Part 2 out of 3
to show him his room. It was a dark vaulted closet on the ground-
floor, gaining light from the stable-yard through a barred iron
grating. At the first glimpse it looked like a prison cell;
looking more deliberately at the black tresseled bed, and the
votive images hanging on the wall, it might have been a tomb.
"It is the best," said the landlord. "The Padre Vincento will have
none other on his journey."
"I suppose God protects him," said Guest; "that door don't." He
pointed to the worm-eaten door, without bolt or fastening.
"Ah, what matter! Are we not all friends?"
"Certainly," responded Guest, with his surliest manner, as he
returned to the veranda. Nevertheless, he resolved not to occupy
the cell of the reverend Padre; not from any personal fear of his
disreputable neighbors, though he was fully alive to their
peculiarities, but from the nomadic instinct which was still strong
in his blood. He felt he could not yet bear the confinement of a
close room or the propinquity of his fellow-man. He would rest on
the veranda until the moon was fairly up, and then he would again
take to the road.
He was half reclining on the bench, with the slowly closing and
opening lids of some tired but watchful animal, when the sound of
wheels, voices, and clatter of hoofs on the highway arrested his
attention, and he sat upright. The moon was slowly lifting itself
over the limitless stretch of grain-fields before him on the other
side of the road, and dazzling him with its level lustre. He could
barely discern a cavalcade of dark figures and a large vehicle
rapidly approaching, before it drew up tumultuously in front of the
It was a pleasure party of ladies and gentlemen on horseback and in
a four-horsed char-a-bancs returning to La Mision Perdida.
Buchanan, Raymond, and Garnier were there; Amita and Dorotea in the
body of the char-a-bancs, and Maruja seated on the box. Much to
his own astonishment and that of some others of the party, Captain
Carroll was among the riders. Only Maruja and her mother knew that
he was recalled to refute a repetition of the gossip already
circulated regarding his sudden withdrawal; only Maruja alone knew
the subtle words which made that call so potent yet so hopeless.
Maruja's quick eyes, observant of everything, even under the double
fire of Captain Carroll and Garnier, instantly caught those of the
erect figure on the bench in the veranda. Surely that was the face
of the tramp she had spoken to! and yet there was a change, not
only in the dress but in the general resemblance. After the first
glance, Guest withdrew his eyes and gazed at the other figures in
the char-a-bancs without moving a muscle.
Maruja's whims and caprices were many and original; and when, after
a sudden little cry and a declaration that she could stand her
cramped position no longer, she leaped from the box into the road,
no one was surprised. Garnier and Captain Carroll quickly
"I should like to look into the fonda while the horses are being
watered," she said, laughingly, "just to see what it is that
attracts Pereo there so often." Before any one could restrain this
new caprice, she was already upon the veranda.
To reach the open door, she had to pass so near Guest that her soft
white flounces brushed his knees, and the flowers in her girdle
left their perfume in his face. But he neither moved nor raised
his eyes. When she had passed, he rose quietly and stepped into
On her nearer survey, Maruja was convinced it was the same man.
She remained for an instant, with a little hand on the door-post.
"What a horrid place, and what dreadful people!" she said in
audible English as she glanced quickly after Guest. "Really, Pereo
ought to be warned against keeping such company. Come, let us go."
She contrived to pass Guest again in regaining the carriage; but in
the few moments' further delay he walked on down the road before
them, and, by the time they were ready to start, he was slowly
sauntering some hundred yards ahead. They passed him at a rapid
trot, but the next moment the char-a-bancs was suddenly pulled up.
"My fan!" cried Maruja. "Blessed Santa Maria!--my fan!"
A small black object, seen distinctly in the moonlight, was lying
on the road, directly in the track of the sauntering stranger.
Garnier attempted to alight; Carroll reined in his horse.
"Stop, all of you!" said Maruja; "that man will bring it to me."
It seemed as if he would. He stopped and picked it up, and
approached the carriage. Maruja stood up in her seat, with her
veil thrown back, her graceful hand extended, her eyes and mouth
tremulous with an irresistible smile. The stranger came nearer,
singled out Captain Carroll, tossed the fan to him with a slight
nod, and passed on the other side.
"One moment," said Maruja, almost harshly, to the driver. "One
moment," she continued, drawing her purse from her pocket
brusquely. "Let me reward this civil gentleman of the road! Here,
sir;" but, before she could continue, Carroll wheeled to her side,
and interposed. "Pray collect yourself, Miss Saltonstall," he
said, hurriedly; "you can not tell who this man may be. He does
not seem to be one who would insult you, or whom YOU would insult
"Give me the fan, Captain Carroll," she said, with a soft and
caressing smile. "Thank you." She took it, and, breaking it
through the middle between her gloved hands, tossed it into the
highway. "You are right--it smells of the fonda--and the road.
Thank you, again. You are so thoughtful for me, Captain Carroll,"
she murmured, raising her eyes gently to his, and then suddenly
withdrawing them with a half sigh. "But I am keeping you all. Go
The carriage rolled away and Guest returned from the hedge to the
middle of the road. San Jose lay in the opposite direction from
the disappearing cavalcade; but, on leaving the fonda, he had
determined to lead his inquisitors astray by doubling and making a
circuit of the hostelry through the fields hidden in the tall
grain. This he did, securely passing them within sound of their
voices, and was soon well on his way again. He avoided the
highway, and, striking a trail through the meadows, diverged to the
right, where the low towers and brown walls of a ruined mission
church rose above the plain. This would enable him to escape any
direct pursuit on the high road, besides, from its slight
elevation, giving him a more extended view of the plain. As he
neared it, he was surprised to see that, although it was partly
dismantled, and the roof had fallen in the central aisle, a part of
it was still used as a chapel, and a light was burning behind a
narrow opening, partly window and partly shrine. He was almost
upon it, when the figure of a man who had been kneeling beneath,
with his back towards him, rose, crossed himself devoutly, and
stood upright. Before he could turn, Guest disappeared round the
angle of the wall, and the tall erect figure of the solitary
worshiper passed on without heeding him.
But if Guest had been successful in evading the observation of the
man he had come so suddenly upon, he was utterly unconscious of
another figure that had been tracking HIM for the last ten minutes
through the tall grain, and had even succeeded in gaining the
shadow of the wall behind him; and it was this figure, and not his
own, that eventually attracted the attention of the tall stranger.
The pursuing figure was rapidly approaching the unconscious Guest;
in another moment it would have been upon him, when it was suddenly
seized from behind by the tall devotee. There was a momentary
struggle, and then it freed itself, with the exclamation, "Pereo!"
"Yes--Pereo!" said the old man, panting from his exertions. "And
thou art Miguel. So thou wouldst murder a man for a few pesos!" he
said, pointing to the knife which the desperado had hurriedly hid
in his jacket, "and callest thyself a Californian!"
"'Tis only an Americano--a runaway, with some ill-gotten gold,"
said Miguel, sullenly, yet with unmistakable fear of the old man.
"Besides, it was only to frighten him, the braggart. But since
thou fearest to touch a hair of those interlopers--"
"Fearest!" said Pereo, fiercely, clutching him by the throat, and
forcing him against the wall. "Fearest! sayest thou. I, Pereo,
fear? Dost thou think I would soil these hands, that might strike
a higher quarry, with blood of thy game?"
"Forgive me, padrono," gasped Miguel, now thoroughly alarmed at the
old man's awakened passion; "pardon; I meant that, since thou
"I know him?" repeated Pereo scornfully, contemptuously throwing
Miguel aside, who at once took that opportunity to increase his
distance from the old man's arm. "I know him? Thou shalt see.
Come hither, child," he called, beckoning to Guest. "Come hither,
thou hast nothing to fear now."
Guest, who had been attracted by the sound of altercation behind
him, but who was utterly unconscious of its origin or his own
relation to it, came forward impatiently. As he did so, Miguel
took to his heels. The act did not tend to mollify Guest's surly
suspicions, and, pausing a few feet from the old man, he roughly
demanded his business with him.
Pereo raised his head, with the dignity of years and habits of
command. The face of the young man confronting him was clearly
illuminated by the moonlight. Pereo's eyes suddenly dilated, his
mouth stiffened, he staggered back against the wall.
"Who are you?" he gasped, in uncertain English.
Believing himself the subject of some drunkard's pastime, Guest
replied, savagely, "One who has enough of this d--d nonsense, and
will stand no more of it from any one, young or old," and turned
abruptly on his heel.
"Stay, one moment, Senor, for the love of God!"
Some keen accent of agony in the old man's voice touched even
Guest's selfish nature. He halted.
"You are--a stranger here?"--faltered Pereo. "Yes?"
"You do not live here?--you have no friends?"
"I told you I am a stranger. I never was here before in my life,"
said Guest, impatiently.
"True; I am a fool," said the old man, hurriedly, to himself. "I
am mad--mad! It is not HIS voice. No! It is not HIS look, now
that his face changes. I am crazy." He stopped, and passed his
trembling hands across his eyes. "Pardon, Senor," he continued,
recalling himself with a humility that was almost ironical in its
extravagance. "Pardon, pardon! Yet, perhaps it is not too much to
have wanted to know who was the man one has saved."
"Saved!" repeated Guest, with incredulous contempt.
"Ay!" said Pereo, haughtily, drawing his figure erect; ay, saved!
Senor." He stopped and shrugged his shoulders. "But let it pass--
I say--let it pass. Take an old man's advice, friend: show not
your gold hereafter to strangers lightly, no matter how lightly you
have come by it. Good-night!"
Guest for a moment hesitated whether to resent the old man's
speech, or to let it pass as the incoherent fancy of a brain
maddened by drink. Then he ended the discussion by turning his
back abruptly and continuing his way to the high-road.
"So!" said Pereo, looking after him with abstracted eyes, "so! it
was only a fancy. And yet--even now, as he turned away, I saw the
same cold insolence in his eye. Caramba! Am I mad--mad--that I
must keep forever before my eyes, night and day, the image of that
dog in every outcast, every ruffian, every wayside bully that I
meet? No, no, good Pereo! Softly! this is mere madness, good
Pereo," he murmured to himself; "thou wilt have none of it; none,
good Pereo. Come, come!" He let his head fall slowly forward on
his breast, and in that action, seeming to take up again the burden
of a score more years upon his shoulders, he moved slowly away.
When he entered the fonda half an hour later, the awe in which he
was held by the half superstitious ruffians appeared to have
increased. Whatever story the fugitive Miguel had told his
companions regarding Pereo's protection of the young stranger, it
was certain that it had its full effect. Obsequious to the last
degree, the landlord was so profoundly touched, when Pereo, not
displeased with this evidence of his power over his countrymen,
condescendingly offered to click glasses with him, that he
endeavored to placate him still further.
"It is a pity your worship was not here earlier," he began, with a
significant glance at the others, "to have seen a gallant young
stranger that was here. A spice of wickedness about him, truly--a
kind of Don Caesar--but bearing himself like a very caballero
always. It would have pleased your worship, who likes not those
canting Puritans such as our neighbor yonder."
"Ah," said Pereo, reflectively, warming under the potent fires of
flattery and aguardiente, "possibly I HAVE seen him. He was like--"
"Like none of the dogs thou hast seen about San Antonio,"
interrupted the landlord. "Scarcely did he seem Americano, though
he spoke no Spanish."
The old man chuckled to himself viciously. "And thou, thou old
fool, Pereo, must needs see a likeness to thine enemy in this poor
runaway child--this fugitive Don Juan! He! he!" Nevertheless, he
still felt a vague terror of the condition of mind which had
produced this fancy, and drank so deeply to dispel his nervousness
that it was with difficulty he could mount his horse again. The
exaltation of liquor, however, appeared only to intensify his
characteristics: his face became more lugubrious and melancholy;
his manner more ceremonious and dignified; and, erect and stiff in
his saddle from the waist upwards, but leaning from side to side
with the motion of his horse, like the tall mast of some laboring
sloop, he "loped" away towards the House of the Lost Mission. Once
or twice he broke into sentimental song. Strangely enough, his
ditty was a popular Spanish refrain of some matador's aristocratic
Do you see my black eyes?
I am Manuel's Duchess,--
sang Pereo, with infinite gravity. His horse's hoofs seemed to
keep time with the refrain, and he occasionally waved in the air
the long leather thong of his bridle-rein.
It was quite late when he reached La Mision Perdida. Turning into
the little lane that led to the stable-yard, he dismounted at a
gate in the hedge which led to the summerhouse of the old Mision
garden, and, throwing his reins on his mustang's neck, let the
animal precede him to the stables. The moon shone full on the
inclosure as he emerged from the labyrinth. With uncovered head he
approached the Indian mound, and sank on his knees before it.
The next moment he rose, with an exclamation of terror, and his hat
dropped from his trembling hand. Directly before him, a small,
gray, wolfish-looking animal had stopped half-way down the mound on
encountering his motionless figure. Frightened by his outcry, and
unable to retreat, the shadowy depredator had fallen back on his
slinking haunches with a snarl, and bared teeth that glittered in
In an instant the expression of terror on the old man's ashen face
turned into a fixed look of insane exaltation. His white lips
moved; he advanced a step further, and held out both hands towards
the crouching animal.
"So! It is thou--at last! And comest thou here thy tardy Pereo to
chide? Comest THOU, too, to tell the poor old man his heart is
cold, his limbs are feeble, his brain weak and dizzy? that he is no
longer fit to do thy master's work? Ay, gnash thy teeth at him!
Curse him!--curse him in thy throat! But listen!--listen, good
friend--I will tell thee a secret--ay, good gray friar, a secret--
such a secret! A plan, all mine--fresh from this old gray head;
ha! ha!--all mine! To be wrought by these poor old arms; ha! ha!
All mine! Listen!"
He stealthily made a step nearer the affrighted animal. With a
sudden sidelong snap, it swiftly bounded by his side, and vanished
in the thicket; and Pereo, turning wildly, with a moan sank down
helplessly on the grave of his forefathers.
To the open chagrin of most of the gentlemen and the unexpected
relief of some of her own sex, Maruja, after an evening of more
than usual caprice and willfulness, retired early to her chamber.
Here she beguiled Enriquita, a younger sister, to share her
solitude for an hour, and with a new and charming melancholy
presented her with mature counsel and some younger trinkets and
"Thou wilt find them but folly, 'Riquita; but thou art young, and
wilt outgrow them as I have. I am sick of the Indian beads,
everybody wears them; but they seem to suit thy complexion. Thou
art not yet quite old enough for jewelry; but take thy choice of
these." "'Ruja," replied Enriquita, eagerly, "surely thou wilt not
give up this necklace of carved amber, that was brought thee from
Manilla--it becomes thee so! Everybody says it. All the
caballeros, Raymond and Victor, swear that it sets off thy beauty
like nothing else." "When thou knowest men better," responded
Maruja, in a deep voice, "thou wilt care less for what they say,
and despise what they do. Besides, I wore it to-day--and--I hate
it." "But what fan wilt thou keep thyself? The one of sandal-wood
thou hadst to-day?" continued Enriquita, timidly eying the pretty
things upon the table. "None," responded Maruja, didactically,
"but the simplest, which I shall buy myself. Truly, it is time to
set one's self against this extravagance. Girls think nothing of
spending as much upon a fan as would buy a horse and saddle for a
poor man." "But why so serious tonight, my sister?" said the
little Enriquita, her eyes filling with ready tears. "It grieves
me," responded Maruja, promptly, "to find thee, like the rest,
giving thy soul up to the mere glitter of the world. However, go,
child, take the heads, but leave the amber; it would make thee
yellower than thou art; which the blessed Virgin forbid! Good-
She kissed her affectionately, and pushed her from the room.
Nevertheless, after a moment's survey of her lonely chamber, she
hastily slipped on a pale satin dressing-gown, and, darting across
the passage, dashed into the bedroom of the youngest Miss Wilson,
haled that sentimental brunette from her night toilet, dragged her
into her own chamber, and, enwrapping her in a huge mantle of silk
and gray fur, fed her with chocolates and chestnuts, and, reclining
on her sympathetic shoulder, continued her arraignment of the world
and its follies until nearly daybreak.
It was past noon when Maruja awoke, to find Faquita standing by her
bedside with ill-concealed impatience.
"I ventured to awaken the Dona Maruja," she said, with vivacious
alacrity, "for news! Terrible news! The American, Dr. West, is
found dead this morning in the San Jose road!"
"Dr. West dead!" repeated Maruja, thoughtfully, but without
"Surely dead--very dead. He was thrown from his horse and dragged
by the stirrups--how far, the Blessed Virgin only knows. But he is
found dead--this Dr. West--his foot in the broken stirrup, his hand
holding a piece of the bridle! I thought I would waken the Dona
Maruja, that no one else should break it to the Dona Maria."
"That no one else should break it to my mother?" repeated Maruja,
coldly. "What mean you, girl?"
"I mean that no stranger should tell her," stammered Faquita,
lowering her bold eyes.
"You mean," said Maruja, slowly, "that no silly, staring, tongue-
wagging gossip should dare to break upon the morning devotions of
the lady mother with open-mouthed tales of horror! You are wise,
Faquita! I will tell her myself. Help me to dress."
But the news had already touched the outer shell of the great
house, and little groups of the visitors were discussing it upon
the veranda. For once, the idle badinage of a pleasure-seeking
existence was suspended; stupid people with facts came to the fore;
practical people with inquiring minds became interesting; servants
were confidentially appealed to; the local expressman became a
hero, and it was even noticed that he was intelligent and good-
"What makes it more distressing," said Raymond, joining one of the
groups, "is, that it appears the Doctor visited Mrs. Saltonstall
last evening, and left the casa at eleven. Sanchez, who was
perhaps the last person who saw him alive, says that he noticed his
horse was very violent, and the Doctor did not seem able to control
him. The accident probably happened half an hour later, as he was
picked up about three miles from here, and from appearances must
have been dragged, with his foot in the stirrup, fully half a mile
before the girth broke and freed the saddle and stirrup together.
The mustang, with nothing on but his broken bridle, was found
grazing at the rancho as early as four o'clock, an hour before the
body of his master was discovered by the men sent from the rancho
to look for him."
"Eh, but the man must have been clean daft to have trusted himself
to one of those savage beasts of the country," said Mr. Buchanan.
"And he was no so young either--about sixty, I should say. It
didna look even respectable, I remember, when we met him the other
day, careering over the country for all the world like one of those
crazy Mexicans. And yet he seemed steady and sensible enough when
he didna let his schemes of 'improvements' run away with him like
yon furious beastie. Eh well, puir man--it was a sudden ending!
And his family--eh?"
"I don't think he has one--at least here," said Raymond. "You
can't always tell in California. I believe he was a widower."
"Ay, man, but the heirs; there must be considerable property?" said
"Oh, the heirs. If he's made no will, which doesn't look like so
prudent and practical a man as he was--the heirs will probably crop
up some day."
"PROBABLY! crop up some day," repeated Buchanan, aghast.
"Yes. You must remember that WE don't take heirs quite as much
into account as you do in the old country. The loss of the MAN,
and how to replace HIM, is much more to us than the disposal of his
property. Now, Doctor West was a power far beyond his actual
possessions--and we will know very soon how much those were
dependent upon him."
"What do you mean?" asked Buchanan, anxiously.
"I mean that five minutes after the news of the Doctor's death was
confirmed, your friend Mr. Stanton sent a messenger with a despatch
to the nearest telegraphic office, and that he himself drove over
to catch Aladdin before the news could reach him."
Buchanan looked uneasy; so did one or two of the native
Californians who composed the group, and who had been listening
attentively. "And where is this same telegraphic office?" asked
"I'll drive you over there presently," responded Raymond, grimly.
"There'll be nothing doing here to-day. As Dr. West was a near
neighbor of the family, his death suspends our pleasure-seeking
until after the funeral."
Mr. Buchanan moved away. Captain Carroll and Garnier drew nearer
the speaker. "I trust it will not withdraw from us the society of
Miss Saltonstall," said Garnier, lightly--"at least, that she will
not be inconsolable."
"She did not seem to be particularly sympathetic with Dr. West the
other day," said Captain Carroll, coloring slightly with the
recollection of the morning in the summer-house, yet willing, in
his hopeless passion, even to share that recollection with his
rival. "Did you not think so, Monsieur Garnier?"
"Very possibly; and, as Miss Saltonstall is quite artless and
childlike in the expression of her likes and dislikes," said
Raymond, with the faintest touch of irony, "you can judge as well
as I can."
Garnier parried the thrust lightly. "You are no kinder to our
follies than you are to the grand passions of these gentlemen.
Confess, you frightened them horribly. You are---what is called--a
bear--eh? You depreciate in the interests of business."
Raymond did not at first appear to notice the sarcasm. "I only
stated," he said, gravely, "that which these gentlemen will find
out for themselves before they are many hours older. Dr. West was
the brain of the county, as Aladdin is its life-blood. It only
remains to be seen how far the loss of that brain affects the
county. The Stock Exchange market in San Francisco will indicate
that today in the shares of the San Antonio and Soquel Railroad and
the West Mills and Manufacturing Co. It is a matter that may
affect even our friends here. Whatever West's social standing was
in this house, lately he was in confidential business relations
with Mrs. Saltonstall." He raised his eyes for the first time to
Garnier as he added, slowly, "It is to be hoped that if our hostess
has no social reasons to deplore the loss of Dr. West, she at least
will have no other."
With a lover's instinct, conscious only of some annoyance to
Maruja, in all this, Carroll anxiously looked for her appearance
among the others. He was doomed to disappointment, however. His
half-timid inquiries only resulted in the information that Maruja
was closeted with her mother. The penetralia of the casa was only
accessible to the family; yet, as he wandered uneasily about, he
could not help passing once or twice before the quaint low archway,
with its grated door, that opened from the central hall. His
surprise may be imagined when he suddenly heard his name uttered in
a low voice; and, looking up, he beheld the soft eyes of Maruja at
She held the door partly open with one little hand, and made a sign
for him to enter with the other. When he had done so, she said,
"Come with me," and preceded him down the dim corridor. His heart
beat thickly; the incense of this sacred inner life, with its faint
suggestion of dead rose-leaves, filled him with a voluptuous
languor; his breath was lost, as if a soft kiss had taken it away;
his senses swam in the light mist that seemed to suffuse
everything. His step trembled as she suddenly turned aside, and,
opening a door, ushered him into a small vaulted chamber.
In the first glance it seemed to be an oratory or chapel. A large
gold and ebony crucifix hung on the wall. There was a prie-dieu of
heavy dark mahogany in the centre of the tiled floor; there was a
low ottoman or couch, covered with a mantle of dark violet velvet,
like a pall; there were two quaintly carved stiff chairs; a
religious, almost ascetic, air pervaded the apartment; but no
dreamy eastern seraglio could have affected him with an
intoxication so profoundly and mysteriously sensuous.
Maruja pointed to a chair, and then, with a peculiarly feminine
movement, placed herself sideways upon the ottoman, half reclining
on her elbow on a high cushion, her deep billowy flounces partly
veiling the funereal velvet below. Her oval face was pale and
melancholy, her eyes moist as if with recent tears; an expression
as of troubled passion lurked in their depths and in the corners of
her mouth. Scarcely knowing why, Carroll fancied that thus she
might appear if she were in love; and the daring thought made him
"I wanted to speak with you alone," she said, gently, as if in
explanation; "but don't look at me so. I have had a bad night, and
now this calamity"--she stopped and then added, softly, "I want you
to do a favor for--my mother?"
Captain Carroll, with an effort, at last found his voice. "But YOU
are in trouble; YOU are suffering. I had no idea this unfortunate
affair came so near to you."
"Nor did I," said Maruja, closing her fan with a slight snap. "I
knew nothing of it until my mother told me this morning. To be
frank with you, it now appears that Dr. West was her most intimate
business adviser. All her affairs were in his hands. I cannot
expain how, or why, or when; but it is so."
"And is that all?" said Carroll, with boyish openness of relief.
"And you have no other sorrow?"
In spite of herself, a tender smile, such as she might have
bestowed on an impulsive boy, broke on her lips. "And is that not
enough? What would you? No--sit where you are! We are here to
talk seriously. And you do not ask what is this favor my mother
"No matter what it is, it shall be done," said Carroll, quickly.
"I am your mother's slave if she will but let me serve at your
side. Only," he paused, "I wish it was not business--I know
nothing of business."
"If it were only business, Captain Carroll," said Maruja, slowly,
"I would have spoken to Raymond or the Senor Buchanan; if it were
only confidence, Pereo, our mayordomo, would have dragged himself
from his sick-bed this morning to do my mother's bidding. But it
is more than that--it is the functions of a gentleman--and my
mother, Captain Carroll, would like to say of--a friend."
He seized her hand and covered it with kisses. She withdrew it
"What have I to do?" he asked, eagerly.
She drew a note from her belt. "It is very simple. You must ride
over to Aladdin with that note. You must give it to him ALONE--
more than that, you must not let any one who may be there think you
are making any but a social call. If he keeps you to dine--you
must stay--you will bring back anything he may give you and deliver
it to me secretly for her."
"Is that all?" asked Carroll, with a slight touch of disappointment
in his tone.
"No," said Maruja, rising impulsively. "No, Captain Carroll--it is
NOT all! And you shall know all, if only to prove to you how we
confide in you--and to leave you free, after you have heard it, to
do as you please." She stood before him, quite white, opening and
shutting her fan quickly, and tapping the tiled floor with her
little foot. "I have told you Dr. West was my mother's business
adviser. She looked upon him as more--as a friend. Do you know
what a dangerous thing it is for a woman who has lost one protector
to begin to rely upon another? Well, my mother is not yet old.
Dr. West appreciated her--Dr. West did not depreciate himself--two
things that go far with a woman, Captain Carroll, and my mother is
a woman." She paused, and then, with a light toss of her fan,
said: "Well, to make an end, but for this excellent horse and this
too ambitious rider, one knows not how far the old story of my
mother's first choice would have been repeated, and the curse of
Koorotora again fallen on the land."
"And you tell me this--you, Maruja--you who warned me against my
hopeless passion for you?"
"Could I foresee this?" she said, passionately; "and are you mad
enough not to see that this very act would have made YOUR suit
intolerable to my relations?"
"Then you did think of my suit, Maruja," he said, grasping her
"Or any one's suit," she continued, hurriedly, turning away with a
slight increase of color in her cheeks. After a moment's pause,
she added, in a gentler and half-reproachful voice, "Do you think I
have confided my mother's story to you for this purpose only? Is
this the help you proffer?"
"Forgive me, Maruja," said the young officer, earnestly. "I am
selfish, I know--for I love you. But you have not told me yet how
I could help your mother by delivering this letter, which any one
"Let me finish then," said Maruja. "It is for you to judge what
may be done. Letters have passed between my mother and Dr. West.
My mother is imprudent; I know not what she may have written, or
what she might not write, in confidence. But you understand, they
are not letters to be made public nor to pass into any hands but
hers. They are not to be left to be bandied about by his American
friends; to be commented upon by strangers; to reach the ears of
the Guitierrez. They belong to that grave which lies between the
Past and my mother; they must not rise from it to haunt her."
"I understand," said the young officer, quietly. "This letter,
then, is my authority to recover them?"
"Partly, though it refers to other matters. This Mr. Prince, whom
you Americans call Aladdin, was a friend of Dr. West; they were
associated in business, and he will probably have access to his
papers. The rest we must leave to you."
"I think you may," said Carroll, simply.
Maruja stretched out her hand. The young man bent over it
respectfully and moved towards the door.
She had expected him to make some protestation--perhaps even to
claim some reward. But the instinct which made him forbear even in
thought to take advantage of the duty laid upon him, which
dominated even his miserable passion for her, and made it
subservient to his exaltation of honor; this epaulet of the
officer, and blood of the gentleman, this simple possession of
knighthood not laid on by perfunctory steel, but springing from
within--all this, I grieve to say, was partly unintelligible to
Maruja, and not entirely satisfactory. Since he had entered the
room they seemed to have changed their situations; he was no longer
the pleading lover that trembled at her feet. For one base moment
she thought it was the result of his knowledge of her mother's
weakness; but the next instant, meeting his clear glance, she
colored with shame. Yet she detained him vaguely a moment before
the grated door in the secure shadow of the arch. He might have
kissed her there! He did not.
In the gloomy stagnation of the great house, it was natural that he
should escape from it for a while, and the saddling of his horse
for a solitary ride attracted no attention. But it might have been
noticed that his manner had lost much of that nervous
susceptibility and anxiety which indicates a lover; and it was with
a return of his professional coolness and precision that he rode
out of the patio as if on parade. Erect, observant, and self-
possessed, he felt himself "on duty," and, putting spurs to his
horse, cantered along the high-road, finding an inexpressible
relief in motion. He was doing something in the interest of
helplessness and of HER. He had no doubt of his right to
interfere. He did not bother himself with the rights of others.
Like all self-contained men, he had no plan of action, except what
the occasion might suggest.
He was more than two miles from La Mision Perdida, when his quick
eye was attracted by a saddle-blanket lying in the roadside ditch.
A recollection of the calamity of the previous night made him rein
in his horse and examine it. It was without doubt the saddle-
blanket of Dr. West's horse, lost when the saddle came off, after
the Doctor's body had been dragged by the runaway beast. But a
second fact forced itself equally upon the young officer. It was
lying nearly a mile from the spot where the body had been picked
up. This certainly did not agree with the accepted theory that the
accident had taken place further on, and that the body had been
dragged until the saddle came off where it was found. His
professional knowledge of equitation and the technique of
accoutrements exploded the idea that the saddle could have slipped
here, the saddle-blanket fallen and the horse have run nearly a
mile hampered by the saddle hanging under him. Consequently, the
saddle, blanket, and unfortunate rider must have been precipitated
together, and at the same moment, on or near this very spot.
Captain Carroll was not a detective; he had no theory to establish,
no motive to discover, only as an officer, he would have simply
rejected any excuse offered on those terms by one of his troopers
to account for a similar accident. He troubled himself with no
further deduction. Without dismounting, he gave a closer attention
to the marks of struggling hoofs near the edge of the ditch, which
had not yet been obliterated by the daily travel. In doing so, his
horse's hoof struck a small object partly hidden in the thick dust
of the highway. It seemed to be a leather letter or memorandum
case adapted for the breast pocket. Carroll instantly dismounted
and picked it up. The name and address of Dr. West were legibly
written on the inside. It contained a few papers and notes, but
nothing more. The possibility that it might disclose the letters
he was seeking was a hope quickly past. It was only a
corroborative fact that the accident had taken place on the spot
where he was standing. He was losing time; he hurriedly put the
book in his pocket, and once more spurred forward on his road.
The exterior of Aladdin's Palace, familiar as it already was to
Carroll, struck him that afternoon as looking more than usually
unreal, ephemeral, and unsubstantial. The Moorish arches, of the
thinnest white pine; the arabesque screens and lattices that looked
as if made of pierced cardboard; the golden minarets that seemed to
be glued to the shell-like towers, and the hollow battlements that
visibly warped and cracked in the fierce sunlight,--all appeared
more than ever like a theatrical scene that might sink through the
ground, or vanish on either side to the sound of the prompter's
whistle. Recalling Raymond's cynical insinuations, he could not
help fancying that the house had been built by a conscientious
genie with a view to the possibility of the lamp and the ring
passing, with other effects, into the hands of the sheriff.
Nevertheless, the servant who took Captain Carroll's horse summoned
another domestic, who preceded him into a small waiting-room off
the gorgeous central hall, which looked not unlike the private bar-
room of a first-class hotel, and presented him with a sherry
cobbler. It was a peculiarity of Aladdin's Palace that the host
seldom did the honors of his own house, but usually deputed the
task to some friend, and generally the last new-comer. Carroll was
consequently not surprised when he was presently joined by an utter
stranger, who again pressed upon him the refreshment he had just
declined. "You see," said the transitory host, "I'm a stranger
myself here, and haven't got the ways of the regular customers; but
call for anything you like, and I'll see it got for you. Jim" (the
actual Christian name of Aladdin) "is headin' a party through the
stables. Would you like to join 'em--they ain't more than half
through now--or will you come right to the billiard-room--the
latest thing out in stained glass and iron--ez pretty as fresh
paint? or will you meander along to the bridal suite, and see the
bamboo and silver dressing-room, and the white satin and crystal
bed that cost fifteen thousand dollars as it stands. Or," he
added, confidentially, "would you like to cut the whole cussed
thing, and I'll get out Jim's 2.32 trotter and his spider-legged
buggy and we'll take a spin over to the Springs afore dinner?" It
was, however, more convenient to Carroll's purpose to conceal his
familiarity with the Aladdin treasures, and to politely offer to
follow his guide through the house. "I reckon Jim's pretty busy
just now," continued the stranger; "what with old Doc West going
under so suddent, just ez he'd got things boomin' with that
railroad and his manufactory company. The stocks went down to
nothing this morning; and, 'twixt you and me, the boys say," he
added, mysteriously sinking his voice, "it was jest the tightest
squeeze there whether there wouldn't be a general burst-up all
round. But Jim was over at San Antonio afore the Doctor's body was
laid out; just ran that telegraph himself for about two hours; had
a meeting of trustees and directors afore the Coroner came; had the
Doctor's books and papers brought over here in a buggy, and another
meeting before luncheon. Why, by the time the other fellows began
to drop in to know if the Doctor was really dead, Jim Prince had
discounted the whole affair two years ahead. Why, bless you,
nearly everybody is in it. That Spanish woman over there, with the
pretty daughter--that high-toned Greaser with the big house--you
know who I mean." . . .
"I don't think I do," said Carroll, coldly. "I know a lady named
Saltonstall, with several daughters."
"That's her; thought I'd seen you there once. Well, the Doctor's
got her into it, up to the eyes. I reckon she's mortgaged
everything to him."
It required all Carroll's trained self-possession to prevent his
garrulous guide from reading his emotion in his face. This, then,
was the secret of Maruja's melancholy. Poor child! how bravely she
had borne up under it; and HE, in his utter selfishness, had never
suspected it. Perhaps that letter was her delicate way of breaking
the news to him, for he should certainly now hear it all from
Aladdin's lips. And this man, who evidently had succeeded to the
control of Dr. West's property, doubtless had possession of the
letters too! Humph! He shut his lips firmly together, and strode
along by the side of his innocent guide, erect and defiant.
He did not have long to wait. The sound of voices, the opening of
doors, and the trampling of feet indicated that the other party
were being "shown over" that part of the building Carroll and his
companion were approaching. "There's Jim and his gang now," said
his cicerone; "I'll tell him you're here, and step out of this show
business myself. So long! I reckon I'll see you at dinner." At
this moment Prince and a number of ladies and gentlemen appeared at
the further end of the hall; his late guide joined them, and
apparently indicated Carroll's presence, as, with a certain
lounging, off-duty, officer-like way, the young man sauntered on.
Aladdin, like others of his class, objected to the military,
theoretically and practically; but he was not above recognizing
their social importance in a country of no society, and of even
being fascinated by Carroll's quiet and secure self-possession and
self-contentment in a community of restless ambition and aggressive
assertion. He came forward to welcome him cordially; he introduced
him with an air of satisfaction; he would have preferred if he had
been in uniform, but he contented himself with the fact that
Carroll, like all men of disciplined limbs, carried himself equally
well in mufti.
"You have shown us everything," said Carroll, smiling, "except the
secret chamber where you keep the magic lamp and ring. Are we not
to see the spot where the incantation that produces these marvels
is held, even if we are forbidden to witness the ceremony? The
ladies are dying to see your sanctum--your study--your workshop--
where you really live."
"You'll find it a mere den, as plain as my bed-room," said Prince,
who prided himself on the Spartan simplicity of his own habits, and
was not averse to the exhibition. "Come this way." He crossed the
hall, and entered a small, plainly furnished room, containing a
table piled with papers, some of which were dusty and worn-looking.
Carroll instantly conceived the idea that these were Dr. West's
property. He took his letter quietly from his pocket; and, when
the attention of the others was diverted, laid it on the table,
with the remark, in an undertone, audible only to Prince, "From
Aladdin had that sublime audacity which so often fills the place of
tact. Casting a rapid glance at Carroll, he cried, "Hallo!" and,
wheeling suddenly round on his following guests, with a bewildering
extravagance of playful brusqueness, actually bundled them from the
room. "The incantation is on!" he cried, waving his arms in the
air; "the genie is at work. No admittance except on business!
Follow Miss Wilson," he added, clapping both hands on the shoulders
of the prettiest and shyest young lady of the party, with an
irresistible paternal familiarity. "She's your hostess. I'll
honor her drafts to any amount;" and before they were aware of his
purpose or that Carroll was no longer among them, Aladdin had
closed the door, that shut with a spring lock, and was alone with
the young man. He walked quickly to his desk, took up the letter,
and opened it.
His face of dominant, self-satisfied good-humor became set and
stern. Without taking the least notice of Carroll, he rose, and,
stepping to a telegraph instrument at a side table, manipulated
half a dozen ivory knobs with a sudden energy. Then he returned to
the table, and began hurriedly to glance over the memoranda and
indorsements of the files of papers piled upon it. Carroll's quick
eye caught sight of a small packet of letters in a writing of
unmistakable feminine delicacy, and made certain they were the ones
he was in quest of. Without raising his eyes, Mr. Prince asked,
"Who else has she told this to?"
"If you refer to the contents of that letter, it was written and
handed to me about three hours ago. It has not been out of my
possession since then."
"Humph! Who's at the casa? There's Buchanan, and Raymond, and
Victor Guitierrez, eh?"
"I think I can say almost positively that Mrs. Saltonstall has seen
no one but her daughter since the news reached her, if that is what
you wish to know," said Carroll, still following the particular
package of letters with his eyes, as Mr. Prince continued his
examination. Prince stopped.
"Are you sure?"
Prince rose, this time with a greater ease of manner, and, going to
the table, ran his fingers over the knobs, as if mechanically.
"One would like to know at once all there is to know about a
transaction that changes the front of four millions of capital in
about four hours, eh, Captain?" he said, for the first time really
regarding his guest. "Just four hours ago, in this very room, we
found out that the widow Saltonstall owed Dr. West about a million,
tied up in investments, and we calculated to pull her through with
perhaps the loss of half. If she's got this assignment of the
Doctor's property that she speaks of in her letter, as collateral
security, and it's all regular, and she--so to speak--steps into
Dr. West's place, by G-d, sir, we owe HIM about three millions, and
we've got to settle with HER--and that's all about it. You've
dropped a little bomb-shell in here, Captain, and the splinters are
flying around as far as San Francisco, now. I confess it beats me
regularly. I always thought the old man was a little keen over
there at the casa--but she was a woman, and he was a man for all
his sixty years, and THAT combination I never thought of. I only
wonder she hadn't gobbled him up before."
Captain Carroll's face betrayed no trace of the bewilderment and
satisfaction at this news of which he had been the unconscious
bearer, nor of resentment at the coarseness of its translation.
"There does not seem to be any memorandum of this assignment,"
continued Prince, turning over the papers.
"Have you looked here?" said Carroll, taking up the packet of
"No--they seem to me some private letters she refers to in this
letter, and that she wants back again."
"Let us see," said Carroll, untying the packet. There were three
or four closely written notes in Spanish and English.
"Love-letters, I reckon," said Prince--"that's why the old girl
wants 'em back. She don't care to have the wheedling that fetched
the Doctor trotted out to the public."
"Let us look more carefully," said Carroll, pleasantly, opening
each letter before Prince, yet so skillfully as to frustrate any
attempt of the latter to read them. "There does not seem to be any
memorandum here. They are evidently only private letters."
"Quite so," said Prince.
Captain Carroll retied the packet and put it in his pocket. "Then
I'll return them to her," he said, quietly.
"Hullo!--here--I say," said Prince, starting to his feet.
"I said I would return them to her," repeated Carroll, calmly.
"But I never gave them to you! I never consented to their
withdrawal from the papers."
"I'm sorry you did not," said Carroll, coldly; "it would have been
"Polite! D--n it, sir! I call this stealing."
"Stealing, Mr. Prince, is a word that might be used by the person
who claims these letters to describe the act of any one who would
keep them from HER. It really can not apply to you or me."
"Once for all, do you refuse to return them to me?" said Prince,
pale with anger.
"Very well, sir! We shall see." He stepped to the corner and rang
a bell. "I have summoned my manager, and will charge you with the
theft in his presence."
"I think not."
"And why, sir?"
"Because the presence of a third party would enable me to throw
this glove in your face, which, as a gentleman, I couldn't do
without witnesses." Steps were heard along the passage; Prince was
no coward in a certain way; neither was he a fool. He knew that
Carroll would keep his word; he knew that he should have to fight
him; that, whatever the issue of the duel was, the cause of the
quarrel would be known, and scarcely redound to his credit. At
present there were no witnesses to the offered insult, and none
would be wiser. The letters were not worth it. He stepped to the
door, opened it, said, "No matter," and closed it again.
He returned with an affectation of carelessness. "You are right.
I don't know that I'm called upon to make a scene here which the
LAW can do for me as well elsewhere. It will settle pretty quick
whether you've got the right to those letters, and whether you've
taken the right way to get them sir."
"I have no desire to evade any responsibility in this matter, legal
or otherwise," said Carroll, coldly, rising to his feet.
"Look here," said Prince, suddenly, with a return of his brusque
frankness; "you might have ASKED me for those letters, you know."
"And you wouldn't have given them to me," said Carroll.
Prince laughed. "That's so! I say, Captain. Did they teach you
this sort of strategy at West Point?"
"They taught me that I could neither receive nor give an insult
under a white flag," said Carroll, pleasantly. "And they allowed
me to make exchanges under the same rule. I picked up this pocket-
book on the spot where the accident occurred to Dr. West. It is
evidently his. I leave it with you, who are his executor."
The instinct of reticence before a man with whom he could never be
confidential kept him from alluding to his other discovery.
Prince took the pocket-book, and opened it mechanically. After a
moment's scrutiny of the memoranda it contained, his face assumed
something of the same concentrated attention it wore at the
beginning of the interview. Raising his eyes suddenly to Carroll,
he said, quickly,--
"You have examined it?"
"Only so far as to see that it contained nothing of importance to
the person I represent," returned Carroll, simply.
The capitalist looked at the young officer's clear eyes. Something
of embarrassment came into his own as he turned them away.
"Certainly. Only memoranda of the Doctor's business. Quite
important to us, you know. But nothing referring to YOUR
principal." He laughed. "Thank you for the exchange. I say--take
"Thank you--no!" returned Carroll, going to the door.
He held out his hand. Carroll, with his clear eyes still regarding
him, passed quietly by the outstretched hand, opened the door,
bowed, and made his exit.
A slight flush came into Prince's cheek. Then, as the door closed,
he burst into a half-laugh. Had he been a dramatic villain, he
would have added to it several lines of soliloquy, in which he
would have rehearsed the fact that the opportunity for revenge had
"come at last"; that the "haughty victor who had just left with his
ill-gotten spoil had put into his hands the weapon of his friend's
destruction"; that the "hour had come"; and, possibly he might have
said, "Ha! ha!" But, being a practical, good-natured, selfish
rascal, not much better or worse than his neighbors, he sat himself
down at his desk and began to carefully consider how HE could best
make use of the memoranda jotted down by Dr. West of the proofs of
the existence of his son, and the consequent discovery of a legal
heir to his property.
When Faquita had made sure that her young mistress was so securely
closeted with Dona Maria that morning as to be inaccessible to
curious eyes and ears, she saw fit to bewail to her fellow-servants
this further evidence of the decay of the old feudal and
patriarchal mutual family confidences. "Time was, thou
rememberest, Pepita, when an affair of this kind was openly
discussed at chocolate with everybody present, and before us all.
When Joaquin Padilla was shot at Monterey, it was the Dona herself
who told us, who read aloud the letters describing it and the
bullet-holes in his clothes, and made it quite a gala-day--and he
was a first-cousin of Guitierrez. And now, when this American goat
of a doctor is kicked to death by a mule, the family must shut
themselves up, that never a question is asked or answered." "Ay,"
responded Pepita; "and as regards that, Sanchez there knows as much
as they do, for it was he that almost saw the whole affair."
"How?--sawest it?" inquired Faquita, eagerly.
"Why, was it not he that was bringing home Pereo, who had been
lying in one of his trances or visions--blessed St. Antonio
preserve us!" said Pepita, hastily crossing herself--"on
Kooratora's grave, when the Doctor's mustang charged down upon them
like a wild bull, and the Doctor's foot half out of the stirrups,
and he not yet fast in his seat. And Pereo laughs a wild laugh and
says: 'Watch if the coyote does not drag yet at his mustang's
heels;' and Sanchez ran and watched the Doctor out of sight,
careering and galloping to his death!--ay, as Pereo prophesied.
For it was only half an hour afterward that Sanchez again heard the
tramp of his hoofs--as if it were here--and knowing it two miles
away--thou understandest, he said to himself: 'It is over.'"
The two women shuddered and crossed themselves.
"And what says Pereo of the fulfillment of his prophecy?" asked
Faquita, hugging herself in her shawl with a certain titillating
shrug of fascinating horror.
"It is even possible he understands it not. Thou knowest how dazed
and dumb he ever is after these visions--that he comes from them as
one from the grave, remembering nothing. He has lain like a log
all the morning."
"Ay; but this news should awaken him, if aught can. He loved not
this sneaking Doctor. Let us seek him; mayhap, Sanchez may be
there. Come! The mistress lacks us not just now; the guests are
provided for. Come!"
She led the way to the eastern angle of the casa communicating by a
low corridor with the corral and stables. This was the old "gate-
keep" or quarters of the mayordomo, who, among his functions, was
supposed to exercise a supervision over the exits and entrances of
the house. A large steward's room or office, beyond it a room of
general assembly, half guard-room, half servants' hall, and Pereo's
sleeping-room, constituted his domain. A few peons were gathered
in the hall near the open door of the apartment where Pereo lay.
Stretched on a low pallet, his face yellow as wax, a light burning
under a crucifix near his head, and a spray of blessed palm,
popularly supposed to avert the attempts of evil spirits to gain
possession of his suspended faculties, Pereo looked not unlike a
corpse. Two muffled and shawled domestics, who sat by his side,
might have been mourners, but for their voluble and incessant
"So thou art here, Faquita," said a stout virago. "It is a wonder
thou couldst spare time from prayers for the repose of the American
Doctor's soul to look after the health of thy superior, poor Pereo!
Is it, then, true that Dona Maria said she would have naught more
to do with the drunken brute of her mayordomo?"
The awful fascination of Pereo's upturned face did not prevent
Faquita from tossing her head as she replied, pertly, that she was
not there to defend her mistress from lazy gossip. "Nay, but WHAT
said she?" asked the other attendant.
"She said Pereo was to want for nothing; but at present she could
not see him."
A murmur of indignation and sympathy passed through the company.
It was followed by a long sigh from the insensible man. "His lips
move," said Faquita, still fascinated by curiosity. "Hush! he
"His lips move, but his soul is still asleep," said Sanchez,
oracularly. "Thus they have moved since early morning, when I came
to speak with him, and found him lying here in a fit upon the
floor. He was half dressed, thou seest, as if he had risen to go
forth, and had been struck down so--"
"Hush! I tell thee he speaks," said Faquita.
The sick man was faintly articulating through a few tiny bubbles
that broke upon his rigid lips. "He--dared--me! He--said--I was
"Who dared thee? Who said thou wast too old?" asked the eager
Faquita, bending over him.
"He, Koorotora himself! in the shape of a coyote."
Faquita fell back with a little giggle, half of shame, half of awe.
"It is ever thus," said Sanchez, sententiously; "it is what he said
last night, when I picked him up on the mound. He will sleep now--
thou shalt see. He will get no further than Koorotora and the
coyote--and then he will sleep."
And to the awe of the group, and the increased respect for
Sanchez's wisdom, Pereo seemed to fall again into a lethargic
slumber. It was late in the evening when he appeared to regain
perfect consciousness. "Ah--what is this?" he said, roughly,
sitting up in bed, and eying the watchers around him, some of whom
had succumbed to sleep, and others were engaged in playing cards.
"Caramba! are ye mad? Thou, Sanchez, here; who shouldst be at thy
work in the stables! Thou, Pepita, is thy mistress asleep or dead,
that thou sittest here? Blessed San Antonio! would ye drive me
mad?" He lifted his hand to his head, with a dull movement of
pain, and attempted to rise from the bed.
"Softly, good Pereo; lie still," said Sanchez, approaching him.
"Thou hast been ill--so ill. These, thy friends, have been waiting
only for this moment to be assured that thou art better. For this
idleness there is no blame--truly none. The Dona Maria has said
that thou shouldst lack no care; and, truly, since the terrible
news there has been little to do."
"The terrible news?" repeated Pereo.
Sanchez cast a meaning glance upon the others, as if to indicate
this coafirmation of his diagnosis.
"Ay, terrible news! The Doctor West was found this morning dead
two miles from the casa."
"Dr. West dead!" repeated Pereo, slowly, as if endeavoring to
master the real meaning of the words. Then, seeing the vacuity of
his question reflected on the faces of those around him, he added,
hurriedly, with a feeble smile, "O--ay--dead! Yes! I remember.
And he has been ill--very ill, eh?"
"It was an accident. He was thrown from his horse, and so killed,"
returned Sanchez, gravely.
"Killed--by his horse! sayest thou?" said Pereo, with a sudden
fixed look in his eye.
"Ay, good Pereo. Dost thou not remember when the mustang bolted
with him down upon us in the lane, and then thou didst say he would
come to evil with the brute? He did--blessed San Antonio!--within
half an hour!"
"How--thou sawest it?"
"Nay; for the mustang was running away and I did not follow.
Bueno! it happened all the same. The Alcalde, Coroner, who knows
all about it, has said so an hour ago! Juan brought the news from
the rancho where the inquest was. There will be a funeral the day
after to-morrow! and so it is that some of the family will go.
Fancy, Pereo, a Guitierrez at the funeral of the Americano Doctor!
Nay, I doubt not that the Dona Maria will ask thee to say a prayer
over his bier."
"Peace, fool! and speak not of thy lady mistress," thundered the
old man, sitting upright. "Begone to the stables. Dost thou hear
"Now, by the Mother of Miracles," said Sanchez, hastening from the
room as the gaunt figure of the old man rose, like a sheeted
spectre, from the bed, "that was his old self again! Blessed San
Antonio! Pereo has recovered."
The next day he was at his usual duties, with perhaps a slight
increase of sternness in his manner. The fulfillment of his
prophecy related by Sanchez added to the superstitious reputation
in which he was held, although Faquita voiced the opinions of a
growing skeptical party in the statement that it was easy to
prophesy the Doctor's accident, with the spectacle of the horse
actually running away before the prophet's eyes. It was even said
that Dona Maria's aversion to Pereo since the accident arose from a
belief that some assistance might have been rendered by him. But
it was pointed out by Sanchez that Pereo had, a few moments before,
fallen under one of those singular, epileptic-like strokes to which
he was subject, and not only was unfit, but even required the
entire care of Sanchez at the time. He did not attend the funeral,
nor did Mrs. Saltonstall; but the family was represented by Maruja
and Amita, accompanied by one or two dark-faced cousins, Captain
Carroll, and Raymond. A number of friends and business associates
from the neighboring towns, Aladdin and a party from his house, the
farm laborers, and a crowd of working men from his mills in the
foot-hills, swelled the assemblage that met in and around the rude
agricultural sheds and outhouses which formed the only pastoral
habitation of the Rancho of San Antonio. It had been a
characteristic injunction of the deceased that he should be buried
in the midst of one of his most prolific grain fields, as a grim
return to that nature he was impoverishing, with neither mark nor
monument to indicate the spot; and that even the temporary mound
above him should, at the fitting season of the year, be leveled
with the rest of the field by the obliterating plowshares. A grave
was accordingly dug about a quarter of a mile from his office
amidst a "volunteer" crop so dense that the large space mown around
the narrow opening, to admit of the presence of the multitude,
seemed like a golden amphitheatre.
A distinguished clergyman from San Francisco officiated.
A man of tact and politic adaptation, he dwelt upon the blameless
life of the deceased, on his practical benefit for civilization in
the county, and even treated his grim Pantheism in the selection of
his grave as a formal recognition of the text, "dust to dust." He
paid a not ungrateful compliment to the business associates of the
deceased, and, without actually claiming in the usual terms "a
continuance of past favors" for their successors, managed to
interpolate so strong a recommendation of the late Doctor's
commercial projects as to elicit from Aladdin the expressive
commendation that his sermon was "as good as five per cent. in the
Maruja, who had been standing near the carriage, languidly silent
and abstracted even under the tender attentions of Carroll,
suddenly felt the consciousness of another pair of eyes fixed upon
her. Looking up, she was surprised to find herself regarded by the
man she had twice met, once as a tramp and once as a wayfarer at
the fonda, who had quietly joined a group not far from her. At
once impressed by the idea that this was the first time that he had
really looked at her, she felt a singular shyness creeping over
her, until, to her own astonishment and indignation, she was
obliged to lower her eyes before his gaze. In vain she tried to
lift them, with her old supreme power of fascination. If she had
ever blushed, she felt she would have done so now. She knew that
her face must betray her consciousness; and at last she--Maruja,
the self-poised and all-sufficient goddess--actually turned, in
half-hysterical and girlish bashfulness, to Carroll for relief in
an affected and exaggerated absorption of his attentions. She
scarcely knew that the clergyman had finished speaking, when
Raymond approached them softly from behind. "Pray don't believe,"
he said, appealingly, "that all the human virtues are about to be
buried--I should say sown--in that wheatfield. A few will still
survive, and creep about above the Doctor's grave. Listen to a
story just told me, and disbelieve--if you dare--in human
gratitude. Do you see that picturesque young ruffian over there?"
Maruja did not lift her eyes. She felt herself breathlessly
hanging on the speaker's next words.
"Why, that's the young man of the fonda, who picked up your fan,"
said Carroll, "isn't it?"
"Perhaps," said Maruja, indifferently. She would have given worlds
to have been able to turn coldly and stare at him at that moment
with the others, but she dared not. She contented herself with
softly brushing some dust from Captain Carroll's arm with her fan
and a feminine suggestion of tender care which thrilled that
"Well," continued Raymond, "that Robert Macaire over yonder came
here some three or four days ago as a tramp, in want of everything
but honest labor. Our lamented friend consented to parley with
him, which was something remarkable in the Doctor; still more
remarkable, he gave him a suit of clothes, and, it is said, some
money, and sent him on his way. Now, more remarkable than all, our
friend, on hearing of his benefactor's death, actually tramps back
here to attend his funeral. The Doctor being dead, his executors
not of a kind to emulate the Doctor's spasmodic generosity, and
there being no chance of future favors, the act must be recorded as
purely and simply gratitude. By Jove! I don't know but that he is
the only one here who can be called a real mourner. I'm here
because your sister is here; Carroll comes because YOU do, and you
come because your mother can not."
"And who tells you these pretty stories?" asked Maruja, with her
face still turned towards Carroll.
"The foreman, Harrison, who, with an extensive practical experience
of tramps, was struck with this exception to the general rule."
"Poor man; one ought to do something for him," said Amita,
"What!" said Raymond, with affected terror, "and spoil this perfect
story? Never! If I should offer him ten dollars, I'd expect him
to kick me; if he took it, I'd expect to kick HIM."
"He is not so bad-looking, is he, Maruja?" asked Amita of her
sister. But Maruja had already moved a few paces off with Carroll,
and seemed to be listening to him only. Raymond smiled at the
pretty perplexity of Amita's eyebrows over this pronounced
"Don't mind them," he whispered; "you really cannot expect to duena
your elder sister. Tell me, would you actually like me to see if I
could assist the virtuous tramp? You have only to speak." But
Amita's interest appeared to be so completely appeased with
Raymond's simple offer that she only smiled, blushed, and said
Maruja's quick ears had taken in every word of these asides, and
for an instant she hated her sister for her aimless declination of
Raymond's proposal. But becoming conscious--under her eyelids--
that the stranger was moving away with the dispersing crowd, she
rejoined Amita with her usual manner. The others had re-entered
the carriage, but Maruja took it into her head to proceed on foot
to the rude building whence the mourners had issued. The foreman,
Harrison, flushed and startled by this apparition of inaccessible
beauty at his threshold, came eagerly forward. "I shall not
trouble you now, Mr. Har-r-r-rison," she said, with a polite
exaggeration of the consonants; "but some day I shall ride over
here, and ask you to show me your wonderful machines."
She smiled, and turned back to seek her carriage. But before she
had gone many yards she found that she had completely lost it in
the intervening billows of grain. She stopped, with an impatient
little Spanish ejaculation. The next moment the stalks of wheat
parted before her and a figure emerged. It was the stranger.
She fell back a step in utter helplessness.
He, on his side, retreated again into the wheat, holding it back
with extended arms to let her pass. As she moved forward
mechanically, without a word he moved backward, making a path for
her until she was able to discern the coachman's whip above the
bending heads of the grain just beyond her. He stopped here and
drew to one side, his arms still extended, to give her free
passage. She tried to speak, but could only bow her head, and
slipped by him with a strange feeling--suggested by his attitude--
that she was evading his embrace. But the next moment his arms
were lowered, the grain closed around him, and he was lost to her
view. She reached the carriage almost unperceived by the inmates,
and pounced upon her sister with a laugh.
"Blessed Virgin!" said Amita, "where did you come from?"
"From there!" said Maruja, with a slight nervous shiver, pointing
to the clustering grain.
"We were afraid you were lost."
"So was I," said Maruja, raising her pretty lashes heavenwards, as
she drew a shawl tightly round her shoulders.
"Has anything happened. You look strange," said Carroll, drawing
closer to her.
Here eyes were sparkling, but she was very pale.
"Nothing, nothing!" she said, hastily, glancing at the grain again.
"If it were not that the haste would have been absolutely indecent,
I should say that the late Doctor had made you a ghostly visit,"
said Raymond, looking at her curiously.
"He would have been polite enough not to have commented on my
looks," said Maruja. "Am I really such a fright?"
Carroll thought he had never seen her so beautiful. Her eyelids
were quivering over their fires as if they had been brushed by the
passing wing of a strong passion.
"What are you thinking of?" said Carroll, as they drove on.
She was thinking that the stranger had looked at her admiringly,
and that his eyes were blue. But she looked quietly into her
lover's face, and said, sweetly, "Nothing, I fear, that would
The news of the assignment of Dr. West's property to Mrs.
Saltonstall was followed by the still more astonishing discovery
that the Doctor's will further bequeathed to her his entire
property, after payment of his debts and liabilities. It was given
in recognition of her talents and business integrity during their
late association, and as an evidence of the confidence and "undying
affection" of the testator. Nevertheless, after the first
surprise, the fact was accepted by the community as both natural
and proper under that singular instinct of humanity which
acquiesces without scruple in the union of two large fortunes, but
sharply questions the conjunction of poverty and affluence, and
looks only for interested motives where there is disparity of
wealth. Had Mrs. Saltonstall been a poor widow instead of a rich
one; had she been the Doctor's housekeeper instead of his business
friend, the bequest would have been strongly criticised--if not
legally tested. But this combination, which placed the entire
valley of San Antonio in the control of a single individual,
appeared to be perfectly legitimate. More than that, some vague
rumor of the Doctor's past and his early entanglements only seemed
to make this eminently practical disposition of his property the
more respectable, and condoned for any moral irregularities of his
The effect upon the collateral branches of the Guitierrez family
and the servants and retainers was even more impressive. For once,
it seemed that the fortunes and traditions of the family were
changed; the female Guitierrez, instead of impoverishing the
property, had augmented it; the foreigner and intruder had been
despoiled; the fate of La Mision Perdida had been changed; the
curse of Koorotora had proved a blessing; his prophet and
descendant, Pereo, the mayordomo, moved in an atmosphere of
superstitious adulation and respect among the domestics and common
people. This recognition of his power he received at times with a
certain exaltation of grandiloquent pride beyond the conception of
any but a Spanish servant, and at times with a certain dull, pained
vacancy of perception and an expression of frightened bewilderment
which also went far to establish his reputation as an unconscious
seer and thaumaturgist. "Thou seest," said Sanchez to the partly
skeptical Faquita, "he does not know more than an infant what is
his power. That is the proof of it." The Dona Maria alone did not
participate in this appreciation of Pereo, and when it was proposed
that a feast or celebration of rejoicing should be given under the
old pear-tree by the Indian's mound, her indignation was long
remembered by those that witnessed it. "It is not enough that we
have been made ridiculous in the past," she said to Maruja, "by the
interference of this solemn fool, but that the memory of our friend
is to be insulted by his generosity being made into a triumph of
Pereo's idiotic ancestor. One would have thought those coyotes and
Koorotora's bones had been buried with the cruel gossip of your
relations"--(it had been the recent habit of Dona Maria to allude
to "the family" as being particularly related to Maruja alone)--
"over my poor friend. Let him beware that his ancestor's mound is
not uprooted with the pear-tree, and his heathenish temple
destroyed. If, as the engineer says, a branch of the new railroad
can be established for La Mision Perdida, I agree with him that it
can better pass at that point with less sacrifice to the domain.
It is the one uncultivated part of the park, and lies at the proper
"You surely would not consent to this, my mother?" said Maruja,
with a sudden impression of a newly found force in her mother's
"Why not, child?" said the relict of Mr. Saltonstall and the
mourner of Dr. West, coldly. "I admit it was discreet of thee in
old times to have thy sentimental passages there with caballeros
who, like the guests of the hidalgo that kept a skeleton at his
feast, were reminded of the mutability of their hopes by
Koorotora's bones and the legend. But with the explosion of this
idea of a primal curse, like Eve's, on the property," added the
Dona Maria, with a slight bitterness, "thou mayest have thy citas--
elsewhere. Thou canst scarcely keep this Captain Carroll any
longer at a distance by rattling those bones of Koorotora in his
face. And of a truth, child, since the affair of the letters, and
his discreet and honorable conduct since, I see not why thou
shouldst. He has thy mother's reputation in his hands."
"He is a gentleman, my mother," said Maruja, quietly.
"And they are scarce, child, and should be rewarded and preserved.
That is what I meant, silly one; this Captain is not rich--but
then, thou hast enough for both."
"But it was Amita that first brought him here," said Maruja,
looking down with an air of embarrassed thoughtfulness, which Dona
Maria chose to instantly accept as exaggerated coyness.
"Do not think to deceive me or thyself, child, with this folly.
Thou art old enough to know a man's mind, if not thine own.
Besides, I do not know that I shall object to her liking for
Raymond. He is very clever, and would be a relief to some of thy
relatives. He would be invaluable to us in the emergencies that
may grow out of these mechanical affairs that I do not understand--
such as the mill and the railroad."
"And you propose to take a few husbands as partners in the
business?" said Maruja, who had recovered her spirits. "I warn you
that Captain Carroll is as stupid as a gentleman could be. I
wonder that he has not blundered in other things as badly as he has
in preferring me to Amita. He confided to me only last night, that
he had picked up a pocket-book belonging to the Doctor and given it
to Aladdin, without a witness or receipt, and evidently of his own
"A pocket-book of the Doctor's?" repeated Dona Maria.
"Ay; but it contained nothing of thine," said Maruja. "The poor
child had sense enough to think of that. But I am in no hurry to
ask your consent and your blessing yet, little mother. I could
even bear that Amita should precede me to the altar, if the
exigencies of thy 'business' require it. It might also secure
Captain Carroll for me. Nay, look not at me in that cheapening,
commercial way--with compound interest in thine eyes. I am not so
poor an investment, truly, of thy original capital."
"Thou art thy father's child," said her mother, suddenly kissing
her; "and that is saying enough, the Blessed Virgin knows. Go
now," she continued, gently pushing her from the room, "and send
Amita hither." She watched the disappearance of Maruja's slightly
rebellious shoulders, and added to herself, "And this is the child
that Amita really believes is pining with lovesickness for Carroll,
so that she can neither sleep nor eat. This is the girl that
Faquita would have me think hath no longer any heart in her dress
or in her finery! Soul of Joseph Saltonstall!" ejaculated the
widow, lifting her shoulders and her eyes together, "thou hast much
to account for."
Two weeks later she again astonished her daughter. "Why dost thou
not join the party that drives over to see the wonders of Aladdin's
Palace to-day? It would seem more proper that thou shouldst
accompany thy guests than Raymond and Amita."
"I have never entered his doors since the day he was disrespectful
to my mother's daughter," said Maruja, in surprise.
"Disrespectful!" repeated Dona Maria, impatiently. "Thy father's
daughter ought to know that such as he may be ignorant and vulgar,
but can not be disrespectful to her. And there are offenses,
child, it is much more crushing to forget than to remember. As
long as he has not the presumption to APOLOGIZE, I see no reason
why thou mayst not go. He has not been here since that affair of
the letters. I shall not permit him to be uncivil over THAT--dost
thou understand? He is of use to me in business. Thou mayst take
Carroll with thee; he will understand that."
"But Carroll will not go," said Maruja. "He will not say what
passed between them, but I suspect they quarreled."
"All the better, then, that thou goest alone. He need not be
reminded of it. Fear not but that he will be only too proud of thy
visit to think of aught else."
Maruja, who seemed relieved at this prospect of being unaccompanied
by Captain Carroll, shrugged her shoulders and assented.
When the party that afternoon drove into the courtyard of Aladdin's
Palace, the announcement that its hospitable proprietor was absent,
and would not return until dinner, did not abate either their
pleasure or their curiosity. As already intimated to the reader,
Mr. Prince's functions as host were characteristically irregular;
and the servant's suggestion, that Mr. Prince's private secretary
would attend to do the honors, created little interest, and was
laughingly waived by Maruja. "There really is not the slightest
necessity to trouble the gentleman," she said, politely. "I know
the house thoroughly, and I think I have shown it once or twice
before for your master. Indeed," she added, turning to her party,
"I have been already complimented on my skill as a cicerone."
After a pause, she continued, with a slight exaggeration of action
and in her deepest contralto, "Ahem, ladies and gentlemen, the ball
and court in which we are now standing is a perfect copy of the
Court of Lions at the Alhambra, and was finished in fourteen days
in white pine, gold, and plaster, at a cost of ten thousand
dollars. A photograph of the original structure hangs on the wall:
you will observe, ladies and gentlemen, that the reproduction is
perfect. The Alhambra is in Granada, a province of Spain, which it
is said in some respects to resemble California, where you have
probably observed the Spanish language is still spoken by the old
settlers. We now cross the stable-yard on a bridge which is a
facsimile in appearance and dimensions of the Bridge of Sighs at
Venice, connecting the Doge's Palace with the State Prison. Here,
on the contrary, instead of being ushered into a dreary dungeon, as
in the great original, a fresh surprise awaits us. Allow me,
ladies and gentlemen, to precede you for the surprise. We open a
She stopped, speechless, on the threshold; the fan fell from her
In the centre of a brilliantly-lit conservatory, with golden
columns, a young man was standing. As her fan dropped on the
tessellated pavement, he came forward, picked it up, and put it in
her rigid and mechanical fingers. The party, who had applauded her
apparently artistic climax, laughingly pushed by her into the
conservatory, without noticing her agitation.
It was the same face and figure she remembered as last standing
before her, holding back the crowding grain in the San Antonio
field. But here he was appareled and appointed like a gentleman,
and even seemed to be superior to the garish glitter of his new
"I believe I have the pleasure of speaking to Miss Saltonstall," he
said, with the faintest suggestion of his former manner in his
half-resentful sidelong glance. "I hear that you offered to
dispense with my services, but I knew that Mr. Prince would
scarcely be satisfied if I did not urge it once more upon you in
person. I am his private secretary."
At the same moment, Amita and Raymond, attracted by the
conversation, turned towards him. Their recognition of the man
they had seen at Dr. West's was equally distinct. The silence
became embarrassing. Two pretty girls of the party pressed to
Amita's side, with half-audible whispers. "What is it?" "Who's
your handsome and wicked-looking friend?" "Is this the surprise?"
At the sound of their voices, Maruja recovered herself coldly.
"Ladies," she said, with a slight wave of her fan, "this is Mr.
Prince's private secretary. I believe it is hardly fair to take up
his valuable time. Allow me to thank you, sir, FOR PICKING UP MY
With a single subtle flash of the eye she swept by him, taking her
companions to the other end of the conservatory. When she turned,
he was gone.
"This was certainly an unexpected climax," said Raymond,
mischievously. "Did you really arrange it beforehand? We leave a
picturesque tramp at the edge of a grave; we pass over six weeks
and a Bridge of Sighs, and hey, presto! we find a private secretary
in a conservatory! This is quite the regular Aladdin business."
"You may laugh," said Maruja, who had recovered her spirits, "but
if you were really clever you'd find out what it all means. Don't
you see that Amita is dying of curiosity?"
"Let us fly at once and discover the secret, then," said Raymond,
slipping Amita's arm through his. "We will consult the oracle in
the stables. Come."
The others followed, leaving Maruja for an instant alone. She was
about to rejoin them when she heard footsteps in the passage they
had just crossed, and then perceived that the young stranger had
merely withdrawn to allow the party to precede him before he
returned to the other building through the conservatory, which he
was just entering. In turning quickly to escape, the black lace of
her over-skirt caught in the spines of a snaky-looking cactus. She
stopped to disengage herself with feverish haste in vain. She was
about to sacrifice the delicate material, in her impatience, when
the young man stepped quietly to her side.
"Allow me. Perhaps I have more patience, even if I have less
time," he said, stooping down. Their ungloved hands touched.
Maruja stopped in her efforts and stood up. He continued until he
had freed the luckless flounce, conscious of the soft fire of her
eyes on his head and neck.
"There," he said, rising, and encountering her glance. As she did
not speak, he continued: "You are thinking, Miss Saltonstall, that
you have seen me before, are you not? Well--you HAVE; I asked you
the road to San Jose one morning when I was tramping by your
"And as you probably were looking for something better--which you
seem to have found--you didn't care to listen to MY directions,"
said Maruja, quickly.
"I found a man--almost the only one who ever offered me a
gratuitous kindness--at whose grave I afterwards met you. I found
another man who befriended me here--where I meet you again."
She was beginning to be hysterically nervous lest any one should
return and find them together. She was conscious of a tingling of
vague shame. Yet she lingered. The strange fascination of his
half-savage melancholy, and a reproachfulness that seemed to
arraign her, with the rest of the world, at the bar of his vague
resentment, held the delicate fibres of her sensitive being as
cruelly and relentlessly as the thorns of the cactus had gripped
her silken lace. Without knowing what she was saying, she
stammered that she "was glad he connected her with his better
fortune," and began to move away. He noticed it with his sidelong
lids, and added, with a slight bitterness:--
"I don't think I should have intruded here again, but I thought you
had gone. But I--I--am afraid you have not seen the last of me.
It was the intention of my employer, Mr. Prince, to introduce me to
you and your mother. I suppose he considers it part of my duties
here. I must warn you that, if you are here when he returns, he
will insist upon it, and upon your meeting me with these ladies at
"Perhaps so--he is my mother's friend," said Maruja; "but you have
the advantage of us--you can always take to the road, you know."
The smile with which she had intended to accompany this speech did
not come as readily in execution as it had in conception, and she
would have given worlds to have recalled her words. But he said,
"That's so," quietly, and turned away, as if to give her an
opportunity to escape. She moved hesitatingly towards the passage
and stopped. The sound of the returning voices gave her a sudden
"Guest," said the young man.
"If we do conclude to stay to dinner as Mr. Prince has said nothing
of introducing you to my sister, you must let ME have that
He lifted his eyes to hers with a sudden flush. But she had fled.
She reached her party, displaying her torn flounce as the cause of
her delay, and there was a slight quickness in her breathing and
her speech which was attributed to the same grave reason. "But,
only listen," said Amita, "we've got it all out of the butler and
the grooms. It's such a romantic story!"
"What is?" said Maruja, suddenly.
"Why, the private tramp's."
"The peripatetic secretary," suggested Raymond.
"Yes," continued Amita, "Mr. Prince was so struck with his
gratitude to the old Doctor that he hunted him up in San Jose, and
brought him here. Since then Prince has been so interested in him--
it appears he was somebody in the States, or has rich relations--
that he has been telegraphing and making all sorts of inquiries
about him, and has even sent out his own lawyer to hunt up
everything about him. Are you listening?"
"You seem abstracted."
"I am hungry."
"Why not dine here; it's an hour earlier than at home. Aladdin
would fall at your feet for the honor. Do!"
Maruja looked at them with innocent vagueness, as if the
possibility were just beginning to dawn upon her.
"And Clara Wilson is just dying to see the mysterious unknown
again. Say yes, little Maruja."
Little Maruja glanced at them with a large maternal compassion.
"We shall see."
Mr. Prince, on his return an hour later, was unexpectedly delighted
with Maruja's gracious acceptance of his invitation to dinner. He
was thoroughly sensible of the significance which his neighbors had
attached to the avoidance by the Saltonstall heiress of his various
parties and gorgeous festivities ever since a certain act of
indiscretion--now alleged to have been produced by the exaltation
of wine--had placed him under ban. Whatever his feelings were
towards her mother, he could not fail to appreciate fully this act
of the daughter, which rehabilitated him. It was with more than
his usual extravagance--shown even in a certain exaggeration of
respect towards Maruja--that he welcomed the party, and made
preparations for the dinner. The telegraph and mounted messengers
were put into rapid requisition. The bridal suite was placed at
the disposal of the young ladies for a dressing-room. The
attendant genii surpassed themselves. The evening dresses of
Maruja, Amita, and the Misses Wilson, summoned by electricity from
La Mision Perdida, and dispatched by the fleetest conveyances, were
placed in the arms of their maids, smothered with bouquets, an hour
before dinner. An operatic concert troupe, passing through the
nearest town, were diverted from their course by the slaves of the
ring to discourse hidden music in the music-room during dinner.
"Bite my finger, Sweetlips," said Miss Clara Wilson, who had a neat
taste for apt quotation, to Maruja, "that I may see if I am awake.
It's the Arabian Nights all over again!"
The dinner was a marvel, even in a land of gastronomic marvels; the
dessert a miracle of fruits, even in a climate that bore the
products of two zones. Maruja, from her seat beside her satisfied
host, looked across a bank of yellow roses at her sister and
Raymond, and was timidly conscious of the eyes of young Guest, who
was seated at the other end of the table, between the two Misses
Wilson. With a strange haunting of his appearance on the day she
first met him, she stole glances of half-frightened curiosity at
him while he was eating, and was relieved to find that he used his
knife and fork like the others, and that his appetite was far from
voracious. It was his employer who was the first to recall the
experiences of his past life, with a certain enthusiasm and the air
of a host anxious to contribute to the entertainment of his guests.
"You'd hardly believe, Miss Saltonstall, that that young gentleman
over there walked across the Continent--and two thousand odd miles,
wasn't it?--all alone, and with not much more in the way of traps
than he's got on now. Tell 'em, Harry, how the Apaches nearly
gobbled you up, and then let you go because they thought you as
good an Injun as any one of them, and how you lived a week in the
desert on two biscuits as big as that." A chorus of entreaty and
delighted anticipation followed the suggestion. The old expression
of being at bay returned for an instant to Guest's face, but,
lifting his eyes, he caught a look of almost sympathetic anxiety
from Maruja's, who had not spoken.
"It became necessary for me, some time ago," said Guest, half
explanatorily, to Maruja, "to be rather explicit in the details of
my journey here, and I told Mr. Prince some things which he seems
to think interesting to others. That is all. To save my life on
one occasion, I was obliged to show myself as good as an Indian, in
his own way, and I lived among them and traveled with them for two
weeks. I have been hungry, as I suppose others have on like
occasions, but nothing more."
Nevertheless, in spite of his evident reticence, he was obliged to
give way to their entreaties, and, with a certain grim and
uncompromising truthfulness of statement, recounted some episodes
of his journey. It was none the less thrilling that he did it
reluctantly, and in much the same manner as he had answered his
father's questions, and as he had probably responded to the later
cross-examination of Mr. Prince. He did not tell it emotionally,
but rather with the dogged air of one who had been subjected to a
personal grievance for which he neither asked nor expected
sympathy. When he did not raise his eyes to Maruja's, he kept them
fixed on his plate.
"Well," said Prince, when a long-drawn sigh of suspended emotion
among the guests testified to his powers as a caterer to their
amusement, "what do you say to some music with our coffee to follow
"It's more like a play," said Amita to Raymond. "What a pity
Captain Carroll, who knows all about Indians, isn't here to have
enjoyed it. But I suppose Maruja, who hasn't lost a word, will
tell it to him."
"I don't think she will," said Raymond, dryly, glancing at Maruja,
who, lost in some intricate pattern of her Chinese plate, was
apparently unconscious that her host was waiting her signal to
At last she raised her head, and said, gently but audibly, to the
"It is positively a newer pattern; the old one had not that
delicate straw line in the arabesque. You must have had it made
"I did," said the gratified Prince, taking up the plate. "What
eyes you have, Miss Saltonstall. They see everything."
"Except that I'm keeping you all waiting," she returned, with a
smile, letting the eyes in question fall with a half-parting
salutation on Guest as she rose. It was the first exchange of a
common instinct between them, and left them as conscious as if they
had pressed hands.
The music gave an opportunity for some desultory conversation, in
which Mr. Prince and his young friend received an invitation from
Maruja to visit La Mision, and the party, by common consent, turned
into the conservatory, where the genial host begged them each to
select a flower from a few especially rare exotics. When Maruja
received hers, she said, laughingly, to Prince, "Will you think me
very importunate if I ask for another?" "Take what you like--you
have only to name it," he replied, gallantly. "But that's just
what I can't do," responded the young girl, "unless," she added,
turning to Guest, "unless you can assist me. It was the plant I
was examining to-day." "I think I can show it to you," said Guest,
with a slight increase of color, as he preceded her towards the
memorable cactus near the door, "but I doubt if it has any flower."
Nevertheless, it had. A bright red blossom, like a spot of blood
drawn by one of its thorns. He plucked it for her, and she placed
it in her belt.
"You are forgiving," he said, admiringly.
"YOU ought to know that," she returned, looking down.
"You were rude to me twice."
"Yes--once at the Mision of La Perdida; once in the road at San
His eyes became downcast and gloomy. "At the Mision that morning,
I, a wretched outcast, only saw in you a beautiful girl intent on
overriding me with her merciless beauty. At San Antonio I handed
the fan I picked up to the man whose eyes told me he loved you."
She started impatiently. "You might have been more gallant, and
found more difficulty in the selection," she said, pertly. "But
since when have you gentlemen become so observant and so
punctilious? Would you expect him to be as considerate of others?"
"I have few claims that any one seems bound to respect," he
returned, brusquely. Then, in a softer voice, he added, looking at
"You were in mourning when you came here this afternoon, Miss
"Was I? It was for Dr. West--my mother's friend."
"It was very becoming to you."
"You are complimenting me. But I warn you that Captain Carroll
said something better than that; he said mourning was not necessary
for me. I had only to 'put my eye-lashes at half-mast.' He is a
soldier you know."
"He seems to be as witty as he is fortunate," said Guest, bitterly.
"Do you think he is fortunate?" said Maruja, raising her eyes to
his. There was so much in this apparently simple question that
Guest looked in her eyes for a suggestion. What he saw there for
an instant made his heart stop beating. She apparently did not
know it, for she began to tremble too.
"Is he not?" said Guest, in a low voice.
"Do you think he ought to be?" she found herself whispering.
A sudden silence fell upon them. The voices of their companions
seemed very far in the distance; the warm breath of the flowers
appeared to be drowning their senses; they tried to speak, but
could not; they were so near to each other that the two long blades
of a palm served to hide them. In the midst of this profound
silence a voice that was like and yet unlike Maruja's said twice,
"Go! go!" but each time seemed hushed in the stifling silence. The
next moment the palms were pushed aside, the dark figure of a young
man slipped like some lithe animal through the shrubbery, and
Maruja found herself standing, pale and rigid, in the middle of the
walk, in the full glare of the light, and looking down the corridor
toward her approaching companions. She was furious and frightened;
she was triumphant and trembling; without thought, sense, or
reason, she had been kissed by Henry Guest, and--had returned it.
The fleetest horses of Aladdin's stud that night could not carry
her far enough or fast enough to take her away from that moment,
that scene, and that sensation. Wise and experienced, confident in
her beauty, secure in her selfishness, strong over others'
weaknesses, weighing accurately the deeds and words of men and
women, recognizing all there was in position and tradition, seeing
with her father's clear eyes the practical meaning of any
divergence from that conventionality which as a woman of the world
she valued, she returned again and again to the trembling joy of
that intoxicating moment. She though of her mother and sisters, of
Raymond and Garnier, of Aladdin--she even forced herself to think
of Carroll--only to shut her eyes, with a faint smile, and dream
again the brief but thrilling dream of Guest that began and ended
in their joined and parted lips. Small wonder that, hidden and
silent in her enwrappings, as she lay back in the carriage, with
her pale face against the cold starry sky, two other stars came out
and glistened and trembled on her passion-fringed lashes.
The rainy season had set in early. The last three weeks of summer
drought had drained the great valley of its lifeblood; the dead
stalks of grain rustled like dry bones over Dr. West's grave. The
desiccating wind and sun had wrought some disenchanting cracks and
fissures in Aladdin's Palace, and otherwise disjoined it, so that
it not only looked as if it were ready to be packed away, but had
become finally untenable in the furious onset of the southwesterly
rains. The gorgeous furniture of the reception-rooms was wrapped
in mackintoshes, the conservatory was changed into an aquarium, the
Bridge of Sighs crossed an actual canal in the stable-yard. Only
the billiard-room and Mr. Prince's bed-room and office remained
intact, and in the latter, one stormy afternoon, Mr. Prince himself
sat busy over his books and papers. His station-wagon, splashed
and streaked with mud, stood in the court-yard, just as it had been
driven from the station, and the smell of the smoke of newly-lit
fires showed that the house had been opened only for this hurried
visit of its owner.
The tramping of horse hoofs in the court-yard was soon followed by
steps along the corridor, and the servant ushered Captain Carroll
into the presence of his master. The Captain did not remove his
military overcoat, but remained standing erect in the centre of the
room, with his forage cap in his hand.
"I could have given you a lift from the station," said Prince, "if
you had come that way. I've only just got in myself."
"I preferred to ride," said Carroll, dryly.
"Sit down by the fire," said Prince, motioning to a chair, "and dry