Part 1 out of 7
J. W. DE FOREST,
Author of "Kate Beaumont," "Miss Ravenel's Conversion," &c.
In those days, Santa Fe, New Mexico, was an undergrown, decrepit,
out-at-elbows ancient hidalgo of a town, with not a scintillation of
prosperity or grandeur about it, except the name of capital.
It was two hundred and seventy years old; and it had less than five
thousand inhabitants. It was the metropolis of a vast extent of country,
not destitute of natural wealth; and it consisted of a few narrow,
irregular streets, lined by one-story houses built of sun-baked bricks.
Owing to the fine climate, it was difficult to die there; but owing to
many things not fine, it was almost equally difficult to live.
Even the fact that Santa Fe had been for a period under the fostering
wings of the American eagle did not make it grow much. Westward-ho
emigrants halted there to refit and buy cattle and provisions; but always
started resolutely on again, westward-hoing across the continent. Nobody
seemed to want to stay in Santa Fe, except the aforesaid less than five
thousand inhabitants, who were able to endure the place because they had
never seen any other, and who had become a part of its gray, dirty, lazy
lifelessness and despondency.
For a wonder, this old atom of a metropolis had lately had an increase of
population, which was nearly as great a wonder as Sarah having a son when
she was "well stricken in years." A couple of new-comers--not a man nor
woman less than a couple--now stood on the flat roof of one of the largest
of the sun-baked brick houses. By great good luck, moreover, these two
were, I humbly trust, worthy of attention. The one was interesting because
she was the handsomest girl in Santa Fe, and would have been considered a
handsome girl anywhere; the other was interesting because she was a
remarkable woman, and even, as Mr. Jefferson Brick might have phrased it,
"one of the most remarkable women in our country, sir." At least so she
judged, and judged it too with very considerable confidence, being one of
those persons who say, "If I know myself, and I think I do."
The beauty was of a mixed type. She combined the blonde and the brunette
fashions of loveliness. You might guess at the first glance that she had
in her the blood of both the Teutonic and the Latin races. While her skin
was clear and rosy, and her curling hair was of a light and bright
chestnut, her long, shadowy eyelashes were almost black, and her eyes were
of a deep hazel, nearly allied to blackness. Her form had the height of
the usual American girl, and the round plumpness of the usual Spanish
girl. Even in her bearing and expression you could discover more or less
of this union of different races. There was shyness and frankness; there
was mistrust and confidence; there was sentimentality and gayety. In
short, Clara Munoz Garcia Van Diemen was a handsome and interesting young
Now for the remarkable woman. Sturdy and prominent old character,
obviously. Forty-seven years old, or thereabouts; lots of curling
iron-gray hair twisted about her round forehead; a few wrinkles, and not
all of the newest. Round face, round and earnest eyes, short,
self-confident nose, chin sticking out in search of its own way, mouth
trembling with unuttered ideas. Good figure--what Lord Dundreary would
call "dem robust," but not so sumptuous as to be merely ornamental;
tolerably convenient figure to get about in. Walks up and down,
man-fashion, with her hands behind her back--also man-fashion. Such is
Mrs. Maria Stanley, the sister of Clara Van Diemen's father, and best
known to Clara as Aunt Maria.
"And so this is Santa Fe?" said Aunt Maria, rolling her spectacles over
the little wilted city. "Founded in 1581; two hundred and seventy years
old. Well, if this is all that man can do in that time, he had better
leave colonization to woman."
Clara smiled with an innocent air of half wonder and half amusement, such
as you may see on the face of a child when it is shown some new and rather
awe-striking marvel of the universe, whether a jack-in-a-box or a comet.
She had only known Aunt Maria for the last four years, and she had not yet
got used to her rough-and-ready mannish ways, nor learned to see any sense
in her philosophizings. Looking upon her as a comical character, and
supposing that she talked mainly for the fun of the thing, she was
disposed to laugh at her doings and sayings, though mostly meant in solemn
"But about your affairs, my child," continued Aunt Maria, suddenly
gripping a fresh subject after her quick and startling fashion. "I don't
understand them. How is it possible? Here is a great fortune gone; gone in
a moment; gone incomprehensibly. What does it mean? Some rascality here.
Some man at the bottom of this."
"I presume my relative, Garcia, must be right," commenced Clara.
"No, he isn't," interrupted Aunt Maria. "He is wrong. Of course he's
wrong. I never knew a man yet but what he was wrong."
"You make me laugh in spite of my troubles," said Clara, laughing,
however, only through her eyes, which had great faculties for sparkling
out meanings. "But see here," she added, turning grave again, and putting
up her hand to ask attention. "Mr. Garcia tells a straight story, and
gives reasons enough. There was the war," and here she began to count on
her fingers, "That destroyed a great deal. I know when my father could
scarcely send on money to pay my bills in New York. And then there was the
signature for Senor Pedraez. And then there were the Apaches who burnt the
hacienda and drove off the cattle. And then he--"
Her voice faltered and she stopped; she could not say, "He died."
"My poor, dear child!" sighed Aunt Maria, walking up to the girl and
caressing her with a tenderness which was all womanly.
"That seems enough," continued Clara, when she could speak again. "I
suppose that what Garcia and the lawyers tell us is true. I suppose I am
not worth a thousand dollars."
"Will a thousand dollars support you here?"
"I don't know. I don't think it will."
"Then if I can't set this thing straight, if I can't make somebody
disgorge your property, I must take you back with me."
"Oh! if you would!" implored Clara, all the tender helplessness of Spanish
girlhood appealing from her eyes.
"Of course I will," said Aunt Maria, with a benevolent energy which was
"I would try to do something. I don't know. Couldn't I teach Spanish?"
"You _shan't_" decided Aunt Maria. "Yes, you _shall_. You shall be
professor of foreign languages in a Female College which I mean to have
Clara stared with astonishment, and then burst into a hearty fit of
laughter, the two finishing the drying of her tears. She was so far from
wishing to be a strong-minded person of either gender, that she did not
comprehend that her aunt could wish it for her, or could herself seriously
claim to be one. The talk about a professorship was in her estimation the
wayward, humorous whim of an eccentric who was fond of solemn joking. Mrs.
Stanley, meanwhile, could not see why her utterance should not be taken in
earnest, and opened her eyes at Clara's merriment.
We must say a word or two concerning the past of this young lady.
Twenty-five years previous a New Yorker named Augustus Van Diemen, the
brother of that Maria Jane Van Diemen now known to the world as Mrs.
Stanley, had migrated to California, set up in the hide business, and
married by stealth the daughter of a wealthy Mexican named Pedro Munoz.
Munoz got into a Spanish Catholic rage at having a Yankee Protestant
son-in-law, disowned and formally disinherited his child, and worried her
husband into quitting the country. Van Diemen returned to the United
States, but his wife soon became homesick for her native land, and, like a
good husband as he was, he went once more to Mexico. This time he settled
in Santa Fe, where he accumulated a handsome fortune, lived in the best
house in the city, and owned haciendas.
Clara's mother dying when the girl was fourteen years old, Van Diemen felt
free to give her, his only child, an American education, and sent her to
New York, where she went through four years of schooling. During this
period came the war between the United States and Mexico. Foreign
residents were ill-treated; Van Diemen was sometimes a prisoner, sometimes
a fugitive; in one way or another his fortune went to pieces. Four months
previous to the opening of this story he died in a state little better
than insolvency. Clara, returning to Santa Fe under the care of her
energetic and affectionate relative, found that the deluge of debt would
cover town house and haciendas, leaving her barely a thousand dollars. She
was handsome and accomplished, but she was an orphan and poor. The main
chance with her seemed to lie in the likelihood that she would find a
mother (or a father) in Aunt Maria.
Yes, there was another sustaining possibility, and of a more poetic
nature. There was a young American officer named Thurstane, a second
lieutenant acting as quartermaster of the department, who had met her
heretofore in New York, who had seemed delighted to welcome her to Santa
Fe, and who now called on her nearly every day. Might it not be that
Lieutenant Thurstane would want to make her Mrs. Thurstane, and would have
power granted him to induce her to consent to the arrangement? Clara was
sufficiently a woman, and sufficiently a Spanish woman especially, to
believe in marriage. She did not mean particularly to be Mrs. Thurstane,
but she did mean generally to be Mrs. Somebody. And why not Thurstane?
Well, that was for him to decide, at least to a considerable extent. In
the mean time she did not love him; she only disliked the thought of
While these two women had been talking and thinking, a lazy Indian servant
had been lounging up the stairway. Arrived on the roof, he advanced to La
Senorita Clara, and handed her a letter. The girl opened it, glanced
through it with a flushing face, and cried out delightedly, "It is from my
grandfather. How wonderful! O holy Maria, thanks! His heart has been
softened. He invites me to come and live with him in San Francisco. _O
Madre de Dios!_"
Although Clara spoke English perfectly, and although she was in faith
quite as much of a Protestant as a Catholic, yet in her moments of strong
excitement she sometimes fell back into the language and ideas of her
"Child, what are you jabbering about?" asked Aunt Maria.
"There it is. See! Pedro Munoz! It is his own signature. I have seen
letters of his. Pedro Munoz! Read it. Oh! you don't read Spanish."
Then she translated the letter aloud. Aunt Maria listened with a firm and
almost stern aspect, like one who sees some justice done, but not enough.
"He doesn't beg your pardon," she said at the close of the reading.
Clara, supposing that she was expected to laugh, and not seeing the point
of the joke, stared in amazement.
"But probably he is in a meeker mood now," continued Aunt Maria. "By this
time it is to be hoped that he sees his past conduct in a proper light.
The letter was written three months ago."
"Three months ago," repeated Clara. "Yes, it has taken all that time to
come. How long will it take me to go there? How shall I go?"
"We will see," said Aunt Maria, with the air of one who holds the fates in
her hand, and doesn't mean to open it till she gets ready. She was by no
means satisfied as yet that this grandfather Munoz was a proper person to
be intrusted with the destinies of a young lady. In refusing to let his
daughter select her own husband, he had shown a very squinting and
incomplete perception of the rights of woman.
"Old reprobate!" thought Aunt Maria. "Probably he has got gouty with his
vices, and wants to be nursed. I fancy I see him getting Clara without
going on his sore marrow-bones and begging pardon of gods and women."
"Of course I must go," continued Clara, unsuspicious of her aunt's
reflections. "At all events he will support me. Besides, he is now the
head of my family."
"Head of the family!" frowned Aunt Maria. "Because he is a man? So much
the more reason for his being the tail of it. My dear, you are your own
"Ah--well. What is the use of all _that_?" asked Clara, smiling away those
views. "I have no money, and he has."
"Well, we will see," persisted Aunt Maria. "I just told you so. We will
The two women had scarcely left the roof of the house and got themselves
down to the large, breezy, sparsely furnished parlor, ere the lazy,
dawdling Indian servant announced Lieutenant Thurstane.
Lieutenant Ralph Thurstane was a tall, full-chested, finely-limbed
gladiator of perhaps four and twenty. Broad forehead; nose straight and
high enough; lower part of the face oval; on the whole a good physiognomy.
Cheek bones rather strongly marked; a hint of Scandinavian ancestry
supported by his name. Thurstane is evidently Thor's stone or altar;
forefathers priests of the god of thunder. His complexion was so reddened
and darkened by sunburn that his untanned forehead looked unnaturally
white and delicate. His yellow, one might almost call it golden hair, was
wavy enough to be handsome. Eyes quite remarkable; blue, but of a very
dark blue, like the coloring which is sometimes given to steel; so dark
indeed that one's first impression was that they were black. Their natural
expression seemed to be gentle, pathetic, and almost imploring; but
authority, responsibility, hardship, and danger had given them an ability
to be stern. In his whole face, young as he was, there was already the
look of the veteran, that calm reminiscence of trials endured, that
preparedness for trials to come. In fine, taking figure, physiognomy, and
demeanor together, he was attractive.
He saluted the ladies as if they were his superior officers. It was a
kindly address, but ceremonious; it was almost humble, and yet it was
"I have some great news," he presently said, in the full masculine tone of
one who has done much drilling. "That is, it is great to me. I change
"How is that?" asked Clara eagerly. She was not troubled at the thought of
losing a beau; we must not be so hard upon her as to make that
supposition; but here was a trustworthy friend going away just when she
wanted counsel and perhaps aid.
"I have been promoted first lieutenant of Company I, Fifth Regiment, and I
must join my company."
"Promoted! I am glad," said Clara.
"You ought to be pleased," put in Aunt Maria, staring at the grave face of
the young man with no approving expression. "I thought men were always
pleased with such things."
"So I am," returned Thurstane. "Of course I am pleased with the step. But
I must leave Santa Fe. And I have found Santa Fe very pleasant."
There was so much meaning obvious in these last words that Clara's face
colored like a sunset.
"I thought soldiers never indulged in such feelings," continued the
unmollified Aunt Maria.
"Soldiers are but men," observed Thurstane, flushing through his sunburn.
"And men are weak creatures."
Thurstane grew still redder. This old lady (old in his young eyes) was
always at him about his manship, as if it were a crime and disgrace. He
wanted to give her one, but out of respect for Clara he did not, and
merely moved uneasily in his seat, as men are apt to do when they are set
"How soon must you go? Where?" demanded Clara.
"As soon as I can close my accounts here and turn over my stores to my
successor. Company I is at Fort Yuma on the Colorado. It is the first post
"California!" And Clara could not help brightening up in cheeks and eyes
with fine tints and flashes. "Why, I am going to California."
"We will see," said Aunt Maria, still holding the fates in her fist.
Then came the story of Grandfather Munoz's letter, with a hint or two
concerning the decay of the Van Diemen fortune, for Clara was not worldly
wise enough to hide her poverty.
Thurstane's face turned as red with pleasure as if it had been dipped in
the sun. If this young lady was going to California, he might perhaps be
her knight-errant across the desert, guard her from privations and
hardships, and crown himself with her smiles. If she was poor, he
might--well, he would not speculate upon that; it was too dizzying.
We must say a word as to his history in order to show why he was so shy
and sensitive. He had been through West Point, confined himself while
there closely to his studies, gone very soon into active service, and so
seen little society. The discipline of the Academy and three years in the
regular army had ground into him the soldier's respect for superiors. He
revered his field officers; he received a communication from the War
Department as a sort of superhuman revelation; he would have blown himself
sky-high at the command of General Scott. This habit of subordination,
coupled with a natural fund of reverence, led him to feel that many
persons were better than himself, and to be humble in their presence. All
women were his superior officers, and the highest in rank was Clara Van
Well, hurrah! he was to march under her to California! and the thought
made him half wild. He would protect her; he would kill all the Indians in
the desert for her sake; he would feed her on his own blood, if necessary.
As he considered these proper and feasible projects, the audacious thought
which he had just tried to expel from his mind forced its way back into
it. If the Van Diemen estate were insolvent, if this semi-divine Clara
were as poor as himself, there was a call on him to double his devotion to
her, and there was a hope that his worship might some day be rewarded.
How he would slave and serve for her; how he would earn promotion for her
sake; how he would fight her battle in life! But would she let him do it?
Ah, it seemed too much to hope. Poor though she was, she was still a
heaven or so above him; she was so beautiful and had so many perfections!
Oh, the purity, the self-abnegation, the humility of love! It makes a man
scarcely lower than the angels, and quite superior to not a few reverenced
"I must say," observed Thurstane--"I beg your pardon for advising--but I
think you had better accept your grandfather's invitation."
He said it with a pang at his heart, for if this adorable girl went to her
grandfather, the old fellow would be sure to love her and leave her his
property, in which case there would be no chance for a proud and poor
lieutenant. He gave his advice under a grim sense that it was his duty to
give it, because the following of it would be best for Miss Van Diemen.
"So I think," nodded Clara, fortified by this opinion to resist Aunt
Maria, and the more fortified because it was the opinion of a man.
After a certain amount of discussion the elder lady was persuaded to
loosen her mighty grip and give the destinies a little liberty.
"Well, it _may_ be best," she said, pursing her mouth as if she tasted the
bitter of some half-suspected and disagreeable future. "I don't know. I
won't undertake positively to decide. But, if you do go," and here she
became authentic and despotic--"if you do go, I shall go with you and see
you safe there."
"Oh! _will_ you?" exclaimed Clara, all Spanish and all emotion in an
instant. "How sweet and good and beautiful of you! You are my guardian
angel. Do you know? I thought you would offer to go. I said to myself, She
came on to Santa Fe for my sake, and she will go to California. But oh, it
is too much for me to ask. How shall I ever pay you?"
"I will pay myself," returned Aunt Maria. "I have plans for California."
It was as if she had said, "Go to, we will make California in our own
The young lady was satisfied. Her strong-minded relative was a mighty
mystery to her, just as men were mighty mysteries. Whatever she or they
said could be done and should be done, why of course it would be done, and
By the time that Aunt Maria had announced her decision, another visitor
was on the point of entrance. Carlos Maria Munoz Garcia de Coronado was a
nephew of Manuel Garcia, who was a cousin of Clara's grandfather; only, as
Garcia was merely his uncle by marriage, Coronado and Clara were not
related by blood, though calling each other cousin. He was a man of medium
stature, slender in build, agile and graceful in movement, complexion very
dark, features high and aristocratic, short black hair and small black
moustache, eyes black also, but veiled and dusky. He was about
twenty-eight, but he seemed at least four years older, partly because of a
deep wrinkle which slashed down each cheek, and partly because he was so
perfectly self-possessed and elaborately courteous. His intellect was
apparently as alert and adroit as his physical action. A few words from
Clara enabled him to seize the situation.
"Go at once," he decided without a moment's hesitation. "My dear cousin,
it will be the happy turning point of your fortunes. I fancy you already
inheriting the hoards, city lots, haciendas, mines, and cattle of our
excellent relative Munoz--long may he live to enjoy them! Certainly. Don't
whisper an objection. Munoz owes you that reparation. His conduct has
been--we will not describe it--we will hope that he means to make amends
for it. Unquestionably he will. My dear cousin, nothing can resist you.
You will enchant your grandfather. It will all end, like the tales of the
Arabian Nights, in your living in a palace. How delightful to think of
this long family quarrel at last coming to a close! But how do you go?"
"If Miss Van Diemen goes overland, I can do something toward protecting
her and making her comfortable," suggested Thurstane. "I am ordered to
Coronado glanced at the young officer, noted the guilty blush which peeped
out of his tanned cheek, and came to a decision on the instant.
"Overland!" he exclaimed, lifting both his hands. "Take her overland! My
God! my God!"
Thurstane reddened at the insinuation that he had given bad advice to Miss
Van Diemen; but though he wanted to fight the Mexican, he controlled
himself, and did not even argue. Like all sensitive and at the same time
self-respectful persons, he was exceedingly considerate of the feelings of
others, and was a very lamb in conversation.
"It is a desert," continued Coronado in a kind of scream of horror. "It is
a waterless desert, without a blade of grass, and haunted from end to end
by Apaches. My little cousin would die of thirst and hunger. She would be
hunted and scalped. O my God! overland!"
"Emigrant parties are going all the while," ventured Thurstane, very angry
at such extravagant opposition, but merely looking a little stiff.
"Certainly. You are right, Lieutenant," bowed Coronado. "They do go. But
how many perish on the way? They march between the unburied and withered
corpses of their predecessors. And what a journey for a woman--for a lady
accustomed to luxury--for my little cousin! I beg your pardon, my dear
Lieutenant Thurstane, for disagreeing with you. My advice is--the
"I have, of course, nothing, to say," admitted the officer, returning
Coronado's bow. "The family must decide."
"Certainly, the isthmus, the steamers," went on the fluent Mexican. "You
sail to Panama. You have an easy and safe land trip of a few days. Then
steamers again. Poff! you are there. By all means, the isthmus."
We must allot a few more words of description to this Don Carlos Coronado.
Let no one expect a stage Spaniard, with the air of a matador or a
guerrillero, who wears only picturesque and outlandish costumes, and
speaks only magniloquent Castilian. Coronado was dressed, on this spring
morning, precisely as American dandies then dressed for summer promenades
on Broadway. His hat was a fine panama with a broad black ribbon; his
frock-coat was of thin cloth, plain, dark, and altogether civilized; his
light trousers were cut gaiter-fashion, and strapped under the instep; his
small boots were patent-leather, and of the ordinary type. There was
nothing poetic about his attire except a reasonably wide Byron collar and
a rather dashing crimson neck-tie, well suited to his dark complexion.
His manner was sometimes excitable, as we have seen above; but usually he
was like what gentlemen with us desire to be. Perhaps he bowed lower and
smiled oftener and gestured more gracefully than Americans are apt to do.
But there was in general nothing Oriental about him, no assumption of
barbaric pompousness, no extravagance of bearing. His prevailing
deportment was calm, grave, and deliciously courteous. If you had met him,
no matter how or where, you would probably have been pleased with him. He
would have made conversation for you, and put you at ease in a moment; you
would have believed that he liked you, and you would therefore have been
disposed to like him. In short, he was agreeable to most people, and to
some people fascinating.
And then his English! It was wonderful to hear him talk it. No American
could say that he spoke better English than Coronado, and no American
surely ever spoke it so fluently. It rolled off his lips in a torrent,
undefiled by a mispronunciation or a foreign idiom. And yet he had begun
to learn the language after reaching the age of manhood, and had acquired
it mainly during three years of exile and teaching of Spanish in the
United States. His linguistic cleverness was a fair specimen of his
general quickness of intellect.
Mrs. Stanley had liked him at first sight--that is, liked him for a man.
He knew it; he had seen that she was a person worth conciliating; he had
addressed himself to her, let off his bows at her, made her the centre of
conversation. In ten minutes from the entrance of Coronado Mrs. Stanley
was of opinion that Clara ought to go to California by way of the isthmus,
although she had previously taken the overland route for granted. In
another ten minutes the matter was settled: the ladies were to go by way
of New Orleans, Panama, and the Pacific.
Shortly afterward, Coronado and Thurstane took their leave; the Mexican
affable, sociable, smiling, smoking; the American civil, but taciturn and
"Aha! I have disappointed the young gentleman," thought Coronado as they
parted, the one going to his quartermaster's office and the other to
Coronado, although he had spent great part of his life in courting women,
was a bachelor. He had been engaged once in New Mexico and two or three
times in New York, but had always, as he could tell you with a smile, been
disappointed. He now lived with his uncle, that Senor Manuel Garcia whom
Clara has mentioned, a trader with California, an owner of vast estates
and much cattle, and reputed to be one of the richest men in New Mexico.
The two often quarrelled, and the elder had once turned the younger out of
doors, so lively were their dispositions. But as Garcia had lost one by
one all his children, he had at last taken his nephew into permanent
favor, and would, it was said, leave him his property.
The house, a hollow square built of _adobe_ bricks in one story, covered a
vast deal of ground, had spacious rooms and a court big enough to bivouac
a regiment. It was, in fact, not only a dwelling, but a magazine where
Garcia stored his merchandise, and a caravansary where he parked his
wagons. As Coronado lounged into the main doorway he was run against by a
short, pursy old gentleman who was rushing out.
"Ah! there you are!" exclaimed the old gentleman, in Spanish. "O you pig!
you dog! you never are here. O Madre de Dios! how I have needed you! There
is no time to lose. Enter at once."
A dyspeptic, worn with work and anxieties, his nervous system shattered,
Garcia was subject to fits of petulance which were ludicrous. In these
rages he called everybody who would bear it pigs, dogs, and other more
unsavory nicknames. Coronado bore it because thus he got his living, and
got it without much labor.
"I want you," gasped Garcia, seizing the young man by the arm and dragging
him into a private room. "I want to speak to you in confidence--in
confidence, mind you, in confidence--about Munoz."
"I have heard of it," said Coronado, as the old man stopped to catch his
"Heard of it!" exclaimed Garcia, in such consternation that he turned
yellow, which was his way of turning pale. "Has the news got here? O Madre
"Yes, I was at our little cousin's this evening. It is an ugly affair."
"And _she_ knows it?" groaned the old man. "O Madre de Dios!"
"She told me of it. She is going there. I did the best I could. She was
about to go overland, in charge of the American, Thurstane. I broke that
up. I persuaded her to go by the isthmus."
"It is of little use," said Garcia, his eyes filmy with despair, as if he
were dying. "She will get there. The property will be hers."
"Not necessarily. He has simply invited her to live with him. She may not
"How?" demanded Garcia, open-eyed and open-mouthed with anxiety.
"He has simply invited her to live with him," repeated Coronado. "I saw
"What! you don't know, then?"
"Munoz is dead."
Coronado threw out, first a stare of surprise, and then a shout of
"And here they have just got a letter from him," he said presently; "and I
have been persuading her to go to him by the isthmus!"
"May the journey take her to him!" muttered Garcia. "How old was this
"Nearly three months. It came by sea, first to New York, and then here."
"My news is a month later. It came overland by special messenger. Listen
to me, Carlos. This affair is worse than you know. Do you know what Munoz
has done? Oh, the pig! the dog! the villainous pig! He has left everything
to his granddaughter."
Coronado, dumb with astonishment and dismay, mechanically slapped his boot
with his cane and stared at Garcia.
"I am ruined," cried the old man. "The pig of hell has ruined me. He has
left me, his cousin, his only male relative, to ruin. Not a doubloon to
"Is there _no_ chance?" asked Coronado, after a long silence.
"None! Oh--yes--one. A little one, a miserable little one. If she dies
without issue and without a will, I am heir. And you, Carlos" (changing
here to a wheedling tone), "you are mine."
The look which accompanied these last words was a terrible mingling of
cunning, cruelty, hope, and despair.
Coronado glanced at Garcia with a shocking comprehension, and immediately
dropped his dusky eyes upon the floor.
"You know I have made my will," resumed the old man, "and left you
"Which is nothing," returned Coronado, aware that his uncle was insolvent
in reality, and that his estate when settled would not show the residuum
of a dollar.
"If the fortune of Munoz comes to me, I shall be very rich."
"When you get it."
"Listen to me, Carlos. Is there no way of getting it?"
As the two men stared at each other they were horrible. The uncle was
always horrible; he was one of the very ugliest of Spaniards; he was a
brutal caricature of the national type. He had a low forehead, round face,
bulbous nose, shaking fat cheeks, insignificant chin, and only one eye, a
black and sleepy orb, which seemed to crawl like a snake. His exceedingly
dark skin was made darker by a singular bluish tinge which resulted from
heavy doses of nitrate of silver, taken as a remedy for epilepsy. His face
was, moreover, mottled with dusky spots, so that he reminded the spectator
of a frog or a toad. Just now he looked nothing less than poisonous; the
hungriest of cannibals would not have dared eat him.
"I am ruined," he went on groaning. "The war, the Yankees, the Apaches,
the devil--I am completely ruined. In another year I shall be sold out.
Then, my dear Carlos, you will have no home."
"_Sangre de Dios!_" growled Coronado. "Do you want to drive me to the
"O God! to force an old man to such an extremity!" continued Garcia. "It
is more than an old man is fitted to strive with. An old man--an old,
sick, worn-out man!"
"You are sure about the will?" demanded the nephew.
"I have a copy of it," said Garcia, eagerly. "Here it is. Read it. O Madre
de Dios! there is no doubt about it. I can trust my lawyer. It all goes to
her. It only comes to me if she dies childless and intestate."
"This is a horrible dilemma to force us into," observed Coronado, after he
had read the paper.
"So it is," assented Garcia, looking at him with indescribable anxiety.
"So it is; so it is. What is to be done?"
"Suppose I should marry her?"
The old man's countenance fell; he wanted to call his nephew a pig, a dog,
and everything else that is villainous; but he restrained himself and
merely whimpered, "It would be better than nothing. You could help me."
"There is little chance of it," said Coronado, seeing that the proposition
was not approved. "She likes the American lieutenant much, and does not
like me at all."
"Then--" began Garcia, and stopped there, trembling all over.
The venomous old toad made a supreme effort and whispered, "Suppose she
Coronado wheeled about, walked two or three times up and down the room,
returned to where Garcia sat quivering, and murmured, "It must be done
"Yes, yes," gasped the old man. "She must--it must be childless and
"She must go off in some natural way," continued the nephew.
The uncle looked up with a vague hope in his one dusky and filmy eye.
"Perhaps the isthmus will do it for her."
Again the old man turned to an image of despair, as he mumbled, "O Madre
de Dios! no, no. The isthmus is nothing."
"Is the overland route more dangerous?" asked Coronado.
"It might be made more dangerous. One gets lost in the desert. There are
"It is a horrible business," growled Coronado, shaking his head and biting
"Oh, horrible, horrible!" groaned Garcia. "Munoz was a pig, and a dog, and
a toad, and a snake."
"You old coward! can't you speak out?" hissed Coronado, losing his
patience. "Do you want me both to devise and execute, while you take the
purses? Tell me at once what your plan is."
"The overland route," whispered Garcia, shaking from head to foot. "You go
with her. I pay--I pay everything. You shall have men, horses, mules,
wagons, all you want."
"I shall want money, too. I shall need, perhaps, two thousand dollars.
"Yes, yes," assented Garcia. "The Apaches make an attack. You shall have
money. I can raise it; I will."
"How soon will you have a train ready?"
"Immediately. Any day you want. You must start at once. She must not know
of the will. She might remain here, and let the estate be settled for her,
and draw on it. She might go back to New York. Anybody would lend her
"Yes, events hurry us," muttered Coronado. "Well, get your cursed train
ready. I will induce her to take it. I must unsay now all that I said in
favor of the isthmus."
"Do be judicious," implored Garcia. "With judgment, with judgment. Lost on
the plains. Stolen by Apaches. No killing. No scandals. O my God, how I
hate scandals and uproars! I am an old man, Carlos. With judgment, with
"I comprehend," responded Coronado, adding a long string of Spanish
curses, most of them meant for his uncle.
That very day Coronado made a second call on Clara and her Aunt Maria, to
retract, contradict, and disprove all that he had said in favor of the
isthmus and against the overland route.
Although his visit was timed early in the evening, he found Lieutenant
Thurstane already with the ladies. Instead of scowling at him, or
crouching in conscious guilt before him, he made a cordial rush for his
hand, smiled sweetly in his face, and offered him incense of gratitude.
"My dear Lieutenant, you are perfectly right," he said, in his fluent
English. "The journey by the isthmus is not to be thought of. I have just
seen a friend who has made it. Poisonous serpents in myriads. The most
deadly climate in the world. Nearly everybody had the _vomito_; one-fifth
died of it. You eat a little fruit; down you go on your back--dead in four
hours. Then there are constant fights between the emigrants and the
sullen, ferocious Indians of the isthmus. My poor friend never slept with
his revolver out of his hand. I said to him, 'My dear fellow, it is cruel
to rejoice in your misfortunes, but I am heartily glad that I have heard
of them. You have saved the life of the most remarkable woman that I ever
knew, and of a cousin of mine who is the star of her sex.'"
Here Coronado made one bow to Mrs. Stanley and another to Clara, at the
same time kissing his sallow hand enthusiastically to all creation. Aunt
Maria tried to look stern at the compliment, but eventually thawed into a
smile over it. Clara acknowledged it with a little wave of the hand, as
if, coming from Coronado, it meant nothing more than good-morning, which
indeed was just about his measure of it.
"Moreover," continued the Mexican, "overland route? Why, it is overland
route both ways. If you go by the isthmus, you must traverse all Texas and
Louisiana, at the very least. You might as well go at once to San Diego.
In short, the route by the isthmus is not to be thought of."
"And what of the overland route?" asked Mrs. Stanley.
"The overland route is the _other_," laughed Coronado.
"Yes, I know. We must take it, I suppose. But what is the last news about
it? You spoke this morning of Indians, I believe. Not that I suppose they
are very formidable."
"The overland route does not lead directly through paradise, my dear Mrs.
Stanley," admitted Coronado with insinuating candor. "But it is not as bad
as has been represented. I have never tried it. I must rely upon the
report of others. Well, on learning that the isthmus would not do for you,
I rushed off immediately to inquire about the overland. I questioned
Garcia's teamsters. I catechized some newly-arrived travellers. I pumped
dry every source of information. The result is that the overland route
will do. No suffering; absolutely none; not a bit. And no danger worth
mentioning. The Apaches are under a cloud. Our American conquerors and
fellow-citizens" (here he gently patted Thurstane on the shoulder-strap),
"our Romans of the nineteenth century, they tranquillize the Apaches. A
child might walk from here to Fort Yuma without risking its little scalp."
All this was said in the most light-hearted and airy manner conceivable.
Coronado waved and floated on zephyrs of fancy and fluency. A butterfly or
a humming-bird could not have talked more cheerily about flying over a
parterre of flowers than he about traversing the North American desert.
And, with all this frivolous, imponderable grace, what an accent of verity
he had! He spoke of the teamsters as if he had actually conversed with
them, and of the overland route as if he had been studiously gathering
information concerning it.
"I believe that what you say about the Apaches is true," observed
Thurstane, a bit awkwardly.
Coronado smiled, tossed him a little bow, and murmured in the most
cordial, genial way, "And the rest?"
"I beg pardon," said the Lieutenant, reddening. "I didn't mean to cast
doubt upon any of your statements, sir."
Thurstane had the army tone; he meant to be punctiliously polite; perhaps
he was a little stiff in his politeness. But he was young, had had small
practice in society, was somewhat hampered by modesty, and so sometimes
made a blunder. Such things annoyed him excessively; a breach of etiquette
seemed something like a breach of orders; hadn't meant to charge Coronado
with drawing the long bow; couldn't help coloring about it. Didn't think
much of Coronado, but stood somewhat in awe of him, as being four years
older in time and a dozen years older in the ways of the world.
"I only meant to say," he continued, "that I have information concerning
the Apaches which coincides with yours, sir. They are quiet, at least for
the present. Indeed, I understand that Red Sleeve, or Manga Colorada, as
you call him, is coming in with his band to make a treaty."
"Admirable!" cried Coronado. "Why not hire him to guarantee our safety?
Set a thief to catch a thief. Why does not your Government do that sort of
thing? Let the Apaches protect the emigrants, and the United States pay
the Apaches. They would be the cheapest military force possible. That is
the way the Turks manage the desert Arabs."
"Mr. Coronado, you ought to be Governor of New Mexico," said Aunt Maria,
stricken with admiration at this project.
Thurstane looked at the two as if he considered them a couple of fools,
each bigger than the other. Coronado advanced to Mrs. Stanley, took her
hand, bowed over it, and murmured, "Let me have your influence at
Washington, my dear Madame." The remarkable woman squirmed a little,
fearing lest he should kiss her ringers, but nevertheless gave him a
"It strikes me, however," she said, "that the isthmus route is better. We
know by experience that the journey from here to Bent's Fort is safe and
easy. From there down the Arkansas and Missouri to St. Louis it is mostly
water carriage; and from St. Louis you can sail anywhere."
Coronado was alarmed. He must put a stopper on this project. He called up
all his resources.
"My dear Mrs. Stanley, allow me. Remember that emigrants move westward,
and not eastward. Coming from Bent's Fort you had protection and company;
but going towards it would be different. And then think what you would
lose. The great American desert, as it is absurdly styled, is one of the
most interesting regions on earth. Mrs. Stanley, did you ever hear of the
Casas Grandes, the Casas de Montezuma, the ruined cities of New Mexico? In
this so-called desert there was once an immense population. There was a
civilization which rose, flourished, decayed, and disappeared without a
historian. Nothing remains of it but the walls of its fortresses and
palaces. Those you will see. They are wonderful. They are worth ten times
the labor and danger which we shall encounter. Buildings eight hundred
feet long by two hundred and fifty feet deep, Mrs. Stanley. The
resting-places and wayside strongholds of the Aztecs on their route from
the frozen North to found the Empire of the Montezumas! This whole region
is strewn, and cumbered, and glorified with ruins. If we should go by the
way of the San Juan--"
"The San Juan!" protested Thurstane. "Nobody goes by the way of the San
Coronado stopped, bowed, smiled, waited to see if Thurstane had finished,
and then proceeded.
"Along the San Juan every hilltop is crowned with these monuments of
antiquity. It is like the castled Rhine. Ruins looking in the faces of
ruins. It is a tragedy in stone. It is like Niobe and her daughters.
Moreover, if we take this route we shall pass the Moquis. The independent
Moquis are a fragment of the ancient ruling race of New Mexico. They live
in stone-built cities on lofty eminences. They weave blankets of exquisite
patterns and colors, and produce a species of pottery which almost
deserves the name of porcelain."
"Really, you ought to write all this," exclaimed Aunt Maria, her
imagination fired to a white heat.
"I ought," said Coronado, impressively. "I owe it to these people to
celebrate them in history. I owe them that much because of the name I
bear. Did you ever hear of Coronado, the conqueror of New Mexico, the
stormer of the seven cities of Cibola? It was he who gave the final shock
to this antique civilization. He was the Cortes of this portion of the
continent. I bear his name, and his blood runs in my veins."
He held down his head as if he were painfully oppressed by the sense of
his crimes and responsibilities as a descendant of the waster of
aboriginal New Mexico. Mrs. Stanley, delighted with his emotion, slily
grasped and pressed his hand.
"Oh, man! man!" she groaned. "What evils has that creature man wrought in
this beautiful world! Ah, Mr. Coronado, it would have been a very
different planet had woman had her rightful share in the management of its
"Undoubtedly," sighed Coronado. He had already obtained an insight into
this remarkable person's views on the woman question, the superiority of
her own sex, the stolidity and infamy of the other. It was worth his while
to humor her on this point, for the sake of gaining an influence over her,
and so over Clara. Cheered by the success of his history, he now launched
into pure poetry.
"Woman has done something," he said. "There is every reason to believe
that the cities of the San Juan were ruled by queens, and that some of
them were inhabited by a race of Amazons."
"Is it possible?" exclaimed Aunt Maria, flushing and rustling with
"It is the opinion of the best antiquarians. It is my opinion. Nothing
else can account for the exquisite earthenware which is found there.
Women, you are aware, far surpass men in the arts of beauty. Moreover, the
inscriptions on hieroglyphic rocks in these abandoned cities evidently
refer to Amazons. There you see them doing the work of men--carrying on
war, ruling conquered regions, founding cities. It is a picture of a
golden age, Mrs. Stanley."
Aunt Maria meant to go by way of the San Juan, if she had to scalp
Apaches herself in doing it.
"Lieutenant Thurstane, what do you say?" she asked, turning her sparkling
eyes upon the officer.
"I must confess that I never heard of all these things," replied
Thurstane, with an air which added, "And I don't believe in most of them."
"As for the San Juan route," he continued, "it is two hundred miles at
least out of our way. The country is a desert and almost unexplored. I
don't fancy the plan--I beg your pardon, Mr. Coronado--but I don't fancy
it at all."
Aunt Maria despised him and almost hated him for his stupid, practical,
unpoetic common sense.
"I must say that I quite fancy the San Juan route," she responded, with
"I venture to agree with you," said Coronado, as meekly as if her fancy
were not of his own making. "Only a hundred miles off the straight line
(begging your pardon, my dear Lieutenant), and through a country which is
naturally fertile--witness the immense population which it once supported.
As for its being unexplored, I have explored it myself; and I shall go
"Shall you!" cried Aunt Maria, as if that made all safe and delightful.
"Yes. My excellent Uncle Garcia (good, kind-hearted old man) takes the
strongest interest in this affair. He is resolved that his charming little
relative here, La Senorita Clara, shall cross the continent in safety and
comfort. He offers a special wagon train for the purpose, and insists that
I shall accompany it. Of course I am only too delighted to obey him."
"Garcia is very good, and so are you, Coronado," said Clara, very thankful
and profoundly astonished. "How can I ever repay you both? I shall always
be your debtor."
"My dear cousin!" protested Coronado, bowing and smiling. "Well, it is
settled. We will start as soon as may be. The train will be ready in a day
"I have no money," stammered Clara. "The estate is not settled."
"Our good old Garcia has thought of everything. He will advance you what
you want, and take your draft on the executors."
"Your uncle is one of nature's noblemen," affirmed Aunt Maria. "I must
call on him and thank him for his goodness and generosity."
"Oh, never!" said Coronado. "He only waits your permission to visit you
and pay you his humble respects. Absence has prevented him from attending
to that delightful duty heretofore. He has but just returned from
"Tell him I shall be glad to see him," smiled Aunt Maria. "But what does
he say of the San Juan route?"
"He advises it. He has been in the overland trade for thirty years. He is
tenderly interested in his relative Clara; and he advises her to go by way
of the San Juan."
"Then so it shall be," declared Aunt Maria.
"And how do you go, Lieutenant?" asked Coronado, turning to Thurstane.
"I had thought of travelling with you," was the answer, delivered with a
grave and troubled air, as if now he must give up his project.
Coronado was delighted. He had urged the northern and circuitous route
mainly to get rid of the officer, taking it for granted that the latter
must join his new command as soon as possible. He did not want him
courting Clara all across the continent; and he, did not want him saving
her from being lost, if it should become necessary to lose her.
"I earnestly hope that we shall not be deprived of your company," he said.
Thurstane, in profound thought, simply bowed his acknowledgments. A few
minutes later, as he rose to return to his quarters, he said, with an air
of solemn resolution, "If I can possibly go with you, I _will_."
All the next day and evening Coronado was in and out of the Van Diemen
house. Had there been a mail for the ladies, he would have brought it to
them; had it contained a letter from California, he would have abstracted
and burnt it. He helped them pack for the journey; he made an inventory of
the furniture and found storeroom for it; he was a valet and a spy in one.
Meantime Garcia hurried up his train, and hired suitable muleteers for the
animals and suitable assassins for the travellers. Thurstane was also
busy, working all day and half of the night over his government accounts,
so that he might if possible get off with Clara.
Coronado thought of making interest with the post-commandant to have
Thurstane kept a few days in Santa Fe. But the post-commandant was a grim
and taciturn old major, who looked him through and through with a pair of
icy gray eyes, and returned brief answers to his musical commonplaces.
Coronado did not see how he could humbug him, and concluded not to try it.
The attempt might excite suspicion; the major might say, "How is this your
business?" So, after a little unimportant tattle, Coronado made his best
bow to the old fellow, and hurried off to oversee his so-called cousin.
In the evening he brought Garcia to call on the ladies. Aunt Maria was
rather surprised and shocked to see such an excellent man look so much
like an infamous scoundrel. "But good people are always plain," she
reasoned; and so she was as cordial to him as one can be in English to a
saint who understands nothing but Spanish. Garcia, instructed by Coronado,
could not bow low enough nor smile greasily enough at Aunt Maria. His dull
commonplaces moreover, were translated by his nephew into flowering
compliments for the lady herself, and enthusiastic professions of faith in
the superior intelligence and moral worth of all women. So the two got
along famously, although neither ever knew what the other had really said.
When Clara appeared, Garcia bowed humbly without lifting his eyes to her
face, and received her kiss without returning it, as one might receive the
kiss of a corpse.
"Contemptible coward!" thought Coronado. Then, turning to Mrs. Stanley, he
whispered, "My uncle is almost broken down with this parting."
"Excellent creature!" murmured Aunt Maria, surveying the old toad with
warm sympathy. "What a pity he has lost one eye! It quite injures the
benevolent expression of his face."
Although Garcia was very distantly connected with Clara, she gave him the
title of uncle.
"How is this, my uncle?" she said, gaily. "You send your merchandise
trains through Bernalillo, and you send me through Santa Anna and Rio
Garcia, cowed and confounded, made no reply that was comprehensible.
"It is a newly discovered route," put in Coronado, "lately found to be
easier and safer than the old one. Two hundred and fifty years in learning
the fact, Mrs. Stanley! Just as we were two hundred and fifty years
without discovering the gold of California."
"Ah!" said Clara. Absent since her childhood from New Mexico, she knew
little about its geography, and could be easily deceived.
After a while Thurstane entered, out of breath and red with haste. He had
stolen ten minutes from his accounts and stores to bring Miss Van Diemen a
piece of information which was to him important and distressing.
"I fear that I shall not be able to go with you," he said. "I have
received orders to wait for a sergeant and three recruits who have been
assigned to my company. The messenger reports that they are on the march
from Fort Bent with an emigrant train, and will not be here for a week. It
annoys me horribly, Miss Van Diemen. I thought I saw my way clear to be of
your party. I assure you I earnestly desired it. This route--I am afraid
of it--I wanted to be with you."
"To protect me?" queried Clara, her face lighting up with a grateful
smile, so innocent and frank was she. Then she turned grave, again, and
added, "I am sorry."
Thankful for these last words, but nevertheless quite miserable, the
youngster worshipped her and trembled for her.
This conversation had been carried on in a quiet tone, so that the others
of the party had not overheard it, not even the watchful Coronado.
"It is too unfortunate," said Clara, turning to them, "Lieutenant
Thurstane cannot go with us."
Garcia and Coronado exchanged a look which said, "Thank--the devil!"
The next day brought news of an obstacle to the march of the wagon train
through Santa Anna and Rio Arriba.
It was reported that the audacious and savage Apache chieftain, Manga
Colorada, or Red Sleeve, under pretence of wanting to make a treaty with
the Americans, had approached within sixty miles of Santa Fe to the west,
and camped there, on the route to the San Juan country, not making
treaties at all, but simply making hot beefsteaks out of Mexican cattle
and cold carcasses out of Mexican rancheros.
"We shall have to get those fellows off that trail and put them across the
Bernalillo route," said Coronado to Garcia.
"The pigs! the dogs! the wicked beasts! the devils!" barked the old man,
dancing about the room in a rage. After a while he dropped breathless into
a chair and looked eagerly at his nephew for help.
"It will cost at least another thousand," observed the younger man.
"You have had two thousand," shuddered Garcia. "You were to do the whole
accursed job with that."
"I did not count on Manga Colorada. Besides, I have given a thousand to
our little cousin. I must keep a thousand to meet the chances that may
come. There are men to be bribed."
Garcia groaned, hesitated, decided, went to some hoard which he had put
aside for great needs, counted out a hundred American eagles, toyed with
them, wept over them, and brought them to Coronado.
"Will that do?" he asked. "It must do. There is no more."
"I will try with that," said the nephew. "Now let me have a few good men
and your best horses. I want to see them all before I trust myself with
Coronado felt himself in a position to dictate, and it was curious to see
how quick he put on magisterial airs; he was one of those who enjoy
authority, though little and brief.
"Accursed beast!" thought Garcia, who did not dare just now to break out
with his "pig, dog," etc. "He wants me to pay everything. The thousand
ought to be enough for men and horses and all. Why not poison the girl at
once, and save all this money? If he had the spirit of a man! O Madre de
Dios! Madre de Dios! What extremities! what extremities!"
But Garcia was like a good many of us; his thoughts were worse than his
deeds and words. While he was cogitating thus savagely, he was saying
aloud, "My son, my dear Carlos, come and choose for yourself."
Turning into the court of the house, they strolled through a medley of
wagons, mules, horses, merchandise, muleteers, teamsters, idlers, white
men and Indians. Coronado soon picked out a couple of rancheros whom he
knew as capital riders, fair marksmen, faithful and intelligent. Next his
eye fell upon a man in Mexican clothing, almost as dark and dirty too as
the ordinary Mexican, but whose height, size, insolence of carriage, and
ferocity of expression marked him as of another and more pugnacious, more
"You are an American," said Coronado, in his civil manner, for he had two
manners as opposite as the poles.
"I be," replied the stranger, staring at Coronado as a Lombard or Frankish
warrior might have stared at an effeminate and diminutive Roman.
"May I ask what your name is?"
"Some folks call me Texas Smith."
Coronado shifted uneasily on his feet, as a man might shift in presence of
a tiger, who, as he feared, was insufficiently chained. He was face to
face with a fellow who was as much the terror of the table-land, from the
borders of Texas to California, as if he had been an Apache chief.
This noted desperado, although not more than twenty-six or seven years
old, had the horrible fame of a score of murders. His appearance mated
well with his frightful history and reputation. His intensely black eyes,
blacker even than the eyes of Coronado, had a stare of absolutely
indescribable ferocity. It was more ferocious than the merely brutal glare
of a tiger; it was an intentional malignity, super-beastly and sub-human.
They were eyes which no other man ever looked into and afterward forgot.
His sunburnt, sallow, haggard, ghastly face, stained early and for life
with the corpse-like coloring of malarious fevers, was a fit setting for
such optics. Although it was nearly oval in contour, and although the
features were or had been fairly regular, yet it was so marked by hard,
and one might almost say fleshless muscles, and so brutalized by long
indulgence in savage passions, that it struck you as frightfully ugly. A
large dull-red scar on the right jaw and another across the left cheek
added the final touches to this countenance of a cougar.
"He is my man," whispered Garcia to Coronado. "I have hired him for the
great adventure. Sixty piastres a month. Why not take him with you
Coronado gave another glance at the gladiator and meditated. Should he
trust this beast of a Texan to guard him against those other beasts, the
Apaches? Well, he could die but once; this whole affair was detestably
risky; he must not lose time in shuddering over the first steps.
"Mr. Smith," he said, "very glad to know that you are with us. Can you
start in an hour for the camp of Manga Colorada? Sixty miles there. We
must be back by to-morrow night. It would be best not to say where we are
Texas Smith nodded, turned abruptly on the huge heels of his Mexican
boots, stalked to where his horse was fastened, and began to saddle him.
"My dear uncle, why didn't you hire the devil?" whispered Coronado as he
stared after the cutthroat.
"Get yourself ready, my nephew," was Garcia's reply. "I will see to the
men and horses."
In an hour the expedition was off at full gallop. Coronado had laid aside
his American dandy raiment, and was in the full costume of a Mexican of
the provinces--broad-brimmed hat of white straw, blue broadcloth jacket
adorned with numerous small silver buttons, velvet vest of similar
splendor, blue trousers slashed from the knee downwards and gay with
buttons, high, loose embroidered boots of crimson leather, long steel
spurs jingling and shining. The change became him; he seemed a larger and
handsomer man for it; he looked the caballero and almost the hidalgo.
Three hours took the party thirty miles to a hacienda of Garcia's, where
they changed horses, leaving their first mounting for the return. After
half an hour for dinner, they pushed on again, always at a gallop, the
hoofs clattering over the hard, yellow, sunbaked earth, or dashing
recklessly along smooth sheets of rock, or through fields of loose,
slippery stones. Rare halts to breathe the animals; then the steady,
tearing gallop again; no walking or other leisurely gait. Coronado led the
way and hastened the pace. There was no tiring him; his thin, sinewy,
sun-hardened frame could bear enormous fatigue; moreover, the saddle was
so familiar to him that he almost reposed in it. If he had needed physical
support, he would have found it in his mental energy. He was capable of
that executive furor, that intense passion of exertion, which the man of
Latin race can exhibit when he has once fairly set himself to an
enterprise. He was of the breed which in nobler days had produced
Gonsalvo, Cortes, Pizarro, and Darien.
These riders had set out at ten o'clock in the morning; at five in the
afternoon they drew bridle in sight of the Apache encampment. They were on
the brow of a stony hill: a pile of bare, gray, glaring, treeless,
herbless layers of rock; a pyramid truncated near its base, but still of
majestic altitude; one of the pyramids of nature in that region; in short,
a butte. Below them lay a valley of six or eight miles in length by one or
two in breadth, through the centre of which a rivulet had drawn a paradise
of verdure. In the middle of the valley, at the head of a bend in the
rivulet, was a camp of human brutes. It was a bivouac rather than a camp.
The large tents of bison hide used by the northern Indians are unknown to
the Apaches; they have not the bison, and they have less need of shelter
in winter. What Coronado saw at this distance was, a few huts of branches,
a strolling of many horses, and some scattered riders.
Texas Smith gave him a glance of inquiry which said, "Shall we go
Coronado spurred his horse down the rough, disjointed, slippery declivity,
and the others followed. They were soon perceived; the Apache swarm was
instantly in a buzz; horses were saddled and mounted, or mounted without
saddling; there was a consultation, and then a wild dash toward the
travellers. As the two parties neared each other at a gallop, Coronado
rode to the front of his squad, waving his sombrero. An Indian who wore
the dress of a Mexican caballero, jacket, loose trousers, hat, and boots,
spurred in like manner to the front, gestured to his followers to halt,
brought his horse to a walk, and slowly approached the white man. Coronado
made a sign to show that his pistols were in his holsters; and the Apache
responded by dropping his lance and slinging his bow over his shoulder.
The two met midway between the two squads of staring, silent horsemen.
"Is it Manga Colorada?" asked the Mexican, in Spanish.
"Manga Colorada," replied the Apache, his long, dark, haggard, savage face
lighting up for a moment with a smile of gratified vanity.
"I come in peace, then," said Coronado. "I want your help; I will pay for
In our account of this interview we shall translate the broken Spanish of
the Indian into ordinary English.
"Manga Colorada will help," he said, "if the pay is good."
Even during this short dialogue the Apaches had with difficulty restrained
their curiosity; and their little wiry horses were now caracoling,
rearing, and plunging in close proximity to the two speakers.
"We will talk of this by ourselves," said Coronado. "Let us go to your
The conjoint movement of the leaders toward the Indian bivouac was a
signal for their followers to mingle and exchange greetings. The
adventurers were enveloped and very nearly ridden down by over two hundred
prancing, screaming horsemen, shouting to their visitors in their own
guttural tongue or in broken Spanish, and enforcing their wild speech with
vehement gestures. It was a pandemonium which horribly frightened the
Mexican rancheros, and made Coronado's dark cheek turn to an ashy yellow.
The civilized imagination can hardly conceive such a tableau of savagery
as that presented by these Arabs of the great American desert. Arabs! The
similitude is a calumny on the descendants of Ishmael; the fiercest
Bedouin are refined and mild compared with the Apaches. Even the brutal
and criminal classes of civilization, the pugilists, roughs, burglars, and
pickpockets of our large cities, the men whose daily life is rebellion
against conscience, commandment, and justice, offer a gentler and nobler
type of character and expression than these "children of nature." There
was hardly a face among that gang of wild riders which did not outdo the
face of Texas Smith in degraded ferocity. Almost every man and boy was
obviously a liar, a thief, and a murderer. The air of beastly cruelty was
made even more hateful by an air of beastly cunning. Taking color,
brutality, grotesqueness, and filth together, it seemed as if here were a
mob of those malignant and ill-favored devils whom Dante has described and
the art of his age has painted and sculptured.
It is possible, by the way, that this appearance of moral ugliness was due
in part to the physical ugliness of features, which were nearly without
exception coarse, irregular, exaggerated, grotesque, and in some cases
more like hideous masks than like faces.
Ferocity of expression was further enhanced by poverty and squalor. The
mass of this fierce cavalry was wretchedly clothed and disgustingly dirty.
Even the showy Mexican costume of Manga Colorada was ripped, frayed,
stained with grease and perspiration, and not free from sombre spots which
looked like blood. Every one wore the breech-cloth, in some cases nicely
fitted and sewed, in others nothing but a shapeless piece of deerskin tied
on anyhow. There were a few, either minor chiefs, or leading braves, or
professional dandies (for this class exists among the Indians), who
sported something like a full Apache costume, consisting of a
helmet-shaped cap with a plume of feathers, a blanket or _serape_ flying
loose from the shoulders, a shirt and breech-cloth, and a pair of long
boots, made large and loose in the Mexican style and showy with dyeing and
embroidery. These boots, very necessary to men who must ride through
thorns and bushes, were either drawn up so as to cover the thighs or
turned over from the knee downward, like the leg-covering of Rupert's
cavaliers. Many heads were bare, or merely shielded by wreaths of grasses
and leaves, the greenery contrasting fantastically with the unkempt hair
and fierce faces, but producing at a distance an effect which was not
without sylvan grace.
The only weapons were iron-tipped lances eight or nine feet long, thick
and strong bows of three or three and a half feet, and quivers of arrows
slung across the thigh or over the shoulder. The Apaches make little use
of firearms, being too lazy or too stupid to keep them in order, and
finding it difficult to get ammunition. But so long as they have to fight
only the unwarlike Mexicans, they are none the worse for this lack. The
Mexicans fly at the first yell; the Apaches ride after them and lance them
in the back; clumsy _escopetos_ drop loaded from the hands of dying
cowards. Such are the battles of New Mexico. It is only when these
red-skinned Tartars meet Americans or such high-spirited Indians as the
Opates that they have to recoil before gunpowder. [Footnote: Since those
times the Apaches have learned to use firearms.]
The fact that Coronado dared ride into this camp of thieving assassins
shows what risks he could force himself to run when he thought it
necessary. He was not physically a very brave man; he had no pugnacity and
no adventurous love of danger for its own sake; but when he was resolved
on an enterprise, he could go through with it.
There was a rest of several hours. The rancheros fed the horses on corn
which they had brought in small sacks. Texas Smith kept watch, suffered no
Apache to touch him, had his pistols always cocked, and stood ready to
sell life at the highest price. Coronado walked deliberately to a retired
spot with Manga Colorada, Delgadito, and two other chiefs, and made known
his propositions. What he desired was that the Apaches should quit their
present post immediately, perform a forced march of a hundred and forty
miles or so to the southwest, place themselves across the overland trail
through Bernalillo, and do something to alarm people. No great harm; he
did not want men murdered nor houses burned; they might eat a few cattle,
if they were hungry: there were plenty of cattle, and Apaches must live.
And if they should yell at a train or so and stampede the loose mules, he
had no objection. But no slaughtering; he wanted them to be merciful: just
make a pretence of harrying in Bernalillo; nothing more.
The chiefs turned their ill-favored countenances on each other, and talked
for a while in their own language. Then, looking at Coronado, they
grunted, nodded, and sat in silence, waiting for his terms.
"Send that boy away," said the Mexican, pointing to a youth of twelve or
fourteen, better dressed than most Apache urchins, who had joined the
"It is my son," replied Manga Colorada. "He is learning to be a chief."
The boy stood upright, facing the group with dignity, a handsomer youth
than is often seen among his people. Coronado, who had something of the
artist in him, was so interested in noting the lad's regular features and
tragic firmness of expression, that for a moment he forgot his projects.
Manga Colorada, mistaking the cause of his silence, encouraged him to
"My son does not speak Spanish," he said. "He will not understand."
"You know what money is?" inquired the Mexican.
"Yes, we know," grunted the chief.
"You can buy clothes and arms with it in the villages, and aguardiente."
Another grunt of assent and satisfaction.
"Three hundred piastres," said Coronado.
The chiefs consulted in their own tongue, and then replied, "The way is
Manga Colorada held up five fingers.
A unanimous grunt.
"It is all I have," said Coronado.
The chiefs made no reply.
Coronado rose, walked to his horse, took two small packages out of his
saddle-bags and slipped them slily into his boots, and then carried the
bags to where the chiefs sat in council. There he held them up and rolled
out five _rouleaux_, each containing a hundred Mexican dollars. The
Indians tore open the envelopes, stared at the broad pieces, fingered
them, jingled them together, and uttered grunts of amazement and joy.
Probably they had never before seen so much money, at least not in their
own possession. Coronado was hardly less content; for while he had
received a thousand dollars to bring about this understanding, he had
risked but seven hundred with him, and of these he had saved two hundred.
Four hours later the camp had vanished, and the Indians were on their way
toward the southwest, the moonlight showing their irregular column of
march, and glinting faintly from the heads of their lances.
At nine or ten in the evening, when every Apache had disappeared, and the
clatter of ponies had gone far away into the quiet night, Coronado lay
down to rest. He would have started homeward, but the country was a
complete desert, the trail led here and there over vast sheets of
trackless rock, and he feared that he might lose his way. Texas Smith and
one of the rancheros had ridden after the Apaches to see whether they kept
the direction which had been agreed upon. One ranchero was slumbering
already, and the third crouched as sentinel.
Coronado could not sleep at once. He thought over his enterprise,
cross-examined his chances of success, studied the invisible courses of
the future. Leave Clara on the plains, to be butchered by Indians, or to
die of starvation? He hardly considered the idea; it was horrible and
repulsive; better marry her. If necessary, force her into a marriage; he
could bring it about somehow; she would be much in his power. Well, he had
got rid of Thurstane; that was a great obstacle removed. Probably, that
fellow being out of sight, he, Coronado, could soon eclipse him in the
girl's estimation. There would be no need of violence; all would go easily
and end in prosperity. Garcia would be furious at the marriage, but Garcia
was a fool to expect any other result.
However, here he was, just at the beginning of things, and by no means
safe from danger. He had two hundred dollars in his boot-legs. Had his
rancheros suspected it? Would they murder him for the money? He hoped not;
he just faintly hoped not; for he was becoming very sleepy; he was asleep.
He was awakened by a noise, or perhaps it was a touch, he scarcely knew
what. He struggled as fiercely and vainly as one who fights against a
nightmare. A dark form was over him, a hard knee was on his breast, hard
knuckles were at his throat, an arm was raised to strike, a weapon was
On the threshold of his enterprise, after he had taken its first hazardous
step with safety and success, Coronado found himself at the point of
When Coronado regained a portion of the senses which had been throttled
out of him, he discovered Texas Smith standing by his side, and two dead
men lying near, all rather vaguely seen at first through his dizziness and
"What does this mean?" he gasped, getting on his hands and knees, and then
on his feet. "Who has been assassinating?"
The borderer, who, instead of helping his employer to rise, was coolly
reloading his rifle, did not immediately reply. As the shaken and somewhat
unmanned Coronado looked at him, he was afraid of him. The moonlight made
Smith's sallow, disfigured face so much more ghastly than usual, that he
had the air of a ghoul or vampyre. And when, after carefully capping his
piece, he drawled forth the word "Patchies," his harsh, croaking voice had
an unwholesome, unhuman sound, as if it were indeed the utterance of a
feeder upon corpses.
"Apaches!" said Coronado. "What! after I had made a treaty with them?"
"This un is a 'Patchie," remarked Texas, giving the nearest body a shove
with his boot. "Thar was two of 'em. They knifed one of your men. T'other
cleared, he did. I was comin' in afoot. I had a notion of suthin' goin'
on, 'n' left the critters out thar, with the rancheros, 'n' stole in. Got
in just in time to pop the cuss that had you. T'other un vamosed."
"Oh, the villains!" shrieked Coronado, excited at the thought of his
narrow escape. "This is the way they keep their treaties."
"Mought be these a'n't the same," observed Texas. "Some 'Patchies is wild,
'n' live separate, like bachelor beavers."
Coronado stooped and examined the dead Indian. He was a miserable object,
naked, except a ragged, filthy breech-clout, his figure gaunt, and his
legs absolutely scaly with dirt, starvation, and hard living of all sorts.
He might well be one of those outcasts who are in disfavor with their
savage brethren, lead a precarious existence outside of the tribal
organization, and are to the Apaches what the Texas Smiths are to decent
"One of the bachelor-beaver sort, you bet," continued Texas. "Don't run
with the rest of the crowd."
"And there's that infernal coward of a ranchero," cried Coronado, as the
runaway sentry sneaked back to the group. "You cursed poltroon, why didn't
you give the alarm? Why didn't you fight?"
He struck the man, pulled his long hair, threw him down, kicked him, and
spat on him. Texas Smith looked on with an approving grin, and suggested,
"Better shute the dam cuss."
But Coronado was not bloodthirsty; having vented his spite, he let the
fellow go. "You saved my life," he said to Texas. "When we get back you
shall be paid for it."
At the moment he intended to present him with the two hundred dollars
which were cumbering his boots. But by the time they had reached Garcia's
hacienda on the way back to Santa Fe, his gratitude had fallen off
seventy-five per cent, and he thought fifty enough. Even that diminished
his profits on the expedition to four hundred and fifty dollars. And
Coronado, although extravagant, was not generous; he liked to spend money,
but he hated to give it or pay it.
During the four days which immediately followed his safe return to Santa
Fe, he and Garcia were in a worry of anxiety. Would Manga Colorada fulfil
his contract and cast a shadow of peril over the Bernalillo route? Would
letters or messengers arrive from California, informing Clara of the death
and will of Munoz? Everything happened as they wished; reports came that
the Apaches were raiding in Bernalillo; the girl received no news
concerning her grandfather. Coronado, smiling with success and hope, met
Thurstane at the Van Diemen house, in the presence of Clara and Aunt
Maria, and blandly triumphed over him.
"How now about your safe road through the southern counties?" he said.
"So I hear," replied the young officer soberly. "It is horribly unlucky."
"We start to-morrow," added Coronado.
"To-morrow!" replied Thurstane, with a look of dismay.
"I hope you will be with us," said Coronado.
"Everything goes wrong," exclaimed the annoyed lieutenant. "Here are some
of my stores damaged, and I have had to ask for a board of survey. I
couldn't possibly leave for two days yet, even if my recruits should
"How very unfortunate!" groaned Coronado. "My dear fellow, we had counted
"Lieutenant Thurstane, can't you overtake us?" inquired Clara.
Thurstane wanted to kneel down and thank her, while Coronado wanted to
throw something at her.
"I will try," promised the officer, his fine, frank, manly face
brightening with pleasure. "If the thing can be done, it will be done."
Coronado, while hoping that he would be ordered by the southern route, or
that he would somehow break his neck, had the superfine brass to say,
"Don't fail us, Lieutenant."
In spite of the managements of the Mexican to keep Clara and Thurstane
apart, the latter succeeded in getting an aside with the young lady.
"So you take the northern trail?" he said, with a seriousness which gave
his blue-black eyes an expression of almost painful pathos. Those eyes
were traitors; however discreet the rest of his face might be, they
revealed his feelings; they were altogether too pathetic to be in the head
of a man and an officer.
"But you will overtake us," Clara replied, out of a charming faith that
with men all things are possible.
"Yes," he said, almost fiercely.
"Besides, Coronado knows," she added, still trusting in the male being.
"He says this is the surest road."
Thurstane did not believe it, but he did not want to alarm her when alarm
was useless, and he made no comment.
"I have a great mind to resign," he presently broke out.
Clara colored; she did not fully understand him, but she guessed that all
this emotion was somehow on her account; and a surprised, warm Spanish
heart beat at once its alarm.
"It would be of no use," he immediately added. "I couldn't get away until
my resignation had been accepted. I must bear this as well as I can."
The young lady began to like him better than ever before, and yet she
began to draw gently away from him, frightened by a consciousness of her
"I beg your pardon, Miss Van Diemen," said Thurstane, in an inexplicable
"There is no need," replied Clara, equally confused.
"Well," he resumed, after a struggle to regain his self-control, "I will
do my utmost to overtake you."
"We shall be very glad," returned Clara, with a singular mixture of
consciousness and artlessness.
There was an exquisite innocence and almost childish simplicity in this
girl of eighteen. It was, so to speak, not quite civilized; it was not in
the style of American young ladies; our officer had never, at home,
observed anything like it; and, of course--O yes, of course, it fascinated
him. The truth is, he was so far gone in loving her that he would have
been charmed by her ways no matter what they might have been.
On the very morning after the above dialogue Garcia's train started for
Rio Arriba, taking with it a girl who had been singled out for a marriage
which she did not guess, or for a death whose horrors were beyond her
The train consisted of six long and heavy covered vehicles, not dissimilar
in size, strength, and build to army wagons. Garcia had thought that two
would suffice; six wagons, with their mules, etc., were a small fortune:
what if the Apaches should take them? But Coronado had replied: "Nobody
sends a train of two wagons; do you want to rouse suspicion?"
So there were six; and each had a driver and a muleteer, making twelve
hired men thus far. On horseback, there were six Mexicans, nominally
cattle-drivers going to California, but really guards for the
expedition--the most courageous bullies that could be picked up in Santa
Fe, each armed with pistols and a rifle. Finally, there were Coronado and
his terrible henchman, Texas Smith, with their rifles and revolvers. Old
Garcia perspired with anguish as he looked over his caravan, and figured
up the cost in his head.
Thurstane, wretched at heart, but with a cheering smile on his lips, came
to bid the ladies farewell.
"What do you think of this?" Aunt Maria called to him from her seat in one
of the covered wagons. "We are going a thousand miles through deserts and
savages. You men suppose that women have no courage. I call this heroism."
"Certainly," nodded the young fellow, not thinking of her at all, unless
it was that she was next door to an idiot.
Although his mind was so full of Clara that it did not seem as if he could
receive an impression from any other human being, his attention was for a
moment arrested by a countenance which struck him as being more ferocious
than he had ever seen before except on the shoulders of an Apache. A tall
man in Mexican costume, with a scar on his chin and another on his cheek,
was glaring at him with two intensely black and savage eyes. It was Texas
Smith, taking the measure of Thurstane's fighting power and disposition. A
hint from Coronado had warned the borderer that here was a person whom it
might be necessary some day to get rid of. The officer responded to this
ferocious gaze with a grim, imperious stare, such as one is apt to acquire
amid the responsibilities and dangers of army life. It was like a wolf and
a mastiff surveying each other.
Thurstane advanced to Clara, helped her into her saddle, and held her hand
while he urged her to be careful of herself, never to wander from the
train, never to be alone, etc. The girl turned a little pale; it was not
exactly because of his anxious manner; it was because of the eloquence
that there is in a word of parting. At the moment she felt so alone in the
world, in such womanish need of sympathy, that had he whispered to her,
"Be my wife," she might have reached out her hands to him. But Thurstane
was far from guessing that an angel could have such weak impulses; and he
no more thought of proposing to her thus abruptly than of ascending
off-hand into heaven.
Coronado observed the scene, and guessing how perilous the moment was,
pushed forward his uncle to say good-by to Clara. The old scoundrel kissed
her hand; he did not dare to lift his one eye to her face; he kissed her
hand and bowed himself out of reach.
"Farewell, Mr. Garcia," called Aunt Maria. "Poor, excellent old creature!
What a pity he can't understand English! I should so like to say something
nice to him. Farewell, Mr. Garcia."
Garcia kissed his fat fingers to her, took off his sombrero, waved it,
bowed a dozen times, and smiled like a scared devil. Then, with other
good-bys, delivered right and left from everybody to everybody, the train
rumbled away. Thurstane was about to accompany it out of the town when his
clerk came to tell him that the board of survey required his immediate
presence. Cursing his hard fate, and wishing himself anything but an
officer in the army, he waved a last farewell to Clara, and turned his
back on her, perhaps forever.
Santa Fe is situated on the great central plateau of North America, seven
thousand feet above the level of the sea. Around it spreads an arid plain,
sloping slightly where it approaches the Rio Grande, and bordered by
mountains which toward the south are of moderate height, while toward the
north they rise into fine peaks, glorious with eternal snow. Although the
city is in the latitude of Albemarle Sound, North Carolina, its elevation
and its neighborhood to Alpine ranges give it a climate which is in the
main cool, equable, and healthy.
The expedition moved across the plain in a southwesterly direction.
Coronado's intention was to cross the Rio Grande at Pena Blanca, skirt the
southern edge of the Jemez Mountains, reach San Isidoro, and then march
northward toward the San Juan region. The wagons were well fitted out with
mules, and as Garcia had not chosen to send much merchandise by this risky
route, they were light, so that the rate of progress was unusually rapid.
We cannot trouble ourselves with the minor incidents of the journey.
Taking it for granted that the Rio Grande was passed, that halts were
made, meals cooked and eaten, nights passed in sleep, days in pleasant and
picturesque travelling, we will leap into the desert land beyond San
The train was now seventy-five miles from Santa Fe. Coronado had so pushed
the pace that he had made this distance in the rather remarkable time of
three days. Of course his object in thus hurrying was to get so far ahead
of Thurstane that the latter would not try to overtake him, or would get
lost in attempting it.
Meanwhile he had not forgotten Garcia's little plan, and he had even
better remembered his own. The time might come when he would be driven to
_lose_ Clara; it was very shocking to think of, however, and so for the
present he did not think of it; on the contrary, he worked hard (much as
he hated work) at courting her.
It is strange that so many men who are morally in a state of decomposition
should be, or at least can be, sweet and charming in manner. During these
three days Coronado was delightful; and not merely in this, that he
watched over Clara's comfort, rode a great deal by her side, gathered wild
flowers for her, talked much and agreeably; but also in that he poured oil
over his whole conduct, and was good to everybody. Although his natural
disposition was to be domineering to inferiors and irascible under the
small provocations of life, he now gave his orders in a gentle tone, never
stormed at the drivers for their blunders, made light of the bad cooking,
and was in short a model for travellers, lovers, and husbands. Few human
beings have so much self-control as Coronado, and so little. So long as it
was policy to be sweet, he could generally be a very honeycomb; but once a
certain limit of patience passed, he was like a swarm of angry bees; he
became blind, mad, and poisonous with passion.
"Mr. Coronado, you are a wonder," proclaimed the admiring Aunt Maria. "You
are the only man I ever knew that was patient."
"I catch a grace from those who have it abundantly and to spare," said
Coronado, taking off his hat and waving it at the two ladies.
"Ah, yes, we women know how to be patient," smiled Aunt Maria. "I think we
are born so. But, more than that, we learn it. Moreover, our physical
nature teaches us. We have lessons of pain and weakness that men know
nothing of. The great, healthy savages! If they had our troubles, they
might have some of our virtues."
"I refuse to believe it," cried Coronado. "Man acquire woman's worth?
Never! The nature of the beast is inferior. He is not fashioned to become
"How charmingly candid and humble!" thought Aunt Maria. "How different
from that sulky, proud Thurstane, who never says anything of the sort, and
never thinks it either, I'll be bound."
All this sort of talk passed over Clara as a desert wind passes over an
oasis, bringing no pleasant songs of birds, and sowing no fruitful seed.
She had her born ideas as to men and women, and she was seemingly
incapable of receiving any others. In her mind men were strong and brave,
and women weak and timorous; she believed that the first were good to hold
on to, and that the last were good to hold on; all this she held by
birthright, without ever reasoning upon it or caring to prove it.
Coronado, on his part, hooted in his soul at Mrs. Stanley's whimsies, and
half supposed her to be of unsound mind. Nor would he have said what he
did about the vast superiority of the female sex, had he supposed that
Clara would attach the least weight to it. He knew that the girl looked
upon his extravagant declarations as merely so many compliments paid to
her eccentric relative, equivalent to bowings and scrapings and flourishes
of the sombrero. Both Spaniards, they instinctively comprehended each
other, at least in the surface matters of intercourse. Meanwhile the
American strong-minded female understood herself, it is to be charitably
hoped, but understood herself alone.
Coronado did not hurry his courtship, for he believed that he had a clear
field before him, and he was too sagacious to startle Clara by overmuch
energy. Meantime he began to be conscious that an influence from her was
reaching his spirit. He had hitherto considered her a child; one day he
suddenly recognized her as a woman. Now a woman, a beautiful woman
especially, alone with one in the desert, is very mighty. Matches are made
in trains overland as easily and quickly as on sea voyages or at quiet
summer resorts. Coronado began--only moderately as yet--to fall in love.
But an ugly incident came to disturb his opening dream of affection,
happiness, wealth, and success. Toward the close of his fourth day's
march, after he had got well into the unsettled region beyond San Isidore,
he discovered, several miles behind the train, a party of five horsemen.
He was on one summit and they on another, with a deep, stony valley
intervening. Without a moment's hesitation, he galloped down a long slope,
rejoined the creeping wagons, hurried them forward a mile or so, and
turned into a ravine for the night's halt.
Whether the cavaliers were Indians or Thurstane and his four recruits he
had been unable to make out. They had not seen the train; the nature of
the ground had prevented that. It was now past sundown, and darkness
coming on rapidly. Whispering something about Apaches, he gave orders to
lie close and light no fires for a while, trusting that the pursuers would
pass his hiding place.
For a moment he thought of sending Texas Smith to ambush the party, and
shoot Thurstane if he should be in it, pleading afterwards that the men
looked, in the darkness, like Apaches. But no; this was an extreme
measure; he revolted against it a little. Moreover, there was danger of
retribution: settlements not so far off; soldiers still nearer.
So he lay quiet, chewing a bit of grass to allay his nervousness, and
talking stronger love to Clara than he had yet thought needful or wise.
Lieutenant Thurstane passed the mouth of the ravine in the dusk of
twilight, without guessing that it contained Clara Van Diemen and her
He had with him Sergeant Weber of his own company, just returned from
recruiting service at St. Louis, and three recruits for the company,
Kelly, Shubert, and Sweeny.
Weber, a sunburnt German, with sandy eyelashes, blue eyes, and a scar on
his cheek, had been a soldier from his eighteenth to his thirtieth year,
and wore the serious, patient, much-enduring air peculiar to veterans.
Kelly, an Irishman, also about thirty, slender in form and somewhat
haggard in face, with the same quiet, contained, seasoned look to him, the
same reminiscence of unavoidable sufferings silently borne, was also an
old infantry man, having served in both the British and American armies.
Shubert was an American lad, who had got tired of clerking it in an
apothecary's shop, and had enlisted from a desire for adventure, as you
might guess from his larkish countenance. Sweeny was a diminutive Paddy,
hardly regulation height for the army, as light and lively as a monkey,
and with much the air of one.
Thurstane had obtained orders from the post commandant to lead his party
by the northern route, on condition that he would investigate and report
as to its practicability for military and other transit. He had also been
allowed to draw by requisition fifty days' rations, a box of ammunition,
and four mules. Starting thirty-six hours after Coronado, he made in two
days and a half the distance which the train had accomplished in four. Now
he had overtaken his quarry, and in the obscurity had passed it.
But Sergeant Weber was an old hand on the Plains, and notwithstanding the
darkness and the generally stony nature of the ground, he presently
discovered that the fresh trail of the wagons was missing. Thurstane tried
to retrace his steps, but starless night had already fallen thick around
him, and before long he had to come to a halt. He was opposite the mouth
of the ravine; he was within five hundred yards of Clara, and raging
because he could not find her. Suddenly Coronado's cooking fires flickered
through the gloom; in five minutes the two parties were together.
It was a joyous meeting to Thurstane and a disgusting one to Coronado.
Nevertheless the latter rushed at the officer, grasped him by both hands,
and shouted, "All hail, Lieutenant! So, there you are at last! My dear
fellow, what a pleasure!"
"Yes, indeed, by Jove!" returned the young fellow, unusually boisterous in
his joy, and shaking hands with everybody, not rejecting even muleteers.
And then what throbbing, what adoration, what supernal delight, in the
moment when he faced Clara.
In the morning the journey recommenced. As neither Thurstane nor Coronado
had now any cause for hurry, the pace was moderate. The soldiers marched
on foot, in order to leave the government mules no other load than the
rations and ammunition, and so enable them to recover from their sharp
push of over eighty miles. The party now consisted of twenty-five men, for
the most part pretty well armed. Of the other sex there were, besides Mrs.
Stanley and Clara, a half-breed girl named Pepita, who served as lady's
maid, and two Indian women from Garcia's hacienda, whose specialties were
cooking and washing. In all thirty persons, a nomadic village.
At the first halt Sergeant Weber approached Thurstane with a timorous air,
saluted, and asked, "Leftenant, can we leafe our knabsacks in the vagons?
The gentleman has gifen us bermission."
"The men ought to learn to carry their knapsacks," said Thurstane. "They
will have to do it in serious service."
"It is drue, Leftenant," replied Weber, saluting again and moving off
without a sign of disappointment.
"Let that man come back here," called Aunt Maria, who had overheard the
dialogue. "Certainly they can put their loads in the wagons. I told Mr.
Coronado to tell them so."
Weber looked at her without moving a muscle, and without showing either
wonder or amusement. Thurstane could not help grinning good-naturedly as
he said, "I receive your orders, Mrs. Stanley. Weber, you can put the
knapsacks in the wagons."
Weber saluted anew, gave Mrs. Stanley a glance of gratitude, and went
about his pleasant business. An old soldier is not in general so strict a
disciplinarian as a young one.
"What a brute that Lieutenant is!" thought Aunt Maria. "Make those poor
fellows carry those monstrous packs? Nonsense and tyranny! How different
from Mr. Coronado! _He_ fairly jumped at my idea."
Thurstane stepped over to Coronado and said, "You are very kind to relieve
my men at the expense of your animals. I am much obliged to you."
"It is nothing," replied the Mexican, waving his hand graciously. "I am
delighted to be of service, and to show myself a good citizen."
In fact, he had been quite willing to favor the soldiers; why not, so long
as he could not get rid of them? If the Apaches would lance them all,
including Thurstane, he would rejoice; but while that could not be, he
might as well show himself civil and gain popularity. It was not
Coronado's style to bark when there was no chance of biting.
He was in serious thought the while. How should he rid himself of this
rival, this obstacle in the way of his well-laid plans, this interloper
into his caravan? Must he call upon Texas Smith to assassinate the fellow?
It was a disagreeably brutal solution of the difficulty, and moreover it
might lead to loud suspicion and scandal, and finally it might be
downright dangerous. There was such a thing as trial for murder and for
conspiracy to effect murder. As to causing a United States officer to
vanish quietly, as might perhaps be done with an ordinary American
emigrant, that was too good a thing to be hoped. He must wait; he must
have patience; he must trust to the future; perhaps some precipice would
favor him; perhaps the wild Indians. He offered his cigaritos to
Thurstane, and they smoked tranquilly in company.
"What route do you take from here?" asked the officer.
"Pass Washington, as you call it. Then the Moqui country. Then the San
"There is no possible road down the San Juan and the Colorado."
"If we find that to be so, we will sweep southward. I am, in a measure,
exploring. Garcia wants a route to Middle California."
"I also have a sort of exploring leave. I shall take the liberty to keep
along with you. It may be best for both."
The announcement sounded like a threat of surveillance, and Coronado's
dark cheek turned darker with angry blood. This stolid and intrusive brute
was absolutely demanding his own death. After saying, with a forced smile,
"You will be invaluable to us, Lieutenant," the Mexican lounged away to
where Texas Smith was examining his firearms, and whispered, "Well, will
you do it?"
"I ain't afeared of _him_," muttered the borderer. "It's his clothes. I
don't like to shute at jackets with them buttons. I mought git into big
trouble. The army is a big thing."
"Two hundred dollars," whispered Coronado.
"You said that befo'," croaked Texas. "Go it some better."
"Stranger," said Texas, after debating his chances, "it's a big thing. But
I'll do it for that."
Coronado walked away, hurried up his muleteers, exchanged a word with Mrs.
Stanley, and finally returned to Thurstane. His thin, dry, dusky fingers
trembled a little, but he looked his man steadily in the face, while he
tendered him another cigarito.
"Who is your hunter?" asked the officer. "I must say he is a devilish
"He is one of the best hunters Garcia ever had," replied the Mexican. "He
is one of your own people. You ought to like him."
Further journeying brought with it topographical adventures. The country
into which they were penetrating is one of the most remarkable in the
world for its physical peculiarities. Its scenery bears about the same
relation to the scenery of earth in general, that a skeleton's head or a
grotesque mask bears to the countenance of living humanity. In no other
portion of our planet is nature so unnatural, so fanciful and extravagant,
and seemingly the production of caprice, as on the great central plateau
of North America.
They had left far behind the fertile valley of the Rio Grande, and had