Part 3 out of 4
"I'll trouble you to put that back," said the consul quietly,
without turning round. The gillie slid a quick glance towards the
door, but the consul was before him. "I don't think THAT was left
by your master," he said in an ostentatiously calm voice, for he
was conscious of an absurd and inexplicable tumult in his blood,
"and perhaps you'd better put it back."
The man looked at the flower with an attention that might have been
merely ostentatious, and replaced it in the glass.
"A thocht it was hiss."
"And I think it isn't," said the consul, opening the door.
Yet when the man had passed out he was by no means certain that the
flower was not Kilcraithie's. He was even conscious that if the
young Laird had approached him with a reasonable explanation or
appeal he would have yielded it up. Yet here he was--looking
angrily pale in the glass, his eyes darker than they should be, and
with an unmistakable instinct to do battle for this idiotic gage!
Was there some morbid disturbance in the air that was affecting him
as it had Kilcraithie? He tried to laugh, but catching sight of
its sardonic reflection in the glass became grave again. He
wondered if the gillie had been really looking for anything his
master had left--he had certainly TAKEN nothing. He opened one or
two of the drawers, and found only a woman's tortoiseshell hairpin--
overlooked by the footman when he had emptied them for the
consul's clothes. It had been probably forgotten by some fair and
previous tenant to Kilcraithie. The consul looked at his watch--it
was time to go down. He grimly pinned the fateful flower in his
buttonhole, and half-defiantly descended to the drawing-room.
Here, however, he was inclined to relax when, from a group of
pretty women, the bright gray eyes of Mrs. MacSpadden caught his,
were suddenly diverted to the lapel of his coat, and then leaped up
to his again with a sparkle of mischief. But the guests were
already pairing off in dinner couples, and as they passed out of
the room, he saw that she was on the arm of Kilcraithie. Yet, as
she passed him, she audaciously turned her head, and in a
mischievous affectation of jealous reproach, murmured:--
At dinner she was too far removed for any conversation with him,
although from his seat by his hostess he could plainly see her
saucy profile midway up the table. But, to his surprise, her
companion, Kilcraithie, did not seem to be responding to her
gayety. By turns abstracted and feverish, his glances occasionally
wandered towards the end of the table where the consul was sitting.
For a few moments he believed that the affair of the flower,
combined, perhaps, with the overhearing of Mrs. MacSpadden's
mischievous sentence, rankled in the Laird's barbaric soul. But he
became presently aware that Kilcraithie's eyes eventually rested
upon a quiet-looking blonde near the hostess. Yet the lady not
only did not seem to be aware of it, but her face was more often
turned towards the consul, and their eyes had once or twice met.
He had been struck by the fact that they were half-veiled but
singularly unimpassioned eyes, with a certain expression of cold
wonderment and criticism quite inconsistent with their veiling.
Nor was he surprised when, after a preliminary whispering over the
plates, his hostess presented him. The lady was the young wife of
the middle-aged dignitary who, seated further down the table,
opposite Mrs. MacSpadden, was apparently enjoying that lady's
wildest levities. The consul bowed, the lady leaned a little
"We were saying what a lovely rose you had."
The consul's inward response was "Hang that flower!" His outward
expression was the modest query:--
"Is it SO peculiar?"
"No; but it's very pretty. Would you allow me to see it?"
Disengaging the flower from his buttonhole he handed it to her.
Oddly enough, it seemed to him that half the table was watching and
listening to them. Suddenly the lady uttered a little cry. "Dear
me! it's full of thorns; of course you picked and arranged it
yourself, for any lady would have wrapped something around the
But here there was a burlesque outcry and a good-humored protest
from the gentlemen around her against this manifestly leading
question. "It's no fair! Ye'll not answer her--for the dignity of
our sex." Yet in the midst of it, it suddenly occurred to the
consul that there HAD been a slip of paper wrapped around it, which
had come off and remained in the keyhole. The blue eyes of the
lady were meanwhile sounding his, but he only smiled and said:--
"Then it seems it IS peculiar?"
When the conversation became more general he had time to observe
other features of the lady than her placid eyes. Her light hair
was very long, and grew low down the base of her neck. Her mouth
was firm, the upper lip slightly compressed in a thin red line, but
the lower one, although equally precise at the corners, became
fuller in the centre and turned over like a scarlet leaf, or, as it
struck him suddenly, like the tell-tale drop of blood on the mouth
of a vampire. Yet she was very composed, practical, and decorous,
and as the talk grew more animated--and in the vicinity of Mrs.
MacSpadden, more audacious--she kept a smiling reserve of
expression,--which did not, however, prevent her from following
that lively lady, whom she evidently knew, with a kind of
"Kate is in full fling to-night," she said to the hostess. Lady
Macquoich smiled ambiguously--so ambiguously that the consul
thought it necessary to interfere for his friend. "She seems to
say what most of us think, but I am afraid very few of us could
voice as innocently," he smilingly suggested.
"She is a great friend of yours," returned the lady, looking at him
through her half-veiled lids. "She has made us quite envy her."
"And I am afraid made it impossible for ME to either sufficiently
thank her or justify her taste," he said quietly. Yet he was vexed
at an unaccountable resentment which had taken possession of him--
who but a few hours before had only laughed at the porter's
After the ladies had risen, the consul with an instinct of sympathy
was moving up towards "Jock" MacSpadden, who sat nearer the host,
when he was stopped midway of the table by the dignitary who had
sat opposite to Mrs. MacSpadden. "Your frien' is maist amusing wi'
her audacious tongue--ay, and her audacious ways," he said with
large official patronage; "and we've enjoyed her here immensely,
but I hae mae doots if mae Leddy Macquoich taks as kindly to them.
You and I--men of the wurrld, I may say--we understand them for a'
their worth; ay!--ma wife too, with whom I observed ye speakin'--is
maist tolerant of her, but man! it's extraordinar'"--he lowered his
voice slightly--"that yon husband of hers does na' check her
freedoms with Kilcraithie. I wadna' say anythin' was wrong, ye
ken, but is he no' over confident and conceited aboot his wife?"
"I see you don't know him," said the consul smilingly, "and I'd be
delighted to make you acquainted. Jock," he continued, raising his
voice as he turned towards MacSpadden, "let me introduce you to Sir
Alan Deeside, who don't know YOU, although he's a great admirer of
your wife;" and unheeding the embarrassed protestations of Sir Alan
and the laughing assertions of Jock that they were already
acquainted, he moved on beside his host. That hospitable knight,
who had been airing his knowledge of London smart society to
his English guest with a singular mixture of assertion and
obsequiousness, here stopped short. "Ay, sit down, laddie, it was
so guid of ye to come, but I'm thinkin' at your end of the table ye
lost the bit fun of Mistress MacSpadden. Eh, but she was unco'
lively to-night. 'Twas all Kilcraithie could do to keep her from
proposin' your health with Hieland honors, and offerin' to lead off
with her ain foot on the table! Ay, and she'd ha' done it. And
that's a braw rose she's been givin' ye--and ye got out of it
claverly wi' Lady Deeside."
When he left the table with the others to join the ladies, the same
unaccountable feeling of mingled shyness and nervous irascibility
still kept possession of him. He felt that in his present mood he
could not listen to any further criticisms of his friend without
betraying some unwonted heat, and as his companions filed into
the drawing-room he slipped aside in the hope of recovering his
equanimity by a few moments' reflection in his own room. He glided
quickly up the staircase and entered the corridor. The passage
that led to his apartment was quite dark, especially before his
door, which was in a bay that really ended the passage. He was
consequently surprised and somewhat alarmed at seeing a shadowy
female figure hovering before it. He instinctively halted; the
figure became more distinct from some luminous halo that seemed to
encompass it. It struck him that this was only the light of his
fire thrown through his open door, and that the figure was probably
that of a servant before it, who had been arranging his room. He
started forward again, but at the sound of his advancing footsteps
the figure and the luminous glow vanished, and he arrived blankly
face to face with his own closed door. He looked around the dim
bay; it was absolutely vacant. It was equally impossible for any
one to have escaped without passing him. There was only his room
left. A half-nervous, half-superstitious thrill crept over him as
he suddenly grasped the handle of the door and threw it open. The
leaping light of his fire revealed its emptiness: no one was there!
He lit the candle and peered behind the curtains and furniture and
under the bed; the room was as vacant and undisturbed as when he
Had it been a trick of his senses or a bona-fide apparition? He
had never heard of a ghost at Glenbogie--the house dated back some
fifty years; Sir John Macquoich's tardy knighthood carried no such
impedimenta. He looked down wonderingly on the flower in his
buttonhole. Was there something uncanny in that innocent blossom?
But here he was struck by another recollection, and examined the
keyhole of his door. With the aid of the tortoiseshell hairpin he
dislodged the paper he had forgotten. It was only a thin spiral
strip, apparently the white outer edge of some newspaper, and it
certainly seemed to be of little service as a protection against
the thorns of the rose-stalk. He was holding it over the fire,
about to drop it into the blaze, when the flame revealed some
pencil-marks upon it. Taking it to the candle he read, deeply
bitten into the paper by a hard pencil-point: "At half-past one."
There was nothing else--no signature; but the handwriting was NOT
Then whose? Was it that of the mysterious figure whom he had just
seen? Had he been selected as the medium of some spiritual
communication, and, perhaps, a ghostly visitation later on? Or was
he the victim of some clever trick? He had once witnessed such
dubious attempts to relieve the monotony of a country house. He
again examined the room carefully, but without avail. Well! the
mystery or trick would be revealed at half-past one. It was a
somewhat inconvenient hour, certainly. He looked down at the
baleful gift in his buttonhole, and for a moment felt inclined to
toss it in the fire. But this was quickly followed by his former
revulsion of resentment and defiance. No! he would wear it, no
matter what happened, until its material or spiritual owner came
for it. He closed the door and returned to the drawing-room.
Midway of the staircase he heard the droning of pipes. There was
dancing in the drawing-room to the music of the gorgeous piper who
had marshaled them to dinner. He was not sorry, as he had no
inclination to talk, and the one confidence he had anticipated with
Mrs. MacSpadden was out of the question now. He had no right to
reveal his later discovery. He lingered a few moments in the hall.
The buzzing of the piper's drones gave him that impression of
confused and blindly aggressive intoxication which he had often
before noticed in this barbaric instrument, and had always seemed
to him as the origin of its martial inspiration. From this he was
startled by voices and steps in the gallery he had just quitted,
but which came from the opposite direction to his room. It was
Kilcraithie and Mrs. MacSpadden. As she caught sight of him, he
fancied she turned slightly and aggressively pale, with a certain
hardening of her mischievous eyes. Nevertheless, she descended the
staircase more deliberately than her companion, who brushed past
him with an embarrassed self-consciousness, quite in advance of
her. She lingered for an instant.
"You are not dancing?" she said.
"Perhaps you are more agreeably employed?"
"At this exact moment, certainly."
She cast a disdainful glance at him, crossed the hall, and followed
"Hang me, if I understand it all!" mused the consul, by no means
good-humoredly. "Does she think I have been spying upon her and
her noble chieftain? But it's just as well that I didn't tell her
He turned to follow them. In the vestibule he came upon a figure
which had halted before a large pier-glass. He recognized M.
Delfosse, the French visitor, complacently twisting the peak of his
Henri Quatre beard. He would have passed without speaking, but the
Frenchman glanced smilingly at the consul and his buttonhole.
Again the flower!
"Monsieur is decore," he said gallantly.
The consul assented, but added, not so gallantly, that though they
were not in France he might still be unworthy of it. The baleful
flower had not improved his temper. Nor did the fact that, as he
entered the room, he thought the people stared at him--until he saw
that their attention was directed to Lady Deeside, who had entered
almost behind him. From his hostess, who had offered him a seat
beside her, he gathered that M. Delfosse and Kilcraithie had each
temporarily occupied his room, but that they had been transferred
to the other wing, apart from the married couples and young ladies,
because when they came upstairs from the billiard and card room
late, they sometimes disturbed the fair occupants. No!--there were
no ghosts at Glenbogie. Mysterious footsteps had sometimes been
heard in the ladies' corridor, but--with peculiar significance--she
was AFRAID they could be easily accounted for. Sir Alan, whose
room was next to the MacSpaddens', had been disturbed by them.
He was glad when it was time to escape to the billiard-room and
tobacco. For a while he forgot the evening's adventure, but
eventually found himself listening to a discussion--carried on over
steaming tumblers of toddy--in regard to certain predispositions of
the always debatable sex.
"Ye'll not always judge by appearances," said Sir Alan. "Ye'll mind
the story o' the meenester's wife of Aiblinnoch. It was thocht
that she was ower free wi' one o' the parishioners--ay! it was the
claish o' the whole kirk, while none dare tell the meenester
hisself--bein' a bookish, simple, unsuspectin' creeter. At last
one o' the elders bethocht him of a bit plan of bringing it home to
the wife, through the gospel lips of her ain husband! So he
intimated to the meenester his suspicions of grievous laxity amang
the female flock, and of the necessity of a special sermon on the
Seventh Command. The puir man consented--although he dinna ken why
and wherefore--and preached a gran' sermon! Ay, man! it was
crammed wi' denunciation and an emptyin' o' the vials o' wrath!
The congregation sat dumb as huddled sheep--when they were no'
starin' and gowpin' at the meenester's wife settin' bolt upright in
her place. And then, when the air was blue wi' sulphur frae tae
pit, the meenester's wife up rises! Man! Ivry eye was spearin'
her--ivry lug was prickt towards her! And she goes out in the
aisle facin' the meenester, and--"
Sir Alan paused.
"And what?" demanded the eager auditory.
"She pickit up the elder's wife, sobbin' and tearin' her hair in
At the end of a relieved pause Sir Alan slowly concluded: "It was
said that the elder removed frae Aiblinnoch wi' his wife, but no'
till he had effected a change of meenesters."
It was already past midnight, and the party had dropped off one by
one, with the exception of Deeside, Macquoich, the young Englishman,
and a Scotch laird, who were playing poker--an amusement which he
understood they frequently protracted until three in the morning.
It was nearly time for him to expect his mysterious visitant.
Before he went upstairs he thought he would take a breath of the
outer evening air, and throwing a mackintosh over his shoulders,
passed out of the garden door of the billiard-room. To his
surprise it gave immediately upon the fringe of laurel that hung
over the chasm.
It was quite dark; the few far-spread stars gave scarcely any
light, and the slight auroral glow towards the north was all that
outlined the fringe of the abyss, which might have proved dangerous
to any unfamiliar wanderer. A damp breath of sodden leaves came
from its depths. Beside him stretched the long dark facade of the
wing he inhabited, his own window the only one that showed a faint
light. A few paces beyond, a singular structure of rustic wood and
glass, combining the peculiarities of a sentry-box, a summer-house,
and a shelter, was built against the blank wall of the wing. He
imagined the monotonous prospect from its windows of the tufted
chasm, the coldly profiled northern hills beyond,--and shivered.
A little further on, sunk in the wall like a postern, was a small
door that evidently gave easy egress to seekers of this stern
retreat. In the still air a faint grating sound like the passage
of a foot across gravel came to him as from the distance. He
paused, thinking he had been followed by one of the card-players,
but saw no one, and the sound was not repeated.
It was past one. He re-entered the billiard-room, passed the
unchanged group of card-players, and taking a candlestick from the
hall ascended the dark and silent staircase into the corridor. The
light of his candle cast a flickering halo around him--but did not
penetrate the gloomy distance. He at last halted before his door,
gave a scrutinizing glance around the embayed recess, and opened
the door half expectantly. But the room was empty as he had left
It was a quarter past one. He threw himself on the bed without
undressing, and fixed his eyes alternately on the door and his
watch. Perhaps the unwonted seriousness of his attitude struck
him, but a sudden sense of the preposterousness of the whole
situation, of his solemnly ridiculous acceptance of a series of
mere coincidences as a foregone conclusion, overcame him, and he
laughed. But in the same breath he stopped.
There WERE footsteps approaching--cautious footsteps--but not at
his door! They were IN THE ROOM--no! in the WALL just behind him!
They were descending some staircase at the back of his bed--he
could hear the regular tap of a light slipper from step to step and
the rustle of a skirt seemingly in his very ear. They were
becoming less and less distinct--they were gone! He sprang to his
feet, but almost at the same instant he was conscious of a sudden
chill--that seemed to him as physical as it was mental. The room
was slowly suffused with a cool sodden breath and the dank odor of
rotten leaves. He looked at the candle--its flame was actually
deflecting in this mysterious blast. It seemed to come from a
recess for hanging clothes topped by a heavy cornice and curtain.
He had examined it before, but he drew the curtain once more aside.
The cold current certainly seemed to be more perceptible there. He
felt the red-clothed backing of the interior, and his hand suddenly
grasped a doorknob. It turned, and the whole structure--cornice
and curtains--swung inwards towards him with THE DOOR ON WHICH IT
WAS HUNG! Behind it was a dark staircase leading from the floor
above to some outer door below, whose opening had given ingress to
the chill humid current from the ravine. This was the staircase
where he had just heard the footsteps--and this was, no doubt, the
door through which the mysterious figure had vanished from his room
a few hours before!
Taking his candle, he cautiously ascended the stairs until he found
himself on the landing of the suites of the married couples and
directly opposite to the rooms of the MacSpaddens and Deesides.
He was about to descend again when he heard a far-off shout, a
scuffling sound on the outer gravel, and the frenzied shaking of
the handle of the lower door. He had hardly time to blow out his
candle and flatten himself against the wall, when the door was
flung open and a woman frantically flew up the staircase. His own
door was still open; from within its depths the light of his fire
projected a flickering beam across the steps. As she rushed past
it the light revealed her face; it needed not the peculiar perfume
of her garments as she swept by his concealed figure to make him
Amazed and confounded, he was about to descend, when he heard the
lower door again open. But here a sudden instinct bade him pause,
turn, and reascend to the upper landing. There he calmly relit his
candle, and made his way down to the corridor that overlooked the
central hall. The sound of suppressed voices--speaking with the
exhausted pauses that come from spent excitement--made him cautious
again, and he halted. It was the card party slowly passing from
the billiard-room to the hall.
"Ye owe it yoursel'--to your wife--not to pit up with it a day
longer," said the subdued voice of Sir Alan. "Man! ye war in an
ace o' havin' a braw scandal."
"Could ye no' get your wife to speak till her," responded
Macquoich, "to gie her a hint that she's better awa' out of this?
Lady Deeside has some influence wi' her."
The consul ostentatiously dropped the extinguisher from his
candlestick. The party looked up quickly. Their faces were still
flushed and agitated, but a new restraint seemed to come upon them
on seeing him.
"I thought I heard a row outside," said the consul explanatorily.
They each looked at their host without speaking.
"Oh, ay," said Macquoich, with simulated heartiness, "a bit fuss
between the Kilcraithie and yon Frenchman; but they're baith goin'
in the mornin'."
"I thought I heard MacSpadden's voice," said the consul quietly.
There was a dead silence. Then Macquoich said hurriedly:--
"Is he no' in his room--in bed--asleep,--man?"
"I really don't know; I didn't inquire," said the consul with a
slight yawn. "Good night!"
He turned, not without hearing them eagerly whispering again, and
entered the passage leading to his own room. As he opened the door
he was startled to find the subject of his inquiry--Jock MacSpadden--
quietly seated in his armchair by his fire.
"Don't be alarmed, old man; I came up by that staircase and saw the
door open, and guessed you'd be returning soon. But it seemed you
went ROUND BY THE CORRIDOR," he said, glancing curiously at the
consul's face. "Did you meet the crowd?"
"Yes, Jock! WHAT does it all mean?"
MacSpadden laughed. "It means that I was just in time to keep
Kilbraithie from chucking Delfosse down that ravine; but they both
scooted when they saw me. By Jove! I don't know which was the
"But," said the consul slowly, "what was it all about, Jock?"
"Some gallantry of that d----d Frenchman, who's trying to do some
woman-stalking up here, and jealousy of Kilcraithie's, who's just
got enough of his forbears' blood in him to think nothing of
sticking three inches of his dirk in the wame of the man that
crosses him. But I say," continued Jock, leaning easily back in
his chair, "YOU ought to know something of all this. This room,
old man, was used as a sort of rendezvous, having two outlets,
don't you see, when they couldn't get at the summer-house below.
By Jove! they both had it in turns--Kilcraithie and the Frenchman--
until Lady Macquoich got wind of something, swept them out, and put
YOU in it."
The consul rose and approached his friend with a grave face.
"Jock, I DO know something about it--more about it than any one
thinks. You and I are old friends. Shall I tell you WHAT I know?"
Jock's handsome face became a trifle paler, but his frank, clear
eyes rested steadily on the consul's.
"Go on!" he said.
"I know that this flower which I am wearing was the signal for the
rendezvous this evening," said the consul slowly, "and this paper,"
taking it from his pocket, "contained the time of the meeting,
written in the lady's own hand. I know who she was, for I saw her
face as plainly as I see yours now, by the light of the same fire;
it was as pale, but not as frank as yours, old man. That is what
I know. But I know also what people THINK they know, and for
that reason I put that paper in YOUR hand. It is yours--your
vindication--your REVENGE, if you choose. Do with it what you
Jock, with unchanged features and undimmed eyes, took the paper
from the consul's hand, without looking at it.
"I may do with it what I like?" he repeated.
He was about to drop it into the fire, but the consul stayed his
"Are you not going to LOOK at the handwriting first?"
There was a moment of silence. Jock raised his eyes with a sudden
flash of pride in them and said, "No!"
The friends stood side by side, grasping each other's hands, as the
burning paper leaped up the chimney in a vanishing flame.
"Do you think you have done quite right, Jock, in view of any
scandal you may hear?"
"Quite! You see, old man, I know MY WIFE--but I don't think that
Deeside KNOWS HIS."
THE MYSTERY OF THE HACIENDA.
Dick Bracy gazed again at the Hacienda de los Osos, and hesitated.
There it lay--its low whitewashed walls looking like a quartz
outcrop of the long lazy hillside--unmistakably hot, treeless, and
staring broadly in the uninterrupted Californian sunlight. Yet he
knew that behind those blistering walls was a reposeful patio,
surrounded by low-pitched verandas; that the casa was full of roomy
corridors, nooks, and recesses, in which lurked the shadows of a
century, and that hidden by the further wall was a lonely old
garden, hoary with gnarled pear-trees, and smothered in the spice
and dropping leaves of its baking roses. He knew that, although
the unwinking sun might glitter on its red tiles, and the unresting
trade winds whistle around its angles, it always kept one unvarying
temperature and untroubled calm, as if the dignity of years had
triumphed over the changes of ephemeral seasons. But would others
see it with his eyes? Would his practical, housekeeping aunt, and
his pretty modern cousin--
"Well, what do you say? Speak the word, and you can go into it
with your folks to-morrow. And I reckon you won't want to take
anything either, for you'll find everything there--just as the old
Don left it. I don't want it; the land is good enough for me; I
shall have my vaqueros and rancheros to look after the crops and
the cattle, and they won't trouble you, for their sheds and barns
will be two miles away. You can stay there as long as you like,
and go when you choose. You might like to try it for a spell; it's
all the same to me. But I should think it the sort of thing a man
like you would fancy, and it seems the right thing to have you
there. Well,--what shall it be? Is it a go?"
Dick knew that the speaker was sincere. It was an offer perfectly
characteristic of his friend, the Western millionaire, who had
halted by his side. And he knew also that the slow lifting of his
bridle-rein, preparatory to starting forward again, was the
business-like gesture of a man who wasted no time even over his
acts of impulsive liberality. In another moment he would dismiss
the unaccepted offer from his mind--without concern and without
"Thank you--it is a go," said Dick gratefully.
Nevertheless, when he reached his own little home in the outskirts
of San Francisco that night, he was a trifle nervous in confiding
to the lady, who was at once his aunt and housekeeper, the fact
that he was now the possessor of a huge mansion in whose patio
alone the little eight-roomed villa where they had lived
contentedly might be casually dropped. "You see, Aunt Viney," he
hurriedly explained, "it would have been so ungrateful to have
refused him--and it really was an offer as spontaneous as it was
liberal. And then, you see, we need occupy only a part of the
"And who will look after the other part?" said Aunt Viney grimly.
"That will have to be kept tidy, too; and the servants for such a
house, where in heaven are they to come from? Or do they go with
"No," said Dick quickly; "the servants left with their old master,
when Ringstone bought the property. But we'll find servants enough
in the neighborhood--Mexican peons and Indians, you know."
Aunt Viney sniffed. "And you'll have to entertain--if it's a
big house. There are all your Spanish neighbors. They'll be
gallivanting in and out all the time."
"They won't trouble us," he returned, with some hesitation. "You
see, they're furious at the old Don for disposing of his lands to
an American, and they won't be likely to look upon the strangers in
the new place as anything but interlopers."
"Oh, that is it, is it?" ejaculated Aunt Viney, with a slight
puckering of her lips. "I thought there was SOMETHING."
"My dear aunt," said Dick, with a sudden illogical heat which he
tried to suppress; "I don't know what you mean by 'it' and
'something.' Ringstone's offer was perfectly unselfish; he
certainly did not suppose that I would be affected, any more than
he would he, by the childish sentimentality of these people over a
legitimate, every-day business affair. The old Don made a good
bargain, and simply sold the land he could no longer make
profitable with his obsolete method of farming, his gang of idle
retainers, and his Noah's Ark machinery, to a man who knew how to
use steam reapers, and hired sensible men to work on shares."
Nevertheless he was angry with himself for making any explanation,
and still more disturbed that he was conscious of a certain feeling
that it was necessary.
"I was thinking," said Aunt Viney quietly, "that if we invited
anybody to stay with us--like Cecily, for example--it might be
rather dull for her if we had no neighbors to introduce her to."
Dick started; he had not thought of this. He had been greatly
influenced by the belief that his pretty cousin, who was to make
them a visit, would like the change and would not miss excitement.
"We can always invite some girls down there and make our own
company," he answered cheerfully. Nevertheless, he was dimly
conscious that he had already made an airy castle of the old
hacienda, in which Cecily and her aunt moved ALONE. It was to
Cecily that he would introduce the old garden, it was Cecily whom
he would accompany through the dark corridors, and with whom he
would lounge under the awnings of the veranda. All this innocently,
and without prejudice or ulterior thought. He was not yet in love
with the pretty cousin whom he had seen but once or twice during
the past few years, but it was a possibility not unpleasant to
occasionally contemplate. Yet it was equally possible that she
might yearn for lighter companionship and accustomed amusement; that
the passion-fringed garden and shadow-haunted corridor might be
profaned by hoydenish romping and laughter, or by that frivolous
flirtation which, in others, he had always regarded as commonplace
Howbeit, at the end of two weeks he found himself regularly
installed in the Hacienda de los Osos. His little household,
re-enforced by his cousin Cecily and three peons picked up at Los
Pinos, bore their transplantation with a singular equanimity
that seemed to him unaccountable. Then occurred one of those
revelations of character with which Nature is always ready to trip
up merely human judgment. Aunt Viney, an unrelenting widow of calm
but unshaken Dutch prejudices, high but narrow in religious belief,
merged without a murmur into the position of chatelaine of this
unconventional, half-Latin household. Accepting the situation
without exaltation or criticism, placid but unresponsive amidst the
youthful enthusiasm of Dick and Cecily over each quaint detail, her
influence was, nevertheless, felt throughout the lingering length
and shadowy breadth of the strange old house. The Indian and
Mexican servants, at first awed by her practical superiority,
succumbed to her half-humorous toleration of their incapacity, and
became her devoted slaves. Dick was astonished, and even Cecily
was confounded. "Do you know," she said confidentially to her
cousin, "that when that brown Conchita thought to please Aunty by
wearing white stockings instead of going round as usual with her
cinnamon-colored bare feet in yellow slippers--which I was afraid
would be enough to send Aunty into conniption fits--she actually
told her, very quietly, to take them off, and dress according to
her habits and her station? And you remember that in her big,
square bedroom there is a praying-stool and a ghastly crucifix, at
least three feet long, in ivory and black, quite too human for
anything? Well, when I offered to put them in the corridor, she
said I 'needn't trouble'; that really she hadn't noticed them, and
they would do very well where they were. You'd think she had been
accustomed to this sort of thing all her life. It's just too sweet
of her, any way, even if she's shamming. And if she is, she just
does it to the life too, and could give those Spanish women points.
Why, she rode en pillion on Manuel's mule, behind him, holding on
by his sash, across to the corral yesterday; and you should have
seen Manuel absolutely scrape the ground before her with his
sombrero when he let her down." Indeed, her tall, erect figure in
black lustreless silk, appearing in a heavily shadowed doorway, or
seated in a recessed window, gave a new and patrician dignity to
the melancholy of the hacienda. It was pleasant to follow this
quietly ceremonious shadow gliding along the rose garden at
twilight, halting at times to bend stiffly over the bushes, garden-
shears in hand, and carrying a little basket filled with withered
but still odorous petals, as if she were grimly gathering the faded
roses of her youth.
It was also probable that the lively Cecily's appreciation of her
aunt might have been based upon another virtue of that lady--
namely, her exquisite tact in dealing with the delicate situation
evolved from the always possible relations of the two cousins. It
was not to be supposed that the servants would fail to invest the
young people with Southern romance, and even believe that the
situation was prearranged by the aunt with a view to their eventual
engagement. To deal with the problem openly, yet without startling
the consciousness of either Dick or Cecily; to allow them the
privileges of children subject to the occasional restraints of
childhood; to find certain household duties for the young girl that
kept them naturally apart until certain hours of general relaxation;
to calmly ignore the meaning of her retainers' smiles and glances,
and yet to good-humoredly accept their interest as a kind of feudal
loyalty, was part of Aunt Viney's deep diplomacy. Cecily enjoyed her
freedom and companionship with Dick, as she enjoyed the novel
experiences of the old house, the quaint, faded civilization that it
represented, and the change and diversion always acceptable to
youth. She did not feel the absence of other girls of her own age;
neither was she aware that through this omission she was spared the
necessity of a confidante or a rival--both equally revealing to her
thoughtless enjoyment. They took their rides together openly and
without concealment, relating their adventures afterwards to Aunt
Viney with a naivete and frankness that dreamed of no suppression.
The city-bred Cecily, accustomed to horse exercise solely as an
ornamental and artificial recreation, felt for the first time the
fearful joy of a dash across a league-long plain, with no onlookers
but the scattered wild horses she might startle up to scurry before
her, or race at her side. Small wonder that, mounted on her fiery
little mustang, untrammeled by her short gray riding-habit, free as
the wind itself that blew through the folds of her flannel blouse,
with her brown hair half-loosed beneath her slouched felt hat, she
seemed to Dick a more beautiful and womanly figure than the stiff
buckramed simulation of man's angularity and precision he had seen
in the parks. Perhaps one day she detected this consciousness too
plainly in his persistent eyes. Up to that moment she had only
watched the glittering stretches of yellow grain, in which occasional
wind-shorn evergreen oaks stood mid-leg deep like cattle in water,
the distant silhouette of the Sierras against the steely blue, or
perhaps the frankly happy face of the good-looking young fellow at
her side. But it seemed to her now that an intruder had entered the
field--a stranger before whom she was impelled to suddenly fly--
half-laughingly, half-affrightedly--the anxious Dick following
wonderingly at her mustang's heels, until she reached the gates of
the hacienda, where she fell into a gravity and seriousness that
made him wonder still more. He did not dream that his guileless
cousin had discovered, with a woman's instinct, a mysterious invader
who sought to share their guileless companionship, only to absorb it
entirely, and that its name was--love!
The next day she was so greatly preoccupied with her household
duties that she could not ride with him. Dick felt unaccountably
lost. Perhaps this check to their daily intercourse was no less
accelerating to his feelings than the vague motive that induced
Cecily to withhold herself. He moped in the corridor; he rode out
alone, bullying his mustang in proportion as he missed his cousin's
gentle companionship, and circling aimlessly, but still unconsciously,
around the hacienda as a centre of attraction. The sun at last was
sinking to the accompaniment of a rising wind, which seemed to blow
and scatter its broad rays over the shimmering plain until every
slight protuberance was burnished into startling brightness; the
shadows of the short green oaks grew disproportionally long, and all
seemed to point to the white-walled casa. Suddenly he started and
instantly reined up.
The figure of a young girl, which he had not before noticed, was
slowly moving down the half-shadowed lane made by the two walls of
the garden and the corral. Cecily! Perhaps she had come out to
meet him. He spurred forward; but, as he came nearer, he saw that
the figure and its attire were surely not hers. He reined up again
abruptly, mortified at his disappointment, and a little ashamed
lest he should have seemed to have been following an evident
stranger. He vaguely remembered, too, that there was a trail to
the high road, through a little swale clothed with myrtle and thorn
bush which he had just passed, and that she was probably one of
his reserved and secluded neighbors--indeed, her dress, in that
uncertain light, looked half Spanish. This was more confusing,
since his rashness might have been taken for an attempt to force an
acquaintance. He wheeled and galloped towards the front of the
casa as the figure disappeared at the angle of the wall.
"I don't suppose you ever see any of our neighbors?" said Dick to
his aunt casually.
"I really can't say," returned the lady with quiet equanimity.
"There were some extraordinary-looking foreigners on the road to
San Gregorio yesterday. Manuel, who was driving me, may have known
who they were--he is a kind of Indian Papist himself, you know--but
I didn't. They might have been relations of his, for all I know."
At any other time Dick would have been amused at this serene
relegation of the lofty Estudillos and Peraltas to the caste of the
Indian convert, but he was worried to think that perhaps Cecily was
really being bored by the absence of neighbors. After dinner, when
they sought the rose garden, he dropped upon the little lichen-
scarred stone bench by her side. It was still warm from the sun;
the hot musk of the roses filled the air; the whole garden,
shielded from the cool evening trade winds by its high walls,
still kept the glowing memory of the afternoon sunshine. Aunt
Viney, with her garden basket on her arm, moved ghost-like among
the distant bushes.
"I hope you are not getting bored here?" he said, after a slight
"Does that mean that YOU are?" she returned, raising her mischievous
eyes to his.
"No; but I thought you might find it lonely, without neighbors."
"I stayed in to-day," she said, femininely replying to the unasked
question, "because I fancied Aunt Viney might think it selfish of
me to leave her alone so much."
"But YOU are not lonely?"
Certainly not! The young lady was delighted with the whole place,
with the quaint old garden, the mysterious corridors, the restful
quiet of everything, the picture of dear Aunt Viney--who was just
the sweetest soul in the world--moving about like the genius of the
casa. It was such a change to all her ideas, she would never
forget it. It was so thoughtful of him, Dick, to have given them
all that pleasure.
"And the rides," continued Dick, with the untactful pertinacity of
the average man at such moments--"you are not tired of THEM?"
No; she thought them lovely. Such freedom and freshness in the
exercise; so different from riding in the city or at watering-
places, where it was one-half show, and one was always thinking of
one's habit or one's self. One quite forgot one's self on that
lovely plain--with everything so far away, and only the mountains
to look at in the distance. Nevertheless she did not lift her eyes
from the point of the little slipper which had strayed beyond her
Dick was relieved, but not voluble; he could only admiringly follow
the curves of her pretty arms and hands, clasped lightly in her
lap, down to the point of the little slipper. But even that
charming vanishing point was presently withdrawn--possibly through
some instinct--for the young lady had apparently not raised her
"I'm so glad you like it," said Dick earnestly, yet with a nervous
hesitation that made his speech seem artificial to his own ears.
"You see I--that is--I had an idea that you might like an
occasional change of company. It's a great pity we're not on
speaking terms with one of these Spanish families. Some of the
men, you know, are really fine fellows, with an old-world courtesy
that is very charming."
He was surprised to see that she had lifted her head suddenly, with
a quick look that however changed to an amused and half coquettish
"I am finding no fault with my present company," she said demurely,
dropping her head and eyelids until a faint suffusion seemed to
follow the falling lashes over her cheek. "I don't think YOU ought
to undervalue it."
If he had only spoken then! The hot scent of the roses hung
suspended in the air, which seemed to be hushed around them in mute
expectancy; the shadows which were hiding Aunt Viney from view were
also closing round the bench where they sat. He was very near her;
he had only to reach out his hand to clasp hers, which lay idly in
her lap. He felt himself glowing with a strange emanation; he even
fancied that she was turning mechanically towards him, as a flower
might turn towards the fervent sunlight. But he could not speak;
he could scarcely collect his thoughts, conscious though he was of
the absurdity of his silence. What was he waiting for? what did he
expect? He was not usually bashful, he was no coward; there was
nothing in her attitude to make him hesitate to give expression to
what he believed was his first real passion. But he could do
nothing. He even fancied that his face, turned towards hers, was
stiffening into a vacant smile.
The young girl rose. "I think I heard Aunt Viney call me," she
said constrainedly, and made a hesitating step forward. The spell
which had held Dick seemed to be broken suddenly; he stretched
forth his arm to detain her. But the next step appeared to carry
her beyond his influence; and it was even with a half movement of
rejection that she quickened her pace and disappeared down the
path. Dick fell back dejectedly into his seat, yet conscious of a
feeling of RELIEF that bewildered him.
But only for a moment. A recollection of the chance that he had
impotently and unaccountably thrown away returned to him. He
tried to laugh, albeit with a glowing cheek, over the momentary
bashfulness which he thought had overtaken him, and which must have
made him ridiculous in her eyes. He even took a few hesitating
steps in the direction of the path where she had disappeared. The
sound of voices came to his ear, and the light ring of Cecily's
laughter. The color deepened a little on his cheek; he re-entered
the house and went to his room.
The red sunset, still faintly showing through the heavily recessed
windows to the opposite wall, made two luminous aisles through the
darkness of the long low apartment. From his easy-chair he watched
the color drop out of the sky, the yellow plain grow pallid and
seem to stretch itself to infinite rest; then a black line began to
deepen and creep towards him from the horizon edge; the day was
done. It seemed to him a day lost. He had no doubt now but that
he loved his cousin, and the opportunity of telling her so--of
profiting by her predisposition of the moment--had passed. She
would remember herself, she would remember his weak hesitancy, she
would despise him. He rose and walked uneasily up and down. And
yet--and it disgusted him with himself still more--he was again
conscious of the feeling of relief he had before experienced. A
vague formula, "It's better as it is," "Who knows what might have
come of it?" he found himself repeating, without reason and without
Ashamed even of his seclusion, he rose to join the little family
circle, which now habitually gathered around a table on the veranda
of the patio under the rays of a swinging lamp to take their
chocolate. To his surprise the veranda was empty and dark; a light
shining from the inner drawing-room showed him his aunt in her
armchair reading, alone. A slight thrill ran over him: Cecily
might be still in the garden! He noiselessly passed the drawing-
room door, turned into a long corridor, and slipped through a
grating in the wall into the lane that separated it from the
garden. The gate was still open; a few paces brought him into the
long alley of roses. Their strong perfume--confined in the high,
hot walls--at first made him giddy. This was followed by an
inexplicable languor; he turned instinctively towards the stone
bench and sank upon it. The long rows of calla lilies against the
opposite wall looked ghostlike in the darkness, and seemed to have
turned their white faces towards him. Then he fancied that ONE had
detached itself from the rank and was moving away. He looked
again: surely there was something gliding along the wall! A quick
tremor of anticipation passed over him. It was Cecily, who had
lingered in the garden--perhaps to give him one more opportunity!
He rose quickly, and stepped towards the apparition, which had now
plainly resolved itself into a slight girlish figure; it slipped on
beneath the trees; he followed quickly--his nervous hesitancy had
vanished before what now seemed to be a half-coy, half-coquettish
evasion of him. He called softly," Cecily!" but she did not heed
him; he quickened his pace--she increased hers. They were both
running. She reached the angle of the wall where the gate opened
upon the road. Suddenly she stopped, as if intentionally, in the
clear open space before it. He could see her distinctly. The lace
mantle slipped from her head and shoulders. It was NOT Cecily!
But it was a face so singularly beautiful and winsome that he was
as quickly arrested. It was a woman's deep, passionate eyes and
heavy hair, joined to a childish oval of cheek and chin, an
infantine mouth, and a little nose whose faintly curved outline
redeemed the lower face from weakness and brought it into charming
harmony with the rest. A yellow rose was pinned in the lustrous
black hair above the little ear; a yellow silk shawl or mantle,
which had looked white in the shadows, was thrown over one shoulder
and twisted twice or thrice around the plump but petite bust. The
large black velvety eyes were fixed on his in half wonderment,
half amusement; the lovely lips were parted in half astonishment
and half a smile. And yet she was like a picture, a dream,--
a materialization of one's most fanciful imaginings,--like anything,
in fact, but the palpable flesh and blood she evidently was,
standing only a few feet before him, whose hurried breath he could
see even now heaving her youthful breast.
His own breath appeared suspended, although his heart beat rapidly
as he stammered out: "I beg your pardon--I thought--" He stopped
at the recollection that this was the SECOND time he had followed
She did not speak, although her parted lips still curved with their
faint coy smile. Then she suddenly lifted her right hand, which
had been hanging at her side, clasping some long black object like
a stick. Without any apparent impulse from her fingers, the stick
slowly seemed to broaden in her little hand into the segment of an
opening disk, that, lifting to her face and shoulders, gradually
eclipsed the upper part of her figure, until, mounting higher, the
beautiful eyes and the yellow rose of her hair alone remained
above--a large unfurled fan! Then the long eyelashes drooped, as
if in a mute farewell, and they too disappeared as the fan was
lifted higher. The half-hidden figure appeared to glide to the
gateway, lingered for an instant, and vanished. The astounded Dick
stepped quickly into the road, but fan and figure were swallowed up
in the darkness.
Amazed and bewildered, he stood for a moment, breathless and
irresolute. It was no doubt the same stranger that he had seen
before. But WHO was she, and what was she doing there? If she
were one of their Spanish neighbors, drawn simply by curiosity to
become a trespasser, why had she lingered to invite a scrutiny that
would clearly identify her? It was not the escapade of that giddy
girl which the lower part of her face had suggested, for such a one
would have giggled and instantly flown; it was not the deliberate
act of a grave woman of the world, for its sequel was so purposeless.
Why had she revealed herself to HIM alone? Dick felt himself
glowing with a half-shamed, half-secret pleasure. Then he
remembered Cecily, and his own purpose in coming into the garden.
He hurriedly made a tour of the walks and shrubbery, ostentatiously
calling her, yet seeing, as in a dream, only the beautiful eyes of
the stranger still before him, and conscious of an ill-defined
remorse and disloyalty he had never known before. But Cecily was
not there; and again he experienced the old sensation of relief!
He shut the garden gate, crossed the road, and found the grille
just closing behind a slim white figure. He started, for it was
Cecily; but even in his surprise he was conscious of wondering how
he could have ever mistaken the stranger for her. She appeared
startled too; she looked pale and abstracted. Could she have been
a witness of his strange interview?
Her first sentence dispelled the idea.
"I suppose you were in the garden?" she said, with a certain
timidity. "I didn't go there--it seemed so close and stuffy--but
walked a little down the lane."
A moment before he would have eagerly told her his adventure; but
in the presence of her manifest embarrassment his own increased.
He concluded to tell her another time. He murmured vaguely that he
had been looking for her in the garden, yet he had a flushing sense
of falsehood in his reserve; and they passed silently along the
corridor and entered the patio together. She lit the hanging lamp
mechanically. She certainly WAS pale; her slim hand trembled
slightly. Suddenly her eyes met his, a faint color came into her
cheek, and she smiled. She put up her hand with a girlish gesture
towards the back of her head.
"What are you looking at? Is my hair coming down?"
"No," hesitated Dick, "but--I--thought--you were looking just a
An aggressive ray slipped into her blue eyes.
"Strange! I thought YOU were. Just now at the grille you looked
as if the roses hadn't agreed with you."
They both laughed, a little nervously, and Conchita brought the
chocolate. When Aunt Viney came from the drawing-room she found
the two young people together, and Cecily in a gale of high
She had had SUCH a wonderfully interesting walk, all by herself,
alone on the plain. It was really so queer and elfish to find
one's self where one could see nothing above or around one anywhere
but stars. Stars above one, to right and left of one, and some so
low down they seemed as if they were picketed on the plain. It was
so odd to find the horizon line at one's very feet, like a castaway
at sea. And the wind! it seemed to move one this way and that way,
for one could not see anything, and might really be floating in the
air. Only once she thought she saw something, and was quite
"What was it?" asked Dick quickly.
"Well, it was a large black object; but--it turned out only to be a
She laughed, although she had evidently noticed her cousin's
eagerness, and her own eyes had a nervous brightness.
"And where was Dick all this while?" asked Aunt Viney quietly.
Cecily interrupted, and answered for him briskly. "Oh, he was
trying to make attar of rose of himself in the garden. He's still
stupefied by his own sweetness."
"If this means," said Aunt Viney, with matter-of-fact precision,
"that you've been gallivanting all alone, Cecily, on that common
plain, where you're likely to meet all sorts of foreigners and
tramps and savages, and Heaven knows what other vermin, I shall set
my face against a repetition of it. If you MUST go out, and Dick
can't go with you--and I must say that even you and he going out
together there at night isn't exactly the kind of American
Christian example to set to our neighbors--you had better get
Concepcion to go with you and take a lantern."
"But there is nobody one meets on the plain--at least, nobody
likely to harm one," protested Cecily.
"Don't tell ME," said Aunt Viney decidedly; "haven't I seen all
sorts of queer figures creeping along by the brink after nightfall
between San Gregorio and the next rancho? Aren't they always
skulking backwards and forwards to mass and aguardiente?"
"And I don't know why WE should set any example to our neighbors.
We don't see much of them, or they of us."
"Of course not," returned Aunt Viney; "because all proper Spanish
young ladies are shut up behind their grilles at night. You don't
see THEM traipsing over the plain in the darkness, WITH or WITHOUT
cavaliers! Why, Don Rafael would lock one of HIS sisters up in a
convent and consider her disgraced forever, if he heard of it."
Dick felt his cheeks burning; Cecily slightly paled. Yet both said
eagerly together: "Why, what do YOU know about it, Aunty?"
"A great deal," returned Aunt Viney quietly, holding her tatting up
to the light and examining the stitches with a critical eye. "I've
got my eyes about me, thank heaven! even if my ears don't understand
the language. And there's a great deal, my dears, that you young
people might learn from these Papists."
"And do you mean to say," continued Dick, with a glowing cheek and
an uneasy smile, "that Spanish girls don't go out alone?"
"No young LADY goes out without her duenna," said Aunt Viney
emphatically. "Of course there's the Concha variety, that go out
without even stockings."
As the conversation flagged after this, and the young people once
or twice yawned nervously, Aunt Viney thought they had better go to
But Dick did not sleep. The beautiful face beamed out again from
the darkness of his room; the light that glimmered through his
deep-set curtainless windows had an odd trick of bringing out
certain hanging articles, or pieces of furniture, into a
resemblance to a mantled figure. The deep, velvety eyes, fringed
with long brown lashes, again looked into his with amused,
childlike curiosity. He scouted the harsh criticisms of Aunt
Viney, even while he shrank from proving to her her mistake in the
quality of his mysterious visitant. Of course she was a lady--far
superior to any of her race whom he had yet met. Yet how should he
find WHO she was? His pride and a certain chivalry forbade his
questioning the servants--before whom it was the rule of the
household to avoid all reference to their neighbors. He would make
the acquaintance of the old padre--perhaps HE might talk. He would
ride early along the trail in the direction of the nearest rancho,--
Don Jose Amador's,--a thing he had hitherto studiously refrained
from doing. It was three miles away. She must have come that
distance, but not ALONE. Doubtless she had kept her duenna in
waiting in the road. Perhaps it was she who had frightened Cecily.
Had Cecily told ALL she had seen? Her embarrassed manner certainly
suggested more than she had told. He felt himself turning hot with
an indefinite uneasiness. Then he tried to compose himself. After
all, it was a thing of the past. The fair unknown had bribed the
duenna for once, no doubt--had satisfied her girlish curiosity--she
would not come again! But this thought brought with it such a
sudden sense of utter desolation, a deprivation so new and
startling, that it frightened him. Was his head turned by the
witcheries of some black-eyed schoolgirl whom he had seen but once?
Or--he felt his cheeks glowing in the darkness--was it really a
case of love at first sight, and she herself had been impelled by
the same yearning that now possessed him? A delicious satisfaction
followed, that left a smile on his lips as if it had been a kiss.
He knew now why he had so strangely hesitated with Cecily. He had
never really loved her--he had never known what love was till now!
He was up early the next morning, skimming the plain on the back of
"Chu Chu," before the hacienda was stirring. He did not want any
one to suspect his destination, and it was even with a sense of
guilt that he dashed along the swale in the direction of the Amador
rancho. A few vaqueros, an old Digger squaw carrying a basket, two
little Indian acolytes on their way to mass passed him. He was
surprised to find that there were no ruts of carriage wheels within
three miles of the casa, and evidently no track for carriages
through the swale. SHE must have come on HORSEBACK. A broader
highway, however, intersected the trail at a point where the low
walls of the Amador rancho came in view. Here he was startled by
the apparition of an old-fashioned family carriage drawn by two
large piebald mules. But it was unfortunately closed. Then, with
a desperate audacity new to his reserved nature, he ranged close
beside it, and even stared in the windows. A heavily mantled old
woman, whose brown face was in high contrast to her snow-white
hair, sat in the back seat. Beside her was a younger companion,
with the odd blonde hair and blue eyes sometimes seen in the higher
Castilian type. For an instant the blue eyes caught his, half-
coquettishly. But the girl was NOT at all like his mysterious
visitor, and he fell, discomfited, behind.
He had determined to explain his trespass on the grounds of his
neighbor, if questioned, by the excuse that he was hunting a
strayed mustang. But his presence, although watched with a cold
reserve by the few peons who were lounging near the gateway,
provoked no challenge from them; and he made a circuit of the low
adobe walls, with their barred windows and cinnamon-tiled roofs,
without molestation--but equally without satisfaction. He felt he
was a fool for imagining that he would see her in that way. He
turned his horse towards the little Mission half a mile away.
There he had once met the old padre, who spoke a picturesque but
limited English; now he was only a few yards ahead of him, just
turning into the church. The padre was pleased to see Don Ricardo;
it was an unusual thing for the Americanos, he observed, to be up
so early: for himself, he had his functions, of course. No, the
ladies that the caballero had seen had not been to mass! They
were Donna Maria and her daughter, going to San Gregorio. They
comprised ALL the family at the rancho,--there were none others,
unless the caballero, of a possibility, meant Donna Inez, a maiden
aunt of sixty--an admirable woman, a saint on earth! He trusted
that he would find his estray; there was no doubt a mark upon it,
otherwise the plain was illimitable; there were many horses--the
world was wide!
Dick turned his face homewards a little less adventurously, and it
must be confessed, with a growing sense of his folly. The keen,
dry morning air brushed away his fancies of the preceding night;
the beautiful eyes that had lured him thither seemed to flicker
and be blown out by its practical breath. He began to think
remorsefully of his cousin, of his aunt,--of his treachery to that
reserve which the little alien household had maintained towards
their Spanish neighbors. He found Aunt Viney and Cecily at
breakfast--Cecily, he thought, looking a trifle pale. Yet (or was
it only his fancy?) she seemed curious about his morning ride. And
he became more reticent.
"You must see a good many of our neighbors when you are out so
"Why?" he asked shortly, feeling his color rise.
"Oh, because--because we don't see them at any other time."
"I saw a very nice chap--I think the best of the lot," he began,
with assumed jocularity; then, seeing Cecily's eyes suddenly fixed
on him, he added, somewhat lamely, "the padre! There were also two
women in a queer coach."
"Donna Maria Amador, and Dona Felipa Peralta--her daughter by her
first husband," said Aunt Viney quietly. "When you see the horses
you think it's a circus; when you look inside the carriage you KNOW
it's a funeral."
Aunt Viney did not condescend to explain how she had acquired her
genealogical knowledge of her neighbor's family, but succeeded in
breaking the restraint between the young people. Dick proposed a
ride in the afternoon, which was cheerfully accepted by Cecily.
Their intercourse apparently recovered its old frankness and
freedom, marred only for a moment when they set out on the plain.
Dick, really to forget his preoccupation of the morning, turned his
horse's head AWAY from the trail, to ride in another direction; but
Cecily oddly, and with an exhibition of caprice quite new to her,
insisted upon taking the old trail. Nevertheless they met nothing,
and soon became absorbed in the exercise. Dick felt something of
his old tenderness return to this wholesome, pretty girl at his
side; perhaps he betrayed it in his voice, or in an unconscious
lingering by her bridle-rein, but she accepted it with a naive
reserve which he naturally attributed to the effect of his own
previous preoccupation. He bore it so gently, however, that it
awakened her interest, and, possibly, her pique. Her reserve
relaxed, and by the time they returned to the hacienda they had
regained something of their former intimacy. The dry, incisive
breath of the plains swept away the last lingering remnants of
yesterday's illusions. Under this frankly open sky, in this clear
perspective of the remote Sierras, which admitted no fanciful
deception of form or distance--there remained nothing but a strange
incident--to be later explained or forgotten. Only he could not
bring himself to talk to HER about it.
After dinner, and a decent lingering for coffee on the veranda,
Dick rose, and leaning half caressingly, half mischievously, over
his aunt's rocking-chair, but with his eyes on Cecily, said:--
"I've been deeply considering, dear Aunty, what you said last
evening of the necessity of our offering a good example to our
neighbors. Now, although Cecily and I are cousins, yet, as I am
HEAD of the house, lord of the manor, and padron, according to the
Spanish ideas I am her recognised guardian and protector, and it
seems to me it is my positive DUTY to accompany her if she wishes
to walk out this evening."
A momentary embarrassment--which, however, changed quickly into an
answering smile to her cousin--came over Cecily's face. She turned
to her aunt.
"Well, don't go too far," said that lady quietly.
When they closed the grille behind them and stepped into the lane,
Cecily shot a quick glance at her cousin.
"Perhaps you'd rather walk in the garden?"
"I? Oh, no," he answered honestly. "But"--he hesitated--"would
"Yes," she said faintly.
He impulsively offered his arm; her slim hand slipped lightly
through it and rested on his sleeve. They crossed the lane
together, and entered the garden. A load appeared to be lifted
from his heart; the moment seemed propitious,--here was a chance to
recover his lost ground, to regain his self-respect and perhaps his
cousin's affection. By a common instinct, however, they turned to
the right, and AWAY from the stone bench, and walked slowly down
the broad allee.
They talked naturally and confidingly of the days when they had met
before, of old friends they had known and changes that had crept
into their young lives; they spoke affectionately of the grim,
lonely, but self-contained old woman they had just left, who had
brought them thus again together. Cecily talked of Dick's studies,
of the scientific work on which he was engaged, that was to bring
him, she was sure, fame and fortune! They talked of the thoughtful
charm of the old house, of its quaint old-world flavor. They spoke
of the beauty of the night, the flowers and the stars, in whispers,
as one is apt to do--as fearing to disturb a super-sensitiveness in
They had come out later than on the previous night; and the moon,
already risen above the high walls of the garden, seemed a vast
silver shield caught in the interlacing tops of the old pear-trees,
whose branches crossed its bright field like dark bends or bars.
As it rose higher, it began to separate the lighter shrubbery, and
open white lanes through the olive-trees. Damp currents of air,
alternating with drier heats, on what appeared to be different
levels, moved across the whole garden, or gave way at times to a
breathless lull and hush of everything, in which the long rose
alley seemed to be swooning in its own spices. They had reached
the bottom of the garden, and had turned, facing the upper moonlit
extremity and the bare stone bench. Cecily's voice faltered, her
hand leaned more heavily on his arm, as if she were overcome by the
strong perfume. His right hand began to steal towards hers. But
she had stopped; she was trembling.
"Go on," she said in a half whisper. "Leave me a moment; I'll join
"You are ill, Cecily! It's those infernal flowers!" said Dick
earnestly. "Let me help you to the bench."
"No--it's nothing. Go on, please. Do! Will you go!"
She spoke with imperiousness, unlike herself. He walked on
mechanically a dozen paces and turned. She had disappeared. He
remembered there was a smaller gate opening upon the plain near
where they had stopped. Perhaps she had passed through that.
He continued on, slowly, towards the upper end of the garden,
occasionally turning to await her return. In this way he gradually
approached the stone bench. He was facing about to continue his
walk, when his heart seemed to stop beating. The beautiful visitor
of last night was sitting alone on the bench before him!
She had not been there a moment before; he could have sworn it.
Yet there was no illusion now of shade or distance. She was
scarcely six feet from him, in the bright moonlight. The whole of
her exquisite little figure was visible, from her lustrous hair
down to the tiny, black satin, low-quartered slipper, held as by
two toes. Her face was fully revealed; he could see even the few
minute freckles, like powdered allspice, that heightened the pale
satin sheen of her beautifully rounded cheek; he could detect even
the moist shining of her parted red lips, the white outlines of her
little teeth, the length of her curved lashes, and the meshes of
the black lace veil that fell from the yellow rose above her ear to
the black silk camisa; he noted even the thick yellow satin saya,
or skirt, heavily flounced with black lace and bugles, and that it
was a different dress from that worn on the preceding night, a
half-gala costume, carried with the indescribable air of a woman
looking her best and pleased to do so: all this he had noted,
drawing nearer and nearer, until near enough to forget it all and
drown himself in the depths of her beautiful eyes. For they were
no longer childlike and wondering: they were glowing with expectancy,
He threw himself passionately on the bench beside her. Yet, even
if he had known her language, he could not have spoken. She leaned
towards him; their eyes seemed to meet caressingly, as in an
embrace. Her little hand slipped from the yellow folds of her
skirt to the bench. He eagerly seized it. A subtle thrill ran
through his whole frame. There was no delusion here; it was flesh
and blood, warm, quivering, and even tightening round his own. He
was about to carry it to his lips, when she rose and stepped
backwards. He pressed eagerly forward. Another backward step
brought her to the pear-tree, where she seemed to plunge into its
shadow. Dick Bracy followed--and the same shadow seemed to fold
them in its embrace.
. . . . . .
He did not return to the veranda and chocolate that evening, but
sent word from his room that he had retired, not feeling well.
Cecily, herself a little nervously exalted, corroborated the fact
of his indisposition by telling Aunt Viney that the close odors of
the rose garden had affected them both. Indeed, she had been
obliged to leave before him. Perhaps in waiting for her return--
and she really was not well enough to go back--he was exposed to
the night air too long. She was very sorry.
Aunt Viney heard this with a slight contraction of her brows and a
renewed scrutiny of her knitting; and, having satisfied herself by
a personal visit to Dick's room that he was not alarmingly ill, set
herself to find out what was really the matter with the young
people; for there was no doubt that Cecily was in some vague way as
disturbed and preoccupied as Dick. He rode out again early the
next morning, returning to his studies in the library directly
after breakfast; and Cecily was equally reticent, except when, to
Aunt Viney's perplexity, she found excuses for Dick's manner on the
ground of his absorption in his work, and that he was probably
being bored by want of society. She proposed that she should ask
an old schoolfellow to visit them.
"It would give Dick a change of ideas, and he would not be
perpetually obliged to look so closely after me." She blushed
slightly under Aunt Viney's gaze, and added hastily, "I mean, of
course, he would not feel it his DUTY."
She even induced her aunt to drive with her to the old mission
church, where she displayed a pretty vivacity and interest in the
people they met, particularly a few youthful and picturesque
caballeros. Aunt Viney smiled gravely. Was the poor child
developing an unlooked-for coquetry, or preparing to make the
absent-minded Dick jealous? Well, the idea was not a bad one. In
the evening she astonished the two cousins by offering to accompany
them into the garden--a suggestion accepted with eager and effusive
politeness by each, but carried out with great awkwardness by the
distrait young people later. Aunt Viney clearly saw that it was
not her PRESENCE that was required. In this way two or three days
elapsed without apparently bringing the relations of Dick and
Cecily to any more satisfactory conclusion. The diplomatic Aunt
Viney confessed herself puzzled.
One night it was very warm; the usual trade winds had died away
before sunset, leaving an unwonted hush in sky and plain. There
was something so portentous in this sudden withdrawal of that rude
stimulus to the otherwise monotonous level, that a recurrence of
such phenomena was always known as "earthquake weather." The wild
cattle moved uneasily in the distance without feeding; herds of
unbroken mustangs approached the confines of the hacienda in vague
timorous squads. The silence and stagnation of the old house was
oppressive, as if the life had really gone out of it at last; and
Aunt Viney, after waiting impatiently for the young people to come
in to chocolate, rose grimly, set her lips together, and went out
into the lane. The gate of the rose garden opposite was open. She
walked determinedly forward and entered.
In that doubly stagnant air the odor of the roses was so suffocating
and overpowering that she had to stop to take breath. The whole
garden, except a near cluster of pear-trees, was brightly
illuminated by the moonlight. No one was to be seen along the
length of the broad allee, strewn an inch deep with scattered red
and yellow petals--colorless in the moonbeams. She was turning
away, when Dick's familiar voice, but with a strange accent of
entreaty in it, broke the silence. It seemed to her vaguely to come
from within the pear-tree shadow.
"But we must understand one another, my darling! Tell me all.
This suspense, this mystery, this brief moment of happiness, and
these hours of parting and torment, are killing me!"
A slight cough broke from Aunt Viney. She had heard enough--she
did not wish to hear more. The mystery was explained. Dick loved
Cecily; the coyness or hesitation was not on HIS part. Some
idiotic girlish caprice, quite inconsistent with what she had
noticed at the mission church, was keeping Cecily silent, reserved,
and exasperating to her lover. She would have a talk with the
young lady, without revealing the fact that she had overheard them.
She was perhaps a little hurt that affairs should have reached this
point without some show of confidence to her from the young people.
Dick might naturally be reticent--but Cecily!
She did not even look towards the pear-tree, but turned and walked
stiffly out of the gate. As she was crossing the lane she suddenly
started back in utter dismay and consternation! For Cecily, her
niece,--in her own proper person,--was actually just coming OUT OF
Aunt Viney caught her wrist. "Where have you been?" she asked
"In the house," stammered Cecily, with a frightened face.
"You have not been in the garden with Dick?" continued Aunt Viney
sharply--yet with a hopeless sense of the impossibility of the
"No, I was not even going there. I thought of just strolling down
The girl's accents were truthful; more than that, she absolutely
looked relieved by her aunt's question. "Do you want me, Aunty?"
she added quickly.
"Yes--no. Run away, then--but don't go far."
At any other time Aunt Viney might have wondered at the eagerness
with which Cecily tripped away; now she was only anxious to get rid
of her. She entered the casa hurriedly.
"Send Josefa to me at once," she said to Manuel.
Josefa, the housekeeper,--a fat Mexican woman,--appeared. "Send
Concha and the other maids here." They appeared, mutely wondering.
Aunt Viney glanced hurriedly over them--they were all there--a few
comely, but not too attractive, and all stupidly complacent. "Have
you girls any friends here this evening--or are you expecting any?"
she demanded. Of a surety, no!--as the padrona knew--it was not
night for church. "Very well," returned Aunt Viney; "I thought I
heard your voices in the garden; understand, I want no gallivanting
there. Go to bed."
She was relieved! Dick certainly was not guilty of a low intrigue
with one of the maids. But who and what was she?
Dick was absent again from chocolate; there was unfinished work to
do. Cecily came in later, just as Aunt Viney was beginning to be
anxious. Had she appeared distressed or piqued by her cousin's
conduct, Aunt Viney might have spoken; but there was a pretty color
on her cheek--the result, she said, of her rapid walking, and the
fresh air; did Aunt Viney know that a cool breeze had just risen?--
and her delicate lips were wreathed at times in a faint retrospective
smile. Aunt Viney stared; certainly the girl was not pining! What
young people were made of now-a-days she really couldn't conceive.
She shrugged her shoulders and resumed her tatting.
Nevertheless, as Dick's unfinished studies seemed to have whitened
his cheek and impaired his appetite the next morning, she announced
her intention of driving out towards the mission alone. When she
returned at luncheon she further astonished the young people by
casually informing them they would have Spanish visitors to dinner--
namely, their neighbors, Donna Maria Amador and the Dona Felipa
Both faces were turned eagerly towards her; both said almost in the
same breath, "But, Aunt Viney! you don't know them! However did
you-- What does it all mean?"
"My dears," said Aunt Viney placidly, "Mrs. Amador and I have
always nodded to each other, and I knew they were only waiting for
the slightest encouragement. I gave it, and they're coming."
It was difficult to say whether Cecily's or Dick's face betrayed
the greater delight and animation. Aunt Viney looked from the one
to the other. It seemed as if her attempt at diversion had been
"Tell us all about it, you dear, clever, artful Aunty!" said Cecily
"There's nothing whatever to tell, my love! It seems, however,
that the young one, Dona Felipa, has seen Dick, and remembers him."
She shot a keen glance at Dick, but was obliged to admit that the
rascal's face remained unchanged. "And I wanted to bring a
cavalier for YOU, dear, but Don Jose's nephew isn't at home now."
Yet here, to her surprise, Cecily was faintly blushing.
Early in the afternoon the piebald horses and dark brown chariot of
the Amadors drew up before the gateway. The young people were
delighted with Dona Felipa, and thought her blue eyes and tawny
hair gave an added piquancy to her colorless satin skin and
otherwise distinctively Spanish face and figure. Aunt Viney, who
entertained Donna Maria, was nevertheless watchful of the others;
but failed to detect in Dick's effusive greeting, or the Dona's
coquettish smile of recognition, any suggestion of previous
confidences. It was rather to Cecily that Dona Felipa seemed to be
characteristically exuberant and childishly feminine. Both mother
and stepdaughter spoke a musical infantine English, which the
daughter supplemented with her eyes, her eyebrows, her little brown
fingers, her plump shoulders, a dozen charming intonations of
voice, and a complete vocabulary in her active and emphatic fan.
The young lady went over the house with Cecily curiously, as if
recalling some old memories. "Ah, yes, I remember it--but it was
long ago and I was very leetle--you comprehend, and I have not
arrive mooch when the old Don was alone. It was too--too--what you
call melank-oaly. And the old man have not make mooch to himself
"Then there were no young people in the house, I suppose?" said
"No--not since the old man's father lif. Then there were TWO. It
is a good number, this two, eh?" She gave a single gesture, which
took in, with Cecily, the distant Dick, and with a whole volume of
suggestion in her shoulders, and twirling fan, continued: "Ah! two
sometime make one--is it not? But not THEN in the old time--ah,
no! It is a sad story. I shall tell it to you some time, but not
But Cecily's face betrayed no undue bashful consciousness, and she
only asked, with a quiet smile, "Why not to--to my cousin?"
"Imbecile!" responded that lively young lady.
After dinner the young people proposed to take Dona Felipa into
the rose garden, while Aunt Viney entertained Donna Maria on the
veranda. The young girl threw up her hands with an affectation of
horror. "Santa Maria!--in the rose garden? After the Angelus, you
and him? Have you not heard?"
But here Donna Maria interposed. Ah! Santa Maria! What was all
that! Was it not enough to talk old woman's gossip and tell
vaqueros tales at home, without making uneasy the strangers? She
would have none of it. "Vamos!"
Nevertheless Dona Felipa overcame her horror of the rose garden at
infelicitous hours, so far as to permit herself to be conducted by
the cousins into it, and to be installed like a rose queen on the
stone bench, while Dick and Cecily threw themselves in submissive
and imploring attitudes at her little feet. The young girl looked
mischievously from one to the other.
"It ees very pret-ty, but all the same I am not a rose: I am what
you call a big goose-berry! Eh--is it not?"
The cousins laughed, but without any embarrassed consciousness.
"Dona Felipa knows a sad story of this house," said Cecily; "but
she will not tell it before you, Dick."
Dick, looking up at the coquettish little figure, with Heaven knows
what OTHER memories in his mind, implored and protested.
"Ah! but this little story--she ees not so mooch sad of herself as
she ees str-r-r-ange!" She gave an exaggerated little shiver under
her lace shawl, and closed her eyes meditatively.
"Go on," said Dick, smiling in spite of his interested expectation.
Dona Felipa took her fan in both hands, spanning her knees, leaned
forward, and after a preliminary compressing of her lips and
knitting of her brows, said:--
"It was a long time ago. Don Gregorio he have his daughter Rosita
here, and for her he will fill all thees rose garden and gif to
her; for she like mooch to lif with the rose. She ees very pret-ty.
You shall have seen her picture here in the casa. No? It have
hang under the crucifix in the corner room, turn around to the
wall--WHY, you shall comprehend when I have made finish thees
story. Comes to them here one day Don Vincente, Don Gregorio's
nephew, to lif when his father die. He was yong, a pollio--same as
Rosita. They were mooch together; they have make lofe. What will
you?--it ees always the same. The Don Gregorio have comprehend;
the friends have all comprehend; in a year they will make marry.
Dona Rosita she go to Monterey to see his family. There ees an
English warship come there; and Rosita she ees very gay with the
officers, and make the flirtation very mooch. Then Don Vincente he
is onhappy, and he revenge himself to make lofe with another. When
Rosita come back it is very miserable for them both, but they say
nossing. The warship he have gone away; the other girl Vincente he
go not to no more. All the same, Rosita and Vincente are very
triste, and the family will not know what to make. Then Rosita she
is sick and eat nossing, and walk to herself all day in the rose
garden, until she is as white and fade away as the rose. And
Vincente he eat nossing, but drink mooch aguardiente. Then he have
fever and go dead. And Rosita she have fainting and fits; and one
day they have look for her in the rose garden, and she is not! And
they poosh and poosh in the ground for her, and they find her with
so mooch rose-leaves--so deep--on top of her. SHE has go dead. It
is a very sad story, and when you hear it you are very, very mooch
It is to be feared that the two Americans were not as thrilled by
this sad recital as the fair narrator had expected, and even Dick
ventured to point out that those sort of things happened also to
his countrymen, and were not peculiar to the casa.
"But you said that there was a terrible sequel," suggested Cecily
smilingly: "tell us THAT. Perhaps Mr. Bracy may receive it a
little more politely."
An expression of superstitious gravity, half real, half simulated,
came over Dona Felipa's face, although her vivacity of gesticulation
and emphasis did not relax. She cast a hurried glance around her,
and leaned a little forward towards the cousins.
"When there are no more young people in the casa because they are
dead," she continued, in a lower voice, "Don Gregorio he is very
melank-oaly, and he have no more company for many years. Then
there was a rodeo near the hacienda, and there came five or six
caballeros to stay with him for the feast. Notabilimente comes
then Don Jorge Martinez. He is a bad man--so weeked--a Don Juan
for making lofe to the ladies. He lounge in the garden, he smoke
his cigarette, he twist the moustache--so! One day he came in, and
he laugh and wink so and say, 'Oh, the weeked, sly Don Gregorio!
He have hid away in the casa a beautiful, pret-ty girl, and he will
nossing say.' And the other caballeros say, 'Mira! what is this?
there is not so mooch as one young lady in the casa.' And Don
Jorge he wink, and he say, 'Imbeciles! pigs!' And he walk in the
garden and twist his moustache more than ever. And one day,
behold! he walk into the casa, very white and angry, and he swear
mooch to himself; and he orders his horse, and he ride away, and
never come back no more, never-r-r! And one day another caballero,
Don Esteban Briones, he came in, and say, 'Hola! Don Jorge has
forgotten his pret-ty girl: he have left her over on the garden
bench. Truly I have seen.' And they say, 'We will too.' And they
go, and there is nossing. And they say, 'Imbecile and pig!' But
he is not imbecile and pig; for he has seen, and Don Jorge has
seen; and why? For it is not a girl, but what you call her--a
ghost! And they will that Don Esteban should make a picture of
her--a design; and he make one. And old Don Gregorio he say,
'madre de Dios! it is Rosita'--the same that hung under the
crucifix in the big room."
"And is that all?" asked Dick, with a somewhat pronounced laugh,
but a face that looked quite white in the moonlight.
"No, it ees NOT all. For when Don Gregorio got himself more
company another time--it ees all yonge ladies, and my aunt she is
invite too; for she was yonge then, and she herself have tell to me
"One night she is in the garden with the other girls, and when they
want to go in the casa one have say, 'Where is Francisca Pacheco?
Look, she came here with us, and now she is not.' Another one say,
'She have conceal herself to make us affright.' And my aunt she
say, 'I will go seek that I shall find her.' And she go. And when
she came to the pear-tree, she heard Francisca's voice, and it say
to some one she see not, 'Fly! vamos! some one have come.' And
then she come at the moment upon Francisca, very white and
trembling, and--alone. And Francisca she have run away and say
nossing, and shut herself in her room. And one of the other girls
say: 'It is the handsome caballero with the little black moustache
and sad white face that I have seen in the garden that make this.
It is truly that he is some poor relation of Don Gregorio, or some
mad kinsman that he will not we should know.' And my aunt ask Don
Gregorio; for she is yonge. And he have say: 'What silly fool ees
thees? There is not one caballero here, but myself.' And when the
other young girl have tell to him how the caballero look, he say:
'The saints save us! I cannot more say. It ees Don Vincente, who
haf gone dead.' And he cross himself, and-- But look! Madre de
Dios! Mees Cecily, you are ill--you are affrighted. I am a
gabbling fool! Help her, Don Ricardo; she is falling!"
But it was too late: Cecily had tried to rise to her feet, had
staggered forward and fallen in a faint on the bench.
. . . . . .
Dick did not remember how he helped to carry the insensible Cecily
to the casa, nor what explanation he had given to the alarmed
inmates of her sudden attack. He recalled vaguely that something
had been said of the overpowering perfumes of the garden at that
hour, that the lively Felipa had become half hysterical in her
remorseful apologies, and that Aunt Viney had ended the scene by
carrying Cecily into her own room, where she presently recovered a
still trembling but reticent consciousness. But the fainting of
his cousin and the presence of a real emergency had diverted his
imagination from the vague terror that had taken possession of it,
and for the moment enabled him to control himself. With a
desperate effort he managed to keep up a show of hospitable
civility to his Spanish friends until their early departure. Then
he hurried to his own room. So bewildered and horrified he had
become, and a prey to such superstitious terrors, that he could not
at that moment bring himself to the test of looking for the picture
of the alleged Rosita, which might still be hanging in his aunt's
room. If it were really the face of his mysterious visitant--in
his present terror--he felt that his reason might not stand the
shock. He would look at it to-morrow, when he was calmer! Until
then he would believe that the story was some strange coincidence
with what must have been his hallucination, or a vulgar trick to
which he had fallen a credulous victim. Until then he would
believe that Cecily's fright had been only the effect of Dona
Felipa's story, acting upon a vivid imagination, and not a terrible
confirmation of something she had herself seen. He threw himself,
without undressing, upon his bed in a benumbing agony of doubt.
The gentle opening of his door and the slight rustle of a skirt
started him to his feet with a feeling of new and overpowering
repulsion. But it was a familiar figure that he saw in the long
aisle of light which led from his recessed window, whose face was
white enough to have been a spirit's, and whose finger was laid
upon its pale lips, as it softly closed the door behind it.
"Hush!" she said, in a distracted whisper: "I felt I must see you
to-night. I could not wait until day--no, not another hour! I
could not speak to you before them. I could not go into that
dreadful garden again, or beyond the walls of this house. Dick, I
want to--I MUST tell you something! I would have kept it from
every one--from you most of all! I know you will hate me, and
despise me; but, Dick, listen!"--she caught his hand despairingly,
drawing it towards her--"that girl's awful story was TRUE!" She
threw his hand away.
"And you have seen HER!" said Dick, frantically. "Good God!"
The young girl's manner changed. "HER!" she said, half scornfully,
"you don't suppose I believe THAT story? No. I--I--don't blame
me, Dick,--I have seen HIM."
She pushed him nervously into a seat, and sat down beside him. In
the half light of the moon, despite her pallor and distraction, she
was still very human, womanly, and attractive in her disorder.
"Listen to me, Dick. Do you remember one afternoon, when we were
riding together, I got ahead of you, and dashed off to the casa.
I don't know what possessed me, or WHY I did it. I only know I
wanted to get home quickly, and get away from you. No, I was not
angry, Dick, at YOU; it did not seem to be THAT; I--well, I confess
I was FRIGHTENED--at something, I don't know what. When I wheeled
round into the lane, I saw--a man--a young gentleman standing by
the garden-wall. He was very picturesque-looking, in his red sash,
velvet jacket, and round silver buttons; handsome, but oh, so pale
and sad! He looked at me very eagerly, and then suddenly drew
back, and I heard you on Chu Chu coming at my heels. You must have
seen him and passed him too, I thought: but when you said nothing
of it, I--I don't know why, Dick, I said nothing of it too. Don't
speak!" she added, with a hurried gesture: "I know NOW why you said
nothing,--YOU had not seen him."
She stopped, and put back a wisp of her disordered chestnut hair.
"The next time was the night YOU were so queer, Dick, sitting on
that stone bench. When I left you--I thought you didn't care to
have me stay--I went to seek Aunt Viney at the bottom of the
garden. I was very sad, but suddenly I found myself very gay,
talking and laughing with her in a way I could not account for.
All at once, looking up, I saw HIM standing by the little gate,
looking at me very sadly. I think I would have spoken to Aunt
Viney, but he put his finger to his lips--his hand was so slim and
white, quite like a hand in one of those Spanish pictures--and
moved slowly backwards into the lane, as if he wished to speak with
ME only--out there. I know I ought to have spoken to Aunty; I knew
it was wrong what I did, but he looked so earnest, so appealing, so
awfully sad, Dick, that I slipped past Aunty and went out of the
gate. Just then she missed me, and called. He made a kind of
despairing gesture, raising his hand Spanish fashion to his lips,
as if to say good-night. You'll think me bold, Dick, but I was so
anxious to know what it all meant, that I gave a glance behind to
see if Aunty was following, before I should go right up to him and
demand an explanation. But when I faced round again, he was gone!
I walked up and down the lane and out on the plain nearly half an
hour, seeking him. It was strange, I know; but I was not a bit
FRIGHTENED, Dick--that was so queer--but I was only amazed and
The look of spiritual terror in Dick's face here seemed to give way
to a less exalted disturbance, as he fixed his eyes on Cecily's.
"You remember I met YOU coming in: you seemed so queer then that I
did not say anything to you, for I thought you would laugh at me,
or reproach me for my boldness; and I thought, Dick, that--that--
that--this person wished to speak only to ME." She hesitated.
"Go on," said Dick, in a voice that had also undergone a singular
The chestnut head was bent a little lower, as the young girl
nervously twisted her fingers in her lap.
"Then I saw him again--and--again," she went on hesitatingly. "Of
course I spoke to him, to--to--find out what he wanted; but you
know, Dick, I cannot speak Spanish, and of course he didn't
understand me, and didn't reply."
"But his manner, his appearance, gave you some idea of his
meaning?" said Dick suddenly.
Cecily's head drooped a little lower. "I thought--that is, I
fancied I knew what he meant."
"No doubt," said Dick, in a voice which, but for the superstitious
horror of the situation, might have impressed a casual listener as
indicating a trace of human irony.
But Cecily did not seem to notice it. "Perhaps I was excited that
night, perhaps I was bolder because I knew you were near me; but I
went up to him and touched him! And then, Dick!--oh, Dick! think
Again Dick felt the thrill of superstitious terror creep over him.
"And he vanished!" he said hoarsely.
"No--not at once," stammered Cecily, with her head almost buried in
her lap; "for he--he--he took me in his arms and--"
"And kissed you?" said Dick, springing to his feet, with every
trace of his superstitious agony gone from his indignant face. But
Cecily, without raising her head, caught at his gesticulating hand.
"Oh, Dick, Dick! do you think he really did it? The horror of it,
Dick! to be kissed by a--a--man who has been dead a hundred years!"
"A hundred fiddlesticks!" said Dick furiously. "We have been
deceived! No," he stammered, "I mean YOU have been deceived--
"Hush! Aunty will hear you," murmured the girl despairingly.
Dick, who had thrown away his cousin's hand, caught it again, and
dragged her along the aisle of light to the window. The moon shone
upon his flushed and angry face.
"Listen!" he said; "you have been fooled, tricked--infamously
tricked by these people, and some confederate, whom--whom I shall
horsewhip if I catch. The whole story is a lie!"
"But you looked as if you believed it--about the girl," said
Cecily; "you acted so strangely. I even thought, Dick,--sometimes--
you had seen HIM."
Dick shuddered, trembled; but it is to be feared that the lower,
more natural human element in him triumphed.
"Nonsense!" he stammered; "the girl was a foolish farrago of
absurdities, improbable on the face of things, and impossible to
prove. But that infernal, sneaking rascal was flesh and blood."
It seemed to him to relieve the situation and establish his own
sanity to combat one illusion with another. Cecily had already
been deceived--another lie wouldn't hurt her. But, strangely
enough, he was satisfied that Cecily's visitant was real, although
he still had doubts about his own.
"Then you think, Dick, it was actually some real man?" she said
piteously. "Oh, Dick, I have been so foolish!"
Foolish she no doubt had been; pretty she certainly was, sitting
there in her loosened hair, and pathetic, appealing earnestness.
Surely the ghostly Rosita's glances were never so pleading as these
actual honest eyes behind their curving lashes. Dick felt a
strange, new-born sympathy of suffering, mingled tantalizingly with
a new doubt and jealousy, that was human and stimulating.
"Oh, Dick, what are WE to do?"
The plural struck him as deliciously sweet and subtle. Had they
really been singled out for this strange experience, or still
stranger hallucination? His arm crept around her; she gently
withdrew from it.
"I must go now," she murmured; "but I couldn't sleep until I told
you all. You know, Dick, I have no one else to come to, and it
seemed to me that YOU ought to know it first. I feel better for
telling you. You will tell me to-morrow what you think we ought to
They reached the door, opening it softly. She lingered for a
moment on the threshold.
"Tell me, Dick" (she hesitated), "if that--that really were a
spirit, and not a real man,--you don't think that--that kiss" (she
shuddered) "could do me harm!"
He shuddered too, with a strange and sympathetic consciousness
that, happily, she did not even suspect. But he quickly recovered
himself and said, with something of bitterness in his voice, "I
should be more afraid if it really were a man."
"Oh, thank you, Dick!"
Her lips parted in a smile of relief; the color came faintly back
to her cheek.
A wild thought crossed his fancy that seemed an inspiration. They
would share the risks alike. He leaned towards her: their lips met
in their first kiss.
"I think--we are saved."
"It wasn't at all like that."
He smiled as she flew swiftly down the corridor. Perhaps he
thought so too.
. . . . . .
No picture of the alleged Rosita was ever found. Dona Felipa,
when the story was again referred to, smiled discreetly, but was
apparently too preoccupied with the return of Don Jose's absent
nephew for further gossiping visits to the hacienda; and Dick and
Cecily, as Mr. and Mrs. Bracy, would seem to have survived--if they
never really solved--the mystery of the Hacienda de los Osos. Yet
in the month of June, when the moon is high, one does not sit on
the stone bench in the rose garden after the last stroke of the
I do not believe that the most enthusiastic lover of that "useful
and noble animal," the horse, will claim for him the charm of
geniality, humor, or expansive confidence. Any creature who will
not look you squarely in the eye--whose only oblique glances are
inspired by fear, distrust, or a view to attack; who has no way of
returning caresses, and whose favorite expression is one of head-
lifting disdain, may be "noble" or "useful," but can be hardly said
to add to the gayety of nations. Indeed it may be broadly stated
that, with the single exception of gold-fish, of all animals kept
for the recreation of mankind the horse is alone capable of
exciting a passion that shall be absolutely hopeless. I deem these
general remarks necessary to prove that my unreciprocated affection
for "Chu Chu" was not purely individual or singular. And I may add
that to these general characteristics she brought the waywardness
of her capricious sex.
She came to me out of the rolling dust of an emigrant wagon, behind
whose tailboard she was gravely trotting. She was a half-broken
colt--in which character she had at different times unseated
everybody in the train--and, although covered with dust, she had a
beautiful coat, and the most lambent gazelle-like eyes I had ever
seen. I think she kept these latter organs purely for ornament--
apparently looking at things with her nose, her sensitive ears,
and, sometimes, even a slight lifting of her slim near fore-leg.
On our first interview I thought she favored me with a coy glance,
but as it was accompanied by an irrelevant "Look out!" from her
owner, the teamster, I was not certain. I only know that after
some conversation, a good deal of mental reservation, and the
disbursement of considerable coin, I found myself standing in the
dust of the departing emigrant-wagon with one end of a forty-foot
riata in my hand, and Chu Chu at the other.
I pulled invitingly at my own end, and even advanced a step or two
towards her. She then broke into a long disdainful pace, and began
to circle round me at the extreme limit of her tether. I stood
admiring her free action for some moments--not always turning with
her, which was tiring--until I found that she was gradually winding
herself up ON ME! Her frantic astonishment when she suddenly found
herself thus brought up against me was one of the most remarkable
things I ever saw, and nearly took me off my legs. Then when she
had pulled against the riata until her narrow head and prettily
arched neck were on a perfectly straight line with it, she as
suddenly slackened the tension and condescended to follow me, at an
angle of her own choosing. Sometimes it was on one side of me,
sometimes on the other. Even then the sense of my dreadful
contiguity apparently would come upon her like a fresh discovery,
and she would become hysterical. But I do not think that she
really SAW me. She looked at the riata and sniffed it disparagingly,
she pawed some pebbles that were near me tentatively with her small
hoof; she started back with a Robinson Crusoe-like horror of my
footprints in the wet gully, but my actual personal presence she
ignored. She would sometimes pause, with her head thoughtfully
between her fore-legs, and apparently say: "There is some
extraordinary presence here: animal, vegetable, or mineral--I can't
make out which--but it's not good to eat, and I loathe and detest
When I reached my house in the suburbs, before entering the "fifty
vara" lot inclosure, I deemed it prudent to leave her outside while
I informed the household of my purchase; and with this object I
tethered her by the long riata to a solitary sycamore which stood
in the centre of the road, the crossing of two frequented
thoroughfares. It was not long, however, before I was interrupted
by shouts and screams from that vicinity, and on returning thither
I found that Chu Chu, with the assistance of her riata, had
securely wound up two of my neighbors to the tree, where they