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Title: The Blood of the Conquerors
Author: Fergusson, Harvey
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                       The Blood of the Conquerors
                                   by
                            Harvey Fergusson

New York
Alfred · A · Knopf
1921



                           COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY
                          ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC.

                 PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



                                 CONTENTS


CHAPTER I
CHAPTER II
CHAPTER III
CHAPTER IV
CHAPTER V
CHAPTER VI
CHAPTER VII
CHAPTER VIII
CHAPTER IX
CHAPTER X
CHAPTER XI
CHAPTER XII
CHAPTER XIII
CHAPTER XIV
CHAPTER XV
CHAPTER XVI
CHAPTER XVII
CHAPTER XVIII
CHAPTER XIX
CHAPTER XX
CHAPTER XXI
CHAPTER XXII
CHAPTER XXIII
CHAPTER XXIV
CHAPTER XXV
CHAPTER XXVI
CHAPTER XXVII
CHAPTER XXVIII
CHAPTER XXIX
CHAPTER XXX
CHAPTER XXXI
CHAPTER XXXII
CHAPTER XXXIII
CHAPTER XXXIV
CHAPTER XXXV
CHAPTER XXXVI
EXTRA PAGES
ERRATA



                                CHAPTER I


Whenever Ramon Delcasar boarded a railroad train he indulged a habit, not
uncommon among men, of choosing from the women passengers the one whose
appearance most pleased him to be the object of his attention during the
journey. If the woman were reserved or well-chaperoned, or if she
obviously belonged to another man, this attention might amount to no more
than an occasional discreet glance in her direction. He never tried to
make her acquaintance unless her eyes and mouth unmistakably invited him
to do so.

This conservatism on his part was not due to an innate lack of
self-confidence. Whenever he felt sure of his social footing, his attitude
toward women was bold and assured. But his social footing was a peculiarly
uncertain thing for the reason that he was a Mexican. This meant that he
faced in every social contact the possibility of a more or less covert
prejudice against his blood, and that he faced it with an unduly proud and
sensitive spirit concealed beneath a manner of aristocratic indifference.
In the little southwestern town where he had lived all his life, except
the last three years, his social position was ostensibly of the highest.
He was spoken of as belonging to an old and prominent family. Yet he knew
of mothers who carefully guarded their daughters from the peril of falling
in love with him, and most of his boyhood fights had started when some one
called him a “damned Mexican” or a “greaser.”

Except to an experienced eye there was little in his appearance or in his
manner to suggest his race. His swarthy complexion indicated perhaps a
touch of the Moorish blood in his Spanish ancestry, but he was no darker
than are many Americans bearing Anglo-Saxon names, and his eyes were grey.
His features were aquiline and pleasing, and he had in a high degree that
bearing, at once proud and unself-conscious, which is called aristocratic.
He spoke English with a very slight Spanish accent.

When he had gone away to a Catholic law school in St. Louis, confident of
his speech and manner and appearance, he had believed that he was leaving
prejudice behind him; but in this he had been disappointed. The raw spots
in his consciousness, if a little less irritated at the college, were by
no means healed. Some persons, it is true, seemed to think nothing of his
race one way or the other; to some, mostly women, it gave him an added
interest; but in the long run it worked against him. It kept him out of a
fraternity, and it made his career in football slow and hard.

When he finally won the coveted position of quarterback, in spite of team
politics, he made a reputation by the merciless fashion in which he drove
his eleven, and by the fury of his own playing.

The same bitter emulative spirit which had impelled him in football drove
him to success in his study of the law. Books held no appeal for him, and
he had no definite ambitions, but he had a good head and a great desire to
show the gringos what he could do. So he had graduated high in his class,
thrown his diploma into the bottom of his trunk, and departed from his
alma mater without regret.

The limited train upon which he took passage for home afforded specially
good opportunity for his habit of mental philandering. The passengers were
continually going up and down between the dining car at one end of the
train and the observation car at the other, so that all of the women daily
passed in review. They were an unusually attractive lot, for most of the
passengers were wealthy easterners on their way to California. Ramon had
never before seen together so many women of the kind that devotes time and
money and good taste to the business of creating charm. Perfectly gowned
and groomed, delicately scented, they filled him with desire and with envy
for the men who owned them. There were two newly married couples among the
passengers, and several intense flirtations were under way before the
train reached Kansas City. Ramon felt as though he were a spectator at
some delightful carnival. He was lonely and restless, yet fascinated.

For no opportunity of becoming other than a spectator had come to him. He
had chosen without difficulty the girl whom he preferred, but had only
dared to admire her from afar. She was a little blonde person, not more
than twenty, with angelic grey eyes, hair of the colour of ripe wheat and
a complexion of perfect pink and white. The number of different costumes
which she managed to don in two days filled him with amazement and gave
her person an ever-varying charm and interest. She appeared always
accompanied by a very placid-looking and portly woman, who was evidently
her mother, and a tall, cadaverous sick man, whose indifferent and pettish
attitude toward her seemed to indicate that he was either a brother or an
uncle, for Ramon felt sure that she was not married. She acquired no male
attendants, but sat most of the time very properly, if a little
restlessly, with her two companions. Once or twice Ramon felt her look
upon him, but she always turned it away when he glanced at her.

Whether because she was really beautiful in her own petite way, or because
she seemed so unattainable, or because her small blonde daintiness had a
peculiar appeal for him, Ramon soon reached a state of conviction that she
interested him more than any other girl he had ever seen. He discreetly
followed her about the train, watching for the opportunity that never
came, and consoling himself with the fact that no one else seemed more
fortunate in winning her favour than he. The only strange male who
attained to the privilege of addressing her was a long-winded and elderly
gentleman of the British perpetual-travelling type, at least one
representative of which is found on every transcontinental train, and it
was plain enough that he bored the girl.

Ramon took no interest in landscapes generally, but when he awoke on the
last morning of his journey and found himself once more in the wide and
desolate country of his birth, he was so deeply stirred and interested
that he forgot all about the girl. Devotion to one particular bit of soil
is a Mexican characteristic, and in Ramon it was highly developed because
he had spent so much of his life close to the earth. Every summer of his
boyhood he had been sent to one of the sheep ranches which belonged to the
various branches of his numerous family. Each of these ranches was merely
a headquarters where the sheep were annually dipped and sheared and from
which the herds set out on their long wanderings across the open range.
Often Ramon had followed them—across the deserts where the heat shimmered
and the yellow dust hung like a great pale plume over the rippling backs
of the herd, and up to the summer range in the mountains where they fed
above the clouds in lush green pastures crowned with spires of rock and
snow. He had shared the beans and mutton and black coffee of the herders
and had gone to sleep on a pile of peltries to the evensong of the coyotes
that hung on the flanks of the herd. Hunting, fishing, wandering, he had
lived like a savage and found the life good.

It was this life of primitive freedom that he had longed for in his exile.
He had thought little of his family and less of his native town, but a
nostalgia for open spaces and free wanderings had been always with him. He
had come to hate the city with its hard walled-in ways and its dirty air,
and also the eastern country-side with its little green prettiness
surrounded by fences. He longed for a land where one can see for fifty
miles, and not a man or a house. He thought that alkaline dust on his lips
would taste sweet.

Now he saw again the scorched tawny levels, the red hills dotted with
little gnarled _pinon_ trees, the purple mystery of distant mountains. A
great friendly warmth filled his body, and his breath came a little
quickly with eagerness. When he saw a group of Mexicans jogging along the
road on their scrawny mounts he wanted to call out to them: “_Como lo va,
amigos?_” He would have liked to salute this whole country, which was his
country, and to tell it how glad he was to see it again. It was the one
thing in the world that he loved, and the only thing that had ever given
him pleasure without tincture of bitterness.

He heard two men in the seat behind him talking.

“Did you ever see anything so desolate?” one asked.

“I wouldn’t live in this country if they gave it to me,” said the other.

Ramon turned and looked at them. They were solid, important-looking men,
and having visited upon the country their impressive disapproval, they
opened newspapers and shut it away from their sight. Dull fools, thought
Ramon, who do not know God’s country when they see it.

And then he continued to look right over their heads and their newspapers,
for tripping down the aisle all by herself at last, came the girl of his
fruitless choice. His eyes, deep with dreams, met hers. She smiled upon
him, radiantly, blushed a little, and hurried on through the car.

He sat looking after her with a foolish grin on his face. He was pleased
and shaken. So she had noticed him after all. She had been waiting for a
chance, as well as he. And now that it had come, he was getting off the
train in an hour. It was useless to follow her.… He turned to the window
again.



                                CHAPTER II


Usually in each generation of a large and long-established family there is
some one individual who stands out from the rest as a leader and as the
most perfect embodiment of the family traditions and characteristics. This
was especially true of the Delcasar family. It was established in this
country in the year 1790 by Don Eusabio Maria Delcasar y Morales, an
officer in the army of the King of Spain, who distinguished himself in the
conquest of New Mexico, and especially in certain campaigns against the
Navajos. As was customary at that time, the King rewarded his faithful
soldier with a grant of land in the new province. This Delcasar estate lay
in the Rio Grande Valley and the surrounding _mesa_ lands. By the
provisions of the King’s grant, its dimensions were each the distance that
Don Delcasar could ride in a day. The Don chose good horses and did not
spare them, so that he secured to his family more than a thousand square
miles of land with a strip of rich valley through the middle and a
wilderness of desert and mountain on either side. Much of this
principality was never seen by Don Eusabio, and even the four sons who
divided the estate upon his death had each more land than he could well
use.

The outstanding figure of this second generation was Don Solomon Delcasar,
who was noted for the magnificence of his establishment, and for his
autocratic spirit.

No Borgia or Bourbon ever ruled more absolutely over his own domain than
did Don Solomon over the hundreds of square miles which made up his
estate. He owned not only lands and herds but also men and women. The
_peones_ who worked his lands were his possessions as much as were his
horses. He had them beaten when they offended him and their daughters were
his for the taking. He could not sell them, but this restriction did not
apply to the Navajo and Apache slaves whom he captured in war. These were
his to be sold or retained for his own use as he preferred. Adult Indians
were seldom taken prisoner, as they were untameable, but boys and girls
below the age of fifteen were always taken alive, when possible, and were
valued at five hundred _pesos_ each. Don Solomon usually sold the boys, as
he had plenty of _peones_, but he never sold a comely Indian girl.

The Don was a man of proud and irascible temper, but kindly when not
crossed. He had been known to kill a _peon_ in a fit of anger, and then
afterward to bestow all sorts of benefits upon the man’s wife and
children.

The life of his home, like that of all the other Mexican gentlemen in his
time, was an easy and pleasant one. He owned a great _adobe_ house, built
about a square courtyard like a fort, and shaded pleasantly by cottonwood
trees. There he dwelt with his numerous family, his _peones_ and his
slaves. In the spring and summer every one worked in the fields, though
not too hard. In the fall the men went east to the great plains to kill a
supply of buffalo meat for the winter, and often after the hunt they
travelled south into Sonora and Chihuahua to trade mustangs and buffalo
hides for woven goods and luxuries.

There was a pleasant social life among the aristocrats of dances and
visits. Marriages, funerals and christenings were occasions of great
ceremony and social importance. Indeed everything done by the Dons was
characterized by much formality and ceremony, the custom of which had been
brought over from Spain. But they were no longer really in touch with
Spanish civilization. They never went back to the mother country. They had
no books save the Bible and a few other religious works, and many of them
never learned to read these. Their lives were made up of fighting, with
the Indians and also among themselves, for there were many feuds; of
hunting and primitive trade; and of venery upon a generous and patriarchal
scale. They were Spanish gentlemen by descent, all for honour and
tradition and sentiment; but by circumstance they were barbarian lords,
and their lives were full of lust and blood.

Circumstance somewhat modified the vaunted purity of their Spanish blood,
too. The Indian slave girls who lived in their houses bore the children of
their sons, and some of these half-bred and quarter-bred children were
eventually accepted by the _gente de razon_, as the aristocrats called
themselves. In this way a strain of Navajo blood got into the Delcasar
family, and doubtless did much good, as all of the Spanish stock was
weakened by much marrying of cousins.

Dona Ameliana Delcasar, a sister of Don Solomon, was responsible for
another alien infusion which ultimately percolated all through the family,
and has been thought by some to be responsible for the unusual mental
ability of certain Delcasars. Dona Ameliana, a beautiful but somewhat
unruly girl, went into a convent in Durango, Mexico, at the age of
fifteen. At the age of eighteen she eloped with a French priest named
Raubien, who was a man of unusual intellect and a poet. The errant couple
came to New Mexico and took up lands. They were excommunicated, of course,
and both of them were buried in unconsecrated ground; but despite their
spiritual handicaps they raised a family of eleven comely daughters, all
of whom married well, several of them into the Delcasar family. Thus some
of the Delcasars who boasted of their pure Castilian blood were really of
a mongrel breed, comprising along with the many strains that have mingled
in Spain, those of Navajo and French.

Don Solomon Delcasar played a brilliant part in the military activities
which marked the winning of Mexican Independence from Spain in the
eighteen-twenties, and also in the incessant Indian wars. He was a fighter
by necessity, but also by choice. They shed blood with grace and
nonchalance in those days, and the Delcasars were always known as
dangerous men.

The most curious thing about this r�gime of the old-time Dons was the
way in which it persisted. It received its first serious blow in 1845 when
the military forces of the United States took possession of New Mexico.
Don Jesus Christo Delcasar, who was then the richest and most powerful of
the family, was suspected of being a party to the conspiracy which brought
about the Taos massacre—the last organized resistance made to the gringo
domination. At this time some of the Delcasars went to Old Mexico to live,
as did a good many others among the Dons, feeling that the old ways of
life in New Mexico were sure to change, and having the Spanish aversion to
any departure from tradition. But their fears were not realized, and life
went on as before. In 1865 the _peones_ and Indian slaves were formally
set free, but all of them immediately went deeply in debt to their former
masters and thus retained in effect the same status as before. So it
happened that in the seventies, when New York was growing into a
metropolis, and the factory system was fastening itself upon New England,
and the middle west was getting fat and populous and tame, life in the
Southwest remained much as it had been a century before.

Laws and governments were powerless there to change ways of life, as they
have always been, but two parallel bars of steel reaching across the
prairies brought change with them, and it was great and sudden. The
railroad reached the Rio Grande Valley early in the eighties, and it
smashed the colourful barbaric pattern of the old life as the ruthless
fist of an infidel might smash a stained glass window. The metropolis of
the northern valley in those days was a sleepy little _adobe_ town of a
few hundred people, reclining about its dusty _plaza_ near the river. The
railroad, scorning to notice it, passed a mile away. Forthwith a new town
began growing up between, the old one and the railroad. And this new town
was such a town as had never before been seen in all the Southwest. It was
built of wood and only half painted. It was ugly, noisy and raw. It was
populated largely by real estate agents, lawyers, politicians and
barkeepers. It cared little for joy, leisure, beauty or tradition. Its God
was money and its occupation was business.

This thing called business was utterly strange to the Delcasars and to all
of the other Dons. They were men of the saddle, fighting men, and traders
only in a primitive way. Business seemed to them a conspiracy to take
their lands and their goods away from them, and a remarkably successful
conspiracy. Debt and mortgage and speculation were the names of its
weapons. Some of the Dons, including many of the Delcasars, who were now a
very numerous family, owning each a comfortable homestead but no more,
sold out and went to Old Mexico. Many who stayed lost all they had in a
few years, and degenerated into petty politicians or small storekeepers.
Some clung to a bit of land and went on farming, making always less and
less money, sinking into poverty and insignificance, until some of them
were no better off than the men who had once been their _peones_.

Diego Delcasar and Felipe Delcasar, brothers, were two who owned houses in
the Old Town and farms nearby, who stayed in the country and held their
own for a time and after a fashion. Diego Delcasar was far the more able
of the two, and a true scion of his family. He caught onto the gringo
methods to a certain extent. He divided some farm land on the edge of town
into lots and sold them for a good price. With the money he bought a great
area of mountain land in the northern part of the state, where he raised
sheep and ruled with an iron hand, much as his forbears had ruled in the
valley. He also went into politics, learned to make a good stump speech
and got himself elected to the highly congenial position of sheriff. In
this place he made a great reputation for fearlessness and for the
ruthless and skilful use of a gun. He once kicked down the locked door of
a saloon and arrested ten armed gamblers, who had threatened to kill him.
He was known and feared all over the territory and was a tyrant in his own
section of it. When a gringo prospector ventured to dispute with him the
ownership of a certain mine, the gringo was found dead in the bottom of
the shaft. It was reported that he had fallen in and broken his neck and
no one dared to look at the bullet hole in his back.

Don Diego’s wife died without leaving him any children, but he had
numerous children none-the-less. It was said that one could follow his
wanderings about the territory by the sporadic occurrence of the
unmistakable Delcasar nose among the younger inhabitants. All of his sons
and daughters by the left hand he treated with notable generosity. He was
a sort of hero to the native people—a great fighter, a great lover—and
songs about his adventures were composed and sung around the fires in
sheep camps and by gangs of trackworkers.

Don Diego, in a word, was a true Delcasar and a great man. Had he used his
opportunities wisely he might have been a millionaire. But at the age of
sixty he owned little besides his house and his wild mountain lands. He
drank a good deal and played poker almost every night. Once he had been a
famous winner, but in these later years he generally lost. He also formed
a partnership with a real estate broker named MacDougall, for the
development of his wild lands, and it was predicted by some that the
leading development would be an ultimate transfer of title to Mr.
MacDougall, who was known to be lending the Don money and taking land as
security.

Don Felipe’s career was far less spectacular than that of his brother. He
owned more than Don Diego to start with, and he spent his life slowly
losing it, so that when he died he left nothing but a house in Old Town
and a single small sheep ranch, which afforded his widow, two daughters
and one son a scant living.

This son, Ramon Delcasar, was the hope of the family. He would inherit the
estate of Don Diego, if the old Don died before spending it all, which it
did not seem likely that he would do. But Ramon early demonstrated that he
had a more important heritage in the sharp intelligence, and the proud,
plucky and truculent spirit which had characterized the best of the
Delcasars throughout the family history.

As there was no considerable family estate for him to settle upon, he was
sent to law school at the age of twenty, and returned three years later to
take up the practice of his profession in his native town. Thus he was the
first of the Delcasars to face life with his bare hands. And he was also
the last of them in a sense, to face the gringos. All the others of his
name, save the senile Don, had either died, departed or sunk from sight
into the mass of the peasantry.



                               CHAPTER III


The year that Ramon returned to his native town the annual fair, which
took place at the fair-grounds in Old Town, was an especially gorgeous and
throngful event, rich in spectacle and incident. A steer was roped and
hog-tied in record time by Clay MacGarnigal of Lincoln County. A
seven-mile relay race was won by a buck named Slonny Begay. In the bronco
busting contest two men were injured to the huge enjoyment of the crowd.
The twenty-seventh cavalry from Fort Bliss performed a sham battle. The
home team beat several other teams. Enormous apples raised by irrigation
in the Pecos Valley attracted much attention, and a hungry Mexican
absconded with a prize Buff Orpington rooster.

Twice a day the single narrow street which connected the neat brick and
frame respectability of New Town with the picturesque _adobe_ squalor of
Old Town was filled by a curiously varied crowd. The tourist from the
East, distinguished by his camera and his unnecessary umbrella, jostled
the Pueblo squaw from Isleta, with her latest-born slung over her shoulder
in a fold of red blanket. Mexican families from the country marched in
single file, the men first, then the women enveloped in huge black shawls,
carrying babies and leading older children by the hand. Cowboys, Indians
and soldiers raced their horses through the swarming street with reckless
skill. Automobiles honked and fretted. The street cars, bulging humanity
at every door and window, strove in vain to relieve the situation. Several
children and numerous pigs and chickens were run over. From the unpaved
street to the cloudless sky rose a vast cloud of dust, such as only a
rainless country made of sand can produce. Dust was in every one’s eyes
and mouth and upon every one’s clothing. It was the unofficial badge of
the gathering. It turned the green of the cottonwood trees to grey, and
lay in wait for unsuspecting teeth between the halves of hamburger
sandwiches sold at corner booths.

Ramon, who had obtained a pass to the grounds through the influence of his
uncle, went to the fair every day, although he was not really pleased with
it. He was assured by every one that it was the greatest fair ever held in
the southwest, but to him it seemed smaller, dustier and less exciting
than the fairs he had attended in his boyhood.

This impression harmonized with a general feeling of discontent which had
possessed him since his return. He had obtained a position in the office
of a lawyer at fifty dollars a month, and spent the greater part of each
day making out briefs and borrowing books for his employer from other
lawyers. It seemed to him a petty and futile occupation, and the way to
anything better was long and obscure. The town was full of other young
lawyers who were doing the same things and doing them with a better grace
than he. They were impelled by a great desire to make money. He, too,
would have liked a great deal of money, but he had no taste for piling it
up dollar by dollar. The only thing that cheered him was the prospect of
inheriting his uncle’s wealth, and that was an uncertain prospect. Don
Diego seemed to be doing what he could to get rid of his property before
he died.

Local society did not please Ramon either. The girls of the gringo
families were not nearly as pretty, for the most part, as the ones he had
seen in the East. The dryness and the scorching sun had a bad effect on
their complexions. The girls of his own race did not much interest him;
his liking was for blondes. And besides, girls were relatively scarce in
the West because of the great number of men who came from the East.
Competition for their favours was keen, and he could not compete
successfully because he had so little money.

The fair held but one new experience for him, and that was the Montezuma
ball. This took place on the evening of the last day, and was an exclusive
invitation event, designed to give elegance to the fair by bringing
together prominent persons from all parts of the state. Ramon had never
attended a Montezuma ball, as he had been considered a mere boy before his
departure for college and had not owned a dress suit. But this lack had
now been supplied, and he had obtained an invitation through the Governor
of the State, who happened to be a Mexican.

He went to the ball with his mother and his eldest sister in a carriage
which had been among the family possessions for about a quarter of a
century. It had once been a fine equipage, and had been drawn by a
spirited team in the days before Felipe Delcasar lost all his money, but
now it had a look of decay, and the team consisted of a couple of rough
coated, low-headed brutes, one of which was noticeably smaller than the
other. The coachman was a ragged native who did odd jobs about the
Delcasar house.

The Montezuma ball took place in the new Eldorado Hotel which had recently
been built by the railroad company for the entertainment of its
transcontinental passengers. It was not a beautiful building, but it was
an apt expression of the town’s personality. Designed in the ancient style
of the early Spanish missions, long, low and sprawling, with deep
verandahs, odd little towers and arched gateways it was made of cement and
its service and prices were of the Manhattan school. A little group of
Pueblo Indians, lonesomely picturesque in buck-skin and red blankets, with
silver and turquoise rings and bracelets, were always seated before its
doors, trying to sell fruit and pottery to well-tailored tourists. It had
a museum of Southwestern antiquities and curios, where a Navajo squaw
sulkily wove blankets on a handloom for the edification of the guilded
stranger from the East. On the platform in front of it, perspiring
Mexicans smashed baggage and performed the other hard labour of a modern
terminal.

Thus the Eldorado Hotel was rich in that contrast between the old and the
new which everywhere characterized the town. Generally speaking, the old
was on exhibition or at work, while the new was at leisure or in charge.

When the Delcasar carriage reached the hotel, it had to take its place in
a long line of crawling vehicles, most of which were motor cars. Ramon
felt acutely humiliated to arrive at the ball in a decrepit-looking rig
when nearly every one else came in an automobile. He hoped that no one
would notice them. But the smaller of the two horses, which had spent most
of his life in the country, became frightened, reared, plunged, and
finally backed the rig into one of the cars, smashing a headlight,
blocking traffic, and making the Delcasars a target for searchlights and
oaths. The Dona Delcasar, a ponderous and swarthy woman in voluminous
black silk, became excited and stood up in the carriage, shouting shrill
and useless directions to the coachman in Spanish. People began to laugh.
Ramon roughly seized his mother by the arm and dragged her down. He was
trembling with rage and embarassment.

It was an immense relief to him when he had deposited the two women on
chairs and was able to wander away by himself. He took up his position in
a doorway and watched the opening of the ball with a cold and disapproving
eye. The beginning was stiff, for many of those present were unknown to
each other and had little in common. Most of them were “Americans,” Jews
and Mexicans. The men were all a good deal alike in their dress suits, but
the women displayed an astonishing variety. There were tall gawky blonde
wives of prominent cattlemen; little natty black-eyed Jewesses, best
dressed of all; swarthy Mexican mothers of politically important families,
resplendent in black silk and diamonds; and pretty dark Mexican girls of
the younger generation, who did not look at all like the se�oritas of
romance, but talked, dressed and flirted in a thoroughly American manner.

The affair finally got under way in the form of a grand march, which
toured the hall a couple of times and disintegrated into waltzing couples.
Ramon watched this proceeding and several other dances without feeling any
desire to take part. He was in a state of grand and gloomy discontent,
which was not wholly unpleasant, as is often the case with youthful
glooms. He even permitted himself to smile at some of the capers cut by
prominent citizens. But presently his gaze settled upon one couple with a
real sense of resentment and uneasiness. The couple consisted of his
uncle, Diego Delcasar, and the wife of James MacDougall, the lawyer and
real estate operator with whom the Don had formed a partnership, and whom
Ramon believed to be systematically fleecing the old man.

Don Diego was a big, paunchy Mexican with a smooth brown face, strikingly
set off by fierce white whiskers. His partner was a tall, tight-lipped,
angular woman, who danced painfully, but with determination. The two had
nothing to say to each other, but both of them smiled resolutely, and the
Don visibly perspired under the effort of steering his inflexible friend.

Although he did not formulate the idea, this couple was to Ramon a symbol
of the disgust with which the life of his native town inspired him. Here
was the Mexican sedulously currying favour with the gringo, who robbed him
for his pains. And here was the specific example of that relation which
promised to rob Ramon of his heritage.

For the gringos he felt a cold hostility—a sense of antagonism and
difference—but it was his senile and fatuous uncle, the type of his own
defeated race, whom he despised.



                                CHAPTER IV


When the music stopped Ramon left the hall for the hotel lobby, where he
soothed his sensibilities with a small brown cigarette of his own making.
In one of the swinging benches covered with Navajo blankets two other
dress-suited youths were seated, smoking and talking. One of them was a
short, plump Jew with a round and gravely good-natured face; the other a
tall, slender young fellow with a great mop of curly brown hair, large
soft eyes and a sensitive mouth.

“She’s good looking, all right,” the little fellow assented, as Ramon came
up.

“Good looking!” exclaimed the other with enthusiasm. “She’s a little
queen! Nothing like her ever hit this town before.”

“Who’s all the excitement about?” Ramon demanded, thrusting himself into
the conversation with the easy familiarity which was his right as one of
“the bunch.”

Sidney Felberg turned to him in mock amazement.

“Good night, Ramon! Where have you been? Asleep? We’re talking about Julia
Roth, same as everybody else.…”

“Who’s she?” Ramon queried coolly, discharging a cloud of smoke from the
depths of his lungs. “Never heard of her.”

“Well, she’s our latest social sensation … sister of some rich lunger that
recently hit town; therefore very important. But that’s not the only
reason. Wait till you see her.”

“All right; introduce me to her,” Ramon suggested.

“Go on; knock him down to the lady,” Sidney proposed to his companion.

“No, you,” Conny demurred. “I refuse to take the responsibility. He’s too
good looking.”

“All right,” Sidney assented. “Come on. It’s the only way I can get a look
at her anyway—introducing somebody else. A good-looking girl in this town
can start a regular stampede. We ought to import a few hundred.…”

It was during an intermission. They forced their way through a phalanx of
men brandishing programs and pencils, each trying to bring himself
exclusively to the attention of a small blonde person who seemed to have
some such quality of attractiveness for men as spilled honey has for
insects.

When Ramon saw her he felt as though something inside of him had bumped up
against his diaphragm, taking away his breath for a moment, agitating him
strangely. And he saw an answering surprised recognition in her wide grey
eyes.

“You … you’re the girl on the train,” he remarked idiotically, as he took
her hand.

She turned pink and laughed.

“You’re the man that wouldn’t look up,” she mocked.

“What’s all this about?” demanded Sidney. “You two met before?”

“May I have a dance?” Ramon inquired, suddenly recovering his presence of
mind.

“Let me see … you’re awfully late.” They put their heads close together
over her program. He saw her cut out the name of another man who had two
dances, and then she held her pencil poised.

“Of course I didn’t get your name,” she admitted.

“No; I’ll write it … Was it Carter? Delcasar? Ramon Delcasar. You must be
Spanish. I was wondering … you’re so dark. I’m awfully interested in
Spanish people.…” She wrote the name in a bold, upright, childish hand.

Ramon found that he had lost his mood of discontent after this, and he
entered with zest into the spirit of the dance which was fast losing its
stiff and formal character. Punch and music had broken down barriers. The
hall was noisy with the ringing, high pitched laughter of excitement. It
was warm and filled with an exotic, stimulating odour, compounded of many
perfumes and of perspiration. Every one danced. Young folk danced as
though inspired, swaying their bodies in time to the tune. The old and the
fat danced with pathetic joyful earnestness, going round and round the
hall with red and perspiring faces, as though in this measure they might
recapture youth and slimness if only they worked hard enough. Now and then
a girl sang a snatch of the tune in a clear young voice, full of abandon,
and sometimes others took up the song and it rose triumphant above the
music of the orchestra for a moment, only to be lost again as the singers
danced apart.

Ramon had been looking forward so long and with such intense anticipation
to his dance with Julia Roth that he was a little self-conscious at its
beginning, but this feeling was abolished by the discovery that they could
dance together perfectly. He danced in silence, looking down upon her
yellow head and white shoulders, the odour of her hair filling his
nostrils, forgetful of everything but the sensuous delight of the moment.

This mood of solemn rapture was evidently not shared by her, for presently
the yellow head was thrown back, and she smiled up at him a bit mockingly.

“Just like on the train,” she remarked. “Not a thing to say for yourself.
Are you always thus silent?”

Ramon grinned.

“No,” he countered, “I was just trying to get up the nerve to ask if
you’ll let me come to see you.”

“That doesn’t take much nerve,” she assured him. “Practically every man
I’ve danced with tonight has asked me that. I never had so many dates
before in my life.”

“Well; may I follow the crowd, then?”

“You may,” she laughed. “Or call me up first, and maybe there won’t be any
crowd.”



                                CHAPTER V


His mother and sister had left early, for which fact he was thankful. He
walked home alone with his hat in his hand, letting the cold wind of early
morning blow on his hot brow. Punch and music and dancing had filled him
with a delightful excitement. He felt glad of life and full of power. He
could have gone on walking for hours, enjoying the rhythm of his stride
and the gorgeous confusion of his thoughts, but in a remarkably short time
he had covered the mile to his house in Old Town.

It was a long, low _adobe_ with a paintless and rickety wooden verandah
along its front, and with deep-set, iron-barred windows looking upon the
square about which Old Town was built. Delcasars had lived in this house
for over a century. Once it had been the best in town. Now it was an
antiquity pointed out to tourists. Most of the Mexicans who had money had
moved away from Old Town and built modern brick houses in New Town. But
this was an expensive proceeding. The old _adobe_ houses which they left
brought them little. The Delcasars had never been able to afford this
removal. They were deeply attached to the old house and also deeply
ashamed of it.

Ramon passed through a narrow hallway into a courtyard and across it to
his room. The light of the oil lamp which he lit showed a large oblong
chamber with a low ceiling supported by heavy timbers, whitewashed walls
and heavy old-fashioned walnut furniture. A large coloured print of Mary
and the Babe in a gilt frame hung over the wash-stand, and next to it a
college pennant was tacked over a photograph of his graduating class.
Several Navajo blankets covered most of the floor and a couple of guns
stood in a corner.

When he was in bed his overstimulated state of mind became a torment. He
rolled and tossed, beset by exciting images and ideas. Every time that a
growing confusion of these indicated the approach of sleep, he was brought
sharply back to full consciousness by the crowing of a rooster in the
backyard. Finally he threw off the covers and sat up, cursing the rooster
in two languages and resolving to eat him.

Sleep was out of the question now. Suddenly he remembered that this was
Sunday morning, and that he had intended going to the mountains. To start
at once would enable him to avoid an argument with his mother concerning
the inevitability of damnation for those who miss early Mass. He rose and
dressed himself, putting on a cotton shirt, a faded and dirty pair of
overalls and coarse leather riding boots; tied a red and white bandana
about his neck and stuck on his head an old felt hat minus a band and with
a drooping brim. So attired he looked exactly like a Mexican countryman—a
poor _ranchero_ or a woodcutter. This masquerade was not intentional nor
was he conscious of it. He simply wore for his holiday the kind of clothes
he had always worn about the sheep ranches.

Nevertheless he felt almost as different from his usual self as he looked.
A good part of his identity as a poor, discontented and somewhat lazy
young lawyer was hanging in the closet with his ready-made business suit.
He took a long and noisy drink from the pitcher on the wash-stand, picked
up his shot-gun and slipped cautiously out of the house, feeling care-free
and happy.

Behind the house was a corral with an _adobe_ wall that was ten feet high
except where it had fallen down and been patched with boards. A scrub cow
and three native horses were kept there. Two of the horses made the
ill-matched team that hauled his mother and sister to church and town. The
other was a fiery ragged little roan mare which he kept for his own use.
None of these horses was worth more than thirty dollars, and they were
easily kept on a few tons of alfalfa a year.

The little mare laid back her ears and turned as though to annihilate him
with a kick. He quickly stepped right up against the threatening hind
legs, after the fashion of experienced horsemen who know that a kick is
harmless at short range, and laid his hand on her side. She trembled but
dared not move. He walked to her head, sliding his hand along the rough,
uncurried belly and talking to her in Spanish. In a moment he had the
bridle on her.

The town was impressively empty and still as he galloped through it. Hoof
beats rang out like shots, scaring a late-roaming cat, which darted across
the street like a runaway shadow.

Near the railroad station he came to a large white van, with a beam of
light emerging from its door. This was a local institution of
longstanding, known as the chile-wagon, and was the town’s only all-night
restaurant. Here he aroused a fat, sleepy old Mexican.

“_Un tamale y cafe_,” he ordered, and then had the proprietor make him a
couple of sandwiches to put in his pocket. He consumed his breakfast
hurriedly, rolled and lit a little brown cigarette, and was off again.

His way led up a long steep street lined with new houses and vacant lots;
then out upon the high empty level of the _mesa_. It was daylight now, of
a clear, brilliant morning. He was riding across a level prairie, which
was a grey desert most of the year, but which the rainy season of late
summer had now touched with rich colours. The grass in many of the hollows
was almost high enough to cut with a scythe, and its green expanse was
patched with purple-flowered weeds. Meadow larks bugled from the grass;
flocks of wild doves rose on whistling wings from the weed patches; a
great grey jack-rabbit with jet-tipped ears sprang from his form beside
the road and went sailing away in long effortless bounds, like a
wind-blown thing. Miles ahead were the mountains—an angular mass of blue
distance and purple shadow, rising steep five thousand feet above the
_mesa_, with little round foothills clustering at their feet. A brisk cool
wind fanned his face and fluttered the brim of his hat.

But with the rising of the sun the wind dropped, it became warm and he
felt dull and sleepy. When he came to a little juniper bush which spread
its bit of shadow beside the road, he dismounted, pulled the saddle off
his sweating mare, and sat down in the shade to eat his lunch. When he had
finished he wished for a drink of water and philosophically took a smoke
instead. Then he lay down, using his saddle for a pillow, puffing
luxuriously at his cigarette. It was cool in his bit of shadow, though all
the world about him swam in waves of heat.… Cool and very quiet. He felt
drowsily content. This sunny desolation was to him neither lonely nor
beautiful; it was just his own country, the soil from which he had
sprung.… Colours and outlines blurred as his eyelids grew heavy. Sleep
conquered him in a sudden black rush.

It was late afternoon when he awakened. He had meant to shoot doves, but
it was too late now to do any hunting if he was to reach Archulera’s place
before dark. He saddled his mare hurriedly and went forward at a hard
gallop.

Archulera’s place was typical of the little Mexican ranches that dot the
Southwest wherever there is water enough to irrigate a few acres. The
brown block of _adobe_ house stood on an arid, rocky hillside, and looked
like a part of it, save for the white door, and a few bright scarlet
strings of _chile_ hung over the rafter ends to dry. Down in the _arroyo_
was the little fenced patch where corn and _chile_ and beans were raised,
and behind the house was a round goat corral of wattled brush. The skyward
rocky waste of the mountain lifted behind the house, and the empty reach
of the _mesa_ lay before—an immense and arid loneliness, now softened and
beautified by many shadows.

Ramon could see old man Archulera far up the mountainside, rounding up his
goats for evening milking, and he could faintly hear the bleating of the
animals and the old man’s shouts and imprecations. He whistled loudly
through his fingers and waved his hat.

_“__Como lo va primo!__”_ he shouted, and he saw Archulera stop and look,
and heard faintly his answering, _“__Como la va!__”_

Soon Archulera had his goats penned, and Ramon joined him while he milked
half a dozen ewes.

“I’m glad you came,” Archulera told him, “I haven’t seen a man in a month
except one gringo that said he was a prospector and stole a kid from me.…
How was the fair?”

When the milking was over, the old man selected a fat kid, caught it by
the hind leg and dragged it, bleating in wild terror, to a gallows behind
the house, where he hung it up and skilfully cut its throat, leaving it to
bleat and bleed to death while he wiped his knife and went on talking
volubly with his guest. The occasional visits of Ramon were the most
interesting events in his life, and he always killed a kid to express his
appreciation. Ramon reciprocated with gifts of tobacco and whisky. They
were great friends.

Archulera was a short, muscular Mexican with a swarthy, wrinkled face,
broad but well-cut. His big, thin-lipped mouth showed an amazing disarray
of strong yellow teeth when he smiled. His little black eyes were shrewd
and full of fire. Although he was sixty years old, there was little grey
in the thick black hair that hung almost to his shoulders. He wore a cheap
print shirt and a faded pair of overalls, belted at the waist with a strip
of red wool. His foot-gear consisted of the uppers of a pair of old shoes
with soles of rawhide sewed on moccasin-fashion.

With no more disguise than a red blanket and a grunt Archulera could have
passed for an Indian anywhere, but he made it clear to all that he
regarded himself as a Spanish gentleman. He was descended, like Ramon,
from one of the old families, which had received occasional infusions of
native blood. There was probably more Indian in him than in the young man,
but the chief difference between the two was due to the fact that the
Archuleras had lost most of their wealth a couple of generations before,
so that the old man had come down in the social scale to the condition of
an ordinary goat-herding _pelado_. There are many such fallen aristocrats
among the New Mexican peasantry. Most of them, like Archulera, are
distinguished by their remarkably choice and fluent use of the Spanish
language, and by the formal, eighteenth-century perfection of their
manners, which contrast strangely with the barbaric way of their lives.

The old man was now skinning and butchering the goat with speed and skill.
Nothing was wasted. The hide was flung over a rafter end to dry. The head
was washed and put in a pan, as were the smaller entrails with bits of fat
clinging to them, and the liver and heart. The meat was too fresh to be
eaten tonight, but these things would serve well enough for supper, and he
called to his daughter, Catalina, to come and get them.

The two men soon joined her in the low, whitewashed room, which had hard
mud for a floor, and was furnished with a bare table and a few chairs. It
was clean, but having only one window and that always closed, it had a
pronounced and individual odour. In one corner was a little fireplace,
which had long served both for cooking and to furnish heat, but as a
concession to modern ideas Archulera had lately supplemented it with a
cheap range in the opposite corner. There Catalina was noisily distilling
an aroma from goat liver and onions. The entrails she threaded on little
sticks and broiled them to a delicate brown over the coals, while the head
she placed whole in the oven. Later this was cracked open and the brains
taken out with a spoon, piping hot and very savoury. These viands were
supplemented by a pan of large pale biscuits, and a big tin pot of coffee.
Catalina served the two men, saying nothing, not even raising her eyes,
while they talked and paid no attention to her. After eating her own
supper and washing the dishes she disappeared into the next room.

This self-effacing behaviour on the part of the girl accorded with the
highest standards of Mexican etiquette, and showed her good breeding. The
fact that old Archulera paid no more attention to her than to a chair did
not indicate that he was indifferent to her. On the contrary, as Ramon had
long ago discovered, she was one of the chief concerns of his life. He
could not forget that in her veins flowed some of the very best of Spanish
blood, and he considered her altogether too good for the common
sheep-herders and wood-cutters who aspired to woo her. These he summarily
warned away, and brought his big Winchester rifle into the argument
whenever it became warm. When he left the girl alone, in order to guard
her from temptation he locked her into the house together with his dog.
Catalina had led a starved and isolated existence.

After the meal, Archulera became reminiscent of his youth. Some
thirty-five years before he had been one of the young bloods of the
country, having fought against the Navajos and Apaches. He had made a
reputation, long since forgotten by every one but himself, for ruthless
courage and straight shooting, and many a man had he killed. In his early
life, as he had often told Ramon, he had been a boon companion of old
Diego Delcasar. The two had been associated in some mining venture, and
Archulera claimed that Delcasar had cheated him out of his share of the
proceeds, and so doomed him to his present life of poverty. When properly
stimulated by food and drink Archulera never failed to tell this story,
and to express his hatred for the man who had deprived him of wealth and
social position. He had at first approached the subject diffidently, not
knowing how Ramon would regard an attack on the good name of his uncle,
and being anxious not to offend the young man. But finding that Ramon
listened tolerantly, if not sympathetically, he had told the story over
and over, each time with more detail and more abundant and picturesque
denunciation of Diego Delcasar, but with substantial uniformity as to the
facts. As he spoke he watched the face of Ramon narrowly. Always the
recital ended about the same way.

“You are not like your uncle,” he assured the young man earnestly, in his
formal Spanish. “You are generous, honourable. When your uncle is dead,
you will repay me for the wrongs that I have suffered—no?”

Ramon would always laugh at this. This night, in order to humour the old
man, he asked him how much he thought the Delcasar estate owed him for his
ancient wrong.

“Five thousand dollars!” Archulera replied with slow emphasis. He probably
had no idea how much he had lost, but five thousand dollars was his
conception of a great deal of money.

Ramon again laughed and refused to commit himself. He certainly had no
idea of giving Archulera five thousand dollars, but he thought that if he
ever did come into his own he would certainly take care of the old man—and
of Catalina.

Soon after this Archulera went off to sleep in the other end of the house,
after trying in vain to persuade Ramon to occupy his bed. Ramon, as
always, refused. He would sleep on a pile of sheep skins in the corner. He
really preferred this, because the sheep skins were both cleaner and
softer than Archulera’s bed, and also for another reason.

After the old man had gone, he stretched out on his pallet, and lit
another cigarette. He could hear his host thumping around for a few
minutes; then it was very still, save for a faint moan of wind and the
ticking of a cheap clock. This late still hour had always been to him one
of the most delightful parts of his visits to Archulera’s house. For some
reason he got a sense of peace and freedom out of this far-away quiet
place. And he knew that in the next room Catalina was waiting for
him—Catalina with the strong, shapely brown body which her formless calico
smock concealed by day, with the eager, blind desire bred of her long
loneliness.

During his first few visits to Archulera, he had scarcely noticed the
girl. That was doubtless one reason why the old man had welcomed him. He
had come here simply to go deer-hunting with Archulera, to eat his goat
meat and chile, to get away from the annoyance and boredom of his life in
town, and into the crude, primitive atmosphere which he had loved as a
boy. Catalina had been to him just the usual slovenly figure of a Mexican
woman, a self-effacing drudge.

He had felt her eyes upon him several times, had not looked up quickly
enough to meet them, but had noticed the pretty soft curve of her cheek.
Then one night when he was stretched out on his sheep skins after
Archulera had gone to bed, the girl came into the room and began pottering
about the stove. He had watched her, wondering what she was doing. As she
knelt on the floor he noticed the curve of her hip, the droop of her
breast against her frock, the surprising round perfection of her
outstretched arm. It struck him suddenly that she was a woman to be
desired, and one who might be taken with ease. At the same time, with a
quickening of the blood, he realized that she was doing nothing, and had
merely come into the room to attract his attention. Then she glanced at
him, daring but shy, with great brown eyes, like the eyes of a gentle
animal. When she went back to her own room a moment later, he confidently
followed.

Ever since then Catalina had been the chief object of his week-end
journeys, and his hunting largely an excuse. She had completed this life
which he led in the mountains, and which was so pleasantly different from
his life in town. For a part of the week he was a poor, young lawyer,
watchful, worried, careful; then for a couple of days he was a ragged
young Mexican and the lover of Catalina—a different man. He was the
product of a transition, and two beings warred in him. In town he was
dominated by the desire to be like the Americans, and to gain a foothold
in their life of law, greed and respectability; in the mountains he
relapsed unconsciously into the easy barbarous ways of his fathers.
Incidentally, this periodical change of personality was refreshing and a
source of strength. Catalina had been an important part of it.… As he lay
now sleepily puffing a last cigarette, he wondered why it was that he had
suddenly lost interest in the girl.



                                CHAPTER VI


At ten o’clock in the morning Ramon was hard at work in the office of
James B. Green. He worked efficiently and with zest as he always did after
one of his trips to the mountains. He got out of these ventures into
another environment about what some men get out of sprees—a complete
change of the state of mind. Archulera and his daughter were now
completely forgotten, and all of his usual worries and plans were creeping
back into his consciousness.

But this day he had a feeling of pleasant anticipation. At first he could
not account for it. And then he remembered the girl—the one he had seen on
the train and had met again at the Montezuma ball. It seemed as though the
thought of her had been in the back of his mind all the time, and now
suddenly came forward, claiming all his attention, stirring him to a
quick, unwonted excitement. She had said he might come to see her. He was
to ’phone first. Maybe she would be alone.…

In this latter hope he was disappointed. She gave him the appointment, and
she herself admitted him. He thought he had never seen such a dainty bit
of fragrant perfection, all in pink that matched the pink of her strange
little crinkled mouth.

“I’m awfully glad you came,” she told him. (Her gladness was always
awful.) She led him into the sitting room and presented him to the tall
emaciated sick man and the large placid woman who had watched over her so
carefully on the train.

Gordon Roth greeted him with a cool and formal manner into which he
evidently tried to infuse something of cordiality, as though a desire to
be just and broad-minded struggled with prejudice. Mrs. Roth looked at him
with curiosity, and gave him a still more restrained greeting. The
conversation was a weak and painful affair, kept barely alive, now by one
and now by another. The atmosphere was heavy with disapproval. If their
greetings had left Ramon in any doubt as to the attitude of the girl’s
family toward him, that doubt was removed by the fact that neither Mrs.
Roth nor her son showed any intention of leaving the room. This would have
been not unusual if he had called on a Mexican girl, especially if she
belonged to one of the more old-fashioned families; but he knew that
American girls are left alone with their suitors if the suitor is at all
welcome.

He knew a little about this family from hear-say. They came from one of
the larger factory towns in northern New York, and were supposed to be
moderately wealthy. They used a very broad “a” and served tea at four
o’clock in the afternoon. Gordon Roth was a Harvard graduate and did not
conceal the fact. Neither did he conceal his hatred for this sandy little
western town, where ill-health had doomed him to spend many of his days
and perhaps to end them.

The girl was strangely different from her mother and brother. Whereas
their expressions were stiff and solemn, her eyes showed an irrepressible
gleam of humour, and her fascinating little mouth was mobile with mirth.
She fidgeted around in her chair a good deal, as a child does when bored.

Mrs. Roth decorously turned the conversation toward the safe and reliable
subjects of literature and art.

“What do you think of Maeterlinck, Mr. Delcasar?” she enquired in an
innocent manner that must have concealed malice.

“I don’t know him,” Ramon admitted, “Who is he?”

Mrs. Roth permitted herself to smile. Gordon Roth came graciously to the
rescue.

“Maeterlinck is a great Belgian writer,” he explained. “We are all very
much interested in him.…”

Julia gave a little flounce in her chair, and crossed her legs with a
defiant look at her mother.

“I’m not interested in him,” she announced with decision. “I think he’s a
bore. Listen, Mr. Delcasar. You know Conny Masters? Well, he was telling
me the most thrilling tale the other day. He said that the country
Mexicans have a sort of secret religious fraternity that most of the men
belong to, and that they meet every Good Friday and beat themselves with
whips and sit down on cactus and crucify a man on a cross and all sorts of
horrible things … for penance you know, just like the monks and things in
the Middle Ages.… He claims he saw them once and that they had blood
running down to their heels. Is that all true? I’ve forgotten what he
called them.…”

Ramon nodded.

“Sure. The _penitentes_. I’ve seen them lots of times.”

“O, do tell us about them. I love to hear about horrible things.”

“Well, I’ve seen lots of _penitente_ processions, but the best one I ever
saw was a long time ago, when I was a little kid. There are not so many of
them now, and they don’t do as much as they used to. The church is down on
them, you know, and they’re afraid. Ten years ago if you tried to look at
them, they would shoot at you, but now tourists take pictures of them.”

Gordon Roth’s curiosity had been aroused.

“Tell me,” he broke in. “What is the meaning of this thing? How did it get
started?”

“I don’t know exactly,” Ramon admitted. “My grandfather told me that they
brought it over from Spain centuries ago, and the Indians here had a sort
of whipping fraternity, and the two got mixed up, I guess. The church used
to tolerate it; it was a regular religious festival. But now it’s
outlawed. They still have a lot of political power. They all vote the same
way. One man that was elected to Congress—they say that the _penitente_
stripes on his back carried him there. And he was a gringo too. But I
don’t know. It may be a lie.…”

“But tell us about that procession you saw when you were a little boy,”
Julia broke in. She was leaning forward with her chin in her hand, and her
big grey eyes, wide with interest, fixed upon his face.

“Well, I was only about ten years old, and I was riding home from one of
our ranches with my father. We were coming through _Tijeras_ canyon. It
was March, and there was snow on the ground in patches, and the mountains
were cold and bare, and I remember I thought I was going to freeze. Every
little while we would get off and set fire to a tumble-weed by the road,
and warm our hands and then go on again.…

“Anyway, pretty soon I heard a lot of men singing, all together, in deep
voices, and the noise echoed around the canyon and sounded awful solemn.
And I could hear, too, the slap of the big wide whips coming down on the
bare backs, wet with blood, like slapping a man with a wet towel, only
louder. I didn’t know what it was, but my father did, and he called to me
and we spurred our horses right up the mountain, and hid in a clump of
cedar up there. Then they came around a bend in the road, and I began to
cry because they were all covered with blood, and one of them fell down.…
My father slapped me and told me to shut up, or they would come and shoot
us.”

“But what did they look like? What were they doing?” Julia demanded
frowning at him, impatient with his rambling narrative.

“Well, in front there was _un carreta del muerto_. That means a wagon of
death. I don’t think you would ever see one any more. It was just an
ordinary wagon drawn by six men, naked to the waist and bleeding, with
other men walking beside them and beating them with blacksnake whips, just
like they were mules. In the wagon they had a big bed of stones, covered
with cactus, and a man sitting in the cactus, who was supposed to
represent death. And then they had a Virgin Mary, too. Four _penitentes_
just like the others, with nothing on but bloody pants and black bandages
around their eyes, carried the image on a litter raised up over their
heads, and they had swords fastened to their elbows and stuck between
their ribs, so that if they let down, the swords would stick into their
hearts and kill them. And behind that came the _Cristo_—the man that
represented Jesus, you know, dragging a big cross. Behind him came twenty
or thirty more _penitentes_, the most I ever saw at once, some of them
whipping themselves with big broad whips made out of _amole_. One was too
weak to whip himself, so two others walked behind him and whipped him.
Pretty soon he fell down and they walked over him and stepped on his
stomach.…”

“But did they crucify the man, the whatever-you-call-him?” Gordon
demanded.

“The _Cristo_. Sure. They crucify one every year. They used to nail him.
Now they generally do it with ropes, but that’s bad enough, because it
makes him swell up and turn blue.… Sometimes he dies.”

Julia was listening with lips parted and eyes wide, horrified and yet
fascinated, as are so many women by what is cruel and bloody. But Gordon,
who had become equally interested, was cool and inquisitive.

“And you mean to tell me that at one time nearly all the—er—native people
belonged to this barbaric organization, and that many of them do yet?”

“Nearly all the common _pelados_,” Ramon hastened to explain. “They are
nearly all Indian or part Indian, you know. Not the educated people.” Here
a note of pride came into his voice. “We are descended from officers of
the Spanish army—the men who conquered this country. In the old days,
before the Americans came, all these common people were our slaves.”

“I see,” said Gordon Roth in a dry and judicial tone.

The _penitentes_, as a subject of conversation, seemed exhausted for the
time being and Ramon had given up all hope of being alone with Julia. He
rose and took his leave. To his delight Julia followed him to the door. In
the hall she gave him her hand and looked up at him, and neither of them
found anything to say. For some reason the pressure of her hand and the
look of her eyes flustered and confused him more than had all the coldness
and disapproval of her family. At last he said good-bye and got away, with
his hat on wrong side before and the blood pounding in his temples.



                               CHAPTER VII


During the following weeks Ramon worked even less than was his custom. He
also neglected his trips to the mountains and most of his other
amusements. They seemed to have lost their interest for him. But he was a
regular attendant upon the weekly dances which were held at the country
club, and to which he had never gone before.

The country club was a recent acquisition of the town, backed by a number
of local business men. It consisted of a picturesque little frame lodge
far out upon the _mesa_, and a nine-hole golf course, made of sand and
haunted by lizards and rattlesnakes. It had become a centre of local
society, although there was a more exclusive organization known as the
Forty Club, which gave a formal ball once a month. Ramon had never been
invited to join the Forty Club, but the political importance of his family
had procured him a membership in the country club and it served his
present purpose very well, for he found Julia Roth there every Saturday
night. This fact was the sole reason for his going. His dances with her
were now the one thing in life to which he looked forward with pleasure,
and his highest hope was that he might be alone with her.

In this he was disappointed for a long time because Julia was the belle of
the town. Her dainty, provocative presence seemed always to be the centre
of the gathering. Women envied her and studied her frocks, which were
easily the most stylish in town. Men flocked about her and guffawed at her
elfin stabs of humour. Her program was always crowded with names, and when
she went for a stroll between dances she was generally accompanied by at
least three men of whom Ramon was often one. And while the others made her
laugh at their jokes or thrilled her with accounts of their adventures, he
was always silent and worried—an utter bore, he thought.

This girl was a new experience to him. With the egotism of twenty-four, he
had regarded himself as a finished man of the world, especially with
regard to women. They had always liked him. He was good to look at and his
silent, self-possessed manner touched the feminine imagination. He had had
his share of the amorous adventures that come to most men, and his
attitude toward women had changed from the hesitancy of adolesence to the
purposeful, confident and somewhat selfish attitude of the male accustomed
to easy conquest.

This girl, by a smile and touch of her hand, seemed to have changed him.
She filled him with a mighty yearning. He desired her, and yet there was a
puzzling element in his feeling that seemed to transcend desire. And he
was utterly without his usual confidence and purpose. He had reason enough
to doubt his success, but aside from that she loomed in his imagination as
something high and unattainable. He had no plan. His strength seemed to
have oozed out of him. He pursued her persistently enough—in fact too
persistently—but he did it because he could not help it.

The longer he followed in her wake, the more marked his weakness became.
When he approached her to claim a dance he was often aware of a faint
tremble in his knees, and was embarrassed by the fact that the palms of
his hands were sweating. He felt that he was a fool and swore at himself.
And he was wholly unable to believe that he was making any impression upon
her. True, she was quite willing to flirt with him. She looked up at him
with an arch, almost enquiring glance when he came to claim her for a
dance, but he seldom found much to say at such times, being too wholly
absorbed in the sacred occupation of dancing with her. And it seemed to
him that she flirted with every one else, too. This did not in the least
mitigate his devotion, but it made him acutely uncomfortable to watch her
dance with other men, and especially with Conny Masters.

Masters was the son of a man who had made a moderate fortune in the
tin-plate business. He had come West with his mother who had a weak
throat, had fallen in love with the country, and scandalized his family by
resolutely refusing to go back to Indiana and tin cans. He spent most of
his time riding about the country, equipped with a note book and a camera,
studying the Mexicans and Indians, and taking pictures of the scenery. He
said that he was going to make a literary career, but the net product of
his effort for two years had been a few sonnets of lofty tone but vague
meaning, and a great many photographs, mostly of sunsets.

Conny was not a definite success as a writer, but he was unquestionably a
gifted talker, and he knew the country better than did most of the
natives. He made real to Julia the romance which she craved to find in the
West. And her watchful and suspicious family seemed to tolerate if not to
welcome him. Ramon knew that he went to the Roth’s regularly. He began to
feel something like hatred for Conny whom he had formerly liked.

This feeling was deepened by the fact that Conny seemed to be specially
bent on defeating Ramon’s ambition to be alone with the girl. If no one
else joined them at the end of a dance, Conny was almost sure to do so,
and to occupy the intermission with one of his ever-ready monologues,
while Ramon sat silent and angry, wondering what Julia saw to admire in
this windy fool, and occasionally daring to wonder whether she really saw
anything in him after all.

But a sufficiently devoted lover is seldom wholly without a reward. There
came an evening when Ramon found himself alone with her. And he was aware
with a thrill that she had evaded not only Conny, but two other men. Her
smile was friendly and encouraging, too, and yet he could not find
anything to say which in the least expressed his feelings.

“Are you going to stay in this country long?” he began. The question
sounded supremely casual, but it meant a great deal to him. He was haunted
by a fear that she would depart suddenly, and he would never see her
again. She smiled and looked away for a moment before replying, as though
perhaps this was not exactly what she had expected him to say.

“I don’t know. Gordon wants mother and me to go back East this fall, but I
don’t want to go and mother doesn’t want to leave Gordon alone.… We
haven’t decided. Maybe I won’t go till next year.”

“I suppose you’ll go to college won’t you?”

“No; I wanted to go to Vassar and then study art, but mother says college
spoils a girl for society. She thinks the way the Vassar girls walk is
perfectly dreadful. I offered to go right on walking the same way, but she
said anyway college makes girls so frightfully broad-minded.…”

Ramon laughed.

“What will you do then?”

“I’ll come out.”

“Out of what?”

“Make my d�but, don’t you know?”

“O, yes.”

“In New York. I have an aunt there. She knows all the best people, mother
says.”

“What happens after you come out?”

“You get married if anybody will have you. If not, you sort of fade away
and finally go into uplift work about your fourth season.”

“But of course, you’ll get married. I bet you’ll marry a millionaire.”

“I don’t know. Mother wants me to marry a broker. She says the big
financial houses in New York are conducted by the very best people. But
Gordon thinks I ought to marry a professional man—a doctor or something.
He thinks brokers are vulgar. He says money isn’t everything.”

“What do you think?”

“I haven’t a thought to my name. All my thinking has been done for me
since infancy. I don’t know what I want, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t
get it if I did.… Come on. They’ve been dancing for ten minutes. If we
stay here any longer it’ll be a scandal.”

She rose and started for the hall. He suddenly realized that his
long-sought opportunity was slipping away from him. He caught her by the
hand.

“Don’t go, please. I want to tell you something.”

She met his hand with a fair grip, and pulled him after her with a laugh.

“Some other time,” she promised.



                              CHAPTER VIII


In most of their social diversions the town folk tended always more and
more to ape the ways of the East. Local colour, they thought, was all
right in its place, which was a curio store or a museum, but they desired
their town to be modern and citified, so that the wealthy eastern
health-seeker would find it a congenial home. The scenery and the historic
past were recognized as assets, but they should be the background for a
life of “culture, refinement and modern convenience” as the president of
the Chamber of Commerce was fond of saying.

Hence the riding parties and picnics of a few years before had given way
to aggressively formal balls and receptions; but one form of entertainment
that was indigenous had survived. This was known as a “_mesa_ supper.” It
might take place anywhere in the surrounding wilderness of mountain and
desert. Several auto-loads of young folk would motor out, suitably
chaperoned and laden with provisions. Beside some water hole or mountain
stream fires would be built, steaks broiled and coffee brewed. Afterward
there would be singing and story-telling about the fire, and romantic
strolls by couples.

It was one of these expeditions that furnished Ramon with his second
opportunity in three weeks to be alone with Julia Roth. The party had
journeyed to Los Ojuellos, where a spring of clear water bubbled up in the
centre of the _mesa_. A grove of cottonwood trees shadowed the place, and
there was an ancient _adobe_ ruin which looked especially effective by
moonlight.

The persistent Conny Masters was a member of the party, but he was
handicapped by the fact that he knew more about camp cookery than anyone
else present. He had made a special study of Mexican dishes and had
written an article about them which had been rejected by no less than
twenty-seven magazines. He made a specialty of the _enchilada_, which is a
delightful concoction of corn meal, eggs and chile, and he had perfected a
recipe of his own for this dish which he had named the Conny Masters
junior.

As soon as the baskets were unpacked and the chaperones were safely
anchored on rugs and blankets with their backs against trees, there was a
general demand, strongly backed by Ramon, that Conny should cook supper.
He was soon absorbed in the process, volubly explaining every step, while
the others gathered about him and offered encouragement and humorous
suggestion. But there was soon a gradual dispersion of the group, some
going for wood and some for water, and others on errands unstated.

Ramon found himself strolling under the cottonwoods with Julia. Neither of
them had said anything. It was almost as though the tryst had been agreed
upon before. She picked her way slowly among the tussocks of dried grass,
her skirt daintily kilted. A faint but potent perfume from her hair and
dress blew over him. He ventured to support her elbow with a reverent
touch. Never had she seemed more desirable, nor yet, for some reason, more
remote.

Suddenly she stopped and looked up at the great desert stars.

“Isn’t it big and beautiful?” she demanded. “And doesn’t it make you feel
free? It’s never like this at home, somehow.”

“What is it like where you live?” he enquired. He had a persistent desire
to see into her life and understand it, but everything she told him only
made her more than ever to him a being of mysterious origin and destiny.

“It’s a funny little New York factory city with very staid ways,” she
said. “You go to a dance at the country club every Saturday night and to
tea parties and things in between. You fight, bleed and die for your
social position and once in a while you stop and wonder why.… It’s a bore.
You can see yourself going on doing the same thing till the day of your
death.…”

Her discontent with things as they are found ready sympathy.

“That’s just the way it is here,” he said with conviction. “You can’t see
anything ahead.”

“Oh, I don’t think its the same here at all,” she protested. “This
country’s so big and interesting. It’s different.”

“Tell me how,” he demanded. “I haven’t seen anything interesting here
since I got back,—except you.”

She ignored the exception.

“I can’t express it exactly. The people here are just like people
everywhere else—most of them. But the country looks so big and unoccupied.
And blue mountains are so alluring. There might be anything beyond them …
adventures, opportunities.…”

This idea was a bit too rarefied for Ramon, but he could agree about the
mountains.

“It’s a fine country,” he assented. “For those that own it.”

“It’s just a feeling I have about it,” she went on, trying to express her
own half-formulated idea. “But then I have that feeling about life in
general, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in it. I mean the feeling
that it’s full of thrilling things, but somehow you miss them all.”

“I have felt something like that,” he admitted. “But I never could say
it.”

This discovery of an idea in common seemed somehow to bring them closer
together. His hand tightened gently about her arm; almost unconsciously he
drew her toward him. But she seemed to be all absorbed in the discussion.

“You have no right to complain,” she told him. “A man can do something
about it.”

“Yes,” he agreed, speaking a reflection without stopping to put it in
conventional language. “It must be hell to be a woman … excuse me … I
mean.…”

“Don’t apologize. It is—just that. A man at least has a fighting chance to
escape boredom. But they won’t even let a woman fight. I wish I were a
man.”

“Well; I don’t,” he asserted with warmth, unconsciously tightening his
hold upon her arm. “I can’t tell you how glad I am that you’re a woman.”

“Oh, are you?” She looked up at him with challenging, provocative eyes.

For an instant a kiss was imminent. It hovered between them like an
invisible fairy presence of which they both were sweetly aware, and no one
else.

“Hey there! all you spooners!” came a jovial and irreverent voice from the
vicinity of the camp fire. “Come and eat.”

The moment was lost; the fairy presence gone. She turned with a little
laugh, and they went in silence back to the fire. They were last to enter
the circle of ruddy light, and all eyes were upon them. She was pink and
self-conscious, looking at her feet and picking her way with exaggerated
care. He was proud and elated. This, he knew, would couple their names in
gossip, would make her partly his.



                                CHAPTER IX


He wanted to call on her again, but he felt that he had been insulted and
rejected by the Roths, and his pride fought against it. Unable to think
for long of anything but Julia he fell into the habit of walking by her
house at night, looking at its lighted windows and wondering what she was
doing. Often he could see the moving figures and hear the laughter of some
gay group about her, but he could not bring himself to go in and face the
chilly disapproval of her family. At such times he felt an utter outcast,
and sounded depths of misery he had never known before. For this was his
first real love, and he loved in the helpless, desperate way of the Latin,
without calculation or humour.

One evening there was a gathering on the porch of the Roth house. She was
there, sitting on the steps with three men about her. He could see the
white blur of her frock and hear her funny little bubbling laugh above the
deeper voices of the men. Having ascertained that neither Gordon Roth nor
his mother was there, he summoned his courage and went in. She could not
see who he was until he stood almost over her.

“O, it’s you! I’m awfully glad.…” Their hands met and clung for a moment
in the darkness. He sat down on the steps at her feet, and the
conversation moved on without any assistance from him. He was now just as
happy as he had been miserable a few minutes before.

Presently two of the other men went away, but the third, who was Conny
Masters, stayed. He talked volubly as ever, telling wonderful and
sometimes incredible stories of things he had seen and done in his
wanderings. Ramon said nothing. Julia responded less and less. Once she
moved to drop the wrap from about her shoulders, and the alert Conny
hastened to assist her. Ramon watched and envied with a thumping heart as
he saw the gleam of her bare white shoulders, and realized that his rival
might have touched them.

Conny went on talking for half an hour with astonishing endurance and
resourcefulness, but it became always more apparent that he was not
captivating his audience. He had to laugh at his own humour and expatiate
on his own thrills. Finally a silence fell upon the three, broken only by
occasional commonplace remarks.

“Well, I guess it’s time to drift,” Conny observed at last, looking
cautiously at his watch.

This suggestion was neither seconded by Ramon nor opposed by Julia. The
silence literally pushed Conny to his feet.

“Going, Ramon? No? Well, Good night.” And he retired whistling in a way
which showed his irritation more plainly than if he had sworn.

The two impolite ones sat silent for a long moment. Ramon was trying to
think of what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. Finally
without looking at her he said in a low husky voice.

“You know … I love you.”

There was more silence. At last he looked up and met her eyes. They were
serious for the first time in his experience, and so was her usually
mocking little mouth. Her face was transformed and dignified. More than
ever she seemed a strange, high being. And yet he knew that now she was
within his reach.… That he could kiss her lips … incredible.… And yet he
did, and the kiss poured flame over them and welded them into each others’
arms.

They heard Gordon Roth in the house coughing, the cough coming closer.

She pushed him gently away.

“Go now,” she whispered. “I love you … Ramon.”



                                CHAPTER X


His conquest was far from giving him peace. Her kiss had transformed his
high vague yearning into hot relentless desire. He wanted her. That became
the one clear thing in life to him. Reflections and doubts were alien to
his young and primitive spirit. He did not try to look far into the
future. He only knew that to have her would be delight almost unimaginable
and to lose her would be to lose everything.

His attitude toward her changed. He claimed her more and more at dances.
She did not want to dance with him so much because “people would talk,”
but his will was harder than hers and to a great extent he had his way. He
now called on her regularly too. He knew that she had fought hard for him
against her family, and had won the privilege for him of calling “not too
often.”

“I’ve lied for you frightfully,” she confessed. “I told them I didn’t
really care for you in the least, but I want to see you because you can
tell such wonderful things about the country. So talk about the country
whenever they’re listening. And don’t look at me the way you do.…”

Mother and brother were alert and suspicious despite her assurance, and
manœuvred with cool skill to keep the pair from being alone. Only rarely
did he get the chance to kiss her—once when her brother, who was standing
guard over the family treasure, was seized with a fit of coughing and had
to leave the room, and again when her mother was called to the telephone.
At such times she shrank away from him at first as though frightened by
the intensity of the emotion she had created, but she never resisted. To
him these brief and stolen embraces were almost intolerably sweet, like
insufficient sips of water to a man burned up with thirst.

She puzzled him as much as ever. When he was with her he felt as sure of
her love as of his own existence. And yet she often sought to elude him.
When he called up for engagements she objected and put him off. And she
surrounded herself with other men as much as ever, and flirted gracefully
with all of them, so that he was always feeling the sharp physical pangs
of jealousy. Sometimes he felt egotistically sure that she was merely
trying by these devices to provoke his desire the more, but at other times
he thought her voice over the phone sounded doubtful and afraid, and he
became wildly eager to get to her and make sure of her again.

Just as her kiss had crystallized his feeling for her into driving desire,
so it had focussed and intensified his discontent. Before he had been more
or less resigned to wait for his fortune and the power he meant to make of
it; now it seemed to him that unless he could achieve these things at
once, they would never mean anything to him. For money was the one thing
that would give him even a chance to win her. It was obviously useless to
ask her to marry him poor. He would have nothing to bring against the
certain opposition of her family. He could not run away with her. And
indeed he was altogether too poor to support a wife if he had one, least
of all a wife who had been carefully groomed and trained to capture a
fortune.

There was only one way. If he could go to her strong and rich, he felt
sure that he could persuade her to go away with him, for he knew that she
belonged to him when he was with her. He pictured himself going to her in
a great motor car. Such a car had always been in his imagination the
symbol of material strength. He felt sure he could destroy her doubts and
hesitations. He would carry her away and she would be all and irrevocably
his before any one could interfere or object.

This dream filled and tortured his imagination. Its realization would mean
not only fulfilment of his desire, but also revenge upon the Roths for the
humiliations they had made him feel. It pushed everything else out of his
mind—all consideration of other and possibly more feasible methods of
pushing his suit. He came of a race of men who had dared and dominated,
who had loved and fought, but had never learned how to work or to endure.

When he gave himself up to his dream he was almost elated, but when he
came to contemplate his actual circumstances, he fell into depths of
discouragement and melancholy. His uncle stood like a rock between him and
his desire. He thought of trying to borrow a few thousand dollars from old
Diego, and of leaving the future to luck, but he was too intelligent long
to entertain such a scheme. The Don would likely have provided him with
the money, and he would have done it by hypothecating more of the Delcasar
lands to MacDougall. Then Ramon would have had to borrow more, and so on,
until the lands upon which all his hopes and dreams were based had passed
forever out of his reach.

The thing seemed hopeless, for Don Diego might well live for many years.
And yet Ramon did not give up hope. He was worried, desperate and bitter,
but not beaten. He had still that illogical faith in his own destiny which
is the gift that makes men of action.

At this time he heard particularly disquieting things about his uncle. Don
Diego was reputed to be spending unusually large sums of money. As he
generally had not much ready cash, this must mean either that he had sold
land or that he had borrowed from MacDougall, in which case the land had
doubtless been given as security. Once it was converted into cash in the
hands of Diego, Ramon knew that his prospective fortune would swiftly
vanish. He determined to watch the old man closely.

He learned that Don Diego was playing poker every night in the back room
of the White Camel pool hall. Gambling was supposed to be prohibited in
the town, but this sanctum was regularly the scene for a game, which had
the reputation of causing more money to change hands than any other in the
southwest. Ramon hung about the White Camel evening after evening, trying
to learn how much his uncle was losing. He would have liked to go and
stand behind his chair and watch the game, but both etiquette and pride
prevented him doing this. On two nights his uncle came out surrounded by a
laughing crowd, a little bit tipsy, and was hurried into a cab. Ramon had
no chance to speak either to him or to any one else who had been in the
game. But the third night he came out alone, heavy with liquor, talking to
himself. The other players had already gone out, laughing. The place was
nearly deserted. The Don suddenly caught sight of Ramon and came to him,
laying heavy hands on his shoulders, looking at him with bleary,
tear-filled eyes.

“My boy, my nephew,” he exclaimed in Spanish, his voice shaking with boozy
emotion, “I am glad you are here. Come I must talk to you.” And steadied
by Ramon he led the way to a bench in a corner. Here his manner suddenly
changed. He threw back his head haughtily and slapped his knee.

“I have lost five hundred dollars tonight,” he announced proudly. “What do
I care? I am a rich man. I have lost a thousand dollars in the last three
nights. That is nothing. I am rich.”

He thumped his chest, looking around defiantly. Then he leaned forward in
a confidential manner and lowered his voice.

“But these gringos—they have gone away and left me. You saw them?
_Cabrones!_ They have got my money. That is all they want. My boy, all
gringos are alike. They want nothing but money. They can hear the rattle
of a _peso_ as far as a _burro_ can smell a bear. They are mean, stingy!
Ah, my boy! It is not now as it was in the old days. Then money counted
for nothing! Then a man could throw away his last dollar and there were
always friends to give him more. But now your dollars are your only true
friends, and when you have lost them, you are alone indeed. Ah, my boy!
The old days were the best!” The old Don bent his head over his hands and
wept.

Ramon looked at him with a mighty disgust and with a resentment that
filled his throat and made his head hot. He had never before realized how
much broken by age and drink his uncle was. Before, he had suspected and
feared that Don Diego was wasting his property; now he knew it.

The Don presently looked up again with tear-filled eyes, and went on
talking, holding Ramon by the lapel of the coat in a heavy tremulous grip.
He talked for almost an hour, his senile mind wandering aimlessly through
the scenes of his long and picturesque career. He would tell tales of his
loves and battles of fifty years ago—tales full of lust and greed and
excitement. He would come back to his immediate troubles and curse the
gringos again for a pack of miserable dollar-mongers, who knew not the
meaning of friendship. And again his mind would leap back irrelevantly to
some woman he had loved or some man he had killed in the spacious days
where his imagination dwelt. Ramon listened eagerly, hoping to learn
something definite about the Don’s dealings with MacDougall, but the old
man never touched upon this. He did tell one story to which Ramon listened
with interest. He told how, twenty-five years before, he and another man
named Cristobal Archulera had found a silver mine in the Guadelupe
Mountains, and how he had cheated the other out of his interest by filing
the claim in his own name. He told this as a capital joke, laughing and
thumping his knee.

“Do you know where Archulera is now?” Ramon ventured to ask.

“Archulera? No, No; I have not seen Archulera for twenty years. I heard
that he married a very common woman, half Indian.… I don’t know what
became of him.”

The last of the pool players had now gone out; a Mexican boy had begun to
sweep the floor; the place was about to close for the night. Ramon got his
uncle to his feet with some difficulty, and led him outdoors where he
looked about in vain for one of the cheap autos that served the town as
taxicabs. There were only three or four of them, and none of these were in
sight. The flat-wheeled street car had made its last screeching trip for
the night. There was nothing for it but to take the Don by the arm and
pilot him slowly homeward.

Refreshed by the night air, the old man partially sobered, walked with a
steady step, and talked more eloquently and profusely than ever. Women
were his subject now, and it was a subject upon which he had great store
of material. He told of the women of the South, of Sonora and Chihuahua
where he had spent much of his youth, of how beautiful they were. He told
of a slim little creature fifteen years old with big black eyes whom he
had bought from her _peon_ father, and of how she had feared him and how
he had conquered her and her fear. He told of slave girls he had bought
from the Navajos as children and raised for his pleasure. He told of a
French woman he had loved in Mexico City and how he had fought a duel with
her husband. He rose to heights of sentimentality and delved into depths
of obscenity, now speaking  of his heart and what it had suffered, and
again leering and chuckling like a satyr over some tale of splendid
desire.

Ramon, walking silent and outwardly respectful by his side, listened to
all this with a strange mixture of envy and rage. He envied the old Don
the rich share he had taken of life’s feast. Whatever else he might be the
Don was not one of those who desire but do not dare. He had taken what he
wanted. He had tasted many emotions and known the most poignant delights.
And now that he was old and his blood was slow, he stood in the way of
others who desired as greatly and were as avid of life as ever he had
been. Ramon felt a great bitterness that clutched at his throat and half
blinded his eyes. He too loved and desired. And how much more greatly he
desired than ever had this old man by his side, with his wealth and his
easy satisfactions! The old Don apparently had never been thwarted, and
therefore he did not know how keen and punishing a blade desire may be!

Tense between the two was the enmity that ever sunders age and youth—age
seeking to keep its sovereignty of life by inculcating blind respect and
reverence, and youth rebellious, demanding its own with the passion of hot
blood and untried flesh.

Between Old Town and New Town flowed an irrigating ditch, which the
connecting street crossed by means of an old wooden bridge. The ditch was
this night full of swift water, which tore at the button willows on the
bank and gurgled against the bridge timbers. As they crossed it the idea
came into Ramon’s head that if a man were pushed into the brown water he
would be swiftly carried under the bridge and drowned.



                                CHAPTER XI


The following Saturday evening Ramon was again riding across the _mesa_,
clad in his dirty hunting clothes, with his shotgun hung in the cinches of
his saddle. At the start he had been undecided where he was going.
Tormented by desire and bitter over the poverty which stood between him
and fulfilment, he had flung the saddle on his mare and ridden away,
feeling none of the old interest in the mountains, but impelled by a great
need to escape the town with all its cruel spurs and resistances.

Already the rhythm of his pony’s lope and the steady beat of the breeze in
his face had calmed and refreshed him. The bitter, exhausting thoughts
that had been plucking at his mind gave way to the idle procession of
sensations, as they tend always to do when a man escapes the artificial
existence of towns into the natural, animal one of the outdoors. He began
to respond to the deep appeal which the road, the sense of going
somewhere, always had for him. For he came of a race of wanderers. His
forbears had been restless men to cross an ocean and most of a continent
in search of homes. He was bred to a life of wandering and adventure. Long
pent-up days in town always made him restless, and the feel of a horse
under him and of distance to be overcome never failed to give him a sense
of well-being.

Crossing a little _arroyo_, he saw a covey of the blue desert quail with
their white crests erect, darting among the rocks and cactus on the
hillside. It was still the close season, but he never thought of that. In
an instant he was all hunter, like a good dog in sight of game. He slipped
from his horse, letting the reins fall to the ground, and went running up
the rocky slope, cleverly using every bit of cover until he came within
range. At the first shot he killed three of the birds, and got another as
they rose and whirred over the hill top. He gathered them up quickly,
stepping on the head of a wounded one, and stuffed them into his pockets.
He was grinning, now, and happy. The bit of excitement had washed from his
mind for the time being the last vestige of worry. He lit a cigarette and
lay on his back to smoke it, stretching out his legs luxuriously, watching
the serene gyrations of a buzzard. When he had extracted the last possible
puff from the tobacco, he went back to his horse and rode on toward
Archulera’s ranch, feeling a keen interest in the coarse but substantial
supper which he knew the old man would give him.

His visit this time proceeded just as had all of the others, and he had
never enjoyed one more thoroughly. Again the old man killed a fatted kid
in his honour, and again they had a great feast of fresh brains and tripe
and biscuits and coffee, with the birds, fried in deep lard, as an added
luxury. Catalina served them in silence as usual, but stole now and then a
quick reproachful look at Ramon. Afterward, when the girl had gone, there
were many cigarettes and much talk, as before, Archulera telling over
again the brave wild record of his youth. And, as always, he told, just as
though he had never told it before, the story of how Diego Delcasar had
cheated him out of his interest in a silver mine in the Guadelupe
Mountains. As with each former telling he became this time more
unrestrained in his denunciation of the man who had betrayed him.

“You are not like him,” he assured Ramon with passionate earnestness. “You
are generous, honourable! When your uncle is dead—when he is dead, I
say—you will pay me the five thousand dollars which your family owes to
mine. Am I right, _amigo?_”

Ramon, who was listening with only half an ear, was about to make some
off-hand reply, as he had always done before. But suddenly a strange,
stirring idea flashed through his brain. Could it be? Could that be what
Archulera meant? He glanced at the man. Archulera was watching him with
bright black eyes—cunning, feral—the eyes of a primitive fighting man,
eyes that had never flinched at dealing death.

Ramon knew suddenly that his idea was right. Blood pounded in his temples
and a red mist of excitement swam before his eyes.

“Yes!” he exclaimed, leaping to his feet. “Yes! When my uncle is dead I
will pay you the five thousand dollars which the estate owes you!”

The old man studied him, showing no trace of excitement save for the
brightness of his eyes.

“You swear this?” he demanded.

Ramon stood tall, his head lifted, his eyes bright.

“Yes; I swear it,” he replied, more quietly now. “I swear it on my honour
as a Delcasar!”



                               CHAPTER XII


The murder of Don Diego Delcasar, which occurred about three weeks later,
provided the town with an excitement which it thoroughly enjoyed. Although
there was really not a great deal to be said about the affair, since it
remained from the first a complete mystery, the local papers devoted a
great deal of space to it. The _Evening Journal_ announced the event in a
great black headline which ran all the way across the top of the first
page. The right-hand column was devoted to a detailed description of the
scene of the crime, while the rest of the page was occupied by a picture
of the Don, by a hastily written and highly inaccurate account of his
career, and by statements from prominent citizens concerning the great
loss which the state had suffered in the death of this, one of its oldest
and most valued citizens.

In the editorial columns the Don was described as a Spanish gentleman of
the old school, and one who had always lived up to its highest traditions.
The fact was especially emphasized that he had commanded the respect and
confidence of both the races which made up the population of the state,
and his long and honourable association in a business enterprise with a
leading local attorney was cited as proof of the fact that he had been
above all race antagonisms.

The morning _Herald_ took a slightly different tack. Its editorial writer
was a former New York newspaperman of unusual abilities who had been
driven to the Southwest by tuberculosis. In an editorial which was
deplored by many prominent business men, he pointed out that unpunished
murderers were all too common in the State. He cited several cases like
this of Don Delcasar in which prominent men had been assassinated, and no
arrest had followed. Thus, only a few years before, Col. Manuel Escudero
had been killed by a shot fired through the window of a saloon, and still
more recently Don Solomon Estrella had been found drowned in a vat of
sheep-dip on his own ranch. He cited statistics to show that the
percentage of convictions in murder trials in that State was exceedingly
small. Daringly, he asked how the citizens could expect to attract to the
State the capital so much needed for its development, when assassination
for personal and political purposes was there tolerated much as it had
been in Europe during the Middle Ages. He ended by a plea that the Mounted
Police should be strengthened, so that it would be capable of coping with
the situation.

This editorial started a controversy between the two papers which
ultimately quite eclipsed in interest the fact that Don Delcasar was dead.
The _Morning Journal_ declared that the _Herald_ editorial was in effect a
covert attack upon the Mexican people, pointing out that all the cases
cited were those of Mexicans, and it came gallantly and for political
reason to the defence of the race. At this point the _“__Tribuna del
Pueblo__”_ of Old Town jumped into the fight with an editorial in which it
was asserted that both the gringo papers were maligning the Mexican
people. It pointed out that the gringos controlled the political machinery
of the State, and that if murder was there tolerated the dominant race was
to blame.

Meanwhile the known facts about the murder of Don Delcasar remained few,
simple and unilluminating. About once a month the Don used to drive in his
automobile to his lands in the northern part of the State. He always took
the road across the _mesa_, which passed near the mouth of Domingo Canyon
and through the scissors pass, and he nearly always went alone.

When he was half way across the _mesa_, the front tires of the Don’s car
had been punctured by nails driven through a board and hidden in the sand
of the road. Evidently the Don had risen to alight and investigate when he
had been shot, for his body had been found hanging across the wind-shield
of the car with a bullet hole through the head.

The discovery of the body had been made by a Mexican woodcutter who was on
the way to town with a load of wood. He had of course been held by the
police and had been closely questioned, but it was easily established that
he had no connection with the crime.

It was evident that the Don had been shot from ambush with a rifle, and
probably from a considerable distance, but absolutely no trace of the
assassin had been found. Not only the chief of police and several
patrolmen, and the sheriff with a posse, but also many private citizens in
automobiles had rushed to the scene of the crime and joined in the search.
The surrounding country was dry and rocky. Not even a track had been
found.

The motive of the murder was evidently not robbery, for nothing had been
taken, although the Don carried a valuable watch and a considerable sum of
money. Indeed, there was no evidence that the murderer had even approached
the body.

The Don had been a staunch Republican, and the _Morning Herald_, also
Republican, advanced the theory that he had been killed by political
enemies. This theory was ridiculed by the _Evening Journal_, which was
Democratic.

The local police arrested as a suspect a man who was found in hiding near
a water tank at the railroad station, but no evidence against him could be
found and he had to be released. The sheriff extracted a confession of
guilt from a sheep herder who was found about ten miles from the scene of
the crime, but it was subsequently proved by this man’s relatives that he
was at home and asleep at the time the crime was committed, and that he
was well known to be of unsound mind. For some days the newspapers
continued daily to record the fact that a “diligent search” for the
murderer was being conducted, but this search gradually came to an end
along with public interest in the crime.



                               CHAPTER XIII


The day after the news of his uncle’s murder reached him, Ramon lay on his
bed in his darkened room fully dressed in a new suit of black. He was not
ill, and anything would have been easier for him than to lie there with
nothing to do but to think and to stare at a single narrow sunbeam which
came through a rent in the window blind. But it was a Mexican custom, old
and revered, for the family of one recently dead to lie upon its beds in
the dark and so to receive the condolences of friends and the consolations
of religion. To disregard this custom would have been most unwise for an
ambitious young man, and besides, Ramon’s mother clung tenaciously to the
traditional Mexican ways, and she would not have tolerated any breach of
them. At this moment she and her two daughters were likewise lying in
their rooms, clad in new black silk and surrounded by other sorrowing
females.

It was so still in the room that Ramon could hear the buzz of a fly in the
vicinity of the solitary sunbeam, but from other parts of the house came
occasional human sounds. One of these was an intermittent howling and
wailing from the _placita_. This he knew was the work of two old Mexican
women who made their livings by acting as professional mourners. They did
not wait for an invitation but hung about like buzzards wherever there was
a Mexican corpse. Seated on the ground with their black shawls pulled over
their heads, they wailed with astonishing endurance until the coffin was
carried from the house, when they were sure of receiving a substantial
gift from the grateful relatives. Ramon resolved that he would give them
ten dollars each. He felt sure they had never gotten so much. He was
determined to do handsomely in all things connected with the funeral.

He could also hear faintly a rattle of wagons, foot steps and low human
voices coming from the front of the house. A peep had shown him that
already a line of wagons, carriages and buggies half a block long had
formed in the street, and he could hear the arrival of another one every
few minutes. These vehicles brought the numerous and poor relations of Don
Delcasar who lived in the country. All of them would be there by night.
Each one of them would come into Ramon’s room and sit by his bedside and
take his hand and express sympathy. Some of them would weep and some would
groan, although all of them, like himself, were profoundly glad that the
Don was dead. Ramon hoped that they would make their expressions brief.
And later, he knew, all would gather in the room where the casket rested
on two chairs. They would sit in a silent solemn circle about the room,
drinking coffee and wine all night. And he would be among them, trying
with all his might to look properly sad and to keep his eyes open.

All the time that he lay there in enforced idleness he was longing for
action, his imagination straining forward. At last his chance had come—his
chance to have her. And he would have her. He felt sure of it. He was now
a rich man. As soon as the will had been read and he had come into his
own, he would buy a big automobile. He would go to her, he would sweep
away her doubts and hesitations. He would carry her away and marry her.
She would be his.… He closed his eyes and drew his breath in sharply.…

But no; he would have to wait … a decent interval. And the five thousand
dollars must be gotten to Archulera. That was obviously important. And
there might not be much cash. The Don had never had much ready money. He
might have to sell land or sheep first. All of these things to be done,
and here he lay, staring at the ceiling and listening to the wailing of
old women!

There was a knock on the door.

“_Entra!_” he called.

The door opened softly and a tall, black-robed figure was silhouetted for
a moment against the daylight before the door closed again. The black
figure crossed the room and sat down by the bed, silent save for a faint
rustle.

Although he could not see the face, Ramon knew that this was the priest,
Father Lugaria. He knew that Father Lugaria had come to arrange for the
mass over the body of Don Delcasar. He disliked Father Lugaria, and knew
that the Father disliked him. This mutual antipathy was due to the fact
that Ramon seldom went to Church.

There were others of his generation who showed the same indifference
toward religion, and this defection of youth was a thing which the Priests
bitterly contested. Ramon was perfectly willing to make a polite
compromise with them. If Father Lugaria had been satisfied with an
occasional appearance at early mass, a perfunctory confession now and
then, the two might have been friends. But the Priest made Ramon a special
object of his attention. He continually went to the Dona Delcasar with
complaints and that devout woman incessantly nagged her son, holding
before him always pictures of the damnation he was courting. Once in a
while she even produced in him a faint twinge of fear—a recrudescence of
the deep religious feeling in which he was bred—but the feeling was
evanescent. The chief result of these labours on behalf of his soul had
been to turn him strongly against the priest who instigated them.

Father Lugaria seemed all kindness and sympathy now. He sat close beside
Ramon and took his hand. Ramon could smell the good wine on the man’s
breath, and could see faintly the brightness of his eyes. The grip of the
priest’s hand was strong, moist and surprisingly cold. He began to talk in
the low monotonous voice of one accustomed to much chanting, and this
droning seemed to have some hypnotic quality. It seemed to lull Ramon’s
mind so that he could not think what he was going to say or do.

The priest expressed his sympathy. He spoke of the great and good man the
Don had been. Slowly, adroitly, he approached the real question at issue,
which was how much Ramon would pay for a mass. The more he paid, the
longer the mass would be, and the longer the mass the speedier would be
the journey of the Don’s soul through purgatory and into Paradise.

“O, my little brother in Christ!” droned the priest in his vibrant
sing-song, “I must not let you neglect this last, this greatest of things
which you can do for the uncle you loved. It is unthinkable of course that
his soul should go to hell—hell, where a thousand demons torture the soul
for an eternity. Hell is for those who commit the worst of sins, sins they
dare not lay before God for his forgiveness, secret and terrible sins—sins
like murder. But few of us go through life untouched by sin. The soul must
be purified before it can enter the presence of its maker.… Doubtless the
soul of your uncle is in purgatory, and to you is given the sweet power to
speed that soul on its upward way.…

“Don Delcasar, we all know, killed.… More than once, doubtless, he took
the life of a fellow man. But he did it in combat as a soldier, as a
servant of the State.… That is not murder. That would not doom him to
hell, which is the special punishment of secret and unforgiven murder.…
But the soul of the Don must be cleansed of these earthly stains.…”

The strong, cold grip of the priest held Ramon with increasing power. The
monotonous, hypnotic voice went on and on, becoming ever more eloquent and
confident. Father Lugaria was a man of imagination, and the special home
of his imagination was hell. For thirty years he had held despotic sway
over the poor Mexicans who made up most of his flock, and had gathered
much money for the Church, by painting word-pictures of hell. He was a
veritable artist of hell. He loved hell. Again and again he digressed from
the strict line of his argument to speak of hell. With all the vividness
of a thing seen, he described its flames, its fiends, the terrible stink
of burning flesh and the vast chorus of agony that filled it.… And for
some obscure reason or purpose he always spoke of hell as the special
punishment of murderers. Again and again in his discourse he coupled
murder and hell.

Ramon was wearied by strong emotions and a shortness of sleep. His nerves
were overstrung. This ceaseless iteration of hell and murder, murder and
hell would drive him crazy, he thought. He wished mightily that the priest
would have done and name his price and go. What was the sense and purpose
of this endless babble about hell and murder?… A sickening thought struck
him like a blow, leaving him weak. What if old Archulera had confessed to
the priest?

Well; what if he had? A priest could not testify about what he had heard
in confessional. But a priest might tell some one else.… O, God! If the
man would only go and leave him to think. Hell and murder, murder and
hell. The two words beat upon his brain without mercy. He longed to
interrupt the priest and beg him to leave off. But for some reason he
could not. He could not even turn his head and look at the man. The priest
was but a clammy grip that held him and a disembodied voice that spoke of
hell and murder. Had he done murder? And was there a hell? He had long
ceased to believe in hell, but hell had been real to him as a child. His
mother and his nurse had filled him with the fear of hell. He had been
bred in the fear of hell. It was in his flesh and bones if not in his
mind, and the priest had hypnotized his mind. Hell was real to him again.
Fear of hell came up from the past which vanishes but is never gone, and
gripped him like a great ugly monster. It squeezed a cold sweat out of his
body and made his skin prickle and his breath come short.…

The priest dropped the subject of hell, and spoke again of the mass. He
mentioned a sum of money. Ramon nodded his head muttering his assent like
a sick man. The grip on his hand relaxed.

“Good-bye, my little brother,” murmured the priest. “May Christ be always
with you.” His gown rustled across the room and as he opened the door,
Ramon saw his face for a moment—a sallow, shrewd face, bedewed with the
sweat of a great effort, but wearing a smile of triumphant satisfaction.

Ramon lay sick and exhausted. It seemed to him that there was no air in
the room. He was suffocating. His body burned and prickled. He rose and
tore loose his collar. He must get out of this place, must have air and
movement.

It was dusk now. The wailing of the old women had ceased. Doubtless they
were being rewarded with supper. He began stripping off his clothes—his
white shirt and his new suit of black. Eagerly rummaging in the closet he
found his old clothes, which he wore on his trips to the mountains.

In the dim light he slipped out of the house, indistinguishable from any
Mexican boy that might have been about the place. He saddled the little
mare in the corral, mounted and galloped away—through Old Town, where
skinny dogs roamed in dark narrow streets and men and women sat and smoked
in black doorways—and out upon the valley road. There he spurred his mare
without mercy, and they flew over the soft dust. The rush of the air in
his face, and the thud and quiver of living flesh under him were
infinitely sweet.

He stopped at last five miles from town on the bank of the river. It was a
swift muddy river, wandering about in a flood plain a quarter of a mile
wide, and at this point chewing noisily at a low bank forested with
scrubby cottonwoods.

Dismounting, he stripped and plunged into the river. It was only three
feet deep, but he wallowed about in it luxuriously, finding great comfort
in the caress of the cool water, and of the soft fine sand upon the bottom
which clung about his toes and tickled the soles of his feet. Then he
climbed out on the bank and stood where the breeze struck him, rubbing the
water off of his slim strong body with the flats of his hands.

When he had put on his clothes, he indulged his love of lying flat on the
ground, puffing a cigarette and blowing smoke at the first stars. A
hunting owl flitted over his head on muffled wing; a coyote yapped in the
bushes; high up in the darkness he heard the whistle of pinions as a flock
of early ducks went by.

He took the air deeply into his lungs and stretched out his legs. In this
place fear of hell departed from his mind as some strong liquors evaporate
when exposed to the open air. The splendid healthy animal in him was again
dominant, and it could scarcely conceive of death and had nothing more to
do with hell than had the owl and the coyote that killed to live. Here he
felt at peace with the earth beneath him and the sky above. But one
thought came to disturb him and it was also sweet—the thought of a woman,
her eyes full of promise, the curve of her mouth.… She was waiting for
him, she would be his. That was real.… Hell was a dream.

He saw now the folly of his fears about Archulera, too. Archulera never
went to church. There was no danger that he would ever confess to any one.
And even if he did, he could scarcely injure Ramon. For Ramon had done no
wrong. He had but promised an old man his due, righted an ancient wrong.…
He smiled.

Slowly he mounted and rode home, filled with thoughts of the girl, to put
on his mourning clothes and take his decorous place in the circle that
watched his uncle’s bier.



                               CHAPTER XIV


All the ceremonies and procedures, religious and legal, which had been
made necessary by the death of Don Diego Delcasar, were done. The body of
the Don had been taken to the church in Old Town and placed before the
altar, the casket covered with black cloth and surrounded by candles in
tall silver candlesticks which stood upon the floor. A Mass of impressive
length had been spoken over it by Father Lugaria assisted by numerous
priests and altar boys, and at the end of the ceremony the hundreds of
friends and relatives of the Don, who filled the church, had lifted up
their voices in one of the loudest and most prolonged choruses of wailing
ever heard in that country, where wailing at a funeral is as much a matter
of formal custom as is cheering at a political convention. Afterwards a
cortege nearly a mile in length, headed by a long string of carriages and
tailed by a crowd of poor Mexicans trudging hatless in the dust, had made
the hot and wearisome journey to the cemetery in the sandhills.

Then the will had been read and had revealed that Ramon Delcasar was heir
to the bulk of his uncle’s estate, and that he was thereby placed in
possession of money, lands and sheep to the value of about two hundred
thousand dollars. It was said by those who knew that the Don’s estate had
once been at least twice that large, and there were some who irreverently
remarked that he had been taken off none too soon for the best interests
of his heirs.

Shortly after the reading of the will, Ramon rode to the Archulera ranch,
starting before daylight and returning after dark. He exchanged greetings
with the old man, just as he had always done.

“Accept my sympathy, _amigo_,” Archulera said in his formal, polite way,
“that you have lost your uncle, the head of your great family.”

“I thank you, friend,” Ramon replied. “A man must bear these things. Here
is something I promised you,” he added, laying a small heavy canvas bag
upon the table, just as he had always laid a package of tobacco or some
other small gift.

Old Archulera nodded without looking at the bag.

“Thank you,” he said.

Afterward they talked about the bean crop and the weather, and had an
excellent dinner of goat meat cooked with chile.

In town Ramon found himself a person of noticeably increased importance.
One of his first acts had been to buy a car, and he had attracted much
attention while driving this about the streets, learning to manipulate it.
He killed one chicken and two dogs and handsomely reimbursed their owners.
These minor accidents were due to his tendency, the result of many years
of horsemanship, to throw his weight back on the steering wheel and shout
“whoa!” whenever a sudden emergency occurred. But he was apt, and soon was
running his car like an expert.

His personal appearance underwent a change too. He had long cherished a
barbaric leaning toward finery, which lack of money had prevented him from
indulging. Large diamonds fascinated him, and a leopard skin vest was a
thing he had always wanted to own. But these weaknesses he now rigorously
suppressed. Instead he noted carefully the dress of Gordon Roth and of
other easterners whom he saw about the hotel, and ordered from the best
local tailor a suit of quiet colour and conservative cut, but of the very
best English material. He bought no jewelry except a single small pearl
for his necktie. His hat, his shoes, the way he had his neck shaved, all
were changed as the result of a painstaking observation such as he had
never practised before. He wanted to make himself as much as possible like
the men of Julia’s kind and class. And this desire modified his manner and
speech as well as his appearance. He was careful, always watching himself.
His manner was more reserved and quiet than ever, and this made him appear
older and more serious. He smiled when he overheard a woman say that “he
took the death of his uncle much harder than she would have expected.”

Ramon now received business propositions every day. Men tried to sell him
all sorts of things, from an idea to a ranch, and most of them seemed to
proceed on the assumption that, being young and newly come into his money,
he should part with it easily. Several of the opportunities offered him
had to do with the separation of the poor Mexicans from their land
holdings. A prominent attorney came all the way from a town in the
northern part of the State to lay before him a proposition of this kind.
This lawyer, named Cooley, explained that by opening a store in a certain
rich section of valley land, opportunities could be created for lending
the Mexicans money. Whenever there was a birth, a funeral or a marriage
among them, the Mexicans needed money, and could be persuaded to sign
mortgages, which they generally could not read. In each Mexican family
there would be either a birth, a marriage or a death once in three years
on an average. Three such events would enable the lender to gain
possession of a ranch. And Cooley had an eastern client who would then buy
the land at a good figure. It was a chance for Ramon to double his money.

“You’ve got the money and you know the native people,” Cooley argued
earnestly. “I’ve got the sucker and I know the law. It’s a sure thing.”

Ramon thanked him politely and refused firmly. The idea of robbing a poor
Mexican of his ranch by nine years of usury did not appeal to him at all.
In the first place, it would be a long, slow tedious job, and besides,
poor people always aroused his pity, just as rich ones stirred his greed
and envy. He was predatory, but lion-like, he scorned to spring on small
game. He did not realize that a lion often starves where a jackal grows
fat.

Only one opportunity came to him which interested him strongly. A young
Irishman named Hurley explained to him that it was possible to buy mules
in Mexico, where a revolution was going on, for ten dollars each at
considerable personal risk, to run them across the Rio Grande and to sell
them to the United States army for twenty dollars. Here was a gambler’s
chance, action and adventure. It caught his fancy and tempted him. But he
had no thought of yielding. Another purpose engrossed him.

These weeks after his uncle’s funeral gave him his first real grapple with
the world of business, and the experience tended to strengthen him in a
certain cynical self-assurance which had been growing in him ever since he
first went away to college, and had met its first test in action when he
spoke the words that lead to the Don’s death. He felt a deep contempt for
most of these men who came to him with their schemes and their wares. He
saw that most of them were ready enough to swindle him, though few of them
would have had the courage to rob him with a gun. Probably not one of them
would have dared to kill a man for money, but they were ready enough to
cheat a poor _pelado_ out of his living, which often came to the same
thing. He felt that he was bigger than most of them, if not better. His
self-respect was strengthened.

“Life is a fight,” he told himself, feeling that he had hit upon a
profound and original idea. “Every man wants pretty women and money. He
gets them if he has enough nerve and enough sense. And somebody else gets
hurt, because there aren’t enough pretty women and money to go around.”

It seemed to him that this was the essence of all wisdom.



                                CHAPTER XV


Ramon had always been rather a solitary figure in his own town. Although
he belonged nominally to the “bunch” of young gringos, Jews and Mexicans,
who foregathered at the White Camel Pool Hall, their amusements did not
hold his interest very strongly. They played a picayune game of poker,
which resulted in a tangled mass of debt; they went on occasional mild
sprees, and on Saturday nights they visited the town’s red light district,
hardy survivor of several vice crusades, where they danced with portly
magdalenes in gaudy kimonos to the music of a mechanical piano,
luxuriating in conscious wickedness.

All of this had seemed romantic and delightfully vicious to Ramon a few
years before, but it soon palled on his restless and discontented spirit.
He had formed the habit of hunting alone, and had found adventures more to
his taste. But now he found himself in company more than ever before. He
was bid to every frolic that took place. In the White Camel he was often
the centre of a small group, which included men older than himself who had
never paid any attention to him before, but now addressed him with a
certain deference. Although he understood well enough that most of the
attentions paid him had an interested motive, he enjoyed the sense of
leadership which these gatherings gave him. If he was not a real leader
now, he intended to become one. He listened to what men said, watched
them, and said little himself. He was quick to grasp the fact that a
reputation for shrewdness and wisdom is made by the simple method of
keeping the mouth shut.

He made many acquaintances among the new element which had recently come
to town from the East in search of health or money, but he made no real
friends because none of these men inspired him with respect. Only one man
he attached to himself, and that one by the simple tie of money. His name
was Antonio Cortez. He was a small, skinny, sallow Mexican with a great
moustache, behind which he seemed to be discreetly hiding, and a
consciously cunning eye. Of an old and once wealthy Spanish family, he had
lost all of his money by reason of a lack of aptitude for business, and
made his living as a sort of professional political henchman. He was a
bearer of secret messages, a maker of deals, an eavesdropper. The Latin
aptitude for intrigue he had in a high degree. He was capable of almost
anything in the way of falsehood or evasion, but he had that great
capacity for loyalty which is so often the virtue of weaklings.

“I have known your family for many years,” he told Ramon importantly, “And
I feel an interest in you, almost as though you were my own son. You need
an older friend to advise you, to attend to details in the management of
your great estate. You will probably go into politics and you need a
political manager. As an old friend of your family I want to do these
things for you. What do you say?”

Ramon answered without any hesitation and prompted solely by intuition:

“I thank you, friend, and I accept your offer.”

He knew instinctively that he could trust this man and also dominate him.
It was just such a follower that he needed. Nothing was said about money,
but on the first of the month Ramon mailed Cortez a check for a hundred
dollars, and that became his regular salary.



                               CHAPTER XVI


About two weeks after the Don’s funeral, Ramon received a summons which he
had been vaguely expecting. He was asked by Mr. MacDougall’s secretary
over the telephone to call, whenever it would be convenient, at Mr.
MacDougall’s office.

He knew just what this meant. MacDougall would try to make with him an
arrangement somewhat similar to the one he had had with the Don. Ramon
knew that he did not want such an arrangement on any terms. He felt
confident that not one could swindle him, but at the same time he was half
afraid of the Scotchman; he felt instinctively that MacDougall was a man
for him to avoid. And besides, he intended to use his lands in his own
way. He would sell part of them to the railroad, which was projected to be
built through them, if he could get a good price; but the hunger for
owning land, for dominating a part of the earth, was as much a part of him
as his right hand. He wanted no modern business partnership. He wanted to
be _“__el patron,__”_ as so many Delcasars had been before him.

Here was a temptation to be dramatic, to hurl a picturesque defiance at
the gringo. Ramon might have yielded to it a few months before. Sundry
brave speeches flashed through his mind, as it was. But he resolutely put
them aside. There was too much at stake … his love. He determined to call
on MacDougall promptly and to be polite.

MacDougall was a heavy, bald man of Scotch descent, and very true to type.
He had come to town from the East about fifteen years before with his wife
and his two tall, raw-boned children—a boy and a girl. The family had been
very poor. They had lived in a small _adobe_ house on the _mesa_. For ten
years Mrs. MacDougall had done all of her own housework, including the
washing; the two children had gone to school in clothes that seemed always
too small for them; and MacDougall had laboured obscurely day and night in
a small dark office. During these ten years the MacDougalls had been
completely overlooked by local society, and if they felt any resentment
they did not show it.

Meantime MacDougall had been systematically and laboriously laying the
foundations of a fortune. His passion was for land. He loaned money on
land, chiefly to Mexicans, and he took mortgages on land in return for
defending his Mexican clients, largely on criminal charges. Some of the
land he farmed, and some he rented, but much of it lay idle, and the taxes
he had to pay kept his family poor long after it might have been
comfortable. But his lands rose steadily in value; he began selling,
discreetly; and the MacDougalls came magnificently into their own.
MacDougall was now one of the wealthiest men in the State. In five years
his way of living had undergone a great change. He owned a large brick
house in the highlands and had several servants. The boy had gone to
Harvard, and the girl to Vassar. Neither of them was so gawky now, and
both of them were much sought socially during their vacations at home.
MacDougall himself had undergone a marked change for a man past fifty. He
had become a stylish dresser and looked younger. He drove to work in a
large car with a chauffeur. In the early morning he went riding on the
_mesa_, mounted on a big Kentucky fox-trotter, clad in English riding
clothes, jouncing solemnly up and down on his flat saddle, and followed by
a couple of carefully-laundered white poodles. On these expeditions he was
a source of great edification and some amusement to the natives.

In the town he was a man of weight and influence, but the country Mexicans
hated him. Once when he was looking over some lands recently acquired by
the foreclosure of mortgages, a bullet had whistled close to his ear, and
another had punctured the hood of his car. He now hired a man to do his
“outside work.”

Thus both MacDougall and his children had thrived and developed on their
wealth. Mrs. MacDougall, perhaps, had been the sacrifice. She remained a
tall, thin, pale, tired-looking woman with large hands that were a record
of toil. She laboured at her new social duties and “pleasures” in exactly
the same spirit that she had formerly laboured at the wash tub.

MacDougall’s offices now occupied all of the ground floor of a large new
building which he had built. Like everything else of his authorship this
building represented a determined effort to lend the town an air of
Eastern elegance. It was finished in an imitation of white marble and the
offices had large plate glass windows which bore in gilt letters the
legend: “MacDougall Land and Cattle Company, Inc.” Within, half a dozen
girls in glass cages could be seen working at typewriters and adding
machines, while a cashier occupied a little office of his own with a large
safe at his back, a little brass grating in front of him, and a revolver
visible not far from his right hand.

The creator of this magnificence sat behind a glasstop desk at the far end
of a large and sunny office with a bare and slippery floor. Many a Mexican
beggar for mercy, with a mortgage on his home, had walked across this
forbidding expanse of polished hardwood toward the big man with the
merciless eye, as fearfully as ever a _peon_, sentenced to forty lashes
and salt in his wounds, approached the seat of his owner to plead for a
whole skin. Truly, the weak can but change masters.

This morning MacDougall was all affability. As he stood up behind his
desk, clad in a light grey suit, large and ruddy, radiant of health and
prosperity, he was impressive, almost splendid. Only the eyes, small and
closeset, revealed the worried and calculating spirit of the man.

“Mr. Delcasar,” he said when they had shaken hands and sat down, “I am
glad to welcome you to this office, and I hope to see you here many times
more. I will not waste time, for we are both busy men. I asked you to come
here because I want to suggest a sort of informal partnership between us,
such as I had with your late uncle, one of my best friends. I believe my
plan will be for the best interests of both of us.… I suppose you know
about what the arrangement was between the Don and myself?”

“No; not in detail,” Ramon confessed. He felt MacDougall’s power at once.
Facing the man was a different matter from planning an interview with him
when alone. But he retained sense enough to let MacDougall do the talking.

“Have a cigar,” the great man continued, full of sweetness, pushing a
large and fragrant box of perfectos across the desk. “I will outline the
situation to you briefly, as I see it.” Nothing could have seemed more
frank and friendly than his manner.

“As you doubtless know,” he went on, “your estate includes a large area of
mountain and _mesa_ land—a little more than nine thousand acres I
believe—north and west of the San Antonio River in Arriba County. I own
nearly as much land on the east side of the river. The valley itself is
owned by a number of natives in small farming tracts.

“I believe your estate also includes a few small parcels of land in the
valley, but not enough, you understand, to be of much value by itself.
Your uncle also owned a few tracts in the valley east of the river which
he transferred to me, for a consideration, because they abutted upon my
holdings.

“Now the valley, as I scarcely need tell you, is the key to the situation.
In the first place, if the country is to be properly developed as sheep
and cattle range, the valley will furnish the farming land upon which hay
for winter use can be raised, and it also furnishes some good winter
range. Moreover, it is now an open secret that the Denver and Rio Grande
Railroad proposes building a branch line through that country and into the
San Juan Valley. No surveys have been made, but it is certain that the
road must follow the San Antonio to the top of the divide. There is no
other way through. I became aware of this project some time ago through my
eastern connections, and told your uncle about it. He and I joined forces
for the purpose of gaining control of the San Antonio Valley, and of the
railroad right-of-way.

“The proposition is a singularly attractive one. Not only could the
right-of-way be sold for a very large sum, but we would afterward own a
splendid bit of cattle range, with farming land in the valley, and with a
railroad running through the centre of it. There is nothing less than a
fortune to be made in the San Antonio Valley, Mr. Delcasar.

“And the lands in the valley can be acquired. Some of the small owners
will sell outright. Furthermore, they are all frequently in need of money,
especially during dry years when the crops are not good. By advancing
loans judiciously, and taking land as security, title can often be
acquired.… I daresay you are not wholly unfamiliar with the method.

“This work, Mr. Delcasar, requires large capital, which I can command. It
also requires certain things which you have in an unusual degree. You are
of Spanish descent, you speak the language fluently. You have political
and family prestige among the natives. All of this will be of great
service in persuading the natives to sell, and in getting the necessary
information about land titles, which, as you know, requires much research
in old Spanish Church records and much interviewing of the natives
themselves.

“In the actual making of purchases, my name need not appear. In fact, I
think it is very desirable that it should not appear. But understand that
I will furnish absolutely all of the capital for the enterprise. I am
offering you, Mr. Delcasar, an opportunity to make a fortune without
investing a cent, and I feel that I can count upon your acceptance.”

At the close of this discourse, Ramon felt like a surf-bather who has been
overwhelmed by a great and sudden wave and comes up gasping for breath and
struggling for a foothold. Never had he heard anything so brilliantly
plausible, for never before had he come into contact with a good mind in
full action. Yet he regained his balance in a moment. He was accustomed to
act by intuition, not by logic, and his intuition was all against
accepting MacDougall’s offer. He was not deceived by the Scotchman’s show
of friendship and beneficence; he himself had an aptitude for pretence,
and he understood it better than he would have understood sincerity. He
knew that whether he formed this partnership or not, there was sure to be
a struggle between him and MacDougall for the dominance of the San Antonio
Valley. And his instinct was to stand free and fight; not to come to
grips, MacDougall was a stronger man than he. The one advantage which he
had—his influence over the natives—he must keep in his own hands, and not
let his adversary turn it against him.

He took his cigar out of his mouth, looked at it a moment, and cleared his
throat.

“Mr. MacDougall,” he said slowly, “this offer makes me proud. That you
should have so much confidence in me as to wish to make me your partner is
most gratifying. I am sorry that I must refuse. I have other plans.…”

MacDougall nodded, interrupting. This was evidently a contingency he had
calculated.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Delcasar. I had hoped to be permanently associated with
you in this venture. But I think I understand. You are young. Perhaps
marriage, a home are your immediate objects, and you need cash at once,
rather than a somewhat distant prospect of greater wealth. In that case I
think I can meet your wishes. I am prepared to make you a good offer for
all of your holdings in the valley, and those immediately adjoining it.
The exact amount I cannot state at this moment, but I feel sure we could
agree as to price.”

Ramon was taken aback by the promptness of the counter, confused, forced
to think. Money was a thing he wanted badly. He had little cash. If
MacDougall would give him fifty thousand, he could go with Julia anywhere.
He would be free. But again the inward prompting, sure and imperative,
said no. He wanted the girl above all things. But he wanted land, too. His
was the large and confident greed of youth. And he could have the girl
without making this concession. MacDougall wanted to take the best of his
land and push him out of the game as a weakling, a negligible. He wouldn’t
submit. He would fight, and in his own way. What he wanted now was to end
the interview, to get away from this battering, formidable opponent. He
rose.

“I will think it over, Mr. MacDougall,” he said. “And meantime, if you
will send me an offer in writing, I will appreciate it.”

Some of the affability faded from MacDougall’s face as he too rose, and
the worried look in his little grey eyes intensified, as though he sensed
the fact that this was an evasion. None-the-less he said good-bye
cordially and promised to write the letter.

Ramon went back to his office, his mind stimulated, working intensely.
Never before had he thought so clearly and purposefully. He got out an old
government map of Arriba County, and with the aid of the deeds in the safe
which contained all his uncle’s important papers, he managed to mark off
his holdings. The whole situation became as clear to him as a checker
game. He owned a bit of land in the valley which ran all the way across
it, and far out upon the _mesa_ in a long narrow strip. That was the way
land holdings were always divided under the Spanish law—into strips a few
hundred feet wide, and sometimes as much as fourteen miles long. This
strip would in all probability be vital to the proposed right-of-way. It
explained MacDougall’s eagerness to take him as a partner or else to buy
him out. By holding it, he would hold the key to the situation.

In order really to dominate the country and to make his property grow in
value he would have to own more of the valley. And he could not get money
enough to buy except very slowly. But he could use his influence with the
natives to prevent MacDougall from buying. MacDougall was a gringo. The
Mexicans hated him. He had been shot at. Ramon could “preach the race
issue,” as the politicians put it.

The important thing was to strengthen and assert his influence as a
Mexican and a Delcasar. He must go to Arriba County, open the old ranch
house he owned there, go among the people. He must gain a real ascendency.
He knew how to do it. It was his birthright. He was full of fight and
ambition, confident, elated. The way was clear before him. Tomorrow he
would go to Julia.



                               CHAPTER XVII


He had received a note of sympathy from her soon after his uncle’s death
and he had called at the Roths’ once, but had found several other callers
there and no opportunity of being alone with her. Then she had gone away
on a two-weeks, automobile trip to the Mesa Verde National Park, so that
he had seen practically nothing of her. But all of this time he had been
thinking of her more confidently than ever before. He was rich now, he was
strong. All of the preliminaries had been finished. He could go to her and
claim her.

He called her on the telephone from his office, and the Mexican maid
answered. She would see if Miss Roth was in. After a long wait she
reported that Miss Roth was out. He tried again that day, and a third time
the next morning with a like result.

This filled him with anxious, angry bewilderment. He felt sure she had not
really been out all three times. Were her mother and brother keeping his
message from her? Or had something turned her against him? He remembered
with a keen pang of anxiety, for the first time, the insinuations of
Father Lugaria. Could that miserable rumour have reached her? He had no
idea how she would have taken it if it had. He really did not know or
understand this girl at all; he merely loved her and desired her with a
desire which had become the ruling necessity of his life. To him she was a
being of a different sort, from a different world—a mystery. They had
nothing in common but a rebellious discontent with life, and this
glamorous bewildering thing, so much stronger than they, so far beyond
their comprehension, which they called their love.

That was the one thing he knew and counted on. He knew how imperiously it
drove him, and he knew that she had felt its power too. He had seen it
shine in her eyes, part her lips; he had heard it in her voice, and felt
it tremble in her body. If only he could get to her this potent thing
would carry them to its purpose through all barriers.

Angry and resolute, he set himself to a systematic campaign of
telephoning. At last she answered. Her voice was level, quiet, weary.

“But I have an engagement for tonight,” she told him.

“Then let me come tomorrow,” he urged.

“No; I can’t do that. Mother is having some people to dinner.…”

At last he begged her to set a date, but she refused, declared that her
plans were unfixed, told him to call “some other time.”

His touchy pride rebelled now. He cursed these gringos. He hated them. He
wished for the power to leave her alone, to humble her by neglect. But he
knew that he did have it. Instead he waited a few days and then drove to
the house in his car, having first carefully ascertained by watching that
she was at home.

All three of them received him in their sitting room, which they called
the library. It was an attractive room, sunny and tastefully furnished,
with a couple of book cases filled with new-looking books in sets, a
silver tea service on a little wheeled table, flowers that matched the
wall paper, and a heavy mahogany table strewn with a not-too-disorderly
array of magazines and paper knives. It was the envy of the local women
with social aspirations because it looked elegant and yet comfortable.

Conversation was slow and painful. Mrs. Roth and her son were icily
formal, confining themselves to the most commonplace remarks. And Julia
did not help him, as she had on his first visit. She looked pale and tired
and carefully avoided his eyes.

When he had been there about half an hour, Mrs. Roth turned to her
daughter.

“Julia,” she said, “If we are going to get to Mrs. MacDougall’s at
half-past four you must go and get ready. You will excuse her, won’t you
Mr. Delcasar?”

The girl obediently went up stairs without shaking hands, and a few
minutes later Ramon went away, feeling more of misery and less of
self-confidence than ever before in his life.

He almost wholly neglected his work. Cortez brought him a report that
MacDougall had a new agent, who was working actively in Arriba County, but
he paid no attention to it. His life seemed to have lost purpose and
interest. For the first time he doubted her love. For the first time he
really feared that he would lose her.

Most of his leisure was spent riding or walking about the streets, in the
hope of catching a glimpse of her. He passed her house as often as he
dared, and studied her movements. When he saw her in the distance he felt
an acute thrill of mingled hope and misery. Only once did he meet her
fairly, walking with her brother, and then she either failed to see him or
pretended not to.

One afternoon about five o’clock he left his office and started home in
his car. A storm was piling up rapidly in big black clouds that rose from
behind the eastern mountains like giants peering from ambush. It was
sultry; there were loud peals of thunder and long crooked flashes of
lightning. At this season of late summer the weather staged such a
portentous display almost every afternoon, and it rained heavily in the
mountains; but the showers only reached the thirsty _mesa_ and valley
lands about one day in four.

Ramon drove home slowly, gloomily wondering whether it would rain and
hoping that it would. A Southwesterner is always hoping for rain, and in
his present mood the rush and beat of a storm would have been especially
welcome.

His hopes were soon fulfilled. There was a cold blast of wind, carrying a
few big drops, and then a sudden, drumming downpour that tore up the dust
of the street and swiftly converted it into a sea of mud cut by yellow
rivulets.

As his car roared down the empty street, he glimpsed a woman standing in
the shelter of a big cottonwood tree, cowering against its trunk. A quick
thrill shot through his body. He jammed down the brake so suddenly that
his car skidded and sloughed around. He carefully turned and brought up at
the curb.

She started at sight of him as he ran across the side-walk toward her.

“Come on quick!” he commanded, taking her by the arm, “I’ll get you home.”
Before she had time to say anything he had her in the car, and they were
driving toward the Roth house. By the time they had reached it the first
strength of the shower was spent, and there was only a light scattering
rain with a rift showing in the clouds over the mountains.

He deliberately passed the house, putting on more speed as he did so.

“But … I thought you were going to take me home,” she said, putting a hand
on his arm.

“I’m not,” he announced, without looking around. His hands and eyes were
fully occupied with his driving, but a great suspense held his breath. The
hand left his arm, and he heard her settle back in her seat with a sigh. A
great warm wave of joy surged through him.

He took the mountain road, which was a short cut between Old Town and the
mountains, seldom used except by wood wagons. Within ten minutes they were
speeding across the _mesa_. The rain was over and the clouds running
across the sky in tatters before a fresh west wind. Before them the
rolling grey-green waste of the _mesa_, spotted and veined with silver
waters, reached to the blue rim of the mountains—empty and free as an
undiscovered world.

He slowed his car to ten miles an hour and leaned back, steering with one
hand. The other fell upon hers, and closed over it. For a time they drove
along in silence, conscious only of that electrical contact, and of the
wind playing in their faces and the soft rhythmical hum of the great
engine.

At the crest of a rise he stopped the car and stood up, looking all about
at the vast quiet wilderness, filling his lungs with air. He liked that
serene emptiness. He had always felt at peace with these still desolate
lands that had been the background of most of his life. Now, with the
consciousness of the woman beside him, they filled him with a sort of
rapture, an ecstasy of reverence that had come down to him perhaps from
savage forebears who had worshipped the Earth Mother with love and awe.

He dropped down beside her again and without hesitation gathered her into
his arms. After a moment he held her a little away from him and looked
into her eyes.

“Why wouldn’t you let me come to see you? Why did you treat me that way?”
he plead.

She dropped her eyes.

“They made me.”

“But why? Because I’m a Mexican? And does that make any difference to
you?”

“O, I can’t tell you.… They say awful things about you. I don’t believe
them. No; nothing about you makes any difference to me.”

He held her close again.

“Then you’ll go away with me?”

“Yes,” she answered slowly, nodding her head. “I’ll go anywhere with you.”

“Now!” he demanded. “Will you go now? We can drive through Scissors Pass
to Abol on the Southeastern and take a train to Denver.…”

“O, no, not now,” she plead. “Please not now.… I can’t go like this.…”

“Yes; now,” he urged. “We’ll never have a better chance.…”

“I beg you, if you love me, don’t make me go now. I must think … and get
ready.… Why I haven’t even got any powder for my nose.”

They both laughed. The tension was broken. They were happy.

“Give me a little while to get ready,” she proposed, “and I’ll go when you
say.”

“You promise?”

“Cross my heart.… On my life and honour. Please take me home now, so they
won’t suspect anything. If only nobody sees us! Please hurry. It’ll be
dark pretty soon. You can write to me. It’s so lonely out here!”

He turned his car and drove slowly townward, his free hand seeking hers
again. It was dusk when they reached the streets. Stopping his car in the
shadow of a tree, he kissed her and helped her out.

He sat still and watched her out of sight. A tinge of sadness and regret
crept into his mind, and as he drove homeward it grew into an active
discontent with himself. Why had he let her go? True, he had proved her
love, but now she was to be captured all over again. He ought to have
taken her. He had been a fool. She would have gone. She had begged him not
to take her, but if he had insisted, she would have gone. He had been a
fool!



                              CHAPTER XVIII


The second morning after this ride, while he was labouring over a note to
the girl, he was amazed to get one from her postmarked at Lorietta, a
station a hundred miles north of town at the foot of the Mora Mountains,
in which many of the town people spent their summer vacations. It was a
small square missive, exhaling a faint scent of lavender, and was simple
and direct as a telegram.

“We have gone to the Valley Ranch for a month,” she wrote. “We had not
intended to go until August, but there was a sudden change of plans.
Somebody saw you and me yesterday. I had an awful time. Please don’t try
to see me or write to me while we’re here. It will be best for us. I’ll be
back soon. I love you.”

He sat glumly thinking over this letter for a long time. The
disappointment of learning that he would not see her for a month was bad
enough, but it was not the worst thing about this sudden development. For
this made him realize what alert and active opposition he faced on the
part of her mother and brother. Their dislike for him had been made
manifest again and again, but he had supposed that Julia was successfully
deceiving them as to his true relations with her. He had thought that he
was regarded merely as an undesirable acquaintance; but if they were
changing their plans because of him, taking the girl out of his reach,
they must have guessed the true state of affairs. And for all that he
knew, they might leave the country at any time. His heart seemed to give a
sharp twist in his body at this thought. He must take her as soon as she
returned to town. He could not afford to miss another chance. And meantime
his affairs must be gotten in order.

He had been neglecting his new responsibilities, and there was an
astonishing number of things to be done—debts to be paid, tax assessments
to be protested, men to be hired for the sheep-shearing. His uncle had
left his affairs at loose ends, and on all hands were men bent on taking
advantage of the fact. But he knew the law; he had known from childhood
the business of raising sheep on the open range which was the backbone of
his fortune; and he was held in a straight course by the determination to
keep his resources together so that they would strengthen him in his
purpose.

A few weeks before, he had sent Cortez to Arriba County to attend to some
minor matters there, and incidentally to learn if possible what MacDougall
was doing. Cortez had spent a large part of his time talking with the
Mexicans in the San Antonio Valley, eavesdropping on conversations in
little country stores, making friends, and asking discreet questions at
_bailes_ and _fiestas_.

“Well; how goes it up there?” Ramon asked him when he came to the office
to make his report.

“It looks bad enough,” Cortez replied lighting with evident satisfaction
the big cigar his patron had given him. “MacDougall has men working there
all the time. He bought a small ranch on the edge of the valley just the
other day. He is not making very fast progress, but he’ll own the valley
in time if we don’t stop him.”

“But who is doing the work? Who is his agent?” Ramon enquired.

“Old Solomon Alfego, for one. He’s boss of the county, you know. He hates
a gringo as much as any man alive, but he loves a dollar, too, and
MacDougall has bought him, I’m afraid. I think MacDougall is lending money
through him, getting mortgages on ranches that way.”

“Well; what do you think we had better do?” Ramon enquired. The situation
looked bad on its face, but he could see that Cortez had a plan.

“Just one thing I thought of,” the little man answered slowly. “We have
got to get Alfego on our side. If we can do that, we can keep out
MacDougall and everybody else … buy when we get ready. We couldn’t pay
Alfego much, but we could let him in on the railroad deal … something
MacDougall won’t do. And Alfego, you know, is a _penitente_. He’s _hermano
mayor_ (chief brother) up there. And all those little _rancheros_ are
_penitentes_. It’s the strongest _penitente_ county in the State, and you
know none of the _penitentes_ like gringos. None of those fellows like
MacDougall; they’re all afraid of him. All they like is his money. You
haven’t so much money, but you could spend some. You could give a few
_bailes_. You are Mexican; your family is well-known. If you were a
_penitente_, too.…”

Cortez left his sentence hanging in the air. He nodded his head slowly,
his cigar cocked at a knowing angle, looking at Ramon through narrowed
lids.

Ramon sat looking straight before him for a moment. He saw in imagination
a procession of men trudging half-naked in the raw March weather, their
backs gashed so that blood ran down to their heels, beating themselves and
each other.… The _penitentes_! Other men, even gringos, had risen to power
by joining the order. Why not he? It would give him just the prestige and
standing he needed in that country. He would lose a little blood. He would
win … everything!

“You are right, _amigo_,” he told Cortez. “But do you think it can be
arranged?”

“I have talked to Alfego about it,” Cortez admitted. “I think it can be
arranged.”



                               CHAPTER XIX


He was all ready to leave for Arriba County when one more black mischance
came to bedevil him. Cortez came into the office with a worried look in
his usually unrevealing eyes.

“There’s a woman in town looking for you,” he announced. “A Mexican girl
from the country. She was asking everybody she met where to find you. You
ought to be more careful. I took her to my house and promised I would
bring you right away.”

Cortez lived in a little square box of a brick cottage, which he had been
buying slowly for the past ten years and would probably never own. In its
parlour, gaudy with cheap, new furniture, Ramon confronted Catalina
Archulera. She was clad in a dirty calico dress, and her shoes were
covered with the dust of long tramping, as was the black shawl about her
head and shoulders. Once he had thought her pretty, but now she looked to
him about as attractive as a clod of earth.

She stood before him with downcast eyes, speechless with misery and
embarassment. At first he was utterly puzzled as to what could have
brought her there. Then with a queer mixture of anger and pity and
disgust, he noticed the swollen bulk of her healthy young body.

“Catalina! Why did you come here?” he blurted, all his self-possession
gone for a moment.

“My father sent me,” she replied, as simply as though that were an
all-sufficient explanation.

“But why did you tell him … it was I? Why didn’t you come to me first?”

“He made me tell,” Catalina rolled back her sleeve and showed some blue
bruises. “He beat me,” she explained without emotion.

“What did he tell you to say?”

“He told me to come to you and show you how I am.… That is all.”

Ramon swore aloud with a break in his voice. For a long moment he stood
looking at her, bewildered, disgusted. It somehow seemed to him utterly
wrong, utterly unfair that this thing should have happened, and above all
that it should have happened now. He had taken other girls, as had every
other man, but never before had any such hard luck as this befallen him.
And now, of all times!

In Catalina he felt not the faintest interest. Before him was the proof
that once he had desired her. Now that desire had vanished as completely
as his childhood.

And she was Archulera’s daughter. That was the hell of it! Archulera was
the one man of all men whom he could least afford to offend. And he knew
just how hard to appease the old man would be. For among the Mexicans,
seduction is a crime which, in theory and often in practice, can be atoned
only by marriage or by the shedding of blood. Marriage is the door to
freedom for the women, but virginity is a thing greatly revered and
carefully guarded. The unmarried girl is always watched, often locked up,
and he who appropriates her to his own purpose is violating a sacred right
and offending her whole family.

In the towns, all this has been somewhat changed, as the customs of any
country suffer change in towns. But old Archulera, living in his lonely
canyon, proud of his high lineage, would be the hardest of men to appease.
And meantime, what was to be done with the girl?

It was this problem which brought his wits back to him. A plan began to
form in his mind. He saw that in sending her to him Archulera had really
played into his hands. The important thing now was to keep her away from
her father. He looked at her again, and the pity which he always felt for
weaklings welled up in him. He knew many Mexican ranches in the valley
where he could keep her in comfort for a small amount. That would serve a
double purpose. The old man would be kept in ignorance as to what Ramon
intended, and the girl would be saved from further punishment. Meantime,
he could send Cortez to see Archulera and find out what money would do.

The whole affair was big with potential damage to him. Some of his enemies
might find out about it and make a scandal. Archulera might come around in
an ugly mood and make trouble. The girl might run away and come to town
again. And yet, now that he had a plan, he was all confidence.

Cortez kept Catalina at his house while Ramon drove forty miles up the
valley and made arrangements with a Mexican who lived in an isolated
place, to care for her for an indefinite period. When he took Catalina
there, he told her on the way simply that she was to wait until he came
for her, and above all, that she must not try to communicate with her
father. The girl nodded, looking at him gravely with her large soft eyes.
Her lot had always been to obey, to bear burdens and to suffer. The stuff
of rebellion and of self-assertion was not in her, but she could endure
misfortune with the stoical indifference of a savage. Indeed, she was in
all essentials simply a squaw. During the ride to her new home she seemed
more interested in the novel sensation of travelling at thirty miles an
hour than in her own future. She clung to the side of the car with both
hands, and her face reflected a pathetic mingling of fear and delight.

The house of Nestor Gomez to which Ramon took her was prettily set in a
grove of cottonwoods, with white hollyhocks blooming on either side of the
door, and strings of red chile hanging from the rafter-ends to dry. Half a
dozen small children played about the door, the younger ones naked and all
of them deep in dirt. A hen led her brood of chicks into the house on a
foray for crumbs, and in the shade of the wall a mongrel bitch luxuriously
gave teat to four pups. Bees humming about the hollyhocks bathed the scene
in sleepy sound.

Catalina, utterly unembarassed, shook hands with her host and hostess in
the limp, brief way of the Mexicans, and then, while Ramon talked with
them, sat down in the shade, shook loose her heavy black hair and began to
comb it. A little half-naked urchin of three years came and stood before
her. She stopped combing to place her hands on his shoulders, and the two
regarded each other long and intently, while Catalina’s mouth framed a
smile of dull wonder.

As Ramon drove back to town, he marvelled that he should ever have desired
this clod of a woman; but he was grateful to her for the bovine calm with
which she accepted things. He would visit her once in a while. He felt
pretty sure that he could count on her not to make trouble.

Afterward he discussed the situation with Cortez. The latter was worried.

“You better look out,” he counselled. “You better send him a message you
are going to marry her. That will keep him quiet for a while. When he gets
over being mad, maybe you can make him take a thousand dollars instead.”

Ramon shook his head. If he gave Archulera to understand that he would
marry the girl, word of it might get to town.

“He’ll never find her,” he said confidently. “I’ll do nothing unless he
comes to me.”

“I don’t know,” Cortez replied doubtfully. “Is he a _penitente_?”

“Yes; I think he is,” Ramon admitted.

“Then maybe he’ll find her pretty quick. There are some _penitentes_ still
in the valley and all _penitentes_ work together. You better look out.”



                                CHAPTER XX


He had resolutely put the thought of Julia as much out of his mind as
possible. He had conquered his disappointment at not being able to see her
for a month, and had resolved to devote that month exclusively to hard
work. And now came another one of those small, square, brief letters with
its disturbing scent of lavender, and its stamp stuck upside down near the
middle of the envelope.

“I will be in town tomorrow when you get this,” she wrote, “But only for a
day or two. We are going to move up to the capital for the rest of the
year. Gordon is going to stay here now. Just mother and I are coming down
to pack up our things. You can come and see me tomorrow evening.”

It was astonishing, it was disturbing, it was incomprehensible. And it did
not fit in with his plans. He had intended to go North and return before
she did; then, with all his affairs in order, ask her to go away with him.
Cortez had already sent word to Alfego that Ramon was coming to Arriba
County. He could not afford a change of plans now. But the prospect of
seeing her again filled him with pleasure, sent a sort of weakening
excitement tingling through his body.

And what did it mean that he was to be allowed to call on her? Had she, by
any chance, won over her mother and brother? No; he couldn’t believe it.
But he went to her house that evening shaken by great hopes and
anticipations.

She wore a black dress that left her shoulders bare, and set off the slim
perfection of her little figure. Her face was flushed and her eyes were
deep. How much more beautiful she was than the image he carried in his
mind! He had been thinking of her all this while, and yet he had forgotten
how beautiful she was. He could think of nothing to say at first, but held
her by both hands and looked at her with eyes of wonder and desire. He
felt a fool because his knees were weak and he was tremulous. But a happy
fool! The touch and the sight of her seemed to dissolve his strength, and
also the hardness and the bitterness that life had bred in him, the streak
of animal ferocity that struggle brought out in him. He was all desire,
but desire bathed in tenderness and hope. She made him feel as once long
ago he had felt in church when the music and the pageantry and sweet
odours of the place had filled his childish spirit with a strange sense of
harmony. He had felt small and unworthy, yet happy and forgiven. So now he
felt in her presence that he was black and bestial beside her, but that
possession of her would somehow wash him clean and bring him peace.

When he tried to draw her to him she shook her head, not meeting his eyes
and freed herself gently.

“No, no. I must tell you.…” She led him to a seat, and went on, looking
down at a toe that played with a design in the carpet. “I must explain. I
promised mother that if she would let me see you this once to tell you, I
would never try to see you again.”

There was a long silence, during which he could feel his heart pounding
and could see that she breathed quickly. Then suddenly he took her face in
both hot hands and turned it toward him, made her meet his eyes.

“But of course you didn’t mean that,” he said.

She struggled weakly against his strength.

“I don’t know. I thought I did.… It’s terrible. You know… I wrote you …
some one saw us together. Gordon and mother found out about it. I won’t
tell you all that they said, but it was awful. It made me angry, and they
found out that I love you. It had a terrible effect on Gordon. It made him
worse. I can’t tell you how awful it is for me. I love you. But I love him
too. And to think I’m hurting him when he’s sick, when I’ve lived in the
hope he would get well.…”

She was breathing hard now. Her eyes were bright with tears. All her
defences were down, her fine dignity vanished. When he took her in his
arms she struggled a little at first; then yielded with closed eyes to his
hot kisses.

Afterward they talked a little, but not to much purpose. He had important
things to tell her, they had plans to make. But their great disturbing
hunger for each other would not let them think of anything else. Their
conversation was always interrupted by hot confusing embraces.

The clock struck eleven, and she jumped up.

“I promised to make you go home at eleven,” she told him.

“But I must tell you … I have to leave town for a while.” He found his
tongue suddenly. Briefly he outlined the situation he faced with regard to
his estate. Of course, he said nothing about the _penitentes_, but he made
her understand that he was going forth to fight for both their fortunes.

“I can’t do it, I won’t go, unless I know I am to have you,” he finished.
“Everything I have done, everything I am going to do is for you. If I lose
you I lose everything. You promise to go with me?”

His eyes were burning with earnestness, and hers were wide with
admiration. He did not really understand her, nor she him. Unalterable
differences of race and tradition and temperament stood between them. They
had little in common save a great primitive hunger. But that,
none-the-less, for the moment genuinely transfigured and united them.

She drew a deep breath.

“Yes. You must promise not to try to see me until then. When you are
ready, let me know.”

She threw back her head, opening her arms to him. For a moment she hung
limp in his embrace; then pushed him away and ran upstairs, leaving him to
find his way out alone.

He walked home slowly, trying to straighten out his thoughts. Her presence
seemed still to be all about him. One of her hairs was tangled about a
button of his coat; her powder and the scent of her were all over his
shoulder; the recollection of her kisses smarted sweetly on his mouth. He
was weak, confused, ridiculously happy. But he knew that he would carry
North with him greater courage and purpose than ever before he had known.



                               CHAPTER XXI


In the dry clean air of the Southwest all things change slowly. Growth is
slow and decay is even slower. The body of a dead horse in the desert does
not rot but dessicates, the hide remaining intact for months, the bones
perhaps for years. Men and beasts often live to great age. The _pinon_
trees on the red hills were there when the conquerors came, and they are
not much larger now—only more gnarled and twisted.

This strange inertia seems to possess institutions and customs as well as
life itself. In the valley towns, it is true, the railroads have brought
and thrown down all the conveniences and incongruities of civilization.
But ride away from the railroads into the mountains or among the lava
_mesas_, and you are riding into the past. You will see little earthen
towns, brown or golden or red in the sunlight, according to the soil that
bore them, which have not changed in a century. You will see grain
threshed by herds of goats and ponies driven around and around the
threshing floors, as men threshed grain before the Bible was written. You
will see Indian pueblos which have not changed materially since the brave
days when Coronado came to Taos and the Spanish soldiers stormed the
heights of Acoma. You will hear of strange Gods and devils and of the evil
eye. It is almost as though this crystalline air were indeed a great clear
crystal, impervious to time, in which the past is forever encysted.

The region in which Ramon’s heritage lay was a typical part of this
forgotten land. In the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, it was a
country of great tilted _mesas_ reaching above timber line, covered for
the most part with heavy forests of pine and fir, with here and there
great upland pastures swept clean by forest fires of long ago. Along the
lower slopes of the mountains, where the valleys widened, were primitive
little _adobe_ towns, in which the Mexicans lived, each owning a few acres
of tillable land. In the summer they followed their sheep herds in the
upland pastures. There were not a hundred white men in the whole of Arriba
County, and no railroad touched it.

In this region a few Mexicans who were shrewder or stronger than the
others, who owned stores or land, dominated the rest of the people much as
the _patrones_ had dominated them in the days before the Mexican War. Here
still flourished the hatred for the gringo which culminated in that war.
Here that strange sect, the _penitentes hermanos_, half savage and half
mediaeval, still was strong and still recruited its strength every year
with young men, who elsewhere were refusing to undergo its brutal
tortures.

For all of these reasons, this was an advantageous field for the fight
Ramon proposed to make. In the valley MacDougall’s money and influence
would surely have beaten him. But here he could play upon the ancient
hatred for the gringo; here he could use to the best advantage the
prestige of his family; here, above all, if he could win over the
_penitentes_, he could do almost anything he pleased.

His plan of joining that ancient order to gain influence was not an
original one. Mexican politicians and perhaps one or two gringos had done
it, and the fact was a matter of common gossip. Some of these _penitentes_
for a purpose had been men of great influence, and their initiations had
been tempered to suit their sensitive skins. Others had been Mexicans of
the poorer sort, capable of sharing the half-fanatic, half sadistic spirit
of the thing.

Ramon came to the order as a young and almost unknown man seeking its aid.
He could not hope for much mercy. And though he was primitive in many
ways, there was nothing in him that responded to the spirit of this
ordeal. The thought of Christ crucified did not inspire him to endure
suffering. But the thought of a girl with yellow hair did.



                               CHAPTER XXII


Ramon went first to the ranch at the foot of the mountains which his uncle
had used as a headquarters, and which had belonged to the family for about
half a century. It consisted merely of an _adobe_ ranch house and barn and
a log corral for rounding up horses.

Here Ramon left his machine. Here also he exchanged his business suit for
corduroys, a wide hat and high-heeled riding boots. He greatly fancied
himself in this costume and he embellished it with a silk bandana of
bright scarlet and with a large pair of silver spurs which had belonged to
his uncle, and which he found in the saddle room of the barn. From the
accoutrement in this room he also selected the most pretentious-looking
saddle. It was a heavy stock saddle, with German silver mountings and
saddle bags covered with black bear fur. A small red and black Navajo
blanket served as a saddle pad and he found a fine Navajo bridle, too,
woven of black horsehair, with a big hand-hammered silver buckle on each
cheek.

He had the old Mexican who acted as caretaker for the ranch drive all of
the ranch horses into the corral, and chose a spirited roan mare for a
saddle animal. He always rode a roan horse when he could get one because a
roan mustang has more spirit than one of any other colour.

The most modern part of his equipment was his weapon. He did not want to
carry one openly, so he had purchased a small but highly efficient
automatic pistol, which he wore in a shoulder scabbard inside his shirt
and under his left elbow.

When his preparations were completed he rode straight to the town of
Alfego where the powerful Solomon had his establishment, dismounted under
the big cottonwoods and strolled into the long, dark cluttered _adobe_
room which was Solomon Alfego’s store. Three or four Mexican clerks were
waiting upon as many Mexican customers, with much polite, low-voiced
conversation, punctuated by long silences while the customers turned the
goods over and over in their hands. Ramon’s entrance created a slight
diversion. None of them knew him, for he had not been in that country for
years, but all of them recognized that he was a person of weight and
importance. He saluted all at once, lifting his hat, with a cordial “_Como
lo va, amigos_,” and then devoted himself to an apparently interested
inspection of the stock. This, if conscientiously done, would have
afforded a week’s occupation, for Solomon Alfego served as sole merchant
for a large territory and had to be prepared to supply almost every human
want. There were shelves of dry goods and of hardware, of tobacco and of
medicines. In the centre of the store was a long rack, heavily laden with
saddlery and harness of all kinds, and all around the top of the room,
above the shelves, ran a row of religious pictures, including popes,
saints, and cardinals, Mary with the infant, Christ crucified and Christ
bearing the cross, all done in bright colours and framed, for sale at
about three dollars each.

It was not long before word of the stranger’s arrival reached Alfego in
his little office behind the store, and he came bustling out, beaming and
polite.

“This is Senor Solomon Alfego?” Ramon enquired in his most formal Spanish.

“I am Solomon Alfego,” replied the bulky little man, with a low bow, “and
what can I do for the Senor?”

“I am Ramon Delcasar,” Ramon replied, extending his hand with a smile,
“and it may be that you can do much for me.”

“Ah-h-h!” breathed Alfego, with another bow, “Ramon Delcasar! And I knew
you when you were _un muchachito_” (a little boy). He bent over and
measured scant two feet from the floor with his hand. “My house is yours.
I am at your service. _Siempre!_”

The two strolled about the store, talking of the weather, politics,
business, the old days—everything except what they were both thinking
about. Alfego opened a box of cigars, and having lit a couple of these,
they went out on the long porch and sat down on an old buggy seat to
continue the conversation. Alfego admired Ramon’s horse and especially his
silver-mounted saddle.

“Ha! you like the saddle!” Ramon exclaimed in well-stimulated delight. He
rose, swiftly undid the cinches, and dropped saddle and blanket at the
feet of his host. “It is yours!” he announced.

“A thousand thanks,” Alfego replied. “Come; I wish to show you some Navajo
blankets I bought the other day.” He led the way into the store, and
directed one of his clerks to bring forth a great stack of the heavy
Indian weaves, and began turning them over. They were blankets of the best
quality, and some of the designs in red, black and grey were of
exceptional beauty. Ramon stood smiling while his host turned over one
blanket after another. As he displayed each one he turned his bright
pop-eyes on Ramon with an eager enquiring look. At last when he had seen
them all, Ramon permitted himself to pick up and examine the one he
considered the best with a restrained murmur of admiration.

“You like it!” exclaimed Alfego with delight. “It is yours!”

Mutual good feeling having thus been signalized in the traditional Mexican
manner by an exchange of gifts, Alfego now showed his guest all over his
establishment. It included, in addition to the store, several ware rooms
where were piled stinking bales of sheep and goat and cow hides, sacks of
raw wool and of corn, pelts of wild animals and bags of _pinon_ nuts, and
of beans, all taken from the Mexicans in trade. Afterward Ramon met the
family, of patriarchal proportions, including an astonishing number of
little brown children having the bright eyes and well developed noses of
the great Solomon. Then came supper, a long and bountiful feast, at which
great quantities of mutton, chile, and beans were served.

Having thus been duly impressed with the greatness and substance of his
host, and also with his friendly attitude, Ramon was led into the little
office, offered a seat and a fresh cigar. He knew that at last the proper
time had come for him to declare himself.

“My friend,” he said, leaning toward Alfego confidentially, “I have come
to this country and to you for a great purpose. You know that a rich
gringo has been buying the lands of the poor people—my people and
yours—all through this country. You know that he intends to own all of
this country—to take it away from us Mexicans. If he succeeds, he will
take away all of your business, all of my lands. You and I must fight him
together. Am I right?”

Solomon nodded his head slowly, watching Ramon with wide bright eyes.

“_Verdad!_” he pronounced unctuously.

“I have come,” Ramon went on more boldly, “because my own lands are in
danger, but also because I love the Mexican people, and hate the gringos!
Some one must go among these good people and warn them not to sell their
lands, not to be cheated out of their birthrights. My friend, I have come
here to do that.”

“_Bueno!_” exclaimed Alfego. “_Muy bueno!_”

“My friend, I must have your help.”

Ramon said this as impressively as possible, and paused expectantly, but
as Alfego said nothing, he went on, gathering his wits for the supreme
effort.

“I know that you are a leader in the great fraternity of the penitent
brothers, who are the best and most pious of men. My friend, I wish to
become one of them. I wish to mingle my blood with theirs and with the
blood of Christ, that all of us may be united in our great purpose to keep
this country for the Spanish people, who conquered it from the
barbarians.”

Alfego looked very grave, puffed his cigar violently three times and spat
before he answered.

“My young friend,” (he spoke slowly and solemnly) “to pour out your blood
in penance and to consecrate your body to Christ is a great thing to do.
Have you meditated deeply upon this step? Are you sure the Lord Jesus has
called you to his service? And what assurance have I that you are sincere
in all you say, that if I make you my brother in the blood of Christ, you
will truly be as a brother to me?”

Ramon bowed his head.

“I have thought long on this,” he said softly, “and I know my heart. I
desire to be a blood brother to all these, my people. And to you—I give
you my word as a Delcasar that I will serve you well, that I will be as a
brother to you.”

There was a silence during which Alfego stared with profound gravity at
the ash on the end of his cigar.

“Have you heard,” Ramon went on, in the same soft and emotional tone of
voice, “that the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad is going to build a line
through the San Antonio Valley?”

Alfego, without altering his look of rapt meditation, nodded his head
slowly.

“Do you suppose that you will gain anything by that, if this gringo gets
these lands?” Ramon went on. “You know that you will not. But I will make
you my partner. And I will give you the option on any of my mountain land
that you may wish to rent for sheep range. More than that, I will make you
a written agreement to do these things. In all ways we will be as
brothers.”

“You are a worthy and pious young man!” exclaimed Solomon Alfego, rolling
his eyes upward, his voice vibrant with emotion. “You shall be my brother
in the blood of Christ.”



                              CHAPTER XXIII


Ramon went to the _Morada_, the chapter house of the _penitentes_, alone
and late at night, for all of the whippings and initiations of the order,
except those of Holy Week, are carried on in the utmost secrecy.

The _Morada_ stood halfway up the slope north of the little town, at the
elevation where the tall yellow pines of the mountains begin to replace
the scrubby juniper and _pinon_ of the _mesas_ and foothills. It was a
cool moonlit night of late summer. A light west wind breathed through the
trees, making the massive black shadows of the juniper bushes faintly
alive. As he toiled up the rocky path Ramon heard the faraway yap and
yodel of a coyote, and the still more distant answer of another one. From
the valley below came the intermittent bay of a cur, inspired by the moon
and his wild kin, and now and then the tiny silver tinkle of a goat bell.

The _Morada_ stood in an open space. It was an oblong block of _adobe_,
and gave forth neither light nor sound. Ramon stopped a little way from it
in the shadow of a tree and lit a cigarette to steady his nerves. He felt
now for the first time something of the mystery and terribleness of this
barbaric order which he proposed to use for his purpose. All his life the
_penitentes_ had been to him a well-known fact of life. For the past week
he had spent much of his time with the _maestro de novios_ of the local
chapter, a wizened old sheep herder, who had instructed him monotonously
in the secrets of the order, almost lulling him to sleep with his endless
mumblings of the ritual that was written in a little leather book a
century old. He had learned that if he betrayed the secrets of the order,
he would be buried alive with only his head sticking out of the ground, so
that the ants might eat his face. He had been informed that if he fell ill
he would be taken to the _Morada_ where his brothers in Christ would pray
for him, and seek to drive the devil out of his body, and that if he died,
they would send his shoes to his family as a notice of that event; and
would bury him in consecrated ground. Some of the things he had learned
had bored him and some had made him want to laugh, but none of them had
impressed him, as they were intended to do, with the might and dignity of
the ancient order.

He was impressed now as he stood before this dark still house where a
dozen ignorant fanatics waited to take his blood for what was to them a
holy purpose. He knew that this _Morada_ was a very old one. He thought of
all the true penitents who had knocked for admission at its door and had
gone through its bloody ordeal with a zeal of madness which had enabled
them to cry loudly for blows and more blows until they fell insensible. He
tried to imagine their state of mind, but he could not. He was of their
race and a growth of the same soil, but an alien civilization had touched
him and sundered him from them, yet without taking him for its own. He
could only nerve himself to face this ordeal because it would serve his
one great purpose.

As he stood there, a curious half-irrelevant thought came into his mind.
He knew that the marks they would make on his back would be permanent. He
had seen the long rough scars on the backs of sheep-herders, stripped to
the waist for the hot work of shearing. And he wondered how he would
explain these strange scars to Julia. He imagined her discovering them
with her long dainty hands, her round white arms. A great longing surged
up in him that seemed to weaken the very tissues of his body. He shook
himself, threw away his cigarette, went to the heavy wooden door and
knocked.

Now he spoke a rigamarole in Spanish which had been taught him by rote.

“God knocks at this mission’s door for His clemency,” he called.

From within came a deep-voiced chorus, the first sound he had heard from
the house, seeming weirdly to be the voice of the house itself.

“Penance, penance, which seeks salvation!” it chanted.

“Saint Peter will open to me the gate, bathing me with the light, in the
name of Mary, with the seal of Jesus,” Ramon went on, repeating as he had
learned. “I ask this confraternity. Who gives this house light?”

“Jesus,” answered the chorus within.

“Who fills it with joy?”

“Mary.”

“Who preserves it with faith?”

“Joseph!”

The door opened and Ramon entered the chapel room of the _Morada_. It was
lighted by a single candle, which revealed dimly the rough earthen walls,
the low roof raftered with round pine logs, the wooden benches and the
altar, covered with black cloth. This was decorated with figures of the
skull and cross-bones cut from white cloth. A human skull stood on either
side of it, and a small wooden crucifix hung on the wall above it. The
solitary candle—an ordinary tallow one in a tin holder—stood before this.

The men were merely dark human shapes. The light did not reveal their
faces. They said nothing to Ramon. He could scarcely believe that these
were the same good-natured _pelados_ he had known by day. Indeed they were
not the same, but were now merely units of this organization which held
them in bondage of fear and awe.

One of them took Ramon silently by the arm and led him through a low door
into the other room which was the _Morada_ proper. This room was supposed
never to be entered except by a member of the order or by a candidate. It
was small and low as the other, furnished only with a few benches about
the wall, and lighted by a couple of candles on a small table. A very old
and tarnished oil painting of Mary with the Babe hung at one end of it.
All the way around the room, hanging from pegs driven into the wall, was a
row of the broad heavy braided lashes of _amole_ weed, called
_disciplinas_, used in Holy Week, and of the blood-stained drawers worn on
that occasion by the flagellants.

Still in complete silence Ramon was forced to his knees by two of the men,
who quickly stripped him to the waist. Beside him stood a tall
powerfully-built Mexican with his right arm bared. In his hand he held a
triangular bit of white quartz, cleverly chipped to a cutting edge. This
man was the _sangredor_, whose duty it was to place the seal of the order
upon the penitent’s back. His office required no little skill, for he had
to make three cuts the whole length of the back and three the width,
tearing through the skin so as to leave a permanent scar, but not deep
enough to injure the muscle. Ramon, glancing up, saw the gleam of the
candle light on the white quartz, and also in the eyes of the man, which
were bright with eagerness.

Now came the supreme struggle with himself. How could he go through with
this ugly agony? He longed to leap to his feet and fight these ignorant
louts, who were going to mangle him and beat him for their own amusement.
He held himself down with all his will, striving to think of the girl, to
hold his purpose before his mind, to endure.…

He felt the hand of the _sangredor_ upon his neck, and gritted his teeth.
The man’s grip was heavy, hot and firm. A flash of pain shot up and down
his back with lightning speed, as though a red hot poker had been laid
upon it. Again and again and again! Six times in twice as many seconds the
deft flint ripped his skin, and he fell forward upon his hands, faint and
sick, as he felt his own blood welling upon his back and trickling in warm
rivulets between his ribs.

But this was not all. To qualify, he knew, he must call for the lash of
his own free will.

“For the love of God,” he uttered painfully, as he had been taught, “the
three meditations of the passion of our Lord.”

On his torn back a long black snake whip came down, wielded with merciless
force. But he felt the full agony of the first blow only. The second
seemed faint, and the third sent him plunging downward through a red mist
into black nothingness.



                               CHAPTER XXIV


A few days later one bright morning Ramon was sitting in the sun before
the door of his friend, Francisco Guiterrez, feeling still somewhat sore,
but otherwise surprisingly well. Guiterrez, a young sheep-herder, held the
position of _coadjutor_ of the local _penitente_ chapter, and one of his
duties as such was to take the penitent to his house and care for him
after the initiation. He had washed Ramon’s wounds in a tea made by
boiling Romero weed. This was a remedy which the _penitentes_ had used for
centuries, and its efficacy was proved by the fact that Ramon’s cuts had
begun to heal at once, and that he had had very little fever.

For a couple of days Ramon had been forced to lie restlessly in the only
bed of the Guiterrez establishment. The Senora Guiterrez, a pretty buxom
young Mexican woman, had fed him on _atole_ gruel and on all of the eggs
which her small flock of scrub hens produced; the seven little dirty brown
Guiterrez children had come in to marvel at him with their fingers in
their mouths; the Guiterrez goats and dogs and chickens had wandered in
and out of the room in a companionable way, as though seeking to make him
feel at ease; and Guiterrez himself had spent his evenings sitting beside
Ramon, smoking cigarettes and talking.

This time of idleness had not been wholly wasted, either, for it had come
out in the course of conversation that Guiterrez had been offered a
thousand dollars for his place by a man whom he did not know, but whom
Ramon had easily identified as an agent of MacDougall. Tempted by an
amount which he could scarcely conceive, Guiterrez was thinking seriously
of accepting the offer.

Now that he had won over Alfego and had gotten the influence of the
_penitentes_ on his side, Ramon’s one remaining object was to defeat just
such deals as this, which MacDougall already had under way. He intended to
stir up feeling against the gringos, and to persuade the Mexicans not to
sell. Later, such lands as he needed in order to control the right-of-way,
he would gain by lending money and taking mortgages. But he did not intend
to cheat any one. Such Mexicans as he had to oust from their lands, he
would locate elsewhere. He was filled with a large generosity, and with a
real love for these, his people. He meant to dominate this country, but
his pride demanded that no one should be poor or hungry in his domain. So
now he argued the matter to Guiterrez with real sincerity.

“A thousand dollars? _Por Dios_, man! Don’t you know that this place is
worth many thousand dollars to you?”

“How can it be worth many thousand?” Guiterrez demanded. “What have I
here? A few acres of chile and corn, a little hay, some range for my
goats, a few cherry trees, a house.… Many thousands? No.”

“You have here a home, _amigo_,” Ramon reminded him. “Do you know how long
a thousand dollars would support you? A year, perhaps. Then you would have
to work for other men the rest of your life. Here you are free and
independent.”

Guiterrez said nothing, but he had obviously received a new idea, and was
impressed. Ramon never returned to the direct argument, but he missed no
chance to stimulate Guiterrez’s pride in his establishment.

“This is a good little house you have _amigo_,” he would observe. And
Guiterrez would tell him that the house had been built by his grandfather,
but that its walls were as firm as ever, and that he had been intending
for several years to plaster it, but had never gotten time. Before he was
out of bed, Ramon was reasonably sure that Guiterrez would never sell.

The house was indeed charmingly situated on a hillside at the foot of
which a little clear trout stream, called Rio Gallinas, chuckled over the
bright pebbles in its bed and ran to hide in thickets of willow.

Sitting on the _portal_, which ran the length of the house and consisted
of a projection of the roof supported by rough pine logs, Ramon could look
down the canyon to where it widened into a little valley that lost itself
in the vast levels of the _mesa_. There thirsty sands swallowed the stream
and not a sprig of green marred the harmony of grey and purple swimming in
vivid light, reaching away to the horizon where faint blue mountains hung
in drooping lines.

By turning his head, Ramon could look into the heart of the mountains
whence the stream issued through a narrow canyon, with steep, forested
ridges on either side, and little level glades along the water, set with
tall, conical blue spruce trees, pines with their warm red boles, and
little clumps of aspen with gleaming white stems, and trembling leaves of
mingled gold and green.

Ramon spent many hours with his back against the wall, his knees drawn up
under his chin, Mexican fashion, smoking and vaguely dreaming of the girl
he loved and of the things he would do. The vast sun drenched landscape
before him was too much a part of his life, too intimate a thing for him
to appreciate its beauty, but after his struggles with doubt and desire,
it filled him with an unaccountable contentment. Its warmth and
brightness, its unchanging serenity, its ceaseless soft voices of wind and
water, lulled his mind and comforted his senses. The country was like some
great purring creature that let him lie in its bosom and filled his body
with the warm steady throb of its untroubled strength.

After a week of recuperation, he bought a horse from Guiterrez for a pack
animal, loaded it with bedding and provisions and rode away into the
mountains. His task was now to find other men who had fallen under the
influence of MacDougall, and to persuade them not to sell their lands.
Some of them would be at their homes, but others would be with the sheep
herds, scattered here and there in the high country. He faced long days of
mountain wandering, and for all that he longed to be done with his task,
this part of it was sweet to him.



                               CHAPTER XXV


These were days of power and success, days of a glamour that lingered long
in his mind. Beyond a doubt he was destroying MacDougall’s plan and
realizing his own. Sometimes he met a surly Mexican who would not listen
to him, but nearly always he won the man over in the end. He was amazed at
his own resourcefulness and eloquence. It seemed as though some inhibition
in him had been broken down, some magical elixir poured into his
imagination. He found that he could literally take a sheep camp by storm,
entering into the life of the men, telling them stories, singing them
songs, passing out presents of tobacco and whisky, often delivering a
wildly applauded harangue on the necessity for all Mexicans to act
together against the gringos, who would otherwise soon own the country.
Never once did he think of the incongruity of thus fanning the flames of
race hatred for the love of a girl with grey eyes and yellow hair.

He did not always reach a house or a sheep camp at night. Many a time he
camped alone, catching trout for his supper from a mountain stream, and
going to sleep to the lonely music of running water in a wilderness. At
such times many a man would have lost faith in himself, would have feared
his crimes and lost his hopes. But to Ramon this loneliness was an old
friend. Like all who have lived much out-of-doors he was at heart a
pantheist, and felt more at peace and unity with wild nature than ever he
had with men.

But there was one such night when he felt troubled. As he rode up the
Tusas Canyon at twilight, a sense of insecurity came over him, amounting
almost to fear. He had had a somewhat similar feeling once when a panther
had trailed him on a winter night. Now, as then, he had no idea what it
was that menaced him; he was simply warned by that sixth sense which
belongs to all wild things, and to men in whom there remains something of
the feral. His horses shared his unrest. When he picketed them, just
before dark, they fed uneasily, stopping now and then to stand like
statues with lifted heads, testing the wind with their nostrils, moving
their ears to catch some sound beyond human perception.

When he had eaten his supper and made his bed, Ramon took the little
automatic revolver out of its scabbard and went down the canyon a quarter
of a mile, slipping along in the shadow of the brush that lined the banks
of the stream. This was necessary because a half-moon made the open glades
bright. He paused and peered a dozen times. So cautious were his movements
that he came within forty feet of a drinking deer, and was badly startled
when it bounded away with a snort and a smashing of brush. But he saw
nothing dangerous and went back to his camp and to bed. There he lay awake
for an hour, still troubled, oppressed by a vague feeling of the
littleness and insecurity of human life.

A long, rippling snort of fear from his saddle horse, picketed near his
bed, awakened him and probably saved his life. When he opened his eyes, he
saw the figure of a man standing directly over him. He was about to speak,
when the man lifted his arms, swinging upward a heavy club. With quick
presence of mind, Ramon jerked the blankets and the heavy canvas tarpaulin
about his head, at the same time rolling over. The club came down with
crushing force on his right shoulder. He continued to roll and flounder
with all his might, going down a sharp slope toward the creek which was
only a few yards away. Twice more he felt the club, once on his arm and
once on his ribs, but his head escaped and the heavy blankets protected
his body.

The next thing he knew, he had gone over the bank of the creek, which was
several feet high in that place, and lay in the shallow icy water.
Meantime he had gotten his hand on the automatic pistol. He now jerked
upright and fired at the form of his assailant, which bulked above him.
The man disappeared. For a moment Ramon sat still. He heard footsteps, and
something like a grunt or a groan. Then he extricated himself from the
cold, sodden blankets, climbed upon the bank, and began cautiously
searching about, with his weapon ready. He found the club—a heavy length
of green spruce-and put his hand accidentally on something wet, which he
ascertained by smelling it to be blood.

He was shivering with cold and badly bruised in several places, but he was
afraid to build a fire. In case his enemy were not badly injured or had a
companion, that would have been risking another attack. He stood in the
shadow of a spruce, stamping his feet and rubbing himself, acutely
uncomfortable, waiting for daylight and wondering what this attack meant.
He doubted whether MacDougall would have countenanced such tactics, but it
might well have been an agent of MacDougall acting on his own
responsibility. Or it might have been some one sent by old Archulera.
Then, too, there were many poor connections of the Delcasar family who
would profit by his death.

As he stood there in the dark, shivering and miserable, the idea of death
was not hard for him to conceive. He realized that but for the snort of
the saddle horse he would now be lying under the tree with the top of his
head crushed in. The man would probably have dragged his body into the
thick timber and left it. There he would have lain and rotted. Or perhaps
the coyotes would have eaten him and the buzzards afterward picked his
bones. He shuddered. Despite his acute misery, life had never seemed more
desirable. He thought of sunlight and warmth, of good food and of the love
of women, and these things seemed more sweet than ever before. He
realized, for the first time, too, that he faced many dangers and that the
chance of death walked with him all the time. He resolved fiercely that he
would beat all his enemies, that he would live and have his desires which
were so sweet to him.

Daylight came at last, showing him first the rim of the mountain serrated
with spruce tops, and then lighting the canyon, revealing his disordered
camp and his horses grazing quietly in the open. He went immediately and
examined the ground where the struggle had taken place. A plain trail of
blood lead away from the place, as he had expected. He formed a plan of
action immediately.

First he made a great fire, dried and warmed himself, cooked and ate his
breakfast, drinking a full pint of hot coffee. Then he rolled up all his
belongings, hid them in the bushes, and picketed his horses in a side
canyon where the grass was good. When these preparations were complete, he
took the trail of blood and followed it with the utmost care. He carried
his weapon cocked in his hand, and always before he went around a bend in
the canyon, or passed through a clump of trees, he paused and looked long
and carefully, like an animal stalking dangerous prey.

At last, from the cover of some willows, he saw a man sitting beside the
creek. The man was half-naked, and was binding up his leg with some strips
torn from his dirty shirt. He was a Mexican of the lowest and most brutal
type, with a swarthy skin, black hair and a bullet-shaped head. Ramon
walked toward him.

“_Buenas Dias, amigo_,” he saluted.

The man looked up with eyes full of patient suffering, like the eyes of a
hurt animal. He did not seem either surprised or frightened. He nodded and
went on binding up his leg.

Ramon watched him a minute. He saw that the man was weak from loss of
blood. There was a great patch of dried blood on the ground beside him,
now beginning to flake and curl in the sun.

“I will come back in a minute, friend,” he said.

He went back to his camp, saddled his horses, putting some food in the
saddle pockets. When he returned, the Mexican sat in exactly the same
place with his back against a rock and his legs and arms inert. Ramon
fried bacon and made coffee for him. He had to help the man put the food
in his mouth and hold a cup for him to drink. Afterward, with great
difficulty, he loaded the man on his saddle horse, where he sat heavily,
clutching the pommel with both hands. Ramon mounted the pack horse
bareback.

“Where do you live, friend?” Ramon asked.

“Tusas,” the Mexican replied, naming a little village ten miles down the
canyon.

They exchanged no other words until they came within sight of the group of
_adobe_ houses. Then Ramon stopped his horse and turned to the man.

“You were hunting,” he told him slowly and impressively, “and you dropped
your gun and shot yourself. _Sabes?_”

The man nodded.

“How much were you paid to kill me, friend?” Ramon then asked.

The man looked at the pommel of the saddle, and his swarthy face darkened
with a heavy flush.

“One hundred dollars,” he admitted. “I needed the money to christen a
child. Could I let my child go to hell? But I did not mean to kill you.
Only to beat you, so you would go away. Do not ask who sent me, for the
love of God.…”

“I ask nothing more, friend,” Ramon assured him. “And since you were to
have a hundred dollars for making me leave the country, here is a hundred
dollars for not succeeding.”

Both of them laughed. Ramon then rode on and delivered the man to his
excited and grateful wife. He went back to his camp very weary and sore,
but feeling that he had done an excellent stroke of work for his purpose.



                               CHAPTER XXVI


After this occurrence his success among the humbler Mexicans was more
marked than ever, but some of the men of property who had been subsidized
by MacDougall were not so easily won over. Such a case was that of old
Pedro Alcatraz who owned a little store in the town of Vallecitos, a bit
of land and a few thousand sheep. Alcatraz was a tall boney old man, and
was of nearly pure Navajo Indian blood, as one could tell by the queer
crinkled character of his beard and moustache, which were like those of a
chinaman. He was simple and direct like an Indian, too, lacking the
Mexican talent for lying and artifice. In his own town he was a petty
czar, like Alfego, but on a much smaller scale. By reason of being
_Hermano Mayor_ of the local _penitente_ chapter, and of having most of
the people in his own neighbourhood in debt to him, he had considerable
power. He was advising men to sell their lands, and was lending more money
on land than it was reasonable to suppose he owned. Beyond a doubt, he had
been won by MacDougall’s dollars.

Ramon found Alcatraz unresponsive. The old man listened to a long harangue
on the subject of the race issue without a word of reply, and without
looking up. Ramon then played what should have been his strongest card.

“My friend,” he said, “you may not know it, but I am your brother in the
blood of Christ. Do I not then deserve better of you than a gringo who is
trying to take this country away from the Mexican people?”

“Yes,” the old man answered quietly, “I know you are a _penitente_, and I
know why. Do you think that I am a fool like these _pelados_ that herd my
sheep? You wear the scars of a _penitente_ because you think it will help
you to make money and to do what you want. You are just like MacDougall,
except that he uses money and you use words. A poor man can only choose
his masters, and for my part I have more use for money than for words.” So
saying, the blunt old savage walked to the other end of his store and
began showing a Mexican woman some shawls.

Ramon went away, breathing hard with rage, slapping his quirt against his
boots. He would show that old _cabron_ who was boss in these mountains!

He went immediately and hired the little _adobe_ hall which is found in
every Mexican town of more than a hundred inhabitants, and made
preparations to give a _baile_.

To give a dance is the surest and simplest way to win popularity in a
Mexican town, and Ramon spared no expense to make this affair a success.
He sent forty miles across the mountains for two fiddlers to help out the
blind man who was the only local musician. He arranged a feast, and in a
back room he installed a small keg of native wine and one of beer.

The invitation was general and every one who could possibly reach the
place in a day’s journey came. The women wore for the most part calico
dresses, bright in colour and generous in volume, heavily starched and
absolutely devoid of fit. Their brown faces were heavily powdered,
producing in some of the darker ones a purplish tint, which was ghastly in
the light of the oil lamps. Some of the younger girls were comely despite
their crude toilets, with soft skins, ripe breasts, mild dark heifer-like
eyes, and pretty teeth showing in delighted grins. The men wore the cheap
ready-made suits which have done so much to make Americans look alike
everywhere, but they achieved a degree of originality by choosing brighter
colours than men generally wear, being especially fond of brilliant
electric blues and rich browns. Their broad but often handsome faces were
radiant with smiles, and their thick black hair was wetted and greased
into shiny order.

The dance started with difficulty, despite symptoms of eagerness on all
hands. Bashful youths stalled and crowded in the doorway like a log jam in
the river. Bashful girls, seated all around the room, nudged and tittered
and then became solemn and self-conscious. Each number was preceded by a
march, several times around the room, which was sedate and formal in the
extreme. The favourite dance was a fast, hopping waltz, in which the swain
seized his partner firmly in both hands under the arms and put her through
a vigorous test of wind and agility. The floor was rough and sanded, and
the rasping of feet almost drowned the music. There were long Virginia
reels, led with peremptory dash by a master of ceremonies, full of grace
and importance. Swarthy faces were bedewed with sweat and dark eyes glowed
with excitement, but there was never the slightest relaxation of the
formalism of the affair. For this dance in an earthen hovel on a plank
floor was the degenerate but lineal descendant of the splendid and formal
balls which the Dons had held in the old days, when New Spain belonged to
its proud and wealthy conquerors; it was the wistful and grotesque remnant
of a dying order.

Ramon had a vague realization of this fact as he watched the affair. It
stirred a sort of sentimental pity in him. But he threw off that feeling,
he had work to do. He entered into the spirit of the thing, dancing with
every woman on the floor. He took the men in groups to the back room and
treated them. He missed no opportunity to get in a word against the
gringos, and incidentally against those Mexicans who betrayed their
fellows by advising them to sell their lands. He never mentioned Alcatraz
by name, but he made it clear enough to whom he referred.

Late in the evening, when all were mellowed by drink and excited by
dancing, he gained the attention of the gathering on the pretext of
announcing a special dance, and boldly gave a harangue in which he urged
all Mexicans to stick together against the gringos, and above all not to
sell their homes which their fathers had won from the barbarians, and were
the foundations of their prosperity and freedom.

“Remember,” he urged them in a burst of eloquence that surprised himself,
“that in your veins is the blood of conquerors—blood which was poured out
on these hills and valleys to win them from the Indians, precious blood
which has made this land priceless to you for all time!”

His speech was greeted with a burst of applause unquestionably
spontaneous. It filled him with a sense of power that was almost
intoxicating. In the town he might be neglected, despised, picked for an
easy mark, but here among his own people he was a ruler and leader by
birth.

The most important result of the _baile_ was that it won over the stubborn
Alcatraz. He did not attend it, but he knew what happened there. He
realized that advice in favour of selling land would not be popular in
that section for a long time, and he acknowledged his defeat by inviting
Ramon to dinner at his house, and driving a shrewd bargain with him,
whereby he gave his influence in exchange for certain grazing privileges.

On his way home a few days later Ramon looked back at the mountains with
the feeling that they belonged to him by right of conquest.



                              CHAPTER XXVII


A week later Ramon was driving across the _mesa_ west of town, bound for
the state capital. He was following the same route that Diego Delcasar had
followed on the day of his death, and he passed within a few miles of
Archulera’s ranch; but no thought either of his uncle or of Archulera
entered his mind. For in his pocket was a letter consisting of a single
sentence hastily scrawled in a large round upright hand on
lavender-scented note paper. The sentence was:



“Meet you at the southwest corner of the Plaza Tuesday at seven thirty.

                                                                “Love,

                                                                 “J. R.”



A great deal of trouble and anxiety had preceded the receipt of that
message. First he had written her a letter that was unusually long and
exuberant for him, telling her of his success and that now he was ready to
come and get her in accordance with their agreement, suggesting a time and
place. Three days of cumulative doubt and agony had gone by without a
reply. Then he had tried to reach her by long distance telephone, but
without success. Finally he had wired, although he knew that a telegram is
a risky vehicle for confidential business. Now he had her answer, the
answer that he wanted. His spirit was released and leapt forward, leaving
resentments and doubts far behind.

It was eighty miles to the state capital, the road was good all the way,
the day bright and cool. His route lead across the _mesa_, through the
Scissors Pass, and then north and east along the foot of the mountains.

Immense and empty the country stretched before him—a land of far-flung
levels and even farther mountains; a land which makes even the sea, with
its near horizons, seem little; a land which has always produced men of
daring because it inspires a sense of freedom without any limit save what
daring sets.

He had dared and won. He was going to take the sweet price of his daring.
The engine of his big car sang to him a song of victory and desire. He
rejoiced in the sense of power under his hand. He opened the throttle
wider and the car answered with more speed, licking up the road like a
hungry monster. How easily he mastered time and distance for his purpose!

He was to have her, she would be his. So sang the humming motor and the
wind in his ears. Her white arms and her red mouth, her splendid eyes that
feared and yielded! She was waiting for him! More speed. He conquered the
hills with a roar of strength to spare, topped the crests, and sped down
the long slopes like a bird coming to earth.

He was to have her, she would be his. Could it be true? The great machine
that carried him to their tryst roared an affirmative, the wind sang of
it, his blood quickened with anticipation incredibly keen. And always the
distance that lay between them was falling behind in long, grey passive
miles.

He had reached his destination a little after six. As he drove slowly
through the streets of the little dusty town, the mood of exaltation that
had possessed him during the trip died down. He was intent, worried
practical. Having registered at the hotel, he got a handful of time tables
and made his plans with care. They would drive to a town twenty-five miles
away, be married, and catch the California Limited. There would just be
time. Once he had her in his car, nothing could stop them.

The _plaza_ or public square about which the old town was built, and which
had been its market place in the old days, was now occupied by a neat
little park with a band stand. Retail stores and banks fronted on three
sides of it, but the fourth was occupied by a long low _adobe_ building
which was very old and had been converted into a museum of local
antiquities. It was dark and lifeless at night, and in its shadow-filled
verandah he was to meet her.

He had his car parked beside the spot ten minutes ahead of time. It was
slightly cold now, with a gusty wind whispering about the streets and
tearing big papery leaves from the cottonwood trees in the park. The
_plaza_ was empty save for an occasional passer-by whose quick footfalls
rang sharply in the silence. Here and there was an illuminated shop
window. The drug store on the opposite corner showed a bright interior,
where two small boys devoured ice cream sodas with solemn rapture.
Somewhere up a side street a choir was practising a hymn, making a noise
infinitely doleful.

He had a bear-skin to wrap her in, and he arranged this on the seat beside
him and then tried to wait patiently. He sat very tense and motionless,
except for an occasional glance at his watch, until it showed exactly
seven-thirty. Then he got out of his car and began walking first to one
side of the corner and then to the other, for he did not know from which
direction she would come. At twenty-five minutes of eight he was angry,
but in another ten minutes anger had given way to a dull heavy
disappointment that seemed to hold him by the throat and make it difficult
to swallow. None-the-less he waited a full hour before he started up his
car and drove slowly back to the hotel.

On the way he debated with himself whether he should try to communicate
with her tonight or wait until the next day. He knew that the wisest thing
would be to wait until the next day and send her a note, but he also knew
that he could not wait. He would find out where she lived, call her on the
telephone, and learn what had prevented her from keeping the appointment.
He had desperate need to know that something besides her own will had kept
her away.

When he went to the hotel desk, a clerk handed him a letter.

“This was here when you registered, I think,” he said. “But I didn’t know
it. I’m sorry.”

When he saw the handwriting of the address he was filled with commotion.
Here, then, was her explanation. This would tell him why she had failed
him. This, in all probability, would make all right.

He went to his room to read it, sat down on the edge of the bed and ripped
the envelope open with an impatient finger. The letter was dated two days
earlier—the day after she had received his telegram.

“I don’t know what to say,” she wrote, “but it doesn’t matter much. You
will despise me anyway, and I despise myself. But I can’t help it—honestly
I can’t. I meant to keep my promise and I would have kept it, but they
found your telegram and mother read it—by mistake, of course. I ought to
have had sense enough to burn it. You can’t imagine how awful it has been.
Mother said the most terrible things about you, things she had heard. And
she said that I would be ruining my life and hers. I said I didn’t care,
because I loved you. I can’t tell you what an awful quarrel we had! And I
wouldn’t have given in, but she told Gordon and he was so terribly angry.
He said it was a disgrace to the family, and he began to cough and had a
hemorrhage and we thought he was going to die. Mother said he probably
would die unless I gave you up.

“That finished me. I couldn’t do anything after that—I just couldn’t.
There was nothing but misery in sight either way, so what was the use?
I’ve lost all my courage and all my doubts have come back. I do love
you—terribly. But you are so strange, so different. And I don’t think we
would have gotten along or anything. I try to comfort myself by thinking
it’s all for the best, but it doesn’t really comfort me at all. I never
knew people could be as miserable as I am now. I don’t think its fair.

“When you get this I will be on my way to New York and nearly there. We
are going to sail for Europe immediately. I will never see you again. I
will always love you.

                                                                 “Julia.”



Rage possessed him at first—the rage of defeated desire, of injured pride,
of a passionate, undisciplined nature crossed and beaten. He flung the
letter on the floor, and strode up and down the room, looking about for
something to smash or tear. So she was that kind of a creature—a
miserable, whimpering fool that would let an old woman and a sick man rule
her! She was afraid her brother might die. What an excuse! And he had
killed, or at least sanctioned killing, for her sake. He had poured out
his blood for her. There was nothing he would not have dared or done to
have her. And here she had the soul of a sheep!

But no—perhaps that was not it. Perhaps she had been playing with him all
along, had never had any idea of marrying him—because he was a Mexican!

Bitter was this thought, but it died as his anger died. Something that sat
steady and clear inside of him told him that he was a fool. He was reading
the letter again, and he knew it was all truth. “There was nothing but
misery in sight either way,” she had written.

Suddenly he understood; suffering and an awakened imagination had given
him insight. For the first time in his life, he realized the feelings of
another. He realized how much he had asked of this girl, who had all her
life been ruled, who had never tasted freedom nor practised self-reliance.
He saw now that she had rebelled and had fought against the forces and
fears that oppress youth, as had he, and that she had been bewildered and
overcome.

His anger was gone. All hot emotion was gone. In its place was a great
loneliness, tinged with pity. He looked at the letter again. Its
handwriting showed signs of disturbance in the writer, but she had not
forgotten to scent it with that faint delightful perfume which was forever
associated in his mind with her. It summoned the image of her with a
vividness he could not bear.

But courage and pride are not killed at a blow. He threw the letter aside
and shook himself sharply, like a man just awake trying to shake off the
memory of a nightmare. She was gone, she was lost. Well, what of it? There
were many other women in the world, many beautiful women. And he was
strong now, successful. One woman could not hurt him by her refusal. He
tried resolutely to put her out of his mind, and to think of his business,
of his plans. But these things which had glowed so brightly in his
imagination just a few hours before were suddenly as dead as cinders. He
knew that he cared little for dollars and lands in themselves. His nature
demanded a romantic object, and this love had given it to him. Love had
found him a wretch and a weakling, and had made him suddenly strong and
ruthless, bringing out all the colours of his being, dark and bright,
making life suddenly intense and purposeful.

And she had meant so much to him besides love. To have won her would have
been to win a great victory over the gringos—over that civilization, alien
to him in race and temper, which antagonized and yet fascinated him, with
which he was forced to grapple for his life.

She was gone, he had lost her. Perhaps it was just as well, after all, he
told himself, speaking out of his pride and his courage. But in his heart
was a great bitterness. In his heart he felt that the gringos had beaten
one more Delcasar.



                              CHAPTER XXVIII


The next few days Ramon spent quietly and systematically drinking whisky.
This he did partly because he had a notion that it was an appropriate
thing to do under the circumstances, and partly because he had a genuine
need for something to jolt his mind out of its rut of misery. He was not
sociable in his cups, and did not seek company of either sex, inviting a
man to drink with him or accepting such an invitation only when he had to
do so. His favourite resort was the Silver Dollar Saloon, which was
furnished with tables set between low partitions, so that when he had one
of these booths to himself he enjoyed a considerable degree of isolation.
He drank carefully, like a Spaniard, never losing control of his feet or
of his eyes, taking always just enough to keep his mind away from
realities and filled with dreams. In these dreams Julia played a vivid and
delightful part. He imagined himself encountering her under all sorts of
circumstances, and always she was yielding, repentant, she was his. In a
dozen different ways he conquered her, taking in imagination, as men have
always done, what the reality had denied. Some of his fancies were
delightful and filled him with a sense of triumph, so that men glanced
curiously at the bright-eyed boy who sat there in his corner all alone,
absorbed and intent. But there were other times at night when his defeated
desire came and lay in his arms like an invisible unyielding succuba,
torturing, maddening, driving him back to the street to drink until
drunken sleep came with its sudden brutal mercy.

But after a few days alcohol began to have little effect upon him, except
that when he awoke his hands were all aflutter so that he spilled his
coffee and tore his newspaper. He felt sick and weary, his misery numbed
by many repetitions of its every twinge. A sure instinct urged him to get
out of the town and into the mountains, but he hated to go alone and
lacked the initiative to start. He had a friend in the capital named
Curtis, who was half Mexican and half Irish. This young man was a dealer
in mules and horses, and he had a herd of some twenty head to take across
the mountains about sixty miles. Badly in need of a helper and unable to
hire one, he asked Ramon to go with him. The proposition was accepted with
relief but without enthusiasm.

Trouble started immediately. The horses were only half broken, and the one
they chose for a pack animal rebelled ten miles from town and bucked the
pack off, scattering tin dishes, sides of bacon, loaves of bread and cans
of condensed milk all over a quarter of a mile of rough country. They
rounded up the recalcitrant in a pouring rain, and made a wet and
miserable camp, sleeping the sleep of exhaustion in sodden blankets. The
next morning the pack horse opened the exercises by rolling down a steep
bank into the creek, plastering himself on the way from head to tail with
a half gallon of high grade sorghum syrup which had been on top of the
load. At this Ramon’s tortured nerves exploded and he jumped into the
water after the floundering animal, belabouring it with a quirt, and
cursing it richly in two languages.

He then put a slip noose around its upper lip and led it unmercifully,
while Curtis encouraged it from behind with a rope-end. Like all Mexicans,
they had little sympathy for horseflesh.

These labours and hardships were Ramon’s salvation. The exercise and air
restored his health and in fighting the difficulties of unlucky travel he
relieved in some degree the rage against life that embittered him.

When he got back to his room in the hotel he felt measurably at peace,
though weary in mind and body. He came across Julia’s letter, and the
sight and scent of it struck him a sharp painful blow, but he did not
pause now to savour his pain; he tore the letter into small pieces and
threw it away. Then he got out his car and started for home.

He went back beaten over the same road that he had followed in the moment
of his highest hope, when life had seemed about to keep all the wonderful
promises it whispers in the ear of youth. But strangely this trip was not
the sad and sentimental affair it should have been. His rugged health had
largely recovered from the shock of disappointment and dissipation, an
excellent breakfast was digesting within him, the sky was bright as
polished turquoise and the ozonous west wind, which is the very breath of
hope, played sweetly in his face. He began to discover various consoling
conditions in his lot, which had seemed so intolerable just a few days
before.

Probably no man under forty ever lost a woman without feeling in some
degree compensated by a sense of freedom regained, and in the man of
solitary and self-reliant nature, to whom freedom is a boon if not a
necessity, this feeling is not slow to assert itself. Moreover, Ramon was
now caught in the inevitable reaction from a purpose which had gathered
and concentrated his energies with passionate intensity for almost four
months. During that time he had lived with taut nerves for a single hope;
he had turned away from a dozen alluring by-paths; he had known that
absorbed singleness of purpose which belongs only to lovers, artists and
other monomaniacs.

The bright hope that had led him had suddenly exploded, leaving him
stunned and flat for a time. Now he got to his feet and looked about. He
realized that the world still lay before him, a place of wonderful promise
and possibility, and apparently he could stray in any direction he chose.
He had money and freedom and an excellent equipment of appetites and
curiosities. Things he had dreamed of doing long ago, in case he should
ever come into his wealth, now revisited his imagination. He had promised
himself for one thing some hunting trips—long ones into the mountains and
down the river in his car. Gambling had always fascinated him, and he had
longed to sit in a game high enough to be really interesting, instead of
the quarter-limit affair that he had always played before. And there were
women … other women. And he meant to go to New York or Chicago sometime
and sample the fleshpots of a really great city.… Life after all was still
an interesting thing.

Not that he forgot his serious purposes. He meant to open a law office, to
cultivate his political connections, to pursue his conquest of Arriba
County. But although he did not realize it, his plans for making himself a
strong and secure position in life had lost their vitalizing purpose. All
of these things he would do, but there was no hurry about them. His desire
now was to taste the sweetness of life, and to rest. He was without a
strong acquisitive impulse, and now that his great purpose in making money
was gone, these projects did not strongly engage his imagination. He had
plenty of money. He refused to worry. He felt reckless, too. If he had
lost his great hope, his reward was to be released from the discipline it
had imposed.

Nor was there any other discipline to take its place. If there had been a
strong creative impulse in him, or if he had faced a real struggle for his
life or his personal freedom, he might now have recovered that condition
of trained and focussed energy which civilized life demands of men. But he
was too primitive to be engaged by any purely intellectual purpose, and
his money was a buffer between him and struggle imposed from without.

As he thought of all the things he would do, he felt strong and sure of
himself. He thought that he was now a shrewd, cynical man, who could not
be deceived or imposed upon, who could take the good things of life and
discount the disillusionments.



                               CHAPTER XXIX


One of his first acts in town was to negotiate a note at the bank for
several thousand dollars. This was necessary because he had little cash
and would not have much until spring, when he would sell lambs and shear
his sheep. He not only needed money for himself, but his mother and
sister, after many lean years, were eager to spend.

He drove out to see Catalina, and found her big with child and utterly
indifferent to him, which piqued him slightly and relieved him a great
deal. She had heard nothing about her father, and Ramon sent Cortez out to
Domingo Canyon to see what had become of the old man. Cortez reported the
place deserted. Ramon made inquiry in town and learned that Archulera had
been seen there in his absence, very much dressed-up and very drunk,
followed by a crowd of young Mexicans who were evidently parasites on his
newly-acquired wealth. Then he had disappeared, and some thought he had
gone to Denver. It was evident that his five thousand dollars had proved
altogether too much for him.

Ramon now hung out a shingle, announcing himself as an attorney-at-law. Of
course, no business came to him. The right way to get a practice would
have been to go back to the office of Green or some other established
lawyer for several years. But Ramon had no idea of doing anything so
tiresome and so relatively humiliating. The idea of running errands for
Green again was repugnant to him.

He went every morning to his office and for a while he took a certain
amount of satisfaction in merely sitting there, reading the local papers,
smoking a cigar, now and then taking down one of his text books and
reading a little. But study as such had absolutely no appeal to him. He
might have dug at the dry case books to good purpose if he had been driven
by need, but as it was he would begin to yawn in ten or fifteen minutes,
and then would put the book away. He went home to a noonday dinner rather
early and came back in the afternoon, feeling sleepy and bored. Now the
office, and indeed the whole town, seemed a dreary place to him. At this
season of the year there were often high winds which mantled the town in a
yellow cloud of sand, and rattled at every loose shutter and door with
futile dreary persistence. Ramon would wander about the office for a
little while with his hands in his pockets and stare out the window,
feeling depressed, thoughts of his disappointment coming back to him
bitterly. Then he would take his hat and go out and look for some one to
play pool with him. Often he took an afternoon off and went hunting, not
alone as formerly he had done, but with as large a party as he could
gather. They would drive out into the sand hills and _mesas_ twenty or
thirty miles from town, where the native quail and rabbits were still
abundant as automobiles had just begun to invade their haunts. When they
found a covey of quail the sport would be fast and furious, with half a
dozen guns going at once and birds rising and falling in all directions.
Ramon keenly enjoyed the hot excitement and dramatic quality of this.

At night he was usually to be found at the White Camel Pool Hall where the
local sporting element foregathered and made its plans for the evening.
Sometimes a party would be formed to “go down the line,” as a visit to the
red light district was called. Sometimes the rowdy dance halls of Old Town
were invaded. On Saturday nights the dance at the country club always drew
a considerable attendance. There was also a “dancing class” conducted by
an estimable and needy spinster named Grimes, who held assembly dances
once in two weeks in a little hall which had been built by the Woman’s
Club. This event always drew a large and very mixed crowd, including some
of the “best people” and others who were considered not so good. Usually
two or three different sets were represented at these gatherings, each
tending to keep to itself. But there was also a tendency for the sets to
overlap. Thus a couple of very pretty German girls, who were the daughters
of a local saloon keeper, always appeared accompanied by young men of
their own circle with whom they danced almost exclusively at first. But
young men of the first families could not resist their charms, and they
soon were among the most popular girls on the floor. This was deplored by
the young women of more secure social position, who were wont to remark
that the crowd was deteriorating frightfully. Some of these same superior
virgins found it necessary for politeness to dance with Joe Bartello, the
son of an Italian saloon owner, and a very handsome and nimble-footed
youth. In a word, this was a place of social hazard and adventure, and
that was more than half its charm. It finally became so crowded that
dancing was almost impossible.

The back room at the White Camel, where poker games were nightly in
progress, also afforded Ramon frequent diversion. He played in the “big”
game now, where the stakes and limits were high, and was one of the most
daring and dangerous of its patrons. He had more money back of him than
most of the men who played there, and he also had more courage. If he
started a bluff he carried it through to the end, which was always bitter
for some one. He had been known to stand pat on a pair and scare every one
else out of the game by the resolute confidence of his betting. His
plunges, of course, sometimes cost him heavily, but for a long time he was
a moderate winner. His limitations as a poker player were finally
demonstrated to him by one Fitzhugh Chesterman, a man with one lung.

Chesterman was about twenty-six years old and had come from Richmond,
Virginia, about two years before, with most of one lung gone and the other
rapidly going. He was a tall, thin blond youth with the sensitive,
handsome face which so often marks the rare survivor of the old southern
aristocracy. He was totally lacking in the traditional southern
sentimentality. His eye had a cold twinkle of courage that even the
imminent prospect of death could not quench, and his thin shapely lips
nearly always wore a smile slightly twisted by irony. He established
himself at the state university, which had almost a hundred students and
boasted a dormitory where living was very cheap. Chesterman sat before
this dormitory twelve to fourteen hours a day, even in relatively cold
weather. He made a living by coaching students in mathematics and Greek.
He never raised his voice, he seldom laughed, he never lost his temper.
With his unwavering ironical smile, as though he appreciated the keen
humour of taking so much trouble over such an insignificant thing as a
human life, he husbanded his energy and fought for health. He took all the
treatments the local sanatoria afforded, but he avoided carefully all the
colonies and other gatherings of the tubercular. When his lung began to
heal, as it did after about a year, and his strength to increase, he
enlarged his earnings by playing poker. He won for the simple reason that
he took no more chances than he had to. He systematically capitalized
every bit of recklessness, stupidity and desperation in his opponents.

When Ramon first encountered him, the game soon simmered down to a
struggle between the two. Never were the qualities of two races more
strikingly contrasted. Ramon bluffed and plunged. Chesterman was caution
itself, playing out antes in niggardly fashion until he had a hand which
put the law of probabilities strongly on his side. Ramon was full of
daring, intuition, imagination, bidding always for the favour of the
fates, throwing logic to the winds. He was not above moving his seat or
putting on his hat to change his luck. Chesterman smiled at these things.
He was cold courage battling for a purpose and praying to no deities but
Cause and Effect. Ramon thought he was playing for money, but he was
really playing for the sake of his own emotions, revelling alike in hope
and despair, triumph and victory, flushed and bright-eyed. Chesterman
stifled every emotion, discounted every hope, said as little as possible,
never relaxed his faint twisted smile.

Ramon made some spectacular winnings, but Chesterman wore him down as
surely as a slow hound wears down a deer despite its astounding bursts of
speed. Ramon was sure to lose in the long run because he was always piling
up odds against himself by the long chances he took, while his bluffs
seldom deceived his cool and courageous opponent. The finish came at one
o’clock in the morning. Chesterman was pale with exhaustion, but otherwise
unchanged. Ramon was hoarse and flushed, chewing a cigar to bits. He held
a full house and determined to back it to the limit. Chesterman met him,
bet for bet, raising every time. Ramon knew that he must be beaten. He
knew that Chesterman would not raise him unless he had a very strong hand.
But he was beaten anyway. At the bottom of his consciousness, he knew that
he had met a better man. He wanted to end the contest on this hand. When
Chesterman showed four kings, Ramon fell back in his chair, weak and
disgusted. The other players, most of whom had long been out of the game,
got up and said good night one by one. Only the two were left, Ramon
plunged in gloomy reaction, Chesterman coolly counting his money, putting
it away.

“I seem to have made quite a killing,” he remarked, “how much did you
lose?”

“O, I don’t know … about five hundred. Hell, what’s five hundred to me … I
don’t give a damn … I’m rich.…”

Chesterman glanced at him keenly.

“Well,” he remarked, “I’m glad you feel that way about it, because I sure
need the money.”

He got up and walked away with the short careful steps of a man who
cherishes every ounce of his energy.

Ramon was disgusted with himself. Chesterman had made him feel like a
weakling and a child. He had thought himself a lion in this game, and he
had found out that he was an easily-shorn lamb. He could not afford to
lose five hundred dollars either. He was not really a rich man. He went
home feeling deeply depressed and discouraged. Vaguely he realized that in
Chesterman he had encountered the spirit which he felt against him
everywhere—a cool, calculating, unmerciful spirit of single purpose,
against which the play and flow of his emotional and imaginative nature
was as ineffectual as mercury against the point of a knife.



                               CHAPTER XXX


Within the next few days Ramon was sharply reminded that he lived in a
little town where news travels fast and nobody’s business is exclusively
his own. Cortez came into his office and accepted a seat and a cigar with
that respectful but worried manner which always indicated that he had
something to say.

“I hear you lost five hundred dollars the other night,” he observed
gravely, watching his young employer’s face.

“Well, what of it?” Ramon enquired, a bit testily.

“You can’t afford it,” Cortez replied. “And not only the money … you’ve
got to think of your reputation. You know how these gringos are. They keep
things quiet. They expect a young man to lead a quiet life and tend to
business. It’s all right to have a little fun … they all do it … but for
God’s sake be careful. You hurt your chances this way … in the law, in
politics.”

Ramon jerked his head impatiently and flushed a little, but reflection
checked his irritation. Hatred of restraint, love of personal liberty, the
animal courage that scorns to calculate consequences were his by heritage.
But he knew that Cortez spoke the truth.

“All right Antonio,” he said with dignity. “I’ll be careful.”

The next day he got a letter which emphasized the value of his henchman’s
warning and made Ramon really thoughtful. It was from MacDougall, and made
him another offer for his land. It had a preamble to the effect that land
values were falling, money was “tight,” and therefore Ramon would do well
to sell now, before a further drop in prices. It made him an offer of ten
thousand dollars less than MacDougall had offered before.

Ramon knew that the talk about falling values was largely bluff, that
MacDougall had heard of his losses and of his loose and idle life, and
thought that he could now buy the lands at his own price. The gringo had
confidently waited for the Mexican to make a fool of himself. Ramon
resolved hotly that he would do no such thing. He had no idea of selling.
He would be more careful with his money, and next summer he would go back
to Arriba County, renew his campaign against MacDougall and buy some land
with the money he could get for timber and wool. He replied very curtly to
MacDougall that his lands were not for sale.

After that he stayed away from poker games for a while. This was made
easier by a new interest which had entered his life in the person of a
waitress at the Eldorado Lunch room. The girls at this lunch room had long
borne a bad reputation. Even in the days before the big hotel had been
built, when the railroad company maintained merely a little red frame
building there, known as the Eating House, these waitresses had been a
mainstay of local bachelordom. Their successors were still referred to by
their natural enemies, the respectable ladies of the town, as “those awful
eating house girls”; while the advent of a new “hash-slinger” was always a
matter of considerable interest among the unmarried exquisites who
fore-gathered at the White Camel. In this way Ramon quickly heard of the
new waitress. She was reputed to be both prettier and less approachable
than most of her kind. Sidney Felberg had made a preliminary
reconnaissance and a pessimistic report.

“Nothing doing,” he said. “She’s got a husband somewhere and a notion
she’s cut out for better things.… I’m off her!”

This immediately provoked Ramon’s interest. He went to the lunch room at a
time when he knew there would be few customers. When he saw the girl he
felt a faint thrill. The reason for this was that Dora McArdle somewhat
resembled Julia. The resemblance was slight and superficial, yet instantly
noticeable. She was a little larger, but had about the same figure, and
the same colour of hair, and above all the same sensuous, provocative
mouth. Ramon followed her with his eyes until she became conscious of his
scrutiny, when she tossed her head with that elaborate affectation of
queenly scorn, which seems to be the special talent of waitresses
everywhere. Nevertheless, when she came to take his order she gave him a
pleasant smile. He saw now that she was not really like Julia. She was
coarse and commonplace, but she was also shapely, ripe-breasted,
good-natured, full of the appeal of a healthy animalism.

“What time do you get done here?” Ramon enquired.

“Don’t know that it’s any of your business,” she replied with another one
of her crushing tosses of the head, and went away to get his order. When
she came back he asked again.

“What time did you say?”

“Well, about nine o’clock, if it’ll give you any pleasure to know.”

“I’ll come for you in my car,” he told her.

“Oh! will you?” and she paid no more attention to him until he started to
go, when she gave him a broad smile, showing a couple of gold teeth.

At nine o’clock he was waiting for her at the door, and she went with him.
He took her for a drive on the _mesa_, heading for the only road house
which the vicinity boasted. It was a great stone house, which had been
built long ago by a rich man, and had later fallen into the hands of an
Italian named Salvini, who installed a bar, and had both private dining
rooms and bed rooms, these latter available only to patrons in whom he had
the utmost confidence. This resort was informally known as the “chicken
ranch.”

When Ramon tried to take his fair partner there, on the plea that they
must have a bite to eat, she objected.

“I don’t believe that place is respectable,” she told him very primly. “I
don’t think you ought to ask me to go there.”

“O Hell!” said Ramon to himself. But aloud he proposed that they should
drive to an adjacent hill-top from which the lights of the town could be
seen. When he had parked the car on this vantage point and lit a
cigarette, Dora began a narrative of a kind with which he was thoroughly
familiar. She was of that well-known type of woman who is found in a
dubious position, but explains that she has known better days. Her father
had been a judge in Kansas, the family had been wealthy, she had never
known what work was until she got married, her marriage had been a
tragedy, her husband had drank, there had been a smash-up, the family had
met with reverses. On and on went the story, its very tone and character
and the grammar she used testifying eloquently to the fact that she was no
such crushed violet as she claimed to be. Ramon was bored. A year ago he
would have been more tolerant, but now he had experienced feminine charm
of a really high order, and all the vulgarity and hypocrisy of this woman
was apparent to him. And yet as he sat beside her he was keenly, almost
morbidly conscious of the physical attraction of her fine young body. For
all her commonness and coarseness, he wanted her with a peculiarly urgent
desire. Here was the heat of love without the flame and light, desire with
no more exaltation than accompanies a good appetite for dinner. He was
puzzled and a little disgusted.… He did not understand that this was his
defeated love, seeking, as such a love almost inevitably does, a vicarious
satisfaction.

Repugnance and desire struggled strangely within him. He was half-minded
to take her home and leave her alone. At any rate he was not going to sit
there and listen to her insane babble all night. To put his fortunes to
the test, he abruptly took her in his arms. She made a futile pretence of
resistance. When their lips touched, desire flashed up in him strongly,
banishing all his hesitations. He talked hot foolishness to which she
listened greedily, but when he tried to take her to Salvini’s again, she
insisted on going home. Before he left her he had made another
appointment.

Now began an absurd contest between the two in which Ramon was always
manœuvring to get her alone somewhere so that he might complete his
conquest if possible, while her sole object was to have him gratify her
vanity by appearing in public with her. This he knew he could not afford
to do. He could not even drive down the street with her in daylight
without all gossips being soon aware he had done so. No one knew much
about her, of course, but she was “one of those eating house girls” and to
treat her as a social equal was to court social ostracism. He would win
the enmity of the respectable women of the town, and he knew very well
that respectable women rule their husbands. His prospects in business and
politics, already suffering, would be further damaged.

Here again was a struggle within him. He was of a breed that follows
instinct without fear, that has little capacity for enduring restraints.
And he knew well that the other young lawyers, the gringos, were no more
moral than he. But they were careful. Night was their friend and they were
banded together in a league of obscene secrecy. He despised this code and
yet he feared it. For the gringos held the whip; he must either cringe or
suffer.

So he was careful and made compromises. Dora wanted him to take her to
dinner in the main dining room of the hotel, and he evaded and compromised
by taking her there late at night when not many people were present. She
wanted him to take her to a movie and he pleaded that he had already seen
the bill, and asked her if she wanted to bore him. And when she pouted he
made her a present of a pair of silk stockings. She accepted all sorts of
presents, so that he felt he was making progress. She was making vague
promises now of “sometime” and “maybe,” and his desire was whipped up with
anticipation, making him always more reckless.

One night late he took her to the Eldorado and persuaded her to drink
champagne, thinking this would forward his purpose. The wine made her rosy
and pretty, and it also made her forget her poses and affectations. She
was more charming to him than ever before, partly because of the change in
her, and partly because his own critical faculties were blunted by
alcohol. He was almost in love with her and he felt sure that he was about
to win her. But presently she began wheedling him in the old vein. She
wanted him to take her to the dance at the Woman’s Club!

This would be to slap convention in the face, and at first he refused to
consider it. But he foolishly went on drinking, and the more he drank the
more feasible the thing appeared. Dora had quit drinking and was pleading
with him.

“I dare you!” she told him. “You’re afraid.… You don’t think I’m good
enough for you.… And yet you say you love me.… I’m just as good as any
girl in this town.… Well if you won’t, I’m going home. I’m through! I
thought you really cared.”

And then, when he had persuaded her not to run away, she became sad and
just a little tearful.

“It’s terrible,” she confided. “Just because I have to make my own
living.… It’s not fair. I ought never to speak to you again.… And yet, I
do care for you.…”

Ramon was touched. The pathos of her situation appealed strongly to his
tipsy consciousness. Why not do it? After all, the girl was respectable.
As she said, nobody “had anything on her.” The dance was a public affair.
Any one could go. He had been too timid. Not three people there knew who
she was. By God, he would do it!

At first they did not attract much attention. Dora was pretty and fairly
well dressed, in no way conspicuous. They danced exclusively with each
other, as did some other couples present, and nothing was thought of that.

But soon he became aware of glances, hostile, disapproving. Probably it
was true that only a few of the men at first knew who Dora was, but they
told other men, and some of the men told the women. Soon it was known to
all that he had brought “one of those awful eating house girls” to the
dance! The enormity of the mistake he had made was borne in upon him
gradually. Some of the men he knew smiled at him, generally with an
eye-brow raised, or with a shake of the head. Sidney Felberg, who was a
real friend, took him aside.

“For the love of God, Ramon, what did you bring that Flusey here for?
You’re queering yourself at a mile a minute. And you’re drunk, too. For
Heaven’s sake, cart her away while the going’s good!”

Ramon had not realized how drunk he was until he heard this warning.

“O, go to hell, Sid!” he countered. “She’s as good as anybody … I guess I
can bring anybody I want here.…”

Sidney shook his head.

“No use, no use,” he observed philosophically. “But it’s too bad!”

Ramon’s own words sounded hollow to him. He was in that peculiar condition
when a man knows that he is making an ass of himself, and knows that he is
going right ahead doing it. He was more attentive to Dora than ever. He
brought her a glass of water, talked to her continually with his back to
the hostile room. He was fully capable of carrying the thing through, even
though girls he had known all his life were refusing to meet his eyes.

It was Dora who weakened. She became quiet and sad, and looked infinitely
forlorn. When a couple of women got up and moved pointedly away from her
vicinity, her lip began to tremble, and her wide blue eyes were brimming.

“Come on, take me away quick,” she said pathetically. “I’m going to cry.”

When they were in the car again she turned in the seat, buried her face in
her arms and sobbed passionately with a gulping noise and spasmodic
upheavals of her shoulders. Ramon drove slowly. He was sober now,
painfully sober! He was utterly disgusted with himself, and bitterly sorry
for Dora. A strong bond of sympathy had suddenly been created between
them, for he too had tasted the bitterness of prejudice. For the first
time Dora was not merely a frumpy woman who had provoked in him a desire
he half-despised; she was a fellow human, who knew the same miseries.… He
had intended to take her this night, to make a great play for success, but
he no longer felt that way. He drove to the boarding house where she
lived.

“Here you are,” he said gently, “I’ll call you up tomorrow.”

Dora looked up for the first time.

“O, no!” she plead. “Don’t go off and leave me now. Don’t leave me alone.
Take me somewhere, anywhere.… Do anything you want with me.… You’re all
I’ve got!”



                               CHAPTER XXXI


The rest of the winter Ramon spent in an aimlessly pleasant way. He tried
to work but without arousing in himself enough enthusiasm to insure
success. He played pool, gambled a little and hunted a great deal. He
relished his pleasures with the keen appetite of health and youth, but
when they were over he felt empty-minded and restless and did not know
what to do about it.

Some business came to his law office. Because of his knowledge of Spanish
and of the country he was several times employed to look up titles to
land, and this line of work he might have developed into a good practice
had he possessed the patience. But it was monotonous, tedious work, and it
bored him. He would toil over the papers with a good will for a while, and
then a state of apathy would come over him, and like a boy in school he
would sit vaguely dreaming.… Such dull tasks took no hold upon his mind.

He defended several Mexican criminals, and found this a more congenial
form of practice, but an unremunerative one. The only case which advanced
him toward the reputation for which every young attorney strives brought
him no money at all. A young Mexican farmer of good reputation named Juan
Valera had been converted to the Methodist faith. Like most of the few
Mexicans who are won over to Protestantism, he had brought to his new
religion a fanatical spirit, and had made enemies of the priests and of
many of his neighbours by proselyting. Furthermore, his young and pretty
wife remained a Catholic, which had caused a good deal of trouble in his
house. But the couple were really devoted and managed to compromise their
differences until a child was born. Then arose the question as to whether
it should be baptized a Catholic or a Methodist. The girl wanted her baby
to be baptized in the Catholic faith, and was fully persuaded by the
priests that it would otherwise go to purgatory. She was backed by her
father, whose interference was resented by Juan more than anything else.
He consulted the pastor of his church, a bigoted New Englander, who
counselled him on no account to yield.

One evening when Juan was away from home, his father-in-law came to his
house and persuaded the girl to go with him and have the child baptized in
the Catholic faith, in order that it might be saved from damnation. After
the ceremony they went to a picture-show by way of a celebration. When
Juan came home he learned from the neighbours what had happened. His face
became very pale, his lips set, and his eyes had a hot, dangerous look. He
got out a butcher knife from the kitchen, whetted it to a good point, and
went and hid behind a big cottonwood tree near the moving-picture theatre.
When his wife with the child and her father came out, he stepped up behind
the old man and drove the knife into the back of his neck to the hilt,
severing the spinal column. Afterward he looked at the dead man for a
moment and at his wife, sitting on the ground shrieking, then went home
and washed his hands and changed his shirt—for blood had spurted all over
him—walked to the police station and gave himself up.

This man had no money, and it is customary in such cases for the court to
appoint a lawyer to conduct the defence. Usually a young lawyer who needs
a chance to show his abilities is chosen, and the honor now fell upon
Ramon.

This was the first time since he had begun to study law that he had been
really interested. He understood just how Juan Valera had felt. He called
on him in jail. Juan Valera was composed, almost apathetic. He said he was
willing to die, that he did not fear death.

“Let them hang me,” he said. “I would do the same thing again.”

Ramon studied the law of his case with exhaustive thoroughness, but the
law did not hold out much hope for his client. It was in his plea to the
jury that he made his best effort. Here again he discovered the eloquence
that he had used the summer before in Arriba County. Here he lost for a
moment his sense of aimlessness, felt again the thrill of power and the
joy of struggle. He described vividly the poor Mexican’s simple faith, his
absolute devotion to it, showed that he had killed out of an
all-compelling sense of right and duty. He found a good many witnesses to
testify that Juan’s father-in-law had hectored the young man a good deal,
insulted him, intruded in his home. Half of the jurors were Mexicans. For
a while the jury was hung. But it finally brought in a verdict of murder
in the first degree, which was practically inevitable. Juan accepted this
with a shrug of his shoulders and announced himself ready to hang and meet
his Methodist God. But Ramon insisted on taking an appeal. He finally got
the sentence commuted to life imprisonment. He then felt disgusted, and
wished that he had let the man hang, feeling that he would have been
better off dead than in the state penitentiary. But Juan’s wife, who
really loved him, came to Ramon’s office and embraced his knees and
laughed and cried and swore that she would do his washing for nothing as
long as she lived. For now she could visit her husband once a month and
take him _tortillas!_ Ramon gave her ten dollars and pushed her out the
door. He had worked hard on the case. He felt old and weary and wanted to
get drunk.



One day Ramon received an invitation to go hunting with Joe Cassi and his
friends. He accepted it, and afterward went on many trips with the Italian
saloon-owner, thereby doing further injury to his social standing.

Cassi had come to the town some twenty years before with a hand organ and
a monkey. The town was not accustomed to that form of entertainment; some
of the Mexicans threw rocks at Cassi and a dog killed his monkey. Cassi
was at that time a slender youth, handsome, ragged and full of high hopes.
When his monkey was killed he first wept with rage and then swore that he
would stay in that town and have the best of it. He now owned three
saloons and the largest business building in town. He was a lean, grave,
silent little man.

Cassi had made most of his money in the days when gambling was “open” in
the town, and he had surrounded himself with a band of choice spirits who
were experts in keno, roulette and poker. These still remained on his
hands, some of them in the capacity of barkeepers, and others practically
as pensioners. They were all great sportsmen, heavy drinkers and
loyal-to-the-death friends. At short intervals they went on hunting trips
down the river, generally remaining over the week-end. It was of these
expeditions that Ramon now became a regular member. Sometimes the whole
party would get drunk and come back whooping and singing as the
automobiles bowled along, occasionally firing shotguns into the air. At
other times when luck was good everyone became interested in the sport and
forgot to drink. Ramon had a real respect for Cassi, and a certain amount
of contempt for most of the rest of them; yet he felt more at home with
these easy-going, pleasure-loving, loyal fellows than he did with those
thrifty, respectable citizens in whose esteem the dollar stood so
invariably first.

Cassi and his friends used most often to go to a Mexican village some
fifty miles down the river where the valley was low and flat, and speckled
with shallow alkaline ponds made by seepage from the river. Every evening
the wild ducks flew into these ponds from the river to feed, and the
shooting at this evening flight Ramon especially loved. The party would
scatter out, each man choosing his own place on the East side of one of
the little lakes, so that the red glare of the sunset was opposite him.
There he would lie flat on the ground, perhaps making a low blind of weeds
or rushes.

Seldom even in January was it cold enough to be uncomfortable. Ramon would
lie on an elbow, smoking a cigarette, watching the light fade, and the
lagoon before him turn into molten gold to match the sunset sky. It would
be very quiet save for such sounds as the faraway barking of dogs or the
lowing of cattle. When the sky overhead had faded to an obscure purple,
and the flare of the sunset had narrowed to a belt along the horizon, he
would hear the distant eerie whistle of wild wings. Nothing could be seen
yet, but the sound multiplied. He could distinguish now the roar of a
great flock of mallards, circling round and round high overhead, scouting
for danger. He could hear the sweet flute-notes of teal and pintails, and
the raucous, cautious quack of some old green-head. A teal would pitch
suddenly down to the water before him and rest there, erect and wary,
painted in black upon the golden water. Another would join it and another.
The cautious mallards, encouraged by this, would swing lower. The music of
their wings seemed incredibly close; he would grip his gun hard, holding
himself rigidly still, feeling clearly each beat of his heart.

Suddenly the ducks would come into view … dark forms with ghostly blurs
for wings, shooting with a roar into the red flare of light. The flash of
his shotgun would leap out twice. The startled birds would bound into the
air like blasted rock from a quarry, and be lost in the purple mystery of
sky, except two or three that hurtled over and over and struck the water,
each with a loud spat, throwing up little jets of gold.

Sometimes there were long waits between shots, but at others the flight
was almost continuous, the air seemed full of darting birds, and the gun
barrels were hot in his hands. His excitement would be intense for a time;
yet after he had killed a dozen birds or so he would often lose interest
and lie on his back listening to the music of wings and of bird voices. He
had that aversion to excess which seems to be in all Latin peoples.
Besides, he did not want many ducks to dispose of.… It was the rush and
colour, the dramatic quality of the thing that he loved.

Most of the others killed to the limit with a fine unflagging lust for
blood, giving a brilliant demonstration of the fact that civilized man is
the most destructive and bloodthirsty of all the predatory mammals.



The coming of spring was marked by a few heavy rains, followed by the
faint greening of the cottonwood trees and of the alfalfa fields. The grey
waste of the _mesa_ showed a greenish tinge, too, heralding its brief
springtime splendor when it would be rich with the purple of wild-peas,
pricked out in the morning with white blossoms of the prairie primrose.
Now and then a great flock of geese went over the town, following the Rio
Grande northward half a mile high, their faint wild call seeming the very
voice of this season of lust and wandering.

Ramon felt restless and lost interest in all his usual occupations. He
began to make plans and preparations for going to the mountains. He bought
a tent and a new rifle and overhauled all his camping gear. He thought he
was getting ready for a season of hard work, but in reality his strongest
motive was the springtime longing for the road and the out-of-doors. He
was sick of whisky and women and hot rooms full of tobacco smoke.

Withal it was necessary that he should go to Arriba County, follow up his
campaign of the preceding fall, arrange a timber sale if possible so that
he might buy land, and above all see that his sheep herds were properly
tended. This was the crucial season in the sheep business. Like the other
sheep owners, he ranged his herds chiefly over the public domain, and he
gambled on the weather. If the rain continued into the early summer so
that the waterholes were filled and the grass was abundant, he would have
a good lamb crop. The sale of part of this and of the wool he would shear
would make up the bulk of his income for the year. And he had already
spent that income and a little more. He could not afford a bad year. If it
was a dry spring, so that lambs and ewes died, he would be seriously
embarrassed. In any case, he was determined to be on the range in person
and not to trust the herders. If it came to the worst and the spring was
dry he would rent mountain range from the Forest Service and rush his
herds to the upland pastures as early as possible. He was not at all
distressed or worried; he knew what he was about and had an appetite for
the work.

One morning when he was in the midst of his preparations, he went to his
office and found on the desk a small square letter addressed in a round,
upright, hand. This letter affected him as though it had been some blossom
that filled the room with a fragrant narcotic exhalation. It quickened the
beat of his heart like a drug. It drove thought of everything else out of
his mind. He opened it and the faint perfume of it flowed over him and
possessed his senses and his imagination.…

It was a long, gossipy letter and told him of nearly everything that Julia
had done in the six months since they had parted “forever”. The salient
fact was that she had been married. A young man in a New York brokerage
office who had long been a suitor for her hand, and to whom she had once
before been engaged for part of a summer, had followed the Roths to Europe
and he and Julia had been married immediately after their return.

“I give you my word, I don’t know why I did it,” she wrote. “Mother wanted
me to, and I just sort of drifted into it. First thing I knew I was
engaged and the next thing mother was sending the invitations out, and
then I was in for it. It was a good deal of fun being engaged, but when it
came to being married I was scared to death and couldn’t lift my voice
above a whisper. Since then it has been rather a bore. Now my husband has
been called to London. I am living alone here in this hotel. That is, more
or less alone. A frightful lot of people come around and bore me, and I
have to go out a good deal. I’m supposed to be looking for an apartment,
too; but I haven’t really started yet. Ralph won’t be back for another two
or three weeks, so I have plenty of time.

“I don’t know why in the world I’m writing you this long frightfully
intimate letter. I don’t seem to know why I do anything these days. I know
its most improper for a respectable married lady, and I certainly have no
reason to suppose you want to be bothered by me any more after the way I
did. But somehow you stick in the back of my head. You might write me a
line, just out of compassion, if you’re not too busy with all your sheep
and mountains and things.” She signed herself “as ever”, which, he
reflected bitterly, might mean anything.

At first the fact that she was married wholly engaged his attention. She
was then finally and forever beyond his reach. This was the end sure
enough. He was not going to start any long aimless correspondence with her
to keep alive the memory of his disappointment. He planned various brief
and chilly notes of congratulation.… Then another thought took precedence
over that one. She was alone there in that hotel. Her husband was in
London. She had written to him and given him her address.… His blood
pounded and his breath came quick. He made his decision instantly, on
impulse. He would go to New York.

He wired the hotel where she was stopping for a reservation, but sent no
word at all to her. He gave the bewildered and troubled Cortez brief
orders by telephone to go to Arriba County in his place, arranged a note
at the bank for two thousand dollars, and caught the limited the same
night at seven-thirty-five.



                              CHAPTER XXXII


He looked at New York through a taxicab window without much interest. A
large damp grey dirty place, very crowded, where he would not like to
live, he thought. He managed himself and his baggage with ease and
dispatch; his indifferent, dignified manner and his reckless use of money
were ideally effective with porters, taxi drivers and the like. When he
reached the hotel about eight o’clock at night he went to his room and
made himself carefully immaculate. He studied himself with a good deal of
interest in the full length mirror which was set in the bath room door;
for he had seldom encountered such a mirror and he had a considerable
amount of vanity of which he was not at all conscious. It struck him that
he was remarkably good-looking, and indeed he was more so than usual, his
eyes bright, his face flushed, his whole body tense and poised with
purpose and expectation.

He went down to the lobby, looked Julia up in the register, ascertained
the number of her room, and made a note of it. Then he asked the telephone
girl to call her and learn whether she was in.

“Yes; she is in. She wants to know who’s calling, please.”

“Tell her an old friend who wants to surprise her.” He did not care to
risk any evasion, and he also wanted his arrival to have its full dramatic
effect.

The telephone girl transmitted his message.

“She says she can’t come down yet … not for about half an hour.”

“Tell her I’ll wait. If she asks for me I’ll be in that little room
there.” He pointed to a small reception room opening off the mezzanine
gallery, which he had selected in advance. He had planned everything
carefully.



When he stood up to meet her she gave a little gasp, and took a step back.

“Why, you! Ramon! How could you? You shouldn’t have come. You know you
shouldn’t. I didn’t mean that … I had no idea.…”

He came forward and took her hand and led her to a settee. Despite all her
protests he could see very plainly that he had scored heavily in his own
favour. She was flustered with excitement and pleasure. Like all women,
she was captivated by sudden, decisive action and loved the surprising and
the dramatic.

They sat side by side, looking at each other, smiling, making unimportant
remarks, and then looking at each other again. Ramon felt that she had
changed. She was as pretty as ever, and never had she stirred him more
strongly. But her appeal seemed more immediate than before; she seemed
less remote. The innocence of her wide eyes was a little less noticeable
and their flash of recklessness a little more so. It seemed to him that
her mouth was larger, which may have been due to the fact that she had
rouged it a little too much. She wore a pink decollete with straps over
the shoulders one of which kept slipping down and had to be pulled up
again.

Ramon was tremulous with a half-acknowledged anticipation, but he held
himself strongly in hand. He felt that he had an advantage over her—that
he was more at ease and she less so than at any previous meeting—and he
meant to keep it.

But she was rapidly regaining her composure, and took refuge in a rather
formal manner.

“Are you going to be here long?” she enquired in the conventional tone of
mock-interest.

“Just a week or so on business,” he explained, determined not to be
outpointed in the game. “I had to come some time this spring, and when I
got your note I thought I would come while you are here.”

“But I’ll be here the rest of my life probably. This is where I live. You
ought to have come when my husband was here. I’d like to have you meet
him. As it is, I can’t see much of you, of course.…”

He refused to be put out by this coldness, but tried to strike a more
intimate note.

“Tell me about your marriage,” he asked. “Are you really happy?… Do you
like it?”

She looked at the floor gravely.

“You shouldn’t ask that, of course,” she reproved. “Everyone who has just
been married is very, very happy.… No, I don’t like it a darn bit.”

“It’s not what you expected, then.”

“I don’t know what I expected, but from the way people talk about it and
write about it you would certainly think it was something wonderful—love
and passion and bliss and all that, I mean. I feel that I’ve either been
lied to or cheated … of course,” she added with a little side glance at
him, “I didn’t exactly love my husband.…” She blushed and looked down
again; then laughed softly and rather joyfully for a lady with a broken
heart.

“If mother could only hear me now!” she observed.… “She’d faint. I don’t
care.… That’s just the way I feel.… I don’t care! All my life I’ve been
trained and groomed and prepared for the grand and glorious event of
marriage. I’ve been taught it’s the most wonderful thing that can happen
to anyone. That’s what all the books say, and all the people I know. And
here it turns out to be a most uncomfortable bore.…”

He looked gravely sympathetic.

“Do you think it would have been different with—someone you did love?” he
enquired cautiously.

She gave him another quick thrilling glance.

“I don’t know,” she said.… “Maybe … I felt so different about you.”

Their hands met on the settee and they both moved instinctively a little
closer together.

Suddenly she jerked away from him, looking him in the eyes with her head
thrown back and a smile of irony on her lips.

“Aren’t we a couple of idiots?” she demanded.

“No!” he declared with fierce emphasis, and throwing an arm about her,
pounced on her lips.

Just then a bell boy passed the door. They jerked apart and upright very
self-consciously. Then they looked at each other and laughed. But their
eyes quickly became deep and serious again, and their fingers entangled.

She sighed in mock exasperation.

“For Heaven’s sake, say something!” she demanded. “We can’t sit here and
make eyes at each other all evening. Besides I’m compromising my priceless
reputation. It’s after ten o’clock. I’ve got to go.” She rose, and held
out her hand, which he took without saying anything.

“Good night,” she said. “I think you were mean to come and camp on me this
way … dumb as ever, I see … well, good night.”

She went to the door, stopped and looked back, smiled and disappeared.

Ramon went down to the lobby and roamed all over the two floors which
constituted the public part of the hotel. He looked at everything and
smoked a great many cigarettes, thus restlessly whiling away an hour. Then
he went to a writing room. He collected some telegrams and letters about
him and appeared to be very busy. When a bell boy went by, he rapped
sharply on the desk with a fifty-cent piece, and as the boy stopped,
tossed it to him.

“Get me the key to 207!” he ordered sharply; then turned back to his
imaginary business.

“Yes sir,” said the boy. He returned in a few minutes with the key.

Ramon sat for a long moment looking at it, tremulous with a great
anticipation. He was divided between a conviction that she expected him
and a fear that she did not.… His fear proved groundless.



                              CHAPTER XXXIII


The next day they met for dinner at a little place near Washington Square
where it was certain that none of Julia’s friends ever went. Julia was a
singularly contented-looking criminal. Never, Ramon thought had her skin
looked more velvety, her eyes deeper or more serene. He was a trifle
haggard, but happy, and both of them were hungry.

“Do you know?… I’ve made a discovery,” she told him. “I haven’t any
conscience. I slept peacefully nearly all day, and when I waked up I
considered the matter carefully … I don’t believe that I have any proper
appreciation of the enormity of what I’ve done at all. I have always
thought that if anything like this ever happened to me I would go off and
chloroform myself, but as a matter of fact I have no such intention … of
course, though, it was not my fault in the least. You’re so terrible!… I
simply couldn’t help myself, and I don’t see what I can do now … that’s
comforting. But one thing is certain. We’ve got to be awfully careful.
Thank Heaven, mother and Gordon are still in Florida and they won’t dare
to come North on Gordon’s account until it gets a good deal warmer. But we
must be careful. I’m not sorry, like I should be, but I sure am scared.…”

They sat for a long time after the meal, Ramon smoking a cigar, their
knees touching under the table. He was filled with a vast contentment. He
thought nothing of the troubled past, nor did he look into the obviously
troubled future. He merely basked in the consciousness of a possession
infinitely sweet.

Now began for them a life of clandestine adventure. Julia had a good many
engagements, but she managed to give him some part of every day. They
never met in the hotel, but usually took taxicabs separately and met in
out-of-the-way parts of that great free wilderness of city. Ramon spent
most of the time when he was not with her exploring for suitable meeting
places. They became patrons of cellar restaurants in Greenwich Village, of
French and Italian places far down town, of obscure Brooklyn hotels. If
the regular fare at these establishments was not all they desired, Ramon
would lavishly bribe the head waiter, call the proprietor into
consultation if necessary, insist on getting what Julia wanted. He spent
his money like a millionaire, and usually created the general impression
that he was a wealthy foreigner. Every morning he had flowers sent to
Julia’s room. Often they would take a taxi and spend hours riding about
the streets with the blinds drawn, locked in each others’ arms.

For a week they were keenly, excitedly happy, living wholly in the joy of
the moment. Then a flaw appeared upon the glowing perfect surface of their
happiness.

“When is your husband coming back?” he enquired once, when they were
riding through Central Park.

“I don’t know. In a week or two. Why?”

“Because we must decide pretty soon what we’re going to do.”

“Do? What can we do?”

“We must decide where we’re going. You must go with me somewhere. I’m not
going to let you get away from me again … not even for a little while.”

“But Ramon, how can we? I’m married. I can’t go anywhere with you.…”

He seized her fiercely by the shoulders and held her away from him,
looking into her eyes.

“Don’t you love me, then?” he demanded.

“Ramon! You know I do!”

“Then you’ll go. We can go to Mexico City, or South America … I’ll sell
out at home.…”

“O, Ramon … I can’t. I haven’t got the courage. Think of the fuss it would
raise. And it would kill Gordon, I know it would.…”

“Damn Gordon!” he exclaimed, “he’s not going to get in the way again!
You’re mine and I’m going to keep you. You will go. I’ll take you!”

He had seized her in his arms, was holding her furiously tight. She put
her arms around him, caressed his face with soft fluttering hands.

“Please, Ramon! Please don’t make me miserable. Don’t spoil the only
happiness I ever had! I will go with you if ever I can, if I can get a
divorce or something. But I can’t run off like that. I haven’t got it in
me … please let me be happy!”

Her touch and her voice seemed to overcome his determination, seemed to
sheer him of his strength. Weaker she was than he, but her charm was her
power. It dragged him away from his thoughts and purposes, binding him to
her and to the moment.… She drew his head down to her breast, found his
lips with hers and so effectively cut his protests short.



The cream of his happiness was gone. Always when he was alone, he was
thinking and planning how he could keep her. All of his possessiveness was
aroused. He wanted her to have a baby. Somehow he felt that then his
conquest would be complete, that then he would be at peace.…

He said nothing more to Julia because he saw that it was useless. He began
to understand her a little. It was futile to ask her to make a decision,
to take any initiative. She could hold out forever against pleas which
involved an effort of the will on her part. And yet as he knew she could
yield charmingly to pressure adroitly applied. If he had asked her to meet
him in New York this way, he reflected, she would have been horrified, she
would never have consented. But when he came, suddenly, that had been
different. So it was now. If he could only form a really good plan, and
then put her in a cab and take her … that would be the only way. The
difficulty was to form the plan. He had capacity for sudden and decisive
action. He lacked neither courage nor resolution. But when it came to
making a plan which would require much time and patience, he found his
limitations.

What could he do? he asked himself, not realizing that in formulating the
question he acknowledged his impotence. If he went away and left her while
he settled his affairs, she was lost as surely as a bird released from a
cage. The idea of Mexico City allured him. But he had hardly enough money
to take them there. How could he raise money on short notice? It would
take time to settle his estate in New Mexico and get anything out of it.…

Two unrealized facts lay at the root of his difficulty. One was that he
had no capacity for large and intricate plans, and the other was that he
felt bound as by an invisible tether to the land where he had been born.

As he struggled with all these conflicting considerations and emotions,
his head fairly ached with futile effort. He was glad to lay it upon
Julia’s soft bosom, to forget everything else again in the sweetness of a
stolen moment.



                              CHAPTER XXXIV


He had been in New York about ten days when he awoke one morning near
noon. An immense languor possessed him. He had been with Julia the night
before and never had she been more charming, more abandoned.… He ordered
his breakfast to be sent up, and then stretched out in bed and lit an
expensive Russian cigarette. He had that love of sensuous indolence,
which, together with its usual complement, the capacity for brief but
violent action, marked him as a primitive man—one whom the regular labors
and restraints of civilization would never fit.

His telephone bell rang, and when he took down the receiver he heard
Julia’s voice. It was not unusual for her to call him about this time, but
what she told him now caused a blank and hapless look to come over his
face. She was not in her room, but in another hotel.

“My husband got in this morning,” she explained in a voice that was thin
with misery and confusion. “I got his message last night, but I didn’t
tell you because I knew it would spoil our last time together, and I was
afraid you would do something foolish.… Please say you’re not angry. You
know there was nothing for it. We couldn’t have done any of those wild
things you talked about. I’ll always love you, honestly I will. Won’t you
even say goodby?…”

He at last did say goodby and hung up the receiver and went across the
room and sat in an armchair. It suddenly struck him that he was very
tired. He had not realized it before … how tired he was. There was none of
the mad rebellion in him now that had filled him when first she had run
away from him. Although he had never acknowledged it to himself he had
been more than half prepared for this. He had told himself that he was
going to do something bold and decisive, but he had procrastinated; he had
never really formed a plan.

Weariness was his leading emotion. He was spent, physically and
emotionally. He wanted her almost as much as ever. While she was no longer
the remote and dazzling star she had been, the bond of flesh that had been
created between them seemed a stronger, a more constant thing than
blinding unsatisfied desire. But a great despair possessed him. There was
so obviously nothing he could do. Just as his other disappointment had
given him his first stinging impression of the irony of life, that
cunningly builds a hope and then smashes it; so now he felt for the first
time something of the helplessness of man in the current or his destiny,
driven by deep-laid desires he seldom understands, and ruled by chances he
can never calculate. From love a man learns life in quick and painful
flashes.

Through the open window came the din of the New York street—purr and throb
of innumerable engines, rumble and clatter of iron wheels, tapping of
thousands of restless feet, making a blended current of sound upon which
floated and tossed the shrillness of police whistles and newsboys’ voices
and auto horns. It had been the background of his life during memorable
days. Once it had stirred his pulses, seeming a wild accompaniment to the
song of his passion. Now it wearied him inexpressibly; it seemed to be
hammering in his ears; he wanted to get away from it. He would go home
that day.



As always on his trips across the continent he sat apathetically smoking
through the wide green lushness of the middle west. Only when the
cultivated lands gave way to barren hills and faint blue mountains peeping
over far horizons did he turn to the window and forget his misery and his
weariness. How it spoke to his heart, this country of his own! He who
loved no man, who had gone to women with desire and come away with
bitterness, loved a vast and barren land, baking in the sun. The sight of
it quickened his pulses, softened and soothed his spirit. Like a good
liquor it nursed and beautified whatever mood was in him. When he had come
back to it a year before, it had spoken to him of hope, its mysterious
distances had seemed full of promise and hidden possibility. And now that
he came back to it with hopes broken, weary in mind and body, it seemed
the very voice of rest. He thought of long cool nights in the mountains
and of the lullaby that wind and water sing, of the soothing monotony of
empty sunlit levels, of the cool caress of deep, green pools, of the sweet
satisfaction that goes with physical weariness and a full belly and a bed
upon the ground.

But when on the last morning of his journey he waked up within a hundred
miles of home, and less than half that far from his own mountain lands,
his new-found comfort quickly changed to a keen anxiety. For he saw at a
glance that the country was under the blight of drought. The hills that
should have borne a good crop of gramma grass at this time of the year, if
the rains had been even fair, were nothing but bare red earth from which
the rocks and the great roots of the _pinion_ trees stood out like the
bones of a starving animal. Here and there on the hillsides he could see a
scrubby pine that had died, its needles turned rust-red—the sure sign of a
serious drought.

During the half month that he had been gone he had thought not once of his
affairs at home. The moment had absorbed him completely. Now it all came
back to him suddenly. When he had left, the promise of the season had been
good. It had not rained for more than a week, but everyone had been
expecting rain every day. It was clear to him that the needed rain had
never come. And he knew just what that meant to him. It meant that he had
lost lambs and ewes, that he would have no money this year with which to
meet his notes at the bank. He sank deep in despair and disgust again. Not
only was the assault on his fortunes a serious one, but he felt little
inclined to meet it. He was weary of struggle. He saw before him a long
slow fight to get on his feet again, with the chance of ultimate failure
if he had another bad year.

The Mexicans firmly believe, in the face of much evidence to the contrary,
that seven wet years are always followed by seven dry ones. He had heard
the saying gravely repeated many times. He more than half believed it. And
he knew that for a good many years, perhaps as many as six or seven, the
rains had been remarkably good. He was intelligent, but superstition was
bred in his bones. Like all men of a primitive type he had a strong
tendency to believe in fortune as a deliberate force in the affairs of
men. It seemed clear to him now, in his depressed and exhausted condition,
that bad luck had marked him for its prey.



                               CHAPTER XXXV


His forebodings were confirmed in detail the next morning when Cortez came
into his office, his face wrinkled with worry and darkened by exposure to
the weather. He was angry too.

“_Por Dios_, man! To go off like that and not even leave me an address. If
I could have gotten more money to hire men I might have saved some of them
… yes, more than half of the lambs died, and many of the ewes. There is
nothing to do now. They are on the best of the range, and it has begun to
rain in the mountains. But it is too bad. It cost you many thousands …
that trip to New York.”

Ramon gave Cortez a cigar to soothe his sensibilities, thanked him with
dignity for his loyal services, and sent him away. Then he put on his hat
and went outside to walk and think.

The town seemed to him quiet as though half-deserted. This was partly by
contrast with the place of din which he had just left, and partly because
this was the dull season, when the first hot spell of summer drove many
away from the town and kept those who remained in their houses most of the
day. The sandy streets caught the sun and cherished it in a merciless
glare. They were baked so hot that barefoot urchins hopped gingerly from
one patch of shade to the next. In the numerous vacant lots rank jungles
of weeds languished in the dry heat, and long blue-tailed lizards,
veritable heat-sprites, emerged to frolic and doze on deserted sidewalks.
The leaves of the cottonwoods hung limp, and the white downy tufts that
carried their seeds everywhere drifted and swam in the shimmering air. The
river had shrunk to a string of shallow pools in a sandy plain, the
irrigation ditches were empty, and in Old Town the Mexicans were asking
God for rain by carrying an image of the Virgin Mary about on a litter and
firing muskets into the air.

Quickly wearied, Ramon sat down on a shaded bench in the park and tried to
think out his situation and to decide what he should do. The easy way was
to sell out, pay his debts, provide for his mother and sister and with
what was left go his own way—buy a little ranch perhaps in the mountains
or in the valley where he could live in peace and do as he pleased.
Wearied as he was by struggle and disappointment, this prospect allured
him, and yet he could not quite accept it. He felt vaguely the fact that
in selling his lands, he would be selling out to fate, he would be
surrendering to MacDougall, to the gringos, he would be renouncing all his
high hopes and dreams. His mountain lands, with their steadily increasing
value, the power they gave him, would make of his life a thing of
possibilities—an adventure. Settled on a little ranch somewhere, his whole
story would be told in one of its years.

This he did not reason clearly, but the emotional struggle within him was
therefore all the stronger. It was his old struggle in another guise—the
struggle between the primitive being in him and the civilized, between
earth and the world of men. Each of them in turn filled his mind with
images and emotions, and he was impotent to judge between them.

His being was fairly rooted in the soil, and the animal happiness it
offered—the free play of instinct, the sweetness of being physically and
emotionally at peace with environment—was the only happiness he had ever
known. Vaguely yet surely he had felt the world of men and works, the
artificial world, to contain something larger and more beautiful than
this. Julia Roth had been to him a stimulating symbol of this higher, this
more desirable thing. His love for her had been the soil in which his
aspirations had grown. That love had turned to bitterness and lust, and
his aspirations had led him among greeds and fears and struggles that
differed from those of the wild things only in that they were covert and
devious, lacking the free beauty of instinct fearlessly followed and the
dignity of open battle. Of civilization he had encountered only the raw
and ugly edge, which is uglier than savagery. He knew no more of the true
spirit of it than a man who has camped in a farmer’s back pasture knows of
the true spirit of wildness. It had treated him without mercy and brought
out the worst of him. And yet because he had once loved and dreamed he
could not go back to the easy but limited satisfactions of the soil and be
wholly content.

So he could not make up his mind at first to surrender, but in the next
few days one thing after another came to tempt him that way. MacDougall
made him an offer for his lands which to his surprise was a little better
than the last one. He learned afterward that the over-shrewd lawyer had
misinterpreted his trip to New York, imagining that he had gone there to
interest eastern capital in his lands.

His mother and sister were two very cogent arguments in favour of selling.
The Dona Delcasar, a simple and vain old lady, now regarded herself as a
woman of wealth, and was always after him for money. Her ambition was to
build a house in the Highlands and serve tea at four o’clock (although it
was thick chocolate she liked) and break into society. His one discussion
of the matter with her was a bitter experience.

“Holy Mary!” she exclaimed in her shrill Spanish, when he broached a plan
of retrenchment, “What a son I have! You spend thousands on yourself,
chasing women and buying automobiles, and now you want us to spend the
rest of our lives in this old house and walk to church so that you can
make it up. God, but men are selfish!”

He saw that if he tried to save money and make a fight for his lands he
would have to struggle not only with MacDougall and the weather, but with
two ignorant, ambitious and sharp-tongued women. And family pride here
fought against him. He did not want to see his women folk go shabbily in
the town. He wanted them to have their brick house and their tea parties,
and to uphold the name of Delcasar as well as they might.

One day while he was still struggling with his problem he went to look at
a ranch that was offered for sale in the valley a few miles north of town.
It was this place more than anything else which decided him. The old house
had been built by one of his ancestors almost a hundred years before, and
had then been the seat of an estate which embraced all the valley and
_mesa_ lands for miles in every direction. It had changed hands several
times and there were now but a few hundred acres. The woodwork of the
house was in bad repair, but its adobe walls, three feet thick, were firm
as ever. There were still traces of the adobe stockade behind it, with
walls ten feet high, and the building which had housed the _peones_ was
still standing, now filled with fragrant hay. In front of it stood an old
cedar post with rusty iron rings to which the recalcitrant field hands had
been bound for beating.

Every detail of this home of his forefathers stirred his emotions. The
ancient cottonwood trees in front of the house with their deep, welcome
shade and the soft voices of courting doves among the leaves; the alfalfa
fields heavy with purple blossom, ripe for cutting; the orchard of old
apple trees and thickets of Indian plum run wild; the neglected vineyard
that could be made to yield several barrels of red wine—all of these
things spoke to him with subtle voices. To trade his heritage for this was
to trade hope and hazard for monotonous ease; but with the smell of the
yielding earth in his nostrils, he no more thought of this than a man in
love thinks of the long restraints and irks of marriage when the kiss of
his woman is on his lips.



                              CHAPTER XXXVI


Ramon’s life on his farm quickly fell into a routine that was for the most
part pleasant. He hired an old woman to do his cooking and washing, and a
man to work on the place. Other men he hired as he needed them, and he
spent most of his days working with them as a foreman.

He attended to the business of farming ably. The trees of the old orchard
he pruned and sprayed and he set out new ones. He put his idle land under
irrigation and planted it in corn and alfalfa. He set out beds of
strawberries and asparagus. He bought blooded livestock and chickens. He
put his fences in repair and painted the woodwork of his house. The
creative energy that was in him had at last found an outlet which was
congenial though somewhat picayune. For the place was small and easily
handled. As the fall came on, and his crops had been gathered and the work
of irrigation was over for the season, he found himself looking about
restlessly for something to do. On Saturday nights he generally went to
town, had dinner with his mother and sister, and spent the evening
drinking beer and playing pool. But he felt increasingly out of place in
the town; his visits there were prompted more by filial duty and the need
of something to break the monotony of his week than by a real sense of
pleasure in them.

He was still caring for Catalina on the ranch up the valley, and when the
woman who had been doing his work left him, he decided to bring the girl
to his place and let her earn her keep by cooking and washing. He no
longer felt any interest in her, and thought that perhaps she would marry
Juan Cardenas, the man who milked his cows and chopped wood for him. But
Catalina showed no interest in Juan. Instead, she emphatically rejected
all his advances, and displayed an abject, squaw-like devotion to Ramon’s
welfare. Everything possible was done for his comfort without his asking.
The infant, now almost a year old, was trained not to cry in his presence,
and acquired a certain awe of him, watching him with large solemn eyes
whenever he was about. Ramon, reflecting that this was his son, set out to
make the baby’s acquaintance, and became quite fond of it. He often played
with it in the evening.

He paid Catalina regular wages and she spent most of the money on clothes.
When she prepared herself for Church on Sunday she was a truly terrible
spectacle, clad in an ill-fitting ready-made suit of brilliant colour, and
wearing a cheap hat on which a dead parrot sprawled among artificial
poppies, while her swarthy face, heavily powdered, took on a purple tinge.
But about the place, dressed in clean calico, with a shawl over her
shoulders, she was really pretty. Her figure was a good one of peasant
type, and the acquisition of some shoes which fitted her revealed the fact
that she had inherited from her remote Castilian ancestry a small and
shapely foot and ankle.

Ramon could not help noticing all of these things, and so gradually he
became aware of Catalina again as a desirable woman, and one whom it was
easy for him to take.

After this his animal contentment was deeper than ever. He did not go to
town so often, for one of the restlessnesses which had driven him there
was removed. Often for weeks at a stretch he would not go at all unless it
was necessary to get some tools or supplies for the farm. Then rather than
take any of his men away from work, he would himself hitch up a team and
drive the five miles. Sitting hunched over on the spring-seat of a big
farm wagon, clad in overalls and a print shirt, with a wide hat tilted
against the sun and a cigarette dangling from his lips, he was
indistinguishable from any other _paisano_ on the road. This change in
appearance was helped by the fact that he had grown a heavy moustache.
Often, as he drove through the streets of the town, he would pass
acquaintances who did not recognize him, and he was just as well satisfied
that they did not.

As is the way of unreflecting men, Ramon formed no definite opinion of his
life, but liked it more or less according to the mood that was in him.
There were bright, cool days that fall when, lacking work to do, he took
his shot-gun and a saddle horse and went for long rambles. Sometimes he
would follow the river northward, stalking the flocks of teal and mallards
that dozed on the sandbars in the wide, muddy stream, perhaps killing
three or four fat birds. Other times he went to the foot of the mountains
and hunted the blue quail and cotton tail rabbits in the arroyos of the
foot-hills. Once he and his man loaded a wagon with food and blankets and
drove forty miles to a canyon where they killed a big black-tail buck, and
brought him back in high triumph.

Returning from such trips full of healthy hunger and weariness, to find
his hot supper and his woman waiting for him, Ramon would doze off
happily, every want of his physical being satisfied, feeling that life was
good.… But there were other nights when a strange restlessness possessed
him, when he lay miserably awake through long dark hours. The silence of
the black valley was emphasized now and then by the doleful voices of dogs
that answered each other across the sleeping miles. At such times he felt
as though he had been caught in a trap. He saw in imagination the endless
unvaried chain of his days stretching before him, and he rebelled against
it and knew not how to break it. His experience of life was comparatively
little and he was no philosopher. He did not know definitely either what
was the matter with him or what he wanted. But he had tasted high
aspiration, and desire bright and transforming, and wild sweet joy.… These
things had been taken away, and now life narrowed steadily before him like
a blind canyon that pierces a mountain range. The trail at the bottom was
easy enough to follow, but the walls drew ever closer and became more
impassable, and what was the end?…



This sense of dissatisfaction reached its futile crux one day in the
spring when he received a letter from Julia—the last he was ever to get.
The sight and scent of it stirred him as they always had done, filling him
with poignant painful memories.

“This is really the last time I’ll ever bother you,” she wrote, “but I do
want to know what has happened to you, and how you feel about things. I
can’t forget. All our troubles seem to have worn some sort of a permanent
groove in my poor brain, and I believe the thought of you will be there
till the day of my death.

“As, for me, I’m in society up to my eyes, and absolutely without the
courage or energy to climb out. Those days in New York were the first and
the last of my freedom. Now I’ve been introduced to everybody, and I have
an engagement book that tells me what I’m going to do whether I want to or
not for three weeks ahead. I’m a model of conduct and propriety for the
simple reason that I can’t travel over a block without everybody that I
know finding out about it.

“Of course it hasn’t all been a bore. I have had some fun, and I’ve met
some really interesting people. I’ve gotten used to being married and my
husband treats me kindly and gives me a good home. Sounds as if I was a
kitten, doesn’t it? Well, I have very much the same sort of life as a
kitten, but a kitten has no imagination and it has never been in love.
Sometimes I think that I can’t stand it any longer. It seems to me that
I’m not really living, as I used to imagine I would, but just being
dragged through life by circumstances and other people—I don’t know what
all. I still have desperate plans and ideas once in a while, but of
course, I never do anything. When you come right down to it, what can I
do?”

Ramon read this letter sitting on the sunny side of his house with his
heels under him and his back against the wall—a position any Mexican can
hold for hours. When he had finished it he sat motionless for a long time,
painfully going over the past, trying ineptly to discover what had been
the matter with it. More acutely than ever before he felt the cruel
guerdon of youth—the contrast between the promise of life and its
fulfillment. He felt that he ought to do something, that he ought not to
submit. But somehow all the doors that led out of his present narrow way
into wider fields seemed closed. There was no longer any entrancing vista
to tempt him. Mentally he repeated her query, What could he do?

His thoughts went round and round and got nowhere. The spring sunshine
soaked into his body. A faint hum of early insects lulled him, and to his
nostrils came the scent of new-turned earth and manure from the garden
where his man was working. He grew drowsy; his dissatisfaction simmered
down to a vague ache in the background of his consciousness. Idly he tore
the letter to little bits.



                                 THE END



                               EXTRA PAGES



                                       _The Blood of _
                                       _the Conquerors_



_ _
_      NEW BORZOI NOVELS_
_ _
_      FALL, 1921_
_ _

      PAN
_      Knut Hamsun_
      DREAMERS
_      Knut Hamsun_
      THE TORTOISE
_      Mary Borden_
      THE CHINA SHOP
_      G. B. Stern_
      THE BRIARY-BUSH
_      Floyd Dell_
      DEADLOCK
_      Dorothy Richardson_
      THE OTHER MAGIC
_      E. L. Grant-Watson_
      WHITE SHOULDERS
_      George Kibbe Turner_
      THE CHARMED CIRCLE
_      Edward Alden Jewell_
      THE BLOOD OF THE CONQUERORS
_      Harvey __ __Fergusson_



                                       _The Blood of _
                                       _the Conquerors_



                                  ERRATA


      CHAPTER II
      Changed: they were *untamable*, but boys
      To: they were *untameable*, but boys

      CHAPTER II
      Changed: adventures were *comoposed* and sung
      To: adventures were *composed* and sung

      CHAPTER IV
      Changed: your name,” she admitted*,*
      To: your name,” she admitted*.*

      CHAPTER V
      Changed: only all-night *resturant*. Here he
      To: only all-night *restaurant*. Here he

      CHAPTER VII
      Changed: haunted by lizzards and rattlesnakes.
      To: haunted by *lizards* and rattlesnakes.

      CHAPTER VIII
      Changed: CHAPTER VIII*.*
      To: CHAPTER VIII* *

      CHAPTER XI
      Changed: the game*,* But the
      To: the game*.* But the

      CHAPTER XV
      Changed: nights they *visted* the town’s
      To: nights they *visited* the town’s

      CHAPTER XIX
      Changed: saved from *furthur* punishment. Meantime,
      To: saved from *further* punishment. Meantime,

      CHAPTER XXXI
      Changed: own living.… *Its* not fair.
      To: own living.… *It’s* not fair.

      CHAPTER XXXII
      Changed: of course* *” she added
      To: of course*,*” she added

      CHAPTER XXXII
      Changed: * *For Heaven’s sake, say something!”
      To: *“*For Heaven’s sake, say something!”

      Page 2
      Changed: Harvey *Furgusson*
      To: Harvey *Fergusson*





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+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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