Part 4 out of 5
"I do not trust that man. His tongue is sweet and his face is handsome,
but always when I meet him I feel a little afraid, although it goes away
in a minute. The Senor Dumas says that a woman's instincts--"
"To perdition with Senor Dumas! Does he say that a chit's instincts are
better than her mother's? Don Abel throws about the money like rocks.
He has the best horses at the races. He tells me that he has a house in
"San Francisco. And I would not live in that bleak and sandy waste. Did
you notice how he limped at the ball last night?"
"No. What of that? But I am not in love with Don Abel Hudson if thou art
so set against him. It is true that no one knows just who he is, now I
think of it. I had not made up my mind that he was the husband for thee.
But let it be an American, my Eulogia. Even when they have no money they
will work for it, and that is what no Californian will do--"
But Eulogia had run out of the room: she rarely listened to the end of
her mother's harangues. She draped a reboso about her head, and went
over to the house of Graciosa La Cruz. Her friend was sitting by her
bedroom window, trimming a yellow satin bed-spread with lace, and
Eulogia took up a half-finished sheet and began fastening the drawn
threads into an intricate pattern.
"Only ten days more, my Graciosa," she said mischievously. "Art thou
going to run back to thy mother in thy night-gown, like Josefita
"Never will I be such a fool! Eulogia, I have a husband for thee."
"To the tunnel of the mission with husbands! I shall be an old maid like
Aunt Anastacia, fat, with black whiskers."
Graciosa laughed. "Thou wilt marry and have ten children."
"By every station in the mission I will not. Why bring more women into
the world to suffer?"
"Ay, Eulogia! thou art always saying things I cannot understand and that
thou shouldst not think about. But I have a husband for thee. He came
from Los Angeles this morning, and is a friend of my Carlos. His name is
not so pretty--Tomas Garfias. There he rides now."
Eulogia looked out of the window with little curiosity. A small young
man was riding down the street on a superb horse coloured like golden
bronze, with silver mane and tail. His saddle of embossed leather was
heavily mounted with silver; the spurs were inlaid with gold and silver,
and the straps of the latter were worked with gleaming metal threads. He
wore a light red serape, heavily embroidered and fringed. His botas of
soft deerskin, dyed a rich green and stamped with Aztec Eagles, were
tied at the knee by a white silk cord wound about the leg and finished
with heavy silver tassels. His short breeches were trimmed with gold
lace. As he caught Graciosa's eye he raised his sombrero, then rode
through the open door of a neighbouring saloon and tossed off an
American drink without dismounting from his horse.
Eulogia lifted her shoulders. "I like his saddle and his horse, but he
is too small. Still, a new man is not disagreeable. When shall I meet
"To-night, my Eulogia. He goes with us to Miramar."
A party of young people started that night for a ball at Miramar, the
home of Don Polycarpo Quijas. Many a caballero had asked the lady of
his choice to ride on his saddle while he rode on the less comfortable
aquera behind and guided his horse with arm as near her waist as he
dared. Dona Pomposa, with a small brood under her wing, started last of
all in an American wagon. The night was calm, the moon was high, the
party very gay.
Abel Hudson and the newcomer, Don Tomas Garfias, sat on either side of
Eulogia, and she amused herself at the expense of both.
"Don Tomas says that he is handsomer than the men of San Luis," she said
to Hudson. "Do not you think he is right? See what a beautiful curl his
mustachios have, and what a droop his eyelids. Holy Mary!--how that
yellow ribbon becomes his hair! Ay, senor! Why have you come to dazzle
the eyes of the poor girls of San Luis Obispo?"
"Ah, senorita," said the little dandy, "it will do their eyes good to
see an elegant young man from the city. And they should see my sister.
She would teach them how to dress and arrange their hair."
"Bring her to teach us, senor, and for reward we will find her a tall
and modest husband such as the girls of San Luis Obispo admire. Don
Abel, why do you not boast of your sisters? Have you none, nor mother,
nor father, nor brother? I never hear you speak of them. Maybe you grow
alone out of the earth."
Hudson's gaze wandered to the canon they were approaching. "I am alone,
senorita; a lonely man in a strange land."
"Is that the reason why you are such a traveller, senor? Are you never
afraid, in your long lonely rides over the mountains, of that dreadful
bandit, John Power, who murders whole families for the sack of gold they
have under the floor? I hope you always carry plenty of pistols, senor."
"True, dear senorita. It is kind of you to put me on my guard. I never
had thought of this man."
"This devil, you mean. When last night I saw you come limping into the
"Ay, yi, yi, Dios!" "Maria!" "Dios de mi alma!" "Dios de mi vida!"
A wheel had given way, and the party was scattered about the road.
No one was hurt, but loud were the lamentations. No Californian had ever
walked six miles, and the wheel was past repair. But Abel Hudson came to
"Leave it to me," he said. "I pledge myself to get you there," and he
went off in the direction of a ranch-house.
"Ay! the good American! The good American!" cried the girls. "Eulogia!
how canst thou be so cold to him? The handsome stranger with the kind
"His heart is like the Sacramento Valley, veined with gold instead of
blood." "Holy Mary!" she cried some moments later, "what is he bringing?
The wagon of the country!"
Abel Hudson was standing erect on the low floor of a wagon drawn by two
strong black mules. The wagon was a clumsy affair,--a large wooden frame
covered with rawhide, and set upon a heavy axle. The wheels were made of
solid sections of trees, and the harness was of greenhide. An Indian boy
sat astride one of the mules. On either side rode a vaquero, with his
reata fastened to the axle-tree.
"This is the best I can do," said Hudson. "There is probably not another
American wagon between San Luis and Miramar. Do you think you can stand
The girls shrugged their pretty shoulders. The men swore into their
mustachios. Dona Pomposa groaned at the prospect of a long ride in a
springless wagon. But no one was willing to return, and when Eulogia
jumped lightly in, all followed, and Hudson placed them as comfortably
as possible, although they were obliged to sit on the floor.
The wagon jolted down the canon, the mules plunging, the vaqueros
shouting; but the moon glittered like a silvered snow peak, the wild
green forest was about them, and even Eulogia grew a little sentimental
as Abel Hudson's blue eyes bent over hers and his curly head cut off
Dona Pomposa's view.
"Dear senorita," he said, "thy tongue is very sharp, but thou hast a
kind heart. Hast thou no place in it for Abel Hudson?"
"In the sala, senor--where many others are received--with mamma and Aunt
Anastacia sitting in the corner."
He laughed. "Thou wilt always jest! But I would take all the rooms, and
turn every one out, even to Dona Pomposa and Dona Anastacia!"
"And leave me alone with you! God of my soul! How I should yawn!"
"Oh, yes, Dona Coquetta, I am used to such pretty little speeches. When
you began to yawn I should ride away, and you would be glad to see me
when I returned."
"What would you bring me from the mountains, senor?"
He looked at her steadily. "Gold, senorita. I know of many rich veins.
I have a little canon suspected by no one else, where I pick out a sack
full of gold in a day. Gold makes the life of a beloved wife very sweet,
"In truth I should like the gold better than yourself, senor," said
Eulogia, frankly. "For if you will have the truth--Ay! Holy heaven! This
is worse than the other!"
A lurch, splash, and the party with shrill cries sprang to their feet;
the low cart was filling with water. They had left the canon and were
crossing a slough; no one had remembered that it would be high tide. The
girls, without an instant's hesitation, whipped their gowns up round
their necks; but their feet were wet and their skirts draggled. They
made light of it, however, as they did of everything, and drove up to
Miramar amidst high laughter and rattling jests.
Dona Luisa Quijas, a handsome shrewd-looking woman, magnificently
dressed in yellow satin, the glare and sparkle of jewels on her neck,
came out upon the corridor to meet them.
"What is this? In a wagon of the country! An accident? Ay, Dios de mi
vida, the slough! Come in--quick! quick! I will give you dry clothes.
Trust these girls to take care of their gowns. Mary! What wet feet!
Quick! quick! This way, or you will have red noses to-morrow," and she
led them down the corridor, past the windows through which they could
see the dancers in the sala, and opened the door of her bedroom.
"There, my children, help yourselves," and she pulled out the capacious
drawers of her chest. "All is at your service." She lifted out an armful
of dry underclothing, then went to the door of an adjoining room and
listened, her hand uplifted.
"Didst thou have to lock him up?" asked Dona Pomposa, as she drew on a
pair of Dona Luisa's silk stockings.
"Yes! yes! And such a time, my friend! Thou knowest that after I fooled
him the last time he swore I never should have another ball. But, Dios
de mi alma! I never was meant to be bothered with a husband, and have I
not given him three children twenty times handsomer than himself? Is not
that enough? By the soul of Saint Luis the Bishop, I will continue to
promise, and then get absolution at the mission, but I will not perform!
Well, he was furious, my friend; he had spent a sack of gold on that
ball, and he swore I never should have another. So this time I invited
my guests, and told him nothing. At seven to-night I persuaded him into
his room, and locked the door. But, madre de Dios! Diego had forgotten
to screw down the window, and he got out. I could not get him back,
Pomposa, and his big nose was purple with rage. He swore that he would
turn every guest away from the door; he swore that he would be taking
a bath on the corridor when they came up, and throw insults in their
faces. Ay, Pomposa! I went down on my knees. I thought I should not have
my ball--such cakes as I had made, and such salads! But Diego saved me.
He went into Don Polycarpo's room and cried 'Fire!' Of course the old
man ran there, and then we locked him in. Diego had screwed down the
window first. Dios de mi vida! but he is terrible, that man! What have I
done to be punished with him?"
"Thou art too handsome and too cruel, my Luisa. But, in truth, he is an
old wild-cat. The saints be praised that he is safe for the night. Did
"Swear! He has cursed the skin off his throat and is quiet now. Come, my
little ones, are you ready? The caballeros are dry in Diego's clothes by
this time, and waiting for their waltzes;" and she drove them through
the door into the sala with a triumphant smile on her dark sparkling
The rest of the party had been dancing for an hour, and all gathered
about the girls to hear the story of the accident, which was told
with many variations. Eulogia as usual was craved for dances, but she
capriciously divided her favours between Abel Hudson and Don Tomas
Garfias. During the intervals, when the musicians were silent and the
girls played the guitar or threw cascarones at their admirers, she sat
in the deep window-seat watching the ponderous waves of the Pacific hurl
themselves against the cliffs, whilst Hudson pressed close to her side,
disregarding the insistence of Garfias. Finally, the little Don from the
City of the Angels went into the dining room to get a glass of angelica,
and Hudson caught at his chance.
"Senorita," he exclaimed, interrupting one of her desultory remarks,
"for a year I have loved you, and, for many reasons, I have not dared to
tell you. I must tell you now. I have no reason to think you care more
for me than for a dozen other men, but if you will marry me, senorita,
I will build you a beautiful American house in San Luis Obispo, and you
can then be with your friends when business calls me away."
"And where will you live when you are away from me?" asked Eulogia,
carelessly. "In a cave in the mountains? Be careful of the bandits."
"Senorita," he replied calmly, "I do not know what you mean by the
things you say sometimes. Perhaps you have the idea that I am another
person--John Power, or Pio Lenares, for instance. Do you wish me to
bring you a certificate to the effect that I am Abel Hudson? I can do
so, although I thought that Californians disdained the written form
and trusted to each other's honour, even to the selling of cattle and
"You are not a Californian."
"Ah, senorita--God! what is that?"
A tremendous knocking at the outer door sounded above the clear soprano
of Graciosa La Cruz.
"A late guest, no doubt. You are white like the wall. I think the low
ceilings are not so good for your health, senor, as the sharp air of the
mountains. Ay, Dios!" The last words came beneath her breath, and
she forgot Abel Hudson. The front doors had been thrown open, and a
caballero in riding-boots and a dark scrape wound about his tall figure
had entered the room and flung his sombrero and saddle-bags into a
corner. It was Pablo Ignestria.
"At your feet, senora," he said to Dona Luisa, who held out both hands,
welcome on her charming face. "I am an uninvited guest, but when I
arrived at San Luis and found that all the town had come to one of Dona
Luisa's famous balls, I rode on, hoping that for friendship's sake she
would open her hospitable doors to a wanderer, and let him dance off the
stiffness of a long ride."
"You are welcome, welcome, Pablo," said Dona Luisa. "Go to the dining
room and get a glass of aguardiente; then come back and dance until
Ignestria left the room with Diego Quijas, but returned in a few moments
and walked directly over to Eulogia, ignoring the men who stood about
"Give me this dance," he whispered eagerly. "I have something to say to
thee. I have purposely come from Monterey to say it."
Eulogia was looking at him with angry eyes, her brain on fire. But
curiosity triumphed, and she put her hand on his shoulder as the
musicians swept their guitars with lithe fingers, scraped their violins,
and began the waltz.
"Eulogia!" exclaimed Ignestria; "dost thou suspect why I have returned?"
"Why should I suspect what I have not thought about?"
"Ay, Eulogia! Art thou as saucy as ever? But I will tell thee, beloved
one. The poor girl who bore my name is dead, and I have come to beg an
answer to my letter. Ay, little one, I _feel_ thy love. Why couldst thou
not have sent me one word? I was so angry when passed week after week
and no answer came, that in a fit of spleen I married the poor sick
girl. And what I suffered, Eulogia, after that mad act! Long ago I told
myself that I should have come back for my answer, that you had sworn
you would write no letter; I should have let you have your little
caprices, but I did not reason until--"
"I answered your letter!" exclaimed Eulogia, furiously. "You know that
I answered it! You only wished to humble me because I had sworn I would
write to no man. Traitor! I hate you! You were engaged to the girl all
the time you were here."
"Eulogia! Believe! Believe!"
"I would not believe you if you kissed the cross! You said to yourself,
'That little coquette, I will teach her a lesson. To think the little
chit should fancy an elegant Montereno could fall in love with her!' Ah!
ha! Oh, Dios! I hate thee, thou false man-of-the-world! Thou art the
very picture of the men I have read about in the books of the Senor
Dumas; and yet I was fooled by thy first love-word! But I never loved
you. Never, never! It was only a fancy--because you were from Monterey.
I am glad you did not get my letter, for I hate you! Mother of Christ! I
He whirled her into the dining room. No one else was there. He kissed
her full on the mouth.
"Dost thou believe me now?" he asked.
She raised her little hand and struck him on the face, but the sting was
not hotter than her lips had been.
"May the saints roll you in perdition!" she cried hoarsely. "May they
thrust burning coals into the eyes that lied to me! May the devils bite
off the fingers that made me shame myself! God! God! I hate you! I--I,
who have fooled so many men, to have been rolled in the dust by you!"
He drew back and regarded her sadly.
"I see that it is no use to try to convince you," he said; "and I have
no proof to show that I never received your letter. But while the stars
jewel the heavens, Eulogia, I shall love thee and believe that thou
He opened the door, and she swept past him into the sala. Abel Hudson
stepped forward to offer his arm, and for the moment Pablo forgot
"John Power!" he cried.
Hudson, with an oath, leaped backward, sprang upon the window-seat, and
smashing the pane with his powerful hand disappeared before the startled
men thought of stopping him.
"Catch him! Catch him!" cried Ignestria, excitedly. "It is John Power.
He stood me up a year ago."
He whipped his pistol from the saddle-bags in the corner, and opening
the door ran down the road, followed by the other men, shouting and
firing their pistols into the air. But they were too late. Power had
sprung upon Ignestria's horse, and was far on his way.
The next day Eulogia went with her mother and Aunt Anastacia to pay a
visit of sympathy to Dona Jacoba at Los Quervos. Eulogia's eyes were not
so bright nor her lips so red as they had been the night before, and
she had little to say as the wagon jolted over the rough road, past the
cypress fences, then down between the beautiful tinted hills of Los
Quervos. Dona Pomposa sat forward on the high seat, her feet dangling
just above the floor, her hands crossed as usual over her stomach, a
sudden twirl of thumbs punctuating her remarks. She wore a loose black
gown trimmed with ruffles, and a black reboso about her head. Aunt
Anastacia was attired in a like manner, but clutched the side of the
wagon with one hand and an American sunshade with the other.
"Poor Jacoba!" exclaimed Dona Pomposa; "her stern heart is heavy this
day. But she has such a sense of her duty, Anastacia. Only that makes
her so stern."
"O-h-h-h, y-e-e-s." When Aunt Anastacia was preoccupied or excited,
these words came from her with a prolonged outgoing and indrawing.
"I must ask her for the recipe for those cakes--the lard ones,
Anastacia. I have lost it."
"O-h-h, y-e-e-s. I love those cakes. Madre de Dios! It is hot!"
"I wonder will she give Eulogia a mantilla when the chit marries. She
has a chest full."
"Surely. Jacoba is generous."
"Poor my friend! Ay, her heart--Holy Mary! What is that?"
She and Aunt Anastacia stumbled to their feet. The sound of pistol shots
was echoing between the hills. Smoke was rising from the willow forest
that covered the centre of the valley.
The Indian whipped up his horses with an excited grunt, the two old
women reeling and clutching wildly at each other. At the same time they
noticed a crowd of horsemen galloping along the hill which a sudden turn
in the road had opened to view.
"It is the Vigilantes," said Eulogia, calmly, from the front seat. "They
are after John Power and Pio Lenares and their lieutenants. After that
awful murder in the mountains the other day, the men of San Luis and the
ranchos swore they would hunt them out, and this morning they traced
them to Los Quervos. I suppose they have made a barricade in the
willows, and the Vigilantes are trying to fire them out."
"Heart of Saint Peter! Thou little brat! Why didst thou not tell us of
this before, and not let us come here to be shot by flying bullets?"
"I forgot," said Eulogia, indifferently.
They could see nothing; but curiosity, in spite of fear, held them to
the spot. Smoke and cries, shouts and curses, came from the willows;
flocks of agitated crows circled screaming through the smoke. The men
on the hill, their polished horses and brilliant attire flashing in the
sun, kept up a ceaseless galloping, hallooing, and waving of sombreros.
The beautiful earth-green and golden hills looked upon a far different
scene from the gay cavalcades to which they were accustomed. Even Don
Roberto Duncan, a black silk handkerchief knotted about his head, was
dashing, on his gray horse, up and down the valley between the hills and
the willows, regardless of chance bullets. And over all shone the same
old sun, indifferent alike to slaughter and pleasure.
"Surely, Anastacia, all those bullets must shoot some one."
"O--h--h, y--e--e--s." Her sister was grasping the sunshade with both
hands, her eyes starting from her head, although she never removed their
gaze from the central volume of smoke.
"Ay, we can sleep in peace if those murdering bandits are killed!"
exclaimed Dona Pomposa. "I have said a rosary every night for five years
that they might be taken. And, holy heaven! To think that we have been
petting the worst of them as if he were General Castro or Juan Alvarado.
To think, my Eulogia!--that thirsty wild-cat has had his arm about thy
waist more times than I can count."
"He danced very well--aha!"
Aunt Anastacia gurgled like an idiot. Dona Pomposa gave a terrific
shriek, which Eulogia cut in two with her hand. A man had crawled out of
the brush near them. His face was black with powder, one arm hung limp
at his side. Dona Pomposa half raised her arm to signal the men on the
hill, but her daughter gave it such a pinch that she fell back on the
seat, faint for a moment.
"Let him go," said Eulogia. "Do you want to see a man cut in pieces
before your eyes? You would have to say rosaries for the rest of your
life." She leaned over the side of the wagon and spoke to the dazed man,
whose courage seemed to have deserted him.
"Don Abel Hudson, you do not look so gallant as at the ball last night,
but you helped us to get there, and I will save you now. Get into the
wagon, and take care you crawl in like a snake that you may not be
"No--no!" cried the two older women, but in truth they were too
terrified not to submit. Power swung himself mechanically over the
wheel, and lay on the floor of the wagon. Eulogia, in spite of a
protesting whimper from Aunt Anastacia, loosened that good dame's ample
outer skirt and threw it over the fallen bandit. Then the faithful
Benito turned his horse and drove as rapidly toward the town as the
rough roads would permit. They barely had started when they heard a
great shouting behind them, and turned in apprehension, whilst the man
on the floor groaned aloud in his fear. But the Vigilantes rode by
them unsuspecting. Across their saddles they carried the blackened and
dripping bodies of Lenares and his lieutenants; through the willows
galloped the caballeros in search of John Power. But they did not
find him, then nor after. Dona Pomposa hid him in her woodhouse until
midnight, when he stole away and was never seen near San Luis again. A
few years later came the word that he had been assassinated by one of
his lieutenants in Lower California, and his body eaten by wild hogs.
"Al contado plasentero
Del primer beso de amor,
Un fuego devorador
Que en mi pecho siento ardor.
"Y no me vuelvas a besar
Por que me quema tu aliento,
Ya desfayeserme siento,
Mas enbriagada de amor.
"Si a cuantas estimas, das
Beso en pruebas de amor;
Si me amas hasme el favor
De no besarme jamas."
A caballero on a prancing horse sang beneath Eulogia's window, his
jingling spurs keeping time to the tinkling of his guitar. Eulogia
turned over in bed, pulling the sheet above her ears, and went to sleep.
The next day, when Don Tomas Garfias asked her hand of her mother, Dona
Coquetta accepted him with a shrug of her shoulders.
"And thou lovest me, Eulogia?" murmured the enraptured little dandy as
Dona Pomposa and Aunt Anastacia good-naturedly discussed the composition
of American pies.
"Ay! senorita! Why, then, dost thou marry me? No one compels thee."
"It pleases me. What affair of thine are my reasons if I consent to
"Oh, Eulogia, I believe thou lovest me! Why not? Many pretty girls have
done so before thee. Thou wishest only to tease me a little."
"Well, do not let me see too much of you before the wedding-day, or I
may send you back to those who admire you more than I do."
"Perhaps it is well that I go to San Francisco to remain three months,"
said the young man, sulkily; he had too much vanity to be enraged. "Wilt
thou marry me as soon as I return?"
"As well then as any other time."
Garfias left San Luis a few days later to attend to important business
in San Francisco, and although Dona Pomposa and Aunt Anastacia began at
once to make the wedding outfit, Eulogia appeared to forget that she
ever had given a promise of marriage. She was as great a belle as ever,
for no one believed that she would keep faith with any man, much less
with such a ridiculous scrap as Garfias. Her flirtations were more
calmly audacious than ever, her dancing more spirited; in every frolic
she was the leader.
Suddenly Dona Pomposa was smitten with rheumatism. She groaned by night
and shouted by day. Eulogia, whose patience was not great, organized
a camping party to the sulphur springs of the great rancho, Paso des
Robles. The young people went on horseback; Dona Pomposa and Aunt
Anastacia in the wagon with the tents and other camping necessities.
Groans and shrieks mingled with the careless laughter of girls and
caballeros, who looked upon rheumatism as the inevitable sister of old
age; but when they entered the park-like valley after the ride over the
beautiful chrome mountains, Dona Pomposa declared that the keen dry air
had already benefited her.
That evening, when the girls left their tents, hearts fluttered, and
gay muslin frocks waved like agitated banners. Several Americans were
pitching their tents by the spring. They proved to be a party of mining
engineers from San Francisco, and although there was only one young
man among them, the greater was the excitement. Many of the girls were
beautiful, with their long braids and soft eyes, but Eulogia, in
her yellow gown, flashed about like a succession of meteors, as the
Americans drew near and proffered their services to Dona Pomposa.
The young man introduced himself as Charles Rogers. He was a
good-looking little fellow, in the lighter American style. His
well-attired figure was slim and active, his mouse-coloured hair short
and very straight, his shrewd eyes were blue. After a few moments'
critical survey of the charming faces behind Dona Pomposa, he went off
among the trees, and returning with a bunch of wild flowers walked
straight over to Eulogia and handed them to her.
She gave him a roguish little courtesy. "Much thanks, senor. You must
scuse my English; I no spik often. The Americanos no care for the
"I like them well enough, but I hope you will accept these."
"Si, senor." She put them in her belt. "You like California?"
"Very much. It is full of gold, and, I should say, excellent for
"But it no is beautiful country?"
"Oh, yes, it does very well, and the climate is pretty fair in some
"You living in San Francisco?"
"I am a mining engineer, and we have got hold of a good thing near
"The mine--it is yours?"
"Only a part of it."
"The Americanos make all the money now."
"The gold was put here for some one to take out. You Californians had
things all your own way for a hundred years, but you let it stay there."
"Tell me how you take it out."
He entered into a detailed and somewhat technical description, but her
quick mind grasped the meaning of unfamiliar words.
"You like make the money?" she asked, after he had finished.
"Of course. What else is a man made for? Life is a pretty small affair
"We no have much now, but we live very happy. The Americanos love the
money, though. Alway I see that."
"Americans have sense."
He devoted himself to her during the ten days of their stay, and his
business shrewdness and matter-of-fact conversation attracted the
keen-witted girl, satiated with sighs and serenades. Always eager for
knowledge, she learned much from him of the Eastern world. She did not
waste a glance on her reproachful caballeros, but held long practical
conversations with Rogers under the mending wing of Dona Pomposa, who
approved of the stranger, having ascertained his abilities and prospects
from the older men of his party.
On the morning of their return to San Luis Obispo, Rogers and Eulogia
were standing somewhat apart, whilst the vaqueros rounded up the horses
that had strayed at will through the valley. Rogers plucked one of the
purple autumn lilies and handed it to her.
"Senorita," he said, "suppose you marry me. It is a good thing for a man
to be married in a wild country like this; he is not so apt to gamble
and drink. And although I've seen a good many pretty girls, I've seen no
one so likely to keep me at home in the evening as yourself. What do you
Eulogia laughed. His wooing interested her.
"I promise marry another man; not I think much I ever go to do it."
"Well, let him go, and marry me."
"I no think I like you much better. But I spose I must get marry some
day. Here my mother come. Ask her. I do what she want."
Dona Pomposa was trotting toward them, and while she struggled for her
lost breath Eulogia repeated the proposal of the American, twanging her
guitar the while.
The old lady took but one moment to make up her mind. "The American,"
she said rapidly in Spanish. "Garfias is rich now, but in a few years
the Americans will have everything. Garfias will be poor; this man will
be rich. Marry the American," and she beamed upon Rogers.
Eulogia shrugged her shoulders and turned to her practical wooer.
"My mother she say she like you the best."
"Then I may look upon that little transaction as settled?"
"Si you like it."
"_Which_ art thou going to marry, Eulogia?" asked one of the girls that
night, as they rode down the mountain.
"Neither," said Eulogia, serenely.
Eulogia had just passed through an animated interview with her mother.
Dona Pomposa had stormed and Eulogia had made an occasional reply in her
cool monotonous voice, her gaze absently fixed on the gardens of the
"Thou wicked little coquette!" cried Dona Pomposa, her voice almost
worn out. "Thou darest repeat to me that thou wilt not marry the Senor
"I will not. It was amusing to be engaged to him for a time, but now I
am tired. You can give him what excuse you like, but tell him to go."
"And the clothes I have made--the chests of linen with the beautiful
deshalados that nearly put out Aunt Anastacia's eyes! The new silk
gowns! Dias de mi vida! The magnificent bed-spread with the lace as deep
as my hand!"
"They will keep until I do marry. Besides, I need some new clothes."
"Dost thou indeed, thou little brat! Thou shalt not put on a smock or
a gown in that chest if thou goest naked! But thou shalt marry him, I
"Oh, thou ice-hearted little devil!" Even Dona Pomposa's stomach was
trembling with rage, and her fingers were jumping. "Whom then wilt thou
"Thou wilt be an old maid like Aunt Anastacia."
"O--h--h--Who is this?"
A stranger in travelling scrape and riding-boots had dashed up to the
house, and flung himself from his horse. He knocked loudly on the open
door, then entered without waiting for an invitation, and made a deep
reverence to Dona Pomposa.
"At your service, senora. At your service, senorita. I come from the
Senor Don Tomas Garfias. Word has reached him that the Senorita Eulogia
is about to marry an American. I humbly ask you to tell me if this be
true or not. I have been told in town that the wedding is set for the
day after to-morrow."
"Ask her!" cried Dona Pomposa, tragically, and she swung herself to the
other end of the room.
"Senorita, at your feet."
"You can tell your friend that I have no more intention of marrying the
American than I have of marrying him."
"Senorita! But he expected to return next week and marry you."
"We expect many things in this world that we do not get."
"But--a thousand apologies for my presumption, senorita--why did you not
write and tell him?"
"I never write letters."
"But you could have sent word by some friend travelling to San
"He would find it out in good time. Why hurry?"
"Ay, senorita, well are you named Dona Coquetta. You are famous even to
San Francisco. I will return to my poor friend. At your service, senora.
At your service, senorita," and he bowed himself out, and galloped away.
Dona Pomposa threw herself into her chair, and wept aloud.
"Mother of God! I had thought to see her married to a thrifty American!
What have I done to be punished with so heartless a child? And the
Americans will have all the money! The little I have will go, too! We
shall be left sitting in the street. And we might have a wooden house in
San Francisco, and go to the theatre! Oh, Mother of God, why dost thou
not soften the heart of the wicked--"
Eulogia slipped out of the window, and went into the mission gardens.
She walked slowly through the olive groves, lifting her arms to part
the branches where the little purple spheres lay in their silver nests.
Suddenly she came face to face with Pablo Ignestria.
Her cynical brain informed her stormy heart that any woman must succumb
finally to the one man who had never bored her.
THE ISLE OF SKULLS
The good priests of Santa Barbara sat in grave conference on the long
corridor of their mission. It was a winter's day, and they basked in
the sun. The hoods of their brown habits peaked above faces lean and
ascetic, fat and good-tempered, stern, intelligent, weak, commanding.
One face alone was young.
But for the subject under discussion they would have been at peace with
themselves and with Nature. In the great square of the mission the
Indians they had Christianized worked at many trades. The great aqueduct
along the brow of one of the lower hills, the wheat and corn fields on
the slopes, the trim orchards and vegetable gardens in the canons of the
great bare mountains curving about the valley, were eloquent evidence of
their cleverness and industry. From the open door of the church came the
sound of lively and solemn tunes: the choir was practising for mass. The
day was as peaceful as only those long drowsy shimmering days before the
Americans came could be. And yet there was dissent among the padres.
Several had been speaking together, when one of the older men raised his
hand with cold impatience.
"There is only one argument," he said. "We came here, came to the
wilderness out of civilization, for one object only--to lead the heathen
to God. We have met with a fair success. Shall we leave these miserable
islanders to perish, when we have it in our power to save?"
"But no one knows exactly where this island is, Father Jimeno," replied
the young priest. "And we know little of navigation, and may perish
before we find it. Our lives are more precious than those of savages."
"In the sight of God one soul is of precisely the same value as another,
The young priest scowled. "We can save. They cannot."
"If we refuse to save when the power is ours, then the savage in his
extremest beastiality has more hope of heaven than we have."
Father Carillo looked up at the golden sun riding high in the dark blue
sky, down over the stately oaks and massive boulders of the valley where
quail flocked like tame geese. He had no wish to leave his paradise, and
as the youngest and hardiest of the priests, he knew that he would be
ordered to take charge of the expedition.
"It is said also," continued the older man, "that once a ship from the
Continent of Europe was wrecked among those islands--"
"No? No?" interrupted several of the priests.
"It is more than probable that there were survivors, and that their
descendants live on this very island to-day. Think of it, my brother!
Men and women of our own blood, perhaps, living like beasts of the
field! Worshipping idols! Destitute of morality! Can we sit here in hope
of everlasting life while our brethren perish?"
"No!" The possibility of rescuing men of European blood had quenched
dissent. Even Carillo spoke as spontaneously as the others.
As he had anticipated, the expedition was put in his charge. Don
Guillermo Iturbi y Moncada, the magnate of the South, owned a small
schooner, and placed it at the disposal of the priests.
Through the wide portals of the mission church, two weeks later, rolled
the solemn music of high mass. The church was decorated as for a
festival. The aristocrats of the town knelt near the altar, the people
and Indians behind.
Father Carillo knelt and took communion, the music hushing suddenly to
rise in more sonorous volume. Then Father Jimeno, bearing a cross and
chanting the rosary, descended the altar steps and walked toward the
doors. On either side of him a page swung a censer. Four women neophytes
rose from among the worshippers, and shouldering a litter on which
rested a square box containing an upright figure of the Holy Virgin
followed with bent heads. The Virgin's gown was of yellow satin, covered
with costly Spanish lace; strands of Baja Californian pearls bedecked
the front of her gown. Behind this resplendent image came the other
priests, two and two, wearing their white satin embroidered robes,
chanting the sacred mysteries. Father Carillo walked last and alone. His
thin clever face wore an expression of nervous exaltation.
As the procession descended the steps of the church, the bells rang
out a wild inspiring peal. The worshippers rose, and forming in line
followed the priests down the valley.
When they reached the water's edge, Father Jimeno raised the cross above
his head, stepped with the other priests into a boat, and was rowed to
the schooner. He sprinkled holy water upon the little craft; then Father
Carillo knelt and received the blessing of each of his brethren. When
he rose all kissed him solemnly, then returned to the shore, where the
whole town knelt. The boat brought back the six Indians who were to give
greeting and confidence to their kinsmen on the island, and the schooner
was ready to sail. As she weighed anchor, the priests knelt in a row
before the people, Father Jimeno alone standing and holding the cross
aloft with rigid arms.
Father Carillo stood on deck and watched the white mission under the
mountain narrow to a thread, the kneeling priests become dots of
reflected light. His exaltation vanished. He was no longer the chief
figure in a picturesque panorama. He set his lips and his teeth behind
them. He was a very ambitious man. His dreams leapt beyond California
to the capital of Spain. If he returned with his savages, he might make
success serve as half the ladder. But would he return?
Wind and weather favoured him. Three days after leaving Santa Barbara
he sighted a long narrow mountainous island. He had passed another of
different proportions in the morning, and before night sighted still
another, small and oval. But the lofty irregular mass, some ten miles
long and four miles wide, which he approached at sundown, was the one he
sought. The night world was alight under the white blaze of the moon;
the captain rode into a small harbour at the extreme end of the island
and cast anchor, avoiding reefs and shoals as facilely as by midday.
Father Carillo gave his Indians orders to be ready to march at dawn.
The next morning the priest arrayed himself in his white satin garments,
embroidered about the skirt with gold and on the chest with a purple
cross pointed with gold. The brown woollen habit of his voyage was left
behind. None knew better than he the value of theatric effect upon the
benighted mind. His Indians wore gayly striped blankets of their own
manufacture, and carried baskets containing presents and civilized food.
Bearing a large gilt cross, Father Carillo stepped on shore, waved
farewell to the captain, and directed his Indians to keep faithfully in
the line of march: they might come upon the savages at any moment. They
toiled painfully through a long stretch of white sand, then passed into
a grove of banana trees, dark, cold, noiseless, but for the rumble of
the ocean. When they reached the edge of the grove, Father Carillo
raised his cross and commanded the men to kneel. Rumour had told him
what to expect, and he feared the effect on his simple and superstitious
companions. He recited a chaplet, then, before giving them permission to
rise, made a short address.
"My children, be not afraid at what meets your eyes. The ways of all
men are not our ways. These people have seen fit to leave their dead
unburied on the surface of the earth. But these poor bones can do you
no more harm than do those you have placed beneath the ground in Santa
Barbara. Now rise and follow me, nor turn back as you fear the wrath of
He turned and strode forward, with the air of one to whom fear had no
meaning; but even he closed his eyes for a moment in horror. The poor
creatures behind mumbled and crossed themselves and clung to each other.
The plain was a vast charnel-house. The sun, looking over the brow of an
eastern hill, threw its pale rays upon thousands of crumbling skeletons,
bleached by unnumbered suns, picked bare by dead and gone generations of
carrion, white, rigid, sinister. Detached skulls lay in heaps, grinning
derisively. Stark digits pointed threateningly, as if the old warriors
still guarded their domain. Other frames lay face downward, as though
the broken teeth had bitten the dust in battle. Slender forms lay prone,
their arms encircling cooking utensils, beautiful in form and colour.
Great bowls and urns, toy canoes, mortars and pestles, of serpentine,
sandstone, and steatite, wrought with a lost art,--if, indeed, the art
had ever been known beyond this island,--and baked to richest dyes, were
placed at the head and feet of skeletons more lofty in stature than
Father Carillo sprinkled holy water right and left, bidding his Indians
chant a rosary for the souls which once had inhabited these appalling
tenements. The Indians obeyed with clattering teeth, keeping their eyes
fixed stonily upon the ground lest they stumble and fall amid yawning
The ghastly tramp lasted two hours. The sun spurned the hill-top and
cast a flood of light upon the ugly scene. The white bones grew whiter,
dazzling the eyes of the living. They reached the foot of a mountain and
began a toilsome ascent through a dark forest. Here new terrors awaited
them. Skeletons sat propped against trees, grinning out of the dusk,
gleaming in horrid relief against the mass of shadow. Father Carillo,
with one eye over his shoulder, managed by dint of command, threats, and
soothing words to get his little band to the top of the hill. Once,
when revolt seemed imminent, he asked them scathingly if they wished to
retrace their steps over the plain unprotected by the cross, and they
clung to his skirts thereafter. When they reached the summit, they lay
down to rest and eat their luncheon, Father Carillo reclining carefully
on a large mat: his fine raiment was a source of no little anxiety. No
skeletons kept them company here. They had left the last many yards
"Anacleto," commanded the priest, at the end of an hour, "crawl forward
on thy hands and knees and peer over the brow of the mountain. Then come
back and tell me if men like thyself are below."
Anacleto obeyed, and returned in a few moments with bulging eyes and a
broad smile of satisfaction. People were in the valley--a small band.
They wore feathers like birds, and came and went from the base of the
hill. There were no wigwams, no huts.
Father Carillo rose at once. Bidding his Indians keep in the background,
he walked to the jutting brow of the hill, and throwing a rapid glance
downward came to a sudden halt. With one hand he held the cross well
away from him and high above his head. The sun blazed down on the
burnished cross; on the white shining robes of the priest; on his calm
benignant face thrown into fine relief by the white of the falling
In a moment a low murmur arose from the valley, then a sudden silence.
Father Carillo, glancing downward, saw that the people had prostrated
He began the descent, holding the cross aloft, chanting solemnly; his
Indians, to whom he had given a swift signal, following and lifting up
their voices likewise. The mountain on this side was bare, as if from
fire, the incline shorter and steeper. The priest noted all things,
although he never forgot his lines.
Below was a little band of men and women. A broad plain swept from the
mountain's foot, a forest broke its sweep, and the ocean thundered near.
The people were clad in garments made from the feathered skins of birds,
and were all past middle age. The foot of the mountain was perforated
When he stood before the trembling awe-struck savages, he spoke to them
kindly and bade them rise. They did not understand, but lifted their
heads and stared appealingly. He raised each in turn. As they once
more looked upon his full magnificence, they were about to prostrate
themselves again when they caught sight of the Indians. Those dark
stolid faces, even that gay attire, they could understand. Glancing
askance at the priest, they drew near to their fellow-beings, touched
their hands to the strangers' breasts, and finally kissed them.
Father Carillo was a man of tact.
"My children," he said to his flock, "do you explain as best you-can to
these our new friends what it is we have come to do. I will go into the
forest and rest."
He walked swiftly across the plain, and parting the clinging branches
of two gigantic ferns, entered the dim wood. He laid the heavy cross
beneath a tree, and strolled idly. It was a forest of fronds. Lofty fern
trees waved above wide-leaved palms. Here and there a little marsh with
crowding plant life held the riotous groves apart. Down the mountain up
which the forest spread tumbled a creek over coloured rocks, then wound
its way through avenues, dark in the shadows, sparkling where the
sunlight glinted through the tall tree-tops. Red lilies were everywhere.
The aisles were vocal with whispering sound.
The priest threw himself down on a bed of dry leaves by the creek. After
a time his eyes closed. He was weary, and slept.
He awoke suddenly, the power of a steadfast gaze dragging his brain from
its rest. A girl sat on a log in the middle of the creek. Father Carillo
stared incredulously, believing himself to be dreaming. The girl's
appearance was unlike anything he had ever seen. Like the other members
of her tribe, she wore a garment of feathers, and her dark face was cast
in the same careless and gentle mould; but her black eyes had a certain
intelligence, unusual to the Indians of California, and the hair that
fell to her knees was the colour of flame. Apparently she was not more
than eighteen years old.
Father Carillo, belonging to a period when bleached brunettes were
unknown, hastily crossed himself.
"Who are you?" he asked.
His voice was deep and musical. It had charmed many a woman's heart,
despite the fact that he had led a life of austerity and sought no
woman's smiles. But this girl at the sound of it gave a loud cry and
bounded up the mountain, leaping through the brush like a deer.
[Illustration: "HE AWOKE SUDDENLY, THE POWER OF A STEADFAST GAZE
DRAGGING HIS BRAIN FROM ITS REST."]
The priest rose, drank of the bubbles in the stream, and retraced his
steps. He took up the burden of the cross again and returned to the
village. There he found the savage and the Christianized sitting
together in brotherly love. The islanders were decked with the rosaries
presented to them, and the women in their blankets were swollen with
pride. All had eaten of bread and roast fowl, and made the strangers
offerings of strange concoctions in magnificent earthen dishes. As the
priest appeared the heathen bowed low, then gathered about him. Their
awe had been dispelled, and they responded to the magnetism of his voice
and smile. He knew many varieties of the Indian language, and succeeded
in making them understand that he wished them to return with him, and
that he would make them comfortable and happy. They nodded their heads
vigorously as he spoke, but pointed to their venerable chief, who sat at
the entrance of his cave eating of a turkey's drumstick. Father Carillo
went over to the old man and saluted him respectfully. The chief nodded,
waved his hand at a large flat stone, and continued his repast, his
strong white teeth crunching bone as well as flesh. The priest spread
his handkerchief on the stone, seated himself, and stated the purpose
of his visit. He dwelt at length upon the glories of civilization. The
chief dropped his bone after a time and listened attentively. When the
priest finished, he uttered a volley of short sentences.
"Good. We go. Great sickness come. All die but us. Many, many, many. We
are strong no more. No children come. We are old--all. One young girl
not die. The young men die. The young women die. The children die. No
more will come. Yes, we go."
"And this young girl with the hair--" The priest looked upward. The sun
had gone. He touched the gold of the cross, then his own hair.
"Dorthe," grunted the old man, regarding his bare drumstick regretfully.
"Who is she? Where did she get such a name? Why has she that hair?"
Out of another set of expletives Father Carillo gathered that Dorthe was
the granddaughter of a man who had been washed ashore after a storm, and
who had dwelt on the island until he died. He had married a woman of
the tribe, and to his daughter had given the name of Dorthe--or so the
Indians had interpreted it--and his hair, which was like the yellow
fire. This girl had inherited both. He had been very brave and much
beloved, but had died while still young. Their ways were not his ways,
Father Carillo inferred, and barbarism had killed him.
The priest did not see Dorthe again that day. When night came, he was
given a cave to himself. He hung up his robes on a jutting point of
rock, and slept the sleep of the weary. At the first shaft of dawn he
rose, intending to stroll down to the beach in search of a bay where he
could bathe; but as he stepped across the prostrate Californians, asleep
at the entrance of his cave, he paused abruptly, and changed his plans.
On the far edge of the ocean the rising diadem of the sun sent great
bubbles of colour up through a low bank of pale green cloud to the gray
night sky and the sulky stars. And, under the shadow of the cacti and
palms, in rapt mute worship, knelt the men and women the priest had come
to save, their faces and clasped hands uplifted to the waking sun.
Father Carillo awoke his Indians summarily.
"Gather a dozen large stones and build an altar--quick!" he commanded.
The sleepy Indians stumbled to their feet, obeyed orders, and in a few
moments a rude altar was erected. The priest propped the cross on the
apex, and, kneeling with his Indians, slowly chanted a mass. The savages
gathered about curiously; then, impressed by the solemnity of the
priest's voice and manner, sank to their knees once more, although
directing to the sun an occasional glance of anxiety. When the priest
rose, he gave them to understand that he was deeply gratified by their
response to the religion of civilization, and pointed to the sun, now
full-orbed, amiably swimming in a jewelled mist. Again they prostrated
themselves, first to him, then to their deity, and he knew that the
conquest was begun.
After breakfast they were ready to follow him. They had cast their
feathered robes into a heap, and wore the blankets, one and all. Still
Dorthe had not appeared. The chief sent a man in search of her, and
when, after some delay, she entered his presence, commanded her to make
herself ready to go with the tribe. For a time she protested angrily.
But when she found that she must go or remain alone, she reluctantly
joined the forming procession, although refusing to doff her bird
garment, and keeping well in the rear that she might not again look upon
that terrible presence in white and gold, that face with its strange
pallor and piercing eyes. Father Carillo, who was very much bored, would
have been glad to talk to her, but recognized that he must keep his
distance if he wished to include her among his trophies.
The natives knew of a shorter trail to the harbour, and one of them led
the way, Father Carillo urging his footsteps, for the green cloud of
dawn was now high and black and full. A swift wind was rustling the
tree-tops and tossing the ocean white. As they skirted the plain of the
dead, the priest saw a strange sight. The wind had become a gale. It
caught up great armfuls of sand from the low dunes, and hurled them upon
the skeletons, covering them from sight. Sometimes a gust would snatch
the blanket from one to bury another more deeply; and for a moment the
old bones would gleam again, to be enveloped in the on-rushing pillar of
whirling sand. Through the storm leaped the wild dogs, yelping dismally.
When the party reached the stretch beyond the banana grove, they saw the
schooner tossing and pulling at her anchor. The captain shouted to them
to hurry. The boat awaiting them at the beach was obliged to make three
trips. Father Carillo went in the first boat; Dorthe remained for the
last. She was the last, also, to ascend the ladder at the ship's side.
As she put her foot on deck, and confronted again the pale face and
shining robes of the young priest, she screamed, and leapt from the
vessel into the waves. The chief and his tribe shouted their entreaties
to return. But she had disappeared, and the sky was black. The captain
refused to lower the boat again. He had already weighed anchor, and he
hurriedly represented that to remain longer in the little bay, with its
reefs and rocks, its chopping waves, would mean death to all. The priest
was obliged to sacrifice the girl to the many lives in his keep.
Dorthe darted through the hissing waves, undismayed by the darkness or
the screaming wind; she and the ocean had been friends since her baby
days. When a breaker finally tossed her on the shore, she scrambled to
the bank, then stood long endeavouring to pierce the rain for sight of
the vessel. But it was far out in the dark. Dorthe was alone on the
island. For a time she howled in dismal fashion. She was wholly without
fear, but she had human needs and was lonesome. Then reason told her
that when the storm was over the ship would return to seek her; and she
fled and hid in the banana grove. The next morning the storm had passed;
but the ship was nowhere to be seen, and she started for home.
The wind still blew, but it had veered. This time it caught the sand
from the skeletons, and bore it rapidly back to the dunes. Dorthe
watched the old bones start into view. Sometimes a skull would thrust
itself suddenly forth, sometimes a pair of polished knees; and once a
long finger seemed to beckon. But it was an old story to Dorthe, and she
pursued her journey undisturbed.
She climbed the mountain, and went down into the valley and lived alone.
Her people had left their cooking utensils. She caught fish in the
creek, and shot birds with her bow and arrow. Wild fruits and nuts were
abundant. Of creature comforts she lacked nothing. But the days were
long and the island was very still. For a while she talked aloud in
the limited vocabulary of her tribe. After a time she entered into
companionship with the frogs and birds, imitating their speech.
Restlessness vanished, and she existed contentedly enough.
Two years passed. The moon flooded the valley one midnight. Dorthe lay
on the bank of the creek in the fern forest. She and the frogs had held
long converse, and she was staring up through the feathery branches,
waving in the night wind, at the calm silver face which had ignored her
overtures. Upon this scene entered a man. He was attenuated and ragged.
Hair and beard fell nearly to his waist. He leaned on a staff, and
tottered like an old man.
He stared about him sullenly. "Curse them!" he said aloud. "Why could
they not have died and rotted before we heard of them?"
Dorthe, at the sound of a human voice, sprang to her feet with a cry.
The man, too, gave a cry--the ecstatic cry of the unwilling hermit who
looks again upon the human face.
"Dorthe! Thou? I thought thou wast dead--drowned in the sea."
Dorthe had forgotten the meaning of words, but her name came to her
familiarly. Then something stirred within her, filling her eyes with
tears. She went forward and touched the stranger, drawing her hand over
his trembling arms.
"Do you not remember me, Dorthe?" asked the man, softly. "I am the
priest--was, for I am not fit for the priesthood now. I have forgotten
how to pray."
She shook her head, but smiling, the instinct of gregariousness
He remembered his needs, and made a gesture which she understood. She
took his hand, and led him from the forest to her cave. She struck fire
from flint into a heap of fagots beneath a swinging pot. In a little
time she set before him a savoury mess of birds. He ate of it
ravenously. Dorthe watched him with deep curiosity. She had never seen
hunger before. She offered him a gourd of water, and he drank thirstily.
When he raised his face his cheeks were flushed, his eyes brighter.
He took her hand and drew her down beside him.
"I must talk," he said. "Even if you cannot understand, I must talk to
a human being. I must tell some one the story of these awful years. The
very thought intoxicates me. We were shipwrecked, Dorthe. The wind drove
us out of our course, and we went to pieces on the rocks at the foot of
this island. Until to-night I did not know that it was this island. I
alone was washed on shore. In the days that came I grew to wish that I,
too, had perished. You know nothing of what solitude and savagery mean
to the man of civilization--and to the man of ambition. Oh, my God! I
dared not leave the shore lest I miss the chance to signal a passing
vessel. There was scarcely anything to maintain life on that rocky
coast. Now and again I caught a seagull or a fish. Sometimes I ventured
inland and found fruit, running back lest a ship should pass. There I
stayed through God knows how many months and years. I fell ill many
times. My limbs are cramped and twisted with rheumatism. Finally, I grew
to hate the place beyond endurance. I determined to walk to the other
end of the island. It was only when I passed, now and again, the
unburied dead and the pottery that I suspected I might be on your
island. Oh, that ghastly company! When night came, they seemed to rise
and walk before me. I cried aloud and cursed them. My manhood has gone,
I fear. I cannot tell how long that terrible journey lasted,--months and
months, for my feet are bare and my legs twisted. What kind fate guided
me to you?"
He gazed upon her, not as man looks at woman, but as mortal looks
adoringly upon the face of mortal long withheld.
Dorthe smiled sympathetically. His speech and general appearance struck
a long-dormant chord; but in her mind was no recognition of him.
He fell asleep suddenly and profoundly. As Dorthe watched, she gradually
recalled the appearance of the old who had lain screaming on the ground
drawing up their cramped limbs. She also recalled the remedy. Not far
from the edge of the forest was a line of temascals, excavations covered
with mud huts, into which her people had gone for every ill. She ran to
one, and made a large fire within; the smoke escaped through an aperture
in the roof. Then she returned, and, taking the emaciated figure in her
arms, bore him to the hut and placed him in the corner farthest from the
fire. She went out and closed the door, but thrust her head in from time
to time. He did not awaken for an hour. When he did, he thought he had
entered upon the fiery sequel of unfaith. The sweat was pouring from
his body. The atmosphere could only be that of the nether world. As his
brain cleared he understood, and made no effort to escape: he knew
the virtues of the temascal. As the intense heat sapped his remaining
vitality he sank into lethargy. He was aroused by the shock of cold
water, and opened his eyes to find himself struggling in the creek,
Dorthe holding him down with firm arms. After a moment she carried him
back to the plain and laid him in the sun to dry. His rags still clung
to him. She regarded them with disfavour, and fetched the Chief's
discarded plumage. As soon as he could summon strength he tottered into
the forest and made his toilet. As he was a foot and a half taller than
the Chief had been, he determined to add a flounce as soon as his health
would permit. Dorthe, however, looked approval when he emerged, and set
a bowl of steaming soup before him.
He took the temascal twice again, and at the end of a week the drastic
cure had routed his rheumatism. Although far from strong, he felt twenty
years younger. His manhood returned, and with it his man's vanity. He
did not like the appearance of his reflected image in the still pools of
the wood. The long beard and head locks smote him sorely. He disliked
the idea of being a fright, even though Dorthe had no standards of
comparison; but his razors were at the bottom of the sea.
After much excogitation he arrived at a solution. One day, when Dorthe
was on the other side of the mountain shooting birds,--she would kill
none of her friends in the fern forest,--he tore dried palm leaves into
strips, and setting fire to them singed his hair and beard to the roots.
It was a long and tedious task. When it was finished the pool told him
that his chin and head were like unto a stubbled field. But he was young
and well-looking once more.
He went out and confronted Dorthe. She dropped her birds, her bow and
arrow, and stared at him. Then he saw recognition leap to her eyes; but
this time no fear. He was far from being the gorgeous apparition of many
moons ago. And, so quickly does solitude forge its links, she smiled
brightly, approvingly, and he experienced a glow of content.
The next day he taught her the verbal synonym of many things, and she
spoke the words after him with rapt attention. When he finished the
lesson, she pounded, in a wondrous mortar, the dried flour of the banana
with the eggs of wild fowl, then fried the paste over the fire he had
built. She brought a dish of nuts and showed him gravely how to crack
them with a stone, smiling patronizingly at his ready skill. When the
dinner was cooked, she offered him one end of the dish as usual, but he
thought it was time for another lesson. He laid a flat stone with palm
leaves, and set two smaller dishes at opposite ends. Then with a flat
stick he lifted the cakes from the fry-pan, and placed an equal number
on each plate. Dorthe watched these proceedings with expanded eyes, but
many gestures of impatience. She was hungry. He took her hand and led
her ceremoniously to the head of the table, motioning to her to be
seated. She promptly went down on her knees, and dived at the cakes with
both hands. But again he restrained her. He had employed a part of his
large leisure fashioning rude wood forks with his ragged pocket-knife.
There were plenty of bone knives on the island. He sat himself opposite,
and gave her a practical illustration of the use of the knife and fork.
She watched attentively, surreptitiously whisking morsels of cake into
her mouth. Finally, she seized the implements of civilization beside her
plate, and made an awkward attempt to use them. The priest tactfully
devoted himself to his own dinner. Suddenly he heard a cry of rage, and
simultaneously the knife and fork flew in different directions. Dorthe
seized a cake in each hand, and stuffed them into her mouth, her eyes
flashing defiance. The priest looked at her reproachfully, then lowered
his eyes. Presently she got up, found the knife and fork, and made a
patient effort to guide the food to its proper place by the new and
trying method This time the attempt resulted in tears--a wild thunder
shower. The priest went over, knelt beside her, and guided the knife
through the cake, the fork to her mouth. Dorthe finished the meal, then
put her head on his shoulder and wept bitterly. The priest soothed her,
and made her understand that she had acquitted herself with credit; and
the sun shone once more.
An hour later she took his hand, and led him to the creek in the forest.
"C--c--ruck! C--c--ruck!" she cried.
"C--c--ruck! C--c--ruck!" came promptly from the rushes. She looked at
"Curruck," he said, acknowledging the introduction.
She laughed outright at his poor attempt, startling even him with the
discordant sound. She sprang to his side, her eyes rolling with terror.
But he laughed himself, and in a few moments she was attempting to
imitate him. Awhile later she introduced him to the birds; but he
forbore to trill, having a saving sense of humour.
The comrades of her solitude were deserted. She made rapid progress in
human speech. Gradually her voice lost its cross between a croak and a
trill and acquired a feminine resemblance to her instructor's. At the
end of a month they could speak together after a fashion. When she made
her first sentence, haltingly but surely, she leaped to her feet and
executed a wild war dance. They were on the plain of the dead. She flung
her supple legs among the skeletons, sending the bones flying, her
bright hair tossing about her like waves of fire. The priest watched her
with bated breath, half expecting to see the outraged warriors arise in
wrath. The gaunt dogs that were always prowling about the plain fled in
The month had passed very agreeably to the priest. After the horrors of
his earlier experience it seemed for a time that he had little more to
ask of life. Dorthe knew nothing of love; but he knew that if no ship
came, she would learn, and he would teach her. He had loved no woman,
but he felt that in this vast solitude he could love Dorthe and be happy
with her. In the languor of convalescence he dreamed of the hour when he
should take her in his arms and see the frank regard in her eyes for the
last time. The tranquil air was heavy with the perfumes of spring. The
palms were rigid. The blue butterflies sat with folded wings. The birds
hung their drowsy heads.
But with returning strength came the desire for civilization, the
awakening of his ambitions, the desire for intellectual activity. He
stood on the beach for hours at a time, straining his eyes for passing
ships. He kept a fire on the cliffs constantly burning. Dorthe's
instincts were awakening, and she was vaguely troubled. The common
inheritance was close upon her.
The priest now put all thoughts of love sternly from him. Love meant a
lifetime on the island, for he would not desert her, and to take her to
Santa Barbara would mean the death of all his hopes. And yet in his way
he loved her, and there were nights when he sat by the watch-fire and
shed bitter tears. He had read the story of Juan and Haidee, by no means
without sympathy, and he wished more than once that he had the mind and
nature of the poet; but to violate his own would be productive of misery
to both. He was no amorous youth, but a man with a purpose, and that,
for him, was the end of it. But he spent many hours with her, talking to
her of life beyond the island, a story to which she listened with eager
One night as he was about to leave her, she dropped her face into her
hands and cried heavily. Instinctively he put his arms about her, and
she as instinctively clung to him, terrified and appealing. He kissed
her, not once, but many times, intoxicated and happy. She broke from him
suddenly and ran to her cave; and he, chilled and angry, went to his
It was a very brilliant night. An hour later he saw something skim the
horizon. Later still he saw that the object was closer, and that it was
steering for the harbour. He ran to meet it.
Twice he stopped. The magnetism of the only woman that had ever awakened
his love drew him back. He thought of her despair, her utter and, this
time, unsupportable loneliness; the careless girl with the risen sun
would be a broken-hearted woman.
But he ran on.
Spain beckoned. The highest dignities of the Church were his. He saw his
political influence a byword in Europe. He felt Dorthe's arms about him,
her soft breath on his cheek, and uttered a short savage scream; but he
When he reached the harbour three men had already landed. They
recognized him, and fell at his feet. And when he told them that he was
alone on the island, they reembarked without question. And he lived, and
forgot, and realized his great ambitions.
Thirty years later a sloop put into the harbour of the island for
repairs. Several of the men went on shore. They discovered footprints in
the sand. Wondering, for they had sailed the length of the island and
seen no sign of habitation, they followed the steps. They came upon a
curious creature which was scraping with a bone knife the blubber from
a seal. At first they thought it was a bird of some unknown species, so
sharp was its beak, so brilliant its plumage. But when they spoke to it
and it sprang aside and confronted them, they saw that the creature was
an aged woman. Her face was like an old black apple, within whose skin
the pulp had shrunk and withered as it lay forgotten on the ground. Her
tawny hair hung along her back like a ragged mat. There was no light in
the dim vacuous eyes. She wore a garment made of the unplucked skins of
birds. They spoke to her. She uttered a gibberish unknown to them with a
voice that croaked like a frog's, then went down on her creaking knees
and lifted her hands to the sun.
THE HEAD OF A PRIEST
"Dona Concepcion had the greatest romance of us all; so she should not
chide too bitterly."
"But she has such a sense of her duty! Such a sense of her duty! Ay,
Dios de mi alma! Shall we ever grow like that?"
"If we have a Russian lover who is killed in the far North, and we have
a convent built for us, and teach troublesome girls. Surely, if one goes
through fire, one can become anything--"
"Ay, yi! Look! Look!"
Six dark heads were set in a row along the edge of a secluded corner of
the high adobe wall surrounding the Convent of Monterey. They looked
for all the world like a row of charming gargoyles--every mouth was
open--although there was no blankness in those active mischief-hunting
eyes. Their bodies, propped on boxes, were concealed by the wall from
the passer-by, and from the sharp eyes of duenas by a group of trees
just behind them. Their section of the wall faced the Presidio, which in
the early days of the eighteenth century had not lost an adobe, and was
full of active life. At one end was the house of the Governor of all the
Californias, at another the church, which is all that stands to-day.
Under other walls of the square were barracks, quarters for officers and
their families, store-rooms for ammunition and general supplies in case
of a raid by hostile tribes (when all the town must be accommodated
within the security of those four great walls), and a large hall in
which many a ball was given. The aristocratic pioneers of California
loved play as well as work. Beyond were great green plains alive with
cattle, and above all curved the hills dark with pines. Three soldiers
had left the Presidio and were sauntering toward the convent.
"It is Enrico Ortega!" whispered Eustaquia Carillo, excitedly.
"And Ramon de Castro!" scarcely breathed Elena Estudillo.
"And Jose Yorba!"
"Not Pepe Gomez? Ay, yi!"
"Nor Manuel Ameste!"
The only girl who did not speak stood at the end of the row. Her eyes
were fixed on the church, whose windows were dazzling with the reflected
sunlight of the late afternoon.
The officers, who apparently had been absorbed in conversation and their
fragrant cigaritos, suddenly looked up and saw the row of handsome and
mischievous faces. They ran forward, and dashed their sombreros into the
dust before the wall.
"At your feet, senoritas! At your feet!" they cried.
"Have they any?" whispered one. "How unreal they look! How symbolical!"
"The rose in your hair, Senorita Eustaquia, for the love of Heaven!"
cried Ortega, in a loud whisper.
She detached the rose, touched it with her lips, and cast it to the
officer. He almost swallowed it in the ardour of his caresses.
None of the girls spoke. That would have seemed to them the height of
impropriety. But Elena extended her arm over the wall so that her little
hand hung just above young Castro's head. He leaped three times in
the air, and finally succeeded in brushing his mustache against those
coveted finger-tips: rewarded with an approving but tantalizing laugh.
Meanwhile, Jose Yorba had torn a silver eagle from his sombrero, and
flung it to Lola de Castro, who caught and thrust it in her hair.
"Ay, Dios! Dios! that the cruel wall divides us," cried Yorba.
"We will mount each upon the other's shoulder--"
"We will make a ladder from the limbs of the pines on the mountain--"
The six heads dropped from the wall like so many Humpty-Dumpties. As
they flashed about the officers caught a glimpse of horror in twelve
expanded eyes. A tall woman, serenely beautiful, clad in a long gray
gown fastened at her throat with a cross, stood just within the trees.
The six culprits thought of the tragic romance which had given them the
honour of being educated by Concepcion de Arguello, and hoped for some
small measure of mercy. The girl who had looked over the heads of the
officers, letting her gaze rest on the holy walls of the church, alone
looked coldly unconcerned, and encountered steadily the sombre eyes of
the convent's mistress.
"Was thy lover in the road below, Pilar?" asked Dona Concepcion,
with what meaning five of the girls could not divine. For Pilar, the
prettiest and most studious girl in the convent, cared for no man.
Pilar's bosom rose once, but she made no reply.
"Come," said Dona Concepcion, and the six followed meekly in her wake.
She led them to her private sala, a bare cold room, even in summer. It
was uncarpeted; a few religious prints were on the whitewashed walls;
there were eight chairs, and a table covered with books and papers. The
six shivered. To be invited to this room meant the greatest of honours
or a lecture precursory to the severest punishment in the system of the
convent. Dona Concepcion seated herself in a large chair, but her guests
were not invited to relieve their weakened knees.
"Did you speak--any of you?" she asked in a moment.
Five heads shook emphatically.
Eustaquia, Elena, and Lola drew a long breath, then confessed their
misdoings glibly enough.
"And the others?"
"They had no chance," said Eustaquia, with some sarcasm.
"Thou wouldst have found a chance," replied the Lady Superior, coldly.
"Thou art the first in all naughtiness, and thy path in life will be
stormy if thou dost not curb thy love of adventure and insubordination."
She covered her face with her hand and regarded the floor for some
moments in silence. It was the first performance of the kind that had
come to her knowledge, and she was at a loss what to do. Finally she
said severely: "Go each to your bed and remain there on bread and water
for twenty-four hours. Your punishment shall be known at the Presidio.
And if it ever happens again, I shall send you home in disgrace. Now
The luckless six slunk out of the room. Only Pilar stole a hasty glance
at the Lady Superior. Dona Concepcion half rose from her chair, and
opened her lips as if to speak again; then sank back with a heavy sigh.
The girls were serenaded that night; but the second song broke abruptly,
and a heavy gate clanged just afterward. Concepcion de Arguello was
still young, but suffering had matured her character, and she knew how
to deal sternly with those who infringed her few but inflexible rules.
It was by no means the first serenade she had interrupted, for she
educated the flower of California, and it was no simple matter to
prevent communication between the girls in her charge and the ardent
caballeros. She herself had been serenaded more than once since the
sudden death of her Russian lover; for she who had been the belle of
California for three years before the coming of Rezanof was not lightly
relinquished by the impassioned men of her own race; but both at Casa
Grande, in Santa Barbara, where she found seclusion until her convent
was built, and after her immolation in Monterey, she turned so cold an
ear to all men's ardours that she soon came to be regarded as a part of
four gray walls. How long it took her to find actual serenity none but
herself and the dead priests know, but the old women who are dying off
to-day remember her as consistently placid as she was firm. She was
deeply troubled by the escapade of the little wretches on the wall,
although she had dealt with it summarily and feared no further outbreak
of the sort. But she was haunted by a suspicion that there was more
behind, and to come. Pilar de la Torre and Eustaquia Carillo were the
two most notable girls in the convent, for they easily took precedence
of their more indolent mates and were constantly racing for honours.
There the resemblance ended. Eustaquia, with her small brilliant eyes,
irregular features, and brilliant colour, was handsome rather than
beautiful, but full of fire, fascination, and spirit. Half the Presidio
was in love with her, and that she was a shameless coquette she would
have been the last to deny. Pilar was beautiful, and although the close
long lashes of her eyes hid dreams, rather than fire, and her profile
and poise of head expressed all the pride of the purest aristocracy
California has had, nothing could divert attention from the beauty of
her contours of cheek and figure, and of her rich soft colouring.
The officers in church stood up to look at her; and at the balls and
meriendas she attended in vacations the homage she received stifled and
annoyed her. She was as cold and unresponsive as Concepcion de Arguello.
People shrugged their shoulders and said it was as well. Her mother,
Dona Brigida de la Torre of the great Rancho Diablo, twenty miles from
Monterey, was the sternest old lady in California. It was whispered that
she had literally ruled her husband with a greenhide reata, and certain
it was that two years after the birth of Pilar (the thirteenth, and only
living child) he had taken a trip to Mexico and never returned. It was
known that he had sent his wife a deed of the rancho; and that was the
last she ever heard of him. Her daughter, according to her imperious
decree, was to marry Ygnacio Pina, the heir of the neighbouring rancho.
Dona Brigida anticipated no resistance, not only because her will had
never been crossed, but because Pilar was the most docile of daughters.
Pilar was Dona Concepcion's favourite pupil, and when at home spent
her time reading, embroidering, or riding about the rancho, closely
attended. She rarely talked, even to her mother. She paid not the
slightest attention to Ygnacio's serenades, and greeted him with scant
courtesy when he dashed up to the ranch-house in all the bravery of silk
and fine lawn, silver and lace. But he knew the value of Dona Brigida as
an ally, and was content to amuse himself elsewhere.
The girls passed their twenty-four hours of repressed energy as
patiently as necessity compelled. Pilar, alone, lay impassive in her
bed, rarely opening her eyes. The others groaned and sighed and rolled
and bounced about; but they dared not speak, for stern Sister Augusta
was in close attendance. When the last lagging minute had gone and they
were bidden to rise, they sprang from the beds, flung on their clothes,
and ran noisily down the long corridors to the refectory. Dona
Concepcion stood at the door and greeted them with a forgiving smile.
Pilar followed some moments later. There was something more than
coldness in her eyes as she bent her head to the Lady Superior, who drew
a quick breath.
"She feels that she has been humiliated, and she will not forgive,"
thought Dona Concepcion. "Ay de mi! And she may need my advice and
protection. I should have known better than to have treated her like the
After supper the girls went at once to the great sala of the convent,
and sat in silence, with bent heads and folded hands and every
appearance of prayerful revery.
It was Saturday evening, and the good priest of the Presidio church
would come to confess them, that they might commune on the early morrow.
They heard the loud bell of the convent gate, then the opening and
shutting of several doors; and many a glance flashed up to the ceiling
as the brain behind scurried the sins of the week together. It had been
arranged that the six leading misdemeanants were to go first and receive
much sound advice, before the old priest had begun to feel the fatigue
of the confessional. The door opened, and Dona Concepcion stood on
the threshold. Her face was whiter than usual, and her manner almost
"It is Padre Dominguez," she said. "Padre Estudillo is ill. If---if--any
of you are tired, or do not wish to confess to the strange priest, you
may go to bed."
Not a girl moved. Padre Dominguez was twenty-five and as handsome as
the marble head of the young Augustus which stood on a shelf in the
Governor's sala. During the year of his work in Monterey more than
one of the older girls had met and talked with him; for he went into
society, as became a priest, and holidays were not unfrequent. But,
although he talked agreeably, it was a matter for comment that he loved
books and illuminated manuscripts more than the world, and that he was
as ambitious as his superior abilities justified.
"Very well," said Dona Concepcion, impatiently. "Eustaquia, go in."
Eustaquia made short work of her confession. She was followed by Elena,
Lola, Mariana, and Amanda. When the last appeared for a moment at the
door, then courtesied a good night and vanished, Dona Concepcion did not
call the expected name, and several of the girls glanced up in surprise.
Pilar raised her eyes at last and looked steadily at the Lady
Superior. The blood rose slowly up the nun's white face, but she said
"Thou art tired, mijita, no? Wilt thou not go to bed?"
"Not without making my confession, if you will permit me."
"Very well; go."
Pilar left the room and closed the door behind her. Alone in the hall,
she shook suddenly and twisted her hands together. But, although she
could not conquer her agitation, she opened the door of the chapel
resolutely and entered. The little arched whitewashed room was almost
dark. A few candles burned on the altar, shadowing the gorgeous images
of Virgin and saints. Pilar walked slowly down the narrow body of the
chapel until she stood behind a priest who knelt beside a table with his
back to the door. He wore the brown robes of the Franciscan, but his
lean finely proportioned figure manifested itself through the shapeless
garment. He looked less like a priest than a masquerading athlete. His
face was hidden in his hands.
Pilar did not kneel. She stood immovable and silent, and in a moment
it was evident that she had made her presence felt. The priest stirred
uneasily. "Kneel, my daughter," he said. But he did not look up. Pilar
caught his hands in hers and forced them down upon the table. The
priest, throwing back his head in surprise, met the flaming glance of
eyes that dreamed no longer. He sprang to his feet, snatching back his
hands. "Dona Pilar!" he exclaimed.
"I choose to make my confession standing," she said. "I love you!"
The priest stared at her in consternation.
"You knew it--unless you never think at all. You are the only man I have
ever thought it worth while to talk to. You have seen how I have treated
others with contempt, and that I have been happy with you--and we have
had more than one long talk together. You, too, have been happy--"
"I am a priest!"
"You are a Man and I am a Woman."
"What is it you would have me do?"
"Fling off that hideous garment which becomes you not at all, and fly
with me to my father in the City of Mexico. I hear from him constantly,
and he is wealthy and will protect us. The barque, _Joven Guipuzcoanoa,_
leaves Monterey within a week after the convent closes for vacation."
The priest raised his clasped hands to heaven. "She is mad! She is mad!"
he said. Then he turned on her fiercely. "Go! Go!" he cried. "I hate
"Ay, you love me! you love me!"
The priest slowly set his face. There was no gleam of expression to
indicate whether the words that issued through his lips came from his
soul or from that section of his brain instinct with self-protection. He
"I am a priest, and a priest I shall die. What is more, I shall denounce
you to Dona Concepcion, the clergy, and--to your mother. The words that
have just violated this chapel were not said under the seal of the
confessional, and I shall deal with them as I have said. You shall be
punished, that no other man's soul may be imperilled."
Pilar threw out her hands wildly. It was her turn to stare; and her eyes
were full of horror and disgust.
"What?" she cried. "You are a coward? A traitor? You not only dare not
acknowledge that you love me, but you would betray me--and to my mother?
Ah, Madre de Dios!"
"I do not love you. How dare you use such a word to me,--to me, an
anointed priest! I shall denounce--and to-night."
"_And I loved you_!"
He shrank a little under the furious contempt of her eyes. Her whole
body quivered with passion. Then, suddenly, she sprang forward and
struck him so violent a blow on his cheek that he reeled and clutched
the table. But his foot slipped, and he went down with the table on top
of him. She laughed into his red unmasked face. "You look what you are
down there," she said,--"less than a man, and only fit to be a priest. I
hate you! Do your worst."
She rushed out of the chapel and across the hall, flinging open the door
of the sala. As she stood there with blazing eyes and cheeks, shaking
from head to foot, the girls gave little cries of amazement, and Dona
Concepcion, shaking, came forward hastily; but she reached the door too
"Go to the priest," cried Pilar. "You will find him on his back
squirming under a table, with the mark of my hand on his cheek. He has a
tale to tell you." And she flung off the hand of the nun and ran through
the halls, striking herself against the walls.
Dona Concepcion did not leave her sala that night. The indignant young
aspirant for honours in Mexico had vowed that he would tell Dona Brigida
and the clergy before dawn, and all her arguments had entered smarting
ears. She had finally ordered him to leave the convent and never darken
its doors again. "And the self-righteous shall not enter the Kingdom of
Heaven," she had exclaimed in conclusion. "Who are you that you should
judge and punish this helpless girl and ruin a brilliant future? And
why? Because she was so inexperienced in men as to trust you."
"She has committed a deadly sin, and shall suffer," cried the young man,
violently. It was evident that his outraged virtue as well as his face
was in flames. "Women were born to be good and meek and virtuous, to
teach and to rear children. Such creatures as Pilar de la Torre should
be kept under lock and key until they are old and hideous."
"And men were made strong, that they might protect women. But I have
said enough. Go."
Pilar appeared at the refectory table in the morning, but she exchanged
a glance with no one, and ate little. She looked haggard, and it was
plain that she had not slept; but her manner was as composed as ever.
When Dona Concepcion sent for her to come to the little sala, she went
"Sit down, my child," said the nun. "I said all I could to dissuade him,
but he would not listen. I will protect thee if I can. Thou hast made a
terrible mistake; but it is too late for reproaches. We must think of
"I have no desire to escape the consequences. I staked all and lost.
And nothing can affect me now. He has proved a dog, a cur, a coward, a
brute. I can suffer no more than when I made that discovery; and if my
mother chooses to kill me, I shall make no resistance."
"Thou art young and clever and will forget him. He is not worth
remembering. He shall not go unpunished. I shall use my influence to
have him sent to the poorest hamlet in California. He is worthy to do
only the meanest work of the Church, and my influence with the clergy is
stronger than his. But thou? I shall receive your mother when she comes,
and beg her to leave you with me during the vacation. Then, later, when
her wrath is appeased, I will suggest that she send you to live for two
years with your relatives at Santa Barbara."
Pilar lifted her shoulders and stared out of the window. Suddenly
she gave a start and trembled. The bell of the gate was pealing
vociferously. Dona Concepcion sprang to her feet.
"Stay here," she said; "I will receive her in the grand sala."
But her interview with Dona Brigida lasted two minutes.
"Give her to me!" cried the terrible old woman, her furious tones
ringing through the convent. "Give her to me! I came not here to talk
with nuns. Stand aside!"
Dona Concepcion was forced to lead her to the little sala. She strode
into the room, big and brown and bony, looking like an avenging Amazon,
this mother of thirteen children. Her small eyes were blazing, and the
thick wrinkles about them quivered. Her lips twitched, her cheeks burned
with a dull dark red. In one hand she carried a greenhide reata. With
the other she caught her daughter's long unbound hair, twisted it about
her arm like a rope, then brought the reata down on the unprotected
shoulders with all her great strength Dona Concepcion fled from the
room. Pilar made no sound. She had expected this, and had vowed that it
should not unseal her lips. The beating stopped abruptly. Dona Brigida,
still with the rope of hair about her arm, pushed Pilar through the
door, out of the convent and its gates, then straight down the hill. For
the first time the girl faltered.
"Not to the Presidio!" she gasped.
Her mother struck her shoulder with a fist as hard as iron, and Pilar
stumbled on. She knew that if she refused to walk, her mother would
carry her. They entered the Presidio. Pilar, raising her eyes for one
brief terrible moment, saw that Tomaso, her mother's head vaquero, stood
in the middle of the square holding two horses, and that every man,
woman, and child of the Presidio was outside the buildings. The
Commandante and the Alcalde were with the Governor and his staff, and
Padre Estudillo. They had the air of being present at an important
Amidst a silence so profound that Pilar heard the mingled music of the
pines on the hills above the Presidio and of the distant ocean, Dona
Brigida marched her to the very middle of the square, then by a
dexterous turn of her wrist forced her to her knees. With both hands she
shook her daughter's splendid silken hair from the tight rope into
which she had coiled it, then stepped back for a moment that all might
appreciate the penalty a woman must pay who disgraced her sex. The
breeze from the hills lifted the hair of Pilar, and it floated and
wreathed upward for a moment--a warm dusky cloud.
Suddenly the intense silence was broken by a loud universal hiss. Pilar,
thinking that it was part of her punishment, cowered lower, then,
obeying some impulse, looked up, and saw the back of the young priest.
He was running. As her dull gaze was about to fall again, it encountered
for a moment the indignant blue eyes of a red-haired, hard-featured, but
distinguished-looking young man, clad in sober gray. She knew him to be
the American, Malcolm Sturges, the guest of the Governor. But her mind
rapidly shed all impressions but the wretched horror of her own plight.
In another moment she felt the shears at her neck, and knew that her
disgrace was passing into the annals of Monterey, and that half her
beauty was falling from her. Then she found herself seated on the horse
in front of her mother, who encircled her waist with an arm that
pressed her vitals like iron. After that there was an interval of
When she awoke, her first impulse was to raise her head from her
mother's bony shoulder, where it bumped uncomfortably. Her listless
brain slowly appreciated the fact that she was not on her way to the
Rancho Diablo. The mustang was slowly ascending a steep mountain trail.
But her head ached, and she dropped her face into her hands. What
mattered where she was going? She was shorn, and disgraced, and
disillusioned, and unspeakably weary of body and soul.
They travelled through dense forests of redwoods and pine, only the
soft footfalls of the unshod mustang or the sudden cry of the wild-cat
breaking the primeval silence. It was night when Dona Brigida abruptly
dismounted, dragging Pilar with her. They were halfway up a rocky
height, surrounded by towering peaks black with rigid trees. Just in
front of them was an opening in the ascending wall. Beside it, with his
hand on a huge stone, stood the vaquero. Pilar knew that she had nothing
to hope from him: her mother had beaten him into submission long since.
Dona Brigida, without a word, drove Pilar into the cave, and she and the
vaquero, exerting their great strength to the full, pushed the stone
into the entrance. There was a narrow rift at the top. The cave was as
black as a starless midnight.
Then Dona Brigida spoke for the first time:--
"Once a week I shall come with food and drink. There thou wilt stay
until thy teeth fall, the skin bags from thy bones, and thou art so
hideous that all men will run from thee. Then thou canst come forth and
go and live on the charity of the father to whom thou wouldst have taken
a polluted priest."
Pilar heard the retreating footfalls of the mustangs. She was too
stunned to think, to realize the horrible fate that had befallen her.
She crouched down against the wall of the cave nearest the light, her
ear alert for the growl of a panther or the whir of a rattler's tail.
The night after the close of school the Governor gave a grand ball,
which was attended by the older of the convent girls who lived in
Monterey or were guests in the capital. The dowagers sat against the
wall, a coffee-coloured dado; the girls in white, the caballeros in
black silk small-clothes, the officers in their uniforms, danced to the
music of the flute and the guitar. When Elena Estudillo was alone in the
middle of the room dancing El Son and the young men were clapping and
shouting and flinging gold and silver at her feet, Sturges and Eustaquia
slipped out into the corridor. It was a dark night, the duenas were
thinking of naught but the dance and the days of their youth, and the
violators of a stringent social law were safe for the moment. A
chance word, dropped by Sturges in the dance, and Eustaquia's eager
interrogations, had revealed the American's indignation at the barbarous
treatment of Pilar, and his deep interest in the beautiful victim.
"Senor," whispered Eustaquia, excitedly, as soon as they reached the
end of the corridor, "if you feel pity and perhaps love for my unhappy
friend, go to her rescue for the love of Mary. I have heard to-day that
her punishment is far worse than what you saw. It is so terrible that I
hardly have dared--"
"Surely, that old fiend could think of nothing else," said Sturges.
"What is she made of, anyhow?"
"Ay, yi! Her heart is black like the redwood tree that has been burnt
out by fire. Before Don Enrique ran away, she beat him many times; but,
after, she was a thousand times worse, for it is said that she loved
him in her terrible way, and that her heart burnt up when she was left
"But Dona Pilar, senorita?"
"Ay, yi! Benito, one of the vaqueros of Dona Erigida, was in town
to-day, and he told me (I bribed him with whiskey and cigaritos--the
Commandante's, whose guest I am, ay, yi!)--he told me that Dona Erigida
did not take my unhappy friend home, but--"
"Well?" exclaimed Sturges, who was a man of few words.
Eustaquia jerked down his ear and whispered, "She took her to a cave in
the mountains and pushed her in, and rolled a huge stone as big as a
house before the entrance, and there she will leave her till she is
"Good God! Does your civilization, such as you've got, permit such
"The mother may discipline the child as she will. It is not the business
of the Alcalde. And no one would dare interfere for poor Pilar, for she
has committed a mortal sin against the Church--"
"I'll interfere. Where is the cave?"
"Ay, senor, I knew you would. For that I told you all. I know not where
the cave is; but the vaquero--he is in town till to-morrow. But he fears
Dona Erigida, senor, as he fears the devil. You must tell him that not
only will you give him plenty of whiskey and cigars, but that you will
send him to Mexico. Dona Brigida would kill him."
"I'll look out for him."
"Do not falter, senor, for the love of God; for no Californian will go
to her rescue. She has been disgraced and none will marry her. But you
can take her far away where no one knows--"
"Where is this vaquero to be found?"
"In a little house on the beach, under the fort, where his sweetheart
"Good night!" And he sprang from the corridor and ran toward the nearest
He found the vaquero, and after an hour's argument got his way. The man,
who had wormed the secret out of Tomaso, had only a general idea of the
situation of the cave; but he confessed to a certain familiarity with
the mountains. He was not persuaded to go until Sturges had promised to
send not only himself but his sweetheart to Mexico. Dona Brigida was
violently opposed to matrimony, and would have none of it on her rancho.
Sturges promised to ship them both off on the _Joven Guipuzcoanoa_, and
to keep them comfortably for a year in Mexico. It was not an offer to be
They started at dawn. Sturges, following Benito's advice, bought a long
gray cloak with a hood, and filled his saddle-bags with nourishing food.
The vaquero sent word to Dona Brigida that the horses he had brought in
to sell to the officers had escaped and that he was hastening down the
coast in pursuit. In spite of his knowledge of the mountains, it was
only after two days of weary search in almost trackless forests, and
more than one encounter with wild beasts, that they came upon the cave.
They would have passed it then but for the sharp eyes of Sturges, who
detected the glint of stone behind the branches which Dona Brigida had
piled against it.