Part 2 out of 5
"As his last information was only up to 1792, he might have
forgotten it," said Crosby gravely. "So perhaps it would be safer
to go on the general invitation."
"As Mr. Brimmer's ancestors came over on the Mayflower, long before
1792, it doesn't seem so very impossible, if it comes to that,"
said Mrs. Brimmer, with her usual unanswerable naivete; "provided
always that you are not joking, Mr. Crosby. One never knows when
you are serious."
"Mrs. Brimmer is quite right; we must all go. This is no mere
formality," said Senor Perkins, who had returned to the ladies.
"Indeed, I have myself promised the Comandante to bring YOU," he
turned towards Miss Keene, "if you will permit Mrs. Markham and
myself to act as your escort. It was Don Miguel's express
A slight flush of pride suffused the cheek of the young girl, but
the next moment she turned diffidently towards Mrs. Brimmer.
"We must all go together," she said; "shall we not?"
"You see your triumphs have begun already," said Brace, with a
nervous smile. "You need no longer laugh at me for predicting your
fate in San Francisco."
Miss Keene cast a hurried glance around her, in the faint hope--she
scarcely knew why--that Mr. Hurlstone had overheard the Senor's
invitation; nor could she tell why she was disappointed at not
seeing him. But he had not appeared on deck during the presence of
their strange visitors; nor was he in the boat which half an hour
later conveyed her to the shore. He must have either gone in one
of the other boats, or fulfilled his strange threat of remaining on
The boats pulled away together towards the invisible shore, piloted
by Captain Bunker, the first officer, and Senor Perkins in the
foremost boat. It had grown warmer, and the fog that stole softly
over them touched their faces with the tenderness of caressing
fingers. Miss Keene, wrapped up in the stern sheets of the boat,
gave way to the dreamy influence of this weird procession through
the water, retaining only perception enough to be conscious of the
singular illusions of the mist that alternately thickened and
lightened before their bow. At times it seemed as if they were
driving full upon a vast pier or breakwater of cold gray granite,
that, opening to let the foremost boat pass, closed again before
them; at times it seemed as if they had diverged from their course,
and were once more upon the open sea, the horizon a far-off line of
vanishing color; at times, faint lights seemed to pierce the
gathering darkness, or to move like will-o'-wisps across the smooth
surface, when suddenly the keel grated on the sand. A narrow but
perfectly well defined strip of palpable strand appeared before
them; they could faintly discern the moving lower limbs of figures
whose bodies were still hidden in the mist; then they were lifted
from the boats; the first few steps on dry land carried them out of
the fog that seemed to rise like a sloping roof from the water's
edge, leaving them under its canopy in the full light of actual
torches held by a group of picturesquely dressed people before the
vista of a faintly lit, narrow, ascending street. The dim twilight
of the closing day lingered under this roof of fog, which seemed to
hang scarcely a hundred feet above them, and showed a wall or
rampart of brown adobe on their right that extended nearly to the
water; to the left, at the distance of a few hundred yards, another
low brown wall appeared; above it rose a fringe of foliage, and,
more distant and indistinct, two white towers, that were lost in
the nebulous gray.
One of the figures dressed in green jackets, who seemed to be in
authority, now advanced, and, after a moment's parley with Senor
Perkins while the Excelsior's passengers were being collected from
the different boats, courteously led the way along the wall of the
fortification. Presently a low opening or gateway appeared,
followed by the challenge of a green-jacketed sentry, and the
sentence, "Dios y Libertad" It was repeated in the interior of a
dusky courtyard, surrounded by a low corridor, where a dozen green-
jacketed men of aboriginal type and complexion, carrying antique
flintlocks, were drawn up as a guard of honor.
"The Comandante," said Senor Perkins, "directs me to extend his
apologies to the Senor Capitano Bunker for withholding the salute
which is due alike to his country, himself, and his fair company;
but fifty years of uninterrupted peace and fog have left his cannon
inadequate to polite emergencies, and firmly fixed the tampion of
his saluting gun. But he places the Presidio at your disposition;
you will be pleased to make its acquaintance while it is still
light; and he will await you in the guard-room."
Left to themselves, the party dispersed like dismissed school-
children through the courtyard and corridors, and in the enjoyment
of their release from a month's confinement on shipboard stretched
their cramped limbs over the ditches, walls, and parapets, to the
edge of the glacis.
Everywhere a ruin that was picturesque, a decay that was refined
and gentle, a neglect that was graceful, met the eye; the sharp
exterior and reentering angles were softly rounded and obliterated
by overgrowths of semitropical creepers; the abatis was filled by a
natural brake of scrub-oak and manzanita; the clematis flung its
long scaling ladders over the escarpment, until Nature, slowly but
securely investing the doomed fortress, had lifted a victorious
banner of palm from the conquered summit of the citadel! Some
strange convulsions of the earth had completed the victory; the
barbette guns of carved and antique bronze commemorating fruitless
and long-forgotten triumphs were dismounted; one turned in the
cheeks of its carriage had a trunnion raised piteously in the air
like an amputated stump; another, sinking through its rotting
chassis, had buried itself to its chase in the crumbling adobe
wall. But above and beyond this gentle chaos of defense stretched
the real ramparts and escarpments of Todos Santos--the impenetrable
and unassailable fog! Corroding its brass and iron with saline
breath, rotting its wood with unending shadow, sapping its adobe
walls with perpetual moisture, and nourishing the obliterating
vegetation with its quickening blood, as if laughing to scorn the
puny embattlements of men--it still bent around the crumbling ruins
the tender grace of an invisible but all-encompassing arm.
Senor Perkins, who had acted as cicerone to the party, pointed out
these various mutations with no change from his usual optimism.
"Protected by their peculiar isolation during the late war, there
was no necessity for any real fortification of the place.
Nevertheless, it affords some occupation and position for our kind
friend, Don Miguel, and so serves a beneficial purpose. This
little gun," he continued, stopping to attentively examine a small
but beautifully carved bronze six-pounder, which showed indications
of better care than the others, "seems to be the saluting-gun Don
Miguel spoke of. For the last fifty years it has spoken only the
language of politeness and courtesy, and yet through want of care
the tampion, as you see, has become swollen and choked in its
"How true in a larger sense," murmured Mrs. Markham, "the habit of
courtesy alone preserves the fluency of the heart."
"I know you two are saying something very clever," said Mrs.
Brimmer, whose small French slippers and silk stockings were
beginning to show their inadequacy to a twilight ramble in the fog;
"but I am so slow, and I never catch the point. Do repeat it
"The Senor was only showing us how they managed to shut up a smooth
bore in this country," said Crosby gravely. "I wonder when we're
going to have dinner. I suppose old Don Quixote will trot out some
of his Senoritas. I want to see those choir girls that sang so
stunningly a while ago."
"I suppose you mean the boys--for they're all boys in the Catholic
choirs--but then, perhaps you are joking again. Do tell me if you
are, for this is really amusing. I may laugh--mayn't I?" As the
discomfited humorist fell again to the rear amidst the laughter of
the others, Mrs. Brimmer continued naively to Senor Perkins,--"Of
course, as Don Miguel is a widower, there must be daughters or
sisters-in-law who will meet us. Why, the priest, you know--even
he--must have nieces. Really, it's a serious question--if we are
to accept his hospitality in a social way. Why don't you ask HIM?"
she said, pointing to the green-jacketed subaltern who was
Senor Perkins looked half embarrassed.
"Repeat your question, my dear lady, and I will translate it."
"Ask him if there are any women at the Presidio."
Senor Perkins drew the subaltern aside. Presently he turned to
"He says there are four: the wife of the baker, the wife of the
saddler, the daughter of the trumpeter, and the niece of the cook."
"Good heavens! we can't meet THEM," said Mrs. Brimmer.
Senor Perkins hesitated.
"Perhaps I ought to have told you," he said blandly, "that the old
Spanish notions of etiquette are very strict. The wives of the
officials and higher classes do not meet strangers on a first
visit, unless they are well known."
"That isn't it," said Winslow, joining them excitedly. "I've heard
the whole story. It's a good joke. Banks has been bragging about
us all, and saying that these ladies had husbands who were great
merchants, and, as these chaps consider that all trade is vulgar,
you know, they believe we are not fit to associate with their
women, don't you see? All, except one--Miss Keene. She's
considered all right. She's to be introduced to the Commander's
women, and to the sister of the Alcalde."
"She will do nothing of the kind," said Miss Keene indignantly.
"If these ladies are not to be received with me, we'll all go back
to the ship together."
She spoke with a quick and perfectly unexpected resolution and
independence, so foreign to her usual childlike half dependent
character, that her hearers were astounded. Senor Perkins gazed at
her thoughtfully; Brace, Crosby, and Winslow admiringly; her sister
passengers with doubt and apprehension.
"There must he some mistake," said Senor Perkins gently. "I will
He was absent but a few moments. When he returned, his face was
"It's a ridiculous misapprehension. Our practical friend Banks, in
his zealous attempts to impress the Comandante's secretary, who
knows a little English, with the importance of Mr. Brimmer's
position as a large commission merchant, has, I fear, conveyed only
the idea that he was a kind of pawnbroker; while Mr. Markham's
trade in hides has established him as a tanner; and Mr. Banks' own
flour speculations, of which he is justly proud, have been
misinterpreted by him as the work of a successful baker!"
"And what idea did he convey about YOU?" asked Crosby audaciously;
"it might be interesting to us to know, for our own satisfaction."
"I fear they did not do me the honor to inquire," replied Senor
Perkins, with imperturbable good-humor; "there are some persons,
you know, who carry all their worldly possessions palpably about
with them. I am one of them. Call me a citizen of the world, with
a strong leniency towards young and struggling nationalities; a
traveler, at home anywhere; a delighted observer of all things, an
admirer of brave men, the devoted slave of charming women--and you
have, in one word, a passenger of the good ship Excelsior."
For the first time, Miss Keene noticed a slight irony in Senor
Perkins' superabundant fluency, and that he did not conceal his
preoccupation over the silent saluting gun he was still admiring.
The approach of Don Miguel and Padre Esteban with a small bevy of
ladies, however, quickly changed her thoughts, and detached the
Senor from her side. Her first swift feminine impression of the
fair strangers was that they were plain and dowdy, an impression
fully shared by the other lady passengers. But her second
observation, that they were more gentle, fascinating, child-like,
and feminine than her own countrywomen, was purely her own. Their
loose, undulating figures, guiltless of stays; their extravagance
of short, white, heavily flounced skirt, which looked like a
petticoat; their lightly wrapped, formless, and hooded shoulders
and heads, lent a suggestion of dishabille that Mrs. Brimmer at
"They might, at least, have dressed themselves," she whispered to
"I really believe," returned Mrs. Markham, "they've got no bodices
The introductions over, a polyglot conversation ensued in French by
the Padre and Mrs. Brimmer, and in broken English by Miss Chubb,
Miss Keene, and the other passengers with the Commander's
secretary, varied by occasional scraps of college Latin from Mr.
Crosby, the whole aided by occasional appeals to Senor Perkins.
The darkness increasing, the party reentered the courtyard, and,
passing through the low-studded guard-room, entered another
corridor, which looked upon a second court, enclosed on three
sides, the fourth opening upon a broad plaza, evidently the public
resort of the little town. Encompassing this open space, a few
red-tiled roofs could be faintly seen in the gathering gloom.
Chocolate and thin spiced cakes were served in the veranda, pending
the preparations for a more formal banquet. Already Miss Keene had
been singled out from her companions for the special attentions of
her hosts, male and female, to her embarrassment and confusion.
Already Dona Isabel, the sister of the Alcalde, had drawn her
aside, and, with caressing frankness, had begun to question her in
"But Miss Keene is no name. The Dona Keene is of nothing."
"Well, you may call me Eleanor, if you like," said Miss Keene,
"Dona Leonor--so; that is good," said Dona Isabel, clapping her
hands like a child. "But how are you?"
"I beg your pardon," said Miss Keene, greatly amused, "but I don't
"Ah, Caramba! What are you, little one?" Seeing that her guest
still looked puzzled, she continued,--"Ah! Mother of God! Why are
your friends so polite to you? Why does every one love you so?"
"Do they? Well," stammered Miss Keene, with one of her rare,
dazzling smiles, and her cheeks girlishly rosy with naive
embarrassment, "I suppose they think I am pretty."
"Pretty! Ah, yes, you are!" said Dona Isabel, gazing at her
curiously. "But it is not all that."
"What is it, then?" asked Miss Keene demurely.
"You are a--a--Dama de Grandeza!"
"HAIL AND FAREWELL."
Supper was served in the inner room opening from the corridor lit
by a few swinging lanterns of polished horn and a dozen wax candles
of sacerdotal size and suggestion. The apartment, though spacious,
was low and crypt-like, and was not relieved by the two deep oven-
like hearths that warmed it without the play of firelight. But
when the company had assembled it was evident that the velvet
jackets, gold lace, silver buttons, and red sashes of the
entertainers not only lost their tawdry and theatrical appearance
in the half decorous and thoughtful gloom, but actually seemed more
in harmony with it than the modern dresses of the guests. It was
the Excelsior party who looked strange and bizarre in these
surroundings; to the sensitive fancy of Miss Keene, Mrs. Brimmer's
Parisian toilet had an air of provincial assumption; her own pretty
Zouave jacket and black silk skirt horrified her with its apparent
ostentatious eccentricity; and Mrs. Markham and Miss Chubb seemed
dowdy and overdressed beside the satin mantillas and black lace of
the Senoritas. Nor were the gentlemen less outres: the stiff
correctness of Mr. Banks, and the lighter foppishness of Winslow
and Crosby, not to mention Senor Perkins' more pronounced
unconventionality, appeared as burlesques of their own characters
in a play. The crowning contrast was reached by Captain Bunker,
who, in accordance with the habits of the mercantile marine of that
period when in port, wore a shore-going suit of black broadcloth,
with a tall hat, high shirt collar, and diamond pin. Seated next
to the Commander, it was no longer Don Miguel who looked old-
fashioned, it was Captain Bunker who appeared impossible.
Nevertheless, as the meal progressed, lightened by a sweet native
wine made from the Mission grape, and stimulated by champagne--a
present of Captain Bunker from the cabin lockers of the Excelsior--
this contrast, and much of the restraint that it occasioned, seemed
to melt away. The passengers became talkative; the Commander and
his friends unbent, and grew sympathetic and inquiring. The
temptation to recite the news of the last half century, and to
recount the wonderful strides of civilization in that time, was too
great to be resisted by the Excelsior party. That some of them--
notwithstanding the caution of Senor Perkins--approached
dangerously near the subject of the late war between the United
States and Mexico, of which Todos Santos was supposed to be still
ignorant, or that Crosby in particular seized upon this opportunity
for humorous exaggeration, may be readily imagined. But as the
translation of the humorist's speech, as well as the indiscretions
of his companions, were left to the Senor, in Spanish, and to Mrs.
Brimmer and Miss Keene, in French, any imminent danger to the
harmony of the evening was averted. Don Ramon Ramirez, the
Alcalde, a youngish man of evident distinction, sat next to Miss
Keene, and monopolized her conversation with a certain curiosity
that was both grave and childish in its frank trustfulness. Some
of his questions were so simple and incompatible with his apparent
intelligence that she unconsciously lowered her voice in answering
them, in dread of the ridicule of her companions. She could not
resist the impression, which repeatedly obtruded upon her
imagination, that the entire population of Todos Santos were a
party of lost children, forgotten by their parents, and grown to
man and womanhood in utter ignorance of the world.
The Commander had, half informally, drunk the health of Captain
Bunker, without rising from his seat, when, to Miss Keene's alarm,
Captain Bunker staggered to his feet. He had been drinking freely,
as usual; but he was bent on indulging a loquacity which his
discipline on shipboard had hitherto precluded, and which had,
perhaps, strengthened his solitary habit. His speech was voluble
and incoherent, complimentary and tactless, kindly and aggressive,
courteous and dogmatic. It was left to Senor Perkins to translate
it to the eye and ear of his host without incongruity or offense.
This he did so admirably as to elicit not only the applause of the
foreigners who did not understand English, but of his own
countrymen who did not understand Spanish.
"I feel," said Senor Perkins, in graceful peroration, "that I have
done poor justice to the eloquence of this gallant sailor. My
unhappy translation cannot offer you that voice, at times trembling
with generous emotion, and again inaudible from excessive modesty
in the presence of this illustrious assembly--those limbs that
waver and bend under the undulations of the chivalrous sentiment
which carries him away as if he were still on that powerful element
he daily battles with and conquers."
But when coffee and sweets were reached, the crowning triumph of
Senor Perkins' oratory was achieved. After an impassioned burst of
enthusiasm towards his hosts in their own tongue, he turned towards
his own party with bland felicity.
"And how is it with us, dear friends? We find ourselves not in the
port we were seeking; not in the goal of our ambition, the haven of
our hopes; but on the shores of the decaying past. 'Ever drifting'
on one of those--
Currents of the restless main,'
if our fascinating friend Mrs. Brimmer will permit us to use the
words of her accomplished fellow-townsman, H. W. Longfellow, of
Boston--we find ourselves borne not to the busy hum and clatter of
modern progress, but to the soft cadences of a dying crusade, and
the hush of ecclesiastical repose. In place of the busy marts of
commerce and the towering chimneys of labor, we have the ruined
embattlements of a warlike age, and the crumbling church of an
ancient Mission. Towards the close of an eventful voyage, during
which we have been guided by the skillful hand and watchful eye of
that gallant navigator Captain Bunker, we have turned aside from
our onward course of progress to look back for a moment upon the
faded footprints of those who have so long preceded us, who have
lived according to their lights, and whose record is now before us.
As I have just stated, our journey is near its end, and we may, in
some sense, look upon this occasion, with its sumptuous
entertainment, and its goodly company of gallant men and fair
women, as a parting banquet. Our voyage has been a successful one.
I do not now especially speak of the daring speculations of the
distinguished husband of a beautiful lady whose delightful society
is known to us all--need I say I refer to Quincy Brimmer, Esq., of
Boston" (loud applause)--"whose successful fulfillment of a
contract with the Peruvian Government, and the landing of munitions
of war at Callao, has checked the uprising of the Quinquinambo
insurgents? I do not refer especially to our keen-sighted business
friend Mr. Banks" (applause), "who, by buying up all the flour in
Callao, and shipping it to California, has virtually starved into
submission the revolutionary party of Ariquipa--I do not refer to
these admirable illustrations of the relations of commerce and
politics, for this, my friends--this is history, and beyond my
feeble praise. Let me rather speak of the social and literary
triumphs of our little community, of our floating Arcadia--may I
say Olympus? Where shall we find another Minerva like Mrs.
Markham, another Thalia like Miss Chubb, another Juno like Mrs.
Brimmer, worthy of the Jove-like Quincy Brimmer; another Queen of
Love and Beauty like--like"--continued the gallant Senor, with an
effective oratorical pause, and a profound obeisance to Miss Keene,
"like one whose mantling maiden blushes forbid me to name?"
(Prolonged applause.) "Where shall we find more worthy mortals to
worship them than our young friends, the handsome Brace, the
energetic Winslow, the humorous Crosby? When we look back upon our
concerts and plays, our minstrel entertainments, with the
incomparable performances of our friend Crosby as Brother Bones;
our recitations, to which the genius of Mrs. M'Corkle, of Peoria,
Illinois, has lent her charm and her manuscript" (a burlesque start
of terror from Crosby), "I am forcibly impelled to quote the
impassioned words from that gifted woman,--
'When idly Life's barque on the billows of Time,
Drifts hither and yon by eternity's sea;
On the swift feet of verse and the pinions of rhyme
My thoughts, Ulricardo, fly ever to thee!'"
"Who's Ulricardo?" interrupted Crosby, with assumed eagerness,
followed by a "hush!" from the ladies.
"Perhaps I should have anticipated our friend's humorous question,"
said Senor Perkins, with unassailable good-humor. "Ulricardo,
though not my own name, is a poetical substitute for it, and a mere
figure of apostrophe. The poem is personal to myself," he
continued, with a slight increase of color in his smooth cheek
which did not escape the attention of the ladies,--"purely as an
exigency of verse, and that the inspired authoress might more
easily express herself to a friend. My acquaintance with Mrs.
M'Corkle has been only epistolary. Pardon this digression, my
friends, but an allusion to the muse of poetry did not seem to me
to be inconsistent with our gathering here. Let me briefly
conclude by saying that the occasion is a happy and memorable one;
I think I echo the sentiment of all present when I add that it is
one which will not be easily forgotten by either the grateful
guests, whose feelings I have tried to express, or the chivalrous
hosts, whose kindness I have already so feebly translated."
In the applause that followed, and the clicking of glasses, Senor
Perkins slipped away. He mingled a moment with some of the other
guests who had already withdrawn to the corridor, lit a cigar, and
then passed through a narrow doorway on to the ramparts. Here he
strolled to some distance, as if in deep thought, until he reached
a spot where the crumbling wall and its fallen debris afforded an
easy descent into the ditch. Following the ditch, he turned an
angle, and came upon the beach, and the low sound of oars in the
invisible offing. A whistle brought the boat to his feet, and
without a word he stepped into the stern sheets. A few strokes of
the oars showed him that the fog had lifted slightly from the
water, and a green light hanging from the side of the Excelsior
could be plainly seen. Ten minutes' more steady pulling placed him
on her deck, where the second officer stood with a number of the
sailors listlessly grouped around him.
"The landing has been completed?" said Senor Perkins interrogatively.
"All except one boat-load more, which waits to take your final
instructions," said the mate. "The men have growled a little about
it," he added, in a lower tone. "They don't want to lose anything,
it seems," he continued, with a half sarcastic laugh.
Senor Perkins smiled peculiarly.
"I am sorry to disappoint them. Who's that in the boat?" he asked
The mate followed the Senor's glance.
"It is Yoto. He says he is going ashore, and you will not forbid
Senor Perkins approached the ship's side.
"Come here," he said to the man.
The Peruvian sailor rose, but did not make the slightest movement
to obey the command.
"You say you are going ashore?" said Perkins blandly.
"To follow him--the thief, the assassin--who struck me here;" he
pointed to his head. "He has escaped again with his booty."
"You are very foolish, my Yoto; he is no thief, and has no booty.
They will put YOU in prison, not him."
"YOU say so," said the man surlily. "Perhaps they will hear me--
for other things," he added significantly.
"And for this you would abandon the cause?"
The man shrugged his shoulders.
"Why not?" he glanced meaningly at two of his companions, who had
approached the side; "perhaps others would. Who is sending the
booty ashore, eh?"
"Come out of that boat," said the Senor, leaning over the bulwarks
with folded arms, and his eyes firmly fixed on the man.
The man did not move. But the Senor's hand suddenly flew to the
back of his neck, smote violently downwards, and sent eighteen
inches of glittering steel hurtling through the air. The bowie-
knife entered the upturned throat of the man and buried itself
halfway to the hilt. Without a gasp or groan he staggered forward,
caught wildly at the side of the ship, and disappeared between the
boat and the vessel.
"My lads," said Senor Perkins, turning with a gentle smile towards
the faces that in the light of the swinging lantern formed a
ghastly circle around him, "when I boarded this ship that had
brought aid and succor to our oppressors at Callao, I determined to
take possession of it peacefully, without imperiling the peace and
property of the innocent passengers who were intrusted to its care,
and without endangering your own lives or freedom. But I made no
allowance for TRAITORS. The blood that has been shed to-night has
not been spilt in obedience to my orders, nor to the cause that we
serve; it was from DEFIANCE of it; and the real and only culprit
has just atoned for it."
He stopped, and then stepped back from the gangway, as if to leave
it open to the men.
"What I have done," he continued calmly, "I do not ask you to
consider either as an example or a warning. You are free to do
what HE would have done," he repeated, with a wave of his hand
towards the open gangway and the empty boat. "You are free to
break your contract and leave the ship, and I give you my word that
I will not lift a hand to prevent it. But if you stay with me," he
said, suddenly turning upon them a face as livid as their own, "I
swear by the living God, that, if between this and the
accomplishment of my design, you as much as shirk or question any
order given by me, you shall die the death of that dog who went
before you. Choose as you please--but quickly."
The mate was the first to move. Without a word, he crossed over to
the Senor's side. The men hesitated a moment longer, until one,
with a strange foreign cry, threw himself on his knees before the
Senor, ejaculating, "Pardon! pardon!" The others followed, some
impulsively catching at the hand that had just slain their comrade,
and covering it with kisses!
"Pardon, Patrono--we are yours."
"You are the State's," said Senor Perkins coldly, with every
vestige of his former urbanity gone from his colorless face.
"Enough! Go back to your duty." He watched them slink away, and
then turned to the mate. "Get the last boat-load ready, and report
From that moment another power seemed to dominate the ship. The
men no longer moved listlessly, or slunk along the deck with
perfunctory limbs; a feverish haste and eagerness possessed them;
the boat was quickly loaded, and the mysterious debarkation
completed in rapidity and silence. This done, the fog once more
appeared to rise from the water and softly encompass the ship,
until she seemed to be obliterated from its face. In this vague
obscurity, from time to time, the faint rattling of chains was
heard, the soft creaking of blocks, and later on, the regular rise
and fall of oars. And then the darkness fell heavier, the sounds
became more and more indistinct and were utterly lost.
Ashore, however, the lanterns still glittered brightly in the
courtyard of the Presidio; the noise of laughter and revel still
came from the supper-room, and, later, the tinkling of guitars and
rhythmical clapping hands showed that the festivities were being
wound up by a characteristic fandango. Captain Bunker succumbed
early to his potations of fiery aguardiente, and was put to bed in
the room of the Commander, to whom he had sworn eternal friendship
and alliance. It was long past midnight before the other guests
were disposed of in the various quarters of the Presidio; but to
the ladies were reserved the more ostentatious hospitalities of the
Alcalde himself, the walls of whose ambitious hacienda raised
themselves across the plaza and overlooked the gardens of the
It was from one of the deep, quaintly barred windows of the
hacienda that Miss Keene gazed thoughtfully on the night, unable to
compose herself to sleep. An antique guest-chamber had been
assigned to her in deference to her wish to be alone, for which she
had declined the couch and vivacious prattle of her new friend,
Dona Isabel. The events of the day had impressed her more deeply
than they had her companions, partly from her peculiar inexperience
of the world, and partly from her singular sensitiveness to
external causes. The whole quaint story of the forgotten and
isolated settlement, which had seemed to the other passengers as a
trivial and half humorous incident, affected her imagination
profoundly. When she could escape the attentions of her
entertainers, or the frivolities of her companions, she tried to
touch the far-off past on the wings of her fancy; she tried to
imagine the life of those people, forgetting the world and
forgotten by it; she endeavored to picture the fifty years of
solitude amidst these decaying ruins, over which even ambition had
crumbled and fallen. It seemed to her the true conventual
seclusion from the world without the loss of kinship or home
influences; she contrasted it with her boarding-school life in the
fashionable seminary; she wondered what she would have become had
she been brought up here; she thought of the happy ignorance of
Dona Isabel, and--shuddered; and yet she felt herself examining the
odd furniture of the room with an equally childlike and admiring
curiosity. And these people looked upon HER as a superior being!
From the deep embrasure of the window she could see the tops of the
pear and olive trees, in the misty light of an invisible moon that
suffused the old Mission garden with an ineffable and angelic
radiance. To her religious fancy it seemed to be a spiritual
effusion of the church itself, enveloping the two gray dome-shaped
towers with an atmosphere and repose of its own, until it became
the incarnate mystery and passion where it stood.
She was suddenly startled by a moving shadow beside the wall,
almost immediately below her--the figure of a man! He was stealing
cautiously towards the church, as if to gain the concealment of the
shrubbery that grew beside it, and, furtively glancing from side to
side, looked towards her window. She unconsciously drew back,
forgetting at the moment that her light was extinguished, and that
it was impossible for the stranger to see her. But she had seen
HIM, and in that instant recognized Mr. Hurlstone!
Then he HAD come ashore, and secretly, for the other passengers
believed him still on the ship! But what was he doing there?--and
why had he not appeared with the others at the entertainment? She
could understand his avoidance of them from what she knew of his
reserved and unsocial habits; but when he could so naturally have
remained on shipboard, she could not, at first, conceive why he
should wish to prowl around the town at the risk of detection. The
idea suddenly occurred to her that he had had another attack of his
infirmity and was walking in his sleep, and for an instant she
thought of alarming the house, that some one might go to his
assistance. But his furtive movements had not the serene
impassibility of the somnambulist. Another thought withheld her;
he had looked up at her window! Did he know she was there? A
faint stirring of shame and pleasure sent a slight color to her
cheek. But he had gained the corner of the shrubbery and was lost
in the shadow. She turned from the window. A gentle sense of
vague and half maternal pity suffused her soft eyes as she at last
sought her couch and fell into a deep slumber.
Towards daybreak a wind arose over the sleeping town and far
outlying waters. It breathed through the leaves of the Mission
garden, brushed away the clinging mists from the angles of the
towers, and restored the sharp outlines of the ruined
fortifications. It swept across the unruffled sea to where the
Excelsior, cradled in the softly heaving bay, had peacefully swung
at anchor on the previous night, and lifted the snowy curtain of
the fog to seaward as far as the fringe of surf, a league away.
But the cradle of the deep was empty--the ship was gone!
THE GENTLE CASTAWAYS.
Miss Keene was awakened from a heavy sleep by a hurried shake of
her shoulder and an indefinite feeling of alarm. Opening her eyes,
she was momentarily dazed by the broad light of day, and the
spectacle of Mrs. Brimmer, pale and agitated, in a half-Spanish
dishabille, standing at her bedside.
"Get up and dress yourself, my dear, at once," she said hurriedly,
but at the same time attentively examining Miss Keene's clothes,
that were lying on the chair: "and thank Heaven you came here in an
afternoon dress, and not in an evening costume like mine! For
something awful has happened, and Heaven only knows whether we'll
ever see a stitch of our clothes again."
"WHAT has happened?" asked Miss Keene impatiently, sitting up in
bed, more alarmed at the unusual circumstance of Mrs. Brimmer's
unfinished toilet than at her incomplete speech.
"What, indeed! Nobody knows; but it's something awful--a mutiny,
or shipwreck, or piracy. But there's your friend, the Commander,
calling out the troops; and such a set of Christy Minstrels you
never saw before! There's the Alcalde summoning the Council;
there's Mr. Banks raving, and running round for a steamboat--as if
these people ever heard of such a thing!--and Captain Bunker, what
with rage and drink, gone off in a fit of delirium tremens, and
locked up in his room! And the Excelsior gone--the Lord knows
"Gone!" repeated Miss Keene, hurrying on her clothes. "Impossible!
What does Father Esteban tell you? What does Dona Isabel say?"
"That's the most horrible part of it! Do you know those wretched
idiots believe it's some political revolution among ourselves, like
their own miserable government. I believe that baby Isabel thinks
that King George and Washington have something to do with it; at
any rate, they're anxious to know to what side you belong! So; for
goodness' sake! if you have to humor them, say we're all on the
same side--I mean, don't you and Mrs. Markham go against Miss Chubb
Scarcely knowing whether to laugh or cry at Mrs. Brimmer's
incoherent statement, Miss Keene hastily finished dressing as the
door flew open to admit the impulsive Dona Isabel and her sister
Juanita. The two Mexican girls threw themselves in Miss Keene's
arms, and then suddenly drew back with a movement of bashful and
"Do, pray, ask them, for I daren't," whispered Mrs. Brimmer, trying
to clasp a mantilla around her, "how this thing is worn, and if
they haven't got something like a decent bonnet to lend me for a
day or two?"
"The Senora has not then heard that her goods, and all the goods of
the Senores and Senoras, have been discovered safely put ashore at
"No?" said Mrs. Brimmer eagerly.
"Ah, yes!" responded Dona Isabel. "Since the Senora is not of the
Mrs. Brimmer cast a supplicatory look at Miss Keene, and hastily
quitted the room. Miss Keene would have as quickly followed her,
but the young Ramirez girls threw themselves again tragically upon
her breast, and, with a mysterious gesture of silence, whispered,--
"Fear nothing, Excellencia! We are yours--we will die for you, no
matter what Don Ramon, or the Comandante, or the Ayuntamiento,
shall decide. Trust us, little one!--pardon--Excellencia, we
"What IS the matter?" said Miss Keene, now thoroughly alarmed, and
releasing herself from the twining arms about her. "For Heaven's
sake let me go! I must see somebody! Where is--where is Mrs.
"The Markham? Is it the severe one?--as thus,"--said Dona Isabel,
striking an attitude of infantine portentousness.
"Yes," said Miss Keene, smiling in spite of her alarm.
"She is arrested."
"Arrested!" said Eleanor Keene, her cheeks aflame with indignation.
"For what? Who dare do this thing?"
"The Comandante. She has a missive--a despatch from the
Without another word, and feeling that she could stand the suspense
no longer, Miss Keene forced her way past the young girls,
unheeding their cries of consternation and apology, and quickly
reached the patio. A single glance showed her that Mrs. Brimmer
was gone. With eyes and cheeks still burning, she swept past the
astounded peons, through the gateway, into the open plaza. Only
one idea filled her mind--to see the Commander, and demand the
release of her friend. How she should do it, with what arguments
she should enforce her demand, never occurred to her. She did not
even think of asking the assistance of Mr. Brace, Mr. Crosby, or
any of her fellow-passengers. The consciousness of some vague
crisis that she alone could meet possessed her completely.
The plaza was swarming with a strange rabble of peons and soldiery;
of dark, lowering faces, odd-looking weapons and costumes, mules,
mustangs, and cattle--a heterogeneous mass, swayed by some fierce
excitement. That she saw none of the Excelsior party among them
did not surprise her; an instinct of some catastrophe more serious
than Mrs. Brimmer's vague imaginings frightened but exalted her.
With head erect, leveled brows, and bright, determined eyes she
walked deliberately into the square. The crowd parted and gave way
before this beautiful girl, with her bared head and its invincible
crest of chestnut curls. Presently they began to follow her, with
a compressed murmur of admiration, until, before she was halfway
across the plaza, the sentries beside the gateway of the Presidio
were astonished at the vision of a fair-haired and triumphant
Pallas, who appeared to be leading the entire population of Todos
Santos to victorious attack. In vain a solitary bugle blew, in
vain the rolling drum beat an alarm, the sympathetic guard only
presented arms as Miss Keene, flushed and excited, her eyes darkly
humid with gratified pride, swept past them into the actual
presence of the bewildered and indignant Comandante.
The only feminine consciousness she retained was that she was more
relieved at her deliverance from the wild cattle and unbroken
horses of her progress than from the Indians and soldiers.
"I want to see Mrs. Markham, and to know by what authority she is
arrested," said Miss Keene boldly.
"The Senor Comandante can hold no conference with you until you
disperse your party," interpreted the secretary.
She was about to hurriedly reply that she knew nothing of the crowd
that had accompanied her; but she was withheld by a newly-born
instinct of tact.
"How do I know that I shall not be arrested, like my friend?" she
said quickly. "She is as innocent as myself."
"The Comandante pledges himself, as a hidalgo, that you shall not
Her first impulse was to advance to the nearest intruders at the
gate and say, "Do go away, please;" but she was doubtful of its
efficiency, and was already too exalted by the situation to be
satisfied with its prosaic weakness. But her newly developed
diplomacy again came to her aid. "You may tell them so, if you
choose, I cannot answer for them," she said, with apparent dark
The secretary advanced on the corridor and exchanged a few words
with her more impulsive followers. Miss Keene, goddess-like and
beautiful, remained erect behind him, and sent them a dazzling
smile and ravishing wave of her little hand. The crowd roared with
an effusive and bovine delight that half frightened her, and with a
dozen "Viva la Reyna Americanas!" she was hurried by the Comandante
into the guard-room.
"You ask to know of what the Senora Markham is accused," said the
Commander, more gently. "She has received correspondence from the
"The pirate--Perkins?" said Miss Keene, with indignant incredulity.
"The buccaneer who wrote that letter. Read it to her, Manuel."
The secretary took his eyes from the young girl's glowing face,
coughed slightly, and then read as follows:--
"ON BOARD THE EXCELSIOR, of the Quinquinambo
Independent States Navy, August 8, 1854.
"To Captain Bunker.--Sir," . . .
"But this is not addressed to YOU!" interrupted Miss Keene
"The Captain Bunker is a raving madman," said the Commander
gravely. "Read on!"
The color gradually faded from the young girl's cheek as the
secretary continued, in a monotonous voice:--
"I have the honor to inform you that the barque Excelsior was, on
the 8th of July, 1854, and the first year of the Quinquinambo
Independence, formally condemned by the Federal Council of
Quinquinambo, for having aided and assisted the enemy with
munitions of war and supplies, against the law of nations, and the
tacit and implied good-will between the Republic of the United
States and the struggling Confederacies of South America; and that,
in pursuance thereof, and under the law of reprisals and letters of
marque, was taken possession of by me yesterday. The goods and
personal effects belonging to the passengers and yourself have been
safely landed at the Embarcadero of Todos Santos--a neutral port--
by my directions; my interpretation of the orders of the Federal
Council excepting innocent non-combatants and their official
protector from confiscation or amercement.
"I take the liberty of requesting you to hand the inclosed order on
the Treasury of the Quinquinambo Confederate States to Don Miguel
Briones, in payment of certain stores and provisions, and of a
piece of ordnance known as the saluting cannon of the Presidio of
Todos Santos. Vigilancia!
"Your obedient servant,
"LEONIDAS BOLIVAR PERKINS,
"Generalissimo Commanding Land and Sea Forces,
Quinquinambo Independent States."
In her consternation at this fuller realization of the vague
catastrophe, Miss Keene still clung to the idea that had brought
"But Mrs. Markham has nothing to do with all this?"
"Then why does she refuse to give up her secret correspondence with
the pirate Perkins?" returned the secretary.
Miss Keene hesitated. Had Mrs. Markham any previous knowledge of
the Senor's real character?
"Why don't you arrest the men?" she said scornfully. "There is Mr.
Banks, Mr. Crosby, Mr. Winslow, and Mr. Brace." She uttered the
last name more contemptuously, as she thought of that young
gentleman's protestations and her present unprotected isolation.
"They are already arrested and removed to San Antonio, a league
hence," returned the secretary. "It is fact enough that they have
confessed that their Government has seized the Mexican province of
California, and that they were on their way to take possession of
Miss Keene's heart sank.
"But you knew all this yesterday," she faltered; "and our war with
Mexico is all over years ago."
"We did not know it last night at the banquet, Senora; nor would we
have known it but for this treason and division in your own party."
A sudden light flashed upon Miss Keene's mind. She now
comprehended the advances of Dona Isabel. Extravagant and
monstrous as it seemed, these people evidently believed that a
revolution had taken place in the United States; that the two
opposing parties had been represented by the passengers of the
Excelsior; and that one party had succeeded, headed by the
indomitable Perkins. If she could be able to convince them of
their blunder, would it be wise to do so? She thought of Mrs.
Brimmer's supplication to be ranged "on her side," and realized
with feminine quickness that the situation might be turned to her
countrymen's advantage. But which side had Todos Santos favored?
It was left to her woman's wit to discover this, and conceive a
plan to rescue her helpless companions.
Her suspense was quickly relieved. The Commander and his secretary
exchanged a few words.
"The Comandante will grant Dona Leonora's request," said the
secretary, "if she will answer a question."
"What is it?" responded Miss Keene, with inward trepidation.
"The Senora Markham is perhaps beloved by the Pirate Perkins?"
In spite of her danger, in spite of the uncertain fate hanging over
her party, Miss Keene could with difficulty repress a half
hysterical inclination to laugh. Even then, it escaped in a sudden
twinkle of her eye, which both the Commander and his subordinate
were quick to notice, as she replied demurely, "Perhaps."
It was enough for the Commander. A gleam of antique archness and
venerable raillery lit up his murky, tobacco-colored pupils; a
spasm of gallantry crossed the face of the secretary.
"Ah--what would you?--it is the way of the world," said the
Commander. "We comprehend. Come!"
He led the way across the corridor, and suddenly opened a small
barred door. Whatever preconceived idea Miss Keene may have had of
her unfortunate country-woman immured in a noisome cell, and
guarded by a stern jailer, was quite dissipated by the soft misty
sunshine that flowed in through the open door. The prison of Mrs.
Markham was a part of the old glacis which had been allowed to
lapse into a wild garden that stretched to the edge of the sea.
There was a summer-house built on--and partly from--a crumbling
bastion, and here, under the shade of tropical creepers, the
melancholy captive was comfortably writing, with her portable desk
on her knee, and a traveling-bag at her feet. A Saratoga trunk of
obtrusive proportions stood in the centre of the peaceful
vegetation, like a newly raised altar to an unknown deity. The
only suggestion of martial surveillance was an Indian soldier,
whose musket, reposing on the ground near Mrs. Markham, he had
exchanged for the rude mattock with which he was quietly digging.
The two women, with a cry of relief, flew into each other's arms.
The Commander and his secretary discreetly retired to an angle of
"I find everything as I left it, my dear, even to my slipper-bag,"
said Mrs. Markham. "They've forgotten nothing."
"But you are a captive!" said Eleanor. "What does it mean?"
"Nothing, my dear. I gave them a piece of my mind," said Mrs.
Markham, looking, however, as if that mental offering had by no
means exhausted her capital, "and I have written six pages to the
Governor at Mazatlan, and a full account to Mr. Markham."
"And they won't get them in thirty years!" said Miss Keene
impetuously. "But where is this letter from Senor Perkins. And,
for Heaven's sake, tell me if you had the least suspicion before of
anything that has happened."
"Not in the least. The man is mad, my dear, and I really believe
driven so by that absurd Illinois woman's poetry. Did you ever see
anything so ridiculous--and shameful, too--as the 'Ulricardo'
business? I don't wonder he colored so."
Miss Keene winced with annoyance. Was everybody going crazy, or
was there anything more in this catastrophe that had only enfeebled
the minds of her countrywomen! For here was the severe, strong-
minded Mrs. Markham actually preoccupied, like Mrs. Brimmer, with
utterly irrelevant particulars, and apparently powerless to grasp
the fact that they were abandoned on a half hostile strand, and cut
off by half a century from the rest of the world.
"As to the letter," said Mrs. Markham, quietly, "there it is.
There's nothing in it that might not have been written by a
Miss Keene took the letter. It was written in a delicate, almost
feminine hand. She could not help noticing that in one or two
instances corrections had been made and blots carefully removed
with an eraser.
"Midnight, on the Excelsior.
"MY FRIEND: When you receive this I shall probably be once more on
the bosom of that mysterious and mighty element whose majesty has
impressed us, whose poetry we have loved, and whose moral lessons,
I trust, have not been entirely thrown away upon us. I go to the
deliverance of one of those oppressed nations whose history I have
often recited to you, and in whose destiny you have from time to
time expressed a womanly sympathy. While it is probable,
therefore, that my MOTIVES may not be misunderstood by you, or even
other dear friends of the Excelsior, it is by no means impossible
that the celerity and unexpectedness of my ACTION may not be
perfectly appreciated by the careless mind, and may seem to require
some explanation. Let me then briefly say that the idea of
debarking your goods and chattels, and parting from your delightful
company at Todos Santos, only occurred to me on our unexpected--
shall I say PROVIDENTIAL?--arrival at that spot; and the necessity
of expedition forbade me either inviting your cooperation or
soliciting your confidence. Human intelligence is variously
constituted--or, to use a more homely phrase, 'many men have many
minds'--and it is not impossible that a premature disclosure of my
plans might have jeopardized that harmony which you know it has
been my desire to promote. It was my original intention to have
landed you at Mazatlan, a place really inferior in climate and
natural attractions to Todo Santos, although, perhaps, more easy of
access and egress; but the presence of an American steamer in the
offing would have invested my enterprise with a certain publicity
foreign, I think, to all our tastes. Taking advantage, therefore,
of my knowledge of the peninsular coast, and the pardonable
ignorance of Captain Bunker, I endeavored, through my faithful
subordinates, to reach a less known port, and a coast rarely
frequented by reason of its prevailing fog. Here occurred one of
those dispensations of an overruling power which, dear friend, we
have so often discussed. We fell in with an unknown current, and
were guided by a mysterious hand into the bay of Todos Santos!
"You know of my belief in the infinite wisdom and benignity of
events; you have, dear friend, with certain feminine limitations,
shared it with me. Could there have been a more perfect
illustration of it than the power that led us here? On a shore,
historic in interest, beautiful in climate, hospitable in its
people, utterly freed from external influences, and absolutely
without a compromising future, you are landed, my dear friend, with
your youthful companions. From the crumbling ruins of a decaying
Past you are called to construct an Arcadia of your own; the
rudiments of a new civilization are within your grasp; the cost of
existence is comparatively trifling; the various sums you have with
you, which even in the chaos of revolution I have succeeded in
keeping intact, will more than suffice to your natural wants for
years to come. Were I not already devoted to the task of freeing
Quinquinambo, I should willingly share this Elysium with you all.
But, to use the glowing words of Mrs. M'Corkle, slightly altering
'Ah, stay me not! With flying feet
O'er desert sands, I rush to greet
My fate, my love, my life, my sweet
"I venture to intrust to your care two unpublished manuscripts of
that gifted woman. The dangers that may environ my present
mission, the vicissitudes of battle by sea or land, forbid my
imperiling their natural descent to posterity. You, my dear
friend, will preserve them for the ages to come, occasionally
refreshing yourself, from time to time, from that Parnassian
"Adieu! my friend. I look around the familiar cabin, and miss your
gentle faces. I feel as Jason might have felt, alone on the deck
of the Argo when his companions were ashore, except that I know of
no Circean influences to mar their destiny. In examining the
state-rooms to see if my orders for the complete restoration of
passengers' property had been carried out, I allowed myself to look
into yours. Lying alone, forgotten and overlooked, I saw a
peculiar jet hair-pin which I think I have observed in the coils of
your tresses. May I venture to keep this gentle instrument as a
reminder of the superior intellect it has so often crowned? Adieu,
"Ever yours, LEONIDAS BOLIVAR PERKINS."
"Well?" said Mrs. Markham impatiently, as Miss Keene remained
motionless with the letter in her hand.
"It seems like a ridiculous nightmare! I can't understand it at
all. The man that wrote this letter may be mad--but he is neither
a pirate nor a thief--and yet"--
"He a pirate?" echoed Mrs. Markham indignantly; "He's nothing of
the kind! It's not even his FAULT!"
"Not his fault?" repeated Miss Keene; "are you mad, too?"
"No--nor a fool, my dear! Don't you see? It's all the fault of
Banks and Brimmer for compromising the vessel: of that stupid,
drunken captain for permitting it. Senor Perkins is a liberator, a
patriot, who has periled himself and his country to treat us
magnanimously. Don't you see it? It's like that Banks and that
Mrs. Brimmer to call HIM a pirate! I've a good mind to give the
Commander my opinion of THEM."
"Hush!" said Miss Keene, with a sudden recollection of the
Commander's suspicions, "for Heaven's sake; you do not know what
you are saying. Look! they were talking with that strange man, and
now they are coming this way."
The Commander and his secretary approached them. They were both
more than usually grave; but the look of inquiry and suspicion with
which they regarded the two women was gone from their eyes.
"The Senor Comandante says you are free, Senoras, and begs you will
only decide whether you will remain his guests or the guests of the
Alcalde. But for the present he cannot allow you any communication
with the prisoners of San Antonio."
"There is further news?" said Miss Keene faintly, with a presentiment
of worse complications.
"There is! A body from the Excelsior has been washed on shore."
The two women turned pale.
"In the pocket of the murdered man is an accusation against one
Senor Hurlstone, who was concealed on the ship; who came not ashore
openly with the other passengers, but who escaped in secret, and is
now hiding somewhere in Todos Santos."
"And you suspect him of this infamous act?" said Eleanor,
forgetting all prudence in her indignation. "You are deceiving
yourself. He is as innocent as I am!"
The Commander and the secretary smiled sapiently, but gently.
"The Senor Comandante believes you, Dona Leonora: the Senor
Hurlstone is innocent of the piracy. He is, of a surety, the
leader of the Opposition."
When James Hurlstone reached the shelter of the shrubbery he leaned
exhaustedly against the adobe wall, and looked back upon the garden
he had just traversed. At its lower extremity a tall hedge of
cactus reinforced the crumbling wall with a cheval de frise of
bristling thorns; it was through a gap in this green barrier that
he had found his way a few hours before, as his torn clothes still
testified. At one side ran the low wall of the Alcalde's casa, a
mere line of dark shadow in that strange diaphanous mist that
seemed to suffuse all objects. The gnarled and twisted branches of
pear-trees, gouty with old age, bent so low as to impede any
progress under their formal avenues; out of a tangled labyrinth of
figtrees, here and there a single plume of feathery palm swam in a
drowsy upper radiance. The shrubbery around him, of some unknown
variety, exhaled a faint perfume; he put out his hand to grasp what
appeared to be a young catalpa, and found it the trunk of an
enormous passion vine, that, creeping softly upward, had at last
invaded the very belfry of the dim tower above him; and touching
it, his soul seemed to be lifted with it out of the shadow.
The great hush and quiet that had fallen like a benediction on
every sleeping thing around him; the deep and passionless repose
that seemed to drop from the bending boughs of the venerable trees;
the cool, restful, earthy breath of the shadowed mold beneath him,
touched only by a faint jessamine-like perfume as of a dead
passion, lulled the hurried beatings of his heart and calmed the
feverish tremor of his limbs. He allowed himself to sink back
against the wall, his hands tightly clasped before him. Gradually,
the set, abstracted look of his eyes faded and became suffused, as
if moistened by that celestial mist. Then he rose quickly, drew
his sleeve hurriedly across his lashes, and began slowly to creep
along the wall again.
Either the obscurity of the shrubbery became greater or he was
growing preoccupied; but in steadying himself by the wall he had,
without perceiving it, put his hand upon a rude door that, yielding
to his pressure, opened noiselessly into a dark passage. Without
apparent reflection he entered, followed the passage a few steps
until it turned abruptly; turning with it, he found himself in the
body of the Mission Church of Todos Santos. A swinging-lamp, that
burned perpetually before an effigy of the Virgin Mother, threw a
faint light on the single rose-window behind the high altar;
another, suspended in a low archway, apparently lit the open door
of the passage towards the refectory. By the stronger light of the
latter Hurlstone could see the barbaric red and tarnished gold of
the rafters that formed the straight roof. The walls were striped
with equally bizarre coloring, half Moorish and half Indian. A few
hangings of dyed and painted cloths with heavy fringes were
disposed on either side of the chancel, like the flaps of a wigwam;
and the aboriginal suggestion was further repeated in a quantity of
colored beads and sea-shells that decked the communion-rails. The
Stations of the Cross, along the walls, were commemorated by
paintings, evidently by a native artist--to suit the same barbaric
taste; while a larger picture of San Francisco d'Assisis, under the
choir, seemed to belong to an older and more artistic civilization.
But the sombre half-light of the two lamps mellowed and softened
the harsh contrast of these details until the whole body of the
church appeared filled with a vague harmonious shadow. The air,
heavy with the odors of past incense, seemed to be a part of that
expression, as if the solemn and sympathetic twilight became
palpable in each deep, long-drawn inspiration.
Again overcome by the feeling of repose and peacefulness, Hurlstone
sank upon a rude settle, and bent his head and folded arms over a
low railing before him. How long he sat there, allowing the subtle
influence to transfuse and possess his entire being, he did not
know. The faint twitter of birds suddenly awoke him. Looking up,
he perceived that it came from the vacant square of the tower above
him, open to the night and suffused with its mysterious radiance.
In another moment the roof of the church was swiftly crossed and
recrossed with tiny and adventurous wings. The mysterious light
had taken an opaline color. Morning was breaking.
The slow rustling of a garment, accompanied by a soft but heavy
tread, sounded from the passage. He started to his feet as the
priest, whom he had seen on the deck of the Excelsior, entered the
church from the refectory. The Padre was alone. At the apparition
of a stranger, torn and disheveled, he stopped involuntarily and
cast a hasty look towards the heavy silver ornaments on the altar.
Hurlstone noticed it, and smiled bitterly.
"Don't alarm yourself. I only sought this place for shelter."
He spoke in French--the language he had heard Padre Esteban address
to Mrs. Brimmer. But the priest's quick eye had already detected
his own mistake. He lifted his hand with a sublime gesture towards
the altar, and said,--
"You are right! Where should you seek shelter but here?"
The reply was so unexpected that Hurlstone was silent. His lips
"And if it were SANCTUARY I was seeking?" he said.
"You would first tell me why you sought it," said Padre Esteban
Hurlstone looked at him irresolutely for a moment and then said,
with the hopeless desperation of a man anxious to anticipate his
"I am a passenger on the ship you boarded yesterday. I came ashore
with the intention of concealing myself somewhere here until she
had sailed. When I tell you that I am not a fugitive from justice,
that I have committed no offense against the ship or her
passengers, nor have I any intention of doing so, but that I only
wish concealment from their knowledge for twenty-four hours, you
will know enough to understand that you run no risk in giving me
assistance. I can tell you no more."
"I did not see you with the other passengers, either on the ship or
ashore," said the priest. "How did you come here?"
"I swam ashore before they left. I did not know they had any idea
of landing here; I expected to be the only one, and there would
have been no need for concealment then. But I am not lucky," he
added, with a bitter laugh.
The priest glanced at his garments, which bore the traces of the
sea, but remained silent.
"Do you think I am lying?"
The old priest lifted his head with a gesture.
"Not to me--but to God!"
The young man followed the gesture, and glanced around the barbaric
church with a slight look of scorn. But the profound isolation,
the mystic seclusion, and, above all, the complete obliteration of
that world and civilization he shrank from and despised, again
subdued and overcame his rebellious spirit. He lifted his eyes to
"Nor to God," he said gravely.
"Then why withhold anything from Him here?" said the priest gently.
"I am not a Catholic--I do not believe in confession," said
Hurlstone doggedly, turning aside.
But Padre Esteban laid his large brown hand on the young man's
shoulder. Touched by some occult suggestion in its soft contact,
he sank again into his seat.
"Yet you ask for the sanctuary of His house--a sanctuary bought by
that contrition whose first expression is the bared and open soul!
To the first worldly shelter you sought--the peon's hut or the
Alcalde's casa--you would have thought it necessary to bring a
story. You would not conceal from the physician whom you asked for
balsam either the wound, the symptoms, or the cause? Enough," he
said kindly, as Hurlstone was about to reply. "You shall have your
request. You shall stay here. I will be your physician, and will
salve your wounds; if any poison I know not of rankle there, you
will not blame me, son, but perhaps you will assist me to find it.
I will give you a secluded cell in the dormitory until the ship has
sailed. And then"--
He dropped quietly on the settle, took the young man's hand
paternally in his own, and gazed into his eyes as if he read his
And then . . . Ah, yes . . . What then? Hurlstone glanced once
more around him. He thought of the quiet night; of the great peace
that had fallen upon him since he had entered the garden, and the
promise of a greater peace that seemed to breathe with the incense
from those venerable walls. He thought of that crumbling barrier,
that even in its ruin seemed to shut out, more completely than
anything he had conceived, his bitter past, and the bitter world
that recalled it. He thought of the long days to come, when,
forgetting and forgotten, he might find a new life among these
simple aliens, themselves forgotten by the world. He had thought
of this once before in the garden; it occurred to him again in this
Lethe-like oblivion of the little church, in the kindly pressure of
the priest's hand. The ornaments no longer looked uncouth and
barbaric--rather they seemed full of some new spiritual
significance. He suddenly lifted his eyes to Padre Esteban, and,
half rising to his feet, said,--
"Are we alone?"
"We are; it is a half-hour yet before mass," said the priest.
"My story will not last so long," said the young man hurriedly, as
if fearing to change his mind. "Hear me, then--it is no crime nor
offense to any one; more than that, it concerns no one but myself--
it is of"--
"A woman," said the priest softly. "So! we will sit down, my son."
He lifted his hand with a soothing gesture--the movement of a
physician who has just arrived at an easy diagnosis of certain
uneasy symptoms. There was also a slight suggestion of an habitual
toleration, as if even the seclusion of Todos Santos had not been
entirely free from the invasion of the primal passion.
Hurlstone waited for an instant, but then went on rapidly.
"It is of a woman, who has cursed my life, blasted my prospects,
and ruined my youth; a woman who gained my early affection only to
blight and wither it; a woman who should be nearer to me and dearer
than all else, and yet who is further than the uttermost depths of
hell from me in sympathy or feeling; a woman that I should cleave
to, but from whom I have been flying, ready to face shame,
disgrace, oblivion, even that death which alone can part us: for
that woman is--my wife."
He stopped, out of breath, with fixed eyes and a rigid mouth.
Father Esteban drew a snuff-box from his pocket, and a large
handkerchief. After blowing his nose violently, he took a pinch of
snuff, wiped his lip, and replaced the box.
"A bad habit, my son," he said apologetically, "but an old man's
weakness. Go on."
"I met her first five years ago--the wife of another man. Don't
misjudge me, it was no lawless passion; it was a friendship, I
believed, due to her intellectual qualities as much as to her
womanly fascinations; for I was a young student, lodging in the
same house with her, in an academic town. Before I ever spoke to
her of love, she had confided to me her own unhappiness--the
uncongeniality of her married life, the harshness, and even
brutality, of her husband. Even a man less in love than I was
could have seen the truth of this--the contrast of the coarse,
sensual, and vulgar man with an apparently refined and intelligent
woman; but any one else except myself would have suspected that
such a union was not merely a sacrifice of the woman. I believed
her. It was not until long afterwards that I learned that her
marriage had been a condonation of her youthful errors by a
complaisant bridegroom; that her character had been saved by a
union that was a mutual concession. But I loved her madly; and
when she finally got a divorce from her uncongenial husband, I
believed it less an expression of her love for me than an act of
justice. I did not know at the time that they had arranged the
divorce together, as they had arranged their marriage, by equal
"I was the only son of a widowed mother, whose instincts were from
the first opposed to my friendship with this woman, and what she
prophetically felt would be its result. Unfortunately, both she
and my friends were foolish enough to avow their belief that the
divorce was obtained solely with a view of securing me as a
successor; and it was this argument more than any other that
convinced me of my duty to protect her. Enough, I married, not
only in spite of all opposition--but BECAUSE of it.
"My mother would have reconciled herself to the marriage, but my
wife never forgave the opposition, and, by some hellish instinct
divining that her power over me might be weakened by maternal
influence, precipitated a quarrel which forever separated us. With
the little capital left by my father, divided between my mother and
myself, I took my wife to a western city. Our small income
speedily dwindled under the debts of her former husband, which she
had assumed to purchase her freedom. I endeavored to utilize a
good education and some accomplishments in music and the languages
by giving lessons and by contributing to the press. In this my
wife first made a show of assisting me, but I was not long in
discovering that her intelligence was superficial and shallow, and
that the audacity of expression, which I had believed to be
originality of conviction, was simply shamelessness, and a desire
for notoriety. She had a facility in writing sentimental poetry,
which had been efficacious in her matrimonial confidences, but
which editors of magazines and newspapers found to be shallow and
insincere. To my astonishment, she remained unaffected by this, as
she was equally impervious to the slights and sneers that
continually met us in society. At last the inability to pay one of
her former husband's claims brought to me a threat and an anonymous
letter. I laid them before her, when a scene ensued which revealed
the blindness of my folly in all its hideous hopelessness: she
accused me of complicity in her divorce, and deception in regard to
my own fortune. In a speech, whose language was a horrible
revelation of her early habits, she offered to arrange a divorce
from me as she had from her former husband. She gave as a reason
her preference for another, and her belief that the scandal of a
suit would lend her a certain advertisement and prestige. It was a
combination of Messalina and Mrs. Jarley"--
"Pardon! I remember not a Madame Jarley," said the priest.
"Of viciousness and commercial calculation," continued Hurlstone
hurriedly. "I don't remember what happened; she swore that I
struck her! Perhaps--God knows! But she failed, even before a
western jury, to convict me of cruelty. The judge that thought me
half insane would not believe me brutal, and her application for
divorce was lost.
"I need not tell you that the same friends who had opposed my
marriage now came forward to implore me to allow her to break our
chains. I refused. I swear to you it was from no lingering love
for her, for her presence drove me mad; it was from no instinct of
revenge or jealousy, for I should have welcomed the man who would
have taken her out of my life and memory. But I could not bear the
idea of taking her first husband's place in her hideous comedy; I
could not purchase my freedom at that price--at any price. I was
told that I could get a divorce against HER, and stand forth before
the world untrammeled and unstained. But I could not stand before
MYSELF in such an attitude. I knew that the shackles I had
deliberately forged could not be loosened except by death. I knew
that the stains of her would cling to me and become a part of my
own sin, even as the sea I plunged into yesterday to escape her,
though it has dried upon me, has left its bitter salt behind.
"When she knew my resolve, she took her revenge by dragging my name
through the successive levels to which she descended. Under the
plea that the hardly-earned sum I gave to her maintenance apart
from me was not sufficient, she utilized her undoubted beauty and
more doubtful talent in amateur entertainments--and, finally, on
the stage. She was openly accompanied by her lover, who acted as
her agent, in the hope of goading me to a divorce. Suddenly she
disappeared. I thought she had forgotten me. I obtained an
honorable position in New York. One night I entered a theater
devoted to burlesque opera and the exhibition of a popular actress,
known as the Western Thalia, whose beautiful and audaciously draped
figure was the talk of the town. I recognized my wife in this star
of nudity; more than that, she recognized me. The next day, in
addition to the usual notice, the real name of the actress was
given in the morning papers, with a sympathizing account of her
romantic and unfortunate marriage. I renounced my position, and,
taking advantage of an offer from an old friend in California,
resolved to join him secretly there. My mother had died broken-
hearted; I was alone in the world. But my wife discovered my
intention; and when I reached Callao, I heard that she had followed
me, by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and that probably she would
anticipate me in Mazatlan, where we were to stop. The thought of
suicide haunted me during the rest of that horrible voyage; only my
belief that she would make it appear as a tacit confession of my
guilt saved me from that last act of weakness."
He stopped and shuddered. Padre Esteban again laid his hand softly
"It was God who spared you that sacrifice of soul and body," he
"I thought it was God that suggested to me to take the SIMULATION
of that act the means of separating myself from her forever. When
we neared Mazatlan, I conceived the idea of hiding myself in the
hold of the Excelsior until she had left that port, in the hope
that it would be believed that I had fallen overboard. I succeeded
in secreting myself, but was discovered at the same time that the
unexpected change in the ship's destination rendered concealment
unnecessary. As we did not put in at Mazatlan, nobody suspected my
discovery in the hold to be anything but the accident that I gave
it out to be. I felt myself saved the confrontation of the woman
at Mazatlan; but I knew she would pursue me to San Francisco.
"The strange dispensation of Providence that brought us into this
unknown port gave me another hope of escape and oblivion. While
you and the Commander were boarding the Excelsior, I slipped from
the cabin-window into the water; I was a good swimmer, and reached
the shore in safety. I concealed myself in the ditch of the
Presidio until I saw the passengers' boats returning with them,
when I sought the safer shelter of this Mission. I made my way
through a gap in the hedge and lay under your olive-trees, hearing
the voices of my companions, beyond the walls, till past midnight.
I then groped my way along the avenue of pear-trees till I came to
another wall, and a door that opened to my accidental touch. I
entered, and found myself here. You know the rest."
He had spoken with the rapid and unpent fluency of a man who cared
more to relieve himself of an oppressive burden than to impress his
auditor; yet the restriction of a foreign tongue had checked
repetition or verbosity. Without imagination he had been eloquent;
without hopefulness he had been convincing. Father Esteban rose,
holding both his hands.
"My son, in the sanctuary which you have claimed there is no
divorce. The woman who has ruined your life could not be your
wife. As long as her first husband lives, she is forever his wife,
bound by a tie which no human law can sever!"
AN OPEN-AIR PRISON.
An hour after mass Father Esteban had quietly installed Hurlstone
in a small cell-like apartment off the refectory. The household of
the priest consisted of an old Indian woman of fabulous age and
miraculous propriety, two Indian boys who served at mass, a
gardener, and a muleteer. The first three, who were immediately in
attendance upon the priest, were cognizant of a stranger's
presence, but, under instructions from the reverend Padre, were
loyally and superstitiously silent; the vocations of the gardener
and muleteer made any intrusion from them impossible. A breakfast
of fruit, tortillas, chocolate, and red wine, of which Hurlstone
partook sparingly and only to please his entertainer, nevertheless
seemed to restore his strength, as it did the Padre's equanimity.
For the old man had been somewhat agitated during mass, and, except
that his early morning congregation was mainly composed of Indians,
muleteers, and small venders, his abstraction would have been
noticed. With ready tact he had not attempted, by further
questioning, to break the taciturnity into which Hurlstone had
relapsed after his emotional confession and the priest's abrupt
half-absolution. Was it possible he regretted his confidence, or
was it possible that his first free and untrammeled expression of
his wrongs had left him with a haunting doubt of their real
"Lie down here, my son," said the old ecclesiastic, pointing to a
small pallet in the corner, "and try to restore in the morning what
you have taken from the night. Manuela will bring your clothes
when they are dried and mended; meantime, shift for yourself in
Pepito's serape and calzas. I will betake me to the Comandante and
the Alcalde, to learn the dispositions of your party, when the ship
will sail, and if your absence is suspected. Peace be with you,
son! Manuela, attend to the caballero, and see you chatter not."
Without doubting the substantial truth of his guest's story, the
good Padre Esteban was not unwilling to have it corroborated by
such details as he thought he could collect among the Excelsior's
passengers. His own experience in the confessional had taught him
the unreliability of human evidence, and the vagaries of both
conscientious and unconscious suppression. That a young, good-
looking, and accomplished caballero should have been the victim of
not one, but even many, erotic episodes, did not strike the holy
father as being peculiar; but that he should have been brought by a
solitary unfortunate attachment to despair and renunciation of the
world appeared to him marvelous. He was not unfamiliar with the
remorse of certain gallants for peccadillos with other men's wives;
but this Americano's self-abasement for the sins of his own wife--
as he foolishly claimed her to be--whom he hated and despised,
struck Father Esteban as a miracle open to suspicion. Was there
anything else in these somewhat commonplace details of vulgar and
low intrigue than what he had told the priest? Were all these
Americano husbands as sensitive and as gloomily self-sacrificing
and expiating? It did not appear so from the manners and customs
of the others,--from those easy matrons whose complacent husbands
had abandoned them to the long companionship of youthful cavaliers
on adventurous voyages; from those audacious virgins, who had the
freedom of married women. Surely, this was not a pious and
sensitive race, passionately devoted to their domestic affections!
The young stranger must be either deceiving him--or an exception to
And if he was that exception--what then? An idea which had sprung
up in Father Esteban's fancy that morning now took possession of it
with the tenacity of a growth on fertile virgin soil. The good
Father had been devoted to the conversion of the heathen with the
fervor of a one-ideaed man. But his successes had been among the
Indians--a guileless, harmless race, who too often confounded the
practical benefits of civilization with the abstract benefits of
the Church, and their instruction had been simple and coercive.
There had been no necessity for argument or controversy; the worthy
priest's skill in polemical warfare and disputation had never been
brought into play; the Comandante and Alcalde were as punctiliously
orthodox as himself, and the small traders and artisans were
hopelessly docile and submissive. The march of science, which had
been stopped by the local fogs of Todos Santos some fifty years,
had not disturbed the simple Aesculapius of the province with
heterodox theories: he still purged and bled like Sangrado, and met
the priest at the deathbed of his victims with a pious satisfaction
that had no trace of skeptical contention. In fact, the gentle
Mission of Todos Santos had hitherto presented no field for the
good Father's exalted ambition, nor the display of his powers as a
zealot. And here was a splendid opportunity.
The conversion of this dark, impulsive, hysterical stranger would
be a gain to the fold, and a triumph worthy of his steel. More
than that, if he had judged correctly of this young man's mind and
temperament, they seemed to contain those elements of courage and
sacrificial devotion that indicated the missionary priesthood.
With such a subaltern, what might not he, Father Esteban,
accomplish! Looking further into the future, what a glorious
successor might be left to his unfinished work on Todos Santos!
Buried in these reflections, Padre Esteban sauntered leisurely up
the garden, that gradually ascended the slight elevation on which
the greater part of the pueblo was built. Through a low gateway in
the wall he passed on to the crest of the one straggling street of
Todos Santos. On either side of him were ranged the low one-
storied, deep-windowed adobe fondas and artisans' dwellings, with
low-pitched roofs of dull red pipe-like tiles. Absorbed in his
fanciful dreams, he did not at first notice that those dwellings
appeared deserted, and that even the Posada opposite him, whose
courtyard was usually filled with lounging muleteers, was empty and
abandoned. Looking down the street towards the plaza, he became
presently aware of some undefined stirring in the peaceful hamlet.
There was an unusual throng in the square, and afar on that placid
surface of the bay from which the fog had lifted, the two or three
fishing-boats of Todos Santos were vaguely pulling. But the
strange ship was gone.
A feeling of intense relief and satisfaction followed. Father
Esteban pulled out his snuff-box and took a long and complacent
pinch. But his relief was quickly changed to consternation as an
armed cavalcade rapidly wheeled out of the plaza and cantered
towards him, with the unmistakable spectacle of the male passengers
of the Excelsior riding two and two, and guarded by double files of
dragoons on each side.
At a sign from the priest the subaltern reined in his mustang,
halted the convoy, and saluted respectfully, to the astonishment of
the prisoners. The clerical authority of Todos Santos evidently
dominated the military. Renewed hope sprang up in the hearts of
the Excelsior party.
"What have we here?" asked Padre Esteban.
"A revolution, your Reverence, among the Americanos, with robbery
of the Presidio saluting-gun; a grave affair. Your Reverence has
been sent for by the Comandante. I am taking these men to San
Antonio to await the decision of the Council."
"And the ship?"
"Gone, your Reverence. One of the parties has captured it."
"Are the Legitimists, your Reverence: at least they have confessed
to have warred with Mexico, and invaded California--the brigands."
The priest remained lost for a moment in blank and bitter
amazement. Banks took advantage of the pause to edge his way to
"Ask him, some of you," he said, turning to Brace and Crosby, "when
this d----d farce will be over, and where we can find the head man--
the boss idiot of this foolery."
"Let him put it milder," whispered Winslow. "You got us into
trouble enough with your tongue already."
Crosby hesitated a moment.
"Quand finira ce drole representation?--et--et--qui est ce qui est
l'entrepreneur?" he said dubiously.
The priest stared. These Americans were surely cooler and less
excitable than his strange guest. A thought struck him.
"How many are still in the ship?" he asked gently.
"Nobody but Perkins and that piratical crew of niggers."
"And that infernal Hurlstone," added Winslow.
The priest pricked up his ears.
"Hurlstone?" he repeated.
"Yes--a passenger like ourselves, as we supposed. But we are
satisfied now he was in the conspiracy from the beginning,"
translated Crosby painfully.
"Look at his strange disappearance--a regular put-up job," broke in
Brace, in English, without reference to the Padre's not
comprehending him; "so that he and Perkins could shut themselves up
together without suspicion."
"Never mind Hurlstone now; he's GONE, and we're HERE," said Banks
angrily. "Ask the parson, as a gentleman and a Christian, what
sort of a hole we've got into, anyhow. How far is the next
Crosby put the question. The subaltern lit a cigarette.
"There is no next settlement. The pueblo ends at San Antonio."
"And what's beyond that?"
"And what's south?"
"The desert--one cannot pass it."
"The desert too."
"Then how do you get away from here?"
"We do not get away."
"And how do you communicate with Mexico--with your Government?"
"When a ship comes."
"And when does a ship come?"
The officer threw away his cigarette.
"I say, you'll tell the Commander that all this is illegal; and
that I'm going to complain to our Government," continued Banks
"I go to speak to the Comandante," responded the priest gravely.
"And tell him that if he touches a hair of the ladies' heads we'll
have his own scalp," interrupted Brace impetuously.
Even Crosby's diplomatic modification of this speech did not appear
"The Mexican soldier wars not with women," said the priest coldly.
The cavalcade moved on. The Excelsior passengers at once resumed
their chorus of complaint, tirade, and aggressive suggestion,
heedless of the soldiers who rode stolidly on each side.
"To think we haven't got a single revolver among us," said Brace
"We might each grab a carbine from these nigger fellows," said
Crosby, eying them contemplatively.
"And if they didn't burst, and we weren't shot by the next patrol,
and if we'd calculated to be mean enough to run away from the
women--where would we escape to?" asked Banks curtly. "Hold on at
least until we get an ultimatum from that commodious ass at the
Presidio! Then we'll anticipate the fool-killer, if you like. My
opinion is, they aren't in any great hurry to try ANYTHING on us
"And I say, lie low and keep dark until they show their hand,"
added Winslow, who had no relish for an indiscriminate scrimmage,
and had his own ideas of placating their captors.
Nevertheless, by degrees they fell into a silence, partly the
effect of the strangely enervating air. The fog had completely
risen from the landscape, and hung high in mid-air, through which
an intense sun, shorn of its fierceness, diffused a lambent warmth,
and a yellowish, unctuous light, as if it had passed through amber.
The bay gleamed clearly and distinctly; not a shadow flecked its
surface to the gray impenetrable rampart of fog that stretched like
a granite wall before its entrance. On one side of the narrow road
billows of monstrous grain undulated to the crest of the low hills,
that looked like larger undulations of the soil, furrowed by bosky
canadas or shining arroyos. Banks was startled into a burst of
"There's enough grain there to feed a thousand Todos Santos; and
raised, too, with tools like that," he continued, pointing to a
primitive plow that lay on the wayside, formed by a single forked
root. A passing ox-cart, whose creaking wheels were made of a
solid circle of wood, apparently sawn from an ordinary log, again
plunged him into cogitation. Here and there little areas of the
rudest cultivation broke into a luxuriousness of orange, lime, and
fig trees. The joyous earth at the slightest provocation seemed to
smile and dimple with fruit and flowers. Everywhere the rare
beatitudes of Todos Santos revealed and repeated its simple story.
The fructifying influence of earth and sky; the intervention of a
vaporous veil between a fiery sun and fiery soil; the combination
of heat and moisture, purified of feverish exhalations, and made
sweet and wholesome by the saline breath of the mighty sea, had
been the beneficent legacy of their isolation, the munificent
compensation of their oblivion.
A gradual and gentle ascent at the end of two hours brought the
cavalcade to a halt upon a rugged upland with semi-tropical
shrubbery, and here and there larger trees from the tierra templada
in the evergreens or madrono. A few low huts and corrals, and a
rambling hacienda, were scattered along the crest, and in the midst
arose a little votive chapel, flanked by pear-trees. Near the
roadside were the crumbling edges of some long-forgotten excavation.
Crosby gazed at it curiously. Touching the arm of the officer, he
pointed to it.
"Una mina de plata," said the officer sententiously.
"A mine of some kind--silver, I bet!" said Crosby, turning to the
others. "Is it good--bueno--you know?" he continued to the
officer, with vague gesticulations.
"En tiempos pasados," returned the officer gravely.
"I wonder what that means?" said Winslow.
But before Crosby could question further, the subaltern signaled to
them to dismount. They did so, and their horses were led away to a
little declivity, whence came the sound of running water. Left to
themselves, the Americans looked around them. The cavalcade seemed
to have halted near the edge of a precipitous ridge, the evident
termination of the road. But the view that here met their eyes was
unexpected and startling.
The plateau on which they stood seemed to drop suddenly away,
leaving them on the rocky shore of a monotonous and far-stretching
sea of waste and glittering sand. Not a vestige nor trace of
vegetation could be seen, except an occasional ridge of straggling
pallid bushes, raised in hideous simulation of the broken crest of
a ghostly wave. On either side, as far as the eye could reach, the
hollow empty vision extended--the interminable desert stretched and
panted before them.
"It's the jumping-off place, I reckon," said Crosby, "and they've
brought us here to show us how small is our chance of getting away.
But," he added, turning towards the plateau again, "what are they
doing now? 'Pon my soul! I believe they're going off--and leaving
The others turned as he spoke. It was true. The dragoons were
coolly galloping off the way they came, taking with them the horses
the Americans had just ridden.
"I call that cool," said Crosby. "It looks deuced like as if we
were to be left here to graze, like cattle."
"Perhaps that's their idea of a prison in this country," said
Banks. "There's certainly no chance of our breaking jail in that
direction," he added, pointing to the desert; "and we can't follow
them without horses."
"And I dare say they've guarded the pass in the road lower down,"
"We ought to be able to hold our own here until night," said Brace,
"and then make a dash into Todos Santos, get hold of some arms, and
join the ladies."
"The women are all right," said Crosby impatiently, "and are better
treated than if we were with them. Suppose, instead of maundering
over them, we reconnoitre and see what WE can do here. I'm getting
devilishly hungry; they can't mean to starve us, and if they do, I
don't intend to be starved as long as there is anything to be had
by buying or stealing. Come along. There's sure to be fruit near
that old chapel, and I saw some chickens in the bush near those
huts. First, let's see if there's any one about. I don't see a
The little plateau, indeed, seemed deserted. In vain they shouted;
their voices were lost in the echoless air. They examined one by
one the few thatched huts: they were open, contained one or two
rude articles of furniture--a bed, a bench, and table--were
scrupulously clean--and empty. They next inspected the chapel; it
was tawdry and barbaric in ornament, but the candlesticks and
crucifix and the basin for holy water were of heavily beaten
silver. The same thought crossed their minds--the abandoned mine
at the roadside!
Bananas, oranges, and prickly-pears growing within the cactus-hedge
of the chapel partly mollified their thirst and hunger, and they
turned their steps towards the long, rambling, barrack-looking
building, with its low windows and red-tiled roof, which they had
first noticed. Here, too, the tenement was deserted and abandoned;
but there was evidence of some previous and more ambitious
preparation: in a long dormitory off the corridor a number of
scrupulously clean beds were ranged against the whitewashed walls,
with spotless benches and tables. To the complete astonishment and
bewilderment of the party another room, fitted up as a kitchen,
with the simpler appliances of housekeeping, revealed a larder
filled with provisions and meal. A shout from Winslow, who had
penetrated the inner courtyard, however, drew them to a more
remarkable spectacle. Their luggage and effects from the cabins of
the Excelsior were there, carefully piled in the antique ox-cart
that had evidently that morning brought them from Todos Santos!
"There's no mistake," said Brace, with a relieved look, after a
hurried survey of the trunks. "They have only brought our baggage.
The ladies have evidently had the opportunity of selecting their
"Crosby told you they'd be all right," said Banks; "and as for
ourselves, I don't see why we can't be pretty comfortable here, and
all the better for our being alone. I shall take an opportunity of
looking around a bit. It strikes me that there are some resources
in this country that might pay to develop."
"And I shall have a look at that played-out mine," said Crosby; "if
it's been worked as they work the land, they've left about as much
in it as they've taken out."
"That's all well enough," said Brace, drawing a dull vermilion-
colored stone from his pocket; "but here's something I picked up
just now that ain't 'played out,' nor even the value of it
suspected by those fellows. That's cinnabar--quicksilver ore--and
a big per cent. of it too; and if there's as much of it here as the
indications show, you could buy up all your SILVER mines in the
country with it."
"If I were you, I'd put up a notice on a post somewhere, as they do
in California, and claim discovery," said Banks seriously.
"There's no knowing how this thing may end. We may not get away
from here for some time yet, and if the Government will sell the
place cheap, it wouldn't be a bad spec' to buy it. Form a kind of
'Excelsior Company' among ourselves, you know, and go shares."
The four men looked earnestly at each other. Already the lost
Excelsior and her mutinous crew were forgotten; even the incidents
of the morning--their arrest, the uncertainty of their fate, and
the fact that they were in the hands of a hostile community--
appeared but as trivial preliminaries to the new life that opened
before them! They suddenly became graver than they had ever been--
even in the moment of peril.
"I don't see why we shouldn't," said Brace quickly. "We started
out to do that sort of thing in California, and I reckon if we'd
found such a spot as this on the Sacramento or American River we'd
have been content. We can take turns at housekeeping, prospect a
little, and enter into negotiations with the Government. I'm for
offering them a fair sum for this ridge and all it contains at
"The only thing against that," said Crosby slowly, "is the
probability that it is already devoted to some other use by the
Government. Ever since we've been here I've been thinking--I don't
know why--that we've been put in a sort of quarantine. The
desertion of the place, the half hospital arrangements of this
building, and the means they have taken to isolate us from
themselves, must mean something. I've read somewhere that in these
out-of-the-way spots in the tropics they have a place where they
put the fellows with malarious or contagious diseases. I don't
want to frighten you boys: but I've an idea that we're in a sort of
lazaretto, and the people outside won't trouble us often."
TODOS SANTOS SOLVES THE MYSTERY.
Notwithstanding his promise, and the summons of the Council, Father
Esteban, on parting with the Excelsior prisoners in the San Antonio
Road, did not proceed immediately to the presence of the
Comandante. Partly anxious to inform himself more thoroughly
regarding Hurlstone's antecedents before entering upon legislative
functions that might concern him, partly uneasy at Brace's allusion
to any possible ungentleness in the treatment of the fair
Americanas, and partly apprehensive that Mrs. Brimmer might seek