near the
casa. This midnight marauder, now banished to the thickest canyon,
comes again to prowl around the home of his ancestors. Caramba!
Senor Captain, what are you staring at? You frighten me! Stop it,
She had turned upon him, stamping her little foot in quite a
frightened, childlike way.
"Nothing," laughed Carroll, the quick blood returning to his cheek.
"But you must not be angry with one for being quite carried away
with your dramatic intensity. By Jove! I thought I could see the
WHOLE thing while you were speaking--the old Indian, the priest,
and the coyote!" His eyes sparkled. The wild thought had occurred
to him that perhaps, in spite of himself, he was the young woman's
predestined fate; and in the very selfishness of his passion he
smiled at the mere material loss of lands and prestige that would
follow it. "Then the coyote has always preceded some change in the
family fortunes?" he asked, boldly.
"On my mother's wedding-day," said Maruja, in a lower voice, "after
the party had come from church to supper in the old casa, my father
asked, 'What dog is that under the table?' When they lifted the
cloth to look, a coyote rushed from the very midst of the guests
and dashed out across the patio. No one knew how or when he
"Heaven grant that we do not find he has eaten our breakfast!" said
Garnier, gayly, "for I judge it is waiting us. I hear your
sister's voice among the others crossing the lawn. Shall we tear
ourselves away from the tombs of our ancestors, and join them?"
"Not as I am looking now, thank you," said Maruja, throwing the
lace over her head. "I shall not submit myself to a comparison of
their fresher faces and toilets by you two gentlemen. Go you both
and join them. I shall wait and say an Ave for the soul of
Koorotora, and slip back alone the way I came."
She had steadily evaded the pleading glance of Carroll, and though
her bright face and unblemished toilet showed the inefficiency of
her excuse, it was evident that her wish to be alone was genuine
and without coquetry. They could only lift their hats and turn
As the red cap of the young officer disappeared amidst the
evergreen foliage, the young woman uttered a faint sigh, which she
repeated a moment after as a slight nervous yawn. Then she opened
and shut her fan once or twice, striking the sticks against her
little pale palm, and then, gathering the lace under her oval chin
with one hand, and catching her fan and skirt with the other, bent
her head and dipped into the bushes. She came out on the other
side near a low fence, that separated the park from a narrow lane
which communicated with the high road beyond. As she neared the
fence, a slinking figure limped along the lane before her. It was
the tramp of the early morning.
They raised their heads at the same moment and their eyes met. The
tramp, in that clearer light, showed a spare, but bent figure,
roughly clad in a miner's shirt and canvas trousers, splashed and
streaked with soil, and half hidden in a ragged blue cast-off army
overcoat lazily hanging from one shoulder. His thin sun-burnt face
was not without a certain sullen, suspicious intelligence, and a
look of half-sneering defiance. He stopped, as a startled, surly
animal might have stopped at some unusual object, but did not
exhibit any other discomposure. Maruja stopped at the same moment
on her side of the fence.
The tramp looked at her deliberately, and then slowly lowered his
eyes. "I'm looking for the San Jose road, hereabouts. Ye don't
happen to know it?" he said, addressing himself to the top of the
It had been said that it was not Maruja's way to encounter man,
woman, or child, old or young, without an attempt at subjugation.
Strong in her power and salient with fascination, she leaned gently
over the fence, and with the fan raised to her delicate ear, made
him repeat his question under the soft fire of her fringed eyes.
He did so, but incompletely, and with querulous laziness.
"Lookin'--for--San Jose road--here'bouts."
"The road to San Jose," said Maruja, with gentle slowness, as if
not unwilling to protract the conversation, "is about two miles
from here. It is the high road to the left fronting the plain.
There is another way, if--"
"Don't want it! Mornin'."
He dropped his head suddenly forward, and limped away in the
Breakfast, usually a movable feast at La Mision Perdida, had been
prolonged until past midday; the last of the dance guests had
flown, and the home party--with the exception of Captain Carroll,
who had returned to duty at his distant post--were dispersing; some
as riding cavalcades to neighboring points of interest; some to
visit certain notable mansions which the wealth of a rapid
civilization had erected in that fertile valley. One of these in
particular, the work of a breathless millionaire, was famous for
the spontaneity of its growth and the reckless extravagance of its
"If you go to Aladdin's Palace," said Maruja, from the top step of
the south porch, to a wagonette of guests, "after you've seen the
stables with mahogany fittings for one hundred horses, ask Aladdin
to show you the enchanted chamber, inlaid with California woods and
paved with gold quartz."
"We would have a better chance if the Princess of China would only
go with us," pleaded Garnier, gallantly.
"The Princess will stay at home with her mother, like a good girl,"
returned Maruja, demurely.
"A bad shot of Garnier's this time," whispered Raymond to Buchanan,
as the vehicle rolled away with them. "The Princess is not likely
to visit Aladdin again."
"The last time she was there, Aladdin was a little too Persian in
his extravagance: offered her his house, stables, and himself."
"Not a bad catch--why, he's worth two millions, I hear."
"Yes; but his wife is as extravagant as himself."
"His WIFE, eh? Ah, are you serious; or must you say something
derogatory of the lassie's admirers too?" said Buchanan, playfully
threatening him with his cane. "Another word, and I'll throw you
from the wagon."
After their departure, the outer shell of the great house fell into
a profound silence, so hollow and deserted that one might have
thought the curse of Koorotora had already descended upon it. Dead
leaves of roses and fallen blossoms from the long line of vine-
wreathed columns lay thick on the empty stretch of brown veranda,
or rustled and crept against the sides of the house, where the
regular breath of the afternoon "trades" began to arise. A few
cardinal flowers fell like drops of blood before the open windows
of the vacant ball-room, in which the step of a solitary servant
echoed faintly. It was Maruja's maid, bringing a note to her young
mistress, who, in a flounced morning dress, leaned against the
window. Maruja took it, glanced at it quietly, folded it in a long
fold, and put it openly in her belt. Captain Carroll, from whom it
came, might have carried one of his despatches as methodically.
The waiting-woman noticed the act, and was moved to suggest some
more exciting confidences.
"The Dona Maruja has, without doubt, noticed the bouquet on her
dressing-room table from the Senor Garnier?"
The Dona Maruja had. The Dona Maruja had also learned with pain
that, bribed by Judas-like coin, Faquita had betrayed the secrets
of her wardrobe to the extent of furnishing a ribbon from a certain
yellow dress to the Senor Buchanan to match with a Chinese fan.
This was intolerable!
Faquita writhed in remorse, and averred that through this solitary
act she had dishonored her family.
The Dona Maruja, however, since it was so, felt that the only thing
left to do was to give her the polluted dress, and trust that the
Devil might not fly away with her.
Leaving the perfectly consoled Faquita, Maruja crossed the large
hall, and, opening a small door, entered a dark passage through the
thick adobe wall of the old casa, and apparently left the present
century behind her. A peaceful atmosphere of the past surrounded
her not only in the low vaulted halls terminating in grilles or
barred windows; not only in the square chambers whose dark rich but
scanty furniture was only a foil to the central elegance of the
lace-bordered bed and pillows; but in a certain mysterious odor of
dried and desiccated religious respectability that penetrated
everywhere, and made the grateful twilight redolent of the
generations of forgotten Guitierrez who had quietly exhaled in the
old house. A mist as of incense and flowers that had lost their
first bloom veiled the vista of the long corridor, and made the
staring blue sky, seen through narrow windows and loopholes,
glitter like mirrors let into the walls. The chamber assigned to
the young ladies seemed half oratory and half sleeping-room, with a
strange mingling of the convent in the bare white walls, hung only
with crucifixes and religious emblems, and of the seraglio in the
glimpses of lazy figures, reclining in the deshabille of short
silken saya, low camisa, and dropping slippers. In a broad angle
of the corridor giving upon the patio, its balustrade hung with
brightly colored serapes and shawls, surrounded by voluble
domestics and relations, the mistress of the casa half reclined in
a hammock and gave her noonday audience.
Maruja pushed her way through the clustered stools and cushions to
her mother's side, kissed her on the forehead, and then lightly
perched herself like a white dove on the railing. Mrs.
Saltonstall, a dark, corpulent woman, redeemed only from coarseness
by a certain softness of expression and refinement of gesture,
raised her heavy brown eyes to her daughter's face.
"You have not been to bed, Mara?"
"No, dear. Do I look it?"
"You must lie down presently. They tell me that Captain Carroll
returned suddenly this morning."
"Do you care?"
"Who knows? Amita does not seem to fancy Jose, Esteban, Jorge, or
any of her cousins. She won't look at Juan Estudillo. The Captain
is not bad. He is of the government. He is--"
"Not more than ten leagues from here," said Maruja, playing with
the Captain's note in her belt. "You can send for him, dear little
mother. He will be glad."
"You will ever talk lightly--like your father! She was not then
"She and Dorotea and the two Wilsons went off with Raymond and your
Scotch friend in the wagonette. She did not cry--to Raymond."
"Good," said Mrs. Saltonstall, leaning back in her hammock.
"Raymond is an old friend. You had better take your siesta now,
child, to be bright for dinner. I expect a visitor this afternoon--
"Again! What will Pereo say, little mother?"
"Pereo," said the widow, sitting up again in her hammock, with
impatience, "Pereo is becoming intolerable. The man is as mad as
Don Quixote; it is impossible to conceal his eccentric impertinence
and interference from strangers, who can not understand his
confidential position in our house or his long service. There are
no more mayordomos, child. The Vallejos, the Briones, the Castros,
do without them now. Dr. West says, wisely, they are ridiculous
survivals of the patriarchal system."
"And can be replaced by intelligent strangers," interrupted Maruja,
"The more easily if the patriarchal system has not been able to
preserve the respect due from children to parents. No, Maruja!
No; I am offended. Do not touch me! And your hair is coming down,
and your eyes have rings like owls. You uphold this fanatical
Pereo because he leaves YOU alone and stalks your poor sisters and
their escorts like the Indian, whose blood is in his veins. The
saints only can tell if he did not disgust this Captain Carroll
into flight. He believes himself the sole custodian of the honor
of our family--that he has a sacred mission from this Don Fulano of
Koorotora to avert its fate. Without doubt he keeps up his
delusions with aguardiente, and passes for a prophet among the
silly peons and servants. He frightens the children with his
ridiculous stories, and teaches them to decorate that heathen mound
as if it were a shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows. He was almost rude
to Dr. West yesterday."
"But you have encouraged him in his confidential position here,"
said Maruja. "You forget, my mother, how you got him to 'duena'
Euriqueta with the Colonel Brown; how you let him frighten the
young Englishman who was too attentive to Dorotea; how you set him
even upon poor Raymond, and failed so dismally that I had to take
him myself in hand."
"But if I choose to charge him with explanations that I can not
make myself without derogating from the time-honored hospitality of
the casa, that is another thing. It is not," said Dona Maria, with
a certain massive dignity, that, inconsistent as it was with the
weakness of her argument, was not without impressiveness, "it is
not yet, Blessed Santa Maria, that we are obliged to take notice
ourself of the pretensions of every guest beneath our roof like the
match-making, daughter-selling English and Americans. And THEN
Pereo had tact and discrimination. Now he is mad! There are
strangers and strangers. The whole valley is full of them--one can
discriminate, since the old families year by year are growing less."
"Surely not," said Maruja, innocently. "There is the excellent
Ramierrez, who has lately almost taken him a wife from the singing-
hall in San Francisco; he may yet be snatched from the fire. There
is the youthful Jose Castro, the sole padrono of our national bull-
fight at Soquel, the famous horse-breaker, and the winner of I know
not how many races. And have we not Vincente Peralta, who will
run, it is said, for the American Congress. He can read and write--
truly I have a letter from him here." She turned back the folded
slip of Captain Carroll's note and discovered another below.
Mrs. Saltonstall tapped her daughter's hand with her fan. "You
jest at them, yet you uphold Pereo! Go, now, and sleep yourself
into a better frame of mind. Stop! I hear the Doctor's horse.
Run and see that Pereo receives him properly."
Maruja had barely entered the dark corridor when she came upon the
visitor,--a gray, hard-featured man of sixty,--who had evidently
entered without ceremony. "I see you did not wait to be
announced," she said, sweetly. "My mother will be flattered by
your impatience. You will find her in the patio."
"Pereo did not announce me, as he was probably still under the
effect of the aguardiente he swallowed yesterday," said the Doctor,
dryly. "I met him outside the tienda on the highway the other
night, talking to a pair of cut-throats that I would shoot on
"The mayordomo has many purchases to make, and must meet a great
many people," said Maruju. "What would you? We can not select HIS
acquaintances; we can hardly choose our own," she added, sweetly.
The Doctor hesitated, as if to reply, and then, with a grim "Good-
morning," passed on towards the patio. Maruja did not follow him.
Her attention was suddenly absorbed by a hitherto unnoticed
motionless figure, that seemed to be hiding in the shadow of an
angle of the passage, as if waiting for her to pass. The keen eyes
of the daughter of Joseph Saltonstall were not deceived. She
walked directly towards the figure, and said, sharply, "Pereo!"
The figure came hesitatingly forward into the light of the grated
window. It was that of an old man, still tall and erect, though
the hair had disappeared from his temples, and hung in two or three
straight, long dark elf-locks on his neck. His face, over which
one of the bars threw a sinister shadow, was the yellow of a dried
tobacco-leaf, and veined as strongly. His garb was a strange
mingling of the vaquero and the ecclesiastic--velvet trousers, open
from the knee down, and fringed with bullion buttons; a broad red
sash around his waist, partly hidden by a long, straight chaqueta;
with a circular sacerdotal cape of black broadcloth slipped over
his head through a slit-like opening braided with gold. His
restless yellow eyes fell before the young girl's; and the stiff,
varnished, hard-brimmed sombrero he held in his wrinkled hands
"You are spying again, Pereo," said Maruja, in another dialect than
the one she had used to her mother. "It is unworthy of my father's
"It is that man--that coyote, Dona Maruja, that is unworthy of your
father, of your mother, of YOU!" he gesticulated, in a fierce
whisper. "I, Pereo, do not spy. I follow, follow the track of the
prowling, stealing brute until I run him down. Yes, it was I,
Pereo, who warned your father he would not be content with the half
of the land he stole! It was I, Pereo, who warned your mother that
each time he trod the soil of La Mision Perdida he measured the
land he could take away!" He stopped pantingly, with the insane
abstraction of a fixed idea glittering in his eyes.
"And it was YOU, Pereo," she said, caressingly, laying her soft
hand on his heaving breast, "YOU who carried me in your arms when I
was a child. It was you, Pereo, who took me before you on your
pinto horse to the rodeo, when no one knew it but ourselves, my
Pereo, was it not?" He nodded his head violently. "It was you who
showed me the gallant caballeros, the Pachecos, the Castros, the
Alvarados, the Estudillos, the Peraltas, the Vallejos." His head
kept time with each name as the fire dimmed in his wet eyes. "You
made me promise I would not forget them for the Americanos who were
here. Good! That was years ago! I am older now. I have seen
many Americans. Well, I am still free!"
He caught her hand, and raised it to his lips with a gesture almost
devotional. His eyes softened; as the exaltation of passion
passed, his voice dropped into the querulousness of privileged age.
"Ah, yes!--you, the first-born, the heiress--of a verity, yes! You
were ever a Guitierrez. But the others? Eh, where are they now?
And it was always: 'Eh, Pereo, what shall we do to-day? Pereo,
good Pereo, we are asked to ride here and there; we are expected to
visit the new people in the valley--what say you, Pereo? Who shall
we dine to-day?' Or: 'Enquire me of this or that strange
caballero--and if we may speak.' Ah, it is but yesterday that
Amita would say: 'Lend me thine own horse, Pereo, that I may
outstrip this swaggering Americano that clings ever to my side,'
ha! ha! Or the grave Dorotea would whisper: 'Convey to this Senor
Presumptuous Pomposo that the daughters of Guitierrez do not ride
alone with strangers!' Or even the little Liseta would say, he!
he! 'Why does the stranger press my foot in his great hand when he
helps me into the saddle? Tell him that is not the way, Pereo.'
Ha! ha!" He laughed childishly, and stopped. "And why does
Senorita Amita now--look--complain that Pereo, old Pereo, comes
between her and this Senor Raymond---this maquinista? Eh, and why
does SHE, the lady mother, the Castellana, shut Pereo from her
councils?" he went on, with rising excitement. "What are these
secret meetings, eh?--what these appointments, alone with this
Judas--without the family--without ME!"
"Hearken, Pereo," said the young girl, again laying her hand on the
old man's shoulder; "you have spoken truly--but you forget--the
years pass. These are no longer strangers; old friends have gone--
these have taken their place. My father forgave the Doctor--why
can not you? For the rest, believe in me--me--Maruja"--she
dramatically touched her heart over the international complications
of the letters of Captain Carroll and Peralta. "I will see that
the family honor does not suffer. And now, good Pereo, calm
thyself. Not with aguardiente, but with a bottle of old wine from
the Mision refectory that I will send to thee. It was given to me
by thy friend, Padre Miguel, and is from the old vines that were
here. Courage, Pereo! And thou sayest that Amita complains that
thou comest between her and Raymond. So! What matter? Let it
cheer thy heart to know that I have summoned the Peraltas, the
Pachecos, the Estudillos, all thy old friends, to dine here to-day.
Thou wilt hear the old names, even if the faces are young to thee.
Courage! Do thy duty, old friend; let them see that the
hospitality of La Mision Perdida does not grow old, if its
mayordomo does. Faquita will bring thee the wine. No; not that
way; thou needest not pass the patio, nor meet that man again.
Here, give me thy hand. I will lead thee. It trembles, Pereo!
These are not the sinews that only two years ago pulled down the
bull at Soquel with thy single lasso! Why, look! I can drag thee;
see!" and with a light laugh and a boyish gesture, she half pulled,
half dragged him along, until their voices were lost in the dark
Maruja kept her word. When the sun began to cast long shadows
along the veranda, not only the outer shell of La Mision Perdida,
but the dark inner heart of the old casa, stirred with awakened
life. Single horsemen and carriages began to arrive; and, mingled
with the modern turnouts of the home party and the neighboring
Americans, were a few of the cumbrous vehicles and chariots of
fifty years ago, drawn by gayly trapped mules with bizarre
postilions, and occasionally an outrider. Dark faces looked from
the balcony of the patio, a light cloud of cigarette-smoke made the
dark corridors the more obscure, and mingled with the forgotten
incense. Bare-headed pretty women, with roses starring their dark
hair, wandered with childish curiosity along the broad veranda and
in and out of the French windows that opened upon the grand saloon.
Scrupulously shaved men with olive complexion, stout men with
accurately curving whiskers meeting at their dimpled chins, lounged
about with a certain unconscious dignity that made them contentedly
indifferent to any novelty of their surroundings. For a while the
two races kept mechanically apart; but, through the tactful
gallantry of Garnier, the cynical familiarity of Raymond, and the
impulsive recklessness of Aladdin, who had forsaken his enchanted
Palace on the slightest of invitations, and returned with the party
in the hope of again seeing the Princess of China, an interchange
of civilities, of gallantries, and even of confidences, at last
took place. Jovita Castro had heard (who had not?) of the wonders
of Aladdin's Palace, and was it of actual truth that the ladies had
a bouquet and a fan to match their dress presented to them every
morning, and that the gentlemen had a champagne cocktail sent to
their rooms before breakfast? "Just you come, Miss, and bring your
father and your brothers, and stay a week and you'll see,"
responded Aladdin, gallantly. "Hold on! What's your father's
first name? I'll send a team over there for you to-morrow." "And
is it true that you frightened the handsome Captain Carroll away
from Amita?" said Dolores Briones, over the edge of her fan to
Raymond. "Perfectly," said Raymond, with ingenuous frankness. "I
made it a matter of life or death. He was a soldier, and naturally
preferred the former as giving him a better chance for promotion."
"Ah! we thought it was Maruja you liked best." "That was two years
ago," said Raymond, gravely. "And you Americanos can change in
that time?" "I have just experienced that it can be done in less,"
he responded, over the fan, with bewildering significance. Nor
were these confidences confined to only one nationality. "I always
thought you Spanish gentlemen were very dark, and wore long
mustaches and a cloak," said pretty little Miss Walker, gazing
frankly into the smooth round face of the eldest Pacheco--"why, you
are as fair as I am," "Eaf I tink that, I am for ever mizzarable,"
he replied, with grave melancholy. In the dead silence that
followed he was enabled to make his decorous point. "Because I
shall not ezeape ze fate of Narcissus." Mr. Buchanan, with the
unrestrained and irresponsible enjoyment of a traveler, entered
fully into the spirit of the scene. He even found words of praise
for Aladdin, whose extravagance had at first seemed to him almost
impious. "Eh, but I'm not prepared to say he is a fool, either,"
he remarked to his friend the San Francisco banker. "Those who try
to pick him up for one," returned the banker, "will find themselves
mistaken. His is the prodigality that loosens others' purse-
strings besides his own, Everybody contents himself with
criticising his way of spending money, but is ready to follow his
way of making it."
The dinner was more formal, and when the mistress of the house,
massive in black silk, velvet and gold embroidery, moved like a
pageant to the head of her table, where she remained like a
sacerdotal effigy, not even the presence of the practical Scotchman
at her side could remove the prevailing sense of restraint. For a
while the conversation of the relatives might have been brought
with them in their antique vehicles of fifty years ago, so faded,
so worn, and so springless it was. General Pico related the
festivities at Monterey, on the occasion of the visit of Sir George
Simpson early in the present century, of which he was an
eyewitness, with great precision of detail. Don Juan Estudillo was
comparatively frivolous, with anecdotes of Louis Philippe, whom he
had seen in Paris. Far-seeing Pedro Guitierrez was gloomily
impressed with a Mongolian invasion of California by the Chinese,
in which the prevailing religion would be supplanted by heathen
temples, and polygamy engrafted on the Constitution. Everybody
agreed however, that the vital question of the hour was the
settlement of land titles--Americans who claimed under preemption
and the native holders of Spanish grants were equally of the
In the midst of this the musical voice of Maruja was heard saying,
"What is a tramp?"
Raymond, on her right, was ready but not conclusive.
A tramp, if he could sing, would be a troubadour; if he could pray,
would be a pilgrim friar--in either case a natural object of
womanly solicitude. But as he could do neither, he was simply a
"And you think that is not an object of womanly solicitude? But
that does not tell me WHAT he is."
A dozen gentlemen, swept in the radius of those softly-inquiring
eyes, here started to explain. From them it appeared that there
was no such thing in California as a tramp, and there were also a
dozen varieties of tramp in California.
"But is he always very uncivil?" asked Maruja.
Again there were conflicting opinions. You might have to shoot him
on sight, and you might have him invariably run from you. When the
question was finally settled, Maruja was found to have become
absorbed in conversation with some one else.
Amita, a taller copy of Maruja, and more regularly beautiful, had
built up a little pile of bread crumbs between herself and Raymond,
and was listening to him with a certain shy, girlish interest that
was as inconsistent with the serene regularity of her face as
Maruja's self-possessed, subtle intelligence was incongruous to her
youthful figure. Raymond's voice, when he addressed Amita, was low
and earnest; not from any significance of matter, but from its
frank confidential quality.
"They are discussing the new railroad project, and your relations
are all opposed to it; to-morrow they will each apply privately to
Aladdin for the privilege of subscribing."
"I have never seen a railroad," said Amita, slightly coloring;
"but you are an engineer, and I know they must be some thing very
Notwithstanding the coolness of the night, a full moon drew the
guests to the veranda, where coffee was served, and where,
mysteriously muffled in cloaks and shawls, the party took upon
itself the appearance of groups of dominoed masqueraders, scattered
along the veranda and on the broad steps of the porch in gypsy-like
encampments, from whose cloaked shadow the moonlight occasionally
glittered upon a varnished boot or peeping satin slipper. Two or
three of these groups had resolved themselves into detached
couples, who wandered down the acacia walk to the sound of a harp
in the grand saloon or the occasional uplifting of a thin Spanish
tenor. Two of these couples were Maruja and Garnier, followed by
Amita and Raymond.
"You are restless to-night, Maruja," said Amita, shyly endeavoring
to make a show of keeping up with her sister's boyish stride, in
spite of Raymond's reluctance. "You are paying for your
The same idea passed through the minds of both men. She was
missing the excitement of Captain Carroll's presence.
"The air is so refreshing away from the house," responded Maruja,
with a bright energy that belied any suggestion of fatigue or moral
disquietude. "I'm tired of running against those turtle-doves in
the walks and bushes. Let us keep on to the lane. If you are
tired, Mr. Raymond will give you his arm."
They kept on, led by the indomitable little figure, who, for once,
did not seem to linger over the attentions, both piquant and
tender, with which Garnier improved his opportunity. Given a
shadowy lane, a lovers' moon, a pair of bright and not unkindly
eyes, a charming and not distant figure--what more could he want?
Yet he wished she hadn't walked so fast. One might be vivacious,
audacious, brilliant, at an Indian trot; but impassioned--never!
The pace increased; they were actually hurrying. More than that,
Maruja had struck into a little trot; her lithe body swaying from
side to side, her little feet straight as an arrow before her;
accompanying herself with a quaint musical chant, which she
obligingly explained had been taught her as a child by Pereo. They
stopped only at the hedge, where she had that morning encountered
There is little doubt that the rest of the party was disconcerted:
Amita, whose figure was not adapted to this Camilla-like exercise;
Raymond, who was annoyed at the poor girl's discomfiture; and
Garnier, who had lost a golden opportunity, with the faint
suspicion of having looked ridiculous. Only Maruja's eyes, or
rather the eyes of her lamented father, seemed to enjoy it.
"You are too effeminate," she said, leaning against the fence, and
shading her eyes with her fan, as she glanced around in the staring
moonlight. "Civilization has taken away your legs. A man ought to
be able to trust to his feet all day, and to nothing else."
"In fact--a tramp," suggested Raymond.
"Possibly. I think I should like to have been a gypsy, and to have
wandered about, finding a new home every night."
"And a change of linen on the early morning hedges," said Raymond.
"But do you think seriously that you and your sister are suitably
clad to commence to-night. It is bitterly cold," he added, turning
up his collar. "Could you begin by showing a pal the nearest
haystack or hen-roost?"
"Sybarite!" She cast a long look over the fields and down the
lane. Suddenly she started. "What is that?"
She pointed to a tall erect figure slowly disappearing on the other
side of the hedge.
"It's Pereo, only Pereo. I knew him by his long serape," said
Garnier, who was nearest the hedge, complacently. "But what is
surprising, he was not there when we came, nor did he come out of
that open field. He must have been walking behind us on the other
side of the hedge."
The eyes of the two girls sought each other simultaneously, but not
without Raymond's observant glance. Amita's brow darkened as she
moved to her sister's side, and took her arm with a confidential
pressure that was returned. The two men, with a vague
consciousness of some contretemps, dropped a pace behind, and began
to talk to each other, leaving the sisters to exchange a few words
in a low tone as they slowly returned to the house.
Meanwhile, Pereo's tall figure had disappeared in the shrubbery, to
emerge again in the open area by the summer-house and the old pear-
tree. The red sparks of two or three cigarettes in the shadow of
the summer-house, and the crouching forms of two shawled women came
forward to greet him.
"And what hast thou heard, Pereo?" said one of the women.
"Nothing," said Pereo, impatiently. "I told thee I would answer
for this little primogenita with my life. She is but leading this
Frenchman a dance, as she has led the others, and the Dona Amita
and her Raymond are but wax in her hands. Besides, I have spoken
with the little 'Ruja to-day, and spoke my mind, Pepita, and she
says there is nothing."
"And whilst thou wert speaking to her, my poor Pereo, the devil of
an American Doctor was speaking to her mother, thy mistress--our
mistress, Pereo! Wouldst thou know what he said? Oh, it was
"Now, the curse of Koorotora on thee, Pepita!" said Pereo,
excitedly. "Speak, fool, if thou knowest anything!"
"Of a verity, no. Let Faquita, then, speak: she heard it." She
reached out her hand, and dragged Maruja's maid, not unwilling,
before the old man.
"Good! 'Tis Faquita, daughter of Gomez, and a child of the land.
Speak, little one. What said this coyote to the mother of thy
"Truly, good Pereo, it was but accident that befriended me."
"Truly, for thy mistress's sake, I hoped it had been more. But let
that go. Come, what said he, child?"
"I was hanging up a robe behind the curtain in the oratory when
Pepita ushered in the Americano. I had no time to fly."
"Why shouldst thou fly from a dog like this?" said one of the
cigarette-smokers who had drawn near.
"Peace!" said the old man.
"When the Dona Maria joined him they spoke of affairs. Yes, Pereo,
she, thy mistress, spoke of affairs to this man--ay, as she might
have talked to THEE. And, could he advise this? and could he
counsel that? and should the cattle be taken from the lower lands,
and the fields turned to grain? and had he a purchaser for Los
"Los Osos! It is the boundary land--the frontier--the line of the
arroyo--older than the Mision," muttered Pereo.
"Ay, and he talked of the--the--I know not what it is!--the r-r-
"The railroad," gasped the old man. "I will tell thee what it is!
It is the cut of a burning knife through La Mision Perdida--as long
as eternity, as dividing as death. On either side of that gash
life is blasted; wherever that cruel steel is laid the track of it
is livid and barren; it cuts down all barriers; leaps all
boundaries, be they canada or canyon; it is a torrent in the plain,
a tornado in the forest; its very pathway is destruction to whoso
crosses it--man or beast; it is the heathenish God of the
Americanos; they build temples for it, and flock there and worship
it whenever it stops, breathing fire and flame like a very Moloch."
"Eh! St. Anthony preserve us!" said Faquita, shuddering; "and yet
they spoke of it as 'shares' and 'stocks,' and said it would double
the price of corn."
"Now, Judas pursue thee and thy railroad, Pereo," said Pepita,
impatiently. "It is not such bagatela that Faquita is here to
relate. Go on, child, and tell all that happened."
"And then," continued Faquita, with a slight affectation of maiden
bashfulness, in the closer-drawing circle of cigarettes, "and then
they talked of other things and of themselves; and, of a verity,
this gray-bearded Doctor will play the goat and utter gallant
speeches, and speak of a lifelong devotion and of the time he
should have a right to protect--"
"The right, girl! Didst thou say the right? No, thou didst
mistake. It was not THAT he meant?"
"Thy life to a quarter peso that the little Faquita does not
mistake," said the evident satirist of the household. "Trust to
Gomez' muchacha to understand a proposal."
When the laugh was over, and the sparks of the cigarette, cleverly
whipped out of the speaker's lips by Faquita's fan, had disappeared
in the darkness, she resumed, pettishly, "I know not what you call
it when he kissed her hand and held it to his heart."
"Judas!" gasped Pereo. "But," he added, feverishly, "she, the Dona
Maria, thy mistress, SHE summoned thee at once to call me to cast
out this dust into the open air; thou didst fly to her assistance?
What! thou sawest this, and did nothing--eh?" He stopped, and
tried to peer into the girl's face. "No! Ah, I see; I am an old
fool. Yes; it was Maruja's own mother that stood there. He! he!
he!" he laughed piteously; "and she smiled and smiled and broke the
coward's heart, as Maruja might. And when he was gone, she bade
thee bring her water to wash the filthy Judas stain from her hand."
"Santa Ana!" said Faquita, shrugging her shoulders. "She did what
the veriest muchacha would have done. When he had gone, she sat
down and cried."
The old man drew back a step, and steadied himself by the table.
Then, with a certain tremulous audacity, he began: "So! that is all
you have to tell--nothing! Bah! A lazy slut sleeps at her duty,
and dreams behind a curtain! Yes, dreams!--you understand--dreams!
And for this she leaves her occupations, and comes to gossip here!
Come," he continued, steadily working himself into a passion,
"come, enough of this! Get you gone!--you, and Pepita, and
Andreas, and Victor--all of you--back to your duty. Away! Am I
not master here? Off! I say!"
There was no mistaking the rising anger of his voice. The cowed
group rose in a frightened way and disappeared one by one silently
through the labyrinth. Pereo waited until the last had vanished,
and then, cramming his stiff sombrero over his eyes with an
ejaculation, brushed his way through the shrubbery in the direction
of the stables.
Later, when the full glory of the midnight moon had put out every
straggling light in the great house; when the long veranda slept in
massive bars of shadow, and even the tradewinds were hushed to
repose, Pereo silently issued from the stable-yard in vaquero's
dress, mounted and caparisoned. Picking his way cautiously along
the turf-bordered edge of the gravel path, he noiselessly reached a
gate that led to the lane. Walking his spirited mustang with
difficulty until the house had at last disappeared in the
intervening foliage, he turned with an easy canter into a border
bridle-path that seemed to lead to the canada. In a quarter of an
hour he had reached a low amphitheatre of meadows, shut in a half
circle of grassy treeless hills.
Here, putting spurs to his horse, he entered upon a singular
exercise. Twice he made a circuit of the meadow at a wild gallop,
with flying serape and loosened rein, and twice returned. The
third time his speed increased; the ground seemed to stream from
under him; in the distance the limbs of his steed became invisible
in their furious action, and, lying low forward on his mustang's
neck, man and horse passed like an arrowy bolt around the circle.
Then something like a light ring of smoke up-curved from the saddle
before him, and, slowly uncoiling itself in mid air, dropped gently
to the ground as he passed. Again, and once again, the shadowy
coil sped upward and onward, slowly detaching its snaky rings with
a weird deliberation that was in strange contrast to the impetuous
onset of the rider, and yet seemed a part of his fury. And then
turning, Pereo trotted gently to the centre of the circle.
Here he divested himself of his serape, and, securing it in a
cylindrical roll, placed it upright on the ground and once more
sped away on his furious circuit. But this time he wheeled
suddenly before it was half completed and bore down directly upon
the unconscious object. Within a hundred feet he swerved slightly;
the long detaching rings again writhed in mid air and softly
descended as he thundered past. But when he had reached the line
of circuit again, he turned and made directly for the road he had
entered. Fifty feet behind his horse's heels, at the end of a
shadowy cord, the luckless serape was dragging and bounding after
"The old man is quiet enough this morning," said Andreas, as he
groomed the sweat-dried skin of the mustang the next day. "It is
easy to see, friend Pinto, that he has worked off his madness on
The Rancho of San Antonio might have been a characteristic asylum
for its blessed patron, offering as it did a secure retreat from
temptations for the carnal eye, and affording every facility for
uninterrupted contemplation of the sky above, unbroken by tree or
elevation. Unlike La Mision Perdida, of which it had been part, it
was a level plain of rich adobe, half the year presenting a billowy
sea of tossing verdure breaking on the far-off horizon line, half
the year presenting a dry and dusty shore, from which the vernal
sea had ebbed, to the low sky that seemed to mock it with a
visionary sea beyond. A row of rough, irregular, and severely
practical sheds and buildings housed the machinery and the fifty or
sixty men employed in the cultivation of the soil, but neither
residential mansion nor farmhouse offered any nucleus of rural
comfort or civilization in the midst of this wild expanse of earth
and sky. The simplest adjuncts of country life were unknown: milk
and butter were brought from the nearest town; weekly supplies of
fresh meat and vegetables came from the same place; in the harvest
season, the laborers and harvesters lodged and boarded in the
adjacent settlement and walked to their work. No cultivated flower
bloomed beside the unpainted tenement, though the fields were
starred in early spring with poppies and daisies; the humblest
garden plant or herb had no place in that prolific soil. The
serried ranks of wheat pressed closely round the straggling sheds
and barns and hid the lower windows. But the sheds were fitted
with the latest agricultural machinery; a telegraphic wire
connected the nearest town with an office in the wing of one of the
buildings, where Dr. West sat, and in the midst of the wilderness
severely checked his accounts with nature.
Whether this strict economy of domestic outlay arose from an
ostentatious contempt of country life and the luxurious habits of
the former landholders, or whether it was a purely business
principle of Dr. West, did not appear. Those who knew him best
declared that it was both. Certain it was that unqualified
commercial success crowned and dignified his method. A few
survivors of the old native families came to see his strange
machinery, that did the work of so many idle men and horses. It is
said that he offered to "run" the distant estate of Joaquin Padilla
from his little office amidst the grain of San Antonio. Some shook
their heads, and declared that he only sucked the juices of the
land for a few brief years to throw it away again; that in his
fierce haste he skimmed the fatness of ages of gentle cultivation
on a soil that had been barely tickled with native oaken
His own personal tastes and habits were as severe and practical as
his business: the little wing he inhabited contained only his
office, his living room or library, his bedroom, and a bath-room.
This last inconsistent luxury was due to a certain cat-like
cleanliness which was part of his nature. His iron-gray hair--a
novelty in this country of young Americans--was always scrupulously
brushed, and his linen spotless. A slightly professional and
somewhat old-fashioned respectability in his black clothes was also
characteristic. His one concession to the customs of his neighbors
was the possession of two or three of the half-broken and spirited
mustangs of the country, which he rode with the fearlessness, if
not the perfect security and ease, of a native. Whether the
subjection of this lawless and powerful survival of a wild and
unfettered nature around him was part of his plan, or whether it
was only a lingering trait of some younger prowess, no one knew;
but his grim and decorous figure, contrasting with the picturesque
and flowing freedom of the horse he bestrode, was a frequent
spectacle in road and field.
It was the second day after his visit to La Mision Perdida. He was
sitting by his desk, at sunset, in the faint afterglow of the
western sky, which flooded the floor through the open door. He was
writing, but presently lifted his head, with an impatient air, and
called out, "Harrison!"
The shadow of Dr. West's foreman appeared at the door.
"Who's that you're talking to?"
"Hire him, or send him about his business. Don't stand gabbling
"That's just it, sir. He won't hire for a week or a day. He says
he'll do an odd job for his supper and a shakedown, but no more."
"Pack him off! . . . Stay. . . . What's he like?"
"Like the rest of 'em, only a little lazier, I reckon."
"Umph! Fetch him in."
The foreman disappeared, and returned with the tramp already known
to the reader. He was a little dirtier and grimier than on the
morning he had addressed Maruja at La Mision Perdida; but he wore
the same air of sullen indifference, occasionally broken by furtive
observation. His laziness--or weariness--if the term could
describe the lassitude of perfect physical condition, seemed to
have increased; and he leaned against the door as the Doctor
regarded him with slow contempt. The silence continuing, he
deliberately allowed himself to slip down into a sitting position
in the doorway, where he remained.
"You seem to have been born tired," said the Doctor, grimly.
"What have you got to say for yourself?"
"I told HIM," said the tramp, nodding his head towards the foreman,
"what I'd do for a supper and a bed. I don't want anything but
"And if you don't get what you want on your own conditions, what'll
you do?" asked the Doctor, dryly.
"Where did you come from?"
"Where are you going?"
"Leave him to me," said Dr. West to his foreman. The man smiled,
The Doctor bent his head again over his accounts. The tramp,
sitting in the doorway, reached out his hand, pulled a young wheat-
stalk that had sprung up near the doorstep, and slowly nibbled it.
He did not raise his eyes to the Doctor, but sat, a familiar
culprit awaiting sentence, without fear, without hope, yet not
without a certain philosophical endurance of the situation.
"Go into that passage," said the Doctor, lifting his head as he
turned a page of his ledger, "and on the shelf you'll find some
clothing stores for the men. Pick out something to fit you."
The tramp arose, moved towards the passage, and stopped. "It's for
the job only, you understand?" he said.
"For the job," answered the Doctor.
The tramp returned in a few moments with overalls and woolen shirt
hanging on his arm and a pair of boots and socks in his hand. The
Doctor had put aside his pen. "Now go into that room and change.
Stop! First wash the dust from your feet in that bath-room."
The tramp obeyed, and entered the room. The Doctor walked to the
door, and looked out reflectively on the paling sky. When he
turned again he noticed that the door of the bath-room was opened,
and the tramp, who had changed his clothes by the fading light, was
drying his feet. The Doctor approached, and stood for a moment
"What's the matter with your foot?"* he asked, after a pause.
* This apparent classical plagiarism is actually a fact of
identification on record in the California Law Reports. It is
therefore unnecessary for me to add that the attendant
circumstances and characters are purely fictitious.--B. H.
The first and second toe were joined by a thin membrane.
"Both alike?" asked the Doctor.
"Yes," said the young man, exhibiting the other foot.
"What did you say your name was?"
"I didn't say it. It's Henry Guest, same as my father's."
"Where were you born?"
"Dentville, Pike County, Missouri."
"What was your mother's name?"
"Spalding, I reckon."
"Where are your parents now?"
"Mother got divorced from father, and married again down South,
somewhere. Father left home twenty years ago. He's somewhere in
California--if he ain't dead."
"He isn't dead."
"How do you know?"
"Because I am Henry Guest, of Dentville, and"--he stopped, and,
shading his eyes with his hand as he deliberately examined the
tramp, added coldly--"your father, I reckon."
There was a slight pause. The young man put down the boot he had
taken up. "Then I'm to stay here?"
"Certainly not. Here my name is only West, and I have no son.
You'll go on to San Jose, and stay there until I look into this
thing. You haven't got any money, of course?" he asked, with a
scarcely suppressed sneer.
"I've got a little," returned the young man.
The tramp put his hand into his breast, and drew out a piece of
folded paper containing a single gold coin.
"Five dollars. I've kept it a month; it doesn't cost much to live
as I do," he added, dryly.
"There's fifty more. Go to some hotel in San Jose, and let me know
where you are. You've got to live, and you don't want to work.
Well, you don't seem to be a fool; so I needn't tell you that if
you expect anything from me, you must leave this matter in my
hands. I have chosen to acknowledge you to-day of my own free
will: I can as easily denounce you as an impostor to-morrow, if I
choose. Have you told your story to any one in the valley?"
"See that you don't, then. Before you go, you must answer me a few
He drew a chair to his table, and dipped a pen in the ink, as if to
take down the answers. The young man, finding the only chair thus
occupied, moved the Doctor's books aside, and sat down on the table
The questions were repetitions of those already asked, but more in
detail, and thoroughly practical in their nature. The answers were
given straightforwardly and unconcernedly, as if the subject was
not worth the trouble of invention or evasion. It was difficult to
say whether questioner or answerer took least pleasure in the
interrogation, which might have referred to the concerns of a third
party. Both, however, spoke disrespectfully of their common
family, with almost an approach to sympathetic interest.
"You might as well be going now," said the Doctor, finally rising.
"You can stop at the fonda, about two miles further on, and get
your supper and bed, if you like."
The young man slipped from the table, and lounged to the door. The
Doctor put his hands in his pockets and followed him. The young
man, as if in unconscious imitation, had put HIS hands in his
pockets also, and looked at him.
"I'll hear from you, then, when you are in San Jose?" said Dr.
West, looking past him into the grain, with a slight approach to
constraint in his indifference.
"Yes--if that's agreed upon," returned the young man, pausing on
the threshold. A faint sense of some purely conventional
responsibility in their position affected them both. They would
have shaken hands if either had offered the initiative. A sullen
consciousness of gratuitous rectitude in the selfish mind of the
father; an equally sullen conviction of twenty years of wrong in
the son, withheld them both. Unpleasantly observant of each
other's awkwardness, they parted with a feeling of relief.
Dr. West closed the door, lit his lamp, and, going to his desk,
folded the paper containing the memoranda he had just written and
placed it in his pocket. Then he summoned his foreman. The man
entered, and glanced around the room as if expecting to see the
Doctor's guest still there.
"Tell one of the men to bring round 'Buckeye.'"
The foreman hesitated. "Going to ride to-night, sir?"
"Certainly; I may go as far as Saltonstall's. If I do, you needn't
expect me back till morning."
"Buckeye's mighty fresh to-night, boss. Regularly bucked his
saddle clean off an hour ago, and there ain't a man dare exercise
"I'll bet he don't buck his saddle off with me on it," said the
Doctor, grimly. "Bring him along."
The man turned to go. "You found the tramp pow'ful lazy, didn't
"I found a heap more in him than in some that call themselves
smart," said Dr. West, unconsciously setting up an irritable
defense of the absent one. "Hurry up that horse!"
The foreman vanished. The Doctor put on a pair of leather
leggings, large silver spurs, and a broad soft-brimmed hat, but
made no other change in his usual half-professional conventional
garb. He then went to the window and glanced in the direction of
the highway. Now that his son was gone, he felt a faint regret
that he had not prolonged the interview. Certain peculiarities in
his manner, certain suggestions of expression in his face, speech,
and gesture, came back to him now with unsatisfied curiosity. "No
matter," he said to himself; "he'll turn up soon again--as soon as
I want him, if not sooner. He thinks he's got a mighty soft thing
here, and he isn't going to let it go. And there's that same d--d
sullen dirty pride of his mother, for all he doesn't cotton to her.
Wonder I didn't recognize it at first. And hoarding up that five
dollars! That's Jane's brat, all over! And, of course," he added,
bitterly, "nothing of ME in him. No; nothing! Well, well, what's
the difference?" He turned towards the door, with a certain sullen
defiance in his face so like the man he believed he did not
resemble, that his foreman, coming upon him suddenly, might have
been startled at the likeness. Fortunately, however, Harrison was
too much engrossed with the antics of the irrepressible Buckeye,
which the ostler had just brought to the door, to notice anything
else. The arrival of the horse changed the Doctor's expression to
one of more practical and significant resistance. With the
assistance of two men at the head of the restive brute, he managed
to vault into the saddle. A few wild plunges only seemed to settle
him the firmer in his seat--each plunge leaving its record in a
thin red line on the animal's flanks, made by the cruel spurs of
its rider. Any lingering desire of following his son's footsteps
was quickly dissipated by Buckeye, who promptly bolted in the
opposite direction, and, before Dr. West could gain active control
over him, they were half a mile on their way to La Mision Perdida.
Dr. West did not regret it. Twenty years ago he had voluntarily
abandoned a legal union of mutual unfaithfulness and misconduct,
and allowed his wife to get the divorce he might have obtained for
equal cause. He had abandoned to her the issue of that union--an
infant son. Whatever he chose to do now was purely gratuitous; the
only hold which this young stranger had on his respect was that HE
also recognized that fact with a cold indifference equal to his
own. At present the half-savage brute he bestrode occupied all his
attention. Yet he could not help feeling his advancing years tell
upon him more heavily that evening; fearless as he was, his
strength was no longer equal when measured with the untiring
youthful malevolence of his unbroken mustang. For a moment he
dwelt regretfully on the lazy half-developed sinews of his son; for
a briefer instant there flashed across him the thought that those
sinews ought to replace his own; ought to be HIS to lean upon--that
thus, and thus only, could he achieve the old miracle of restoring
his lost youth by perpetuating his own power in his own blood; and
he, whose profound belief in personality had rejected all
hereditary principle, felt this with a sudden exquisite pain. But
his horse, perhaps recognizing a relaxing grip, took that
opportunity to "buck." Curving his back like a cat, and throwing
himself into the air with an unexpected bound, he came down with
four stiff, inflexible legs, and a shock that might have burst the
saddle-girths, had not the wily old man as quickly brought the long
rowels of his spurs together and fairly locked his heels under
Buckeye's collapsing barrel. It was the mustang's last rebellions
struggle. The discomfited brute gave in, and darted meekly and
apologetically forward, and, as it were, left all its rider's
doubts and fears far behind in the vanishing distance.
Meanwhile, the subject of Dr. West's meditations was slowly making
his way along the high-road towards the fonda. He walked more
erect and with less of a shuffle in his gait; but whether this was
owing to his having cast the old skin of garments adapted to his
slouch, and because he was more securely shod, or whether it was
from the sudden straightening of some warped moral quality, it
would have been difficult to say. The expression of his face
certainly gave no evidence of actual and prospective good fortune;
if anything, the lines of discontent around his brow and mouth were
more strongly drawn. Apparently, his interview with his father had
only the effect of reviving and stirring into greater activity a
certain dogged sentiment that, through long years, had become
languidly mechanical. He was no longer a beaten animal, but one
roused by a chance success into a dangerous knowledge of his power.
In his honest workman's dress, he was infinitely more to be feared
than in his rags; in the lifting of his downcast eye, there was the
revelation of a baleful intelligence. In his changed condition,
civilization only seemed to have armed him against itself.
The fonda, a long low building, with a red-tiled roof extending
over a porch or whitewashed veranda, in which drunken vaqueros had
been known to occasionally disport their mustangs, did not offer a
very reputable appearance to the eye of young Guest as he
approached it in the gathering shadows. One or two half-broken
horses were securely fastened to the stout cross-beams of some
heavy posts driven in the roadway before it, and a primitive trough
of roughly excavated stone stood near it. Through a broken gate at
the side there was a glimpse of a grass-grown and deserted court-
yard piled with the disused packing-cases and barrels of the
tienda, or general country shop, which huddled under the same roof
at the other end of the building. The opened door of the fonda
showed a low-studded room fitted up with a rude imitation of an
American bar on one side, and containing a few small tables, at
which half a dozen men were smoking, drinking, and playing cards.
The faded pictorial poster of the last bull-fight at Monterey, and
an American "Sheriff's notice" were hung on the wall and in the
door-way. A thick yellow atmosphere of cigarette smoke, through
which the inmates appeared like brown shadows, pervaded the room.
The young man hesitated before this pestilential interior, and took
a seat on a bench on the veranda. After a moment's interval, the
yellow landlord came to the door with a look of inquiry, which
Guest answered by a demand for lodging and supper. When the
landlord had vanished again in the cigarette fog, the several other
guests, one after the other, appeared at the doorway, with their
cigarettes in their mouths and their cards still in their hands,
and gazed upon him.
There may have been some excuse for their curiosity. As before
hinted, Guest's appearance in his overalls and woolen shirt was
somewhat incongruous, and, for some inexplicable reason, the same
face and figure which did not look inconsistent in rags and extreme
poverty now at once suggested a higher social rank both of
intellect and refinement than his workman's dress indicated. This,
added to his surliness of manner and expression, strengthened a
growing suspicion in the mind of the party that he was a fugitive
from justice--a forger, a derelict banker, or possibly a murderer.
It is only fair to say that the moral sense of the spectators was
not shocked at the suspicion, and that a more active sympathy was
only withheld by his reticence. An unfortunate incident seemed to
complete the evidence against him. In impatiently responding to
the landlord's curt demand for prepayment of his supper, he allowed
three or four pieces of gold to escape from his pocket on the
veranda. In the quick glances of the party, as he stooped to pick
them up, he read the danger of his carelessness.
His sullen self-possession did not seem to be shaken. Calling to
the keeper of the tienda, who had appeared at his door in time to
witness the Danae-like shower, he bade him approach, in English.
"What sort of knives have you got?"
"Yes; bowie-knives or dirks. Knives like that," he said, making an
imaginary downward stroke at the table before him.
The shopkeeper entered the tienda, and presently reappeared with
three or four dirks in red leather sheaths. Guest selected the
heaviest, and tried its point on the table.
The young man threw him one of his gold pieces, and slipped the
knife and its sheath in his boot. When he had received his change
from the shopkeeper, he folded his arms and leaned back against the
wall in quiet indifference.
The simple act seemed to check aggressive, but not insinuating,
interference. In a few moments one of the men appeared at the
"It is fine weather for the road, little comrade!"
Guest did not reply.
"Ah! the night, it ess splendid," he repeated, in broken English,
rubbing his hands, as if washing in the air.
Still no reply.
"You shall come from Sank Hosay?"
The stranger muttered something in Spanish, but the landlord, who
reappeared to place Guest's supper on a table on the veranda, here
felt the obligation of interfering to protect a customer apparently
so aggressive and so opulent. He pushed the inquisitor aside, with
a few hasty words, and, after Guest had finished his meal, offered