Part 3 out of 5
him at the Mission in the present emergency, the good Father turned
his steps towards the Alcalde's house.
Mrs. Brimmer, in a becoming morning wrapper, half reclining in an
Indian hammock in the corridor, supported by Miss Chubb, started at
his approach. So did the young Alcalde, sympathetically seated at
her side. Padre Esteban for an instant was himself embarrassed;
Mrs. Brimmer quickly recovered her usual bewildering naivete.
"I knew you would come; but if you hadn't, I should have mustered
courage enough to go with Miss Chubb to find you at the Mission,"
she said, half coquettishly. "Not but that Don Ramon has been all
kindness and consideration, but you know one always clings to one's
spiritual adviser in such an emergency; and although there are
differences of opinion between us, I think I may speak to you as
freely as I would speak to my dear friend Dr. Potts, of Trinity
Chapel. Of course you don't know HIM; but you couldn't have helped
liking him, he's so gentle, so tactful, so refined! But do tell me
the fullest particulars of this terrible calamity that has happened
so awkwardly. Tell me all! I fear that Don Ramon, out of
kindness, has not told me everything. I have been perfectly frank,
I told him everything--who I am, who Mr. Brimmer is, and given him
even the connections of my friend Miss Chubb. I can do no more;
but you will surely have no difficulty in finding some one in Todos
Santos who has heard of the Quincys and Brimmers. I've no doubt
that there are books in your library that mention them. Of course
I can say nothing of the other passengers, except that Mr. Brimmer
would not have probably permitted me to associate with any
notorious persons. I confess now--I think I told you once before,
Clarissa--that I greatly doubted Captain Bunker's ability"--
"Ah," murmured Don Ramon.
"--To make a social selection," continued Mrs. Brimmer. "He may
have been a good sailor, and boxed his compass, but he lacked a
knowledge of the world. Of the other passengers I can truly say I
know nothing; I cannot think that Mr. Crosby's sense of humor led
him into bad associations, or that he ever went beyond verbal
impropriety. Certainly nothing in Miss Keene's character has led
me to believe she could so far forget what was due to herself and
to us as to address a lawless mob in the streets as she did just
now; although her friend Mrs. Markham, as I just told Don Ramon, is
an advocate of Women's Rights and Female Suffrage, and I believe
she contemplates addressing the public from the lecturer's
"It isn't possible!" interrupted Don Ramon excitedly, in mingled
horror of the masculinely rampant Mrs. Markham and admiration of
the fascinatingly feminine Mrs. Brimmer; "a lady cannot be an
orator--a haranguer of men!"
"Not in society," responded Mrs. Brimmer, with a sigh, "and I do
not remember to have met the lady before. The fact is, she does
not move in our circle--in the upper classes."
The Alcalde exchanged a glance with the Padre.
"Ah! you have classes? and she is of a distinct class, perhaps?"
"Decidedly," said Mrs. Brimmer promptly.
"Pardon me," said Padre Esteban, with gentle persuasiveness, "but
you are speaking of your fellow-passengers. Know you not, then, of
one Hurlstone, who is believed to be still in the ship Excelsior,
and perhaps of the party who seized it?"
"Mr. Hurlstone?--it is possible; but I know really nothing of him,"
said Mrs. Brimmer carelessly. "I don't think Clarissa did, either--
did you, dear? Even in our enforced companionship we had to use
some reserve, and we may have drawn the line at him! He was a
friend of Miss Keene's; indeed, she was the only one who seemed to
"And she is now here?" asked the Padre eagerly.
"No. She is with her friend the Senora Markham, at the Presidio.
The Comandante has given her the disposition of his house," said
Don Ramon, with a glance of grave archness at Mrs. Brimmer; "it is
not known which is the most favored, the eloquent orator or the
beautiful and daring leader!"
"Mrs. Markham is a married woman," said Mrs. Brimmer severely,
"and, of course, she can do as she pleases; but it is far different
with Miss Keene. I should scarcely consider it proper to expose
Miss Chubb to the hospitality of a single man, without other women,
and I cannot understand how she could leave the companionship and
protection of your lovely sisters."
The priest here rose, and, with formal politeness, excused himself,
urging the peremptory summons of the Council.
"I scarcely expected, indeed, to have had the pleasure of seeing my
colleague here," he added with quiet suavity, turning to the
"I have already expressed my views to the Comandante," said the
official, with some embarrassment, "and my attendance will hardly
The occasional misleading phosphorescence of Mrs. Brimmer's quiet
eyes, early alluded to in these pages, did not escape Father
Esteban's quick perception at that moment; however, he preferred to
leave his companion to follow its aberrations rather than to permit
that fair ignis fatuus to light him on his way by it.
"But my visit to you, Father Esteban," she began sweetly, "is only
"Until I have the pleasure of anticipating it here," said the
priest, with paternal politeness bending before the two ladies;
"but for the present, au revoir!"
"It would be an easy victory to win this discreetly emotional
Americana to the Church," said Father Esteban to himself, as he
crossed the plaza; "but, if I mistake not, she would not cease to
be a disturbing element even there. However, she is not such as
would give this Hurlstone any trouble. It seems I must look
elsewhere for the brains of this party, and to find a solution of
this young man's mystery; and, if I judge correctly, it is with
this beautiful young agitator of revolutions and her oratorical
duenna I must deal."
He entered the low gateway of the Presidio unchallenged, and even
traversed the courtyard without meeting a soul. The guard and
sentries had evidently withdrawn to their habitual peaceful
vocations, and the former mediaeval repose of the venerable
building had returned. There was no one in the guard-room; but as
the priest turned back to the corridor, his quick ear was suddenly
startled by the unhallowed and inconsistent sounds of a guitar. A
monotonous voice also--the Comandante's evidently--was raised in a
thin, high recitative.
The Padre passed hastily through the guard-room, and opened the
door of the passage leading to the garden slope. Here an
extraordinary group presented itself to his astonished eyes. In
the shadow of a palm-tree, Mrs. Markham, seated on her Saratoga
trunk as on a throne, was gazing blandly down upon the earnest
features of the Commander, who, at her feet, guitar in hand, was
evidently repeating some musical composition. His subaltern sat
near him, divided in admiration of his chief and the guest. Miss
Keene, at a little distance, aided by the secretary, was holding an
animated conversation with a short, stout, Sancho Panza-looking
man, whom the Padre recognized as the doctor of Todos Santos.
At the apparition of the reverend Father, the Commander started,
the subaltern stared, and even the secretary and the doctor looked
"I am decidedly de trop this morning," soliloquized the
ecclesiastic; but Miss Keene cut short his reflection by running to
him frankly, with outstretched hand.
"I am so glad that you have come," she said, with a youthful,
unrestrained earnestness that was as convincing as it was
fascinating, "for you will help me to persuade this gentleman that
poor Captain Bunker is suffering more from excitement of mind than
body, and that bleeding him is more than folly."
"The man's veins are in a burning fever and delirium from
aguardiente," said the little doctor excitedly, "and the fire must
first be put out by the lancet."
"He is only crazy with remorse for having lost his ship through his
own carelessness and the treachery of others," said Miss Keene
"He is a maniac and will kill himself, unless his fever is
subdued," persisted the doctor.
"And you would surely kill him by your way of subduing it," said
the young girl boldly. "Better for him, a disgraced man of honor,
to die by his own hand, than to be bled like a calf into a feeble
and helpless dissolution. I would, if I were in his place--if I
had to do it by tearing off the bandages."
She made a swift, half unconscious gesture of her little hand, and
stopped, her beautiful eyes sparkling, her thin pink nostrils
dilated, her red lips parted, her round throat lifted in the air,
and one small foot advanced before her. The men glanced hurriedly
at each other, and then fixed their eyes upon her with a rapt yet
frightened admiration. To their simple minds it was Anarchy and
Revolution personified, beautiful, and victorious.
"Ah!" said the secretary to Padre Esteban, in Spanish, "it is true!
she knows not fear! She was in the room alone with the madman; he
would let none approach but her! She took a knife from him--else
the medico had suffered!"
"He recognized her, you see! Ah! they know her power," said the
Comandante, joining the group.
"You will help me, Father Esteban?" said the young girl, letting
the fire of her dark eyes soften to a look of almost childish
appeal--"you will help me to intercede for him? It is the
restraint only that is killing him--that is goading him to madness!
Think of him, Father--think of him: ruined and disgraced, dying to
retrieve himself by any reckless action, any desperate chance of
recovery, and yet locked up where he can do nothing--attempt
nothing--not even lift a hand to pursue the man who has helped to
bring him to this!"
"But he CAN do nothing! The ship is gone!" remonstrated the
"Yes, the ship is gone; but the ocean is still there," said Miss
"But he has no boat."
"He will find or make one."
"And the fog conceals the channel."
"He can go where THEY have gone, or meet their fate. You do not
know my countrymen, Senor Comandante," she said proudly.
"Ah, yes--pardon! They are at San Antonio--the baker, the buffoon,
the two young men who dig. They are already baking and digging and
joking. We have it from my officer, who has just returned."
Miss Keene bit her pretty lips.
"They think it is a mistake; they cannot believe that any intentional
indignity is offered them," she said quietly. "Perhaps it is well
they do not."
"They desired me to express their condolences to the Senora," said
the Padre, with exasperating gentleness, "and were relieved to be
assured by me of your perfect security in the hands of these
Miss Keene raised her clear eyes to the ecclesiastic. That
accomplished diplomat of Todos Santos absolutely felt confused
under the cool scrutiny of this girl's unbiased and unsophisticated
"Then you HAVE seen them," she said, "and you know their innocence,
and the utter absurdity of this surveillance?"
"I have not seen them ALL," said the priest softly. "There is
still another--a Senor Hurlstone--who is missing? Is he not?"
It was not in the possibility of Eleanor Keene's truthful blood to
do other than respond with a slight color to this question. She
had already concealed from every one the fact of having seen the
missing man in the Mission garden the evening before. It did not,
however, prevent her the next moment from calmly meeting the glance
of the priest as she answered gravely,--
"I believe so. But I cannot see what that has to do with the
detention of the others."
"Much, perhaps. It has been said that you alone, my child, were in
the confidence of this man."
"Who dared say that?" exclaimed Miss Keene in English, forgetting
herself in her indignation.
"If it's anything mean--it's Mrs. Brimmer, I'll bet a cooky," said
Mrs. Markham, whose linguistic deficiencies had debarred her from
the previous conversation.
"You have only," continued the priest, without noticing the
interruption, "to tell us what you know of this Hurlstone's plans,--
of his complicity with Senor Perkins, or," he added significantly,
"his opposition to them--to insure that perfect justice shall be
done to all."
Relieved that the question involved no disclosure of her only
secret regarding Hurlstone, Miss Keene was about to repeat the
truth that she had no confidential knowledge of him, or of his
absurd alleged connection with Senor Perkins, when, with an
instinct of tact, she hesitated. Might she not serve them all--
even Hurlstone himself--by saying nothing, and leaving the burden
of proof to their idiotic accusers? Was she altogether sure that
Hurlstone was entirely ignorant of Senor Perkins' plans, or might
he not have refused, at the last moment, to join in the conspiracy,
and so left the ship?
"I will not press you for your answer now," said the priest gently.
"But you will not, I know, keep back anything that may throw a
light on this sad affair, and perhaps help to reinstate your friend
Mr. Hurlstone in his REAL position."
"If you ask me if I believe that Mr. Hurlstone had anything to do
with this conspiracy, I should say, unhesitatingly, that I do NOT.
And more, I believe that he would have jumped overboard rather than
assent to so infamous an act," said the young girl boldly.
"Then you think he had no other motive for leaving the ship?" said
the priest slowly.
"Decidedly not." She stopped; a curious anxious look in the
Padre's persistent eyes both annoyed and frightened her. "What
other motive could he have?" she said coldly.
Father Esteban's face lightened.
"I only ask because I think you would have known it. Thank you for
the assurance all the same, and in return I promise you I will use
my best endeavors with the Comandante for your friend the Captain
Bunker. Adieu, my daughter. Adieu, Madame Markham," he said, as,
taking the arm of Don Miguel, he turned with him and the doctor
towards the guard-room. The secretary lingered behind for a
"Fear nothing," he said, in whispered English to Miss Keene. "I,
Ruy Sanchez, shall make you free of Capitano Bunker's cell," and
"Well," said Mrs. Markham, when the two women were alone again. "I
don't pretend to fathom the befogged brains of Todos Santos; but as
far as I can understand their grown-up child's play, they are
making believe this unfortunate Mr. Hurlstone, who may be dead for
all we know, is in revolt against the United States Government,
which is supposed to be represented by Senor Perkins and the
Excelsior--think of that!"
"But Perkins signed himself of the Quinquinambo navy!" said Miss
"That is firmly believed by those idiots to be one of OUR States.
Remember they know nothing of what has happened anywhere in the
last fifty years. I dare say they never heard of filibusters like
Perkins, and they couldn't comprehend him if they had. I've given
up trying to enlighten them, and I think they're grateful for it.
It makes their poor dear heads ache."
"And it is turning mine! But, for Heaven's sake, tell me what part
I am supposed to act in this farce!" said Miss Keene.
"You are the friend and colleague of Hurlstone, don't you see?"
said Mrs. Markham. "You are two beautiful young patriots--don't
blush, my dear!--endeared to each other and a common cause, and
ready to die for your country in opposition to Perkins, and the
faint-heartedness of such neutrals as Mrs. Brimmer, Miss Chubb, the
poor Captain, and all the men whom they have packed off to San
"Impossible!" said Miss Keene, yet with an uneasy feeling that it
not only was possible, but that she herself had contributed
something to the delusion. "But how do they account for my
friendship with YOU--you, who are supposed to be a correspondent--
an accomplice of Perkins?"
"No, no," returned Mrs. Markham, with a half serious smile, "I am
not allowed that honor. I am presumed to be only the disconsolate
Dulcinea of Perkins, abandoned by HIM, pitied by you, and converted
to the true faith--at least, that is what I make out from the
broken English of that little secretary of the Commander."
Miss Keene winced.
"That's all my fault, dear," she said, suddenly entwining her arms
round Mrs. Markham, and hiding her half embarrassed smile on the
shoulder of her strong-minded friend; "they suggested it to me, and
I half assented, to save you. Please forgive me."
"Don't think I am blaming you, my dear Eleanor," said Mrs. Markham.
"For Heaven's sake assent to the wildest and most extravagant
hypothesis they can offer, if it will leave us free to arrange our
own plans for getting away. I begin to think we were not a very
harmonious party on the Excelsior, and most of our troubles here
are owing to that. We forget we have fallen among a lot of
original saints, as guileless and as unsophisticated as our first
parents, who know nothing of our customs and antecedents. They
have accepted us on what they believe to be our own showing. From
first to last we've underrated them, forgetting they are in the
majority. We can't expect to correct the ignorance of fifty years
in twenty-four hours, and I, for one, sha'n't attempt it. I'd much
rather trust to the character those people would conceive of me
from their own consciousness than to one Mrs. Brimmer or Mr.
Winslow would give of me. From this moment I've taken a firm
resolve to leave my reputation and the reputation of my friends
entirely in their hands. If you are wise you will do the same.
They are inclined to worship you--don't hinder them. My belief is,
if we only take things quietly, we might find worse places to be
stranded on than Todos Santos. If Mrs. Brimmer and those men of
ours, who, I dare say, have acted as silly as the Mexicans
themselves, will only be quiet, we can have our own way here yet."
"And poor Captain Bunker?" said Miss Keene.
"It seems hard to say it, but, in my opinion, he is better under
lock and key, for everybody's good, at present. He'd be a
firebrand in the town if he got away. Meantime, let us go to our
room. It is about the time when everybody is taking a siesta, and
for two hours, thank Heaven! we're certain nothing more can
"I'll join you in a moment," said Miss Keene.
Her quick ear had caught the sound of voices approaching. As Mrs.
Markham disappeared in the passage, the Commander and his party
reappeared from the guard-room, taking leave of Padre Esteban. The
secretary, as he passed Miss Keene, managed to add to his formal
salutation the whispered words,--"When the Angelus rings I will
await you before the grating of his prison."
Padre Esteban was too preoccupied to observe this incident. As
soon as he quitted the Presidio, he hastened to the Mission with a
disquieting fear that his strange guest might have vanished. But,
crossing the silent refectory, and opening the door of the little
apartment, he was relieved to find him stretched on the pallet in a
profound slumber. The peacefulness of the venerable walls had laid
a gentle finger on his weary eyelids.
The Padre glanced round the little cell, and back again at the
handsome suffering face that seemed to have found surcease and rest
in the narrow walls, with a stirring of regret. But the next
moment he awakened the sleeper, and in the briefest, almost frigid,
sentences, related the events of the morning.
The young man rose to his feet with a bitter laugh.
"You see," he said, "God is against me! And yet a few hours ago I
dared to think that He had guided me to a haven of rest and
"Have you told the truth to him and to me?" said the priest
sternly, "or have you--a mere political refugee--taken advantage of
an old man's weakness to forge a foolish lie of sentimental
"What do you mean?" said Hurlstone, turning upon him almost
The priest rose, and drawing a folded paper from his bosom, opened
it before the eyes of his indignant guest.
"Remember what you told me last night in the sacred confidences of
yonder holy church, and hear what you really are from the lips of
the Council of Todos Santos."
Smoothing out the paper, he read slowly as follows:--
"Whereas, it being presented to an Emergency Council, held at the
Presidio of Todos Santos, that the foreign barque Excelsior had
mutinied, discharged her captain and passengers, and escaped from
the waters of the bay, it was, on examination, found and decreed
that the said barque was a vessel primarily owned by a foreign
Power, then and there confessed and admitted to be at war with
Mexico and equipped to invade one of her northern provinces. But
that the God of Liberty and Justice awakening in the breasts of
certain patriots--to wit, the heroic Senor Diego Hurlstone and the
invincible Dona Leonor--the courage and discretion to resist the
tyranny and injustice of their oppressors, caused them to mutiny
and abandon the vessel rather than become accomplices, in the
company of certain neutral and non-combatant traders and artisans,
severally known as Brace, Banks, Winslow, and Crosby; and certain
aristocrats, known as Senoras Brimmer and Chubb. In consideration
thereof, it is decreed by the Council of Todos Santos that asylum,
refuge, hospitality, protection, amity, and alliance be offered and
extended to the patriots, Senor Diego Hurlstone, Dona Leonor, and a
certain Duenna Susana Markham, particularly attached to Dona
Leonor's person; and that war, reprisal, banishment, and death be
declared against Senor Perkins, his unknown aiders and abettors.
And that for the purposes of probation, and in the interests of
clemency, provisional parole shall be extended to the alleged
neutrals--Brace, Banks, Crosby, and Winslow--within the limits and
boundaries of the lazaretto of San Antonio, until their neutrality
shall be established, and pending the further pleasure of the
Council. And it is further decreed and declared that one Capitano
Bunker, formerly of the Excelsior, but now a maniac and lunatic--
being irresponsible and visited of God, shall be exempted from the
ordinances of this decree until his reason shall be restored; and
during that interval subjected to the ordinary remedial and
beneficent restraint of civilization and humanity. By order of the
"The signatures and rubrics of--
"DON MIGUEL BRIONES,
of the Order of San Francisco d'Assisis.
"DON RAMON RAMIREZ,
Alcalde of the Pueblo of Todos Santos."
THE CAPTAIN FOLLOWS HIS SHIP.
When Padre Esteban had finished reading the document he laid it
down and fixed his eyes on the young man. Hurlstone met his look
with a glance of impatient disdain.
"What have you to say to this?" asked the ecclesiastic, a little
impressed by his manner.
"That as far as it concerns myself it is a farrago of absurdity.
If I were the person described there, why should I have sought you
with what you call a lie of 'sentimental passion,' when I could
have claimed protection openly with my SISTER PATRIOT," he added,
with a bitter laugh.
"Because you did not know THEN the sympathy of the people nor the
decision of the Council," said the priest.
"But I know it NOW, and I refuse to accept it."
"You refuse--to--to accept it?" echoed the priest.
"I do." He walked towards the door. "Before I go, let me thank
you for the few hours' rest and security that you have given to one
who may be a cursed man, yet is no impostor. But I do not blame
you for doubting one who talks like a desperate man, yet lacks the
courage of desperation. Good-by!"
"Where are you going?"
"What matters? There is a safer protection and security to be
found than even that offered by the Council of Todos Santos."
His eyes were averted, but not before the priest had seen them
glaze again with the same gloomy absorption that had horrified him
in the church the evening before. Father Esteban stepped forward
and placed his soft hand on Hurlstone's shoulder.
"Look at me. Don't turn your face aside, but hear me; for I
believe your story."
Without raising his eyes, the young man lifted Father Esteban's
hand from his shoulder, pressed it lightly, and put it quietly
"I thank you," he said, "for keeping at least that unstained memory
of me. But it matters little now. Good-by!"
He had his hand upon the door, but the priest again withheld him.
"When I tell you I believe your story, it is only to tell you more.
I believe that God has directed your wayward, wandering feet here
to His house, that you may lay down the burden of your weak and
suffering manhood before His altar, and become once more a child of
His. I stand here to offer you, not a refuge of a day or a night,
but for all time; not a hiding-place from man or woman, but from
yourself, my son--yourself, your weak and mortal self, more fatal
to you than all. I stand here to open for you not only the door of
this humble cell, but that of His yonder blessed mansion. You
shall share my life with me; you shall be one of my disciples; you
shall help me strive for other souls as I have striven for yours;
the protection of the Church, which is all-powerful, shall be
around you if you wish to be known; you shall hide yourself in its
mysteries if you wish to be forgotten. You shall be my child, my
companion, my friend; all that my age can give you shall be yours
while I live, and it shall be your place one day to take up my
unfinished work when it falls from these palsied hands forever."
"You are mistaken," said the young man coldly. "I came to you for
human aid, and thank you for what you have granted me: I have not
been presumptuous enough to ask more, nor to believe myself a
fitting subject for conversion. I am weak, but not weak enough to
take advantage of the mistaken kindness of either the temporal
Council of Todos Santos or its spiritual head." He opened the door
leading into the garden. "Forget and forgive me, Father Esteban,
and let me say farewell."
"Stop!" said the ecclesiastic, raising himself to his full height
and stepping before Hurlstone. "Then if you will not hear me in
the name of your Father who lives, in the name of your father who
is dead I command you to stay! I stand here to-day in the place of
that man I never knew--to hold back his son from madness and crime.
Think of me as of him whom you loved, and grant to an old man who
might have had a son as old as you the right of throwing a father's
protecting arm around you."
There was a moment's silence.
"What do you want me to do?" said Hurlstone, suddenly lifting his
now moist and glistening eyes upon the old man.
"Give me your word of honor that for twenty-four hours you will
remain as you are--pledging yourself to nothing--only promising to
commit no act, take no step, without consulting me. You will not
be sought here, nor yet need you keep yourself a prisoner in these
gloomy walls--except that, by exposing yourself to the people now,
you might be compromised to some course that you are not ready to
"I promise," said Hurlstone.
He turned and held out both his hands; but Father Esteban
anticipated him with a paternal gesture of uplifted and opened
arms, and for an instant the young man's forehead was bowed on the
Father Esteban gently raised the young man's head.
"You will take a pasear in the garden until the Angelus rings, my
son, while the air is sweet and wholesome, and think this over.
Remember that you may accept the hospitality of the Council without
sin of deception. You were not in sympathy with either the captors
of the Excelsior or their defeated party; for you would have flown
from both. You, of all your party now in Todos Santos, are most in
sympathy with us. You have no cause to love your own people; you
have abandoned them for us. Go, my son; and meditate upon my
words. I will fetch you from yonder slope in time for the evening
Hurlstone bowed his head and turned his irresolute feet towards the
upper extremity of the garden, indicated by the priest, which
seemed to offer more seclusion and security than the avenue of
pear-trees. He was dazed and benumbed. The old dogged impulses of
self-destruction--revived by the priest's reproaches, but checked
by the vision of his dead and forgotten father, which the priest's
words had called up--gave way, in turn, to his former despair.
With it came a craving for peace and rest so insidious that in some
vague fear of yielding to it he quickened his pace, as if to
increase his distance from the church and its apostle. He was
almost out of breath when he reached the summit, and turned to look
back upon the Mission buildings and the straggling street of the
pueblo, which now for the first time he saw skirted the wall of the
garden in its descent towards the sea. He had not known the full
extent of Todos Santos before; when he swam ashore he had landed
under a crumbling outwork of the fort; he gazed now with curious
interest over the hamlet that might have been his home. He looked
over the red-tiled roofs, and further on to the shining bay, shut
in by the impenetrable rampart of fog. He might have found rest
and oblivion here but for the intrusion of those fellow-passengers
to share his exile and make it intolerable. How he hated and
loathed them all! Yet the next moment he found himself
scrutinizing the street and plaza below him for a glimpse of his
countrywomen, whom he knew were still in the town or vainly
endeavoring to locate their habitation among the red-tiled roofs.
And that frank, clear-eyed girl--Miss Keene!--she who had seemed to
vaguely pity him--she was somewhere here too--selected by the irony
of fate to be his confederate! He could not help thinking of her
beauty and kindness now, with a vague curiosity that was half an
uneasiness. It had not struck him before, but if he were to accept
the ridiculous attitude forced upon him by Todos Santos, its
absurdity, as well as its responsibility, would become less odious
by sharing it with another. Perhaps it might be to HER advantage--
and if so, would he be justified in exposing its absurdity? He
would have to see her first--and if he did, how would he explain
his real position? A returning wave of bitterness threw him back
into his old despair.
The twilight had slowly gathered over the view as he gazed--or,
rather a luminous concentration above the pueblo and bay had left
the outer circle of fog denser and darker. Emboldened by the
apparent desertion of the Embarcadero, he began to retrace his
steps down the slope, keeping close to the wall so as to avoid
passing before the church again, or a closer contact with the
gardener among the vines. In this way he reached the path he had
skirted the night before, and stopped almost under the shadow of
the Alcalde's house. It was here he had rested and hidden,--here
he had tasted the first sweets of isolation and oblivion in the
dreamy garden,--here he had looked forward to peace with the
passing of the ship,--and now? The sound of voices and laughter
suddenly grated upon his ear. He had heard those voices before.
Their distinctness startled him until he became aware that he was
standing before a broken, half-rotting door that permitted a
glimpse of the courtyard of the neighboring house. He glided
quickly past it without pausing, but in that glimpse beheld Mrs.
Brimmer and Miss Chubb half reclining in the corridor--in the
attitude he had often seen them on the deck of the ship--talking
and laughing with a group of Mexican gallants. A feeling of
inconceivable loathing and aversion took possession of him. Was it
to THIS he was returning after his despairing search for oblivion?
Their empty, idle laughter seemed to ring mockingly in his ears as
he hurried on, scarce knowing whither, until he paused before the
broken cactus hedge and crumbling wall that faced the Embarcadero.
A glance over the hedge showed him that the strip of beach was
deserted. He looked up the narrow street; it was empty. A few
rapid strides across it gained him the shadow of the sea-wall of
the Presidio, unchecked and unhindered. The ebbing tide had left a
foot or two of narrow shingle between the sea and the wall. He
crept along this until, a hundred yards distant, the sea-wall
reentered inland around a bastion at the entrance of a moat half
filled at high tide by the waters of the bay, but now a ditch of
shallow pools, sand, and debris. He leaned against the bastion,
and looked over the softly darkening water.
How quiet it looked, and, under that vaporous veil, how profound
and inscrutable! How easy to slip into its all-embracing arms, and
sink into its yielding bosom, leaving behind no stain, trace, or
record! A surer oblivion than the Church, which could not absolve
memory, grant forgetfulness, nor even hide the ghastly footprints
of its occupants. Here was obliteration. But was he sure of that?
He thought of the body of the murdered Peruvian, laid out at the
feet of the Council by this same fickle and uncertain sea; he
thought of his own distorted face subjected to the cold curiosity
of these aliens or the contemptuous pity of his countrymen. But
that could be avoided. It was easy for him--a good swimmer--to
reach a point far enough out in the channel for the ebbing tides to
carry him past that barrier of fog into the open and obliterating
ocean. And then, at least, it might seem as if he had attempted to
ESCAPE--indeed, if he cared, he might be able to keep afloat until
he was picked up by some passing vessel, bound to a distant land!
The self-delusion pleased him, and seemed to add the clinching
argument to his resolution. It was not suicide; it was escape--
certainly no more than escape--he intended! And this miserable
sophism of self-apology, the last flashes of expiring conscience,
helped to light up his pale, determined face with satisfaction. He
began coolly to divest himself of his coat.
What was that?--the sound of some dislodged stones splashing in one
of the pools further up! He glanced hurriedly round the wall of
the bastion. A figure crouching against the side of the ditch, as
if concealing itself from observation on the glacis above, was
slowly approaching the sea. Suddenly, when within a hundred yards
of Hurlstone, it turned, crossed the ditch, rapidly mounted its
crumbling sides, and disappeared over the crest. But in that
hurried glimpse he had recognized Captain Bunker!
The sudden and mysterious apparition of this man produced on
Hurlstone an effect that the most violent opposition could not have
created. Without a thought of the terrible purpose it had
interrupted, and obeying some stronger instinct that had seized
him, he dashed down into the ditch and up to the crest again after
Captain Bunker. But he had completely disappeared. A little
lagoon, making in from the bay, on which a small fishing-boat was
riding, and a solitary fisherman mending his nets on the muddy
shore a few feet from it, were all that was to be seen.
He was turning back, when he saw the object of his search creeping
from some reeds, on all fours, with a stealthy, panther-like
movement towards the unconscious fisherman. Before Hurlstone could
utter a cry, Bunker had sprung upon the unfortunate man, thrown him
to the earth, rapidly rolled him over and over, enwrapping him hand
and foot in his own net, and involving him hopelessly in its
meshes. Tossing the helpless victim--who was apparently too
stupefied to call out--to one side, he was rushing towards the boat
when, with a single bound, Hurlstone reached his side and laid his
hand upon his shoulder.
"Captain Bunker, for God's sake! what are you doing?"
Captain Bunker turned slowly and without apparent concern towards
his captor. Hurlstone fell back before the vacant, lack-lustre
eyes that were fixed upon him.
"Captain Bunker's my name," said the madman, in a whisper. "Lemuel
Bunker, of Nantucket! Hush! don't waken him," pointing to the
prostrate fisherman; "I've put him to sleep. I'm Captain Bunker--
old drunken Bunker--who stole one ship from her owners, and
disgraced himself, and now is going to steal another--ha, ha! Let
"Captain Bunker," said Hurlstone, recovering himself in time to
prevent the maniac from dashing into the water. "Look at me.
Don't you know me?"
"Yes, yes; you're one of old Bunker's dogs kicked overboard by
Perkins. I'm one of Perkins' dogs gone mad, and locked up by
Perkins! Ha, ha! But I got out! Hush! SHE let me out. SHE
thought I was going to see the boys at San Antonio. But I'm going
off to see the old barque out there in the fog. I'm going to chuck
Perkins overboard and the two mates. Let me go."
He struggled violently. Hurlstone, fearful of quitting his hold to
release the fisherman, whom Captain Bunker no longer noticed, and
not daring to increase the Captain's fury by openly calling to him,
beckoned the pinioned man to make an effort. But, paralyzed by
fear, the wretched captive remained immovable, staring at the
struggling men. With the strength of desperation Hurlstone at last
forced the Captain down upon his knees.
"Listen, Captain! We'll go together--you understand. I'll help
you--but we must get a larger boat first--you know."
"But they won't give it," said Captain Bunker mysteriously.
"Didn't you hear the Council--the owners--the underwriters say: 'He
lost his ship, he's ruined and disgraced, for rum, all for rum!'
And we want rum, you know, and it's all over there, in the
"Yes, yes," said Hurlstone soothingly; "but there's more in the
bigger boat. Come with me. We'll let the man loose, and we'll
make him show us his bigger boat."
It was an unfortunate suggestion; for the Captain, who had listened
with an insane chuckle, and allowed himself to be taken lightly by
the hand, again caught sight of the prostrate fisherman. A yell
broke from him--his former frenzy returned. With a cry of
"Treachery! all hands on deck!" he threw off Hurlstone and rushed
into the water.
"Help!" cried the young man, springing after him, "It is madness.
He will kill himself!"
The water was shallow, they were both wading, they both reached the
boat at the same time; but the Captain had scrambled into the
stern-sheets, and cast loose the painter, as Hurlstone once more
threw his arms about him.
"Hear me, Captain. I'll go with you. Listen! I know the way
through the fog. You understand: I'll pilot you!" He was
desperate, but no longer from despair of himself, but of another;
he was reckless, but only to save a madman from the fate that but a
moment before he had chosen for himself.
Captain Bunker seemed to soften. "Get in for'ard," he said, in a
lower voice. Hurlstone released his grasp, but still clinging to
the boat, which had now drifted into deeper water, made his way to
the bow. He was climbing over the thwarts when a horrified cry
from the fisherman ashore and a jarring laugh in his ear caused him
to look up. But not in time to save himself! The treacherous
maniac had suddenly launched a blow from an oar at the unsuspecting
man as he was rising to his knees. It missed his head, but fell
upon his arm and shoulder, precipitating him violently into the sea.
Stunned by the shock, he sank at first like lead to the bottom.
When he rose again, with his returning consciousness, he could see
that Captain Bunker had already hoisted sail, and, with the
assistance of his oars, was rapidly increasing his distance from
the shore. With his returning desperation he turned to strike out
after him, but groaned as his one arm sank powerless to his side.
A few strokes showed him the madness of the attempt; a few more
convinced him that he himself could barely return to the shore. A
sudden torpor had taken possession of him--he was sinking!
With this thought, a struggle for life began; and this man who had
just now sought death so eagerly--with no feeling of inconsistency,
with no physical fear of dissolution, with only a vague, blind,
dogged determination to live for some unknown purpose--a
determination as vague and dogged as his former ideas of self-
destruction--summoned all his energies to reach the shore. He
struck out wildly, desperately; once or twice he thought he felt
his feet touch the bottom, only to find himself powerlessly dragged
back towards the sea. With a final superhuman effort he gained at
last a foothold on the muddy strand, and, half scrambling, half
crawling, sank exhaustedly beside the fisherman's net. But the
fisherman was gone! He attempted again to rise to his feet, but a
strange dizziness attacked him. The darkening landscape, with its
contracting wall of fog; the gloomy flat; the still, pale sea, as
yet unruffled by the faint land breeze that was slowly wafting the
escaping boat into the shadowy offing--all swam round him! Through
the roaring in his ears he thought he heard drumbeats, and the
fanfare of a trumpet, and voices. The next moment he had lost all
When he came to, he was lying in the guard-room of the Presidio.
Among the group of people who surrounded him he recognized the
gaunt features of the Commander, the sympathetic eyes of Father
Esteban, and the fisherman who had disappeared. When he rose on
his elbow, and attempted to lift himself feebly, the fisherman,
with a cry of gratitude, threw himself on his knees, and kissed his
"He lives, he lives! your Excellencies! Saints be praised, he
lives! The hero--the brave Americano--the noble caballero who
delivered me from the madman."
"Who are you? and whence come you?" demanded the Commander of
Hurlstone, with grave austerity.
Hurlstone hesitated; the priest leaned forward with a half anxious,
half warning gesture. There was a sudden rustle in the passage;
the crowd gave way as Miss Keene, followed by Mrs. Markham,
entered. The young girl's eyes caught those of the prostrate man.
With an impulsive cry she ran towards him.
"Hurlstone," echoed the group, pressing nearer the astonished man.
The Comandante lifted his hand gravely with a gesture of silence,
and then slowly removed his plumed hat. Every head was instantly
"Long live our brave and noble ally, Don Diego! Long live the
beautiful Dona Leonor!"
A faint shade of sadness passed over the priest's face. He glanced
from Hurlstone to Miss Keene.
"Then you have consented?" he whispered.
Hurlstone cast a rapid glance at Eleanor Keene.
PART II. FREED.
THE MOURNERS AT SAN FRANCISCO.
The telegraph operator at the Golden Gate of San Francisco had long
since given up hope of the Excelsior. During the months of
September and October, 1854, stimulated by the promised reward, and
often by the actual presence of her owners, he had shown zeal and
hope in his scrutiny of the incoming ships. The gaunt arms of the
semaphore at Fort Point, turned against the sunset sky, had
regularly recorded the smallest vessel of the white-winged fleet
which sought the portal of the bay during that eventful year of
immigration; but the Excelsior was not amongst them. At the close
of the year 1854 she was a tradition; by the end of January, 1855,
she was forgotten. Had she been engulfed in her own element she
could not have been more completely swallowed up than in the
changes of that shore she never reached. Whatever interest or hope
was still kept alive in solitary breasts the world never knew. By
the significant irony of Fate, even the old-time semaphore that
should have signaled her was abandoned and forgotten.
The mention of her name--albeit in a quiet, unconcerned voice--in
the dress-circle of a San Francisco theatre, during the performance
of a popular female star, was therefore so peculiar that it could
only have come from the lips of some one personally interested in
the lost vessel. Yet the speaker was a youngish, feminine-looking
man of about thirty, notable for his beardlessness, in the crowded
circle of bearded and moustachioed Californians, and had been one
of the most absorbed of the enthusiastic audience. A weak smile of
vacillating satisfaction and uneasiness played on his face during
the plaudits of his fellow-admirers, as if he were alternately
gratified and annoyed. It might have passed for a discriminating
and truthful criticism of the performance, which was a classical
burlesque, wherein the star displayed an unconventional frankness
of shapely limbs and unrestrained gestures and glances; but he
applauded the more dubious parts equally with the audience. He was
evidently familiar with the performance, for a look of eager
expectation greeted most of the "business." Either he had not
come for the entire evening, or he did not wish to appear as if he
had, as he sat on one of the back benches near the passage, and
frequently changed his place. He was well, even foppishly, dressed
for the period, and appeared to be familiarly known to the loungers
in the passage as a man of some social popularity.
He had just been recognized by a man of apparently equal importance
and distinction, who had quietly and unconsciously taken a seat by
his side, and the recognition appeared equally unexpected and
awkward. The new-comer was the older and more decorous-looking,
with an added formality of manner and self-assertion that did not,
however, conceal a certain habitual shrewdness of eye and lip. He
wore a full beard, but the absence of a moustache left the upper
half of his handsome and rather satirical mouth uncovered. His
dress was less pronounced than his companion's, but of a type of
older and more established gentility.
"I was a little late coming from the office to-night," said the
younger man, with an embarrassed laugh, "and I thought I'd drop in
here on my way home. Pretty rough outside, ain't it?"
"Yes, it's raining and blowing; so I thought I wouldn't go up to
the plaza for a cab, but wait here for the first one that dropped a
fare at the door, and take it on to the hotel."
"Hold on, and I'll go with you," said the young man carelessly. "I
say, Brimmer," he added, after a pause, with a sudden assumption of
larger gayety, "there's nothing mean about Belle Montgomery, eh?
She's a whole team and the little dog under the wagon, ain't she?
Deuced pretty woman!--no make-up there, eh?"
"She certainly is a fine woman," said Brimmer gravely, borrowing
his companion's lorgnette. "By the way, Markham, do you usually
keep an opera-glass in your office in case of an emergency like
"I reckon it was forgotten in my overcoat pocket," said Markham,
with an embarrassed smile.
"Left over from the last time," said Brimmer, rising from his seat.
"Well, I'm going now--I suppose I'll have to try the plaza."
"Hold on a moment. She's coming on now--there she is!" He
stopped, his anxious eyes fixed upon the stage. Brimmer turned at
the same moment in no less interested absorption. A quick hush ran
through the theatre; the men bent eagerly forward as the Queen of
Olympus swept down to the footlights, and, with a ravishing smile,
seemed to envelop the whole theatre in a gracious caress.
"You know, 'pon my word, Brimmer, she's a very superior woman,"
gasped Markham excitedly, when the goddess had temporarily
withdrawn. "These fellows here," he said, indicating the audience
contemptuously, "don't know her,--think she's all that sort of
thing, you know,--and come here just to LOOK at her. But she's
very accomplished--in fact, a kind of literary woman. Writes
devilish good poetry--only took up the stage on account of domestic
trouble: drunken husband that beat her--regular affecting story,
you know. These sap-headed fools don't, of course, know THAT. No,
sir; she's a remarkable woman! I say, Brimmer, look here! I"--he
hesitated, and then went on more boldly, as if he had formed a
sudden resolution. "What have you got to do to-night?"
Brimmer, who had been lost in abstraction, started slightly, and
"I--oh! I've got an appointment with Keene. You know he's off by
the steamer--day after to-morrow?"
"What! He's not going off on that wild-goose chase, after all?
Why, the man's got Excelsior on the brain!" He stopped as he
looked at Brimmer's cold face, and suddenly colored. "I mean his
plan--his idea's all nonsense--you know that!"
"I certainly don't agree with him," began Brimmer gravely; "but"--
"The idea," interrupted Markham, encouraged by Brimmer's beginning,
"of his knocking around the Gulf of California, and getting up an
expedition to go inland, just because a mail-steamer saw a barque
like the Excelsior off Mazatlan last August. As if the Excelsior
wouldn't have gone into Mazatlan if it had been her! I tell you
what it is, Brimmer: it's mighty rough on you and me, and it ain't
the square thing at all--after all we've done, and the money we've
spent, and the nights we've sat up over the Excelsior--to have this
young fellow Keene always putting up the bluff of his lost sister
on us! His lost sister, indeed! as if WE hadn't any feelings."
The two men looked at each other, and each felt it incumbent to
look down and sigh deeply--not hypocritically, but perfunctorily,
as over a past grief, although anger had been the dominant
expression of the speaker.
"I was about to remark," said Brimmer practically, "that the
insurance on the Excelsior having been paid, her loss is a matter
of commercial record; and that, in a business point of view, this
plan of Keene's ain't worth looking at. As a private matter of our
own feelings--purely domestic--there's no question but that we must
sympathize with him, although he refuses to let us join in the
"Oh, as to that," said Markham hurriedly, "I told him to draw on me
for a thousand dollars last time I saw him. No, sir; it ain't
that. What gets me is this darned nagging and simpering around,
and opening old sores, and putting on sentimental style, and doing
the bereaved business generally. I reckon he'd be even horrified
to see you and me here--though it was just a chance with both of us."
"I think not," said Brimmer dryly. "He knows Miss Montgomery
already. They're going by the same steamer."
Markham looked up quickly.
"Impossible! She's going by the other line to Panama; that is"--he
hesitated--"I heard it from the agent."
"She's changed her mind, so Keene says," returned Brimmer. "She's
going by way of Nicaragua. He stops at San Juan to reconnoitre the
coast up to Mazatlan. Good-night. It's no use waiting here for a
cab any longer, I'm off."
"Hold on!" said Markham, struggling out of a sudden uneasy
reflection. "I say, Brimmer," he resumed, with an enforced smile,
which he tried to make playful, "your engagement with Keene won't
keep you long. What do you say to having a little supper with Miss
Montgomery, eh?--perfectly proper, you know--at our hotel? Just a
few friends, eh?"
Brimmer's eyes and lips slightly contracted.
"I believe I am already invited," he said quietly. "Keene asked
me. In fact, that's the appointment. Strange he didn't speak of
you," he added dryly.
"I suppose it's some later arrangement," Markham replied, with
feigned carelessness. "Do you know her?"
"You didn't say so!"
"You didn't ask me," said Brimmer. "She came to consult me about
South American affairs. It seems that filibuster General Leonidas,
alias Perkins, whose little game we stopped by that Peruvian
contract, actually landed in Quinquinambo and established a
government. It seems she knows him, has a great admiration for him
as a Liberator, as she calls him. I think they correspond!"
"She's a wonderful woman, by jingo, Brimmer! I'd like to hear whom
she don't know," said Markham, beaming with a patronizing vanity.
"There's you, and there's that filibuster, and old Governor Pico,
that she's just snatched bald-headed--I mean, you know, that he
recognizes her worth, don't you see? Not like this cattle you see
"Are you coming with me?" said Brimmer, gravely buttoning up his
coat, as if encasing himself in a panoply of impervious
"I'll join you at the hotel," said Markham hurriedly. "There's a
man over there in the parquet that I want to say a word to; don't
wait for me."
With a slight inclination of the head Mr. Brimmer passed out into
the lobby, erect, self-possessed, and impeccable. One or two of
his commercial colleagues of maturer age, who were loitering
leisurely by the wall, unwilling to compromise themselves by
actually sitting down, took heart of grace at this correct
apparition. Brimmer nodded to them coolly, as if on 'Change, and
made his way out of the theatre. He had scarcely taken a few steps
before a furious onset of wind and rain drove him into a doorway
for shelter. At the same moment a slouching figure, with a turned-
up coat-collar, slipped past him and disappeared in a passage at
his right. Partly hidden by his lowered umbrella, Mr. Brimmer
himself escaped notice, but he instantly recognized his late
companion, Markham. As he resumed his way up the street he glanced
into the passage. Halfway down, a light flashed upon the legend
"Stage Entrance." Quincy Brimmer, with a faint smile, passed on to
It was striking half-past eleven when Mr. Brimmer again issued from
his room in the Oriental and passed down a long corridor. Pausing
a moment before a side hall that opened from it, he cast a rapid
look up and down the corridor, and then knocked hastily at a door.
It was opened sharply by a lady's maid, who fell back respectfully
before Mr. Brimmer's all-correct presence.
Half reclining on a sofa in the parlor of an elaborate suite of
apartments was the woman whom Mr. Brimmer had a few hours before
beheld on the stage of the theatre. Lifting her eyes languidly
from a book that lay ostentatiously on her lap, she beckoned her
visitor to approach. She was a woman still young, whose statuesque
beauty had but slightly suffered from cosmetics, late hours, and
the habitual indulgence of certain hysterical emotions that were
not only inconsistent with the classical suggestions of her figure,
but had left traces not unlike the grosser excitement of alcoholic
stimulation. She looked like a tinted statue whose slight
mutations through stress of time and weather had been unwisely
repaired by freshness of color.
"I am such a creature of nerves," she said, raising a superb neck
and extending a goddess-like arm, "that I am always perfectly
exhausted after the performance. I fly, as you see, to my first
love--poetry--as soon as Rosina has changed my dress. It is not
generally known--but I don't mind telling YOU--that I often nerve
myself for the effort of acting by reading some well-remembered
passage from my favorite poets, as I stand by the wings. I quaff,
as one might say, a single draught of the Pierian spring before I
The exact relations between the humorous "walk round," in which
Miss Montgomery usually made her first entrance, and the volume of
Byron she held in her hand, did not trouble Mr. Brimmer so much as
the beautiful arm with which she emphasized it. Neither did it
strike him that the distinguishing indications of a poetic
exaltation were at all unlike the effects of a grosser stimulant
known as "Champagne cocktail" on the less sensitive organization of
her colleagues. Touched by her melancholy but fascinating smile,
he said gallantly that he had observed no sign of exhaustion, or
want of power in her performance that evening.
"Then you were there!" she said, fixing her eyes upon him with an
expression of mournful gratitude. "You actually left your business
and the calls of public duty to see the poor mountebank perform her
"I was there with a friend of yours," answered Brimmer soberly,
"who actually asked me to the supper to which Mr. Keene had already
invited me, and which YOU had been kind enough to suggest to me a
"True, I had forgotten," said Miss Montgomery, with a large
goddess-like indifference that was more effective with the man
before her than the most elaborate explanation. "You don't mind
them--do you?--for we are all friends together. My position, you
know," she added sadly, "prevents my always following my own
inclinations or preferences. Poor Markham, I fear the world does
not do justice to his gentle, impressible nature. I sympathize
with him deeply; we have both had our afflictions, we have both--
lost. Good heavens!" she exclaimed, with a sudden exaggerated
start of horror, "what have I done? Forgive my want of tact, dear
friend; I had forgotten, wretched being that I am, that YOU, too"--
She caught his hand in both hers, and bowed her head over it as if
unable to finish her sentence.
Brimmer, who had been utterly mystified and amazed at this picture
of Markham's disconsolate attitude to the world, and particularly
to the woman before him, was completely finished by this later
tribute to his own affliction. His usually composed features,
however, easily took upon themselves a graver cast as he kept, and
pressed, the warm hands in his own.
"Fool that I was," continued Miss Montgomery; "in thinking of poor
Markham's childlike, open grief, I forgot the deeper sorrow that
the more manly heart experiences under an exterior that seems cold
and impassible. Yes," she said, raising her languid eyes to
Brimmer, "I ought to have felt the throb of that volcano under its
mask of snow. You have taught me a lesson."
Withdrawing her hands hastily, as if the volcano had shown some
signs of activity, she leaned back on the sofa again.
"You are not yet reconciled to Mr. Keene's expedition, then?" she
"I believe that everything has been already done," said Brimmer,
somewhat stiffly; "all sources of sensible inquiry have been
exhausted by me. But I envy Keene the eminently practical
advantages his impractical journey gives him," he added, arresting
himself, gallantly; "he goes with you."
"Truly!" said Miss Montgomery, with the melancholy abstraction of a
stage soliloquy. "Beyond obeying the dictates of his brotherly
affection, he gains no real advantage in learning whether his
sister is alive or dead. The surety of her death would not make
him freer than he is now--freer to absolutely follow the dictates
of a new affection; free to make his own life again. It is a
sister, not a wife, he seeks."
Mr. Brimmer's forehead slightly contracted. He leaned back a
little more rigidly in his chair, and fixed a critical, half
supercilious look upon her. She did not seem to notice his almost
impertinent scrutiny, but sat silent, with her eyes bent on the
carpet, in gloomy abstraction.
"Can you keep a secret?" she said, as if with a sudden resolution.
"Yes," said Brimmer briefly, without changing his look.
"You know I am a married woman. You have heard the story of my
"I have heard them," said Brimmer dryly.
"Well, the husband who abused and deserted me was, I have reason to
believe, a passenger on the Excelsior."
"M'Corkle!--impossible. There was no such name on the passenger
"M'Corkle!" repeated Miss Montgomery, with a dissonant tone in her
voice and a slight flash in her eyes. "What are you thinking of?
There never was a Mr. M'Corkle; it was one of my noms de plume.
And where did YOU hear it?"
"I beg your pardon, I must have got it from the press notices of
your book of poetry. I knew that Montgomery was only a stage name,
and as it was necessary that I should have another in making the
business investments you were good enough to charge me with, I used
what I thought was your real name. It can be changed, or you can
"Let it go," said Miss Montgomery, resuming her former manner.
"What matters? I wish there was no such thing as business. Well,"
she resumed, after a pause, "my husband's name is Hurlstone."
"But there was no Hurlstone on the passenger list either," said
Brimmer. "I knew them all, and their friends."
"Not in the list from the States; but if he came on board at
Callao, you wouldn't have known it. I knew that he arrived there
on the Osprey a few days before the Excelsior sailed."
Mr. Brimmer's eyes changed their expression.
"And you want to find him?"
"No," she said, with an actress's gesture. "I want to know the
truth. I want to know if I am still tied to this man, or if I am
free to follow the dictates of my own conscience,--to make my life
anew,--to become--you see I am not ashamed to say it--to become the
honest wife of some honest man."
"A divorce would suit your purpose equally," said Brimmer coldly.
"It can be easily obtained."
"A divorce! Do you know what that means to a woman in my
profession? It is a badge of shame,--a certificate of disgrace,--
an advertisement to every miserable wretch who follows me with his
advances that I have no longer the sanctity of girlhood, nor the
protection of a wife."
There was tragic emotion in her voice, there were tears in her
eyes. Mr. Brimmer, gazing at her with what he firmly thought to be
absolute and incisive penetration, did not believe either. But
like most practical analysts of the half-motived sex, he was only
half right. The emotion and the tears were as real as anything
else in the woman under criticism, notwithstanding that they were
not as real as they would have been in the man who criticised. He,
however, did her full justice on a point where most men and all
women misjudged her: he believed that, through instinct and
calculation, she had been materially faithful to her husband; that
this large goddess-like physique had all the impeccability of a
goddess; that the hysterical dissipation in which she indulged
herself was purely mental, and usurped and preoccupied all other
emotions. In this public exposition of her beauty there was no
sense of shame, for there was no sense of the passion it evoked.
And he was right. But there he should have stopped. Unfortunately,
his masculine logic forced him to supply a reason for her coldness
in the existence of some more absorbing passion. He believed her
ambitious and calculating: she was neither. He believed she might
have made him an admirable copartner and practical helpmeet: he was
"You know my secret now," she continued. "You know why I am
anxious to know my fate. You understand now why I sympathize
with"--she stopped, and made a half contemptuous gesture--"with
these men Markham and Keene. THEY do not know it; perhaps they
prefer to listen to their own vanity--that's the way of most men;
but you do know it, and you have no excuse for misjudging me, or
undeceiving them." She stopped and looked at the clock. "They
will be here in five minutes; do you wish them to find you already
"It is as YOU wish," stammered Brimmer, completely losing his self-
"I have no wish," she said, with a sublime gesture of indifference.
"If you wait you can entertain them here, while Rosina is dressing
me in the next room. We sup in the larger room across the hall."
As she disappeared, Quincy Brimmer rose irresolutely from his seat
and checked a half uttered exclamation. Then he turned nervously
to the parlor-door. What a senseless idiot he had become! He had
never for an instant conceived the idea of making this preliminary
confidential visit known to the others; he had no wish to suggest
the appearance of an assignation with the woman, who, rightly or
wrongly, was notorious; he had nothing to gain by this voluntary
assumption of a compromising attitude; yet here he was, he--Mr.
Brimmer--with the appearance of being installed in her parlor,
receiving her visitors, and dispensing her courtesies. Only a man
recklessly in love would be guilty of such an indiscretion--even
Markham's feebleness had never reached this absurdity. In the
midst of his uneasiness there was a knock at the door; he opened it
himself nervously and sharply. Markham's self-satisfied face drew
back in alarm and embarrassment at the unexpected apparition. The
sight restored Brimmer's coolness and satirical self-possession.
"I--I--didn't know you were here," stammered Markham. "I left
Keene in your room."
"Then why didn't you bring him along with you?" said Brimmer
maliciously. "Go and fetch him."
"Yes; but he said you were to meet him there," continued Markham,
glancing around the empty room with a slight expression of relief.
"My watch was twenty minutes fast, and I had given him up," said
Brimmer, with mendacious effrontery. "Miss Montgomery is dressing.
You can bring him here before she returns."
Markham flew uneasily down the corridor and quickly returned with a
handsome young fellow of five-and-twenty, whose frank face was
beaming with excitement and youthful energy. The two elder men
could not help regarding him with a mingled feeling of envy and
"Did you tell Brimmer yet?" said Keene, with animation.
"I haven't had time," hesitated Markham. "The fact is, Brimmer, I
think of going with Keene on this expedition."
"Indeed!" said Brimmer superciliously.
"Yes," said Markham, coloring slightly. "You see, we've got news.
Tell him, Dick."
"The Storm Cloud got in yesterday from Valparaiso and Central
American ports," said Keene, with glowing cheeks. "I boarded her,
as usual, last night, for information. The mate says there is a
story of a man picked up crazy, in an open fishing-boat, somewhere
off the peninsula, and brought into hospital at San Juan last
August. He recovered enough lately to tell his story and claim to
be Captain Bunker of the Excelsior, whose crew mutinied and ran her
ashore in a fog. But the boat in which he was picked up was a
Mexican fishing-boat, and there was something revolutionary and
political about the story, so that the authorities detained him.
The consul has just been informed of the circumstances, and has
taken the matter in hand."
"It's a queer story," said Brimmer, gazing from the one to the
other, "and I will look into it also to-morrow. If it is true," he
added slowly, "I will go with you."
Richard Keene extended his hand impulsively to his two elders.
"You'll excuse me for saying it, Brimmer--and you, too, Markham--
but this is just what I've been looking forward to. Not but what
I'd have found Nell without your assistance; but you see, boys, it
DID look mighty mean in me to make more fuss about a sister than
you would for your wives! But now that it's all settled"--
"We'll go to supper," said Miss Montgomery theatrically, appearing
at the door. "Dick will give me his arm."
THE MOURNERS AT TODOS SANTOS.
There was a breath of spring in the soft morning air of Todos
Santos--a breath so subtle and odorous that it penetrated the veil
of fog beyond the bay, and for a moment lingered on the deck of a
passing steamer like an arresting memory. But only for an instant;
the Ometepe, bound from San Francisco to San Juan del Norte, with
its four seekers of the Excelsior, rolled and plunged on its way
Within the bay and over the restful pueblo still dwelt the golden
haze of its perpetual summer; the two towers of the old Mission
church seemed to dissolve softly into the mellow upper twilight,
and the undulating valleys rolled their green waves up to the
wooded heights of San Antonio, that still smiled down upon the
arid, pallid desert. But although Nature had not changed in the
months that had passed since the advent of the Excelsior, there
appeared some strange mutations in the town and its inhabitants.
On the beach below the Presidio was the unfinished skeleton of a
small sea-going vessel on rude stocks; on the plaza rose the framed
walls and roofless rafters of a wooden building; near the
Embarcadero was the tall adobe chimney of some inchoate manufactory
whose walls had half risen from their foundations; but all of these
objects had evidently succumbed to the drowsy influence of the
climate, and already had taken the appearances of later and less
picturesque ruins of the past. There were singular innovations in
the costumes: one or two umbrellas, used as sunshades, were seen
upon the square; a few small chip hats had taken the place of the
stiff sombreros, with an occasional tall white beaver; while linen
coat and nankeen trousers had, at times, usurped the short velvet
jacket and loose calzas of the national costume.
At San Antonio the change was still more perceptible. Beside the
yawning pit of the abandoned silver mine a straggling building
arose, filled with rude machinery, bearing the legend, painted in
glowing letters, "Excelsior Silver Mining Co., J. Crosby,
Superintendent;" and in the midst of certain excavations assailing
the integrity of the cliff itself was another small building,
scarcely larger than a sentry-box, with the inscription, "Office:
Eleanor Quicksilver Smelting Works."
Basking in that yellow morning sunlight, with his back against his
office, Mr. Brace was seated on the ground, rolling a cigarette. A
few feet from him Crosby, extended on his back on the ground, was
lazily puffing rings of smoke into the still air. Both of these
young gentlemen were dressed in exaggerated Mexican costumes; the
silver buttons fringing the edge of Crosby's calza, open from the
knee down to show a glimpse of the snowy under-trouser, were richer
and heavier than those usually worn; while Brace, in addition to
the crimson silk sash round his waist, wore a crimson handkerchief
around his head, under his sombrero.
"Pepe's falling off in his tobacco," said Brace. "I think I'll
have to try some other Fonda."
"How's Banks getting on with his crop?" asked Crosby. "You know he
was going to revolutionize the business, and cut out Cuba on that
"Oh, the usual luck! He couldn't get proper cultivators, and the
Injins wouldn't work regular. I must try and get hold of some of
the Comandante's stock; but I'm out of favor with the old man since
Winslow and I wrecked that fishing-boat on the rocks off yonder.
He always believed we were trying to run off, like Captain Bunker.
That's why he stopped our shipbuilding, I really believe."
"All the same, we might have had it built and ready now but for our
laziness. We might have worked on it nights without their knowing
it, and slipped off some morning in the fog."
"And we wouldn't have got one of the women to go with us! If we
are getting shiftless here--and I don't say we're not--these women
have just planted themselves and have taken root. But that ain't
all: there's the influence of that infernal sneak Hurlstone! He's
set the Comandante against us, you know; he, and the priest, the
Comandante, and Nelly Keene make up the real Council of Todos
Santos. Between them they've shoved out the poor little Alcalde,
who's ready to give up everything to dance attendance on Mrs.
Brimmer. They run the whole concern, and they give out that it's
owing to them that we're given parole of the town, and the
privilege of spending our money and working these mines. Who'd
have thought that sneak Hurlstone would have played his cards so
well? It makes me regularly sick to hear him called 'Don Diego.'"
"Yet you're mightily tickled when that black-eyed sister of the
Alcalde calls you 'Don Carlos,'" said Crosby, yawning.
"Dona Isabel," said Brace, with some empressement, "is a lady of
position, and these are only her national courtesies."
"She just worships Miss Keene, and I reckon she knows by this time
all about your old attentions to her friend," said Crosby, with
"My attentions to Miss Keene were simply those of an ordinary
acquaintance, and were never as strongly marked as yours to Mrs.
"Who has deserted ME as Miss Keene did YOU," rejoined Crosby.
Brace's quick color had risen again, and he would have made some
sharp retort, but the jingling of spurs caught his ear. They both
turned quickly, and saw Banks approaching. He was dressed as a
vaquero, but with his companions' like exaggeration of detail; yet,
while his spurs were enormous, and his sombrero unusually
expansive, he still clung to his high shirt-collars and accurately
tied check cravat.
"Well?" he said, approaching them.
"Well?" said Crosby.
"Well?" repeated Brace.
After this national salutation, the three Americans regarded each
"Knocked off cultivating to-day?" queried Crosby, lighting a fresh
"The peons have," said Banks; "it's another saint's day. That's
the fourth in two weeks. Leaves about two clear working days in
each week, counting for the days off, when they're getting over the
effects of the others. I tell you what, sir, the Catholic religion
is not suited to a working civilization, or else the calendar ought
to be overhauled and a lot of these saints put on the retired list.
It's hard enough to have all the Apostles on your pay-roll, so to
speak, but to have a lot of fellows run in on you as saints, and
some of them not even men or women, but IDEAS, is piling up the
agony! I don't wonder they call the place 'All Saints.' The only
thing to do," continued Banks severely, "is to open communication
with the desert, and run in some of the heathen tribes outside.
I've made a proposition to the Council offering to take five
hundred of them in the raw, unregenerate state, and turn 'em over
after a year to the Church. If I could get Hurlstone to do some
log-rolling with that Padre, his friend, I might get the bill
through. But I'm always put off till to-morrow. Everything here
is 'Hasta manana; hasta manana,' always. I believe when the last
trump is sounded, they'll say, 'Hasta manana.' What are YOU
doing?" he said, after a pause.
"Waiting for your ship," answered Crosby sarcastically.
"Well, you can laugh, gentlemen--but you won't have to wait long.
According to my calculations that Mexican ship is about due now.
And I ain't basing my figures on anything the Mexican Government is
going to do, or any commercial speculation. I'm reckoning on the
The two men languidly looked towards him. Banks continued
"I made the proper inquiries, and I find that the stock of
rosaries, scapularies, blessed candles, and other ecclesiastical
goods, is running low. I find that just at the nick of time a
fresh supply always comes from the Bishop of Guadalajara, with
instructions from the Church. Now, gentlemen, my opinion is that
the Church, and the Church only, knows the secret of the passage
through the foggy channel, and keeps it to itself. I look at this
commercially, as a question of demand and supply. Well, sir; the
only real trader here at Todos Santos is the Church."
"Then you don't take in account the interests of Brimmer, Markham,
and Keene," said Brace. "Do you suppose they're doing nothing?"
"I don't say they're not; but you're confounding interests with
INSTINCTS. They haven't got the instinct to find this place, and
all that they've done and are doing is blind calculation. Just
look at the facts. As the filibuster who captured the Excelsior of
course changed her name, her rig-out, and her flag, and even got up
a false register for her, she's as good as lost, as far as the
world knows, until she lands at Quinquinambo. Then supposing she's
found out, and the whole story is known--although everything's
against such a proposition--the news has got to go back to San
Francisco before the real search will be begun. As to any clue
that might come from Captain Bunker, that's still more remote.
Allowing he crossed the bar and got out of the channel, he wasn't
at the right time for meeting a passing steamer; and the only
coasters are Mexican. If he didn't die of delirium tremens or
exposure, and was really picked up in his senses by some other
means, he would have been back with succor before this, if only to
get our evidence to prove the loss of the vessel. No, sir sooner
or later, of course, the San Francisco crowd are bound to find us
here. And if it wasn't for my crops and our mine, I wouldn't be in
a hurry for them; but our FIRST hold is the Church."
He stopped. Crosby was asleep. Brace arose lazily, lounged into
his office, and closed his desk.
"Going to shut for the day?" said Banks, yawning.
"I reckon," said Brace dubiously; "I don't know but I'd take a
little pasear into the town if I had my horse ready."
"Take mine, and I'll trapse over on foot to the Ranche with Crosby--
after a spell. You'll find him under that big madrono, if he has
not already wound himself up with his lariat by walking round it.
Those Mexican horses can't go straight even when they graze--they
must feed in a circle. He's a little fresh, so look out for him!"
"All the better. I'd like to get into town just after the siesta."
"Siesta!" echoed Banks, lying comfortably down in the shade just
vacated by Brace; "that's another of their shiftless practices.
Two hours out of every day--that's a day out of the week--spent in
a hammock; and during business hours too! It's disgraceful, sir,
He turned over and closed his eyes, as if to reflect on its
Brace had no difficulty in finding the mare, although some trouble
in mounting her. But, like his companions, having quickly adopted
the habits of the country, he had become a skillful and experienced
horseman, and the mustang, after a few springless jumps, which
failed to unseat him, submitted to his rider. The young man
galloped rapidly towards Todos Santos; but when within a few miles
of the pueblo he slackened his pace. From the smiles and greetings
of wayfarers--among whom were some pretty Indian girls and
mestizas--it was evident that the handsome young foreigner, who had
paid them the compliment of extravagantly adopting their national
costume, was neither an unfamiliar nor an unpleasing spectacle.
When he reached the posada at the top of the hilly street, he even
carried his simulation of the local customs to the point of
charging the veranda at full speed, and pulling up suddenly at the
threshold, after the usual fashion of vaqueros. The impetuous
apparition brought a short stout man to the door, who, welcoming
him with effusive politeness, conducted him to an inner room that
gave upon a green grass courtyard. Seated before a rude table,
sipping aguardiente, was his countryman Winslow and two traders of
the pueblo. They were evidently of the number already indicated
who had adopted the American fashions. Senor Ruiz wore a linen
"duster" in place of his embroidered jacket, and Senor Martinez had
an American beard, or "goatee," in imitation of Mr. Banks. The air
was yellow with the fumes of tobacco, through which the shrewd eyes
of Winslow gleamed murkily.
"This," he said to his countryman, in fluent if not elegant
Spanish, indicating the gentleman who had imitated Banks, "is a man
of ideas, and a power in Todos Santos. He would control all the
votes in his district if there were anything like popular suffrage
here, and he understands the American policy."
Senor Martinez here hastened to inform Mr. Brace that he had long
cherished a secret and enthusiastic admiration for that grand and
magnanimous nation of which his friend was such a noble
representative; that, indeed, he might say it was an inherited
taste, for had not his grandfather once talked with the American
whaling Capitano Coffino and partaken of a subtle spirit known as
"er-r-rum" on his ship at Acapulco?
"There's nothing mean about Martinez," said Winslow to Brace
confidentially, in English. "He's up to anything, and ready from
the word 'Go.' Don't you think he's a little like Banks, you know--
a sort of Mexican edition. And there is Ruiz, he's a cattle
dealer; he'd be a good friend of Banks if Banks wasn't so
infernally self-opinionated. But Ruiz ain't a fool, either. He's
picked up a little English--good American, I mean--from me already."
Senor Ruiz here smiled affably, to show his comprehension; and
added slowly, with great gravity,--
"It is of twenty-four year I have first time the Amencano of your
beautiful country known. He have buy the hides and horns of the
cattle--for his ship--here."
"Here?" echoed Brace. "I thought no American ship--no ship at all--
had been in here for fifty years."
Ruiz shrugged his shoulders, and cast a glance at his friend
Martinez, lowered his voice and lifted his eyelashes at the same
moment, and, jerking his yellow, tobacco-stained thumb over his
"Ah--of a verity--on the beach--two leagues away."
"Do you hear that?" said Winslow, turning complacently to Brace and
rising to his feet. "Don't you see now what hogwash the Commander,
Alcalde, and the priest have been cramming down our throats about
this place being sealed up for fifty years. What he says is all
Gospel truth. That's what I wanted you fellows to hear, and you
might have heard before, only you were afraid of compromising
yourselves by talking with the people. You get it into your heads--
and the Comandante helped you to get it there--that Todos Santos
was a sort of Sleepy Hollow, and that no one knew anything of the
political changes for the last fifty years. Well, what's the fact?
Ask Ruiz there, and Martinez, and they'll both tell you they know
that Mexico got her independence in 1826, and that the Council keep
it dark that they may perpetuate themselves. They know," he
continued, lowering his voice, "that the Commander's commission
from the old Viceroy isn't worth the paper it is stamped upon."
"But what about the Church?" asked Brace hesitatingly, remembering
"The Church--caramba! the priests were ever with the Escossas, the
aristocrats, and against the Yorkenos, the men of the Republic--the
people," interrupted Martinez vehemently; "they will not accept,
they will not proclaim the Republic to the people. They shut their
eyes, so--. They fold their hands, so--. They say, 'Sicut era
principio et nunc et semper in secula seculorum!' Look you, Senor,
I am not of the Church--no, caramba! I snap my fingers at the
priests. Ah! what they give one is food for the bull's horns,
believe me--I have read 'Tompano,' the American 'Tompano.'"
"Who's he?" asked Brace.
"He means Tom Paine! 'The Age of Reason'--you know," said Winslow,
gazing with a mixture of delight and patronizing pride at the
Radicals of Todos Santos. "Oh! he's no fool--is Martinez, nor Ruiz
either! And while you've been flirting with Dona Isabel, and Banks
has been trying to log-roll the Padre, and Crosby going in for
siestas, I'VE found them out. And there are a few more--aren't
Ruiz darted a mysterious glance at Brace, and apparently not
trusting himself to speak, checked off his ten fingers dramatically
in the air thrice.
"As many of a surety! God and liberty!"
"But, if this is so, why haven't they DONE something?"
Senor Martinez glanced at Senor Ruiz.
"Hasta manana!" he said slowly.
"Oh, this is a case of 'Hasta manana!'" said Brace, somewhat
"They can wait," returned Winslow hurriedly. "It's too big a thing
to rush into without looking round. You know what it means?
Either Todos Santos is in rebellion against the present Government
of Mexico, or she is independent of any. Her present Government,
in any event, don't represent either the Republic of Mexico or the
people of Todos Santos--don't you see? And in that case WE'VE got
as good a right here as any one."
"He speaks the truth," said Ruiz, grasping a hand of Brace and
Winslow each; "in this we are--as brothers."
"God and liberty!" ejaculated Martinez, in turn seizing the other
disengaged hands of the Americans, and completing the mystic
"God and liberty!" echoed a thin chorus from their host and a few
loungers who had entered unperceived.
Brace felt uneasy. He was not wanting in the courage or daring of
youth, but it struck him that his attitude was by no means
consistent with his attentions to Dona Isabel. He managed to get
"This is all very well as a 'free lunch' conspiracy; but you're
forgetting your parole," he said, in a low voice.
"We gave our parole to the present Government. When it no longer
exists, there will be no parole--don't you see?"
"Then these fellows prefer waiting"--
"Until we can get OUTSIDE help, you understand. The first American
ship that comes in here--eh?"
Brace felt relieved. After all, his position in regard to the
Alcalde's sister would not be compromised; he might even be able to
extend some protection over her; and it would be a magnanimous
revenge if he could even offer it to Miss Keene.
"I see you don't swear anybody to secrecy," he said, with a laugh;
"shall I speak to Crosby, or will you?"
"Not yet; he'll only see something to laugh at. And Banks and
Martinez would quarrel at once, and go back on each other. No; my
idea is to let some outsider do for Todos Santos what Perkins did
for Quinquinambo. Do you take?"
His long, thin, dyspeptic face lit up with a certain small
political cunning and shrewdness that struck Brace with a half-
"I say, Winslow; you'd have made a first-class caucus leader in San
Winslow smiled complacently. "There's something better to play on
here than ward politics," he replied. "There's a material here
that--like the mine and the soil--ain't half developed. I reckon I
can show Banks something that beats lobbying and log-rolling for
contracts. I've let you into this thing to show you a sample of my
prospecting. Keep it to yourself if you want it to pay. Dat's me,
George! Good-by! I'll be out to the office to-morrow!"
He turned back towards his brother politicians with an expression
of satisfied conceit that Brace for a moment envied. The latter
even lingered on the veranda, as if he would have asked Winslow
another question; but, looking at his watch, he suddenly
recollected himself, and, mounting his horse, cantered down towards
The hour of siesta was not yet over, and the streets were still
deserted--probably the reason why the politicians of Todos Santos
had chosen that hour for their half secret meeting. At the corner
of the plaza he dismounted and led his horse to the public
hitching-post--gnawn and nibbled by the teeth of generations of
mustangs--and turned into the narrow lane flanked by the walls of
the Alcalde's garden. Halfway down he stopped before a slight
breach in the upper part of the adobe barrier, and looked
cautiously around. The long, shadowed vista of the lane was
unobstructed by any moving figure as far as the yellow light of the
empty square beyond. With a quick leap he gained the top of the
wall and disappeared on the other aide.
The garden over whose wall Brace had mysteriously vanished was
apparently as deserted as the lane and plaza without. But its
solitude was one of graceful shadow and restful loveliness. A
tropical luxuriance, that had perpetuated itself year after year,
until it was half suffocated in its own overgrowth and strangled
with its own beauty, spread over a variegated expanse of starry
flowers, shimmering leaves, and slender inextricable branches,
pierced here and there by towering rigid cactus spikes or the
curved plumes of palms. The repose of ages lay in its hushed
groves, its drooping vines, its lifeless creepers; the dry dust of
its decaying leaves and branches mingled with the living perfumes
like the spiced embalmings of a forgotten past.
Nevertheless, this tranquillity, after a few moments, was
singularly disturbed. There was no breeze stirring, and yet the
long fronds of a large fan palm, that stood near the breach in the
wall, began to move gently from right to left, like the arms of
some graceful semaphore, and then as suddenly stopped. Almost at
the same moment a white curtain, listlessly hanging from a canopied
balcony of the Alcalde's house, began to exhibit a like rhythmical
and regular agitation. Then everything was motionless again; an
interval of perfect peace settled upon the garden. It was broken
by the apparition of Brace under the balcony, and the black-veiled
and flowered head of Dona Isabel from the curtain above.
"Hush! I am coming down!"
"You? But Dona Ursula!"
"There is no more Dona Ursula!"
"Well--your duenna, whoever she is!"
"There is no duenna!"
"Hush up your tongue, idiot boy!" (this in English.)
The little black head and the rose on top of it disappeared. Brace
drew himself up against the wall and waited. The time seemed
interminable. Impatiently looking up and down, he at last saw Dona
Isabel at a distance, quietly and unconcernedly moving among the
roses, and occasionally stooping as if to pick them. In an instant
he was at her side.
"Let me help you," he said.
She opened her little brownish palm,--
"Look!" In her hand were a few leaves of some herb. "It is for
Brace seized and kissed the hand.
"Is it some love-test?"
"It is for what you call a julep-cocktail," she replied gravely.
"He will remain in a glass with aguardiente; you shall drink him
with a straw. My sister has said that ever where the Americans go
they expect him to arrive."
"I prefer to take him straight," said Brace, laughing, as he
nibbled a limp leaf bruised by the hand of the young girl. "He's
pleasanter, and, on the whole, more wildly intoxicating this way!
But what about your duenna? and how comes this blessed privilege of
seeing you alone?"
Dona Isabel lifted her black eyes suddenly to Brace.
"You do not comprehend, then? Is it not, then, the custom of the
Americans? Is it not, then, that there is no duenna in your
"There are certainly no duennas in my country. But who has changed
the custom here?"
"Is it not true that in your country any married woman shall duenna
the young senorita?" continued Dona Isabel, without replying; "that
any caballero and senorita shall see each other in the patio, and
not under a balcony?--that they may speak with the lips, and not
"Well--yes," said Brace.
"Then my brother has arranged it as so. He have much hear the Dona
Barbara Brimmer when she make talk of these things frequently, and
he is informed and impressed much. He will truly have that you
will come of the corridor, and not the garden, for me, and that I
shall have no duenna but the Dona Barbara. This does not make you
happy, you American idiot boy!"
It did not. The thought of carrying on a flirtation under the
fastidious Boston eye of Mrs. Brimmer, instead of under the
discreet and mercenarily averted orbs of Dona Ursula, did not
commend itself pleasantly to Brace.
"Oh, yes," he returned quickly. "We will go into the corridor, in
the fashion of my country"--
"Yes," said Dona Isabel dubiously.
"AFTER we have walked in the garden in the fashion of YOURS.
That's only fair, isn't it?"
"Yes," said Dona Isabel gravely; "that's what the Comandante will
call 'internation-al courtesy.'"
The young man slipped his arm around the young diplomatist's waist,
and they walked on in decorous silence under the orange-trees.
"It seems to me," said Brace presently, "that Mrs. Brimmer has a
good deal to say up your way?"
"Ah, yes; but what will you? It is my brother who has love for
"But," said Brace, stopping suddenly, "doesn't he know that she has
a husband living?"
Dona Isabel lifted her lashes in childlike wonder.
"Always! you idiot American boy. That is why. Ah, Mother of God!
my brother is discreet. He is not a maniac, like you, to come
after a silly muchacha like me."
The response which Brace saw fit to make to this statement elicited
a sharp tap upon the knuckles from Dona Isabel.
"Tell to me," she said suddenly, "is not that a custom of your
"No, insensate. To attend a married senora?"
"Ah, that is wrong," said Dona Isabel meditatively, moving the
point of her tiny slipper on the gravel. "Then it is the young
girl that shall come in the corridor and the married lady on the
She ran swiftly down the avenue of palms to a small door at the
back of the house, turned, blew a kiss over the edge of her fan to
Brace, and disappeared. He hesitated a moment or two, then quickly
rescaling the wall, dropped into the lane outside, followed it to
the gateway of the casa, and entered the patio as Dona Isabel
decorously advanced from a darkened passage to the corridor.
Although the hour of siesta had passed, her sister, Miss Chubb, the
Alcalde, and Mrs. Brimmer were still lounging here on sofas and
It would have been difficult for a stranger at a first glance to
discover the nationality of the ladies. Mrs. Brimmer and her
friend Miss Chubb had entirely succumbed to the extreme dishabille
of the Spanish toilet--not without a certain languid grace on the
part of Mrs. Brimmer, whose easy contour lent itself to the
stayless bodice; or a certain bashful, youthful naivete on the part
of Miss Chubb, the rounded dazzling whiteness of whose neck and
shoulders half pleased and half frightened her in her low, white,
plain camisa--under the lace mantilla.
"It is SUCH a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Brace," said Mrs.
Brimmer, languidly observing the young man through the sticks of
her fan; "I was telling Don Ramon that I feared Dona Ursula had
frightened you away. I told him that your experience of American
society might have caused you to misinterpret the habitual reserve
of the Castilian," she continued with the air of being already an
alien of her own country, "and I should be only too happy to
undertake the chaperoning of both these young ladies in their
social relations with our friends. And how is dear Mr. Banks? and
Mr. Crosby? whom I so seldom see now. I suppose, however, business
has its superior attractions."
But Don Ramon, with impulsive gallantry, would not--nay, COULD not--
for a moment tolerate a heresy so alarming. It was simply wildly
impossible. For why? In the presence of Dona Barbara--it exists
not in the heart of man!
"YOU cannot, of course, conceive it, Don Ramon," said Mrs. Brimmer,
with an air of gentle suffering; "but I fear it is sadly true of
the American gentlemen. They become too absorbed in their
business. They forget their duty to our sex in their selfish
devotion to affairs in which we are debarred from joining them, and
yet they wonder that we prefer the society of men who are removed
by birth, tradition, and position from this degrading kind of
"But that was scarcely true of your own husband. HE was not only a