Part 4 out of 5
successful man in business, but we can see that he was equally
successful in his relations to at least one of the fastidious sex,"
said Brace, maliciously glancing at Don Ramon.
Mrs. Brimmer received the innuendo with invulnerable simplicity.
"Mr. Brimmer is, I am happy to say, NOT a business man. He entered
into certain contracts having more or less of a political
complexion, and carrying with them the genius but not the material
results of trade. That he is not a business man--and a successful
one--my position here at the present time is a sufficient proof,"
she said triumphantly. "And I must also protest," she added, with
a faint sigh, "against Mr. Brimmer being spoken of in the past
tense by anybody. It is painfully premature and ominous!"
She drew her mantilla across her shoulders with an expression of
shocked sensitiveness which completed the humiliation of Brace and
the subjugation of Don Ramon. But, unlike most of her sex, she was
wise in the moment of victory. She cast a glance over her fan at
Brace, and turned languidly to Dona Isabel.
"Mr. Brace must surely want some refreshment after his long ride.
Why don't you seize this opportunity to show him the garden and let
him select for himself the herbs he requires for that dreadful
American drink; Miss Chubb and your sister will remain with me to
receive the Comandante's secretary and the Doctor when they come."
"She's more than my match," whispered Brace to Dona Isabel, as they
left the corridor together. "I give in. I don't understand her:
she frightens me."
"That is of your conscience! It is that you would understand the
Dona Leonor--your dear Miss Keene--better! Ah! silence, imbecile!
this Dona Barbara is even as thou art--a talking parrot. She will
have that the Comandante's secretary, Manuel, shall marry Mees
Chubb, and that the Doctor shall marry my sister. But she knows
not that Manuel--listen so that you shall get sick at your heart
and swallow your moustachio!--that Manuel loves the beautiful
Leonor, and that Leonor loves not him, but Don Diego; and that my
sister loathes the little Doctor. And this Dona Barbara, that
makes your liver white, would be a feeder of chickens with such
barley as this! Ah! come along!"
The arrival of the Doctor and the Comandante's secretary created
another diversion, and the pairing off of the two couples indicated
by Dona Isabel for a stroll in the garden, which was now beginning
to recover from the still heat of mid-day. This left Don Ramon and
Mrs. Brimmer alone in the corridor; Mrs. Brimmer's indefinite
languor, generally accepted as some vague aristocratic condition of
mind and body, not permitting her to join them.
There was a moment of dangerous silence; the voices of the young
people were growing fainter in the distance. Mrs. Brimmer's eyes,
in the shadow of her fan, were becoming faintly phosphorescent.
Don Ramon's melancholy face, which had grown graver in the last few
moments, approached nearer to her own.
"You are unhappy, Dona Barbara. The coming of this young cavalier,
your countryman, revives your anxiety for your home. You are
thinking of this husband who comes not. Is it not so?"
"I am thinking," said Mrs. Brimmer, with a sudden revulsion of
solid Boston middle-class propriety, shown as much in the dry New
England asperity of voice that stung even through her drawling of
the Castilian speech, as in anything she said,--"I am thinking
that, unless Mr. Brimmer comes soon, I and Miss Chubb shall have to
abandon the hospitality of your house, Don Ramon. Without looking
upon myself as a widow, or as indefinitely separated from Mr.
Brimmer, the few words let fall by Mr. Brace show me what might be
the feelings of my countrymen on the subject. However charming and
considerate your hospitality has been--and I do not deny that it
has been MOST grateful to ME--I feel I cannot continue to accept it
in those equivocal circumstances. I am speaking to a gentleman
who, with the instincts and chivalrous obligations of his order,
must sympathize with my own delicacy in coming to this conclusion,
and who will not take advantage of my confession that I do it with
She spoke with a dry alacrity and precision so unlike her usual
languor and the suggestions of the costume, and even the fan she
still kept shading her faintly glowing eyes, that the man before
her was more troubled by her manner than her words, which he had
but imperfectly understood.
"You will leave here--this house?" he stammered.
"It is necessary," she returned.
"But you shall listen to me first!" he said hurriedly. "Hear me,
Dona Barbara--I have a secret--I will to you confess"--
"You must confess nothing," said Mrs. Brimmer, dropping her feet
from the hammock, and sitting up primly, "I mean--nothing I may not
The Alcalde cast a look upon her at once blank and imploring.
"Ah, but you will hear," he said, after a pause. "There is a ship
coming here. In two weeks she will arrive. None know it but
myself, the Comandante, and the Padre. It is a secret of the
Government. She will come at night; she will depart in the
morning, and no one else shall know. It has ever been that she
brings no one to Todos Santos, that she takes no one from Todos
Santos. That is the law. But I swear to you that she shall take
you, your children, and your friend to Acapulco in secret, where
you will be free. You will join your husband; you will be happy.
I will remain, and I will die."
It would have been impossible for any woman but Mrs. Brimmer to
have regarded the childlike earnestness and melancholy simplicity
of this grown-up man without a pang. Even this superior woman
experienced a sensible awkwardness as she slipped from the hammock
and regained an upright position.
"Of course," she, began, "your offer is exceedingly generous; and
although I should not, perhaps, take a step of this kind without
the sanction of Mr. Brimmer, and am not sure that he would not
regard it as rash and premature, I will talk it over with Miss
Chubb, for whom I am partially responsible. Nothing," she
continued, with a sudden access of feeling, "would induce me, for
any selfish consideration, to take any step that would imperil the
future of that child, towards whom I feel as a sister." A slight
suffusion glistened under her pretty brown lashes. "If anything
should happen to her, I would never forgive myself; if I should be
the unfortunate means of severing any ties that SHE may have
formed, I could never look her in the face again. Of course, I can
well understand that our presence here must be onerous to you, and
that you naturally look forward to any sacrifice--even that of the
interests of your country, and the defiance of its laws--to relieve
you from a position so embarrassing as yours has become. I only
trust, however, that the ill effects you allude to as likely to
occur to yourself after our departure may be exaggerated by your
sensitive nature. It would be an obligation added to the many that
we owe you, which Mr. Brimmer would naturally find he could not
return--and that, I can safely say, he would not hear of for a
While speaking, she had unconsciously laid aside her fan, lifted
her mantilla from her head with both hands, and, drawing it around
her shoulders and under her lifted chin, had crossed it over her
bosom with a certain prim, automatic gesture, as if it had been the
starched kerchief of some remote Puritan ancestress. With her arms
still unconsciously crossed, she stooped rigidly, picked up her fan
with three fingers, as if it had been a prayer-book, and, with a
slight inclination of her bared head, with its accurately parted
brown hair, passed slowly out of the corridor.
Astounded, bewildered, yet conscious of some vague wound, Don Ramon
remained motionless, staring after her straight, retreating figure.
Unable to follow closely either the meaning of her words or the
logic of her reasoning, he nevertheless comprehended the sudden
change in her manner, her voice, and the frigid resurrection of a
nature he had neither known nor suspected. He looked blankly at
the collapsed hammock, as if he expected to find in its depths
those sinuous graces, languid fascinations, and the soft, half
sensuous contour cast off by this vanishing figure of propriety.
In the eight months of their enforced intimacy and platonic
seclusion he had learned to love this naive, insinuating woman,
whose frank simplicity seemed equal to his own, without thought of
reserve, secrecy, or deceit. He had gradually been led to think of
the absent husband with what he believed to be her own feelings--as
of some impalpable, fleshless ancestor from whose remote presence
she derived power, wealth, and importance, but to whom she owed
only respect and certain obligations of honor equal to his own. He
had never heard her speak of her husband with love, with sympathy,
with fellowship, with regret. She had barely spoken of him at all,
and then rather as an attractive factor in her own fascinations
than a bar to a free indulgence in them. He was as little in her
way as--his children. With what grace she had adapted herself to
his--Don Ramon's--life--she who frankly confessed she had no
sympathy with her husband's! With what languid enthusiasm she had
taken up the customs of HIS country, while deploring the habits of
her own! With what goddess-like indifference she had borne this
interval of waiting! And yet this woman--who had seemed the
embodiment of romance--had received the announcement of his
sacrifice--the only revelation he allowed himself to make of his
hopeless passion--with the frigidity of a duenna! Had he wounded
her in some other unknown way? Was she mortified that he had not
first declared his passion--he who had never dared to speak to her
of love before? Perhaps she even doubted it! In his ignorance of
the world he had, perhaps, committed some grave offense! He should
not have let her go! He should have questioned, implored her--
thrown himself at her feet! Was it too late yet?
He passed hurriedly into the formal little drawing-room, whose
bizarre coloring was still darkened by the closed blinds and
dropped awnings that had shut out the heat of day. She was not
there. He passed the open door of her room; it was empty. At the
end of the passage a faint light stole from a door opening into the
garden that was still ajar. She must have passed out that way. He
opened it, and stepped out into the garden.
The sound of voices beside a ruined fountain a hundred yards away
indicated the vicinity of the party; but a single glance showed him
that she was not among them. So much the better--he would find her
alone. Cautiously slipping beside the wall of the house, under the
shadow of a creeper, he gained the long avenue without attracting
attention. She was not there. Had she effectively evaded contact
with the others by leaving the garden through the little gate in
the wall that entered the Mission enclosure? It was partly open,
as if some one had just passed through. He followed, took a few
steps, and stopped abruptly. In the shadow of one of the old pear-
trees a man and woman were standing. An impulse of wild jealousy
seized him; he was about to leap forward, but the next moment the
measured voice of the Comandante, addressing Mrs. Markham, fell
upon his ear. He drew back with a sudden flush upon his face. The
Comandante of Todos Santos, in grave, earnest accents, was actually
offering to Mrs. Markham the same proposal that he, Don Ramon, had
made to Mrs. Brimmer but a moment ago!
"No one," said the Comandante sententiously, "will know it but
myself. You will leave the ship at Acapulco; you will rejoin your
husband in good time; you will be happy, my child; you will forget
the old man who drags out the few years of loneliness still left to
him in Todos Santos."
Forgetting himself, Don Ramon leaned breathlessly forward to hear
Mrs. Markham's reply. Would she answer the Comandante as Dona
Barbara had answered HIM? Her words rose distinctly in the evening
"You're a gentleman, Don Miguel Briones; and the least respect I
can show a man of your kind is not to pretend that I don't
understand the sacrifice you're making. I shall always remember it
as about the biggest compliment I ever received, and the biggest
risk that any man--except one--ever ran for me. But as the man who
ran that bigger risk isn't here to speak for himself, and generally
trusts his wife, Susan Markham, to speak for him--it's all the same
as if HE thanked you. There's my hand, Don Miguel: shake it.
Well--if you prefer it--kiss it then. There--don't be a fool--but
let's go back to Miss Keene."
A GLEAM OF SUNSHINE.
While these various passions had been kindled by her compatriots in
the peaceful ashes of Todos Santos, Eleanor Keene had moved among
them indifferently and, at times, unconsciously. The stranding of
her young life on that unknown shore had not drawn her towards her
fellow-exiles, and the circumstances which afterwards separated her
from daily contact with them completed the social estrangement.
She found herself more in sympathy with the natives, to whom she
had shown no familiarity, than with her own people, who had mixed
with them more or less contemptuously. She found the naivete of
Dona Isabel more amusing than the doubtful simplicity of that
married ingenue Mrs. Brimmer, although she still met the young
girl's advances with a certain reserve. She found herself often
pained by the practical brusqueness with which Mrs. Markham put
aside the Comandante's delicate attentions, and she was moved with
a strange pity for his childlike trustfulness, which she knew was
hopeless. As the months passed, on the few occasions that she
still met the Excelsior's passengers she was surprised to find how
they had faded from her memory, and to discover in them the
existence of qualities that made her wonder how she could have ever
been familiar with them. She reproached herself with this
fickleness; she wondered if she would have felt thus if they had
completed their voyage to San Francisco together; and she recalled,
with a sad smile, the enthusiastic plans they had formed during the
passage to perpetuate their fellowship by anniversaries and
festivals. But she, at last, succumbed, and finally accepted their
open alienation as preferable to the growing awkwardness of their
For a few weeks following the flight of Captain Bunker and her
acceptance of the hospitality and protection of the Council, she
became despondent. The courage that had sustained her, and the
energy she had shown in the first days of their abandonment,
suddenly gave way, for no apparent reason. She bitterly regretted
the brother whom she scarcely remembered; she imagined his suspense
and anguish on her account, and suffered for both; she felt the
dumb pain of homesickness for a home she had never known. Her
loneliness became intolerable. Her condition at last affected Mrs.
Markham, whose own idleness had been beguiled by writing to her
husband an exhaustive account of her captivity, which had finally
swelled to a volume on Todos Santos, its resources, inhabitants,
and customs. "Good heavens!" she said, "you must do something,
child, to occupy your mind--if it is only a flirtation with that
conceited Secretary." But this terrible alternative was happily
not required. The Comandante had still retained as part of the old
patriarchal government of the Mission the Presidio school, for the
primary instruction of the children of the soldiers,--dependants of
the garrison. Miss Keene, fascinated by several little pairs of
beady black eyes that had looked up trustingly to hers from the
playground on the glacis, offered to teach English to the
Comandante's flock. The offer was submitted to the spiritual head
of Todos Santos, and full permission given by Padre Esteban to the
fair heretic. Singing was added to the Instruction, and in a few
months the fame of the gracious Dona Leonor's pupils stirred to
emulation even the boy choristers of the Mission.
Her relations with James Hurlstone during this interval were at
first marked by a strange and unreasoning reserve. Whether she
resented the singular coalition forced upon them by the Council and
felt the awkwardness of their unintentional imposture when they
met, she did not know, but she generally avoided his society. This
was not difficult, as he himself had shown no desire to intrude his
confidences upon her; and even in her shyness she could not help
thinking that if he had treated the situation lightly or
humorously--as she felt sure Mr. Brace or Mr. Crosby would have
done--it would have been less awkward and unpleasant. But his
gloomy reserve seemed to the high-spirited girl to color their
innocent partnership with the darkness of conspiracy.
"If your conscience troubles you, Mr. Hurlstone, in regard to the
wretched infatuation of those people," she had once said,
"undeceive them, if you can, and I will assist you. And don't let
that affair of Captain Bunker worry you either. I have already
confessed to the Comandante that he escaped through my
"You could not have done otherwise without sacrificing the poor
Secretary, who must have helped you," Hurlstone returned quietly.
Miss Keene bit her lip and dropped the subject. At their next
meeting Hurlstone himself resumed it.
"I hope you don't allow that absurd decree of the Council to
disturb you; I imagine they're quite convinced of their folly. I
know that the Padre is; and I know that he thinks you've earned a
right to the gratitude of the Council in your gracious task at the
Presidio school that is far beyond any fancied political service."
"I really haven't thought about it at all," said Miss Keene coolly.
"I thought it was YOU who were annoyed."
"I? not at all," returned Hurlstone quickly. "I have been able to
assist the Padre in arranging the ecclesiastical archives of the
church, and in suggesting some improvement in codifying the
ordinances of the last forty years. No; I believe I'm earning my
living here, and I fancy they think so."
"Then it isn't THAT that troubles you?" said Miss Keene carelessly,
but glancing at him under the shade of her lashes.
"No," he said coldly, turning away.
Yet unsatisfactory as these brief interviews were, they revived in
Miss Keene the sympathizing curiosity and interest she had always
felt for this singular man, and which had been only held in
abeyance at the beginning of their exile; in fact, she found
herself thinking of him more during the interval when they seldom
saw each other, and apparently had few interests in common, than
when they were together on the Excelsior. Gradually she slipped
into three successive phases of feeling towards him, each of them
marked with an equal degree of peril to her peace of mind. She
began with a profound interest in the mystery of his secluded
habits, his strange abstraction, and a recognition of the evident
superiority of a nature capable of such deep feeling--uninfluenced
by those baser distractions which occupied Brace, Crosby, and
Winslow. This phase passed into a settled conviction that some
woman was at the root of his trouble, and responsible for it. With
an instinctive distrust of her own sex, she was satisfied that it
must be either a misplaced or unworthy attachment, and that the
unknown woman was to blame. This second phase--which hovered
between compassion and resentment--suddenly changed to the latter--
the third phase of her feelings. Miss Keene became convinced that
Mr. Hurlstone had a settled aversion to HERSELF. Why and
wherefore, she did not attempt to reason, yet she was satisfied
that from the first he disliked her. His studious reserve on the
Excelsior, compared with the attentions of the others, ought then
to have convinced her of the fact; and there was no doubt now that
his present discontent could be traced to the unfortunate
circumstances that brought them together. Having given herself up
to that idea, she vacillated between a strong impulse to inform him
that she knew his real feelings and an equally strong instinct to
avoid him hereafter entirely. The result was a feeble compromise.
On the ground that Mr. Hurlstone could "scarcely be expected to
admire her inferior performances," she declined to invite him with
Father Esteban to listen to her pupils. Father Esteban took a huge
pinch of snuff, examined Miss Keene attentively, and smiled a sad
smile. The next day he begged Hurlstone to take a volume of old
music to Miss Keene with his compliments. Hurlstone did so, and
for some reason exerted himself to be agreeable. As he made no
allusion to her rudeness, she presumed he did not know of it, and
speedily forgot it herself. When he suggested a return visit to
the boy choir, with whom he occasionally practiced, she blushed and
feared she had scarcely the time. But she came with Mrs. Markham,
some consciousness, and a visible color!
And then, almost without her knowing how or why, and entirely
unexpected and unheralded, came a day so strangely and
unconsciously happy, so innocently sweet and joyous, that it seemed
as if all the other days of her exile had only gone before to
create it, and as if it--and it alone--were a sufficient reason for
her being there. A day full of gentle intimations, laughing
suggestions, childlike surprises and awakenings; a day delicious
for the very incompleteness of its vague happiness. And this
remarkable day was simply marked in Mrs. Markham's diary as
follows:--"Went with E. to Indian village; met Padre and J. H.
J. H. actually left shell and crawled on beach with E. E. chatty."
The day itself had been singularly quiet and gracious, even for
that rare climate of balmy days and recuperating nights. At times
the slight breath of the sea which usually stirred the morning air
of Todos Santos was suspended, and a hush of expectation seemed to
arrest land and water. When Miss Keene and Mrs. Markham left the
Presidio, the tide was low, and their way lay along the beach past
the Mission walls. A walk of two or three miles brought them to
the Indian village--properly a suburban quarter of Todos Santos--a
collection of adobe huts and rudely cultivated fields. Padre
Esteban and Mr. Hurlstone were awaiting them in the palm-thatched
veranda of a more pretentious cabin, that served as a school-room.
"This is Don Diego's design," said the Padre, beaming with a
certain paternal pride on Hurlstone, "built by himself and helped
by the heathen; but look you: my gentleman is not satisfied with
it, and wishes now to bring his flock to the Mission school, and
have them mingle with the pure-blooded races on an equality. That
is the revolutionary idea of this sans culotte reformer," continued
the good Father, shaking his yellow finger with gentle archness at
the young man. "Ah, we shall yet have a revolution in Todos Santos
unless you ladies take him in hand. He has already brought the
half-breeds over to his side, and those heathens follow him like
dumb cattle anywhere. There, take him away and scold him, Dona
Leonor, while I speak to the Senora Markham of the work that her
good heart and skillful fingers may do for my poor muchachos."
Eleanor Keene lifted her beautiful eyes to Hurlstone with an
artless tribute in their depths that brought the blood faintly into
his cheek. She was not thinking of the priest's admonishing words;
she was thinking of the quiet, unselfish work that this gloomy
misanthrope had been doing while his companions had been engaged in
lower aims and listless pleasures, and while she herself had been
aimlessly fretting and diverting herself. What were her few hours
of applauded instruction with the pretty Murillo-like children of
the Fort compared to his silent and unrecognized labor! Yet even
at this moment an uneasy doubt crossed her mind.
"I suppose Mrs. Brimmer and Miss Chubb interest themselves greatly
in your--in the Padre's charities?"
The first playful smile she had seen on Hurlstone's face lightened
in his eyes and lips, and was becoming.
"I am afraid my barbarians are too low and too near home for Mrs.
Brimmer's missionary zeal. She and Miss Chubb patronize the
Mexican school with cast-off dresses, old bonnets retrimmed,
flannel petticoats, some old novels and books of poetry--of which
the Padre makes an auto-da-fe--and their own patronizing presence
on fete days. Providence has given them the vague impression that
leprosy and contagious skin-disease are a peculiarity of the
southern aborigine, and they have left me severely alone."
"I wish you would prevail upon the Padre to let ME help you," said
Miss Keene, looking down.
"But you already have the Commander's chickens--which you are
bringing up as swans, by the way," said Hurlstone mischievously.
"You wouldn't surely abandon the nest again?"
"You are laughing at me," said Miss Keene, putting on a slight pout
to hide the vague pleasure that Hurlstone's gayer manner was giving
her. "But, really, I've been thinking that the Presidio children
are altogether too pretty and picturesque for me, and that I enjoy
them too much to do them any good. It's like playing with them,
Hurlstone laughed, but suddenly looking down upon her face he was
struck with its youthfulness. She had always impressed him before--
through her reserve and independence--as older, and more matured
in character. He did not know how lately she was finding her lost
youth as he asked her, quite abruptly, if she ever had any little
brothers and sisters.
The answer to this question involved the simple story of Miss
Keene's life, which she gave with naive detail. She told him of
her early childhood, and the brother who was only an indistinct
memory; of her school days, and her friendships up to the moment of
her first step into the great world that was so strangely arrested
at Todos Santos. He was touched with the almost pathetic blankness
of this virgin page. Encouraged by his attention, and perhaps
feeling a sympathy she had lately been longing for, she confessed
to him the thousand little things which she had reserved from even
Mrs. Markham during her first apathetic weeks at Todos Santos.
"I'm sure I should have been much happier if I had had any one to
talk to," she added, looking up into his face with a naivete of
faint reproach; "it's very different for men, you know. They can
always distract themselves with something. Although," she
continued hesitatingly, "I've sometimes thought YOU would have been
happier if you had had somebody to tell your troubles to--I don't
mean the Padre; for, good as he is, he is a foreigner, you know,
and wouldn't look upon things as WE do--but some one in sympathy
She stopped, alarmed at the change of expression in his face. A
quick flush had crossed his cheek; for an instant he had looked
suspiciously into her questioning eyes. But the next moment the
idea of his quietly selecting this simple, unsophisticated girl as
the confidant of his miserable marriage, and the desperation that
had brought him there, struck him as being irresistibly ludicrous
and he smiled. It was the first time that the habitual morbid
intensity of his thoughts on that one subject had ever been
disturbed by reaction; it was the first time that a clear ray of
reason had pierced the gloom in which he had enwrapped it. Seeing
him smile, the young girl smiled too. Then they smiled together
vaguely and sympathetically, as over some unspoken confidence.
But, unknown and unsuspected by himself, that smile had completed
his emancipation and triumph. The next moment, when he sought with
a conscientious sigh to reenter his old mood, he was half shocked
to find it gone. Whatever gradual influence--the outcome of these
few months of rest and repose--may have already been at work to
dissipate his clouded fancy, he was only vaguely conscious that the
laughing breath of the young girl had blown it away forever.
The perilous point passed, unconsciously to both of them, they fell
into freer conversation, tacitly avoiding the subject of Mr.
Hurlstone's past reserve only as being less interesting. Hurlstone
did not return Miss Keene's confidences--not because he wished to
deceive her, but that he preferred to entertain her; while she did
not care to know his secret now that it no longer affected their
sympathy in other things. It was a pleasant, innocent selfishness,
that, however, led them along, step by step, to more uncertain and
In their idle, happy walk they had strayed towards the beach, and
had come upon a large stone cross with its base half hidden in
sand, and covered with small tenacious, sweet-scented creepers,
bearing a pale lilac blossom that exhaled a mingled odor of sea and
shore. Hurlstone pointed out the cross as one of the earliest
outposts of the Church on the edge of the unclaimed heathen
wilderness. It was hung with strings of gaudy shells and feathers,
which Hurlstone explained were votive offerings in which their
pagan superstitions still mingled with their new faith.
"I don't like to worry that good old Padre," he continued, with a
light smile, "but I'm afraid that they prefer this cross to the
chapel for certain heathenish reasons of their own. I am quite
sure that they still hold some obscure rites here under the good
Father's very nose, and that, in the guise of this emblem of our
universal faith, they worship some deity we have no knowledge of."
"It's a shame," said Miss Keene quickly.
To her surprise, Hurlstone did not appear so shocked as she, in her
belief of his religious sympathy with the Padre, had imagined.
"They're a harmless race," he said carelessly. "The place is much
frequented by the children--especially the young girls; a good many
of these offerings came from them."
The better to examine these quaint tributes, Miss Keene had thrown
herself, with an impulsive, girlish abandonment, on the mound by
the cross, and Hurlstone sat down beside her. Their eyes met in an
innocent pleasure of each other's company. She thought him very
handsome in the dark, half official Mexican dress that necessity
alone had obliged him to assume, and much more distinguished-
looking than his companions in their extravagant foppery; he
thought her beauty more youthful and artless than he had imagined
it to be, and with his older and graver experiences felt a certain
protecting superiority that was pleasant and reassuring.
Nevertheless, seated so near each other, they were very quiet.
Hurlstone could not tell whether it was the sea or the flowers, but
the dress of the young girl seemed to exhale some subtle perfume of
her own freshness that half took away his breath. She had scraped
up a handful of sand, and was allowing it to escape through her
slim fingers in a slender rain on the ground. He was watching the
operation with what he began to fear was fatuous imbecility.
"Miss Keene?--I beg your pardon"--
"Mr. Hurlstone?--Excuse me, you were saying"--
They had both spoken at the same moment, and smiled forgivingly at
each other. Hurlstone gallantly insisted upon the precedence of
her thought--the scamp had doubted the coherency of his own.
"I used to think," she began--"you won't be angry, will you?"
"I used to think you had an idea of becoming a priest."
"Because--you are sure you won't be angry--because I thought you
"Father Esteban is a priest," said Hurlstone, with a faint smile,
"and you know he thinks kindly of your sex."
"Yes; but perhaps HIS life was never spoiled by some wicked woman
For an instant he gazed intently into her eyes.
"Who told you that?"
She was evidently speaking the absolute truth. There was no deceit
or suppression in her clear gaze; if anything, only the faintest
look of wonder at his astonishment. And he--this jealously guarded
secret, the curse of his whole wretched life, had been guessed by
this simple girl, without comment, without reserve, without horror!
And there had been no scene, no convulsion of Nature, no tragedy;
he had not thrown himself into yonder sea; she had not fled from
him shrinking, but was sitting there opposite to him in gentle
smiling expectation, the golden light of Todos Santos around them,
a bit of bright ribbon shining in her dark hair, and he, miserable,
outcast, and recluse, had not even changed his position, but was
looking up without tremulousness or excitement, and smiling, too.
He raised himself suddenly on his knee.
"And what if it were all true?" he demanded.
"I should be very sorry for you, and glad it were all over now,"
she said softly.
A faint pink flush covered her cheek the next moment, as if she had
suddenly become aware of another meaning in her speech, and she
turned her head hastily towards the village. To her relief she
discerned that a number of Indian children had approached them from
behind and had halted a few paces from the cross. Their hands were
full of flowers and shells as they stood hesitatingly watching the
"They are some of the school-children," said Hurlstone, in answer
to her inquiring look; "but I can't understand why they come here
"Oh, don't scold them!" said Eleanor, forgetting her previous
orthodox protest; "let us go away, and pretend we don't notice
But as she was about to rise to her feet the hesitation of the
little creatures ended in a sudden advance of the whole body, and
before she comprehended what they were doing they had pressed the
whole of their floral tributes in her lap. The color rose again
quickly to her laughing face as she looked at Hurlstone.
"Do you usually get up this pretty surprise for visitors?" she said
"I assure you I have nothing to do with it," he answered, with
frank amazement; "it's quite spontaneous. And look--they are even
It was true; they had thrown a half dozen strings of shells on
Hurlstone's unresisting shoulders, and, unheeding the few words he
laughingly addressed them in their own dialect, they ran off a few
paces, and remained standing, as if gravely contemplating their
work. Suddenly, with a little outcry of terror, they turned, fled
wildly past them, and disappeared in the bushes.
Miss Keene and Hurlstone rose at the same moment, but the young
girl, taking a step forward, suddenly staggered, and was obliged to
clasp one of the arms of the cross to keep herself from falling.
Hurlstone sprang to her side.
"Are you ill?" he asked hurriedly. "You are quite white. What is
A smile crossed her colorless face.
"I am certainly very giddy; everything seems to tremble."
"Perhaps it is the flowers," he said anxiously. "Their heavy
perfume in this close air affects you. Throw them away, for
But she clutched them tighter to her heart as she leaned for a
moment, pale yet smiling, against the cross.
"No, no!" she said earnestly; "it was not that. But the children
were frightened, and their alarm terrified me. There, it is over
She let him help her to her seat again as he glanced hurriedly
around him. It must have been sympathy with her, for he was
conscious of a slight vertigo himself. The air was very close and
still. Even the pleasant murmur of the waves had ceased.
"How very low the tide is!" said Eleanor Keene, resting her elbow
on her knees and her round chin upon her hand. "I wonder if that
could have frightened those dear little midgets?" The tide, in
fact, had left the shore quite bare and muddy for nearly a quarter
of a mile to seaward.
Hurlstone arose, with grave eyes, but a voice that was unchanged.
"Suppose we inquire? Lean on my arm, and we'll go up the hill
towards the Mission garden. Bring your flowers with you."
The color had quite returned to her cheek as she leant on his
proffered arm. Yet perhaps she was really weaker than she knew,
for he felt the soft pressure of her hand and the gentle
abandonment of her figure against his own as they moved on. But
for some preoccupying thought, he might have yielded more
completely to the pleasure of that innocent contact and have drawn
her closer towards him; yet they moved steadily on, he contenting
himself from time to time with a hurried glance at the downcast
fringes of the eyes beside him. Presently he stopped, his
attention disturbed by what appeared to be the fluttering of a
black-winged, red-crested bird, in the bushes before him. The next
moment he discovered it to be the rose-covered head of Dona Isabel,
who was running towards them. Eleanor withdrew her arm from
"Ah, imbecile!" said Dona Isabel, pouncing upon Eleanor Keene like
an affectionate panther. "They have said you were on the seashore,
and I fly for you as a bird. Tell to me quick," she whispered,
hastily putting her own little brown ear against Miss Keene's
mouth, "immediatamente, are you much happy?"
"Where is Mr. Brace?" said Miss Keene, trying to effect a
diversion, as she laughed and struggled to get free from her
"He, the idiot boy! Naturally, when he is for use, he comes not.
But as a maniac--ever! I would that I have him no more. You will
to me presently give your--brother! I have since to-day a
presentimiento that him I shall love! Ah!"
She pressed her little brown fist, still tightly clutching her fan,
against her low bodice, as if already transfixed with a secret and
"Well, you shall have Dick then," said Miss Keene, laughing; "but
was it for THAT you were seeking me?"
"Mother of God! you know not then what has happened? You are a
blind--a deaf--to but one thing all the time? Ah!" she said
quickly, unfolding her fan and modestly diving her little head
behind it, "I have ashamed for you, Miss Keene."
"But WHAT has happened?" said Hurlstone, interposing to relieve his
companion. "We fancied something"--
"Something! he says something!--ah, that something was a temblor!
An earthquake! The earth has shaken himself. Look!"
She pointed with her fan to the shore, where the sea had suddenly
returned in a turbulence of foam and billows that was breaking over
the base of the cross they had just quitted.
Miss Keene drew a quick sigh. Dona Isabel had ducked again
modestly behind her fan, but this time dragging with her other arm
Miss Keene's head down to share its discreet shadow as she
"And--infatuated one!--you two never noticed it!"
CLOUDS AND CHANGE.
The earthquake shock, although the first experienced by the
Americans, had been a yearly phenomenon to the people of Todos
Santos, and was so slight as to leave little impression upon either
the low adobe walls of the pueblo or the indolent population. "If
it's a provision of Nature for shaking up these Rip Van Winkle
Latin races now and then, it's a dead failure, as far as Todos
Santos is concerned," Crosby had said, with a yawn. "Brace, who's
got geology on the brain ever since he struck cinnabar ore, says he
isn't sure the Injins ain't right when they believe that the
Pacific Ocean used to roll straight up to the Presidio, and there
wasn't any channel--and that reef of rocks was upheaved in their
time. But what's the use of it? it never really waked them up."
"Perhaps they're waiting for another kind of earthquake," Winslow
had responded sententiously.
In six weeks it had been forgotten, except by three people--Miss
Keene, James Hurlstone, and Padre Esteban. Since Hurlstone had
parted with Miss Keene on that memorable afternoon he had
apparently lapsed into his former reserve. Without seeming to
avoid her timid advances, he met her seldom, and then only in the
presence of the Padre or Mrs. Markham. Although uneasy at the
deprivation of his society, his present shyness did not affect her
as it had done at first: she knew it was no longer indifference;
she even fancied she understood it from what had been her own
feelings. If he no longer raised his eyes to hers as frankly as he
had that day, she felt a more delicate pleasure in the
consciousness of his lowered eyelids when they met, and the
instinct that told her when his melancholy glance followed her
unobserved. The sex of these lovers--if we may call them so who
had never exchanged a word of love--seemed to be changed. It was
Miss Keene who now sought him with a respectful and frank
admiration; it was Hurlstone who now tried to avoid it with a
feminine dread of reciprocal display. Once she had even adverted
to the episode of the cross. They were standing under the arch of
the refectory door, waiting for Padre Esteban, and looking towards
"Do you think we were ever in any real danger, down there, on the
shore--that day?" she said timidly.
"No; not from the sea," he replied, looking at her with a half
"From what then?" she asked, with a naivete that was yet a little
"Do you remember the children giving you their offerings that day?"
he asked abruptly.
"I do," she replied, with smiling eyes.
"Well, it appears that it is the custom for the betrothed couples
to come to the cross to exchange their vows. They mistook us for
All the instinctive delicacy of Miss Keene's womanhood resented the
rude infelicity of this speech and the flippant manner of its
utterance. She did not blush, but lifted her clear eyes calmly to
"It was an unfortunate mistake," she said coldly, "the more so as
they were your pupils. Ah! here is Father Esteban," she added,
with a marked tone of relief, as she crossed over to the priest's
When Father Esteban returned to the refectory that evening,
Hurlstone was absent. When it grew later, becoming uneasy, the
good Father sought him in the garden. At the end of the avenue of
pear-trees there was a break in the sea-wall, and here, with his
face to the sea, Hurlstone was leaning gloomily. Father Esteban's
tread was noiseless, and he had laid his soft hand on the young
man's shoulder before Hurlstone was aware of his presence. He
started slightly, his gloomy eyes fell before the priest's.
"My son," said the old man gravely, "this must go on no longer."
"I don't understand you," Hurlstone replied coldly.
"Do not try to deceive yourself, nor me. Above all, do not try to
deceive HER. Either you are or are not in love with this
countrywoman of yours. If you are not, my respect for her and my
friendship for you prompts me to save you both from a foolish
intimacy that may ripen into a misplaced affection; if you are
already in love with her"--
"I have never spoken a word of love to her!" interrupted Hurlstone
quickly. "I have even tried to avoid her since"--
"Since you found that you loved her! Ah, foolish boy! and you
think that because the lips speak not, the passions of the heart
are stilled! Do you think your silence in her presence is not a
protestation that she, even she, child as she is, can read, with
the cunning of her sex?"
"Well--if I am in love with her, what then?" said Hurlstone
doggedly. "It is no crime to love a pure and simple girl. Am I
not free? You yourself, in yonder church, told me"--
"Silence, Diego," said the priest sternly. "Silence, before you
utter the thought that shall disgrace you to speak and me to hear!"
"Forgive me, Father Esteban," said the young man hurriedly,
grasping both hands of the priest. "Forgive me--I am mad--
distracted--but I swear to you I only meant"--
"Hush!" interrupted the priest more gently. "So; that will do."
He stopped, drew out his snuff-box, rapped the lid, and took a
pinch of snuff slowly. "We will not recur to that point. Then you
have told her the story of your life?"
"No; but I will, She shall know all--everything--before I utter a
word of love to her,"
"Ah! bueno! muy bueno!" said the Padre, wiping his nose
ostentatiously. "Ah! let me see! Then, when we have shown her
that we cannot possibly marry her, we will begin to make love to
her! Eh, eh! that is the American fashion. Ah, pardon!" he
continued, in response to a gesture of protestation from Hurlstone;
"I am wrong. It is when we have told her that we cannot marry her
as a Protestant, that we will make love as a Catholic. Is that
"Hear me," said Hurlstone passionately. "You have saved me from
madness and, perhaps, death. Your care--your kindness--your
teachings have given me life again. Don't blame me, Father
Esteban, if, in casting off my old self, you have given me hopes of
a new and fresher life--of"--
"A newer and fresher love, you would say," said the Padre, with a
sad smile. "Be it so. You will at least do justice to the old
priest, when you remember that he never pressed you to take vows
that would have prevented this forever."
"I know it," said Hurlstone, taking the old man's hand. "And you
will remember, too, that I was happy and contented before this came
upon me. Tell me what I shall do. Be my guide--my friend, Father
Esteban. Put me where I was a few months ago--before I learned to
"Do you mean it, Diego?" said the old man, grasping his hand
tightly, and fixing his eyes upon him.
"Then listen to me, for it is my turn to speak. When, eight months
ago, you sought the shelter of that blessed roof, it was for refuge
from a woman that had cursed your life. It was given you. You
would leave it now to commit an act that would bring another woman,
as mad as yourself, clamoring at its doors for protection from YOU.
For what you are proposing to this innocent girl is what you
accepted from the older and wickeder woman. You have been cursed
because a woman divided for you what was before God an indivisible
right; and you, Diego, would now redivide that with another, whom
you dare to say you LOVE! You would use the opportunity of her
helplessness and loneliness here to convince her; you would tempt
her with sympathy, for she is unhappy; with companionship, for she
has no longer the world to choose from--with everything that should
make her sacred from your pursuit."
"Enough," said Hurlstone hoarsely; "say no more. Only I implore
you tell me what to do now to save her. I will--if you tell me to
do it--leave her forever."
"Why should YOU go?" said the priest quietly. "HER absence will be
"HER absence?" echoed Hurlstone.
"Hers alone. The conditions that brought YOU here are unchanged.
You are still in need of an asylum from the world and the wife you
have repudiated. Why should you abandon it? For the girl, there
is no cause why she should remain--beyond yourself. She has a
brother whom she loves--who wants her--who has the right to claim
her at any time. She will go to him."
"That has been my secret, and will be my sacrifice to you, Diego,
my son. I have foreseen all this; I have expected it from the day
that girl sent you her woman's message, that was half a challenge,
from her school--I have known it from the day you walked together
on the sea-shore. I was blind before that--for I am weak in my
way, too, and I had dreamed of other things. God has willed it
otherwise." He paused, and returning the pressure of Hurlstone's
hand, went on. "My secret and my sacrifice for you is this. For
the last two hundred years the Church has had a secret and trusty
messenger from the See at Guadalajara--in a ship that touches here
for a few hours only every three years. Her arrival and departure
is known only to myself and my brothers of the Council. By this
wisdom and the provision of God, the integrity of the Holy Church
and the conversion of the heathen have been maintained without
interruption and interference. You know now, my son, why your
comrades were placed under surveillance; why it was necessary that
the people should believe in a political conspiracy among
yourselves, rather than the facts as they existed, which might have
bred a dangerous curiosity among them. I have given you our
secret, Diego--that is but a part of my sacrifice. When that ship
arrives, and she is expected daily, I will secretly place Miss
Keene and her friend on board, with explanatory letters to the
Archbishop, and she will be assisted to rejoin her brother. It
will be against the wishes of the Council; but my will," continued
the old man, with a gesture of imperiousness, "is the will of the
Church, and the law that overrides all."
He had stopped, with a strange fire in his eyes. It still
continued to burn as he went on rapidly,--
"You will understand the sacrifice I am making in telling you this,
when you know that I could have done all that I propose without
your leave or hindrance. Yes, Diego; I had but to stretch out my
hand thus, and that foolish fire-brand of a heretic muchacha would
have vanished from Todos Santos forever. I could have left you in
your fool's paradise, and one morning you would have found her
gone. I should have condoled with you, and consoled you, and you
would have forgotten her as you did the other. I should not have
hesitated; it is the right of the Church through all time to break
through those carnal ties without heed of the suffering flesh, and
I ought to have done so. This, and this alone, would have been
worthy of Las Casas and Junipero Serra! But I am weak and old--I
am no longer fit for His work. Far better that the ship which
takes her away should bring back my successor and one more worthy
Todos Santos than I."
He stopped, his eyes dimmed, he buried his face in his hands.
"You have done right, Father Esteban," said Hurlstone, gently
putting his arm round the priest's shoulders, "and I swear to you
your secret is as safe as if you had never revealed it to me.
Perhaps," he added, with a sigh, "I should have been happier if I
had not known it--if she had passed out of my life as mysteriously
as she had entered it; but you will try to accept my sacrifice as
some return for yours. I shall see her no more."
"But will you swear it?" said the priest eagerly. "Will you swear
that you will not even seek her to say farewell; for in that moment
the wretched girl may shake your resolution?"
"I shall not see her," repeated the young man slowly.
"But if she asks an interview," persisted the priest, "on the
pretense of having your advice?"
"She will not," returned Hurlstone, with a half bitter recollection
of their last parting. "You do not know her pride."
"Perhaps," said the priest musingly. "But I have YOUR word, Diego.
And now let us return to the Mission, for there is much to prepare,
and you shall assist me."
Meantime, Hurlstone was only half right in his estimate of Miss
Keene's feelings, although the result was the same. The first
shock to her delicacy in his abrupt speech had been succeeded by a
renewal of her uneasiness concerning his past life or history.
While she would, in her unselfish attachment for him, have
undoubtingly accepted any explanation he might have chosen to give
her, his continued reserve and avoidance of her left full scope to
her imaginings. Rejecting any hypothesis of his history except
that of some unfortunate love episode, she began to think that
perhaps he still loved this nameless woman. Had anything occurred
to renew his affection? It was impossible, in their isolated
condition, that he would hear from her. But perhaps the priest
might have been a confidant of his past, and had recalled the old
affection in rivalry of her? Or had she herself been unfortunate
through any idle word to reopen the wound? Had there been any
suggestion?--she checked herself suddenly at a thought that
benumbed and chilled her!--perhaps that happy hour at the cross
might have reminded him of some episode with another? That was the
real significance of his rude speech. With this first taste of the
poison of jealousy upon her virgin lips, she seized the cup and
drank it eagerly. Ah, well--he should keep his blissful
recollections of the past undisturbed by her. Perhaps he might
even see--though SHE had no past--that her present life might be as
disturbing to him! She recalled, with a foolish pleasure, his
solitary faint sneer at the devotion of the Commander's Secretary.
Why shouldn't she, hereafter, encourage that devotion as well as
that sneer from this complacently beloved Mr. Hurlstone? Why
should he be so assured of her past? The fair and gentle reader
who may be shocked at this revelation of Eleanor Keene's character
will remember that she has not been recorded as an angel in these
pages--but as a very human, honest, inexperienced girl, for the
first time struggling with the most diplomatic, Machiavellian, and
hypocritical of all the passions.
In pursuance of this new resolution, she determined to accept an
invitation from Mrs. Markham to accompany her and the Commander to
a reception at the Alcalde's house--the happy Secretary being of
the party. Mrs. Markham, who was under promise to the Comandante
not to reveal his plan for the escape of herself and Miss Keene
until the arrival of the expected transport, had paid little
attention to the late vagaries of her friend, and had contented
herself by once saying, with a marked emphasis, that the more free
they kept themselves from any entanglements with other people, the
more prepared they would be for A CHANGE.
"Perhaps it's just as well not to be too free, even with those
Jesuits over at the Mission. Your brother, you know, might not
"THOSE JESUITS!" repeated Miss Keene indignantly. "Father Esteban,
to begin with, is a Franciscan, and Mr. Hurlstone is as orthodox as
you or I."
"Don't be too sure of that, my dear," returned Mrs. Markham
sententiously. "Heaven only knows what disguises they assume.
Why, Hurlstone and the priest are already as thick as two peas; and
you can't make me believe they didn't know of each other before we
came here. He was the first one ashore, you remember, before the
mutiny; and where did he turn up?--at the Mission, of course! And
have you forgotten that sleepwalking affair--all Jesuitical! Why,
poor dear Markham used to say we were surrounded by ramifications
of that society--everywhere. The very waiter at your hotel table
might belong to the Order."
The hour of the siesta was just past, and the corridor and gardens
of the Alcalde's house were grouped with friends and acquaintances
as the party from the Presidio entered. Mrs. Brimmer, who had
apparently effected a temporary compromise with her late instincts
of propriety, was still doing the honors of the Alcalde's house,
and had once more assumed the Mexican dishabille, even to the
slight exposure of her small feet, stockingless, in white satin
slippers. The presence of the Comandante and his Secretary
guaranteed the two ladies of their party a reception at least
faultless in form and respect, whatever may have been the secret
feelings of the hostess and her friends. The Alcalde received Mrs.
Markham and Miss Keene with unruffled courtesy, and conducted them
to the place of honor beside him.
As Eleanor Keene, slightly flushed and beautiful in her unwonted
nervous excitement, took her seat, a flutter went around the
corridor, and, with the single exception of Dona Isabel, an almost
imperceptible drawing together of the other ladies, in offensive
alliance. Miss Keene had never abandoned her own style of dress;
and that afternoon her delicate and closely-fitting white muslin,
gathered in at the waist with a broad blue belt of ribbon, seemed
to accentuate somewhat unflatteringly the tropical neglige of Mrs.
Brimmer and Miss Chubb. Brace, who was in attendance, with Crosby,
on the two Ramirez girls, could not help being uneasily conscious
of this, in addition to the awkwardness of meeting Miss Keene after
the transfer of his affections elsewhere. Nor was his embarrassment
relieved by Crosby's confidences to him, in a half audible whisper,--
"I say, old man, after all, the regular straight-out American style
lays over all their foreign flops and fandoodles. I wonder what
old Brimmer would say to his wife's full-dress nightgown--eh?"
But at this moment the long-drawn, slightly stridulous utterances
of Mrs. Brimmer rose through the other greetings like a lazy east
"I shall never forgive the Commander for making the Presidio so
attractive to you, dear Miss Keene, that you cannot really find
time to see your own countrymen. Though, of course, you're not to
blame for not coming to see two frights as we must look--not having
been educated to be able to do up our dresses in that faultless
style--and perhaps not having the entire control over an
establishment like you; yet, I suppose that, even if the Alcalde
did give us carte blanche of the laundry HERE, we couldn't do it,
unaided even by Mrs. Markham. Yes, dear; you must let me
compliment you on your skill, and the way you make things last. As
for me and Miss Chubb, we've only found our things fit to be given
away to the poor of the Mission. But I suppose even that charity
would look as shabby to you as our clothes, in comparison with the
really good missionary work you and Mr. Hurlstone--or is it Mr.
Brace?--I always confound your admirers, my dear--are doing now.
At least, so says that good Father Esteban."
But with the exception of the Alcalde and Miss Chubb, Mrs.
Brimmer's words fell on unheeding ears, and Miss Keene did not
prejudice the triumph of her own superior attractions by seeming to
notice Mrs. Brimmer's innuendo. She answered briefly, and entered
into lively conversation with Crosby and the Secretary, holding the
hand of Dona Isabel in her own, as if to assure her that she was
guiltless of any design against her former admirer. This was quite
unnecessary, as the gentle Isabel, after bidding Brace, with a rap
on the knuckles, to "go and play," contented herself with curling
up like a kitten beside Miss Keene, and left that gentleman to
wander somewhat aimlessly in the patio.
Nevertheless, Miss Keene, whose eyes and ears were nervously alert,
and who had indulged a faint hope of meeting Padre Esteban and
hearing news of Hurlstone, glanced from time to time towards the
entrance of the patio. A singular presentiment that some outcome
of this present visit would determine her relations with Hurlstone
had already possessed her. Consequently she was conscious, before
it had attracted the attention of the others, of some vague
stirring in the plaza beyond. Suddenly the clatter of hoofs was
heard before the gateway. There was a moment's pause of
dismounting, a gruff order given in Spanish, and the next moment
three strangers entered the patio.
They were dressed in red shirts, their white trousers tucked in
high boots, and wore slouched hats. They were so travel-stained,
dusty, and unshaven, that their features were barely
distinguishable. One, who appeared to be the spokesman of the
party, cast a perfunctory glance around the corridor, and, in
fluent Spanish, began with the mechanical air of a man repeating
"We are the bearers of a despatch to the Comandante of Todos Santos
from the Governor of Mazatlan. The officer and the escort who came
with us are outside the gate. We have been told that the
Comandante is in this house. The case is urgent, or we would not
He was stopped by the voice of Mrs. Markham from the corridor.
"Well, I don't understand Spanish much--I may be a fool, or crazy,
or perhaps both--but if that isn't James Markham's VOICE, I'll bet
The three strangers turned quickly toward the corridor. The next
moment the youngest of their party advanced eagerly towards Miss
Keene, who had arisen with a half frightened joy, and with the cry
of "Why, it's Nell!" ran towards her. The third man came slowly
forward as Mrs. Brimmer slipped hastily from the hammock and stood
"In the name of goodness, Barbara," said Mr. Brimmer, closing upon
her, in a slow, portentous whisper, "where ARE your stockings?"
A MORE IMPORTANT ARRIVAL.
The Commander was the first to recover his presence of mind.
Taking the despatch from the hands of the unlooked-for husband of
the woman he loved, he opened it with an immovable face and
habitual precision. Then, turning with a military salute to the
strangers, he bade them join him in half an hour at the Presidio;
and, bowing gravely to the assembled company, stepped from the
corridor. But Mrs. Markham was before him, stopped him with a
gesture, and turned to her husband.
"James Markham--where's your hand?"
Markham, embarrassed but subjugated, disengaged it timidly from his
"Give it to that gentleman--for a gentleman he is, from the crown
of his head to the soles of his boots! There! Shake his hand!
You don't get such a chance every day. You can thank him again,
As the two men's hands parted, after this perfunctory grasp, and
the Commander passed on, she turned again to her husband.
"Now, James, I am ready to hear all about it. Perhaps you'll tell
me where you HAVE been?"
There was a moment of embarrassing silence. The Doctor and
Secretary had discreetly withdrawn; the Alcalde, after a brief
introduction to Mr. Brimmer, and an incomprehensible glance from
the wife, had retired with a colorless face. Dona Isabel had
lingered last to blow a kiss across her fan to Eleanor Keene that
half mischievously included her brother. The Americans were alone.
Thus appealed to, Mr. Markham hastily began his story. But, as he
progressed, a slight incoherency was noticeable: he occasionally
contradicted himself, and was obliged to be sustained, supplemented,
and, at times, corrected, by Keene and Brimmer. Substantially, it
appeared that they had come from San Francisco to Mazatlan, and,
through the influence of Mr. Brimmer on the Mexican authorities,
their party, with an escort of dragoons, had been transported across
the gulf and landed on the opposite shore, where they had made a
forced march across the desert to Todos Santos. Literally
interpreted, however, by the nervous Markham, it would seem that
they had conceived this expedition long ago, and yet had
difficulties because they only thought of it the day before the
steamer sailed; that they had embarked for the isthmus of Nicaragua,
and yet had stopped at Mazatlan; that their information was complete
in San Francisco, and only picked up at Mazatlan; that "friends"--
sometimes contradictorily known as "he" and "she"--had overpowering
influence with the Mexican Government, and alone had helped them,
and yet that they were utterly dependent upon the efforts of Senor
Perkins, who had compromised matters with the Mexican Government and
"Do you mean to say, James Markham, that you've seen Perkins, and
it was he who told you we were here?"
"No--not HIM exactly."
"Let me explain," said Mr. Brimmer hastily. "It appears," he
corrected his haste with practical businesslike precision, "that
the filibuster Perkins, after debarking you here, and taking the
Excelsior to Quinquinambo, actually established the Quinquinambo
Government, and got Mexico and the other confederacies to recognize
its independence. Quinquinambo behaved very handsomely, and not
only allowed the Mexican Government indemnity for breaking the
neutrality of Todos Santos by the seizure, but even compromised
with our own Government their claim to confiscate the Excelsior for
treaty violation, and paid half the value of the vessel, besides
giving information to Mexico and Washington of your whereabouts.
We consequently represent a joint commission from both countries to
settle the matter and arrange for your return."
"But what I want to know is this: Is it to Senor Perkins that we
ought to be thankful for seeing you here at all?" asked Mrs.
"No, no--not that, exactly," stammered Markham. "Oh, come now,
"No," said Richard Keene earnestly; "by Jove! some thanks ought to
go to Belle Montgomery"--He checked himself in sudden consternation.
There was a chilly silence. Even Miss Keene looked anxiously at
her brother, as the voice of Mrs. Brimmer for the first time broke
"May we be permitted to know who is this person to whom we owe so
great an obligation?"
"Certainly," said Brimmer, "She was--as I have already intimated--a
friend; possibly, you know," he added, turning lightly to his
companions, as if to corroborate an impression that had just struck
him, "perhaps a--a--a sweetheart of the Senor Perkins."
"And how was she so interested in us, pray?" said Mrs. Markham,
"Well, you see, she had an idea that a former husband was on board
of the Excelsior."
He stopped suddenly, remembering from the astonished faces of Keene
and Markham that the secret was not known to them, while they,
impressed with the belief that the story was a sudden invention of
Brimmer's, with difficulty preserved their composure. But the
women were quick to notice their confusion, and promptly
disbelieved Brimmer's explanation.
"Well, as there's no Mister Montgomery here, she's probably
mistaken," said Mrs. Markham, with decision, "though it strikes ME
that she's very likely had the same delusion on board of some other
ship. Come along, James; perhaps after you've had a bath and some
clean clothes, you may come out a little more like the man I once
knew. I don't know how Mrs. Brimmer feels, but I feel more as if I
required to be introduced to you--than your friend's friend, Mrs.
Montgomery. At any rate, try and look and behave a little more
decent when you go over to the Presidio."
With these words she dragged him away. Mr. Brimmer, after a futile
attempt to appear at his ease, promptly effected the usual marital
diversion of carrying the war into the enemy's camp.
"For heaven's sake, Barbara," he said, with ostentatious
indignation, "go and dress yourself properly. Had you neither
money nor credit to purchase clothes? I declare I didn't know you
at first; and when I did, I was shocked; before Mrs. Markham, too!"
"Mrs. Markham, I fear, has quite enough to occupy her now," said
Mrs. Brimmer shortly, as she turned away, with hysterically moist
eyes, leaving her husband to follow her.
Oblivious of this comedy, Richard Keene and Eleanor had already
wandered back, hand in hand, to their days of childhood. But even
in the joy that filled the young girl's heart in the presence of
her only kinsman, there was a strange reservation. The meeting
that she had looked forward to with eager longing had brought all
she expected; more than that, it seemed to have been providentially
anticipated at the moment of her greatest need, and yet it was
incomplete. She was ashamed that after the first recognition, a
wild desire to run to Hurlstone and tell HIM her happiness was her
only thought. She was shocked that the bright joyous face of this
handsome lovable boy could not shut out the melancholy austere
features of Hurlstone, which seemed to rise reproachfully between
them. When, for the third and fourth time, they had recounted
their past history, exchanged their confidences and feelings, Dick,
passing his arm around his sister's waist, looked down smilingly in
"And so, after all, little Nell, everybody has been good to you,
and you have been happy!"
"Everybody has been kind to me, Dick, far kinder than I deserved.
Even if I had really been the great lady that little Dona Isabel
thought I was, or the important person the Commander believed me to
be, I couldn't have been treated more kindly. I have met with
nothing but respect and attention. I have been very happy, Dick,
And with a little cry she threw herself on her brother's neck and
burst into a childlike flood of inconsistent tears.
Meantime the news of the arrival of the relief-party had penetrated
even the peaceful cloisters of the Mission, and Father Esteban had
been summoned in haste to the Council. He returned with an eager
face to Hurlstone, who had been anxiously awaiting him. When the
Padre had imparted the full particulars of the event to his
companion, he added gravely,--
"You see, my son, how Providence, which has protected you since you
first claimed the Church's sanctuary, has again interfered to spare
me the sacrifice of using the power of the Church in purely mundane
passions. I weekly accept the rebuke of His better-ordained ways,
and you, Diego, may comfort yourself that this girl is restored
directly to her brother's care, without any deviousness of plan or
human responsibility. You do not speak, my son!" continued the
priest anxiously; "can it be possible that, in the face of this
gracious approval of Providence to your resolution, you are
The young man replied, with a half reproachful gesture:
"Do you, then, think me still so weak? No, Father Esteban; I have
steeled myself against my selfishness for her sake. I could have
resigned her to the escape you had planned, believing her happier
for it, and ignorant of the real condition of the man she had
learnt to--to--pity. But," he added, turning suddenly and almost
rudely upon the priest, "do you know the meaning of this irruption
of the outer world to ME? Do you reflect that these men probably
know my miserable story?--that, as one of the passengers of the
Excelsior, they will be obliged to seek me and to restore me," he
added, with a bitter laugh, "to MY home, MY kindred--to the world I
"But you need not follow them. Remain here."
"Here!--with the door thrown open to any talebearer OR PERHAPS TO
MY WIFE HERSELF? Never! Hear me, Father," he went on hurriedly:
"these men have come from San Francisco--have been to Mazatlan.
Can you believe that it is possible that they have never heard of
this woman's search for me? No! The quest of hate is as strong as
the quest of love, and more merciless to the hunted."
"But if that were so, foolish boy, she would have accompanied
"You are wrong! It would have been enough for her to have sent my
exposure by them--to have driven me from this refuge."
"This is but futile fancy, Diego," said Father Esteban, with a
simulated assurance he was far from feeling. "Nothing has yet been
said--nothing may be said. Wait, my child."
"Wait!" he echoed bitterly. "Ay, wait until the poor girl shall
hear--perhaps from her brother's lips--the story of my marriage as
bandied about by others; wait for her to know that the man who
would have made her love him was another's, and unworthy of her
respect? No! it is I who must leave this place, and at once."
"YOU?" echoed the Padre. "How?"
"By the same means you would have used for her departure. I must
take her place in that ship you are expecting. You will give ME
letters to your friends. Perhaps, when this is over, I may return--
if I still live."
Padre Esteban became thoughtful.
"You will not refuse me?" said the young man, taking the Padre's
hand. "It is for the best, believe me. I will remain secret here
until then. You will invent some excuse--illness, or what you
like--to keep them from penetrating here. Above all, to spare me
from the misery of ever reading my secret in her face."
Father Esteban remained still absorbed in thought.
"You will take a letter from me to the Archbishop, and put yourself
under his care?" he asked at last, after a long pause. "You will
promise me that?"
"Then we shall see what can be done. They talk, those Americanos,"
continued the priest, "of making their way up the coast to Punta
St. Jago, where the ship they have already sent for to take them
away can approach the shore; and the Comandante has orders to
furnish them escort and transport to that point. It is a foolish
indiscretion of the Government, and I warrant without the sanction
of the Church. Already there is curiosity, discontent, and wild
talk among the people. Ah! thou sayest truly, my son," said the
old man, gloomily; "the doors of Todos Santos are open. The
Comandante will speed these heretics quickly on their way; but the
doors by which they came and whence they go will never close again.
But God's will be done! And if the open doors bring thee back, my
son, I shall not question His will!"
It would seem, however, as if Hurlstone's fears had been groundless.
For in the excitement of the succeeding days, and the mingling of
the party from San Antonio with the new-comers, the recluse had been
forgotten. So habitual, had been his isolation from the others,
that, except for the words of praise and gratitude hesitatingly
dropped by Miss Keene to her brother, his name was not mentioned,
and it might have been possible for the relieving party to have left
him behind--unnoticed. Mr. Brimmer, for domestic reasons, was quite
willing to allow the episode of Miss Montgomery's connection with
their expedition to drop for the present. Her name was only
recalled once by Miss Keene. When Dick had professed a sudden and
violent admiration for the coquettish Dona Isabel, Eleanor had
looked up in her brother's face with a half troubled air.
"Who was this queer Montgomery woman, Dick?" she said.
Dick laughed--a frank, reassuring, heart-free laugh.
"Perfectly stunning, Nell. Such a figure in tights! You ought to
have seen her dance--my!"
"Hush! I dare say she was horrid!"
"Not at all! She wasn't such a bad fellow, if you left out her
poetry and gush, which I didn't go in for much,--though the other
fellows"--he stopped, from a sudden sense of loyalty to Brimmer and
Markham. "No; you see, Nell, she was regularly ridiculously struck
after that man Perkins,--whom she'd never seen,--a kind of
schoolgirl worship for a pirate. You know how you women go in for
those fellows with a mystery about 'em."
"No, I don't!" said Miss Keene sharply, with a slight rise of
color; "and I don't see what that's got to do with you and her."
"Everything! She was in correspondence with Perkins, and knows
about the Excelsior affair, and wants to help him get out of it
with clean hands, don't you see! That's why she made up to us.
There, Nell; she ain't your style, of course; but you owe a heap to
her for giving us points as to where you were. But that's all over
now; she left us at Mazatlan, and went on to Nicaragua to meet
Perkins somewhere there--for the fellow has always got some Central
American revolution on hand, it appears. Until they garrote or
shoot him some day, he'll go on in the liberating business forever."
"Then there wasn't any Mr. Montgomery, of course?" said Eleanor.
"Oh, Mr. Montgomery," said Dick, hesitating. "Well, you see, Nell,
I think that, knowing how correct and all that sort of thing
Brimmer is, she sort of invented the husband to make her interest
look more proper."
"It's shameful!" said Miss Keene indignantly.
"Come, Nell; one would think you had a personal dislike to her.
Let her go; she won't trouble you--nor, I reckon, ANYBODY, much
"What do you mean, Dick?"
"I mean she has regularly exhausted and burnt herself out with her
hysterics and excitements, and the drugs she's taken to subdue
them--to say nothing of the Panama fever she got last spring. If
she don't go regularly crazy at last she'll have another attack of
fever, hanging round the isthmus waiting for Perkins."
Meanwhile, undisturbed by excitement or intrusion of the outer
world, the days had passed quietly at the Mission. But one
evening, at twilight, a swift-footed, lightly-clad Indian glided
into the sacristy as if he had slipped from the outlying fog, and
almost immediately as quietly glided away again and disappeared.
The next moment Father Esteban's gaunt and agitated face appeared
at Hurlstone's door.
"My son, God has been merciful, and cut short your probation. The
signal of the ship has just been made. Her boat will be waiting on
the beach two leagues from here an hour hence. Are you ready? and
are you still resolved?"
"I am," said Hurlstone, rising. "I have been prepared since you
The old man's lips quivered slightly, and the great brown hand laid
upon the table trembled for an instant; with a strong effort he
recovered himself, and said hurriedly,--
"Concho's mule is saddled and ready for you at the foot of the
garden. You will follow the beach a league beyond the Indians'
cross. In the boat will await you the trusty messenger of the
Church. You will say to him, 'Guadalajara,' and give him these
letters. One is to the captain. You will require no other
introduction." He laid the papers on the table, and, turning to
Hurlstone, lifted his tremulous hands in the air. "And now, my
son, may the grace of God"--
He faltered and stopped, his uplifted arms falling helplessly on
Hurlstone's shoulders. For an instant the young man supported him
in his arms, then placed him gently in the chair he had just
quitted, and for the first time in their intimacy dropped upon his
knee before him. The old man, with a faint smile, placed his hand
upon his companion's head. A breathless pause followed; Father
Esteban's lips moved silently. Suddenly the young man rose,
pressed his lips hurriedly to the Father's hand, and passed out
into the night.
The moon was already suffusing the dropping veil of fog above him
with that nebulous, mysterious radiance he had noticed the first
night he had approached the Mission. When he reached the cross he
dismounted, and gathering a few of the sweet-scented blossoms that
crept around its base, placed them in his breast. Then,
remounting, he continued his way until he came to the spot
designated by Concho as a fitting place to leave his tethered mule.
This done, he proceeded on foot about a mile further along the
hard, wet sand, his eyes fixed on the narrow strip of water and
shore before him that was yet uninvaded by the fog on either side.
The misty, nebulous light, the strange silence, broken only by the
occasional low hurried whisper of some spent wave that sent its
film of spume across his path, or filled his footprints behind him,
possessed him with vague presentiments and imaginings. At times he
fancied he heard voices at his side; at times indistinct figures
loomed through the mist before him. At last what seemed to be his
own shadow faintly impinged upon the mist at one side impressed him
so strongly that he stopped; the apparition stopped too.
Continuing a few hundred paces further, he stopped again; but this
time the ghostly figure passed on, and convinced him that it was no
shadow, but some one actually following him. With an angry
challenge he advanced towards it. It quickly retreated inland, and
was lost. Irritated and suspicious he turned back towards the
water, and was amazed to see before him, not twenty yards away, the
object of his quest--a boat, with two men in it, kept in position
by the occasional lazy dip of an oar. In the pursuit of his
mysterious shadow he had evidently overlooked it. As his own
figure emerged from the fog, the boat pulled towards him. The
priest's password was upon his lips, when he perceived that the TWO
men were common foreign sailors; the messenger of the Church was
evidently not there. Could it have been he who had haunted him?
He paused irresolutely. "Is there none other coming?" he asked.
The two men looked at each other. One said, "Quien sabe!" and
shrugged his shoulders. Hurlstone without further hesitation
The same dull wall of vapor--at times thickening to an almost
impenetrable barrier, and again half suffocating him in its soft
embrace--which he had breasted on the night he swam ashore, carried
back his thoughts to that time, now so remote and unreal. And
when, after a few moments' silent rowing, the boat approached a
black hulk that seemed to have started forward out of the gloom to
meet them, his vague recollection began to take a more definite
form. As he climbed up the companion-ladder and boarded the
vessel, an inexplicable memory came over him. A petty officer on
the gangway advanced silently and ushered him, half dazed and
bewildered, into the cabin. He glanced hurriedly around: the door
of a state-room opened, and disclosed the indomitable and affable
Senor Perkins! A slight expression of surprise, however, crossed
the features of the Liberator of Quinquinambo as he advanced with
"This is really a surprise, my dear fellow! I had no idea that YOU
were in this affair. But I am delighted to welcome you once more
to the Excelsior!"
THE RETURN OF THE EXCELSIOR.
Amazed and disconcerted, Hurlstone, nevertheless, retained his
presence of mind.
"There must be some mistake," he said coolly; "I am certainly not
the person you seem to be expecting."
"Were you not sent here by Winslow?" demanded Perkins.
"No. The person you are looking for is probably one I saw on the
shore. He no doubt became alarmed at my approach, and has allowed
me quite unwittingly to take his place in the boat."
Perkins examined Hurlstone keenly for a moment, stepped to the
door, gave a brief order, and returned.
"Then, if you did not intend the honor of this visit for me," he
resumed, with a smile, "may I ask, my dear fellow, whom you
expected to meet, and on what ship? There are not so many at Todos
Santos, if my memory serves me right, as to create confusion."
"I must decline to answer that question," said Hurlstone curtly.
The Senor smiled, with an accession of his old gentleness.
"My dear young friend," he said, "have you forgotten that on a far
more important occasion to YOU, I showed no desire to pry into your
secret?" Hurlstone made a movement of deprecation. "Nor have I
any such desire now. But for the sake of our coming to an
understanding as friends, let me answer the question for you. You
are here, my dear fellow, as a messenger from the Mission of Todos
Santos to the Ecclesiastical Commission from Guadalajara, whose
ship touches here every three years. It is now due. You have
mistaken this vessel for theirs."
Hurlstone remained silent.
"It is no secret," continued Senor Perkins blandly; "nor shall I
pretend to conceal MY purpose here, which is on the invitation of
certain distressed patriots of Todos Santos, to assist them in
their deliverance from the effete tyranny of the Church and its
Government. I have been fortunate enough to anticipate the arrival
of your vessel, as you were fortunate enough to anticipate the
arrival of my messenger. I am doubly fortunate, as it gives me the
pleasure of your company this evening, and necessitates no further
trouble than the return of the boat for the other gentleman--which
has already gone. Doubtless you may know him."
"I must warn you again, Senor Perkins," said Hurlstone sternly,
"that I have no connection with any political party; nor have I any
sympathy with your purpose against the constituted authorities."
"I am willing to believe that you have no political affinities at
all, my dear Mr. Hurlstone," returned Perkins, with unruffled
composure, "and, consequently, we will not argue as to what is the
constituted authority of Todos Santos. Perhaps to-morrow it may be
on board THIS SHIP, and I may still have the pleasure of making you
at home here!"
"Until then," said Hurlstone dryly, "at least you will allow me to
repair my error by returning to the shore."
"For the moment I hardly think it would be wise," replied Perkins
gently. "Allowing that you escaped the vigilance of my friends on
the shore, whose suspicions you have aroused, and who might do you
some injury, you would feel it your duty to inform those who sent
you of the presence of my ship, and thus precipitate a collision
between my friends and yours, which would be promotive of ill-
feeling, and perhaps bloodshed. You know my peaceful disposition,
Mr. Hurlstone; you can hardly expect me to countenance an act of
folly that would be in violation of it."
"In other words, having decoyed me here on board your ship, you
intend to detain me," said Hurlstone insultingly.
"'Decoy,'" said Perkins, in gentle deprecation, "'decoy' is hardly
the word I expected from a gentleman who has been so unfortunate as
to take, unsolicited and of his own free will, another person's
place in a boat. But," he continued, assuming an easy
argumentative attitude, "let us look at it from your view-point.
Let us imagine that YOUR ship had anticipated mine, and that MY
messenger had unwittingly gone on board of HER. What do you think
they would have done to him?"
"They would have hung him at the yard-arm, as he deserved," said
"You are wrong," said Perkins gently. "They would have given him
the alternative of betraying his trust, and confessing everything--
which he would probably have accepted. Pardon me!--this is no
insinuation against you," he interrupted,--"but I regret to say
that my experience with the effete Latin races of this continent
has not inspired me with confidence in their loyalty to trust. Let
me give you an instance," he continued, smiling: "the ship you are
expecting is supposed to be an inviolable secret of the Church, but
it is known to me--to my friends ashore--and even to you, my poor
friend, a heretic! More than that, I am told that the Comandante,
the Padre, and Alcalde are actually arranging to deport some of the
American women by this vessel, which has been hitherto sacred to
the emissaries of the Church alone. But you probably know this--it
is doubtless part of your errand. I only mention it to convince
you that I have certainly no need either to know your secrets, to
hang you from the yard-arm if you refused to give them up, or to
hold you as hostage for my messenger, who, as I have shown you, can
take care of himself. I shall not ask you for that secret despatch
you undoubtedly carry next your heart, because I don't want it.
You are at liberty to keep it until you can deliver it, or drop it
out of that port-hole into the sea--as you choose. But I hear the
boat returning," continued Perkins, rising gently from his seat as
the sound of oars came faintly alongside, "and no doubt with
Winslow's messenger. I am sorry you won't let me bring you
together. I dare say he knows all about you, and it really need
not alter your opinions."
"One moment," said Hurlstone, stunned, yet incredulous of Perkins's
revelations. "You said that both the Comandante and Alcalde had
arranged to send away certain ladies--are you not mistaken?"
"I think not," said Perkins quietly, looking over a pile of papers
on the table before him. "Yes, here it is," he continued, reading
from a memorandum: "'Don Ramon Ramirez arranged with Pepe for the
secret carrying off of Dona Barbara Brimmer.' Why, that was six
weeks ago, and here we have the Comandante suborning one Marcia, a
dragoon, to abduct Mrs. Markham--by Jove, my old friend!--and Dona
Leonor--our beauty, was she not? Yes, here it is: in black and
white. Read it, if you like,--and pardon me for one moment, while
I receive this unlucky messenger."
Left to himself, Hurlstone barely glanced at the memorandum, which
seemed to be the rough minutes of some society. He believed
Perkins; but was it possible that the Padre could be ignorant of
the designs of his fellow-councilors? And if he were not--if he
had long before been in complicity with them for the removal of
Eleanor, might he not also have duped him, Hurlstone, and sent him
on this mission as a mere blind; and--more infamously--perhaps even
thus decoyed him on board the wrong ship? No--it was impossible!
His honest blood quickly flew to his cheek at that momentary
Nevertheless, the Senor's bland revelations filled him with vague
uneasiness. SHE was safe with her brother now; but what if he and
the other Americans were engaged in this ridiculous conspiracy,
this pot-house rebellion that Father Esteban had spoken of, and
which he had always treated with such contempt? It seemed strange
that Perkins had said nothing of the arrival of the relieving party
from the Gulf, and its probable effect on the malcontents. Did he
know it? or was the news now being brought by this messenger whom
he, Hurlstone, had supplanted? If so, when and how had Perkins
received the intelligence that brought him to Todos Santos? The
young man could scarcely repress a bitter smile as he remembered
the accepted idea of Todos Santos' inviolability--that inaccessible
port that had within six weeks secretly summoned Perkins to its
assistance! And it was there he believed himself secure! What
security had he at all? Might not this strange, unimpassioned,
omniscient man already know HIS secret as he had known the others'?
The interview of Perkins with the messenger in the next cabin was a
long one, and apparently a stormy one on the part of the newcomer.
Hurlstone could hear his excited foreign voice, shrill with the
small vehemence of a shallow character; but there was no change in
the slow, measured tones of the Senor. He listlessly began to turn
over the papers on the table. Presently he paused. He had taken
up a sheet of paper on which Senor Perkins had evidently been
essaying some composition in verse. It seemed to have been of a
lugubrious character. The titular line at the top of the page,
"Dirge," had been crossed out for the substituted "In Memoriam."
He read carelessly:
"O Muse unmet--but not unwept--
I seek thy sacred haunt in vain.
Too late, alas! the tryst is kept--
We may not meet again!
"I sought thee 'midst the orange bloom,
To find that thou hadst grasped the palm
Of martyr, and the silent tomb
Had hid thee in its calm.
"By fever racked, thou languishest
Hurlstone threw the paper aside. Although he had not forgotten the
Senor's reputation for sentimental extravagance, and on another
occasion might have laughed at it, there was something so monstrous
in this hysterical, morbid composition of the man who was even then
contemplating bloodshed and crime, that he was disgusted. Like
most sentimental egotists, Hurlstone was exceedingly intolerant of
that quality in others, and he turned for relief to his own
thoughts of Eleanor Keene and his own unfortunate passion. HE
could not have written poetry at such a moment!
But the cabin-door opened, and Senor Perkins appeared. Whatever
might have been the excited condition of his unknown visitor, the
Senor's round, clean-shaven face was smiling and undisturbed by
emotion. As his eye fell on the page of manuscript Hurlstone had
just cast down, a slight shadow crossed his beneficent expanse of
forehead, and deepened in his soft dark eyes; but the next moment
it was chased away by his quick recurring smile. Even thus
transient and superficial was his feeling, thought Hurlstone.
"I have some news for you," said Perkins affably, "which may alter
your decision about returning. My friends ashore," he continued,
"judging from the ingenuous specimen which has just visited me, are
more remarkable for their temporary zeal and spasmodic devotion
than for prudent reserve or lasting discretion. They have
submitted a list to me of those whom they consider dangerous to
Mexican liberty, and whom they are desirous of hanging. I regret
to say that the list is illogical, and the request inopportune.
Our friend Mr. Banks is put down as an ally of the Government and
an objectionable business rival of that eminent patriot and well-
known drover, Senor Martinez, who just called upon me. Mr.
Crosby's humor is considered subversive of a proper respect for all
patriotism; but I cannot understand why they have added YOUR name
as especially 'dangerous.'"
Hurlstone made a gesture of contempt.
"I suppose they pay me the respect of considering me a friend of
the old priest. So be it! I hope they will let the responsibility
fall on me alone."
"The Padre is already proscribed as one of the Council," said Senor
"Do you mean to say," said Hurlstone impetuously, "that you will
permit a hair of that innocent old man's head to be harmed by those
"You are generous but hasty, my friend," said Senor Perkins, in
gentle deprecation. "Allow me to put your question in another way.
Ask me if I intend to perpetuate the Catholic Church in Todos
Santos by adding another martyr to its roll, and I will tell you--
No! I need not say that I am equally opposed to any proceedings
against Banks, Crosby, and yourself, for diplomatic reasons, apart
from the kindly memories of our old associations on this ship. I
have therefore been obliged to return to the excellent Martinez his
little list, with the remark that I should hold HIM personally
responsible if any of you are molested. There is, however, no
danger. Messrs. Banks and Crosby are with the other Americans,
whom we have guaranteed to protect, at the Mission, in the care of
your friend the Padre. You are surprised! Equally so was the
Padre. Had you delayed your departure an hour you would have met
them, and I should have been debarred the pleasure of your company.
"By to-morrow," continued Perkins, placing the tips of his fingers
together reflectively, "the Government of Todos Santos will have
changed hands, and without bloodshed. You look incredulous! My
dear young friend, it has been a part of my professional pride to
show the world that these revolutions can be accomplished as
peacefully as our own changes of administration. But for a few
infelicitous accidents, this would have been the case of the late
liberation of Quinquinambo. The only risk run is to myself--the
leader, and that is as it should be. But all this personal
explanation is, doubtless, uninteresting to you, my young friend.
I meant only to say that, if you prefer not to remain here, you can
accompany me when I leave the ship at nine o'clock with a small
reconnoitring party, and I will give you safe escort back to your
friends at the Mission."
This amicable proposition produced a sudden revulsion of feeling in
Hurlstone. To return to those people from whom he was fleeing, in
what was scarcely yet a serious emergency, was not to be thought
of! Yet, where could he go? How could he be near enough to assist
HER without again openly casting his lot among them? And would
they not consider his return an act of cowardice? He could not
restrain a gesture of irritation as he rose impatiently to his
"You are agitated, my dear fellow. It is not unworthy of your
youth; but, believe me, it is unnecessary," said Perkins, in his
most soothing manner. "Sit down. You have an hour yet to make
your decision. If you prefer to remain, you will accompany the
ship to Todos Santos and join me."
"I don't comprehend you," interrupted Hurlstone suspiciously.
"I forgot," said Perkins, with a bland smile, "that you are unaware
of our plan of campaign. After communicating with the insurgents,
I land here with a small force to assist them. I do this to
anticipate any action and prevent the interference of the Mexican
coaster, now due, which always touches here through ignorance of
the channel leading to the Bay of Todos Santos and the Presidio. I
then send the Excelsior, that does know the channel, to Todos
Santos, to appear before the Presidio, take the enemy in flank, and
cooperate with us. The arrival of the Excelsior there is the last
move of this little game, if I may so call it: it is 'checkmate to
the King,' the clerical Government of Todos Santos."
A little impressed, in spite of himself, with the calm forethought
and masterful security of the Senor, Hurlstone thanked him with a
greater show of respect than he had hitherto evinced. The Senor
looked gratified, but unfortunately placed that respect the next
moment in peril.
"You were possibly glancing over these verses," he said, with a
hesitating and almost awkward diffidence, indicating the manuscript
Hurlstone had just thrown aside. "It is merely the first rough
draft of a little tribute I had begun to a charming friend. I
sometimes," he interpolated, with an apologetic smile, "trifle with
the Muse. Perhaps I ought not to use the word 'trifle' in
connection with a composition of a threnodial and dirge-like
character," he continued deprecatingly. "Certainly not in the
presence of a gentleman as accomplished and educated as yourself,
to whom recreation of this kind is undoubtedly familiar. My
occupations have been, unfortunately, of a nature not favorable to
the indulgence of verse. As a college man yourself, my dear sir,
you will probably forgive the lucubrations of an old graduate of
William and Mary's, who has forgotten his 'ars poetica.' The
verses you have possibly glanced at are crude, I am aware, and
perhaps show the difficulty of expressing at once the dictates of
the heart and the brain. They refer to a dear friend now at peace.
You have perhaps, in happier and more careless hours, heard me
speak of Mrs. Euphemia M'Corkle, of Illinois?"
Hurlstone remembered indistinctly to have heard, even in his
reserved exclusiveness on the Excelsior, the current badinage of
the passengers concerning Senor Perkins' extravagant adulation of
this unknown poetess. As a part of the staple monotonous humor of
the voyage, it had only disgusted him. With a feeling that he was
unconsciously sharing the burlesque relief of the passengers, he
said, with a polite attempt at interest,
"Then the lady is--no more?"
"If that term can be applied to one whose work is immortal,"
corrected Senor Perkins gently. "All that was finite of this
gifted woman was lately forwarded by Adams's Express Company from
San Juan, to receive sepulture among her kindred at Keokuk, Iowa."
"Did she say she was from that place?" asked Hurlstone, with half
"The Consul says she gave that request to the priest."
"Then you were not with her when she died?" said Hurlstone
"I was NEVER with her, neither then nor before," returned Senor
Perkins gravely. Seeing Hurlstone's momentary surprise, he went
on, "The late Mrs. M'Corkle and I never met--we were personally
unknown to each other. You may have observed the epithet 'unmet'
in the first line of the first stanza; you will then understand
that the privation of actual contact with this magnetic soul would
naturally impart more difficulty into elegiac expression."
"Then you never really saw the lady you admire?" said Hurlstone
"Never. The story is a romantic one," said Perkins, with a smile
that was half complacent and yet half embarrassed. "May I tell it
to you? Thanks. Some three years ago I contributed some verses to
the columns of a Western paper edited by a friend of mine. The
subject chosen was my favorite one, 'The Liberation of Mankind,' in
which I may possibly have expressed myself with some poetic fervor
on a theme so dear to my heart. I may remark without vanity, that
it received high encomiums--perhaps at some more opportune moment
you may be induced to cast your eyes over a copy I still retain--
but no praise touched me as deeply as a tribute in verse in another
journal from a gifted unknown, who signed herself 'Euphemia.' The
subject of the poem, which was dedicated to myself, was on the
liberation of women--from--er--I may say certain domestic shackles;
treated perhaps vaguely, but with grace and vigor. I replied a
week later in a larger poem, recording more fully my theories and
aspirations regarding a struggling Central American confederacy,
addressed to 'Euphemia.' She rejoined with equal elaboration and
detail, referring to a more definite form of tyranny in the
relations of marriage, and alluding with some feeling to
uncongenial experiences of her own. An instinct of natural
delicacy, veiled under the hyperbole of 'want of space,' prevented
my editorial friend from encouraging the repetition of this
charming interchange of thought and feeling. But I procured the
fair stranger's address; we began a correspondence, at once
imaginative and sympathetic in expression, if not always poetical
in form. I was called to South America by the Macedonian cry of
'Quinquinambo!' I still corresponded with her. When I returned to
Quinquinambo I received letters from her, dated from San Francisco.
I feel that my words could only fail, my dear Hurlstone, to convey
to you the strength and support I derived from those impassioned
breathings of aid and sympathy at that time. Enough for me to
confess that it was mainly due to the deep womanly interest that
SHE took in the fortunes of the passengers of the Excelsior that I
gave the Mexican authorities early notice of their whereabouts.
But, pardon me,"--he stopped hesitatingly, with a slight flush, as
he noticed the utterly inattentive face and attitude of Hurlstone,--
"I am boring you. I am forgetting that this is only important to
myself," he added, with a sigh. "I only intended to ask your
advice in regard to the disposition of certain manuscripts and
effects of hers, which are unconnected with our acquaintance. I
thought, perhaps, I might entrust them to your delicacy and
consideration. They are here, if you choose to look them over; and
here is also what I believe to be a daguerreotype of the lady
herself, but in which I fail to recognize her soul and genius."
He laid a bundle of letters and a morocco case on the table with a
carelessness that was intended to hide a slight shade of
disappointment in his face--and rose.
"I beg your pardon," said Hurlstone, in confused and remorseful
apology; "but I frankly confess that my thoughts WERE preoccupied.
Pray forgive me. If you will leave these papers with me, I promise