Part 4 out of 4
presented the appearance of early Christian martyrs. When I
released them it appeared that they had been attracted by Chu Chu's
graces, and had offered her overtures of affection, to which she
had characteristically rotated with this miserable result. I led
her, with some difficulty, warily keeping clear of the riata, to
the inclosure, from whose fence I had previously removed several
bars. Although the space was wide enough to have admitted a troop
of cavalry she affected not to notice it, and managed to kick away
part of another section on entering. She resisted the stable for
some time, but after carefully examining it with her hoofs, and an
affectedly meek outstretching of her nose, she consented to
recognize some oats in the feed-box--without looking at them--and
was formally installed. All this while she had resolutely ignored
my presence. As I stood watching her she suddenly stopped eating;
the same reflective look came over her. "Surely I am not mistaken,
but that same obnoxious creature is somewhere about here!" she
seemed to say, and shivered at the possibility.
It was probably this which made me confide my unreciprocated
affection to one of my neighbors--a man supposed to be an authority
on horses, and particularly of that wild species to which Chu Chu
belonged. It was he who, leaning over the edge of the stall
where she was complacently and, as usual, obliviously munching,
absolutely dared to toy with a pet lock of hair which she wore over
the pretty star on her forehead. "Ye see, captain," he said with
jaunty easiness, "hosses is like wimmen; ye don't want ter use any
standoffishness or shyness with THEM; a stiddy but keerless sort o'
familiarity, a kind o' free but firm handlin', jess like this, to
let her see who's master"--
We never clearly knew HOW it happened; but when I picked up my
neighbor from the doorway, amid the broken splinters of the stall
rail, and a quantity of oats that mysteriously filled his hair and
pockets, Chu Chu was found to have faced around the other way, and
was contemplating her forelegs, with her hind ones in the other
stall. My neighbor spoke of damages while he was in the stall, and
of physical coercion when he was out of it again. But here Chu
Chu, in some marvelous way, righted herself, and my neighbor
departed hurriedly with a brimless hat and an unfinished sentence.
My next intermediary was Enriquez Saltello--a youth of my own age,
and the brother of Consuelo Saltello, whom I adored. As a Spanish
Californian he was presumed, on account of Chu Chu's half-Spanish
origin, to have superior knowledge of her character, and I even
vaguely believed that his language and accent would fall familiarly
on her ear. There was the drawback, however, that he always
preferred to talk in a marvelous English, combining Castilian
precision with what he fondly believed to be Californian slang.
"To confer then as to thees horse, which is not--observe me--a
Mexican plug! Ah, no! you can your boots bet on that. She is of
Castilian stock--believe me and strike me dead! I will myself at
different times overlook and affront her in the stable, examine her
as to the assault, and why she should do thees thing. When she is
of the exercise I will also accost and restrain her. Remain
tranquil, my friend! When a few days shall pass much shall be
changed, and she will be as another. Trust your oncle to do thees
thing! Comprehend me? Everything shall be lovely, and the goose
Conformably with this he "overlooked" her the next day, with a
cigarette between his yellow-stained finger-tips, which made
her sneeze in a silent pantomimic way, and certain Spanish
blandishments of speech which she received with more complacency.
But I don't think she ever even looked at him. In vain he
protested that she was the "dearest" and "littlest" of his "little
loves"--in vain he asserted that she was his patron saint, and
that it was his soul's delight to pray to her; she accepted the
compliment with her eyes fixed upon the manger. When he had
exhausted his whole stock of endearing diminutives, adding a few
playful and more audacious sallies, she remained with her head
down, as if inclined to meditate upon them. This he declared was
at least an improvement on her former performances. It may have
been my own jealousy, but I fancied she was only saying to herself,
"Gracious! can there be TWO of them?"
"Courage and patience, my friend," he said, as we were slowly
quitting the stable. "Thees horse is yonge, and has not yet the
habitude of the person. To-morrow, at another season, I shall give
to her a foundling" ("fondling," I have reason to believe, was the
word intended by Enriquez)--"and we shall see. It shall be as easy
as to fall away from a log. A leetle more of this chin music which
your friend Enriquez possesses, and some tapping of the head and
neck, and you are there. You are ever the right side up. Houp la!
But let us not precipitate this thing. The more haste, we do not
so much accelerate ourselves."
He appeared to be suiting the action to the word as he lingered in
the doorway of the stable. "Come on," I said.
"Pardon," he returned, with a bow that was both elaborate and
evasive, "but you shall yourself precede me--the stable is YOURS."
"Oh, come along!" I continued impatiently. To my surprise he
seemed to dodge back into the stable again. After an instant he
"Pardon! but I am re-strain! Of a truth, in this instant I am
grasp by the mouth of thees horse in the coat-tail of my dress!
She will that I should remain. It would seem"--he disappeared
again--"that"--he was out once more--"the experiment is a sooccess!
She reciprocate! She is, of a truth, gone on me. It is lofe!"--a
stronger pull from Chu Chu here sent him in again--"but"--he was
out now triumphantly with half his garment torn away--"I shall
Nothing daunted, however, the gallant fellow was back next day with
a Mexican saddle, and attired in the complete outfit of a vaquero.
Overcome though HE was by heavy deerskin trousers, open at the side
from the knees down, and fringed with bullion buttons, an enormous
flat sombrero, and a stiff, short embroidered velvet jacket, I was
more concerned at the ponderous saddle and equipments intended for
the slim Chu Chu. That these would hide and conceal her beautiful
curves and contour, as well as overweight her, seemed certain;
that she would resist them all to the last seemed equally clear.
Nevertheless, to my surprise, when she was led out, and the saddle
thrown deftly across her back, she was passive. Was it possible
that some drop of her old Spanish blood responded to its clinging
embrace? She did not either look at it nor smell it. But when
Enriquez began to tighten the "cinch" or girth a more singular
thing occurred. Chu Chu visibly distended her slender barrel to
twice its dimensions; the more he pulled the more she swelled,
until I was actually ashamed of her. Not so Enriquez. He smiled
at us, and complacently stroked his thin moustache.
"Eet is ever so! She is the child of her grandmother! Even when
you shall make saddle thees old Castilian stock, it will make
large--it will become a balloon! Eet is a trick--eet is a leetle
game--believe me. For why?"
I had not listened, as I was at that moment astonished to see the
saddle slowly slide under Chu Chu's belly, and her figure resume,
as if by magic, its former slim proportions. Enriquez followed my
eyes, lifted his shoulders, shrugged them, and said smilingly, "Ah,
When the girths were drawn in again with an extra pull or two from
the indefatigable Enriquez, I fancied that Chu Chu nevertheless
secretly enjoyed it, as her sex is said to appreciate tight-lacing.
She drew a deep sigh, possibly of satisfaction, turned her neck,
and apparently tried to glance at her own figure--Enriquez promptly
withdrawing to enable her to do so easily. Then the dread moment
arrived. Enriquez, with his hand on her mane, suddenly paused and,
with exaggerated courtesy, lifted his hat and made an inviting
"You will honor me to precede."
I shook my head laughingly.
"I see," responded Enriquez gravely. "You have to attend the
obsequies of your aunt who is dead, at two of the clock. You have
to meet your broker who has bought you feefty share of the Comstock
lode--at thees moment--or you are loss! You are excuse! Attend!
Gentlemen, make your bets! The band has arrived to play! 'Ere we
With a quick movement the alert young fellow had vaulted into the
saddle. But, to the astonishment of both of us, the mare remained
perfectly still. There was Enriquez bolt upright in the stirrups,
completely overshadowing by his saddle-flaps, leggings, and
gigantic spurs the fine proportions of Chu Chu, until she might
have been a placid Rosinante, bestridden by some youthful Quixote.
She closed her eyes, she was going to sleep! We were dreadfully
disappointed. This clearly would not do. Enriquez lifted the
reins cautiously! Chu Chu moved forward slowly--then stopped,
apparently lost in reflection.
"Affront her on thees side."
I approached her gently. She shot suddenly into the air, coming
down again on perfectly stiff legs with a springless jolt. This
she instantly followed by a succession of other rocket-like
propulsions, utterly unlike a leap, all over the inclosure. The
movements of the unfortunate Enriquez were equally unlike any
equitation I ever saw. He appeared occasionally over Chu Chu's
head, astride of her neck and tail, or in the free air, but never
IN the saddle. His rigid legs, however, never lost the stirrups,
but came down regularly, accentuating her springless hops. More
than that, the disproportionate excess of rider, saddle, and
accoutrements was so great that he had, at times, the appearance of
lifting Chu Chu forcibly from the ground by superior strength, and
of actually contributing to her exercise! As they came towards me,
a wild tossing and flying mass of hoofs and spurs, it was not only
difficult to distinguish them apart, but to ascertain how much of
the jumping was done by Enriquez separately. At last Chu Chu
brought matters to a close by making for the low-stretching
branches of an oak-tree which stood at the corner of the lot.
In a few moments she emerged from it--but without Enriquez.
I found the gallant fellow disengaging himself from the fork of a
branch in which he had been firmly wedged, but still smiling and
confident, and his cigarette between his teeth. Then for the first
time he removed it, and seating himself easily on the branch with
his legs dangling down, he blandly waved aside my anxious queries
with a gentle reassuring gesture.
"Remain tranquil, my friend. Thees does not count! I have
conquer--you observe--for why? I have NEVER for once ARRIVE AT THE
GROUND! Consequent she is disappoint! She will ever that I
SHOULD! But I have got her when the hair is not long! Your oncle
Henry"--with an angelic wink--"is fly! He is ever a bully boy,
with the eye of glass! Believe me. Behold! I am here! Big
He leaped lightly to the ground. Chu Chu, standing watchfully at a
little distance, was evidently astonished at his appearance. She
threw out her hind hoofs violently, shot up into the air until the
stirrups crossed each other high above the saddle, and made for the
stable in a succession of rabbit-like bounds--taking the precaution
to remove the saddle, on entering, by striking it against the
lintel of the door. "You observe," said Enriquez blandly, "she
would make that thing of ME. Not having the good occasion, she ees
dissatisfied. Where are you now?"
Two or three days afterwards he rode her again with the same
result--accepted by him with the same heroic complacency. As we
did not, for certain reasons, care to use the open road for this
exercise, and as it was impossible to remove the tree, we were
obliged to submit to the inevitable. On the following day I
mounted her--undergoing the same experience as Enriquez, with the
individual sensation of falling from a third-story window on top of
a counting-house stool, and the variation of being projected over
the fence. When I found that Chu Chu had not accompanied me, I saw
Enriquez at my side. "More than ever is become necessary that we
should do thees things again," he said gravely, as he assisted me
to my feet. "Courage, my noble General! God and Liberty! Once
more on to the breach! Charge, Chestare, charge! Come on, Don
Stanley! 'Ere we are!"
He helped me none too quickly to catch my seat again, for it
apparently had the effect of the turned peg on the enchanted horse
in the Arabian Nights, and Chu Chu instantly rose into the air.
But she came down this time before the open window of the kitchen,
and I alighted easily on the dresser. The indefatigable Enriquez
"Won't this do?" I asked meekly.
"It ees BETTER--for you arrive NOT on the ground," he said
cheerfully; "but you should not once but a thousand times make
trial! Ha! Go and win! Nevare die and say so! 'Eave ahead!
'Eave! There you are! "
Luckily, this time I managed to lock the rowels of my long spurs
under her girth, and she could not unseat me. She seemed to
recognize the fact after one or two plunges, when, to my great
surprise, she suddenly sank to the ground and quietly rolled over
me. The action disengaged my spurs, but, righting herself without
getting up, she turned her beautiful head and absolutely LOOKED at
me!--still in the saddle. I felt myself blushing! But the voice
of Enriquez was at my side.
"Errise, my friend; you have conquer! It is SHE who has arrive at
the ground! YOU are all right. It is done; believe me, it is
feenish! No more shall she make thees thing. From thees instant
you shall ride her as the cow--as the rail of thees fence--and
remain tranquil. For she is a-broke! Ta-ta! Regain your hats,
gentlemen! Pass in your checks! It is ovar! How are you now?"
He lit a fresh cigarette, put his hands in his pockets, and smiled
at me blandly.
For all that, I ventured to point out that the habit of alighting
in the fork of a tree, or the disengaging of one's self from the
saddle on the ground, was attended with inconvenience, and even
ostentatious display. But Enriquez swept the objections away with
a single gesture. "It is the PREENCIPAL--the bottom fact--at which
you arrive. The next come of himself! Many horse have achieve
to mount the rider by the knees, and relinquish after thees same
fashion. My grandfather had a barb of thees kind--but she has gone
dead, and so have my grandfather. Which is sad and strange!
Otherwise I shall make of them both an instant example!"
I ought to have said that although these performances were never
actually witnessed by Enriquez's sister--for reasons which he and I
thought sufficient--the dear girl displayed the greatest interest
in them, and, perhaps aided by our mutually complimentary accounts
of each other, looked upon us both as invincible heroes. It is
possible also that she over-estimated our success, for she suddenly
demanded that I should RIDE Chu Chu to her house, that she might
see her. It was not far; by going through a back lane I could
avoid the trees which exercised such a fatal fascination for Chu
Chu. There was a pleading, child-like entreaty in Consuelo's voice
that I could not resist, with a slight flash from her lustrous dark
eyes that I did not care to encourage. So I resolved to try it at
My equipment for the performance was modeled after Enriquez's
previous costume, with the addition of a few fripperies of silver
and stamped leather out of compliment to Consuelo, and even with a
faint hope that it might appease Chu Chu. SHE certainly looked
beautiful in her glittering accoutrements, set off by her jet-black
shining coat. With an air of demure abstraction she permitted me
to mount her, and even for a hundred yards or so indulged in a
mincing maidenly amble that was not without a touch of coquetry.
Encouraged by this, I addressed a few terms of endearment to her,
and in the exuberance of my youthful enthusiasm I even confided to
her my love for Consuelo, and begged her to be "good" and not
disgrace herself and me before my Dulcinea. In my foolish
trustfulness I was rash enough to add a caress, and to pat her soft
neck. She stopped instantly with a hysteric shudder. I knew what
was passing through her mind: she had suddenly become aware of my
The saddle and bridle Chu Chu was becoming accustomed to, but who
was this living, breathing object that had actually touched her?
Presently her oblique vision was attracted by the fluttering
movement of a fallen oak-leaf in the road before her. She had
probably seen many oak-leaves many times before; her ancestors had
no doubt been familiar with them on the trackless hills and in
field and paddock, but this did not alter her profound conviction
that I and the leaf were identical, that our baleful touch was
something indissolubly connected. She reared before that innocent
leaf, she revolved round it, and then fled from it at the top of
The lane passed before the rear wall of Saltello's garden.
Unfortunately, at the angle of the fence stood a beautiful Madrono-
tree, brilliant with its scarlet berries, and endeared to me as
Consuelo's favorite haunt, under whose protecting shade I had more
than once avowed my youthful passion. By the irony of fate Chu Chu
caught sight of it, and with a succession of spirited bounds
instantly made for it. In another moment I was beneath it, and Chu
Chu shot like a rocket into the air. I had barely time to withdraw
my feet from the stirrups, to throw up one arm to protect my glazed
sombrero and grasp an overhanging branch with the other, before Chu
Chu darted off. But to my consternation, as I gained a secure
perch on the tree, and looked about me, I saw her--instead of
running away--quietly trot through the open gate into Saltello's
Need I say that it was to the beneficent Enriquez that I again owed
my salvation? Scarcely a moment elapsed before his bland voice
rose in a concentrated whisper from the corner of the garden below
me. He had divined the dreadful truth!
"For the love of God, collect to yourself many kinds of thees
berry! All you can! Your full arms round! Rest tranquil. Leave
to your ole oncle to make for you a delicate exposure. At the
He was gone again. I gathered, wonderingly, a few of the larger
clusters of parti-colored fruit and patiently waited. Presently he
reappeared, and with him the lovely Consuelo--her dear eyes filled
with an adorable anxiety.
"Yes," continued Enriquez to his sister, with a confidential
lowering of tone but great distinctness of utterance, "it is ever
so with the American! He will ever make FIRST the salutation of
the flower or the fruit, picked to himself by his own hand, to the
lady where he call. It is the custom of the American hidalgo! My
God--what will you? I make it not--it is so! Without doubt he is
in this instant doing thees thing. That is why he have let go his
horse to precede him here; it is always the etiquette to offer
these things on the feet. Ah! Behold! it is he!--Don Francisco!
Even now he will descend from thees tree! Ah! You make the blush,
little sister (archly)! I will retire! I am discreet; two is not
company for the one! I make tracks! I am gone!"
How far Consuelo entirely believed and trusted her ingenious
brother I do not know, nor even then cared to inquire. For there
was a pretty mantling of her olive cheek, as I came forward with my
offering, and a certain significant shyness in her manner that were
enough to throw me into a state of hopeless imbecility. And I was
always miserably conscious that Consuelo possessed an exalted
sentimentality, and a predilection for the highest mediaeval
romance, in which I knew I was lamentably deficient. Even in our
most confidential moments I was always aware that I weakly lagged
behind this daughter of a gloomily distinguished ancestry, in her
frequent incursions into a vague but poetic past. There was
something of the dignity of the Spanish chatelaine in the sweetly
grave little figure that advanced to accept my specious offering.
I think I should have fallen on my knees to present it, but for the
presence of the all seeing Enriquez. But why did I even at that
moment remember that he had early bestowed upon her the nickname of
"Pomposa"? This, as Enriquez himself might have observed, was "sad
I managed to stammer out something about the Madrono berries being
at her "disposicion" (the tree was in her own garden!), and she
took the branches in her little brown hand with a soft response to
my unutterable glances.
But here Chu Chu, momentarily forgotten, executed a happy diversion.
To our astonishment she gravely walked up to Consuelo and, stretching
out her long slim neck, not only sniffed curiously at the berries,
but even protruded a black underlip towards the young girl herself.
In another instant Consuelo's dignity melted. Throwing her arms
around Chu Chu's neck she embraced and kissed her. Young as I
was, I understood the divine significance of a girl's vicarious
effusiveness at such a moment, and felt delighted. But I was the
more astonished that the usually sensitive horse not only submitted
to these caresses, but actually responded to the extent of affecting
to nip my mistress's little right ear.
This was enough for the impulsive Consuelo. She ran hastily into
the house, and in a few moments reappeared in a bewitching riding-
skirt gathered round her jimp waist. In vain Enriquez and myself
joined in earnest entreaty: the horse was hardly broken for even a
man's riding yet; the saints alone could tell what the nervous
creature might do with a woman's skirt flapping at her side! We
begged for delay, for reflection, for at least time to change the
saddle--but with no avail! Consuelo was determined, indignant,
distressingly reproachful! Ah, well! if Don Pancho (an ingenious
diminutive of my Christian name) valued his horse so highly--if he
were jealous of the evident devotion of the animal to herself, he
would--but here I succumbed! And then I had the felicity of
holding that little foot for one brief moment in the hollow of my
hand, of readjusting the skirt as she threw her knee over the
saddle-horn, of clasping her tightly--only half in fear--as I
surrendered the reins to her grasp. And to tell the truth, as
Enriquez and I fell back, although I had insisted upon still
keeping hold of the end of the riata, it was a picture to admire.
The petite figure of the young girl, and the graceful folds of her
skirt, admirably harmonized with Chu Chu's lithe contour, and as
the mare arched her slim neck and raised her slender head under the
pressure of the reins, it was so like the lifted velvet-capped
toreador crest of Consuelo herself, that they seemed of one race.
"I would not that you should hold the riata," said Consuelo
I hesitated--Chu Chu looked certainly very amiable--I let go. She
began to amble towards the gate, not mincingly as before, but with
a freer and fuller stride. In spite of the incongruous saddle the
young girl's seat was admirable. As they neared the gate she cast
a single mischievous glance at me, jerked at the rein, and Chu Chu
sprang into the road at a rapid canter. I watched them fearfully
and breathlessly, until at the end of the lane I saw Consuelo rein
in slightly, wheel easily, and come flying back. There was no
doubt about it; the horse was under perfect control. Her second
subjugation was complete and final!
Overjoyed and bewildered, I overwhelmed them with congratulations;
Enriquez alone retaining the usual brotherly attitude of criticism,
and a superior toleration of a lover's enthusiasm. I ventured to
hint to Consuelo (in what I believed was a safe whisper) that Chu
Chu only showed my own feelings towards her. "Without doubt,"
responded Enriquez gravely. "She have of herself assist you to
climb to the tree to pull to yourself the berry for my sister."
But I felt Consuelo's little hand return my pressure, and I forgave
and even pitied him.
From that day forward, Chu Chu and Consuelo were not only firm
friends but daily companions. In my devotion I would have
presented the horse to the young girl, but with flattering delicacy
she preferred to call it mine. "I shall erride it for you,
Pancho," she said; "I shall feel," she continued with exalted
although somewhat vague poetry, "that it is of YOU! You lofe the
beast--it is therefore of a necessity YOU, my Pancho! It is YOUR
soul I shall erride like the wings of the wind--your lofe in this
beast shall be my only cavalier for ever." I would have preferred
something whose vicarious qualities were less uncertain than I
still felt Chu Chu's to be, but I kissed the girl's hand
submissively. It was only when I attempted to accompany her in
the flesh, on another horse, that I felt the full truth of my
instinctive fears. Chu Chu would not permit any one to approach
her mistress's side. My mounted presence revived in her all her
old blind astonishment and disbelief in my existence; she would
start suddenly, face about, and back away from me in utter
amazement as if I had been only recently created, or with an
affected modesty as if I had been just guilty of some grave
indecorum towards her sex which she really could not stand. The
frequency of these exhibitions in the public highway were not only
distressing to me as a simple escort, but as it had the effect on
the casual spectators of making Consuelo seem to participate in Chu
Chu's objections, I felt that, as a lover, it could not be borne.
Any attempt to coerce Chu Chu ended in her running away. And my
frantic pursuit of her was open to equal misconstruction. "Go it,
Miss, the little dude is gainin' on you!" shouted by a drunken
teamster to the frightened Consuelo, once checked me in mid career.
Even the dear girl herself saw the uselessness of my real presence,
and after a while was content to ride with "my soul."
Notwithstanding this, I am not ashamed to say that it was my
custom, whenever she rode out, to keep a slinking and distant
surveillance of Chu Chu on another horse, until she had fairly
settled down to her pace. A little nod of Consuelo's round black-
and-red toreador hat or a kiss tossed from her riding-whip was
I remember a pleasant afternoon when I was thus awaiting her in the
outskirts of the village. The eternal smile of the Californian
summer had begun to waver and grow less fixed; dust lay thick on
leaf and blade; the dry hills were clothed in russet leather; the
trade winds were shifting to the south with an ominous warm
humidity; a few days longer and the rains would be here. It so
chanced that this afternoon my seclusion on the roadside was
accidentally invaded by a village belle--a Western young lady
somewhat older than myself, and of flirtatious reputation. As she
persistently and--as I now have reason to believe--mischievously
lingered, I had only a passing glimpse of Consuelo riding past at
an unaccustomed speed which surprised me at the moment. But as I
reasoned later that she was only trying to avoid a merely formal
meeting, I thought no more about it. It was not until I called at
the house to fetch Chu Chu at the usual hour, and found that
Consuelo had not yet returned, that a recollection of Chu Chu's
furious pace again troubled me. An hour passed--it was getting
towards sunset, but there were no signs of Chu Chu nor her
mistress. I became seriously alarmed. I did not care to reveal
my fears to the family, for I felt myself responsible for Chu Chu.
At last I desperately saddled my horse, and galloped off in the
direction she had taken. It was the road to Rosario and the
hacienda of one of her relations, where she sometimes halted.
The road was a very unfrequented one, twisting like a mountain
river; indeed, it was the bed of an old watercourse, between brown
hills of wild oats, and debouching at last into a broad blue lake-
like expanse of alfalfa meadows. In vain I strained my eyes over
the monotonous level; nothing appeared to rise above or move across
it. In the faint hope that she might have lingered at the
hacienda, I was spurring on again when I heard a slight splashing
on my left. I looked around. A broad patch of fresher-colored
herbage and a cluster of dwarfed alders indicated a hidden spring.
I cautiously approached its quaggy edges, when I was shocked by
what appeared to be a sudden vision! Mid-leg deep in the centre of
a greenish pool stood Chu Chu! But without a strap or buckle of
harness upon her--as naked as when she was foaled!
For a moment I could only stare at her in bewildered terror. Far
from recognizing me, she seemed to be absorbed in a nymph-like
contemplation of her own graces in the pool. Then I called
"Consuelo!" and galloped frantically around the spring. But there
was no response, nor was there anything to be seen but the all-
unconscious Chu Chu. The pool, thank Heaven! was not deep enough
to have drowned any one; there were no signs of a struggle on its
quaggy edges. The horse might have come from a distance! I
galloped on, still calling. A few hundred yards further I detected
the vivid glow of Chu Chu's scarlet saddle-blanket, in the brush
near the trail. My heart leaped--I was on the track. I called
again; this time a faint reply, in accents I knew too well, came
from the field beside me!
Consuelo was there! reclining beside a manzanita bush which
screened her from the road, in what struck me, even at that supreme
moment, as a judicious and picturesquely selected couch of scented
Indian grass and dry tussocks. The velvet hat with its balls of
scarlet plush was laid carefully aside; her lovely blue-black hair
retained its tight coils undisheveled, her eyes were luminous and
tender. Shocked as I was at her apparent helplessness, I remember
being impressed with the fact that it gave so little indication of
violent usage or disaster.
I threw myself frantically on the ground beside her.
"You are hurt, Consita! For Heaven's sake, what has happened?"
She pushed my hat back with her little hand, and tumbled my hair
"Nothing. YOU are here, Pancho--eet is enofe! What shall come
after thees--when I am perhaps gone among the grave--make nothing!
YOU are here--I am happy. For a little, perhaps--not mooch."
"But," I went on desperately, "was it an accident? Were you
thrown? Was it Chu Chu?"--for somehow, in spite of her languid
posture and voice, I could not, even in my fears, believe her
"Beat not the poor beast, Pancho. It is not from HER comes thees
thing. She have make nothing--believe me! I have come upon your
assignation with Miss Essmith! I make but to pass you--to fly--to
never come back! I have say to Chu Chu, 'Fly!' We fly many miles.
Sometimes together, sometimes not so mooch! Sometimes in the
saddle, sometimes on the neck! Many things remain in the road; at
the end, I myself remain! I have say, 'Courage, Pancho will come!'
Then I say, 'No, he is talk with Miss Essmith!' I remember not
more. I have creep here on the hands. Eet is feenish!"
I looked at her distractedly. She smiled tenderly, and slightly
smoothed down and rearranged a fold of her dress to cover her
delicate little boot.
"But," I protested, "you are not much hurt, dearest. You have
broken no bones. Perhaps," I added, looking at the boot, "only a
slight sprain. Let me carry you to my horse; I will walk beside
you, home. Do, dearest Consita!"
She turned her lovely eyes towards me sadly. "You comprehend not,
my poor Pancho! It is not of the foot, the ankle, the arm, or the
head that I can say, 'She is broke!' I would it were even so.
But"--she lifted her sweet lashes slowly--"I have derrange my
inside. It is an affair of my family. My grandfather have once
toomble over the bull at a rodeo. He speak no more; he is dead.
For why? He has derrange his inside. Believe me, it is of the
family. You comprehend? The Saltellos are not as the other
peoples for this. When I am gone, you will bring to me the berry
to grow upon my tomb, Pancho; the berry you have picked for me.
The little flower will come too, the little star will arrive, but
Consuelo, who lofe you, she will come not more! When you are happy
and talk in the road to the Essmith, you will not think of me. You
will not see my eyes, Pancho; thees little grass"--she ran her
plump little fingers through a tussock--"will hide them; and the
small animals in the black coats that lif here will have much
sorrow--but you will not. It ees better so! My father will not
that I, a Catholique, should marry into a camp-meeting, and lif in
a tent, and make howl like the coyote." (It was one of Consuelo's
bewildering beliefs that there was only one form of dissent--
Methodism!) "He will not that I should marry a man who possess not
the many horses, ox, and cow, like him. But I care not. YOU are
my only religion, Pancho! I have enofe of the horse, and ox, and
cow when YOU are with me! Kiss me, Pancho. Perhaps it is for the
last time--the feenish! Who knows?"
There were tears in her lovely eyes; I felt that my own were
growing dim; the sun was sinking over the dreary plain to the slow
rising of the wind; an infinite loneliness had fallen upon us, and
yet I was miserably conscious of some dreadful unreality in it all.
A desire to laugh, which I felt must be hysterical, was creeping
over me; I dared not speak. But her dear head was on my shoulder,
and the situation was not unpleasant.
Nevertheless, something must be done! This was the more difficult
as it was by no means clear what had already been done. Even while
I supported her drooping figure I was straining my eyes across her
shoulder for succor of some kind. Suddenly the figure of a rapid
rider appeared upon the road. It seemed familiar. I looked again--
it was the blessed Enriquez! A sense of deep relief came over me.
I loved Consuelo; but never before had lover ever hailed the
irruption of one of his beloved's family with such complacency.
"You are safe, dearest; it is Enriquez!"
I thought she received the information coldly. Suddenly she turned
upon me her eyes, now bright and glittering. "Swear to me at the
instant, Pancho, that you will not again look upon Miss Essmith,
even for once."
I was simple and literal. Miss Smith was my nearest neighbor, and,
unless I was stricken with blindness, compliance was impossible. I
"Enofe--you have hesitate--I will no more."
She rose to her feet with grave deliberation. For an instant, with
the recollection of the delicate internal organization of the
Saltellos on my mind, I was in agony lest she should totter and
fall, even then, yielding up her gentle spirit on the spot. But
when I looked again she had a hairpin between her white teeth, and
was carefully adjusting her toreador hat. And beside us was
Enriquez--cheerful, alert, voluble, and undaunted.
"Eureka! I have found! We are all here! Eet is a leetle public--
eh! a leetle too much of a front seat for a tete-a-tete, my yonge
friends," he said, glancing at the remains of Consuelo's bower,
"but for the accounting of taste there is none. What will you?
The meat of the one man shall envenom the meat of the other. But"
(in a whisper to me) "as to thees horse--thees Chu Chu, which I
have just pass--why is she undress? Surely you would not make an
exposition of her to the traveler to suspect! And if not, why so?"
I tried to explain, looking at Consuelo, that Chu Chu had run away,
that Consuelo had met with a terrible accident, had been thrown,
and I feared had suffered serious internal injury. But to my
embarrassment Consuelo maintained a half scornful silence, and an
inconsistent freshness of healthful indifference, as Enriquez
approached her with an engaging smile. "Ah, yes, she have the
headache, and the molligrubs. She will sit on the damp stone when
the gentle dew is falling. I comprehend. Meet me in the lane when
the clock strike nine! But," in a lower voice, "of thees undress
horse I comprehend nothing! Look you--it is sad and strange."
He went off to fetch Chu Chu, leaving me and Consuelo alone. I do
not think I ever felt so utterly abject and bewildered before in my
life. Without knowing why, I was miserably conscious of having in
some way offended the girl for whom I believed I would have given
my life, and I had made her and myself ridiculous in the eyes of
her brother. I had again failed in my slower Western nature to
understand her high romantic Spanish soul! Meantime she was
smoothing out her riding-habit, and looking as fresh and pretty
as when she first left her house.
"Consita," I said hesitatingly, "you are not angry with me?"
"Angry?" she repeated haughtily, without looking at me. "Oh, no!
Of a possibility eet is Mees Essmith who is angry that I have
interroopt her tete-a-tete with you, and have send here my brother
to make the same with me."
"But," I said eagerly, "Miss Smith does not even know Enriquez!"
Consuelo turned on me a glance of unutterable significance. "Ah!"
she said darkly, "you TINK!"
Indeed I KNEW. But here I believed I understood Consuelo, and was
relieved. I even ventured to say gently, "And you are better?"
She drew herself up to her full height, which was not much. "Of my
health, what is it? A nothing. Yes! Of my soul let us not
Nevertheless, when Enriquez appeared with Chu Chu she ran towards
her with outstretched arms. Chu Chu protruded about six inches of
upper lip in response--apparently under the impression, which I
could quite understand, that her mistress was edible. And, I may
have been mistaken, but their beautiful eyes met in an absolute and
distinct glance of intelligence!
During the home journey Consuelo recovered her spirits, and parted
from me with a magnanimous and forgiving pressure of the hand. I
do not know what explanation of Chu Chu's original escapade was
given to Enriquez and the rest of the family; the inscrutable
forgiveness extended to me by Consuelo precluded any further
inquiry on my part. I was willing to leave it a secret between her
and Chu Chu. But, strange to say, it seemed to complete our own
understanding, and precipitated, not only our lovemaking, but the
final catastrophe which culminated that romance. For we had
resolved to elope. I do not know that this heroic remedy was
absolutely necessary from the attitude of either Consuelo's family
or my own; I am inclined to think we preferred it, because it
involved no previous explanation or advice. Need I say that our
confidant and firm ally was Consuelo's brother--the alert, the
linguistic, the ever-happy, ever-ready Enriquez! It was understood
that his presence would not only give a certain mature respectability
to our performance--but I do not think we would have contemplated
this step without it. During one of our riding excursions we were
to secure the services of a Methodist minister in the adjoining
county, and, later, that of the Mission padre--when the secret was
out. "I will gif her away," said Enriquez confidently, "it will on
the instant propitiate the old shadbelly who shall perform the
affair, and withhold his jaw. A little chin-music from your oncle
'Arry shall finish it! Remain tranquil and forgot not a ring! One
does not always, in the agony and dissatisfaction of the moment, a
ring remember. I shall bring two in the pocket of my dress."
If I did not entirely participate in this roseate view it may have
been because Enriquez, although a few years my senior, was much
younger-looking, and with his demure deviltry of eye, and his upper
lip close shaven for this occasion, he suggested a depraved acolyte
rather than a responsible member of a family. Consuelo had also
confided to me that her father--possibly owing to some rumors of
our previous escapade--had forbidden any further excursions with me
alone. The innocent man did not know that Chu Chu had forbidden it
also, and that even on this momentous occasion both Enriquez and
myself were obliged to ride in opposite fields like out flankers.
But we nevertheless felt the full guilt of disobedience added to
our desperate enterprise. Meanwhile, although pressed for time,
and subject to discovery at any moment, I managed at certain points
of the road to dismount and walk beside Chu Chu (who did not seem
to recognize me on foot), holding Consuelo's hand in my own, with
the discreet Enriquez leading my horse in the distant field. I
retain a very vivid picture of that walk--the ascent of a gentle
slope towards a prospect as yet unknown, but full of glorious
possibilities; the tender dropping light of an autumn sky, slightly
filmed with the promise of the future rains, like foreshadowed
tears, and the half frightened, half serious talk into which
Consuelo and I had insensibly fallen. And then, I don't know how
it happened, but as we reached the summit Chu Chu suddenly reared,
wheeled, and the next moment was flying back along the road we had
just traveled, at the top of her speed! It might have been that,
after her abstracted fashion, she only at that moment detected my
presence; but so sudden and complete was her evolution that before
I could regain my horse from the astonished Enriquez she was
already a quarter of a mile on the homeward stretch, with the
frantic Consuelo pulling hopelessly at the bridle. We started in
pursuit. But a horrible despair seized us. To attempt to overtake
her, to even follow at the same rate of speed would only excite Chu
Chu and endanger Consuelo's life. There was absolutely no help for
it, nothing could be done; the mare had taken her determined long,
continuous stride, the road was a straight, steady descent all the
way back to the village, Chu Chu had the bit between her teeth,
and there was no prospect of swerving her. We could only follow
hopelessly, idiotically, furiously, until Chu Chu dashed triumphantly
into the Saltellos' courtyard, carrying the half-fainting Consuelo
back to the arms of her assembled and astonished family.
It was our last ride together. It was the last I ever saw of
Consuelo before her transfer to the safe seclusion of a convent in
Southern California. It was the last I ever saw of Chu Chu, who in
the confusion of that rencontre was overlooked in her half-loosed
harness, and allowed to escape though the back gate to the fields.
Months afterwards it was said that she had been identified among a
band of wild horses in the Coast Range, as a strange and beautiful
creature who had escaped the brand of the rodeo and had become a
myth. There was another legend that she had been seen, sleek, fat,
and gorgeously caparisoned, issuing from the gateway of the Rosario
patio, before a lumbering Spanish cabriole in which a short, stout
matron was seated--but I will have none of it. For there are days
when she still lives, and I can see her plainly still climbing the
gentle slope towards the summit, with Consuelo on her back, and
myself at her side, pressing eagerly forward towards the
illimitable prospect that opens in the distance.
MY FIRST BOOK.
When I say that my "First Book" was NOT my own, and contained
beyond the title-page not one word of my own composition, I trust
that I will not be accused of trifling with paradox, or tardily
unbosoming myself of youthful plagiary. But the fact remains that
in priority of publication the first book for which I became
responsible, and which probably provoked more criticism than
anything I have written since, was a small compilation of
Californian poems indited by other hands.
A well-known bookseller of San Francisco one day handed me a
collection of certain poems which had already appeared in Pacific
Coast magazines and newspapers, with the request that I should,
if possible, secure further additions to them, and then make a
selection of those which I considered the most notable and
characteristic, for a single volume to be issued by him. I have
reason to believe that this unfortunate man was actutated by a
laudable desire to publish a pretty Californian book--HIS first
essay in publication--and at the same time to foster Eastern
immigration by an exhibit of the Californian literary product; but,
looking back upon his venture, I am inclined to think that the
little volume never contained anything more poetically pathetic or
touchingly imaginative than that gentle conception. Equally simple
and trustful was his selection of myself as compiler. It was based
somewhat, I think, upon the fact that "the artless Helicon" I
boasted "was Youth," but I imagine it was chiefly owing to the
circumstance that I had from the outset, with precocious foresight,
confided to him my intention of not putting any of my own verses in
the volume. Publishers are appreciative; and a self-abnegation so
sublime, to say nothing of its security, was not without its effect.
We settled to our work with fatuous self-complacency, and no
suspicion of the trouble in store for us, or the storm that was to
presently hurtle around our devoted heads. I winnowed the poems,
and he exploited a preliminary announcement to an eager and waiting
press, and we moved together unwittingly to our doom. I remember
to have been early struck with the quantity of material coming in--
evidently the result of some popular misunderstanding of the
announcement. I found myself in daily and hourly receipt of sere
and yellow fragments, originally torn from some dead and gone
newspaper, creased and seamed from long folding in wallet or
pocketbook. Need I say that most of them were of an emotional or
didactic nature; need I add any criticism of these homely souvenirs,
often discolored by the morning coffee, the evening tobacco, or,
heaven knows! perhaps blotted by too easy tears! Enough that I knew
now what had become of those original but never recopied verses
which filled the "Poet's Corner" of every country newspaper on the
coast. I knew now the genesis of every didactic verse that "coldly
furnished forth the marriage table" in the announcement of weddings
in the rural press. I knew now who had read--and possibly indited--
the dreary hic jacets of the dead in their mourning columns. I knew
now why certain letters of the alphabet had been more tenderly
considered than others, and affectionately addressed. I knew the
meaning of the "Lines to Her who can best understand them," and I
knew that they HAD been understood. The morning's post buried my
table beneath these withered leaves of posthumous passion. They lay
there like the pathetic nosegays of quickly fading wild flowers,
gathered by school children, inconsistently abandoned upon roadsides,
or as inconsistently treasured as limp and flabby superstitions in
their desks. The chill wind from the Bay blowing in at the window
seemed to rustle them into sad articulate appeal. I remember that
when one of them was whisked from the window by a stronger gust than
usual, and was attaining a circulation it had never known before, I
ran a block or two to recover it. I was young then, and in an
exalted sense of editorial responsibility which I have since
survived, I think I turned pale at the thought that the reputation
of some unknown genius might have thus been swept out and swallowed
by the all-absorbing sea.
There were other difficulties arising from this unexpected wealth
of material. There were dozens of poems on the same subject. "The
Golden Gate," "Mount Shasta," "The Yosemite," were especially
provocative. A beautiful bird known as the "Californian Canary"
appeared to have been shot at and winged by every poet from
Portland to San Diego. Lines to the "Mariposa" flower were as
thick as the lovely blossoms themselves in the Merced valley, and
the Madrone tree was as "berhymed" as Rosalind. Again, by a
liberal construction of the publisher's announcement, MANUSCRIPT
poems, which had never known print, began to coyly unfold their
virgin blossoms in the morning's mail. They were accompanied by a
few lines stating, casually, that their sender had found them lying
forgotten in his desk, or, mendaciously, that they were "thrown
off" on the spur of the moment a few hours before. Some of the
names appended to them astonished me. Grave, practical business
men, sage financiers, fierce speculators, and plodding traders,
never before suspected of poetry, or even correct prose, were
among the contributors. It seemed as if most of the able-bodied
inhabitants of the Pacific Coast had been in the habit at some time
of expressing themselves in verse. Some sought confidential
interviews with the editor. The climax was reached when, in
Montgomery Street, one day, I was approached by a well known and
venerable judicial magnate. After some serious preliminary
conversation, the old gentleman finally alluded to what he was
pleased to call a task of "great delicacy and responsibility" laid
upon my young shoulders." "In fact," he went on paternally, adding
the weight of his judicial hand to that burden, "I have thought of
speaking to you about it. In my leisure moments on the Bench I
have, from time to time, polished and perfected a certain college
poem begun years ago, but which may now be said to have been
finished in California, and thus embraced in the scope of your
proposed selection. If a few extracts, selected by myself, to save
you all trouble and responsibility, be of any benefit to you, my
dear young friend, consider them at your service."
In this fashion the contributions had increased to three times the
bulk of the original collection, and the difficulties of selection
were augmented in proportion. The editor and publisher eyed each
other aghast. "Never thought there were so many of the blamed
things alive," said the latter with great simplicity, "had you?"
The editor had not. "Couldn't you sorter shake 'em up and condense
'em, you know? keep their ideas--and their names--separate, so that
they'd have proper credit. See?" The editor pointed out that this
would infringe the rule he had laid down. "I see," said the
publisher thoughtfully; "well, couldn't you pare 'em down; give the
first verse entire and sorter sample the others?" The editor
thought not. There was clearly nothing to do but to make a more
rigid selection--a difficult performance when the material was
uniformly on a certain dead level, which it is not necessary to
define here. Among the rejections were, of course, the usual
plagiarisms from well-known authors imposed upon an inexperienced
country press; several admirable pieces detected as acrostics of
patent medicines, and certain veiled libels and indecencies such as
mark the "first" publications on blank walls and fences of the
average youth. Still the bulk remained too large, and the youthful
editor set to work reducing it still more with a sympathizing
concern which the good-natured, but unliterary, publisher failed to
understand, and which, alas! proved to be equally unappreciated by
the rejected contributors.
The book appeared--a pretty little volume typographically, and
externally a credit to pioneer book-making. Copies were liberally
supplied to the press, and authors and publishers self-complacently
awaited the result. To the latter this should have been
satisfactory; the book sold readily from his well-known counters
to purchasers who seemed to be drawn by a singular curiosity,
unaccompanied, however, by any critical comment. People would
lounge in to the shop, turn over the leaves of other volumes, say
carelessly, "Got a new book of California poetry out, haven't you?"
purchase it, and quietly depart. There were as yet no notices from
the press; the big dailies were silent; there was something ominous
in this calm.
Out of it the bolt fell. A well-known mining weekly, which I here
poetically veil under the title of the Red Dog "Jay Hawk," was
first to swoop down upon the tuneful and unsuspecting quarry. At
this century-end of fastidious and complaisant criticism, it may be
interesting to recall the direct style of the Californian "sixties."
"The hogwash and 'purp'-stuff ladled out from the slop-bucket of
Messrs. ---- and Co., of 'Frisco, by some lop-eared Eastern
apprentice, and called 'A Compilation of Californian Verse,' might
be passed over, so far as criticism goes. A club in the hands of
any able-bodied citizen of Red Dog, and a steamboat ticket to the
Bay, cheerfully contributed from this office, would be all-sufficient.
But when an imported greenhorn dares to call his flapdoodle mixture
'Californian,' it is an insult to the State that has produced the
gifted 'Yellow Hammer,' whose lofty flights have from time to time
dazzled our readers in the columns of the 'Jay Hawk.' That this
complacent editorial jackass, browsing among the dock and thistles
which he has served up in this volume, should make no allusion to
California's greatest bard, is rather a confession of his idiocy
than a slur upon the genius of our esteemed contributor." I turned
hurriedly to my pile of rejected contributions--the nom de plume of
"Yellow Hammer" did NOT appear among them; certainly I had never
heard of its existence. Later, when a friend showed me one of that
gifted bard's pieces, I was inwardly relieved! It was so like the
majority of the other verses, in and out of the volume, that the
mysterious poet might have written under a hundred aliases. But the
Dutch Flat "Clarion," following, with no uncertain sound, left me
small time for consideration. "We doubt," said that journal, "if a
more feeble collection of drivel could have been made, even if taken
exclusively from the editor's own verses, which we note he has, by
an equal editorial incompetency, left out of the volume. When we
add that, by a felicity of idiotic selection, this person has chosen
only one, and the least characteristic, of the really clever poems
of Adoniram Skaggs, which have so often graced these columns, we
have said enough to satisfy our readers." The Mormon Hill "Quartz
Crusher" relieved this simple directness with more fancy: "We don't
know why Messrs. ---- and Co. send us, under the title of
'Selections of Californian Poetry,' a quantity of slumgullion which
really belongs to the sluices of a placer mining camp, or the
ditches of the rural districts. We have sometimes been compelled to
run a lot of tailings through our stamps, but never of the grade of
the samples offered, which, we should say, would average about
33-1/3 cents per ton. We have, however, come across a single
specimen of pure gold evidently overlooked by the serene ass who has
compiled this volume. We copy it with pleasure, as it has already
shone in the 'Poet's Corner' of the 'Crusher' as the gifted effusion
of the talented Manager of the Excelsior Mill, otherwise known to
our delighted readers as 'Outcrop.'" The Green Springs "Arcadian"
was no less fanciful in imagery: "Messrs. ---- and Co. send us a
gaudy green-and-yellow, parrot-colored volume, which is supposed to
contain the first callow 'cheepings' and 'peepings' of Californian
songsters. From the flavor of the specimens before us we should say
that the nest had been disturbed prematurely. There seems to be a
good deal of the parrot inside as well as outside the covers, and we
congratulate our own sweet singer 'Blue Bird,' who has so often made
these columns melodious, that she has escaped the ignominy of being
exhibited in Messrs. ---- and Co.'s aviary." I should add that this
simile of the aviary and its occupants was ominous, for my tuneful
choir was relentlessly slaughtered; the bottom of the cage was
strewn with feathers! The big dailies collected the criticisms
and published them in their own columns with the grim irony of
exaggerated head-lines. The book sold tremendously on account of
this abuse, but I am afraid that the public was disappointed. The
fun and interest lay in the criticisms, and not in any pointedly
ludicrous quality in the rather commonplace collection, and I fear I
cannot claim for it even that merit. And it will be observed that
the animus of the criticism appeared to be the omission rather than
the retention of certain writers.
But this brings me to the most extraordinary feature of this
singular demonstration. I do not think that the publishers were at
all troubled by it; I cannot conscientiously say that I was; I have
every reason to believe that the poets themselves, in and out of
the volume, were not displeased at the notoriety they had not
expected, and I have long since been convinced that my most
remorseless critics were not in earnest, but were obeying some
sudden impulse started by the first attacking journal. The
extravagance of the Red Dog "Jay Hawk" was emulated by others: it
was a large, contagious joke, passed from journal to journal in a
peculiar cyclonic Western fashion. And there still lingers, not
unpleasantly, in my memory the conclusion of a cheerfully scathing
review of the book which may make my meaning clearer: "If we have
said anything in this article which might cause a single pang to
the poetically sensitive nature of the youthful individual calling
himself Mr. Francis Bret Harte--but who, we believe, occasionally
parts his name and his hair in the middle--we will feel that we
have not labored in vain, and are ready to sing Nunc Dimittis, and
hand in our checks. We have no doubt of the absolutely pellucid
and lacteal purity of Franky's intentions. He means well to the
Pacific Coast, and we return the compliment. But he has strayed
away from his parents and guardians while he was too fresh. He
will not keep without a little salt."
It was thirty years ago. The book and its Rabelaisian criticisms
have been long since forgotten. Alas! I fear that even the
capacity for that Gargantuan laughter which met them, in those
days, exists no longer. The names I have used are necessarily
fictitious, but where I have been obliged to quote the criticisms
from memory I have, I believe, only softened their asperity.
I do not know that this story has any moral. The criticisms here
recorded never hurt a reputation nor repressed a single honest
aspiration. A few contributors to the volume, who were of original
merit, have made their mark, independently of it or its critics. The
editor, who was for two months the most abused man on the Pacific
slope, within the year became the editor of its first successful
magazine. Even the publisher prospered, and died respected!