Part 6 out of 7
vigorous and more vivacious than usual. What supported her now and for
days afterward was what is called the strength of fever.
The return across the desert was even more terrible than the advance, for
the two scant water-holes had been nearly exhausted by the Apaches, so
that both beasts and human beings suffered horribly with thirst. There was
just this one good thing about the parched and famished wilderness, that
it relieved the emigrants from all fear of ambushing enemies. Supernatural
beings alone could have, bushwhacked here. The Apaches had gone.
Meanwhile Sergeant Meyer had a sore conscience. From the moment the boat
went down the San Juan he had more or less lain awake with the idea that,
according to the spirit of his instructions from Thurstane, he ought to
have Texas Smith tied up and shot. Orders were orders; there was no
question about that, as a general principle; the sergeant had never heard
the statement disputed. But when he came to consider the case now before
him, he was out-generalled by a doubt. This, drifting of a boat down a
strange river, was it murder in the sense intended by Thurstane? And,
supposing it to be murder, could it be charged in any way upon Smith? In
the whole course of his military experience Sergeant Meyer had never been
more perplexed. On the evening of the first day's march he could bear his
sense of responsibility no longer, and decided to call a council of war.
Beckoning his sole remaining comrade aside from the bivouac, he entered
"Kelly, we are unter insdructions," he began in his flute-like tone.
"I know it, sergeant," replied Kelly, decorously squirting his
tobacco-juice out of the corner of his mouth furthest from his superior.
"The question is, Kelly, whether Schmidt should pe shot."
"The responsibility lies upon you, sergeant. I will shoot him if so be
such is orders."
"Kelly, the insdructions were to shoot him if murder should habben in this
barty. The instructions were loose."
"They were so, sergeant--not defining murder."
"The question is, Kelly, whether what has habbened to the leftenant is
murder. If it is murder, then Schmidt must go."
The two men were sitting on a bowlder side by side, their hands on their
knees and their muskets leaning against their shoulders. They did not look
at each other at all, but kept their grave eyes on the ground. Kelly
squirted his tobacco-juice sidelong two or three times before he replied.
"Sergeant," he finally said, "my opinion is we can't set this down for
murder until we know somebody is dead."
"Shust so, Kelly. That is my obinion myself."
"Consequently it follows, sergeant, if you don't see to the contrary, that
until we know that to be a fact, it would be uncalled for to shoot Smith."
"What you zay, Kelly, is shust what I zay."
"Furthermore, however, sergeant, it might be right and is the way of duty,
to call up Smith and make him testify as to what he knows of this
business, whether it be murder, or meant for murder."
"Cock your beece, Kelly."
Both men cocked their pieces.
"Now I will gall Schmidt out and question him," continued Meyer, "You will
stand on one side and pe ready to opey my orders."
"Very good, sergeant," said Kelly, and dropped back a little into the
nearly complete darkness.
Meyer sang out sharply, "Schmidt! Texas Schmidt!"
The desperado heard the summons, hesitated a moment, cocked the revolver
in his belt, loosened his knife in its sheath, rose from his blanket, and
walked slowly in the direction of the voice. Passing Kelly without seeing
him, he confronted Meyer, his hand on his pistol. There was not the
slightest tremor in the hoarse, low croak with which he asked, "What's the
"Schmidt, stand berfectly still," said Meyer in his softest fluting.
"Kelly has his beece aimed at your head. If you stir hant or foot, you are
a kawn koose."
Texas Smith was too old a borderer to attempt to draw his weapons while
such a man as Kelly was sighting him at ten feet distance.
"Play yer hand, sergeant," he said; "you've got the keerds."
"You know, Schmidt, that our leftenant has been garried down the river,"
The bushwhacker responded with a grunt which expressed neither pleasure
nor sorrow, but merely assent.
"You know," went on the sergeant, "that such things cannot habben to
officers without investigations."
"He war a squar man, an' a white man," said Texas. "I didn't have nothin'
to do with cuttin' him loose, if he war cut loose."
"You didn't saw the lariat yourself, Schmidt, I know that. But do you know
who did saw it?"
"I dunno the first thing about it."
"Bray to pe struck tead if you do."
"I dunno how to pray."
"Then holt up your hants and gurse yourself to hell if you do."
Lifting his hands over his head, the ignorant savage blasphemed copiously.
"Do you think you can guess how it was pusted?" persisted the soldier.
"Look a hyer!" remonstrated Smith, "ain't you pannin' me out a leetle too
fine? It mought 'a' been this way, an' it mought 'a' been that. But I've
no business to point if I can't find. When a man's got to the bottom of
his pile, you can't fo'ce him to borrow. 'Sposin' I set you barkin' up the
wrong tree; what good's that gwine to do?"
"Vell, Schmidt, I don't zay but what you zay right. You mustn't zay
anyting you don't know someting apout."
After another silence, during which Texas continued to hold his hands
above his head, Meyer added, "Kelly, you may come to an order. Schmidt,
you may put down your hants. Will you haf a jew of topacco?"
The three men now approached each other, took alternate bites of the
sergeant's last plug of pigtail, and masticated amicably.
"You army fellers run me pootty close," said Texas, after a while, in a
tone of complaint and humiliation. "I don't want to fight brass buttons.
They're too many for me. The Capm he lassoed me, an' choked me some; an'
now you're on it."
"When things habben to officers, they must pe looked into," replied Meyer.
"I dunno how in thunder the lariat got busted," repeated Texas. "An' if I
should go for to guess, I mought guess wrong."
"All right, Schmidt; I pelieve you. If there is no more drubble, you will
not pe called up again."
"Ask him what he thinks of the leftenant's chances," suggested Kelly to
"Reckon he'll hev to run the river a spell," returned the borderer.
"Reckon he'll hev to run it a hell of a ways befo' he'll be able to git
across the dam country."
"Ask him what the chances be of running the river safely," added Kelly.
"Dam slim," answered Texas; and there the talk ended. There was some
meditative chewing, after which the three returned to the bivouac, and
either lay down to sleep or took their tours at guard duty.
At dawn the party recommenced its flight toward the Moqui country. There
were sixty hours more of hard riding, insufficient sleep, short rations,
thirst, and anxiety. Once the suffering animals stampeded after water, and
ran for several miles over plateaux of rock, dashing off burdens and
riders, and only halting when they were plunged knee-deep in the
water-hole which they had scented. One of the wounded rancheros expired on
the mule to which he was strapped, and was carried dead for several hours,
his ashy-brown face swinging to and fro, until Coronado had him thrown
into a crevice.
Amid these hardships and horrors Clara showed no sign of flagging or
flinching. She was very thin; bad food, excessive fatigue, and anxiety had
reduced her; her face was pinched, narrowed, and somewhat lined; her
expression was painfully set and eager. But she never asked for repose,
and never complained. Her mind was solely fixed upon finding Thurstane,
and her feverish bright eyes continually searched the horizon for him. She
seemed to have lost her power of sympathizing with any other creature. To
Mrs. Stanley's groanings and murmurings she vouchsafed rare and brief
condolences. The dead muleteer and the tortured, bellowing animals
attracted little of her notice. She was not hard-hearted; she was simply
almost insane. In this state of abnormal exaltation she continued until
the party reached the quiet and safety of the Moqui pueblos.
Then there was a change; exhausted nature required either apathy or death;
and for two days she lay in a sort of stupor, sleeping a great deal, and
crying often when awake. The only person capable of rousing her was
Sergeant Meyer, who made expeditions to the other pueblos for news of
Thurstane, and brought her news of his hopes and his failures.
After a three days' rest Coronado decided to resume his journey by moving
southward toward the Bernalillo trail. Freed from Thurstane, he no longer
contemplated losing Clara in the desert, but meant to marry her, and
trusted that he could do it. Two of his wagons he presented to the Moquis,
who were, of course, delighted with the acquisition, although they had no
more use for wheeled vehicles than for gunboats. With only four wagons,
his animals were more than sufficient, and the train made tolerably rapid
progress, in spite of the roughness of the country.
The land was still a wonder. The water wizards of old had done their
grotesque utmost here. What with sculpturing and frescoing, they had made
that most fantastic wilderness the Painted Desert. It looked like a
mirage. The travellers had an impression that here was some atmospheric
illusion. It seemed as if it could not last five minutes if the sun should
shine upon it. There were crowding hills so variegated and gay as to put
one in mind of masses of soap-bubbles. But the coloring was laid on
fifteen hundred feet deep. It consisted of sandstone marls, red, blue,
green, orange, purple, white, brown, lilac, and yellow, interstratified
with magnesian limestone in bands of purple, bluish-white, and mottled,
with here and there shining flecks or great glares of gypsum.
Among the more delicate wonders of the scene were the petrified trunks
which had once been pines and cedars, but which were now flint or jasper.
The washings of geologic aeons have exposed to view immense quantities of
these enchanted forests. Fragments of silicified trees are not only strewn
over the lowlands, but are piled by the hundred cords at the bases of
slopes, seeming like so much drift-wood from wonder-lands far up the
stream of time. Generally they are in short bits, broken square across the
grain, as if sawed. Some are jasper, and look like masses of red
sealing-wax; others are agate, or opalescent chalcedony, beautifully lined
and variegated; many retain the graining, layers, knots, and other details
of their woody structure.
In places where the marls had been washed away gently, the emigrants found
trunks complete, from root to summit, fifty feet in length and three in
diameter. All the branches, however, were gone; the tree had been
uprooted, transported, whirled and worn by deluges; then to commemorate
the victory of the water sprites, it had been changed into stone. The
sight of these remnants of antediluvian woodlands made history seem the
reminiscence of a child. They were already petrifactions when the human
race was born.
The Painted Desert has other marvels. Throughout vast stretches you pass
between tinted _mesas_, or tables, which face each other across flat
valleys like painted palaces across the streets of Genova la Superba. They
are giant splendors, hundreds of feet in height, built of blood-red
sandstone capped with variegated marls. The torrents, which scooped out
the intersecting levels, amused their monstrous leisure with carving the
points and abutments of the _mesa_ into fantastic forms, so that the
traveller sees towers, minarets, and spires loftier than the pinnacles of
The emigrants were often deceived by these freaks of nature. Beheld from a
distance, it seemed impossible that they should not be ruins, the
monuments of some Cyclopean race. Aunt Maria, in particular, discovered
casas grandes and casas de Montezuma very frequently.
"There is another casa," she would say, staring through her spectacles
(broken) at a butte three hundred feet high. "What a people it must have
been which raised such edifices!"
And she would stick to it, too, until she was close up to the solid rock,
and then would renew the transforming miracle five or ten miles further
During this long and marvellous journey Coronado renewed his courtship. He
was cautious, however; he made a confidant of his friend Aunt Maria;
begged her favorable intercession.
"Clara," said Mrs. Stanley, as the two women jolted along in one of the
lumbering wagons, "there is one thing in your life which perhaps you don't
The girl, who wanted to hear about Thurstane all the time, and expected to
hear about him, asked eagerly, "What is it?"
"You have made Mr. Coronado fall in love with you," said Aunt Maria,
thinking it wise to be clear and straightforward, as men are reputed to
The young lady, instantly revolting from the subject, made no reply.
"I think, Clara, that if you take a husband--and most women do--he would
be just the person for you."
Clara, once the gentlest of the gentle, was perfectly angelic no longer.
She gave her relative a stare which was partly intense misery, but which
had much the look of pure anger, as indeed it was in a measure.
The expressions of violent emotion are alarming to most people. Aunt
Maria, beholding this tortured soul glaring at her out of its prison
windows, recoiled in surprise and awe. There was not another word spoken
at the time concerning the obnoxious match-making. A single stare of
Marius had put to flight the executioner.
In one way and another Clara continued to baffle her suitor and her
advocate. The days dragged on; the expedition steadily traversed the
desert; the Santa Anna region was crossed, and the Bernalillo trail
reached; one hundred, two hundred, three hundred miles and more were left
behind; and still Coronado, though without a rival, was not accepted.
Then came an adventure which partly helped and partly hindered his plans.
The train was overtaken by a detachment of the Fifth United States
Cavalry, commanded by Major John Robinson, pushing for California. Of
course Sergeant Meyer reported himself and Kelly to the Major, and of
course the Major ordered them to join his party as far as Fort Yuma. This
deprived Clara of her trusted protectors; but on the other hand, she
threatened to take advantage of the escort of Robinson for the rest of her
journey; and the mere mention of this at once brought Coronado on his
soul's marrow-bones. He swore by the heaven above, by all the saints and
angels, by the throne of the Virgin Mary, by every sacred object he could
think of, that not another word of love should pass his lips during the
journey, that he would live the life of a dead man, etc. Overcome by his
pleadings, and by the remonstrances of Aunt Maria, who did not want to
have her favorite driven to commit suicide, Clara agreed to continue with
After this scene followed days of hot travelling over hard, gravelly
plains, thinly coated with grass and dotted with cacti, mezquit trees, the
leafless palo verde, and the greasewood bush. Here and there towered that
giant cactus, the saguarra, a fluted shaft, thirty, forty, and even sixty
feet high, with a coronet of richly-colored flowers, the whole fabric as
splendid as a Corinthian column. Prickly pears, each one large enough to
make a thicket, abounded. Through the scorching sunshine ran scorpions and
lizards, pursued by enormous rattlesnakes. During the days the heat ranged
from 100 to 115 deg. in the shade, while the nights were swept by winds as
parching as the breath of an oven. The distant mountains glared at the eye
like metals brought to a white heat. Not seldom they passed horses, mules,
cattle, and sheep, which had perished in this terrible transit and been
turned to mummies by the dry air and baking sun. Some of these carcasses,
having been set on their legs by passing travellers, stood upright,
staring with blind eyeballs, grinning through dried lips, mockeries of
life, statues of death.
In spite of these hardships and horrors, Clara kept up her courage and was
almost cheerful; for in the first place Coronado had ceased his terrifying
attentions, and in the second place they were nearing Cactus Pass, where
she hoped to meet Thurstane. When love has not a foot of certainty to
stand upon, it can take wing and soar through the incredible. The idea
that they two, divided hundreds of miles back, should come together at a
given point by pure accident, was obviously absurd. Yet Clara could trust
to the chance and live for it.
The scenery changed to mountains. There were barren, sublime, awful peaks
to the right and left. To the girl's eyes they were beautiful, for she
trusted that Thurstane beheld them. She was always on horseback now,
scanning every feature of the landscape, searching of course for him. She
did not pass a cactus, or a thicket of mezquit, or a bowlder without
anxious examination. She imagined herself finding him helpless with
hunger, or passing him unseen and leaving him to die. She was so pale and
thin with constant anxiety that you might have thought her half starved,
or recovering from some acute malady.
About five one afternoon, as the train was approaching its halting-place
at a spring on the western side of the pass, Clara's feverish mind fixed
on a group of rocks half a mile from the trail as the spot where she would
find Thurstane. In obedience to similar impressions she had already made
many expeditions of this nature. Constant failure, and a consciousness
that all this searching was folly, could not shake her wild hopes. She set
off at a canter alone; but after going some four hundred yards she heard a
gallop behind her, and, looking over her shoulder, she saw Coronado. She
did not want to be away from the train with him; but she must at all
hazards reach that group of rocks; something within impelled her. Better
mounted than she, he was soon by her side, and after a while struck out in
advance, saying, "I will look out for an ambush."
When Coronado reached the rocks he was fifty yards ahead of Clara. He made
the circuit of them at a slow canter; in so doing he discovered the
starving and fainted Thurstane lying in the high grass beneath a low shelf
of stone; he saw him, he recognized him, and in an instant he trembled
from head to foot. But such was his power of self-control that he did not
check his horse, nor cast a second look to see whether the man was alive
or dead. He turned the last stone in the group, met Clara with a forced
smile, and said gently, "There is nothing."
She reined up, drew a long sigh, thought that here was another foolish
hope crushed, and turned her horse's head toward the train.
The tread of Coronado's horse passing within fifteen feet of Thurstane
roused him from the troubled sleep into which he had sunk after his long
Slowly he opened his eyes, to see nothing but long grasses close to his
face, and through them a haze of mountains and sky. His first moments of
wakening were so far from being a full consciousness that he did not
comprehend where he was. He felt very, very weak, and he continued to lie
But presently he became aware of sounds; there was a trampling, and then
there were words; the voices of life summoned him to live. Instantly he
remembered two things: the starving comrades whom it was his duty to save,
and the loved girl whom he longed to find. Slowly and with effort,
grasping at the rock to aid his trembling knees, he rose to his feet just
as Clara turned her horse's head toward the plain.
Coronado threw a last anxious glance in the direction of the wretch whom
he meant to abandon to the desert. To his horror he saw a lean, smirched,
ghostly face looking at him in a dazed way, as if out of the blinding
shades of death. The quickness of this villain was so wonderful that one
is almost tempted to call it praiseworthy. He perceived at once that
Thurstane would be discovered, and that he, Coronado, must make the
discovery, or he might be charged with attempting to leave him to die.
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed loudly, "there he is!"
Clara turned: there was a scream of joy: she was on the ground, running:
she was in Thurstane's arms. During that unearthly moment there was no
thought in those two of Coronado, or of any being but each other. It is
impossible fully to describe such a meeting; its exterior signs are beyond
language; its emotion is a lifetime. If words are feeble in presence of
the heights and depths of the Colorado, they are impotent in presence of
the altitudes and abysses of great passion. Human speech has never yet
completely expressed human intellect, and it certainly never will
completely express human sentiments. These lovers, who had been wandering
in chasms impenetrable to hope, were all of a sudden on mountain summits
dizzy with joy. What could they say for themselves, or what can another
say for them?
Clara only uttered inarticulate murmurs, while her hands crawled up
Thurstane's arms, pressing and clutching him to make sure that he was
alive. There was an indescribable pathos in this eagerness which could not
trust to sight, but must touch also, as if she were blind. Thurstane held
her firmly, kissing hair, forehead, and temples, and whispering, "Clara!
Clara!" Her face, which had turned white at the first glimpse of him, was
now roseate all over and damp with a sweet dew. It became smirched with
the dust of his face; but she would only have rejoiced, had she known it;
his very squalor was precious to her.
At last she fell back from him, held him at arm's length with ease, and
stared at him. "Oh, how sick!" she gasped. "How thin! You are starving."
She ran to her horse, drew from her saddle-bags some remnants of food, and
brought them to him. He had sunk down faint upon a stone, and he was too
weak to speak aloud; but he gave her a smile of encouragement which was at
once pathetic and sublime. It said, "I can bear all alone; you must not
suffer for me." But it said this out of such visible exhaustion, that,
instead of being comforted, she was terrified.
"Oh, you must not die," she whispered with quivering mouth. "If you die, I
Then she checked her emotion and added, "There! Don't mind me. I am silly.
Meanwhile Coronado looked on with such a face as Iago might have worn had
he felt the jealousy of Othello. For the first time he positively knew
that the woman he loved was violently in love with another. He suffered so
horribly that we should be bound to pity him, only that he suffered after
the fashion of devils, his malignity equalling his agony. While he was in
such pain that his heart ceased beating, his fingers curled like snakes
around the handle of his revolver. Nothing kept him from shooting that
man, yes, and that woman also, but the certainty that the deed would make
him a fugitive for life, subject everywhere to the summons of the hangman.
Once, almost overcome by the temptation, he looked around for the train.
It was within hearing; he thought he saw Mrs. Stanley watching him; two of
his Mexicans were approaching at full speed. He dismounted, sat down upon
a stone, partially covered his face with his hand, and tried to bring
himself to look at the two lovers. At last, when he perceived that
Thurstane was eating and Clara merely kneeling by, he walked tremulously
toward them, scarcely conscious of his feet.
"Welcome to life, lieutenant," he said. "I did not wish to interrupt. Now
Thurstane looked at him steadily, seemed to hesitate for a moment, and
then put out his hand.
"It was I who discovered you," went on Coronado, as he took the lean,
grimy fingers in his buckskin gauntlet.
"I know it," mumbled the young fellow; then with a visible effort he
Presently the two Mexicans pulled up with loud exclamations of joy and
wonder. One of them took out of his haversack a quantity of provisions and
a flask of aguardiente; and Coronado handed them to Thurstane with a
smile, hoping that he would surfeit himself and die.
"No," said Clara, seizing the food. "You have eaten enough. You may
"Where are the others?" she presently asked.
"In the hills," he answered. "Starving. I must go and find them."
"No, no!" she cried. "You must go to the train. Some one else will look
One of the rancheros now dismounted and helped Thurstane into his saddle.
Then, the Mexican steadying him on one side and Clara riding near him on
the other, he was conducted to the train, which was at that moment going
into park near a thicket of willows.
In an amazingly short time he was very like himself. Healthy and plucky,
he had scarcely swallowed his food and brandy before he began to draw
strength from them; and he had scarcely begun to breathe freely before he
began to talk of his duties.
"I must go back," he insisted. "Glover and Sweeny are starving. I must
look them up."
"Certainly," answered Coronado.
"No!" protested Clara. "You are not strong enough."
"Of course not," chimed in Aunt Maria with real feeling, for she was
shocked by the youth's haggard and ghastly face.
"Who else can find them?" he argued. "I shall want two spare animals.
Glover can't march, and I doubt whether Sweeny can."
"You shall have all you need," declared Coronado.
"He mustn't go," cried Clara. Then, seeing in his face that he _would_ go,
she added, "I will go with him."
"No, no," answered several voices. "You would only be in the way."
"Give me my horse," continued Thurstane. "Where are Meyer and Kelly?"
He was told how they had gone on to Fort Yuma with Major Robinson, taking
his horse, the government mules, stores, etc.
"Ah! unfortunate," he said. "However, that was right. Well, give me a mule
for myself, two mounted muleteers, and two spare animals; some provisions
also, and a flask of brandy. Let me start as soon as the men and beasts
have eaten. It is forty miles there and back."
"But you can't find your way in the night," persisted Clara.
"There is a moon," answered Thurstane, looking at her gratefully; while
Coronado added encouragingly, "Twenty miles are easily done."
"Oh yes!" hoped Clara. "You can almost get there before dark. Do start at
But Coronado did not mean that Thurstane should set out immediately. He
dropped various obstacles in the way: for instance, the animals and men
must be thoroughly refreshed; in short, it was dusk before all was ready.
Meantime Clara had found an opportunity of whispering to Thurstane.
"_Must_ you?" And he had answered, looking at her as the Huguenot looks at
his wife in Millais's picture, "My dear love, you know that I must."
"You _will_ be careful of yourself?" she begged. "For your sake."
"But remember that man," she whispered, looking about for Texas Smith.
"He is not going. Come, my own darling, don't frighten yourself. Think of
my poor comrades."
"I will pray for them and for you all the time you are gone. But oh,
Ralph, there is one thing. I must tell you. I am so afraid. I did wrong to
let Coronado see how much I care for you. I am afraid--"
He seemed to understand her. "It isn't possible," he murmured. Then, after
eyeing her gravely for a moment, he asked, "I may be always sure of you?
Oh yes! I knew it. But Coronado? Well, it isn't possible that he would try
to commit a treble murder. Nobody abandons starving men in a desert. Well,
I must go. I must save these men. After that we will think of these other
things. Good-by, my darling."
The sultry glow of sunset had died out of the west, and the radiance of a
full moon was climbing up the heavens in the east when Thurstane set off
on his pilgrimage of mercy. Clara watched him as long as the twilight
would let her see him, and then sat down with drooped face, like a flower
which has lost the sun. If any one spoke to her, she answered tardily and
not always to the purpose. She was fulfilling her promise; she was praying
for Thurstane and the men whom he had gone to save; that is, she was
praying when her mind did not wander into reveries of terror. After a time
she started up with the thought, "Where is Texas Smith?" He was not
visible, and neither was Coronado. Suspicious of some evil intrigue, she
set out in search of them, made the circuit of the fires, and then
wandered into the willow thickets. Amid the underwood, hastening toward
the wagons, she met Coronado.
"Ah!" he started. "Is that you, my little cousin? You are as terrible in
the dark as an Apache."
"Coronado, where is your hunter?" she asked with a beating heart.
"I don't know. I have been looking for him. My dear cousin, what do you
"Coronado, I will tell you the truth. That man is a murderer. I know it."
Coronado just took the time to draw one long breath, and then replied with
sublime effrontery, "I fear so. I learn that he has told horrible stories
about himself. Well, to tell the truth, I have discharged him."
"Oh, Coronado!" gasped Clara, not knowing whether to believe him or not.
"Shall I confess to you," he continued, "that I suspect him of having
weakened that towline so as to send our friend down the San Juan?"
"He never went near the boat," heroically answered Clara, at the same time
wishing she could see Coronado's face.
"Of course not. He probably hired some one. I fear our rancheros are none
too good to be bribed. I will confess to you, my cousin, that ever since
that day I have been watching Smith."
"Oh, Coronado!" repeated Clara. She was beginning to believe this
prodigious liar, and to be all the more alarmed because she did believe
him. "So you have sent him away? I am so glad. Oh, Coronado, I thank you.
But help me look for him now. I want to know if he is in camp."
It is almost impossible to do Coronado justice. While he was pretending to
aid Clara in searching for Texas Smith, he knew that the man had gone out
to murder Thurstane. We must remember that the man was almost as wretched
as he was wicked; if punishment makes amends for crime, his was in part
absolved. As he walked about with the girl he thought over and over, Will
it kill her? He tried to answer, No. Another voice persisted in saying,
Yes. In his desperation he at last replied, Let it!
We must follow Texas Smith. He had not started on his errand until he had
received five hundred dollars in gold, and five hundred in a draft on San
Francisco. Then he had himself proposed, "I mought quit the train, an'
take my own resk acrost the plains." This being agreed to, he had mounted
his horse, slipped away through the willows, and ridden into the desert
He knew the trail; he had been from Cactus Pass to Diamond River and back
again; he knew it at least as well as the man whose life he was tracking.
He thought he remembered the spring where Glover had broken down, and felt
pretty sure that it could not be less than twenty miles from the camp.
Mounted as he was, he could put himself ahead of Thurstane and ambush him
in some ravine. Of a sudden he laughed. It was not a burst of merriment,
but a grim wrinkling of his dark, haggard cheeks, followed by a hissing
chuckle. Texas seldom laughed, and with good reason, for it was enough to
"Mought be done," he muttered. "Mought git the better of 'em all that way.
Shute, 'an then yell. The greasers'ud think it was Injuns, an' they'd
travel for camp. Then I'd stop the spare mules an' start for Californy."
For Texas this plan was a stroke of inspiration. He was not an intelligent
scoundrel. All his acumen, though bent to the one point of roguery, had
barely sufficed hitherto to commit murders and escape hanging. He had
never prospered financially, because he lacked financial ability. He was a
beast, with all a tiger's ferocity, but with hardly more than a tiger's
intelligence. He was a savage numskull. An Apache Tonto would have been
more than his match in the arts of murder, and very nearly his match in
the arts of civilization.
Instead of following Thurstane directly, he made a circuit of several
miles through a ravine, galloped across a wide grassy plain, and pulled up
among some rounded hillocks. Here, as he calculated, he was fifteen miles
from camp, and five from the spot where lay Glover and Sweeny. The moon
had already gone down and left the desert to the starlight. Posting
himself behind a thicket, he waited for half an hour or more, listening
with indefatigable attention.
He had no scruples, but he had some fears. If he should miss, the
lieutenant would fire back, and he was cool enough to fire with effect.
Well, he wouldn't miss; what should he miss for? As for the greasers, they
would run at the first shot. Nevertheless, he did occasionally muddle over
the idea of going off to California with his gold, and without doing this
particular job. What kept him to his agreement was the hope of stealing
the spare mules, and the fear that the draft might not be paid if he
shirked his work.
"I s'pose I must show his skelp," thought Texas, "or they won't hand over
At last there was a sound; he had set his ambush just right; there were
voices in the distance; then hoofs in the grass. Next he saw something; it
was a man on a mule; yes, and it was the right man.
He raised his cocked rifle and aimed, sighting the head, three rods away.
Suddenly his horse whinnied, and then the mule of the other reared; but
the bullet had already sped. Down went Thurstane in the darkness, while,
with an Apache yell, Texas Smith burst from his ambush and charged upon
The chase after the spare mules carried Texas Smith several miles from the
scene of the ambush, so that when he at last caught the frightened beasts,
he decided not to go back and cut Thurstane's throat, but to set off at
once westward and put himself by morning well on the road to California.
Meanwhile, the two muleteers continued their flight at full gallop, and
eventually plunged into camp with a breathless story to the effect that
Apaches had attacked them, captured the spare mules, and killed the
lieutenant. Coronado, no more able to sleep than Satan, was the first to
hear their tale.
"Apaches!" he said, surprised and incredulous. Then, guessing at what had
happened, he immediately added, "Those devils again! We must push on, the
moment we can see."
Apaches! It was a capital idea. He had an excuse now for hurrying away
from a spot which he had stained with murder. If any one demanded that
Thurstane's body should be sought for, or that those incumbrances Glover
and Sweeny should be rescued, he could respond, Apaches! Apaches! He gave
orders to commence preparations for moving at the first dawn.
He expected and feared that Clara would oppose the advance in some trying
way. But one of the fugitives relieved him by blurting out the death of
Thurstane, and sending her into spasms of alternate hysterics and fainting
which lasted for hours. Lying in a wagon, her head in the lap of Mrs.
Stanley, a sick, very sick, dangerously sick girl, she was jolted along as
easily as a corpse.
Coronado rode almost constantly beside her wagon, inquiring about her
every few minutes, his face changing with contradictory emotions, wishing
she would die and hoping she would live, loving and hating her in the same
breath. Whenever she came to herself and recognized him, she put out her
hands and implored, "Oh, Coronado, take me back there!"
"Apaches!" growled Coronado, and spurred away repeating his lie to
himself, "Apaches! Apaches!"
Then he checked his horse and rode anew to her side, hoping that he might
be able to reason with her.
"Oh, take me back!" was all the response he could obtain. "Take me back
and let me die there."
"Would you have us all die?" he shouted--"like Pepita!"
"Don't scold her," begged Aunt Maria, who was sobbing like a child. "She
doesn't know what she is asking."
But Clara knew too much; at the word _Pepita_ she guessed the torture
scene; and then it came into her mind that Thurstane might be even now at
the stake. She immediately broke into screams, which ended in convulsions
and a long fit of insensibility.
"It is killing her," wailed Aunt Maria. "Oh, my child! my child!"
Coronado spurred at full speed for a mile, muttering to the desert, "Let
it kill her! let it!"
At last he halted for the train to overtake him, glanced anxiously at
Clara's wagon, saw that Mrs. Stanley was still bending over her, guessed
that she was still alive, drew a sigh of relief, and rode on alone.
"Oh, this love-making!" sighed Aunt Maria scores of times, for she had at
last learned of the engagement. "When will my sex get over the weakness?
It kills them, and they like it."
That night Clara could not sleep, and kept Coronado awake with her
moanings. All the next day she lay in a semi-unconsciousness which was
partly lethargy and partly fever. It was well; at all events he could bear
it so--bear it better than when she was crying and praying for death. The
next night she fell into such a long silence of slumber that he came
repeatedly to her wagon to hearken if she still breathed. Youth and a
strong constitution were waging a doubtful battle to rescue her from the
despair which threatened to rob her of either life or reason.
So the journey continued. Henceforward the trail followed Bill Williams's
river to the Colorado, tracked that stream northward to the Mohave valley,
and, crossing there, took the line of the Mohave river toward California.
It was a prodigious pilgrimage still, and far from being a safe one. The
Mohaves, one of the tallest and bravest races known, from six feet to six
and a half in height, fighting hand to hand with short clubs, were not
perfectly sure to be friendly. Coronado felt that, if ever he got his wife
and his fortune, he should have earned them. He was resolute, however;
there was no flinching yet in this versatile, yet obstinate nature; he was
as wicked and as enduring as a Pizarro.
We will not make the journey; we must suppose it. Weeks after the desert
had for a second time engulfed Thurstane, a coasting schooner from Santa
Barbara entered the Bay of San Francisco, having on board Clara, Mrs.
Stanley, and Coronado.
The latter is on deck now, smoking his eternal cigarito without knowing
it, and looking at the superb scenery without seeing it. A landscape
mirrored in the eye of a horse has about as much effect on the brain
within as a landscape mirrored in the eye of Coronado. He is a Latin; he
has a fine ear for music, and he would delight in museums of painting and
sculpture; but he has none of the passion of the sad, grave, imaginative
Anglican race for nature. Mountains, deserts, seas, and storms are to him
obstacles and hardships. He has no more taste for them than had Ulysses.
He has agonized with sea-sickness during the voyage, and this is the first
day that he has found tolerable. Once more he is able to eat and stand up;
able to think, devise, resolve, and execute; able, in short, to be
Coronado. Look at the little, sunburnt, sinewy, earnest, enduring man;
study his diplomatic countenance, serious and yet courteous, full of
gravity and yet ready for gayety; notice his ready smile and gracious wave
of the hand as he salutes the skipper. He has been through horrors; he has
fought a tremendous fight of passion, crime, and peril; yet he scarcely
shows a sign of it. There is some such lasting stuff in him as goes to
make the Bolivars, Francias, and Lopez, the restless and indefatigable
agitators of the Spanish-American communities. You cannot help
sympathizing with him somewhat, because of his energy and bottom. You are
tempted to say that he deserves to win.
He has made some progress in his conspiracy to entrap love and a fortune.
It must be understood that the two muleteers persisted in their story
concerning Apaches, and that consequently Clara has come to think of
Thurstane as dead. Meantime Coronado, after the first two days of wild
excitement, has conducted himself with rare intelligence, never alarming
her with talk of love, always courteous, kind, and useful. Little by
little he has worn away her suspicions that he planned murder, and her
only remaining anger against him is because he did not attempt to search
for Thurstane; but even for that she is obliged to see some excuse in the
terrible word "Apaches."
"I have had no thought but for _her_ safety," Coronado often said to Mrs.
Stanley, who as often repeated the words to Clara. "I have made mistakes,"
he would go on. "The San Juan journey was one. I will not even plead
Garcia's instructions to excuse it. But our circumstances have been
terrible. Who could always take the right step amid such trials? All I ask
is charity. If humility deserves mercy, I deserve it."
Coronado even schooled himself into expressing sympathy with Clara for the
loss of Thurstane. He spoke of him as her affianced, eulogized his
character, admitted that he had not formerly done him justice, hinting
that this blindness had sprung from jealousy, and so alluded to his own
affection. These things he said at first to Aunt Maria, and she, his
steady partisan, repeated them to Clara, until at last the girl could bear
to hear them from Coronado. Sympathy! the bleeding heart must have it; it
will accept this balm from almost any hand, and it will pay for it in
gratitude and trust.
Thus in two months from the disappearance of Thurstane his rival had begun
to hope that he was supplanting him. Of course he had given up all thought
of carrying out the horrible plan with which he had started from Santa Fe.
Indeed, he began to have a horror of Garcia, as a man who had set him on a
wrong track and nearly brought him into folly and ruin. One might say that
Satan was in a state of mind to rebuke sin.
Let us now glance at Clara. She is seated beside Aunt Maria on the
quarter-deck of the schooner. Her troubles have changed her; only eighteen
years old, she has the air of twenty-four; her once rounded face is thin,
and her childlike sweetness has become tender gravity. When she entered on
this journey she resembled the girl faces of Greuze; now she is sometimes
a _mater amabilis_, and sometimes a _mater dolorosa_; for her grief has
been to her as a maternity. The great change, so far from diminishing her
beauty, has made her seem more fascinating and nobler. Her countenance has
had a new birth, and exhibits a more perfect soul.
We have hitherto had little more than a superficial view of the characters
of our people. Events, incidents, adventures, and even landscapes have
been the leading personages of the story, and have been to its human
individualities what the Olympian gods are to Greek and Trojan heroes in
the Iliad. Just as Jove or Neptune rules or thwarts Agamemnon and
Achilles, so the monstrous circumstances of the desert have overborne,
dwarfed, and blurred these travellers. It is only now, when they have
escaped from the _dii majores_, and have become for a brief period
tranquil free agents, that we can see them as they are. Even yet they are
not altogether untrammelled. Man is never quite himself; he is always
under some external influence, past or present; he is always being
governed, if not being created.
Clara, born anew of trouble, is admirable. There is a sweet, sedate, and
almost solemn womanliness about her, which even overawes Mrs. Stanley,
conscious of aunthood and strongmindedness, and insisting upon it that her
niece is "a mere child." It is a great victory to gain over a lady who has
that sort of self-confidence that if she had been a sunflower and obliged
to turn toward the sun for life, she would yet have believed that it was
she who made him shine. When Clara decides a matter Mrs. Stanley, while
still mentally saying "Young thing," feels nevertheless that her own
decision has been uttered. And in every successive resistance she is
overcome the easier, for habit is a conqueror.
They have just had a discussion. Aunt Maria wants Clara to stand on her
dignity in a hotel until old Munoz goes down on his marrow-bones, makes
her a handsome allowance, and agrees to leave her at least half his
fortune. Clara's reply is substantially, "He is my grandfather and the
proper head of my family. I think I ought to go straight to him and say,
Grandfather, here I am."
Beaten by this gentle conscientiousness, Aunt Maria endeavored to appeal
the matter to Coronado.
"I am so glad to see you enjoying your cigarito once more," she called to
him with as sweet a smile as if she didn't hate tobacco.
He left his smoking retreat amidships, took off his hat with a sort of
airy gravity, and approached them.
"Mr. Coronado, where do you propose to take us when we reach land?" asked
"We will, if you please, go direct to my excellent relative's," was the
Aunt Maria held her head straight up, as if stiff-neckedly refusing to go
there, but made no opposition.
Coronado had meditated everything and decided everything. It would not do
to go to a hotel, because that might lead to a suspicion that he knew all
the while about the death of Munoz. His plan was to drive at once to the
old man's place, demand him as if he expected to see him, express proper
surprise and grief over the funereal response, put the estate as soon as
possible into Clara's hands, become her man of affairs and trusted friend,
and so climb to be her husband. He was anxious; during all his perils in
the desert he had never been more so; but he bore the situation
heroically, as he could bear; his face revealed nothing but its outside--a
"My dear cousin," he presently said, "when I once fairly set you down in
your home, you will owe me, in spite of all my blunders, a word of
"Coronado, I shall owe you more than I ever can repay," she replied
frankly, without remembering that he wanted to marry her. The next instant
she remembered it, and her face showed the first blush that had tinted it
for two months. He saw the significant color, and turned away to conceal a
joy which might have been perilous had she observed it.
Immediately on landing he proceeded to carry out his programme. He took a
hack, drove the ladies direct to the house of Munoz, and there went
decorously through the form of learning that the old man was dead. Then,
consoling the sorrowful and anxious Clara, he hurried to the best hotel in
the city and made arrangements for what he meant should be an impressive
scene, the announcement of her fortune. He secured fine rooms for the
ladies, and ordered them a handsome lunch, with wine, etc., all without
regard to expense. The girl must be perfectly comfortable and under a
sense of all sorts of obligations to him when she received his _coup de
He was not so preoccupied but that he quarelled with his coachman about
the hack hire and dismissed him with some disagreeable epithets in
Spanish. Next he took a saddle-horse, as being the cheapest conveyance
attainable, and cantered off to find the executors of Munoz, enjoying
heartily such stares of admiration as he got for his splendid riding. In
an hour he returned, found the ladies in their freshest dresses, and
complimented them suitably. At this very moment his anguish of anxiety and
suspense was terrible. When Clara should learn that she was a millionaire,
what would she do? Would she throw off the air of friendliness which she
had lately worn, and scout him as one whom she had long known as a
scoundrel? Would all his plots, his labors, his perils, and his love prove
in one moment to have been in vain? As he stood there smiling and
flattering, he was on the cross.
"But I am talking trifles," he said at last, fairly catching his breath.
"Can you guess why I do it? I am prolonging a moment of intense pleasure."
Such was his control over himself that he looked really benign and noble
as he drew from his pocket a copy of the will and held it out toward
"My dear cousin," he murmured, his dark eyes searching her face with
intense anxiety, "you cannot imagine my joy in announcing to you that you
are the sole heir of the good Pedro Munoz."
At the announcement that she was a millionaire Clara turned pale, took the
proffered paper mechanically with trembling fingers, and then, without
looking at it, said, "Oh, Coronado!"
It was a tone of astonishment, of perplexity, of regret, of protest; it
seemed to declare, Here is a terrible injustice, and I will none of it.
Coronado was delighted; in a breath he recovered all his presence of mind;
he recovered his voice, too, and spoke out cheerfully:
"Ah, you are surprised, my cousin. Well, it is your grandfather's will.
You, as well as all others, must submit to it."
Aunt Maria jumped up and walked or rather pranced about the room, saying
loudly, "He must have been the best man in the whole world." After
repeating this two or three times, she halted and added with even more
emphasis, "Except _you_, Mr. Coronado!"
The Mexican bowed in silence; it was almost too much to be praised in that
way, feeling as he did; he bowed twice and waved his hand, deprecating the
compliment. The interview was a very painful one to him, although he knew
that he was gaining admiration with every breath that he drew, and
admiration just where it was absolutely necessary to him. Turning to Clara
now, he begged, "Read it, if you please, my cousin."
The girl, by this time flushed from chin to forehead, glanced over the
paper, and immediately said, "This should not be so. It must not be."
Coronado was overjoyed; she evidently thought that she owed him and Garcia
a part of this fortune; even if she kept it, she would feel bound to
consider his interests, and the result of her conscientiousness might be
"Let us have no contest with the dead," he replied grandly. "Their wishes
"But Garcia and you are wronged, and I cannot have it so," persisted
"How wronged?" demanded Aunt Maria. "I don't see it. Mr. Garcia was only a
cousin, and he is rich enough already."
Coronado, remembering that he and Garcia were bankrupt, wished he could
throw the old lady out of a window.
"Wait," said Clara in a tone of vehement resolution. "Give me time. You
shall see that I am not unjust or ungrateful."
"I beg that you will not bestow a thought upon me," implored the sublime
hypocrite. "Garcia, it is true, may have had claims. I have none."
Aunt Maria walked up to him, squeezed both his hands, and came near
hugging him. Once out of this trial, Coronado could bear no more, but
kissed his fingers to the ladies, hastened to his own room, locked the
door, and swore all the oaths that there are in Spanish, which is no small
In a few days after this terrible interview things were going swimmingly
well with him. To keep Clara out of the hands of fortune-hunters, but
ostensibly to enable her to pass her first mourning in decent retirement,
he had induced her to settle in one of Munoz's haciendas, a few miles from
the city, where he of course had her much to himself. He was her adviser;
he was closeted frequently with the executors; he foresaw the time when he
would be the sole manager of the estate; he began to trust that he would
some day possess it. What woman could help leaning upon and confiding in a
man who was so useful, so necessary as Coronado, and who had shown such
unselfish, such magnanimous sentiments?
Meantime the girl was as admirable in reality as the man was in
appearance. Unexpected inheritance of large wealth is almost sure to
alter, at least for a time, and generally for the worse, the manner and
morale of a young person, whether male or female. Conceit or haughtiness
or extravagance or greediness, or some other vice, pretty surely enters
into either deportment or conduct. If this girl was changed at all by her
great good fortune, she was changed for the better. She had never been
more modest, gentle, affable, and sensible than she was now. The fact
shows a clearness of mind and a nobleness of heart which place her very
high among the wise and good. Such behavior under such circumstances is
equal to heroism. We are conscious that in saying these things of Clara we
are drawing largely upon the reader's faith. But either her present trial
of character was peculiarly fitted to her, or she was one of those select
spirits who are purified by temptation.
She remembered Garcia's claims upon her grandfather, and her own supposed
obligations to Coronado. She informed the executors that she wished to
make over half her property to the old man, trusteeing it so that it
should descend to his nephew. Their reply, translated from roundabout and
complimentary Spanish into plain English, was this: "You can't do it. The
estate is not settled, and will not be for a year. Moreover, you have no
power to part with it until you are of age, which will not be for three
years. Finally, your proposition defies your grandfather's wishes, and it
is altogether too generous."
Clara's simple and firm reply was, "Well, I must wait. But it would seem
better if I could do it now."
There was one reason why Clara should be so calm and unselfish in her
elevation; her sorrows served her as ballast. Why should she let riches
turn her head when she found that they could not lighten her heart? There
was a certain night in her past which gold could not illuminate; there had
once been a precious life near her, which was gone now beyond the power of
ransom. Thurstane! How she would have lavished this wealth upon him. He
would have refused it; but she would have prayed and forced him to accept
it; she would have been the meeker to him because of it. How noble he had
been! not now to be brought back! gone forever! And his going had been
like the going away of the sun, leaving no beautiful color in all nature,
no guiding light for wandering footsteps. She exaggerated him, as love
will exaggerate the lost.
Of course she did not always believe that he could be dead, and in her
hours of hope she wrote letters inquiring about his fate. In other days he
had told her much of himself, stories of his childhood and his battles,
the number of his old regiment and his new one, titles of his superiors,
names of comrades, etc. To which among all these unknown ones should she
address herself? She fixed on the commander of his present regiment, and
that awfully mysterious personage the Adjutant-General of the army, a
title which seemed to represent omniscience and omnipotence. To each of
these gentlemen she sent an epistle recounting where, when, and how
Lieutenant Ralph Thurstane had been ambushed by unknown Indians, supposed
to be Apaches.
These letters she wrote and mailed without the knowledge of Coronado. This
was not caution, but pity; she did not suspect that he would try to
intercept them; only that it would pain him to learn how much she yet
thought of his rival. Indeed, it would have been cruel to show them to
him, for he would have seen that they were blurred with tears. You
perceive that she had come to be tender of the feelings of this earnest
and scoundrelly lover, believing in his sincerity and not in his villainy.
"Surely some of those people will know," thought Clara, with a trust in
men and dignitaries which makes one say _sancta simplicitas_. "If they do
not know," she added, with a prayer in her heart, "God will discover it to
But no answers came for months. The colonel was not with his regiment, but
on detached service at New York, whither Clara's letter travelled to find
him, being addressed to his name and not marked "Official business." What
he did of course was to forward it to the Adjutant-General of the army at
Washington. The Adjutant-General successively filed both communications,
and sent a copy of each to headquarters at Santa Fe and San Francisco,
with an endorsement advising inquiries and suitable search. The mails were
slow and circuitous, and the official routine was also slow and
circuitous, so that it was long before headquarters got the papers and
went to work.
Does any one marvel that Clara did not go directly to the military
authorities in the city? It must be remembered that man has his own world,
as woman has hers, and that each sex is very ignorant of the spheres and
missions of the other, the retired sex being especially limited in its
information. The girl had never been told that there was such a thing as
district headquarters, or that soldiers in San Francisco had anything to
do with soldiers at Fort Yuma. Nor was she in the way of learning such
facts, being miles away from a uniform, and even from an American.
One day, when she was fuller of hope than usual, she dared to write to
that ghost, Thurstane. Where should the letter be addressed? It cost her
much reflection to decide that it ought to go to the station of his
company, Fort Yuma. This gave her an idea, and she at once penned two
other letters, one directed "To the Captain of Company I," and one to
Sergeant Meyer. But unfortunately those three epistles were not sent off
before it occurred to Coronado that he ought to overlook the packages that
were sent from the hacienda to the city. By the way, he had from the first
assumed a secret censorship over the mails which arrived.
Meantime he also had his anxiety and his correspondence. He feared lest
Garcia should learn how things had been managed, and should hasten to San
Francisco to act henceforward as his own special providence. In that case
there would be awkward explanations, there would be complicated and
perilous plottings, there might be stabbings or poisonings. Already, as
soon as he reached the Mohave valley, he had written one cajoling letter
to his uncle. Scattered through six pages on various affairs were
underscored phrases and words, which, taken in sequence, read as follows:
"Things have gone well and ill. What was most desirable has not been fully
accomplished. There have been perils and deaths, but not the one required.
The wisest plans have been foiled by unforeseen circumstances. The future
rests upon slow poison. A few weeks more will suffice. Do not come here.
It would rouse suspicion. Trust all to me."
He now sent other letters, reporting the progress of the malady caused by
the poison, urging Garcia to remain at a distance, assuring him that all
would be well, etc.
"There will be no will," declared one of these lying messengers. "If there
is a will, you will be the inheritor. In all events, you will be safe.
Rely upon my judgment and fidelity."
It is curious, by the way, that such men as Coronado and Garcia, knowing
themselves and each other to be liars, should nevertheless expect to be
believed, and should frequently believe each other. One is inclined to
admit the seeming paradox that rogues are more easily imposed upon than
No responses came from Garcia. But, by way of consolation, Coronado had
Clara's correspondence to read. One day this hidalgo, securely locked in
his room, held in his delicate dark fingers a letter addressed to Miss
Clara Van Diemen, and postmarked in writing "Fort Yuma." Hot as the day
was, there was a brazier by his side, and a kettle of water bubbling on
the coals. He held the letter in the steam, softened the wafer to a pulp,
opened the envelope carefully, threw himself on a sofa, scowled at the
beating of his heart, and began to read.
Before he had glanced through the first line he uttered an exclamation,
turned hastily to the signature, and then burst into a stream of whispered
curses. After he had blasphemed himself into a certain degree of calmness,
he read the letter twice through carefully, and learned it by heart. Then
he thrust it deep into the coals of the brazier, watched it steadily until
its slight flame had flickered away, lighted a cigarito, and meditated.
This epistle was not the only one that troubled him. He already knew that
Clara was inquiring about this man of whom she never spoke, and conducting
her inquiries with an intelligence and energy which showed that her heart
was in the business. If things went on so, there might be trouble some
day, and there might be punishment. For a time he was so disturbed that he
felt somewhat as if he had a conscience, and might yet know what it is to
be haunted by remorse.
As for Clara, he was furious with her, notwithstanding his love for her,
and indeed because of it. It was outrageous that a woman whom he adored
should seek to ferret out facts which might send him to State's Prison. It
was abominable that she would not cease to care for that stupid officer
after he had been so carefully put out of her way. Coronado felt that he
Well, what should be done? He must put a stop to Clara's inquiries, and he
would do it by inquiring himself. Yes, he would write to people about
Thurstane, show the letters to the girl (but never send them), and so
gradually get this sort of correspondence into his own hands, when he
would drop it. She would be led thereby to trust him the more, to be
grateful to him, perhaps to love him. It was a hateful mode of carrying on
a courtship, but it seemed to be the best that he had in his power. Having
so decided, this master hypocrite, "full of all subtlety and wiles of the
devil," turned his attention to his siesta.
For twenty minutes he slept the sleep of the just; then he was awakened by
a timid knock at his door. Guessing from the shyness of the demand for
entrance that it came from a servant, he called pettishly, "What do you
want? Go away."
"I must see you," answered a voice which, feeble and indistinct as it was,
took Coronado to the door in an instant, trembling in every nerve with
rage and alarm.
Opening the door softly and with tremulous fingers, Coronado looked out
upon an old gray-headed man, short and paunchy in build, with small,
tottering, uneasy legs, skin mottled like that of a toad, cheeks drooping
and shaking, chin retiring, nose bulbous, one eye a black hollow, the
other filmy and yet shining, expression both dull and cunning, both eager
The uncle seemed to be even more agitated at the sight of the nephew than
the nephew at the sight of the uncle. For an instant each stared at the
other with a strange expression of anxiety and mistrust. Then Coronado
spoke. The words which he had in his heart were, What are you here for,
you scoundrelly old marplot? The words which he actually uttered were, "My
dear uncle, my benefactor, my more than parent! How delighted I am to see
you! Welcome, welcome!"
The two men grasped each other's arms, and stuck their heads over each
other's shoulders in a pretence of embracing. Perhaps there never was
anything of the kind more curious than the contrast between their
affectionate attitude and the suspicion and aversion painted on their
"Have you been seen?" asked Coronado as soon as he had closed and locked
the door. "I must contrive to get you away unperceived. Why have you come?
My dear uncle, it was the height of imprudence. It will expose you to
suspicion. Did you not get my letters?"
"Only one," answered Garcia, looking both frightened and obstinate, as if
he were afraid to stay and yet determined not to go. "One from the Mohave
"But I urged you in that to remain at a distance, until all had been
"I know, my son, I know. I thought like you at first. But presently I
"Not suspicious of my good faith!" exclaimed Coronado in a horrified
whisper. "Oh, _that_ is surely impossible."
"No, no--not suspicious--no, no, my son," chattered Garcia eagerly. "But I
began to fear that you needed my help. Things seemed to move so slowly.
Madre de Dios! All across the continent, and nothing done yet."
"Yes, much has been done. I had obstacles. I had people to get rid of.
There was a person who undertook to be lover and protector."
"Is he gone?" inquired the old man anxiously.
"Ask no questions. The less told, the better. I wish to spare you all
"Carlos, you are my son and heir. You deserve everything that I can give.
All shall be yours, my son."
"That Texas Smith of yours is a humbug," broke out Coronado, his mind
reverting to the letter which he had just burned. "I put work on him which
he swore to do and did not do. He is a coward and a traitor."
"Oh, the pig! Did you pay him?"
"I had to pay him in advance--and then nothing done right," confessed
"Oh, the pig, the dog, the toad, the villainous toad, the pig of hell!"
chattered Garcia in a rage. "How much did you pay him? Five hundred
dollars! Oh, the pig and the dog and the toad!"
"Well, I have been frank with you," said Coronado. (He had diminished by
one half the sum paid to Texas Smith.) "I will continue to be frank. You
must not stay here. The question is how to get you away unseen."
"It is useless; I have been recognized," lied Garcia, who was determined
not to go.
"All is lost!" exclaimed Coronado. "The presence of us two--both possible
heirs--will rouse suspicion. Nothing can be done."
But no intimidations could move the old man; he was resolved to stay and
oversee matters personally; perhaps he suspected Coronado's plan of
"No, my son," he declared. "I know better than you. I am older and know
the world better. Let me stay and take care of this. What if I am
suspected and denounced and hung? The property will be yours."
"My more than father!" cried Coronado. "You shall never sacrifice yourself
for me. God forbid that I should permit such an infamy!"
"Let the old perish for the young!" returned Garcia, in a tone of meek
obstinacy which settled the controversy.
It was a wonderful scene; it was prodigious acting. Each of these men,
while endeavoring to circumvent the other, was making believe offer his
life as a sacrifice for the other's prosperity. It was amazing that
neither should lose patience; that neither should say, You are trying to
deceive me, and I know it. We may question whether two men of northern
race could have carried on such a dialogue without bursting out in open
anger, or at least glaring with eyes full of suspicion and defiance.
"You will find her changed," continued Coronado, when he had submitted to
the old man's persistence. "She has grown thinner and sadder. You must not
notice it, however; you must compliment her on her health."
"What is she taking?" whispered Garcia.
"The less said, the better. My dear uncle, you must know nothing. Do not
talk of it. The walls have ears."
"I know something that would be both safe and sure," persisted the old man
in a still lower whisper.
"Leave all with me," answered Coronado, waving his hand authoritatively.
"Too many cooks spoil the broth. What has begun well will end well."
After a time the two men went down to a shady veranda which half encircled
the house, and found Mrs. Stanley taking an accidental siesta on a sort of
lounge or sofa. Being a light sleeper, like many other active-minded
people, she awoke at their approach and sat up to give reception.
"Mrs. Stanley, this is my uncle Garcia, my more than father," bowed
"I have not forgotten him," replied Aunt Maria, who indeed was not likely
to forget that mottled face, dyed blue with nitrate of silver.
Warmly shaking the puffy hand of the old toad, and doing her very best to
smile upon him, she said, "How do you do, Mr. Garcia? I hope you are well.
Mr. Coronado, do tell him that, and that I am rejoiced to see him."
Garcia's snaky glance just rose to the honest woman's face, and then
crawled hurriedly all about the veranda, as if trying to hide in corners.
Thanks to Coronado's fluency and invention, there was a mutually
satisfactory conversation between the couple. He amplified the lady's
compliments and then amplified the Mexican's compliments, until each
looked upon the other as a person of unusual intelligence and a fast
friend, Aunt Maria, however, being much the more thoroughly humbugged of
"My uncle has come on urgent mercantile business, and he crowds in a few
days with us," Coronado presently explained. "I have told him of my little
cousin's good fortune, and he is delighted."
"I am so glad to hear it," said Mrs. Stanley. "What an excellent old man
he is, to be sure! And you are just like him, Mr. Coronado--just as good
"You overestimate me," answered Coronado, with a smile which was almost
Before long Clara appeared. Garcia's eye darted a look at her which was
like the spring of an adder, dwelling for just a second on the girl's
face, and then scuttling off in an uncleanly, poisonous way for hiding
corners. He saw that she was thin, and believed to a certain extent in
Coronado's hints of poison, so that his glance was more cowardly than
Liking the man not overmuch, but pleased to see a face which had been
familiar to her childhood, and believing that she owed him large
reparation for her grandfather's will, Clara advanced cordially to the old
"Welcome, Senor Garcia," she said, wondering that he did not kiss her
cheek. "Welcome to your own house. It is all yours. Whatever you choose is
"I rejoice in your good fortune," sighed Garcia.
"It is our common fortune," returned Clara, winding her arm in his and
walking him up and down the veranda.
"May God give you long life to enjoy it," prayed Garcia.
"And you also," said Clara.
Coronado translated this conversation as fast as it was uttered to Mrs.
"This is the golden age," cried that enthusiastic woman. "You Spaniards
are the best people I ever saw. Your men absolutely emulate women in
"We would do it if it were possible," bowed Coronado.
"You do it," magnanimously insisted Aunt Maria, who felt that the baser
sex ought to be encouraged.
"Senor Garcia, I ask a favor of you," continued Clara. "You must charge
all the costs of the journey overland to me."
"It is unjust," replied the old man. "Madre de Dios! I can never permit
"If you need the money now, I will request my guardians, the executors, to
advance it," persisted Clara, seeing that he refused with a faint heart.
"I might borrow it," conceded Garcia. "I shall have need of money
presently. That journey was a great cost--a terribly bad speculation," he
went on, shaking his mottled, bluish head wofully. "Not a piaster of
"We will see to that," said Clara. "And then, when I am of age--but wait."
She shook her rosy forefinger gayly, radiant with the joy of generosity,
and added, "You shall see. Wait!"
Coronado, in a rapid whisper, translated this conversation phrase by
phrase to Mrs. Stanley, his object being to make Clara's promises public
and thus engage her to their fulfilment.
"Of course!" exclaimed the impulsive Aunt Maria, who was amazingly
generous with other people's money, and with her own when she had any to
spare. "Of course Clara ought to pay. It is quite a different thing from
giving up her rights. Certainly she must pay. That train did nothing but
bring us two women. I really believe Mr. Garcia sent it for that purpose
alone. Besides, the expense won't be much, I suppose."
"No," said Coronado, and he spoke the exact truth; that is, supposing an
honest balance. The expedition proper had cost seven or eight thousand
dollars, and about two thousand more had been sunk in assassination fees
and other "extras." On the other hand, he had sold his wagons and beasts
at the high prices of California, making a profit of two thousand dollars.
In short, even deducting all that Coronado meant to appropriate to
himself, Garcia would obtain a small profit from the affair.
Now ensued a strange underhanded drama. Garcia stayed week after week,
riding often to the city on business or pretence of business, but passing
most of his time at the hacienda, where he wandered about a great deal in
a ghost-like manner, glancing slyly at Clara a hundred times a day without
ever looking her in the eyes, and haunting her steps without overtaking or
addressing her. Every time that she returned from a ride he shambled to
the door to see if the saddle were empty. During the night he hearkened in
the passages for outcries of sudden illness. And while he thus watched the
girl, he was himself incessantly watched by his nephew.
"She gets no worse," the old man at last complained to the younger one. "I
think she is growing fat."
"It is one of the symptoms," replied Coronado. "By the way, there is one
thing which we ought to consider. If she gives you half of this estate--?"
"Madre de Dios! I would take it and go. But she cannot give until she is
of age. And meantime she may marry."
He glanced suspiciously at his nephew, but Coronado kept his bland
composure, merely saying, "No present danger of that. She sees no one but
He thought of adding, "Why not marry her yourself, my dear uncle?" But
Garcia might retort, "And you?" which would be confusing.
"Suppose she should make a will in your favor?" the nephew preferred to
"I cannot wait. I must have money now. Make a will? Madre de Dios! She
would outlive me. Besides, he who makes a will can break a will."
After a minute of anxious thought, he asked, "How much do you think she
will give me?"
"I will ask her."
"Not _her_," returned Garcia petulantly. "Are you a pig, an ass, a fool?
Ask the old one--the duenna. It ought to be a great deal; it ought to be
To satisfy the old man as well as himself, Coronado sounded Mrs. Stanley
as to the proposed division.
"Yes, indeed!" said the lady emphatically. "Clara must do something for
Garcia, who has been such an excellent friend, and who ought to have been
named in the will. But you know she has her duties toward herself as well
as toward others. Now the property is not a million; it may be some day or
other, but it isn't now. The executors say it might bring three hundred
thousand dollars in ready money."
The executors, by the way, had been sedulously depreciating the value of
the estate to Clara, in order to bring down her vast notions of
"Well," continued Aunt Maria, "my niece, who is a true woman and
magnanimous, wanted to give up half. But that is too much, Mr. Coronado.
You see money" (here she commenced on something which she had
read)--"money is not the same thing in our hands that it is in yours. When
a man has a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, he puts it into business
and doubles it, trebles it, and so on. But a woman can't do that; she is
trammelled and hampered by the prejudices of this male world; she has to
leave her money at small interest. If it doubles once in her life, she is
lucky. So, you see, one half given to Garcia would be, practically
speaking, much more than half," concluded Aunt Maria, looking triumphantly
through her argument at Coronado.
The Mexican assented; he always assented to whatever she advanced; he did
so because he considered her a fool and incapable of reasoning. Moreover,
he was not anxious to see half of this estate drop into the hands of
Garcia, believing that whatever Clara kept for herself would shortly be
his own by right of marriage.
"You are the greatest woman of our times," he said, stepping backward a
pace or two and surveying her as if she were a cathedral. "I should never
have thought of those ideas. You ought to be a legislator and reform our
"I never had a doubt that you would agree with me, Mr. Coronado," returned
the gratified Aunt Maria. "Well, so does Clara; at least I trust so," she
hesitated. "Now as to the sum which our good Garcia should receive. I have
settled upon thirty thousand dollars. In his hands, you know, it would
soon be a hundred and fifty thousand; that is to say, practically
speaking, it would be half the estate."
"Certainly," bowed Coronado, meanwhile thinking, "You old ass!" "And my
little cousin is of your opinion, I trust?" he added.
"Well--not quite--as yet," candidly admitted Aunt Maria. "But she is
coming to it. I have no sort of doubt that she will end there."
So Coronado had learned nothing as yet of Clara's opinions. As he
sauntered away to find Garcia, he queried whether he had best torment him
with this unauthorized babble of Mrs. Stanley. On the whole, yes; it might
bring him down to reasonable terms; the rapacious old man was expecting
too large a slice of the dead Munoz. So he told his tale, giving it out as
something which could be depended on, but increasing the thirty thousand
dollars to fifty thousand, on his own responsibility. To his alarm Garcia
broke out in a venomous rage, calling everybody pigs, dogs, toads, etc.;
and crying and cursing alternately.
"Fifty thousand piasters!" he squeaked, tottering about the room on his
short weak legs and wringing his hands, so that he looked like a fat dog
walking on his hind feet. "Fifty thousand piasters! O Madre de Dios! It is
nothing. It is nothing. It will not save me from ruin. It will not cover
my debts. I shall be sold out. I am ruined. Fifty thousand piasters! O
Madre de Dios!"
Fifty thousand dollars would have left him more than solvent; but ten
times that sum would not have satisfied his grasping soul.
Coronado saw that he had made a blunder, and sought to rectify it by lying
copiously. He averred that he had been merely trying his uncle; he begged
his pardon for this absurd and ill-timed joke; he admitted that he was a
pig and a dog and everything else ignoble; he should not have trifled with
the feelings of his benefactor, his more than father; those feelings were
to him sacred, and should be held so henceforward and forever.
But he was not believed. He could fool the old man sometimes, but not on
this occasion. Garcia, greedy and anxious, apt by nature to see the dark
side of things, judged that the fifty-thousand-dollar story was the true
one. Although he pretended at last to accept Coronado's explanation for
fact, he remained at bottom unconvinced, and showed it in his swollen and
Thenceforward the nephew watched the uncle incessantly; during his absence
he stole into his room, opened his baggage, and examined his drawers. And
if he saw him near Clara at table, or when refreshments were handed
around, he never took his eyes off him.
But he could not be always at hand. One day the two men rode to the city
in company. Garcia dodged Coronado, hastened back to the hacienda, asked
to have some chocolate prepared, poured out a cup for Clara, looked at her
eagerly while she drank it, and then fell down in a fit.
An hour later Coronado returned at a full run, to find the old man just
recovering his senses and Clara alarmingly ill.
Clara had been taken ill while waiting on the unconscious Garcia, and the
attack had been so violent as to drive her at once to her room and bed.
The first person whom Coronado met when he reached the house was Aunt
Maria, oscillating from one invalid to the other in such fright and
confusion that she did not know whether she was strong-minded or not; but
thus far chiefly troubled about Garcia, who seemed to her to be in a dying
"Your uncle!" she exclaimed, beckoning wildly to Coronado as he rushed in
at the door.
"I know," he answered hastily. "A servant told me. How is Clara?"
He was as pale as a man of his dark complexion could be. Aunt Maria caught
his alarm, and, forgetting at once all about Garcia, ran on with him to
Clara's room. The girl was just then in one of her spasms, her features
contracted and white, and her forehead covered with a cold sweat.
"What is it?" whispered Mrs. Stanley, clutching Coronado by the arm and
staring eagerly at his anxious eyes.
"It is--fever," he returned, making a great effort to control his rage and
terror. "Give her warm water to drink. My God! give her something."
He sent three servants in succession to search for three different
physicians swearing at them violently while they made their preparations,
telling them to ride like the devil, to kill their horses, etc. When he
returned to Clara's room she had come out of her paroxysm, and was feebly
trying to smile away Aunt Maria's terrors.
"My cousin!" he whispered in unmistakable anguish of spirit.
"I am better," she replied. "Thank you, Coronado. How is Garcia?"
Coronado looked as if he were devoting some one to the infernal furies;
but he suppressed his emotion and replied in a smothered voice, "I will go
Hurrying to his uncle's room, he motioned out the attendants, closed the
door, locked it, and then, with a scowl of rage and alarm, advanced upon
the invalid, who by this time was perfectly conscious.
"What have you given her?" demanded Coronado, in a hoarse mutter.
"I don't know what you mean," stammered the old man. He shut his one eye,
not because he could not keep it open, but to evade the conflict which was
coming upon him.
Taking quick advantage of the closed eye, Coronado turned to a
dressing-table, pulled out a drawer, seized a key, and opened Garcia's
trunk. Before the old man could interfere, the younger one held in his
hand a paper containing two ounces or so of white powder.
"Did you give her this?" demanded Coronado.
Garcia stared at the paper with such a scared and guilty face, that it was
equivalent to a confession.
Coronado turned away to hide his face. There was a strange smile upon it;
at first it was a joy which made him half angelic; then it became
amusement. He tottered to a chair, threw himself into it with the air of a
thoroughly wearied man who finds rest delicious, put a grain of the powder
on his tongue, and then drew a long sigh, a sigh of entire relief.
We must explain. The inner history of this scene is not a tragedy, but a
farce. For two weeks or more Coronado had been watching his uncle day and
night, and at last had found in his trunk a paper of powder which he
suspected to be arsenic. A blunderer would have destroyed or hidden it,
thereby warning Garcia that he was being looked after, and causing him to
be more careful about his hiding places. Coronado emptied the paper,
snapped off every grain of the powder with his finger, wiped it clean with
his handkerchief, and refilled it with another powder. The selection of
this second powder was another piece of cleverness. He had at hand both
flour and finely pulverized sugar; but he wanted to learn whether Garcia
would really dose the girl, and he wanted a chance to frighten him; so he
chose a substance which would be harmless, and yet would cause illness.
"You will be hung," said Coronado, staring sternly at his uncle.
"I don't know what you mean," mumbled the old man, trembling all over.
"What a fool you were to use a poison so easily detected as arsenic! I
have sent for doctors. They will recognize her symptoms. You prepared the
chocolate. Here is the arsenic in your trunk. You will be hung."
"Give me that paper," whimpered Garcia, rising from his bed and staggering
toward Coronado. "Give it to me. It is mine."
Coronado put the package behind him with one hand and held off his uncle
with the other.
"You must go," he persisted. "She won't live two hours. Be off before you
are arrested. Take horse for San Francisco. If there is a steamer, get
aboard of it. Never mind where it sails to."
"Give me the paper," implored Garcia, going down on his knees. "O Madre de
Dios! My head, my head! Oh, what extremities! Give me the paper. Carlos,
it was all for your sake."
"Are you going?" demanded Coronado.
"Oh yes. Madre de Dios! I am going."
"Come along. By the back way. Do you want to pass _her_ room? Do you want
to see your work? I will send your trunk to the bankers. Quit California
at the first chance. Quit it at once, if you go to China."
As Coronado looked after the flying old man he heard himself called by
Mrs. Stanley, who was by this time in great terror about Clara, trotting
hither and thither after help and counsel.
"Oh, Mr. Coronado, do come!" she urged. Then, catching sight of the
galloping Garcia, "But what does that mean? Has he gone mad?"
"Nearly," said Coronado. "I brought him news of pressing business. How is
"Oh dear! I am terribly alarmed. Do look at her. Will those doctors never
Coronado, who had been a little in advance of Mrs. Stanley as they hurried
toward Clara's room, suddenly stopped, wheeled about with a smile, seized
her hands, and shook them heartily.
"I have it," he exclaimed with a fine imitation of joyful astonishment.
"There is no danger. I can explain the whole trouble. My poor uncle has
these attacks, and he is extravagantly fond of chocolate. To relieve the
attacks he always carries a paper of medicine in one of his vest pockets.
To sweeten his chocolate he carries a paper of sugar in the companion
pocket. You may be sure that he has made a mistake between the two. He has
dosed Clara with his physic. There is no danger."
He laughed in the most natural manner conceivable; then he checked himself
and said: "My poor little cousin! It is no joke for her."
"Certainly not," snapped Aunt Maria, relieved and yet angry. "How
excessively stupid! Here is Clara as sick as can be, and I frightened out
of my senses. Men ought not to meddle with cookery. They are such botches,
even in their own business!"
But presently, after she had given Coronado's explanation to Clara, and
the girl had laughed heartily over it and declared herself much better,
Aunt Maria recovered her good humor and began to pity that poor, sick,
"The brave old creature!" she said. "Out of his fits and off on his
business. I must say he is a wonder. Let us hope he will come out all
right, and soon return to us. But really he ought to be seen to. He may
fall off his horse in a fit, or he may dose somebody dreadfully with his
chocolate and get taken up for poisoning. Mr. Coronado, you ought to ride
into town to-morrow and look after him."
"Certainly," replied Coronado. He did so, and returned with the news that
Garcia had sailed to San Diego, having been summoned back to Santa Fe by
the state of his affairs. That day and the night following he slept
fourteen hours, making up the arrears of rest which he had lost in
watching his uncle. Henceforward he was easier; he had a pretty clear
field before him; there was no one present to poison Clara; no one but
himself to court her. And the courtship went forward with a better
prospect of success than is quite agreeable to contemplate.
Coronado and Clara were Adam and Eve; they were the only man and woman in
this paradise. People thus situated are claimed by a being whom most call
a goddess, and some a demon. She is protean; she is at once an invariable
formula and an individual caprice; she is a law governing the universal
multitude, and a passion swaying the unit. She seems to be under an
impression that, where a couple are left alone together, they are the last
relics of the human race, and that if they do not marry the type will
perish. Indifferent to all considerations but one, she pushes them toward
There is comparative safety from her in a crowd. Bachelors and maidens who
mingle by hundreds may remain bachelors and maidens. But pair them off in
lonely places and see if the result is not amazingly hymeneal. A fellow
who has run the gauntlet of seven years of parties in New York will marry
the first agreeable girl whom he meets in Alaska. There is such a thing as
leaving the haunts of men and repairing to waste places to find a husband.
We are told that English girls have reduced this to a system, and that
fair archers who have failed at Brighton go out to hunt successfully in
Well, Coronado had the favoring chances of solitude, propinquity, and
daily opportunity. Seldom away from Clara for a day together, he was in
condition to take advantage of any of those moods which lay woman open to
courtship, such as gratitude for attentions, a disgust with loneliness, a
desire for something to love. It was a great thing for him that there was
work about the hacienda which no woman could easily do; that there were
men servants to govern, horses to be herded, valued, and sold, and lands
to be cultivated. All these male mysteries were soon handed over to
Coronado, subject to the advice of Aunt Maria and the final judgment of
Clara. The result was that _he_ and _she_ got into a way of frequently
discussing many things which threatened to habituate her to the idea of
being at one with him through life.
Have you ever watched two specks floating in a vessel of water? For a long
time they approach each other so slowly that the movement is imperceptible
but at last they are within range of each other's magnetism; there is a
start, a swift rush, and they are together. Thus it was that Clara was
gently, very gently, and unconsciously to herself, approaching Coronado. A
mote on the wave of life, she was subject to attraction, as all of us
motes are, and this man was the only tractor at hand. Aunt Maria did not
count, for woman cannot absorb woman. As to Thurstane, he not only was not
there, but he was not anywhere, as she at last believed.
Not a word from him or about him, except one letter from the
Adjutant-General, which somehow evaded Coronado's brazier, gave her a
moment of choking hope and fear, opened its white, official lips,
acknowledged her "communication," and stopped there. The unseen tragedies
in which souls suffer are numberless. Here was one. The girl had written
with tears and heart-beats, and then with tears and heart-beats had
waited. At last came the words, "I have the honor to acknowledge, etc.,
very respectfully, etc." It was one of the business-like facts of life
unknowingly trampling upon a bleeding sentiment.
Imagine Clara's agitations during this long suspense; her plans and hopes
and despairs would furnish matter for a library. There was not a day, if
indeed there was an hour, during which her mind was not the theatre of a
dozen dramas whereof Thurstane was the hero, either triumphant or
perishing. They were horribly fragmentary; they broke off and pieced on to
each other like nightmares; one moment he was rescued, and the next
tomahawked. And this last fancy, despite all her struggles to hope, was
for the most part victorious. Meantime Coronado, guessing her sufferings,
and suffering horribly himself with jealousy, talked much and
sympathetically to her of Thurstane. So much did this man bear, and with
such outward sweetness did he bear it, that one half longs to consider him
a martyr and saint. Pity that his goodness should not bear dissection;
that it should have no more life in it than a stuffed mannikin; that it
should be just fit to scare crows with.
But hypocrite as Coronado was, he was clever enough to win every day more
of Clara's confidence; and perhaps she might have walked into this whited
sepulchre in due time had it not been for an accident. Cantering into San
Francisco to hold a consultation with her lawyer, she was saluted in the
street by a United States officer, also on horseback. She instinctively
drew rein, her pulse throbbing at sight of the uniform, and wild hopes
beating at her heart.
"Miss Van Diemen, I believe," said the officer, a dark, stout,
bold-looking trooper. "I am glad to see that you reached here in safety.
You have forgotten me. I am Major Robinson."
"I remember," said Clara, who had not recollected him at first because she
was looking solely for Thurstane. "You passed us in the desert."
"Yes, I took your soldiers away from you, and you declined my escort. I
was anxious about you afterwards. Well, it has ended right in spite of me.
Of course you have heard of Thurstane's escape."
"Escape!" exclaimed Clara, her face turning scarlet and then pale. "Oh!
The major stared. He had guessed a love affair between these two; he had
inferred it in the desert from the girl's anxiety about the young man.
How came it that she knew nothing of the escape?
"So I have heard," he went on. "I think there can be no mistake about it.
I learned it from a civilian who left Fort Yuma some weeks ago. I don't
think he could have been mistaken. He told me that the lieutenant was
there then. Not well, I am sorry to say; rather broken down by his
hardships. Oh, nothing serious, you know. But he was a trifle under the
weather, which may account for his not letting his friends hear from him."
At the story that Thurstane was alive, all Clara's love had arisen as if
from a grave, and the mightier because of its resurrection. She was full
of self-reproaches. It seemed to her that she had neglected him; that she
had cruelly left him to die. Why had she not guessed that he was sick
there, and flown to nurse him to health? What had he thought of her
conduct? She must go to him at once.
"I am sorry to say that I can tell you no more," continued the major in
response to her eager gaze.
"I am so obliged to you!" gasped Clara. "If you hear anything more, will
you please let me know? Will you please come and see me?"
The major promised and took down her address, but added that he was just
starting on an inspecting tour, and that for a fortnight to come he should
be able to give her no further information.
They had scarcely parted ere Clara had resolved to go at once to Fort
Yuma. The moment was favorable, for she had with her an intelligent and
trustworthy servant, and Coronado had been summoned to a distance by
business, so that he could make no opposition. She hastened to her
lawyer's, finished her affairs there, drew what money she needed for her
journey, learned that a brig was about to start for the Gulf, and sent her
man to secure a passage. When he returned with news that the Lolotte would
sail next day at noon, she decided not to go back to the hacienda, and
took rooms at a hotel.
What would people say? She did not care; she was going. She had been
womanish and timorous too long; this was the great crisis which would
decide her future; she must be worthy of it and of _him_. But remembering
Aunt Maria, she sent a letter by messenger to the hacienda, explaining
that pressing business called her to be absent for some weeks, and
confessing in a postscript that her business referred to Lieutenant
Thurstane. This letter brought Coronado down upon her next morning.
Returning home unexpectedly, he learned the news from his friend Mrs.
Stanley, and was hammering at Clara's door not more than an hour later,
all in a tremble with anxiety and rage.
"This must not be," he stormed. "Such a journey! Twenty-five hundred
miles! And for a man who has not deigned to write to you! It is degrading.
I will not have it. I forbid it."
"Coronado, stop!" ordered Clara; and it is to be feared that she stamped
her little foot at him; at all events she quelled him instantly.
He sat down, glared like a mad dog, sprang up and rushed to the door,
halted there to stare at her imploringly, and finally muttered in a hoarse
voice, "Well--let it be so--since you are crazed. But I shall go with
"You can go," replied Clara haughtily, after meditating for some seconds,
during which he looked the picture of despair. "You can go, if you wish
An hour later she said, in her usually gentle tone, "Coronado, pardon me
for having spoken to you angrily. You are kinder than I deserve."
The reader can infer from this speech how humble, helpful, and courteous
the man had been in the mean time. Coronado was no half-way character; if
he did not like you, he was the fellow to murder you; if he decided to be
sweet, he was all honey. Perhaps we ought to ask excuse for Clara's
tartness by explaining that she was in a state of extreme anxiety,
remembering that Robinson had hesitated when he said Thurstane was not so
very ill, and fearing lest he knew worse things than he had told.
Meanwhile, let no one suppose that the Mexican meant to let his lady love
go to Fort Yuma. He had his plan for stopping her, and we may put
confidence enough in him to believe that it was a good one; only at the
last moment circumstances turned up which decided him to drop it. Yes, at
the last moment, just as he was about to pull his leading strings, he saw
good reason for wishing her far away from San Francisco.
A face appeared to him; at the first glimpse of it Coronado slipped into
the nearest doorway, and from that moment his chief anxiety was to cause
the girl to vanish. Yes, he must get her started on her voyage, even at
the risk of her continuing it.
"What the devil is he here for?" he muttered. "Has he found out that she
At noon the Lolotte, a broad-beamed, flat-floored brig of light draught
and good sailing qualities, hove up her anchor and began beating out of
the Bay of San Francisco, with Coronado and Clara on her quarter-deck.
"You have no other passengers, I understood you to say, captain," observed
Coronado, who was anxious on that point, preferring there should be none.
The master, a Dane by birth named Jansen, who had grown up in the American
mercantile service, was a middle-sized, broad-shouldered man, with a red
complexion, red whiskers, and a look which was at once grave and fiery. He
paused in his heavy lurching to and fro, looked at the Mexican with an air
which was civil but very stiff, and answered in that discouraging tone
with which skippers are apt to smother conversation when they have
business on hand, "Yes, sir, one other."
Coronado presently slipped down the companionway, found the colored
steward, chinked five dollars into his horny palm, and said, "My good
fellow, you must look out for me; I shall want a good deal of help during
"Yes, sah, very good, sah," was the answer, uttered in a greasy chuckle,
as though it were the speech of a slab of bacon fat. "Make you up any
little thing, sah. Have a sup now, sah? Little gruel? Little brof?"
"No, thank you," returned Coronado, turning half sick at the mention of
those delicacies. "Nothing at present. By the way, one of the staterooms
is occupied I see. Who is the other passenger?"
"Dunno, sah; keeps hisself shut up, an' says nothin' to nobody. 'Pears
like he is sailin' under secret orders. Cur'ous' lookin' old gent; got
only one eye."
One eye! Coronado thought of the face which had frightened him out of San
Francisco, and wondered whether he were shut up in the Lolotte with it.
"One eye?" he asked. "Short, stout, dark old gentleman? Indeed! I think I
Stepping to the door of a stateroom which he had already noticed as being
kept closed, he tapped lightly. There was a muttering inside, a shuffling
as of some one getting out of a berth, and then a low inquiry in Spanish,
"Who is there?"
"Me, sah," returned Coronado, imitating, and imitating perfectly, the
accent of the steward, who meantime had gone forward, talking and
sniggering to himself, after an idiotic way that he had.
The door opened a trifle, and Coronado instantly slipped the toe of his
little boot into the crack, at the same time saying in his natural tone,
"My dear uncle!"
Seeing that he was discovered, Garcia gave his nephew entrance, closed the
door after him, locked it, and sat down trembling on the edge of the lower
berth, groaning and almost whimpering, "Ah, my son! Ah, my dear Carlos!
Oh, what a life I have to lead! Madre de Dios, what a life! I thought you
were one of my creditors. I did indeed, my dear Carlos, my son."
"I thought you went back to Santa Fe" was Coronado's reply.
"No, I did not go; I started, but I came back," mumbled Garcia. Then,
plucking up a little spirit, he turned his one eye for a moment on his
nephew's face, and added, "Why should I go to Santa Fe? I had no business
there. My business is here."
"But after your attempt at the hacienda?"
"My attempt! I made no attempt. All that was a mistake. Because I was
sick, I was frightened and did not know what to do. I ran away because you
told me to run. I had given her nothing. Yes, I did put something in her
chocolate, but it was my medicine. I meant to put in sugar, but I made a
mistake and went to the wrong pocket, the pocket of my medicine. That was
it, Carlos. I give you my word, word of a hidalgo, word of a Christian."
It was the same explanation which Coronado had invented to forestall
suspicions at the hacienda. It was surely a wonderful coincidence of
lying, and shows how great minds work alike. Vexed and angry as the nephew
was, he could scarcely help smiling.
"My dear uncle!" he exclaimed, grasping Garcia's pudgy hand
melodramatically. "The very thing that occurred to me! I told them so."
"Did you?" replied the old man, not much believing it. "Then all is well."