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´╗┐Title: Maruja
Author: Harte, Bret, 1836-1902
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Maruja" ***

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MARUJA


by

BRET HARTE



MARUJA



CHAPTER I

Morning was breaking on the high road to San Jose.  The long lines of
dusty, level track were beginning to extend their vanishing point in
the growing light; on either side the awakening fields of wheat and
oats were stretching out and broadening to the sky.  In the east and
south the stars were receding before the coming day; in the west a few
still glimmered, caught among the bosky hills of the canada del
Raimundo, where night seemed to linger.  Thither some obscure,
low-flying birds were slowly winging; thither a gray coyote, overtaken
by the morning, was awkwardly limping.  And thither a tramping wayfarer
turned, plowing through the dust of the highway still unslaked by the
dewless night, to climb the fence and likewise seek the distant cover.

For some moments man and beast kept an equal pace and gait with a
strange similarity of appearance and expression; the coyote bearing
that resemblance to his more civilized and harmless congener, the dog,
which the tramp bore to the ordinary pedestrians, but both exhibiting
the same characteristics of lazy vagabondage and semi-lawlessness; the
coyote's slouching amble and uneasy stealthiness being repeated in the
tramp's shuffling step and sidelong glances. Both were young, and
physically vigorous, but both displayed the same vacillating and
awkward disinclination to direct effort.  They continued thus half a
mile apart unconscious of each other, until the superior faculties of
the brute warned him of the contiguity of aggressive civilization, and
he cantered off suddenly to the right, fully five minutes before the
barking of dogs caused the man to make a detour to the left to avoid
entrance upon a cultivated domain that lay before him.

The trail he took led to one of the scant water-courses that issued,
half spent, from the canada, to fade out utterly on the hot June plain.
It was thickly bordered with willows and alders, that made an arbored
and feasible path through the dense woods and undergrowth.  He
continued along it as if aimlessly; stopping from time to time to look
at different objects in a dull mechanical fashion, as if rather to
prolong his useless hours, than from any curious instinct, and to
occasionally dip in the unfrequent pools of water the few crusts of
bread he had taken from his pocket. Even this appeared to be suggested
more by coincidence of material in the bread and water, than from the
promptings of hunger.  At last he reached a cup-like hollow in the
hills lined with wild clover and thick with resinous odors.  Here he
crept under a manzanita-bush and disposed himself to sleep.  The act
showed he was already familiar with the local habits of his class, who
used the unfailing dry starlit nights for their wanderings, and spent
the hours of glaring sunshine asleep or resting in some wayside shadow.

Meanwhile the light quickened, and gradually disclosed the form and
outline of the adjacent domain.  An avenue cut through a park-like
wood, carefully cleared of the undergrowth of gigantic ferns peculiar
to the locality, led to the entrance of the canada.  Here began a vast
terrace of lawn, broken up by enormous bouquets of flower-beds
bewildering in color and profusion, from which again rose the flowering
vines and trailing shrubs that hid pillars, veranda, and even the long
facade of a great and dominant mansion. But the delicacy of floral
outlines running to the capitals of columns and at times mounting to
the pediment of the roof, the opulence of flashing color or the massing
of tropical foliage, could not deprive it of the imperious dignity of
size and space. Much of this was due to the fact that the original
casa--an adobe house of no mean pretensions, dating back to the early
Spanish occupation--had been kept intact, sheathed in a shell of
dark-red wood, and still retaining its patio; or inner court-yard,
surrounded by low galleries, while additions, greater in extent than
the main building, had been erected--not as wings and projections, but
massed upon it on either side, changing its rigid square outlines to a
vague parallelogram.  While the patio retained the Spanish conception
of al fresco seclusion, a vast colonnade of veranda on the southern
side was a concession to American taste, and its breadth gave that
depth of shadow to the inner rooms which had been lost in the thinner
shell of the new erection.  Its cloistered gloom was lightened by the
red fires of cardinal flowers dropping from the roof, by the yellow
sunshine of the jessamine creeping up the columns, by billows of
heliotropes breaking over its base as a purple sea.  Nowhere else did
the opulence of this climate of blossoms show itself as vividly.  Even
the Castilian roses, that grew as vines along the east front, the
fuchsias, that attained the dignity of trees, in the patio, or the four
or five monster passion-vines that bestarred the low western wall, and
told over and over again their mystic story--paled before the sensuous
glory of the south veranda.

As the sun arose, that part of the quiet house first touched by its
light seemed to waken.  A few lounging peons and servants made their
appearance at the entrance of the patio, occasionally reinforced by an
earlier life from the gardens and stables.  But the south facade of the
building had not apparently gone to bed at all: lights were still
burning dimly in the large ball-room; a tray with glasses stood upon
the veranda near one of the open French windows, and further on, a
half-shut yellow fan lay like a fallen leaf.  The sound of
carriage-wheels on the gravel terrace brought with it voices and
laughter and the swiftly passing vision of a char-a-bancs filled with
muffled figures bending low to avoid the direct advances of the sun.

As the carriage rolled away, four men lounged out of a window on the
veranda, shading their eyes against the level beams.  One was still in
evening dress, and one in the uniform of a captain of artillery; the
others had already changed their gala attire, the elder of the party
having assumed those extravagant tweeds which the tourist from Great
Britain usually offers as a gentle concession to inferior yet more
florid civilization.  Nevertheless, he beamed back heartily on the sun,
and remarked, in a pleasant Scotch accent, that:  Did they know it was
very extraordinary how clear the morning was, so free from clouds and
mist and fog?  The young man in evening dress fluently agreed to the
facts, and suggested, in idiomatic French-English, that one
comprehended that the bed was an insult to one's higher nature and an
ingratitude to their gracious hostess, who had spread out this lovely
garden and walks for their pleasure; that nothing was more beautiful
than the dew sparkling on the rose, or the matin song of the little
birds.

The other young man here felt called upon to point out the fact that
there was no dew in California, and that the birds did not sing in that
part of the country.  The foreign young gentleman received this
statement with pain and astonishment as to the fact, with passionate
remorse as to his own ignorance.  But still, as it was a charming day,
would not his gallant friend, the Captain here, accept the challenge of
the brave Englishman, and "walk him" for the glory of his flag and a
thousand pounds?

The gallant Captain, unfortunately, believed that if he walked out in
his uniform he would suffer some delay from being interrogated by
wayfarers as to the locality of the circus he would be pleasantly
supposed to represent, even if he escaped being shot as a rare
California bird by the foreign sporting contingent.  In these
circumstances, he would simply lounge around the house until his
carriage was ready.

Much as it pained him to withdraw from such amusing companions, the
foreign young gentleman here felt that he, too, would retire for the
present to change his garments, and glided back through the window at
the same moment that the young officer carelessly stepped from the
veranda and lounged towards the shrubbery.

"They've been watching each other for the last hour.  I wonder what's
up?" said the young man who remained.

The remark, without being confidential, was so clearly the first
sentence of natural conversation that the Scotchman, although relieved,
said, "Eh, man?" a little cautiously.

"It's as clear as this sunshine that Captain Carroll and Garnier are
each particularly anxious to know what the other is doing or intends to
do this morning."

"Why did they separate, then?" asked the other.

"That's a mere blind.  Garnier's looking through his window now at
Carroll, and Carroll is aware of it."

"Eh!" said the Scotchman, with good-humored curiosity.  "Is it a
quarrel?  Nothing serious, I hope.  No revolvers and bowie-knives, man,
before breakfast, eh?"

"No," laughed the younger man.  "No!  To do Maruja justice, she
generally makes a fellow too preposterous to fight.  I see you don't
understand.  You're a stranger; I'm an old habitue of the house--let me
explain.  Both of these men are in love with Maruja; or, worse than
that, they firmly believe her to be in love with THEM."

"But Miss Maruja is the eldest daughter of our hostess, is she not?"
said the Scotchman; "and I understood from one of the young ladies that
the Captain had come down from the Fort particularly to pay court to
Miss Amita, the beauty."

"Possibly.  But that wouldn't prevent Maruja from flirting with him."

"Eh! but are you not mistaken, Mr. Raymond?  Certainly a more quiet,
modest, and demure young lassie I never met."

"That's because she sat out two waltzes with you, and let you do the
talking, while she simply listened."

The elder man's fresh color for an instant heightened, but he recovered
himself with a good-humored laugh.  "Likely--likely. She's a capital
good listener."

"You're not the first man that found her eloquent.  Stanton, your
banking friend, who never talks of anything but mines and stocks, says
she's the only woman who has any conversation; and we can all swear
that she never said two words to him the whole time she sat next to him
at dinner.  But she looked at him as if she had.  Why, man, woman, and
child all give her credit for any grace that pleases themselves.  And
why?  Because she's clever enough not to practice any one of them--as
graces.  I don't know the girl that claims less and gets more.  For
instance, you don't call her pretty?" ...

"Wait a bit.  Ye'll not get on so fast, my young friend; I'm not
prepared to say that she's not," returned the Scotchman, with
good-humored yet serious caution.

"But you would have been prepared yesterday, and have said it.  She can
produce the effect of the prettiest girl here, and without challenging
comparison.  Nobody thinks of her--everybody experiences her."

"You're an enthusiast, Mr. Raymond.  As an habitue of the house, of
course, you--"

"Oh, my time came with the rest," laughed the young man, with
unaffected frankness.  "It's about two years ago now."

"I see--you were not a marrying man."

"Pardon me--it was because I was."

The Scotchman looked at him curiously.

"Maruja is an heiress.  I am a mining engineer."

"But, my dear fellow, I thought that in your country--"

"In MY country, yes.  But we are standing on a bit of old Spain. This
land was given to Dona Maria Saltonstall's ancestors by Charles V.
Look around you.  This veranda, this larger shell of the ancient casa,
is the work of the old Salem whaling captain that she married, and is
all that is American here.  But the heart of the house, as well as the
life that circles around the old patio, is Spanish.  The Dona's family,
the Estudillos and Guitierrez, always looked down upon this alliance
with the Yankee captain, though it brought improvement to the land, and
increased its value forty-fold, and since his death ever opposed any
further foreign intervention.  Not that that would weigh much with
Maruja if she took a fancy to any one; Spanish as she is throughout, in
thought and grace and feature, there is enough of the old Salem
witches' blood in her to defy law and authority in following an
unhallowed worship.  There are no sons; she is the sole heiress of the
house and estate--though, according to the native custom, her sisters
will be separately portioned from the other property, which is very
large."

"Then the Captain might still make a pretty penny on Amita," said the
Scotchman.

"If he did not risk and lose it all on Maruja.  There is enough of the
old Spanish jealousy in the blood to make even the gentle Amita never
forgive his momentary defection."

Something in his manner made the Scotchman think that Raymond spoke
from baleful experience.  How else could this attractive young fellow,
educated abroad and a rising man in his profession, have failed to
profit by his contiguity to such advantages, and the fact of his being
an evident favorite?

"But with this opposition on the part of the relatives to any further
alliances with your countrymen, why does our hostess expose her
daughters to their fascinating influence?" said the elder man, glancing
at his companion.  "The girls seem to have the usual American freedom."

"Perhaps they are therefore the less likely to give it up to the first
man who asks them.  But the Spanish duenna still survives in the
family--the more awful because invisible.  It's a mysterious fact that
as soon as a fellow becomes particularly attached to any one--except
Maruja--he receives some intimation from Pereo."

"What! the butler?  That Indian-looking fellow?  A servant?"

"Pardon me--the mayordomo.  The old confidential servitor who stands in
loco parentis.  No one knows what he says.  If the victim appeals to
the mistress, she is indisposed; you know she has such bad health.  If
in his madness he makes a confidante of Maruja, that finishes him."

"How?"

"Why, he ends by transferring his young affections to her--with the
usual result."

"Then you don't think our friend the Captain has had this confidential
butler ask his intentions yet?"

"I don't think it will be necessary," said the other, dryly.

"Umph!  Meantime, the Captain has just vanished through yon shrubbery.
I suppose that's the end of the mysterious espionage you have
discovered.  No!  De'il take it! but there's that Frenchman popping out
of the myrtlebush.  How did the fellow get there?  And, bless me!
here's our lassie, too!"

"Yes!" said Raymond, in a changed voice, "It's Maruja!"

She had approached so noiselessly along the bank that bordered the
veranda, gliding from pillar to pillar as she paused before each to
search for some particular flower, that both men felt an uneasy
consciousness.  But she betrayed no indication of their presence by
look or gesture.  So absorbed and abstracted she seemed that, by a
common instinct, they both drew nearer the window, and silently waited
for her to pass or recognize them.

She halted a few paces off to fasten a flower in her girdle.  A small
youthful figure, in a pale yellow dress, lacking even the maturity of
womanly outline.  The full oval of her face, the straight line of her
back, a slight boyishness in the contour of her hips, the infantine
smallness of her sandaled feet and narrow hands, were all suggestive of
fresh, innocent, amiable youth--and nothing more.

Forgetting himself, the elder man mischievously crushed his companion
against the wall in mock virtuous indignation.  "Eh, sir," he
whispered, with an accent that broadened with his feelings.  "Eh, but
look at the puir wee lassie!  Will ye no be ashamed o' yerself for
putting the tricks of a Circe on sic a honest gentle bairn?  Why, man,
you'll be seein' the sign of a limb of Satan in a bit thing with the
mother's milk not yet out of her! She a flirt, speerin' at men, with
that modest downcast air?  I'm ashamed of ye, Mister Raymond.  She's
only thinking of her breakfast, puir thing, and not of yon callant.
Another sacrilegious word and I'll expose you to her.  Have ye no pity
on youth and innocence?"

"Let me up," groaned Raymond, feebly, "and I'll tell you how old she
is.  Hush--she's looking."

The two men straightened themselves.  She had, indeed, lifted her eyes
towards the window.  They were beautiful eyes, and charged with
something more than their own beauty.  With a deep brunette setting
even to the darkened cornea, the pupils were blue as the sky above
them.  But they were lit with another intelligence.  The soul of the
Salem whaler looked out of the passion-darkened orbits of the mother,
and was resistless.

She smiled recognition of the two men with sedate girlishness and a
foreign inclination of the head over the flowers she was holding. Her
straight, curveless mouth became suddenly charming with the parting of
her lips over her white teeth, and left the impress of the smile in a
lighting of the whole face even after it had passed. Then she moved
away.  At the same moment Garnier approached her.

"Come away, man, and have our walk," said the Scotchman, seizing
Raymond's arm.  "We'll not spoil that fellow's sport."

"No; but she will, I fear.  Look, Mr. Buchanan, if she hasn't given him
her flowers to carry to the house while she waits here for the Captain!"

"Come away, scoffer!" said Buchanan, good-humoredly, locking his arm in
the young man's and dragging him from the veranda towards the avenue,
"and keep your observations for breakfast."



CHAPTER II

In the mean time, the young officer, who had disappeared in the
shrubbery, whether he had or had not been a spectator of the scene,
exhibited some signs of agitation.  He walked rapidly on, occasionally
switching the air with a wand of willow, from which he had impatiently
plucked the leaves, through an alley of ceanothus, until he reached a
little thicket of evergreens, which seemed to oppose his further
progress.  Turning to one side, however, he quickly found an entrance
to a labyrinthine walk, which led him at last to an open space and a
rustic summer-house that stood beneath a gnarled and venerable
pear-tree.  The summerhouse was a quaint stockade of dark madrono
boughs thatched with red-wood bark, strongly suggestive of deeper
woodland shadow.  But in strange contrast, the floor, table, and
benches were thickly strewn with faded rose-leaves, scattered as if in
some riotous play of children.  Captain Carroll brushed them aside
hurriedly with his impatient foot, glanced around hastily, then threw
himself on the rustic bench at full length and twisted his mustache
between his nervous fingers.  Then he rose as suddenly, with a few
white petals impaled on his gilded spurs and stepped quickly into the
open sunlight.

He must have been mistaken!  Everything was quiet around him, the
far-off sound of wheels in the avenue came faintly, but nothing more.

His eye fell upon the pear-tree, and even in his preoccupation he was
struck with the signs of its extraordinary age.  Twisted out of all
proportion, and knotted with excrescences, it was supported by iron
bands and heavy stakes, as if to prop up its senile decay.  He tried to
interest himself in the various initials and symbols deeply carved in
bark, now swollen and half obliterated.  As he turned back to the
summer-house, he for the first time noticed that the ground rose behind
it into a long undulation, on the crest of which the same singular
profusion of rose-leaves were scattered. It struck him as being
strangely like a gigantic grave, and that the same idea had occurred to
the fantastic dispenser of the withered flowers.  He was still looking
at it, when a rustle in the undergrowth made his heart beat
expectantly.  A slinking gray shadow crossed the undulation and
disappeared in the thicket.  It was a coyote.  At any other time the
extraordinary appearance of this vivid impersonation of the wilderness,
so near a centre of human civilization and habitation, would have
filled him with wonder.  But he had room for only a single thought now.
Would SHE come?

Five minutes passed.  He no longer waited in the summer-house, but
paced impatiently before the entrance to the labyrinth.  Another five
minutes.  He was deceived, undoubtedly.  She and her sisters were
probably waiting for him and laughing at him on the lawn.  He ground
his heel into the clover, and threw his switch into the thicket.  Yet
he would give her one--only one moment more.

"Captain Carroll!"

The voice had been and was to HIM the sweetest in the world; but even a
stranger could not have resisted the spell of its musical inflection.
He turned quickly.  She was advancing towards him from the summer-house.

"Did you think I was coming that way--where everybody could follow me?"
she laughed, softly.  "No; I came through the thicket over there,"
indicating the direction with her flexible shoulder, "and nearly lost
my slipper and my eyes--look!"  She threw back the inseparable lace
shawl from her blond head, and showed a spray of myrtle clinging like a
broken wreath to her forehead.  The young officer remained gazing at
her silently.

"I like to hear you speak my name," he said, with a slight hesitation
in his breath.  "Say it again."

"Car-roll, Car-roll, Car-roll," she murmured gently to herself two or
three times, as if enjoying her own native trilling of the r's. "It's a
pretty name.  It sounds like a song.  Don Carroll, eh!  El Capitan Don
Carroll."

"But my first name is Henry," he said, faintly.

"'Enry--that's not so good.  Don Enrico will do.  But El Capitan
Carroll is best of all.  I must have it always: El Capitan Carroll!"

"Always?"  He colored like a boy.

"Why not?"  He was confusedly trying to look through her brown lashes;
she was parrying him with the steel of her father's glance. "Come!
Well!  Captain Carroll!  It was not to tell me your name--that I knew
already was pretty--Car-roll!" she murmured again, caressing him with
her lashes; "it was not for this that you asked me to meet you face to
face in this--cold"--she made a movement of drawing her lace over her
shoulders--"cold daylight.  That belonged to the lights and the dance
and the music of last night.  It is not for this you expect me to leave
my guests, to run away from Monsieur Garnier, who pays compliments, but
whose name is not pretty--from Mr. Raymond, who talks OF me when he
can't talk TO me. They will say, This Captain Carroll could say all
that before them."

"But if they knew," said the young officer, drawing closer to her with
a paling face but brightening eyes, "if they knew I had anything else
to say, Miss Saltonstall--something--pardon me--did I hurt your
hand?--something for HER alone--is there one of them that would have
the right to object?  Do not think me foolish, Miss Saltonstall--but--I
beg--I implore you to tell me before I say more."

"Who would have a right?" said Maruja, withdrawing her hand but not her
dangerous eyes.  "Who would dare forbid you talking to me of my sister?
I have told you that Amita is free--as we all are."

Captain Carroll fell back a few steps and gazed at her with a troubled
face.  "It is possible that you have misunderstood, Miss Saltonstall?"
he faltered.  "Do you still think it is Amita that I"--he stopped and
added passionately, "Do you remember what I told you?--have you
forgotten last night?"

"Last night was--last night!" said Maruja, slightly lifting her
shoulders.  "One makes love at night--one marries in daylight.  In the
music, in the flowers, in the moonlight, one says everything; in the
morning one has breakfast--when one is not asked to have councils of
war with captains and commandantes.  You would speak of my sister,
Captain Car-roll--go on.  Dona Amita Carroll sounds very, very pretty.
I shall not object."  She held out both her hands to him, threw her
head back, and smiled.

He seized her hands passionately.  "No, no! you shall hear me--you
shall understand me.  I love YOU, Maruja--you, and you alone.  God
knows I can not help it--God knows I would not help it if I could. Hear
me.  I will be calm.  No one can hear us where we stand.  I am not mad.
I am not a traitor!  I frankly admired your sister.  I came here to see
her.  Beyond that, I swear to you, I am guiltless to her--to you.  Even
she knows no more of me than that.  I saw you, Maruja.  From that
moment I have thought of nothing--dreamed of nothing else."

"That is--three, four, five days and one afternoon ago!  You see, I
remember.  And now you want--what?"

"To let me love you, and you only.  To let me be with you.  To let me
win you in time, as you should be won.  I am not mad, though I am
desperate.  I know what is due to your station and mine--even while I
dare to say I love you.  Let me hope, Maruja, I only ask to hope."

She looked at him until she had absorbed all the burning fever of his
eyes, until her ears tingled with his passionate voice, and then--she
shook her head.

"It can not be, Carroll--no! never!"

He drew himself up under the blow with such simple and manly dignity
that her eyes dropped for the moment.  "There is another, then?" he
said, sadly.

"There is no one I care for better than you.  No!  Do not be foolish.
Let me go.  I tell you that because you can be nothing to me--you
understand, to ME.  To my sister Amita, yes."

The young soldier raised his head coldly.  "I have pressed you hard,
Miss Saltonstall--too hard, I know, for a man who has already had his
answer; but I did not deserve this.  Good-by."

"Stop," she said, gently.  "I meant not to hurt you, Captain Carroll.
If I had, it is not thus I would have done.  I need not have met you
here.  Would you have loved me the less if I had avoided this meeting?"

He could not reply.  In the depths of his miserable heart, he knew that
he would have loved her the same.

"Come," she said, laying her hand softly on his arm, "do not be angry
with me for putting you back only five days to where you were when you
first entered our house.  Five days is not much of happiness or sorrow
to forget, is it, Carroll--Captain Carroll?" Her voice died away in a
faint sigh.  "Do not be angry with me, if--knowing you could be nothing
more--I wanted you to love my sister, and my sister to love you.  We
should have been good friends--such good friends."

"Why do you say, 'Knowing it could he nothing more'?" said Carroll,
grasping her hand suddenly.  "In the name of Heaven, tell me what you
mean!"

"I mean I can not marry unless I marry one of my mother's race. That is
my mother's wish, and the will of her relations.  You are an American,
not of Spanish blood."

"But surely this is not your determination?"

She shrugged her shoulders.  "What would you?  It is the determination
of my people."

"But knowing this"--he stopped; the quick blood rose to his face.

"Go on, Captain Carroll.  You would say, Knowing this, why did I not
warn you?  Why did I not say to you when we first met, You have come to
address my sister; do not fall in love with me--I can not marry a
foreigner."

"You are cruel, Maruja.  But, if that is all, surely this prejudice can
be removed?  Why, your mother married a foreigner--an American."

"Perhaps that is why," said the girl, quietly.  She cast down her long
lashes, and with the point of her satin slipper smoothed out the soft
leaves of the clover at her feet.  "Listen; shall I tell you the story
of our house?  Stop! some one is coming.  Don't move; remain as you
are.  If you care for me, Carroll, collect yourself, and don't let that
man think he has found US ridiculous."  Her voice changed from its tone
of slight caressing pleading to one of suppressed pride.  "HE will not
laugh much, Captain Carroll; truly, no."

The figure of Garnier, bright, self-possessed, courteous, appeared at
the opening of the labyrinth.  Too well-bred to suggest, even in
complimentary raillery, a possible sentimental situation, his
politeness went further.  It was so kind in them to guide an awkward
stranger by their voices to the places where he could not stupidly
intrude!

"You are just in time to interrupt or to hear a story that I have been
threatening to tell," she said, composedly; "an old Spanish legend of
this house.  You are in the majority now, you two, and can stop me if
you choose.  Thank you.  I warn you it is stupid; it isn't new; but it
has the excuse of being suggested by this very spot."  She cast a quick
look of subtle meaning at Carroll, and throughout her recital appealed
more directly to him, in a manner delicately yet sufficiently marked to
partly soothe his troubled spirit.

"Far back, in the very old times, Caballeros," said Maruja, standing by
the table in mock solemnity, and rapping upon it with her fan, "this
place was the home of the coyote.  Big and little, father and mother,
Senor and Senora Coyotes, and the little muchacho coyotes had their
home in the dark canada, and came out over these fields, yellow with
wild oats and red with poppies, to seek their prey.  They were happy.
For why?  They were the first; they had no history, you comprehend, no
tradition.  They married as they liked" (with a glance at Carroll),
"nobody objected; they increased and multiplied.  But the plains were
fertile; the game was plentiful; it was not fit that it should be for
the beasts alone.  And so, in the course of time, an Indian chief, a
heathen, Koorotora, built his wigwam here."

"I beg your pardon," said Garnier, in apparent distress, "but I caught
the gentleman's name imperfectly."

Fully aware that the questioner only wished to hear again her musical
enunciation of the consonants, she repeated, "Koorotora," with an
apologetic glance at Carroll, and went on.  "This gentleman had no
history or tradition to bother him, either; whatever Senor Coyote
thought of the matter, he contented himself with robbing Senor
Koorotora's wigwam when he could, and skulking around the Indian's camp
at night.  The old chief prospered, and made many journeys round the
country, but always kept his camp here.  This lasted until the time
when the holy Fathers came from the South, and Portala, as you have all
read, uplifted the wooden Cross on the sea-coast over there, and left
it for the heathens to wonder at. Koorotora saw it on one of his
journeys, and came back to the canada full of this wonder.  Now,
Koorotora had a wife."

"Ah, we shall commence now.  We are at the beginning.  This is better
than Senora Coyota," said Garnier, cheerfully.

"Naturally, she was anxious to see the wonderful object.  She saw it,
and she saw the holy Fathers, and they converted her against the
superstitious heathenish wishes of her husband.  And more than that,
they came here--"

"And converted the land also; is it not so?  It was a lovely site for a
mission," interpolated Garnier, politely.

"They built a mission and brought as many of Koorotora's people as they
could into the sacred fold.  They brought them in in a queer fashion
sometimes, it is said; dragoons from the Presidio, Captain Carroll,
lassoing them and bringing them in at the tails of their horses.  All
except Koorotora.  He defied them; he cursed them and his wife in his
wicked heathenish fashion, and said that they too should lose the
mission through the treachery of some woman, and that the coyote should
yet prowl through the ruined walls of the church.  The holy Fathers
pitied the wicked man--and built themselves a lovely garden.  Look at
that pear-tree!  There is all that is left of it!"

She turned with a mock heroic gesture, and pointed her fan to the
pear-tree.  Garnier lifted his hands in equally simulated wonder. A
sudden recollection of the coyote of the morning recurred to Carroll
uneasily.  "And the Indians," he said, with an effort to shake off the
feeling; "they, too, have vanished."

"All that remained of them is in yonder mound.  It is the grave of the
chief and his people.  He never lived to see the fulfillment of his
prophecy.  For it was a year after his death that our ancestor, Manuel
Guitierrez, came from old Spain to the Presidio with a grant of twenty
leagues to settle where he chose.  Dona Maria Guitierrez took a fancy
to the canada.  But it was a site already in possession of the Holy
Church.  One night, through treachery, it was said, the guards were
withdrawn and the Indians entered the mission, slaughtered the lay
brethren, and drove away the priests. The Commandant at the Presidio
retook the place from the heathens, but on representation to the
Governor that it was indefensible for the peaceful Fathers without a
large military guard, the official ordered the removal of the mission
to Santa Cruz, and Don Manuel settled his twenty leagues grant in the
canada.  Whether he or Dona Maria had anything to do with the Indian
uprising, no one knows; but Father Pedro never forgave them.  He is
said to have declared at the foot of the altar that the curse of the
Church was on the land, and that it should always pass into the hands
of the stranger."

"And that was long ago, and the property is still in the family," said
Carroll, hurriedly, answering Maruja's eyes.

"In the last hundred years there have been no male heirs," continued
Maruja, still regarding Carroll.  "When my mother, who was the eldest
daughter, married Don Jose Saltonstall against the wishes of the
family, it was said that the curse would fall.  Sure enough,
Caballeros, it was that year that the forged grants of Micheltorrena
were discovered; and in our lawsuit your government, Captain, handed
over ten leagues of the llano land to the Doctor West, our neighbor."

"Ah, the gray-headed gentleman who lunched here the other day?  You are
friends, then?  You bear no malice?" said Garnier.

"What would you?" said Maruja, with a slight shrug of her shoulders.
"He paid his money to the forger.  Your corregidores upheld him, and
said it was no forgery," she continued, to Carroll.

In spite of the implied reproach, Carroll felt relieved.  He began to
be impatient of Garnier's presence, and longed to renew his suit.
Perhaps his face showed something of this, for Maruja added, with mock
demureness, "It's always dreadful to be the eldest sister; but think
what it is to be in the direct line of a curse! Now, there's
Amita--SHE'S free to do as she likes, with no family responsibility;
while poor me!"  She dropped her eyes, but not until they had again
sought and half-reproved the brightening eyes of Carroll.

"But," said Garnier, with a sudden change from his easy security and
courteous indifference to an almost harsh impatience, "you do not mean
to say, Mademoiselle, that you have the least belief in this rubbish,
this ridiculous canard?"

Maruja's straight mouth quickly tightened over her teeth.  She shot a
significant glance at Carroll, but instantly resumed her former manner.

"It matters little what a foolish girl like myself believes.  The rest
of the family, even the servants and children, all believe it. It is a
part of their religion.  Look at these flowers around the pear-tree,
and scattered on that Indian mound.  They regularly find their way
there on saints' days and festas.  THEY are not rubbish, Monsieur
Garnier; they are propitiatory sacrifices.  Pereo would believe that a
temblor would swallow up the casa if we should ever forego these
customary rites.  Is it a mere absurdity that forced my father to build
these modern additions around the heart of the old adobe house, leaving
it untouched, so that the curse might not be fulfilled even by
implication?"

She had assumed an air of such pretty earnestness and passion; her
satin face was illuminated as by some softly sensuous light within more
bewildering than mere color, that Garnier, all devoted eyes and
courteous blandishment, broke out: "But this curse must fall harmlessly
before the incarnation of blessing; Miss Saltonstall has no more to
fear than the angels.  She is the one predestined through her charm,
through her goodness, to lift it forever."

Carroll could not have helped echoing the aspirations of his rival, had
not the next words of his mistress thrilled him with superstitious
terror.

"A thousand thanks, Senor.  Who knows?  But I shall have warning when
it falls.  A day or two before the awful invader arrives, a coyote
suddenly appears in broad daylight, mysteriously, near the casa.  This
midnight marauder, now banished to the thickest canyon, comes again to
prowl around the home of his ancestors.  Caramba! Senor Captain, what
are you staring at?  You frighten me!  Stop it, I say!"

She had turned upon him, stamping her little foot in quite a
frightened, childlike way.

"Nothing," laughed Carroll, the quick blood returning to his cheek.
"But you must not be angry with one for being quite carried away with
your dramatic intensity.  By Jove!  I thought I could see the WHOLE
thing while you were speaking--the old Indian, the priest, and the
coyote!"  His eyes sparkled.  The wild thought had occurred to him that
perhaps, in spite of himself, he was the young woman's predestined
fate; and in the very selfishness of his passion he smiled at the mere
material loss of lands and prestige that would follow it.  "Then the
coyote has always preceded some change in the family fortunes?" he
asked, boldly.

"On my mother's wedding-day," said Maruja, in a lower voice, "after the
party had come from church to supper in the old casa, my father asked,
'What dog is that under the table?'  When they lifted the cloth to
look, a coyote rushed from the very midst of the guests and dashed out
across the patio.  No one knew how or when he entered."

"Heaven grant that we do not find he has eaten our breakfast!" said
Garnier, gayly, "for I judge it is waiting us.  I hear your sister's
voice among the others crossing the lawn.  Shall we tear ourselves away
from the tombs of our ancestors, and join them?"

"Not as I am looking now, thank you," said Maruja, throwing the lace
over her head.  "I shall not submit myself to a comparison of their
fresher faces and toilets by you two gentlemen.  Go you both and join
them.  I shall wait and say an Ave for the soul of Koorotora, and slip
back alone the way I came."

She had steadily evaded the pleading glance of Carroll, and though her
bright face and unblemished toilet showed the inefficiency of her
excuse, it was evident that her wish to be alone was genuine and
without coquetry.  They could only lift their hats and turn regretfully
away.

As the red cap of the young officer disappeared amidst the evergreen
foliage, the young woman uttered a faint sigh, which she repeated a
moment after as a slight nervous yawn.  Then she opened and shut her
fan once or twice, striking the sticks against her little pale palm,
and then, gathering the lace under her oval chin with one hand, and
catching her fan and skirt with the other, bent her head and dipped
into the bushes.  She came out on the other side near a low fence, that
separated the park from a narrow lane which communicated with the high
road beyond.  As she neared the fence, a slinking figure limped along
the lane before her.  It was the tramp of the early morning.

They raised their heads at the same moment and their eyes met.  The
tramp, in that clearer light, showed a spare, but bent figure, roughly
clad in a miner's shirt and canvas trousers, splashed and streaked with
soil, and half hidden in a ragged blue cast-off army overcoat lazily
hanging from one shoulder.  His thin sun-burnt face was not without a
certain sullen, suspicious intelligence, and a look of half-sneering
defiance.  He stopped, as a startled, surly animal might have stopped
at some unusual object, but did not exhibit any other discomposure.
Maruja stopped at the same moment on her side of the fence.

The tramp looked at her deliberately, and then slowly lowered his eyes.
"I'm looking for the San Jose road, hereabouts.  Ye don't happen to
know it?" he said, addressing himself to the top of the fence.

It had been said that it was not Maruja's way to encounter man, woman,
or child, old or young, without an attempt at subjugation. Strong in
her power and salient with fascination, she leaned gently over the
fence, and with the fan raised to her delicate ear, made him repeat his
question under the soft fire of her fringed eyes. He did so, but
incompletely, and with querulous laziness.

"Lookin'--for--San Jose road--here'bouts."

"The road to San Jose," said Maruja, with gentle slowness, as if not
unwilling to protract the conversation, "is about two miles from here.
It is the high road to the left fronting the plain. There is another
way, if--"

"Don't want it!  Mornin'."

He dropped his head suddenly forward, and limped away in the sunlight.



CHAPTER III

Breakfast, usually a movable feast at La Mision Perdida, had been
prolonged until past midday; the last of the dance guests had flown,
and the home party--with the exception of Captain Carroll, who had
returned to duty at his distant post--were dispersing; some as riding
cavalcades to neighboring points of interest; some to visit certain
notable mansions which the wealth of a rapid civilization had erected
in that fertile valley.  One of these in particular, the work of a
breathless millionaire, was famous for the spontaneity of its growth
and the reckless extravagance of its appointments.

"If you go to Aladdin's Palace," said Maruja, from the top step of the
south porch, to a wagonette of guests, "after you've seen the stables
with mahogany fittings for one hundred horses, ask Aladdin to show you
the enchanted chamber, inlaid with California woods and paved with gold
quartz."

"We would have a better chance if the Princess of China would only go
with us," pleaded Garnier, gallantly.

"The Princess will stay at home with her mother, like a good girl,"
returned Maruja, demurely.

"A bad shot of Garnier's this time," whispered Raymond to Buchanan, as
the vehicle rolled away with them.  "The Princess is not likely to
visit Aladdin again."

"Why?"

"The last time she was there, Aladdin was a little too Persian in his
extravagance: offered her his house, stables, and himself."

"Not a bad catch--why, he's worth two millions, I hear."

"Yes; but his wife is as extravagant as himself."

"His WIFE, eh?  Ah, are you serious; or must you say something
derogatory of the lassie's admirers too?" said Buchanan, playfully
threatening him with his cane.  "Another word, and I'll throw you from
the wagon."

After their departure, the outer shell of the great house fell into a
profound silence, so hollow and deserted that one might have thought
the curse of Koorotora had already descended upon it.  Dead leaves of
roses and fallen blossoms from the long line of vine-wreathed columns
lay thick on the empty stretch of brown veranda, or rustled and crept
against the sides of the house, where the regular breath of the
afternoon "trades" began to arise.  A few cardinal flowers fell like
drops of blood before the open windows of the vacant ball-room, in
which the step of a solitary servant echoed faintly.  It was Maruja's
maid, bringing a note to her young mistress, who, in a flounced morning
dress, leaned against the window.  Maruja took it, glanced at it
quietly, folded it in a long fold, and put it openly in her belt.
Captain Carroll, from whom it came, might have carried one of his
despatches as methodically. The waiting-woman noticed the act, and was
moved to suggest some more exciting confidences.

"The Dona Maruja has, without doubt, noticed the bouquet on her
dressing-room table from the Senor Garnier?"

The Dona Maruja had.  The Dona Maruja had also learned with pain that,
bribed by Judas-like coin, Faquita had betrayed the secrets of her
wardrobe to the extent of furnishing a ribbon from a certain yellow
dress to the Senor Buchanan to match with a Chinese fan. This was
intolerable!

Faquita writhed in remorse, and averred that through this solitary act
she had dishonored her family.

The Dona Maruja, however, since it was so, felt that the only thing
left to do was to give her the polluted dress, and trust that the Devil
might not fly away with her.

Leaving the perfectly consoled Faquita, Maruja crossed the large hall,
and, opening a small door, entered a dark passage through the thick
adobe wall of the old casa, and apparently left the present century
behind her.  A peaceful atmosphere of the past surrounded her not only
in the low vaulted halls terminating in grilles or barred windows; not
only in the square chambers whose dark rich but scanty furniture was
only a foil to the central elegance of the lace-bordered bed and
pillows; but in a certain mysterious odor of dried and desiccated
religious respectability that penetrated everywhere, and made the
grateful twilight redolent of the generations of forgotten Guitierrez
who had quietly exhaled in the old house.  A mist as of incense and
flowers that had lost their first bloom veiled the vista of the long
corridor, and made the staring blue sky, seen through narrow windows
and loopholes, glitter like mirrors let into the walls.  The chamber
assigned to the young ladies seemed half oratory and half
sleeping-room, with a strange mingling of the convent in the bare white
walls, hung only with crucifixes and religious emblems, and of the
seraglio in the glimpses of lazy figures, reclining in the deshabille
of short silken saya, low camisa, and dropping slippers.  In a broad
angle of the corridor giving upon the patio, its balustrade hung with
brightly colored serapes and shawls, surrounded by voluble domestics
and relations, the mistress of the casa half reclined in a hammock and
gave her noonday audience.

Maruja pushed her way through the clustered stools and cushions to her
mother's side, kissed her on the forehead, and then lightly perched
herself like a white dove on the railing.  Mrs. Saltonstall, a dark,
corpulent woman, redeemed only from coarseness by a certain softness of
expression and refinement of gesture, raised her heavy brown eyes to
her daughter's face.

"You have not been to bed, Mara?"

"No, dear.  Do I look it?"

"You must lie down presently.  They tell me that Captain Carroll
returned suddenly this morning."

"Do you care?"

"Who knows?  Amita does not seem to fancy Jose, Esteban, Jorge, or any
of her cousins.  She won't look at Juan Estudillo.  The Captain is not
bad.  He is of the government.  He is--"

"Not more than ten leagues from here," said Maruja, playing with the
Captain's note in her belt.  "You can send for him, dear little mother.
He will be glad."

"You will ever talk lightly--like your father!  She was not then
grieved--our Amita--eh?"

"She and Dorotea and the two Wilsons went off with Raymond and your
Scotch friend in the wagonette.  She did not cry--to Raymond."

"Good," said Mrs. Saltonstall, leaning back in her hammock. "Raymond is
an old friend.  You had better take your siesta now, child, to be
bright for dinner.  I expect a visitor this afternoon--Dr. West."

"Again!  What will Pereo say, little mother?"

"Pereo," said the widow, sitting up again in her hammock, with
impatience, "Pereo is becoming intolerable.  The man is as mad as Don
Quixote; it is impossible to conceal his eccentric impertinence and
interference from strangers, who can not understand his confidential
position in our house or his long service.  There are no more
mayordomos, child.  The Vallejos, the Briones, the Castros, do without
them now.  Dr. West says, wisely, they are ridiculous survivals of the
patriarchal system."

"And can be replaced by intelligent strangers," interrupted Maruja,
demurely.

"The more easily if the patriarchal system has not been able to
preserve the respect due from children to parents.  No, Maruja! No; I
am offended.  Do not touch me!  And your hair is coming down, and your
eyes have rings like owls.  You uphold this fanatical Pereo because he
leaves YOU alone and stalks your poor sisters and their escorts like
the Indian, whose blood is in his veins.  The saints only can tell if
he did not disgust this Captain Carroll into flight.  He believes
himself the sole custodian of the honor of our family--that he has a
sacred mission from this Don Fulano of Koorotora to avert its fate.
Without doubt he keeps up his delusions with aguardiente, and passes
for a prophet among the silly peons and servants.  He frightens the
children with his ridiculous stories, and teaches them to decorate that
heathen mound as if it were a shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows.  He was
almost rude to Dr. West yesterday."

"But you have encouraged him in his confidential position here," said
Maruja.  "You forget, my mother, how you got him to 'duena' Euriqueta
with the Colonel Brown; how you let him frighten the young Englishman
who was too attentive to Dorotea; how you set him even upon poor
Raymond, and failed so dismally that I had to take him myself in hand."

"But if I choose to charge him with explanations that I can not make
myself without derogating from the time-honored hospitality of the
casa, that is another thing.  It is not," said Dona Maria, with a
certain massive dignity, that, inconsistent as it was with the weakness
of her argument, was not without impressiveness, "it is not yet,
Blessed Santa Maria, that we are obliged to take notice ourself of the
pretensions of every guest beneath our roof like the match-making,
daughter-selling English and Americans.  And THEN Pereo had tact and
discrimination.  Now he is mad!  There are strangers and strangers.
The whole valley is full of them--one can discriminate, since the old
families year by year are growing less."

"Surely not," said Maruja, innocently.  "There is the excellent
Ramierrez, who has lately almost taken him a wife from the singing-hall
in San Francisco; he may yet be snatched from the fire.  There is the
youthful Jose Castro, the sole padrono of our national bull-fight at
Soquel, the famous horse-breaker, and the winner of I know not how many
races.  And have we not Vincente Peralta, who will run, it is said, for
the American Congress.  He can read and write--truly I have a letter
from him here."  She turned back the folded slip of Captain Carroll's
note and discovered another below.

Mrs. Saltonstall tapped her daughter's hand with her fan.  "You jest at
them, yet you uphold Pereo!  Go, now, and sleep yourself into a better
frame of mind.  Stop!  I hear the Doctor's horse. Run and see that
Pereo receives him properly."

Maruja had barely entered the dark corridor when she came upon the
visitor,--a gray, hard-featured man of sixty,--who had evidently
entered without ceremony.  "I see you did not wait to be announced,"
she said, sweetly.  "My mother will be flattered by your impatience.
You will find her in the patio."

"Pereo did not announce me, as he was probably still under the effect
of the aguardiente he swallowed yesterday," said the Doctor, dryly.  "I
met him outside the tienda on the highway the other night, talking to a
pair of cut-throats that I would shoot on sight."

"The mayordomo has many purchases to make, and must meet a great many
people," said Maruju.  "What would you?  We can not select HIS
acquaintances; we can hardly choose our own," she added, sweetly.

The Doctor hesitated, as if to reply, and then, with a grim
"Good-morning," passed on towards the patio.  Maruja did not follow
him. Her attention was suddenly absorbed by a hitherto unnoticed
motionless figure, that seemed to be hiding in the shadow of an angle
of the passage, as if waiting for her to pass.  The keen eyes of the
daughter of Joseph Saltonstall were not deceived.  She walked directly
towards the figure, and said, sharply, "Pereo!"

The figure came hesitatingly forward into the light of the grated
window.  It was that of an old man, still tall and erect, though the
hair had disappeared from his temples, and hung in two or three
straight, long dark elf-locks on his neck.  His face, over which one of
the bars threw a sinister shadow, was the yellow of a dried
tobacco-leaf, and veined as strongly.  His garb was a strange mingling
of the vaquero and the ecclesiastic--velvet trousers, open from the
knee down, and fringed with bullion buttons; a broad red sash around
his waist, partly hidden by a long, straight chaqueta; with a circular
sacerdotal cape of black broadcloth slipped over his head through a
slit-like opening braided with gold.  His restless yellow eyes fell
before the young girl's; and the stiff, varnished, hard-brimmed
sombrero he held in his wrinkled hands trembled.

"You are spying again, Pereo," said Maruja, in another dialect than the
one she had used to her mother.  "It is unworthy of my father's trusted
servant."

"It is that man--that coyote, Dona Maruja, that is unworthy of your
father, of your mother, of YOU!" he gesticulated, in a fierce whisper.
"I, Pereo, do not spy.  I follow, follow the track of the prowling,
stealing brute until I run him down.  Yes, it was I, Pereo, who warned
your father he would not be content with the half of the land he stole!
It was I, Pereo, who warned your mother that each time he trod the soil
of La Mision Perdida he measured the land he could take away!"  He
stopped pantingly, with the insane abstraction of a fixed idea
glittering in his eyes.

"And it was YOU, Pereo," she said, caressingly, laying her soft hand on
his heaving breast, "YOU who carried me in your arms when I was a
child.  It was you, Pereo, who took me before you on your pinto horse
to the rodeo, when no one knew it but ourselves, my Pereo, was it not?"
He nodded his head violently.  "It was you who showed me the gallant
caballeros, the Pachecos, the Castros, the Alvarados, the Estudillos,
the Peraltas, the Vallejos."  His head kept time with each name as the
fire dimmed in his wet eyes.  "You made me promise I would not forget
them for the Americanos who were here.  Good!  That was years ago!  I
am older now.  I have seen many Americans.  Well, I am still free!"

He caught her hand, and raised it to his lips with a gesture almost
devotional.  His eyes softened; as the exaltation of passion passed,
his voice dropped into the querulousness of privileged age. "Ah,
yes!--you, the first-born, the heiress--of a verity, yes!  You were
ever a Guitierrez.  But the others?  Eh, where are they now? And it was
always: 'Eh, Pereo, what shall we do to-day?  Pereo, good Pereo, we are
asked to ride here and there; we are expected to visit the new people
in the valley--what say you, Pereo?  Who shall we dine to-day?'  Or:
'Enquire me of this or that strange caballero--and if we may speak.'
Ah, it is but yesterday that Amita would say: 'Lend me thine own horse,
Pereo, that I may outstrip this swaggering Americano that clings ever
to my side,' ha! ha!  Or the grave Dorotea would whisper: 'Convey to
this Senor Presumptuous Pomposo that the daughters of Guitierrez do not
ride alone with strangers!'  Or even the little Liseta would say, he!
he!  'Why does the stranger press my foot in his great hand when he
helps me into the saddle?  Tell him that is not the way, Pereo.' Ha!
ha!"  He laughed childishly, and stopped.  "And why does Senorita Amita
now--look--complain that Pereo, old Pereo, comes between her and this
Senor Raymond---this maquinista?  Eh, and why does SHE, the lady
mother, the Castellana, shut Pereo from her councils?" he went on, with
rising excitement.  "What are these secret meetings, eh?--what these
appointments, alone with this Judas--without the family--without ME!"

"Hearken, Pereo," said the young girl, again laying her hand on the old
man's shoulder; "you have spoken truly--but you forget--the years pass.
These are no longer strangers; old friends have gone--these have taken
their place.  My father forgave the Doctor--why can not you?  For the
rest, believe in me--me--Maruja"--she dramatically touched her heart
over the international complications of the letters of Captain Carroll
and Peralta.  "I will see that the family honor does not suffer.  And
now, good Pereo, calm thyself.  Not with aguardiente, but with a bottle
of old wine from the Mision refectory that I will send to thee.  It was
given to me by thy friend, Padre Miguel, and is from the old vines that
were here.  Courage, Pereo!  And thou sayest that Amita complains that
thou comest between her and Raymond.  So!  What matter?  Let it cheer
thy heart to know that I have summoned the Peraltas, the Pachecos, the
Estudillos, all thy old friends, to dine here to-day. Thou wilt hear
the old names, even if the faces are young to thee. Courage!  Do thy
duty, old friend; let them see that the hospitality of La Mision
Perdida does not grow old, if its mayordomo does.  Faquita will bring
thee the wine.  No; not that way; thou needest not pass the patio, nor
meet that man again. Here, give me thy hand.  I will lead thee.  It
trembles, Pereo! These are not the sinews that only two years ago
pulled down the bull at Soquel with thy single lasso!  Why, look!  I
can drag thee; see!" and with a light laugh and a boyish gesture, she
half pulled, half dragged him along, until their voices were lost in
the dark corridor.

Maruja kept her word.  When the sun began to cast long shadows along
the veranda, not only the outer shell of La Mision Perdida, but the
dark inner heart of the old casa, stirred with awakened life.  Single
horsemen and carriages began to arrive; and, mingled with the modern
turnouts of the home party and the neighboring Americans, were a few of
the cumbrous vehicles and chariots of fifty years ago, drawn by gayly
trapped mules with bizarre postilions, and occasionally an outrider.
Dark faces looked from the balcony of the patio, a light cloud of
cigarette-smoke made the dark corridors the more obscure, and mingled
with the forgotten incense.  Bare-headed pretty women, with roses
starring their dark hair, wandered with childish curiosity along the
broad veranda and in and out of the French windows that opened upon the
grand saloon. Scrupulously shaved men with olive complexion, stout men
with accurately curving whiskers meeting at their dimpled chins,
lounged about with a certain unconscious dignity that made them
contentedly indifferent to any novelty of their surroundings.  For a
while the two races kept mechanically apart; but, through the tactful
gallantry of Garnier, the cynical familiarity of Raymond, and the
impulsive recklessness of Aladdin, who had forsaken his enchanted
Palace on the slightest of invitations, and returned with the party in
the hope of again seeing the Princess of China, an interchange of
civilities, of gallantries, and even of confidences, at last took
place.  Jovita Castro had heard (who had not?) of the wonders of
Aladdin's Palace, and was it of actual truth that the ladies had a
bouquet and a fan to match their dress presented to them every morning,
and that the gentlemen had a champagne cocktail sent to their rooms
before breakfast?  "Just you come, Miss, and bring your father and your
brothers, and stay a week and you'll see," responded Aladdin,
gallantly.  "Hold on!  What's your father's first name?  I'll send a
team over there for you to-morrow."  "And is it true that you
frightened the handsome Captain Carroll away from Amita?" said Dolores
Briones, over the edge of her fan to Raymond.  "Perfectly," said
Raymond, with ingenuous frankness.  "I made it a matter of life or
death.  He was a soldier, and naturally preferred the former as giving
him a better chance for promotion." "Ah! we thought it was Maruja you
liked best."  "That was two years ago," said Raymond, gravely.  "And
you Americanos can change in that time?"  "I have just experienced that
it can be done in less," he responded, over the fan, with bewildering
significance.  Nor were these confidences confined to only one
nationality.  "I always thought you Spanish gentlemen were very dark,
and wore long mustaches and a cloak," said pretty little Miss Walker,
gazing frankly into the smooth round face of the eldest Pacheco--"why,
you are as fair as I am,"  "Eaf I tink that, I am for ever mizzarable,"
he replied, with grave melancholy.  In the dead silence that followed
he was enabled to make his decorous point.  "Because I shall not ezcape
ze fate of Narcissus."  Mr. Buchanan, with the unrestrained and
irresponsible enjoyment of a traveler, entered fully into the spirit of
the scene.  He even found words of praise for Aladdin, whose
extravagance had at first seemed to him almost impious.  "Eh, but I'm
not prepared to say he is a fool, either," he remarked to his friend
the San Francisco banker.  "Those who try to pick him up for one,"
returned the banker, "will find themselves mistaken.  His is the
prodigality that loosens others' purse-strings besides his own,
Everybody contents himself with criticising his way of spending money,
but is ready to follow his way of making it."

The dinner was more formal, and when the mistress of the house, massive
in black silk, velvet and gold embroidery, moved like a pageant to the
head of her table, where she remained like a sacerdotal effigy, not
even the presence of the practical Scotchman at her side could remove
the prevailing sense of restraint.  For a while the conversation of the
relatives might have been brought with them in their antique vehicles
of fifty years ago, so faded, so worn, and so springless it was.
General Pico related the festivities at Monterey, on the occasion of
the visit of Sir George Simpson early in the present century, of which
he was an eyewitness, with great precision of detail.  Don Juan
Estudillo was comparatively frivolous, with anecdotes of Louis
Philippe, whom he had seen in Paris.  Far-seeing Pedro Guitierrez was
gloomily impressed with a Mongolian invasion of California by the
Chinese, in which the prevailing religion would be supplanted by
heathen temples, and polygamy engrafted on the Constitution.  Everybody
agreed however, that the vital question of the hour was the settlement
of land titles--Americans who claimed under preemption and the native
holders of Spanish grants were equally of the opinion.

In the midst of this the musical voice of Maruja was heard saying,
"What is a tramp?"

Raymond, on her right, was ready but not conclusive.

A tramp, if he could sing, would be a troubadour; if he could pray,
would be a pilgrim friar--in either case a natural object of womanly
solicitude.  But as he could do neither, he was simply a curse.

"And you think that is not an object of womanly solicitude?  But that
does not tell me WHAT he is."

A dozen gentlemen, swept in the radius of those softly-inquiring eyes,
here started to explain.  From them it appeared that there was no such
thing in California as a tramp, and there were also a dozen varieties
of tramp in California.

"But is he always very uncivil?" asked Maruja.

Again there were conflicting opinions.  You might have to shoot him on
sight, and you might have him invariably run from you.  When the
question was finally settled, Maruja was found to have become absorbed
in conversation with some one else.

Amita, a taller copy of Maruja, and more regularly beautiful, had built
up a little pile of bread crumbs between herself and Raymond, and was
listening to him with a certain shy, girlish interest that was as
inconsistent with the serene regularity of her face as Maruja's
self-possessed, subtle intelligence was incongruous to her youthful
figure.  Raymond's voice, when he addressed Amita, was low and earnest;
not from any significance of matter, but from its frank confidential
quality.

"They are discussing the new railroad project, and your relations are
all opposed to it; to-morrow they will each apply privately to Aladdin
for the privilege of subscribing."

"I have never seen a railroad," said Amita, slightly coloring; "but you
are an engineer, and I know they must be some thing very clever."

Notwithstanding the coolness of the night, a full moon drew the guests
to the veranda, where coffee was served, and where, mysteriously
muffled in cloaks and shawls, the party took upon itself the appearance
of groups of dominoed masqueraders, scattered along the veranda and on
the broad steps of the porch in gypsy-like encampments, from whose
cloaked shadow the moonlight occasionally glittered upon a varnished
boot or peeping satin slipper.  Two or three of these groups had
resolved themselves into detached couples, who wandered down the acacia
walk to the sound of a harp in the grand saloon or the occasional
uplifting of a thin Spanish tenor.  Two of these couples were Maruja
and Garnier, followed by Amita and Raymond.

"You are restless to-night, Maruja," said Amita, shyly endeavoring to
make a show of keeping up with her sister's boyish stride, in spite of
Raymond's reluctance.  "You are paying for your wakefulness to-day."

The same idea passed through the minds of both men.  She was missing
the excitement of Captain Carroll's presence.

"The air is so refreshing away from the house," responded Maruja, with
a bright energy that belied any suggestion of fatigue or moral
disquietude.  "I'm tired of running against those turtle-doves in the
walks and bushes.  Let us keep on to the lane.  If you are tired, Mr.
Raymond will give you his arm."

They kept on, led by the indomitable little figure, who, for once, did
not seem to linger over the attentions, both piquant and tender, with
which Garnier improved his opportunity.  Given a shadowy lane, a
lovers' moon, a pair of bright and not unkindly eyes, a charming and
not distant figure--what more could he want? Yet he wished she hadn't
walked so fast.  One might be vivacious, audacious, brilliant, at an
Indian trot; but impassioned--never! The pace increased; they were
actually hurrying.  More than that, Maruja had struck into a little
trot; her lithe body swaying from side to side, her little feet
straight as an arrow before her; accompanying herself with a quaint
musical chant, which she obligingly explained had been taught her as a
child by Pereo.  They stopped only at the hedge, where she had that
morning encountered the tramp.

There is little doubt that the rest of the party was disconcerted:
Amita, whose figure was not adapted to this Camilla-like exercise;
Raymond, who was annoyed at the poor girl's discomfiture; and Garnier,
who had lost a golden opportunity, with the faint suspicion of having
looked ridiculous.  Only Maruja's eyes, or rather the eyes of her
lamented father, seemed to enjoy it.

"You are too effeminate," she said, leaning against the fence, and
shading her eyes with her fan, as she glanced around in the staring
moonlight.  "Civilization has taken away your legs.  A man ought to be
able to trust to his feet all day, and to nothing else."

"In fact--a tramp," suggested Raymond.

"Possibly.  I think I should like to have been a gypsy, and to have
wandered about, finding a new home every night."

"And a change of linen on the early morning hedges," said Raymond. "But
do you think seriously that you and your sister are suitably clad to
commence to-night.  It is bitterly cold," he added, turning up his
collar.  "Could you begin by showing a pal the nearest haystack or
hen-roost?"

"Sybarite!"  She cast a long look over the fields and down the lane.
Suddenly she started.  "What is that?"

She pointed to a tall erect figure slowly disappearing on the other
side of the hedge.

"It's Pereo, only Pereo.  I knew him by his long serape," said Garnier,
who was nearest the hedge, complacently.  "But what is surprising, he
was not there when we came, nor did he come out of that open field.  He
must have been walking behind us on the other side of the hedge."

The eyes of the two girls sought each other simultaneously, but not
without Raymond's observant glance.  Amita's brow darkened as she moved
to her sister's side, and took her arm with a confidential pressure
that was returned.  The two men, with a vague consciousness of some
contretemps, dropped a pace behind, and began to talk to each other,
leaving the sisters to exchange a few words in a low tone as they
slowly returned to the house.

Meanwhile, Pereo's tall figure had disappeared in the shrubbery, to
emerge again in the open area by the summer-house and the old
pear-tree. The red sparks of two or three cigarettes in the shadow of
the summer-house, and the crouching forms of two shawled women came
forward to greet him.

"And what hast thou heard, Pereo?" said one of the women.

"Nothing," said Pereo, impatiently.  "I told thee I would answer for
this little primogenita with my life.  She is but leading this
Frenchman a dance, as she has led the others, and the Dona Amita and
her Raymond are but wax in her hands.  Besides, I have spoken with the
little 'Ruja to-day, and spoke my mind, Pepita, and she says there is
nothing."

"And whilst thou wert speaking to her, my poor Pereo, the devil of an
American Doctor was speaking to her mother, thy mistress--our mistress,
Pereo!  Wouldst thou know what he said?  Oh, it was nothing."

"Now, the curse of Koorotora on thee, Pepita!" said Pereo, excitedly.
"Speak, fool, if thou knowest anything!"

"Of a verity, no.  Let Faquita, then, speak: she heard it."  She
reached out her hand, and dragged Maruja's maid, not unwilling, before
the old man.

"Good!  'Tis Faquita, daughter of Gomez, and a child of the land.
Speak, little one.  What said this coyote to the mother of thy
mistress?"

"Truly, good Pereo, it was but accident that befriended me."

"Truly, for thy mistress's sake, I hoped it had been more.  But let
that go.  Come, what said he, child?"

"I was hanging up a robe behind the curtain in the oratory when Pepita
ushered in the Americano.  I had no time to fly."

"Why shouldst thou fly from a dog like this?" said one of the
cigarette-smokers who had drawn near.

"Peace!" said the old man.

"When the Dona Maria joined him they spoke of affairs.  Yes, Pereo,
she, thy mistress, spoke of affairs to this man--ay, as she might have
talked to THEE.  And, could he advise this? and could he counsel that?
and should the cattle be taken from the lower lands, and the fields
turned to grain? and had he a purchaser for Los Osos?"

"Los Osos!  It is the boundary land--the frontier--the line of the
arroyo--older than the Mision," muttered Pereo.

"Ay, and he talked of the--the--I know not what it is!--the
r-r-rail-r-road."

"The railroad," gasped the old man.  "I will tell thee what it is! It
is the cut of a burning knife through La Mision Perdida--as long as
eternity, as dividing as death.  On either side of that gash life is
blasted; wherever that cruel steel is laid the track of it is livid and
barren; it cuts down all barriers; leaps all boundaries, be they canada
or canyon; it is a torrent in the plain, a tornado in the forest; its
very pathway is destruction to whoso crosses it--man or beast; it is
the heathenish God of the Americanos; they build temples for it, and
flock there and worship it whenever it stops, breathing fire and flame
like a very Moloch."

"Eh!  St. Anthony preserve us!" said Faquita, shuddering; "and yet they
spoke of it as 'shares' and 'stocks,' and said it would double the
price of corn."

"Now, Judas pursue thee and thy railroad, Pereo," said Pepita,
impatiently.  "It is not such bagatela that Faquita is here to relate.
Go on, child, and tell all that happened."

"And then," continued Faquita, with a slight affectation of maiden
bashfulness, in the closer-drawing circle of cigarettes, "and then they
talked of other things and of themselves; and, of a verity, this
gray-bearded Doctor will play the goat and utter gallant speeches, and
speak of a lifelong devotion and of the time he should have a right to
protect--"

"The right, girl!  Didst thou say the right?  No, thou didst mistake.
It was not THAT he meant?"

"Thy life to a quarter peso that the little Faquita does not mistake,"
said the evident satirist of the household.  "Trust to Gomez' muchacha
to understand a proposal."

When the laugh was over, and the sparks of the cigarette, cleverly
whipped out of the speaker's lips by Faquita's fan, had disappeared in
the darkness, she resumed, pettishly, "I know not what you call it when
he kissed her hand and held it to his heart."

"Judas!" gasped Pereo.  "But," he added, feverishly, "she, the Dona
Maria, thy mistress, SHE summoned thee at once to call me to cast out
this dust into the open air; thou didst fly to her assistance? What!
thou sawest this, and did nothing--eh?"  He stopped, and tried to peer
into the girl's face.  "No!  Ah, I see; I am an old fool.  Yes; it was
Maruja's own mother that stood there.  He! he! he!" he laughed
piteously; "and she smiled and smiled and broke the coward's heart, as
Maruja might.  And when he was gone, she bade thee bring her water to
wash the filthy Judas stain from her hand."

"Santa Ana!" said Faquita, shrugging her shoulders.  "She did what the
veriest muchacha would have done.  When he had gone, she sat down and
cried."

The old man drew back a step, and steadied himself by the table. Then,
with a certain tremulous audacity, he began: "So! that is all you have
to tell--nothing!  Bah!  A lazy slut sleeps at her duty, and dreams
behind a curtain!  Yes, dreams!--you understand--dreams! And for this
she leaves her occupations, and comes to gossip here! Come," he
continued, steadily working himself into a passion, "come, enough of
this!  Get you gone!--you, and Pepita, and Andreas, and Victor--all of
you--back to your duty.  Away!  Am I not master here?  Off!  I say!"

There was no mistaking the rising anger of his voice.  The cowed group
rose in a frightened way and disappeared one by one silently through
the labyrinth.  Pereo waited until the last had vanished, and then,
cramming his stiff sombrero over his eyes with an ejaculation, brushed
his way through the shrubbery in the direction of the stables.

Later, when the full glory of the midnight moon had put out every
straggling light in the great house; when the long veranda slept in
massive bars of shadow, and even the tradewinds were hushed to repose,
Pereo silently issued from the stable-yard in vaquero's dress, mounted
and caparisoned.  Picking his way cautiously along the turf-bordered
edge of the gravel path, he noiselessly reached a gate that led to the
lane.  Walking his spirited mustang with difficulty until the house had
at last disappeared in the intervening foliage, he turned with an easy
canter into a border bridle-path that seemed to lead to the canada.  In
a quarter of an hour he had reached a low amphitheatre of meadows, shut
in a half circle of grassy treeless hills.

Here, putting spurs to his horse, he entered upon a singular exercise.
Twice he made a circuit of the meadow at a wild gallop, with flying
serape and loosened rein, and twice returned.  The third time his speed
increased; the ground seemed to stream from under him; in the distance
the limbs of his steed became invisible in their furious action, and,
lying low forward on his mustang's neck, man and horse passed like an
arrowy bolt around the circle. Then something like a light ring of
smoke up-curved from the saddle before him, and, slowly uncoiling
itself in mid air, dropped gently to the ground as he passed.  Again,
and once again, the shadowy coil sped upward and onward, slowly
detaching its snaky rings with a weird deliberation that was in strange
contrast to the impetuous onset of the rider, and yet seemed a part of
his fury.  And then turning, Pereo trotted gently to the centre of the
circle.

Here he divested himself of his serape, and, securing it in a
cylindrical roll, placed it upright on the ground and once more sped
away on his furious circuit.  But this time he wheeled suddenly before
it was half completed and bore down directly upon the unconscious
object.  Within a hundred feet he swerved slightly; the long detaching
rings again writhed in mid air and softly descended as he thundered
past.  But when he had reached the line of circuit again, he turned and
made directly for the road he had entered.  Fifty feet behind his
horse's heels, at the end of a shadowy cord, the luckless serape was
dragging and bounding after him!

"The old man is quiet enough this morning," said Andreas, as he groomed
the sweat-dried skin of the mustang the next day.  "It is easy to see,
friend Pinto, that he has worked off his madness on thee."



CHAPTER IV

The Rancho of San Antonio might have been a characteristic asylum for
its blessed patron, offering as it did a secure retreat from
temptations for the carnal eye, and affording every facility for
uninterrupted contemplation of the sky above, unbroken by tree or
elevation.  Unlike La Mision Perdida, of which it had been part, it was
a level plain of rich adobe, half the year presenting a billowy sea of
tossing verdure breaking on the far-off horizon line, half the year
presenting a dry and dusty shore, from which the vernal sea had ebbed,
to the low sky that seemed to mock it with a visionary sea beyond.  A
row of rough, irregular, and severely practical sheds and buildings
housed the machinery and the fifty or sixty men employed in the
cultivation of the soil, but neither residential mansion nor farmhouse
offered any nucleus of rural comfort or civilization in the midst of
this wild expanse of earth and sky.  The simplest adjuncts of country
life were unknown: milk and butter were brought from the nearest town;
weekly supplies of fresh meat and vegetables came from the same place;
in the harvest season, the laborers and harvesters lodged and boarded
in the adjacent settlement and walked to their work.  No cultivated
flower bloomed beside the unpainted tenement, though the fields were
starred in early spring with poppies and daisies; the humblest garden
plant or herb had no place in that prolific soil.  The serried ranks of
wheat pressed closely round the straggling sheds and barns and hid the
lower windows.  But the sheds were fitted with the latest agricultural
machinery; a telegraphic wire connected the nearest town with an office
in the wing of one of the buildings, where Dr. West sat, and in the
midst of the wilderness severely checked his accounts with nature.

Whether this strict economy of domestic outlay arose from an
ostentatious contempt of country life and the luxurious habits of the
former landholders, or whether it was a purely business principle of
Dr. West, did not appear.  Those who knew him best declared that it was
both.  Certain it was that unqualified commercial success crowned and
dignified his method.  A few survivors of the old native families came
to see his strange machinery, that did the work of so many idle men and
horses.  It is said that he offered to "run" the distant estate of
Joaquin Padilla from his little office amidst the grain of San Antonio.
Some shook their heads, and declared that he only sucked the juices of
the land for a few brief years to throw it away again; that in his
fierce haste he skimmed the fatness of ages of gentle cultivation on a
soil that had been barely tickled with native oaken plowshares.

His own personal tastes and habits were as severe and practical as his
business: the little wing he inhabited contained only his office, his
living room or library, his bedroom, and a bath-room. This last
inconsistent luxury was due to a certain cat-like cleanliness which was
part of his nature.  His iron-gray hair--a novelty in this country of
young Americans--was always scrupulously brushed, and his linen
spotless.  A slightly professional and somewhat old-fashioned
respectability in his black clothes was also characteristic.  His one
concession to the customs of his neighbors was the possession of two or
three of the half-broken and spirited mustangs of the country, which he
rode with the fearlessness, if not the perfect security and ease, of a
native.  Whether the subjection of this lawless and powerful survival
of a wild and unfettered nature around him was part of his plan, or
whether it was only a lingering trait of some younger prowess, no one
knew; but his grim and decorous figure, contrasting with the
picturesque and flowing freedom of the horse he bestrode, was a
frequent spectacle in road and field.

It was the second day after his visit to La Mision Perdida.  He was
sitting by his desk, at sunset, in the faint afterglow of the western
sky, which flooded the floor through the open door.  He was writing,
but presently lifted his head, with an impatient air, and called out,
"Harrison!"

The shadow of Dr. West's foreman appeared at the door.

"Who's that you're talking to?"

"Tramp, Sir."

"Hire him, or send him about his business.  Don't stand gabbling there."

"That's just it, sir.  He won't hire for a week or a day.  He says
he'll do an odd job for his supper and a shakedown, but no more."

"Pack him off! ...  Stay....  What's he like?"

"Like the rest of 'em, only a little lazier, I reckon."

"Umph!  Fetch him in."

The foreman disappeared, and returned with the tramp already known to
the reader.  He was a little dirtier and grimier than on the morning he
had addressed Maruja at La Mision Perdida; but he wore the same air of
sullen indifference, occasionally broken by furtive observation.  His
laziness--or weariness--if the term could describe the lassitude of
perfect physical condition, seemed to have increased; and he leaned
against the door as the Doctor regarded him with slow contempt.  The
silence continuing, he deliberately allowed himself to slip down into a
sitting position in the doorway, where he remained.

"You seem to have been born tired," said the Doctor, grimly.

"Yes."

"What have you got to say for yourself?"

"I told HIM," said the tramp, nodding his head towards the foreman,
"what I'd do for a supper and a bed.  I don't want anything but that."

"And if you don't get what you want on your own conditions, what'll you
do?" asked the Doctor, dryly.

"Go."

"Where did you come from?"

"States."

"Where are you going?"

"On."

"Leave him to me," said Dr. West to his foreman.  The man smiled, and
withdrew.

The Doctor bent his head again over his accounts.  The tramp, sitting
in the doorway, reached out his hand, pulled a young wheat-stalk that
had sprung up near the doorstep, and slowly nibbled it. He did not
raise his eyes to the Doctor, but sat, a familiar culprit awaiting
sentence, without fear, without hope, yet not without a certain
philosophical endurance of the situation.

"Go into that passage," said the Doctor, lifting his head as he turned
a page of his ledger, "and on the shelf you'll find some clothing
stores for the men.  Pick out something to fit you."

The tramp arose, moved towards the passage, and stopped.  "It's for the
job only, you understand?" he said.

"For the job," answered the Doctor.

The tramp returned in a few moments with overalls and woolen shirt
hanging on his arm and a pair of boots and socks in his hand.  The
Doctor had put aside his pen.  "Now go into that room and change. Stop!
First wash the dust from your feet in that bath-room."

The tramp obeyed, and entered the room.  The Doctor walked to the door,
and looked out reflectively on the paling sky.  When he turned again he
noticed that the door of the bath-room was opened, and the tramp, who
had changed his clothes by the fading light, was drying his feet.  The
Doctor approached, and stood for a moment watching him.

"What's the matter with your foot?"[1] he asked, after a pause.

"Born so."

The first and second toe were joined by a thin membrane.

"Both alike?" asked the Doctor.

"Yes," said the young man, exhibiting the other foot.

"What did you say your name was?"

"I didn't say it.  It's Henry Guest, same as my father's."

"Where were you born?"

"Dentville, Pike County, Missouri."

"What was your mother's name?"

"Spalding, I reckon."

"Where are your parents now?"

"Mother got divorced from father, and married again down South,
somewhere.  Father left home twenty years ago.  He's somewhere in
California--if he ain't dead."

"He isn't dead."

"How do you know?"

"Because I am Henry Guest, of Dentville, and"--he stopped, and, shading
his eyes with his hand as he deliberately examined the tramp, added
coldly--"your father, I reckon."

There was a slight pause.  The young man put down the boot he had taken
up.  "Then I'm to stay here?"

"Certainly not.  Here my name is only West, and I have no son. You'll
go on to San Jose, and stay there until I look into this thing.  You
haven't got any money, of course?" he asked, with a scarcely suppressed
sneer.

"I've got a little," returned the young man.

"How much?"

The tramp put his hand into his breast, and drew out a piece of folded
paper containing a single gold coin.

"Five dollars.  I've kept it a month; it doesn't cost much to live as I
do," he added, dryly.

"There's fifty more.  Go to some hotel in San Jose, and let me know
where you are.  You've got to live, and you don't want to work. Well,
you don't seem to be a fool; so I needn't tell you that if you expect
anything from me, you must leave this matter in my hands.  I have
chosen to acknowledge you to-day of my own free will: I can as easily
denounce you as an impostor to-morrow, if I choose.  Have you told your
story to any one in the valley?"

"No."

"See that you don't, then.  Before you go, you must answer me a few
more questions."

He drew a chair to his table, and dipped a pen in the ink, as if to
take down the answers.  The young man, finding the only chair thus
occupied, moved the Doctor's books aside, and sat down on the table
beside him.

The questions were repetitions of those already asked, but more in
detail, and thoroughly practical in their nature.  The answers were
given straightforwardly and unconcernedly, as if the subject was not
worth the trouble of invention or evasion.  It was difficult to say
whether questioner or answerer took least pleasure in the
interrogation, which might have referred to the concerns of a third
party.  Both, however, spoke disrespectfully of their common family,
with almost an approach to sympathetic interest.

"You might as well be going now," said the Doctor, finally rising. "You
can stop at the fonda, about two miles further on, and get your supper
and bed, if you like."

The young man slipped from the table, and lounged to the door.  The
Doctor put his hands in his pockets and followed him.  The young man,
as if in unconscious imitation, had put HIS hands in his pockets also,
and looked at him.

"I'll hear from you, then, when you are in San Jose?" said Dr. West,
looking past him into the grain, with a slight approach to constraint
in his indifference.

"Yes--if that's agreed upon," returned the young man, pausing on the
threshold.  A faint sense of some purely conventional responsibility in
their position affected them both.  They would have shaken hands if
either had offered the initiative.  A sullen consciousness of
gratuitous rectitude in the selfish mind of the father; an equally
sullen conviction of twenty years of wrong in the son, withheld them
both.  Unpleasantly observant of each other's awkwardness, they parted
with a feeling of relief.

Dr. West closed the door, lit his lamp, and, going to his desk, folded
the paper containing the memoranda he had just written and placed it in
his pocket.  Then he summoned his foreman.  The man entered, and
glanced around the room as if expecting to see the Doctor's guest still
there.

"Tell one of the men to bring round 'Buckeye.'"

The foreman hesitated.  "Going to ride to-night, sir?"

"Certainly; I may go as far as Saltonstall's.  If I do, you needn't
expect me back till morning."

"Buckeye's mighty fresh to-night, boss.  Regularly bucked his saddle
clean off an hour ago, and there ain't a man dare exercise him."

"I'll bet he don't buck his saddle off with me on it," said the Doctor,
grimly.  "Bring him along."

The man turned to go.  "You found the tramp pow'ful lazy, didn't ye?"

"I found a heap more in him than in some that call themselves smart,"
said Dr. West, unconsciously setting up an irritable defense of the
absent one.  "Hurry up that horse!"

The foreman vanished.  The Doctor put on a pair of leather leggings,
large silver spurs, and a broad soft-brimmed hat, but made no other
change in his usual half-professional conventional garb.  He then went
to the window and glanced in the direction of the highway.  Now that
his son was gone, he felt a faint regret that he had not prolonged the
interview.  Certain peculiarities in his manner, certain suggestions of
expression in his face, speech, and gesture, came back to him now with
unsatisfied curiosity.  "No matter," he said to himself; "he'll turn up
soon again--as soon as I want him, if not sooner.  He thinks he's got a
mighty soft thing here, and he isn't going to let it go.  And there's
that same d--d sullen dirty pride of his mother, for all he doesn't
cotton to her. Wonder I didn't recognize it at first.  And hoarding up
that five dollars!  That's Jane's brat, all over!  And, of course," he
added, bitterly, "nothing of ME in him.  No; nothing!  Well, well,
what's the difference?"  He turned towards the door, with a certain
sullen defiance in his face so like the man he believed he did not
resemble, that his foreman, coming upon him suddenly, might have been
startled at the likeness.  Fortunately, however, Harrison was too much
engrossed with the antics of the irrepressible Buckeye, which the
ostler had just brought to the door, to notice anything else.  The
arrival of the horse changed the Doctor's expression to one of more
practical and significant resistance.  With the assistance of two men
at the head of the restive brute, he managed to vault into the saddle.
A few wild plunges only seemed to settle him the firmer in his
seat--each plunge leaving its record in a thin red line on the animal's
flanks, made by the cruel spurs of its rider.  Any lingering desire of
following his son's footsteps was quickly dissipated by Buckeye, who
promptly bolted in the opposite direction, and, before Dr. West could
gain active control over him, they were half a mile on their way to La
Mision Perdida.

Dr. West did not regret it.  Twenty years ago he had voluntarily
abandoned a legal union of mutual unfaithfulness and misconduct, and
allowed his wife to get the divorce he might have obtained for equal
cause.  He had abandoned to her the issue of that union--an infant son.
Whatever he chose to do now was purely gratuitous; the only hold which
this young stranger had on his respect was that HE also recognized that
fact with a cold indifference equal to his own.  At present the
half-savage brute he bestrode occupied all his attention.  Yet he could
not help feeling his advancing years tell upon him more heavily that
evening; fearless as he was, his strength was no longer equal when
measured with the untiring youthful malevolence of his unbroken
mustang.  For a moment he dwelt regretfully on the lazy half-developed
sinews of his son; for a briefer instant there flashed across him the
thought that those sinews ought to replace his own; ought to be HIS to
lean upon--that thus, and thus only, could he achieve the old miracle
of restoring his lost youth by perpetuating his own power in his own
blood; and he, whose profound belief in personality had rejected all
hereditary principle, felt this with a sudden exquisite pain.  But his
horse, perhaps recognizing a relaxing grip, took that opportunity to
"buck."  Curving his back like a cat, and throwing himself into the air
with an unexpected bound, he came down with four stiff, inflexible
legs, and a shock that might have burst the saddle-girths, had not the
wily old man as quickly brought the long rowels of his spurs together
and fairly locked his heels under Buckeye's collapsing barrel.  It was
the mustang's last rebellions struggle.  The discomfited brute gave in,
and darted meekly and apologetically forward, and, as it were, left all
its rider's doubts and fears far behind in the vanishing distance.



[1] This apparent classical plagiarism is actually a fact of
identification on record in the California Law Reports.  It is
therefore unnecessary for me to add that the attendant circumstances
and characters are purely fictitious.--B. H.



CHAPTER V

Meanwhile, the subject of Dr. West's meditations was slowly making his
way along the high-road towards the fonda.  He walked more erect and
with less of a shuffle in his gait; but whether this was owing to his
having cast the old skin of garments adapted to his slouch, and because
he was more securely shod, or whether it was from the sudden
straightening of some warped moral quality, it would have been
difficult to say.  The expression of his face certainly gave no
evidence of actual and prospective good fortune; if anything, the lines
of discontent around his brow and mouth were more strongly drawn.
Apparently, his interview with his father had only the effect of
reviving and stirring into greater activity a certain dogged sentiment
that, through long years, had become languidly mechanical.  He was no
longer a beaten animal, but one roused by a chance success into a
dangerous knowledge of his power. In his honest workman's dress, he was
infinitely more to be feared than in his rags; in the lifting of his
downcast eye, there was the revelation of a baleful intelligence.  In
his changed condition, civilization only seemed to have armed him
against itself.

The fonda, a long low building, with a red-tiled roof extending over a
porch or whitewashed veranda, in which drunken vaqueros had been known
to occasionally disport their mustangs, did not offer a very reputable
appearance to the eye of young Guest as he approached it in the
gathering shadows.  One or two half-broken horses were securely
fastened to the stout cross-beams of some heavy posts driven in the
roadway before it, and a primitive trough of roughly excavated stone
stood near it.  Through a broken gate at the side there was a glimpse
of a grass-grown and deserted courtyard piled with the disused
packing-cases and barrels of the tienda, or general country shop, which
huddled under the same roof at the other end of the building.  The
opened door of the fonda showed a low-studded room fitted up with a
rude imitation of an American bar on one side, and containing a few
small tables, at which half a dozen men were smoking, drinking, and
playing cards. The faded pictorial poster of the last bull-fight at
Monterey, and an American "Sheriff's notice" were hung on the wall and
in the door-way.  A thick yellow atmosphere of cigarette smoke, through
which the inmates appeared like brown shadows, pervaded the room.

The young man hesitated before this pestilential interior, and took a
seat on a bench on the veranda.  After a moment's interval, the yellow
landlord came to the door with a look of inquiry, which Guest answered
by a demand for lodging and supper.  When the landlord had vanished
again in the cigarette fog, the several other guests, one after the
other, appeared at the doorway, with their cigarettes in their mouths
and their cards still in their hands, and gazed upon him.

There may have been some excuse for their curiosity.  As before hinted,
Guest's appearance in his overalls and woolen shirt was somewhat
incongruous, and, for some inexplicable reason, the same face and
figure which did not look inconsistent in rags and extreme poverty now
at once suggested a higher social rank both of intellect and refinement
than his workman's dress indicated.  This, added to his surliness of
manner and expression, strengthened a growing suspicion in the mind of
the party that he was a fugitive from justice--a forger, a derelict
banker, or possibly a murderer. It is only fair to say that the moral
sense of the spectators was not shocked at the suspicion, and that a
more active sympathy was only withheld by his reticence.  An
unfortunate incident seemed to complete the evidence against him.  In
impatiently responding to the landlord's curt demand for prepayment of
his supper, he allowed three or four pieces of gold to escape from his
pocket on the veranda.  In the quick glances of the party, as he
stooped to pick them up, he read the danger of his carelessness.

His sullen self-possession did not seem to be shaken.  Calling to the
keeper of the tienda, who had appeared at his door in time to witness
the Danae-like shower, he bade him approach, in English.

"What sort of knives have you got?"

"Knives, Senor?"

"Yes; bowie-knives or dirks.  Knives like that," he said, making an
imaginary downward stroke at the table before him.

The shopkeeper entered the tienda, and presently reappeared with three
or four dirks in red leather sheaths.  Guest selected the heaviest, and
tried its point on the table.

"How much?"

"Tres pesos."

The young man threw him one of his gold pieces, and slipped the knife
and its sheath in his boot.  When he had received his change from the
shopkeeper, he folded his arms and leaned back against the wall in
quiet indifference.

The simple act seemed to check aggressive, but not insinuating,
interference.  In a few moments one of the men appeared at the doorway.

"It is fine weather for the road, little comrade!"

Guest did not reply.

"Ah! the night, it ess splendid," he repeated, in broken English,
rubbing his hands, as if washing in the air.

Still no reply.

"You shall come from Sank Hosay?"

"I sha'ant."

The stranger muttered something in Spanish, but the landlord, who
reappeared to place Guest's supper on a table on the veranda, here felt
the obligation of interfering to protect a customer apparently so
aggressive and so opulent.  He pushed the inquisitor aside, with a few
hasty words, and, after Guest had finished his meal, offered to show
him his room.  It was a dark vaulted closet on the ground-floor,
gaining light from the stable-yard through a barred iron grating.  At
the first glimpse it looked like a prison cell; looking more
deliberately at the black tresseled bed, and the votive images hanging
on the wall, it might have been a tomb.

"It is the best," said the landlord.  "The Padre Vincento will have
none other on his journey."

"I suppose God protects him," said Guest; "that door don't."  He
pointed to the worm-eaten door, without bolt or fastening.

"Ah, what matter!  Are we not all friends?"

"Certainly," responded Guest, with his surliest manner, as he returned
to the veranda.  Nevertheless, he resolved not to occupy the cell of
the reverend Padre; not from any personal fear of his disreputable
neighbors, though he was fully alive to their peculiarities, but from
the nomadic instinct which was still strong in his blood.  He felt he
could not yet bear the confinement of a close room or the propinquity
of his fellow-man.  He would rest on the veranda until the moon was
fairly up, and then he would again take to the road.

He was half reclining on the bench, with the slowly closing and opening
lids of some tired but watchful animal, when the sound of wheels,
voices, and clatter of hoofs on the highway arrested his attention, and
he sat upright.  The moon was slowly lifting itself over the limitless
stretch of grain-fields before him on the other side of the road, and
dazzling him with its level lustre.  He could barely discern a
cavalcade of dark figures and a large vehicle rapidly approaching,
before it drew up tumultuously in front of the fonda.

It was a pleasure party of ladies and gentlemen on horseback and in a
four-horsed char-a-bancs returning to La Mision Perdida. Buchanan,
Raymond, and Garnier were there; Amita and Dorotea in the body of the
char-a-bancs, and Maruja seated on the box.  Much to his own
astonishment and that of some others of the party, Captain Carroll was
among the riders.  Only Maruja and her mother knew that he was recalled
to refute a repetition of the gossip already circulated regarding his
sudden withdrawal; only Maruja alone knew the subtle words which made
that call so potent yet so hopeless.

Maruja's quick eyes, observant of everything, even under the double
fire of Captain Carroll and Garnier, instantly caught those of the
erect figure on the bench in the veranda.  Surely that was the face of
the tramp she had spoken to! and yet there was a change, not only in
the dress but in the general resemblance.  After the first glance,
Guest withdrew his eyes and gazed at the other figures in the
char-a-bancs without moving a muscle.

Maruja's whims and caprices were many and original; and when, after a
sudden little cry and a declaration that she could stand her cramped
position no longer, she leaped from the box into the road, no one was
surprised.  Garnier and Captain Carroll quickly followed.

"I should like to look into the fonda while the horses are being
watered," she said, laughingly, "just to see what it is that attracts
Pereo there so often."  Before any one could restrain this new caprice,
she was already upon the veranda.

To reach the open door, she had to pass so near Guest that her soft
white flounces brushed his knees, and the flowers in her girdle left
their perfume in his face.  But he neither moved nor raised his eyes.
When she had passed, he rose quietly and stepped into the road.

On her nearer survey, Maruja was convinced it was the same man. She
remained for an instant, with a little hand on the door-post. "What a
horrid place, and what dreadful people!" she said in audible English as
she glanced quickly after Guest.  "Really, Pereo ought to be warned
against keeping such company.  Come, let us go."

She contrived to pass Guest again in regaining the carriage; but in the
few moments' further delay he walked on down the road before them, and,
by the time they were ready to start, he was slowly sauntering some
hundred yards ahead.  They passed him at a rapid trot, but the next
moment the char-a-bancs was suddenly pulled up.

"My fan!" cried Maruja.  "Blessed Santa Maria!--my fan!"

A small black object, seen distinctly in the moonlight, was lying on
the road, directly in the track of the sauntering stranger. Garnier
attempted to alight; Carroll reined in his horse.

"Stop, all of you!" said Maruja; "that man will bring it to me."

It seemed as if he would.  He stopped and picked it up, and approached
the carriage.  Maruja stood up in her seat, with her veil thrown back,
her graceful hand extended, her eyes and mouth tremulous with an
irresistible smile.  The stranger came nearer, singled out Captain
Carroll, tossed the fan to him with a slight nod, and passed on the
other side.

"One moment," said Maruja, almost harshly, to the driver.  "One
moment," she continued, drawing her purse from her pocket brusquely.
"Let me reward this civil gentleman of the road!  Here, sir;" but,
before she could continue, Carroll wheeled to her side, and interposed.
"Pray collect yourself, Miss Saltonstall," he said, hurriedly; "you can
not tell who this man may be.  He does not seem to be one who would
insult you, or whom YOU would insult gratuitously."

"Give me the fan, Captain Carroll," she said, with a soft and caressing
smile.  "Thank you."  She took it, and, breaking it through the middle
between her gloved hands, tossed it into the highway.  "You are
right--it smells of the fonda--and the road. Thank you, again.  You are
so thoughtful for me, Captain Carroll," she murmured, raising her eyes
gently to his, and then suddenly withdrawing them with a half sigh.
"But I am keeping you all.  Go on."

The carriage rolled away and Guest returned from the hedge to the
middle of the road.  San Jose lay in the opposite direction from the
disappearing cavalcade; but, on leaving the fonda, he had determined to
lead his inquisitors astray by doubling and making a circuit of the
hostelry through the fields hidden in the tall grain.  This he did,
securely passing them within sound of their voices, and was soon well
on his way again.  He avoided the highway, and, striking a trail
through the meadows, diverged to the right, where the low towers and
brown walls of a ruined mission church rose above the plain.  This
would enable him to escape any direct pursuit on the high road,
besides, from its slight elevation, giving him a more extended view of
the plain.  As he neared it, he was surprised to see that, although it
was partly dismantled, and the roof had fallen in the central aisle, a
part of it was still used as a chapel, and a light was burning behind a
narrow opening, partly window and partly shrine.  He was almost upon
it, when the figure of a man who had been kneeling beneath, with his
back towards him, rose, crossed himself devoutly, and stood upright.
Before he could turn, Guest disappeared round the angle of the wall,
and the tall erect figure of the solitary worshiper passed on without
heeding him.

But if Guest had been successful in evading the observation of the man
he had come so suddenly upon, he was utterly unconscious of another
figure that had been tracking HIM for the last ten minutes through the
tall grain, and had even succeeded in gaining the shadow of the wall
behind him; and it was this figure, and not his own, that eventually
attracted the attention of the tall stranger. The pursuing figure was
rapidly approaching the unconscious Guest; in another moment it would
have been upon him, when it was suddenly seized from behind by the tall
devotee.  There was a momentary struggle, and then it freed itself,
with the exclamation, "Pereo!"

"Yes--Pereo!" said the old man, panting from his exertions.  "And thou
art Miguel.  So thou wouldst murder a man for a few pesos!" he said,
pointing to the knife which the desperado had hurriedly hid in his
jacket, "and callest thyself a Californian!"

"'Tis only an Americano--a runaway, with some ill-gotten gold," said
Miguel, sullenly, yet with unmistakable fear of the old man. "Besides,
it was only to frighten him, the braggart.  But since thou fearest to
touch a hair of those interlopers--"

"Fearest!" said Pereo, fiercely, clutching him by the throat, and
forcing him against the wall.  "Fearest! sayest thou.  I, Pereo, fear?
Dost thou think I would soil these hands, that might strike a higher
quarry, with blood of thy game?"

"Forgive me, padrono," gasped Miguel, now thoroughly alarmed at the old
man's awakened passion; "pardon; I meant that, since thou knowest him--"

"I know him?" repeated Pereo scornfully, contemptuously throwing Miguel
aside, who at once took that opportunity to increase his distance from
the old man's arm.  "I know him?  Thou shalt see. Come hither, child,"
he called, beckoning to Guest.  "Come hither, thou hast nothing to fear
now."

Guest, who had been attracted by the sound of altercation behind him,
but who was utterly unconscious of its origin or his own relation to
it, came forward impatiently.  As he did so, Miguel took to his heels.
The act did not tend to mollify Guest's surly suspicions, and, pausing
a few feet from the old man, he roughly demanded his business with him.

Pereo raised his head, with the dignity of years and habits of command.
The face of the young man confronting him was clearly illuminated by
the moonlight.  Pereo's eyes suddenly dilated, his mouth stiffened, he
staggered back against the wall.

"Who are you?" he gasped, in uncertain English.

Believing himself the subject of some drunkard's pastime, Guest
replied, savagely, "One who has enough of this d--d nonsense, and will
stand no more of it from any one, young or old," and turned abruptly on
his heel.

"Stay, one moment, Senor, for the love of God!"

Some keen accent of agony in the old man's voice touched even Guest's
selfish nature.  He halted.

"You are--a stranger here?"--faltered Pereo.  "Yes?"

"I am."

"You do not live here?--you have no friends?"

"I told you I am a stranger.  I never was here before in my life," said
Guest, impatiently.

"True; I am a fool," said the old man, hurriedly, to himself.  "I am
mad--mad!  It is not HIS voice.  No!  It is not HIS look, now that his
face changes.  I am crazy."  He stopped, and passed his trembling hands
across his eyes.  "Pardon, Senor," he continued, recalling himself with
a humility that was almost ironical in its extravagance.  "Pardon,
pardon!  Yet, perhaps it is not too much to have wanted to know who was
the man one has saved."

"Saved!" repeated Guest, with incredulous contempt.

"Ay!" said Pereo, haughtily, drawing his figure erect; "ay, saved!
Senor."  He stopped and shrugged his shoulders.  "But let it pass--I
say--let it pass.  Take an old man's advice, friend: show not your gold
hereafter to strangers lightly, no matter how lightly you have come by
it.  Good-night!"

Guest for a moment hesitated whether to resent the old man's speech, or
to let it pass as the incoherent fancy of a brain maddened by drink.
Then he ended the discussion by turning his back abruptly and
continuing his way to the high-road.

"So!" said Pereo, looking after him with abstracted eyes, "so! it was
only a fancy.  And yet--even now, as he turned away, I saw the same
cold insolence in his eye.  Caramba!  Am I mad--mad--that I must keep
forever before my eyes, night and day, the image of that dog in every
outcast, every ruffian, every wayside bully that I meet?  No, no, good
Pereo!  Softly! this is mere madness, good Pereo," he murmured to
himself; "thou wilt have none of it; none, good Pereo.  Come, come!"
He let his head fall slowly forward on his breast, and in that action,
seeming to take up again the burden of a score more years upon his
shoulders, he moved slowly away.

When he entered the fonda half an hour later, the awe in which he was
held by the half superstitious ruffians appeared to have increased.
Whatever story the fugitive Miguel had told his companions regarding
Pereo's protection of the young stranger, it was certain that it had
its full effect.  Obsequious to the last degree, the landlord was so
profoundly touched, when Pereo, not displeased with this evidence of
his power over his countrymen, condescendingly offered to click glasses
with him, that he endeavored to placate him still further.

"It is a pity your worship was not here earlier," he began, with a
significant glance at the others, "to have seen a gallant young
stranger that was here.  A spice of wickedness about him, truly--a kind
of Don Caesar--but bearing himself like a very caballero always.  It
would have pleased your worship, who likes not those canting Puritans
such as our neighbor yonder."

"Ah," said Pereo, reflectively, warming under the potent fires of
flattery and aguardiente, "possibly I HAVE seen him.  He was like--"

"Like none of the dogs thou hast seen about San Antonio," interrupted
the landlord.  "Scarcely did he seem Americano, though he spoke no
Spanish."

The old man chuckled to himself viciously.  "And thou, thou old fool,
Pereo, must needs see a likeness to thine enemy in this poor runaway
child--this fugitive Don Juan!  He! he!"  Nevertheless, he still felt a
vague terror of the condition of mind which had produced this fancy,
and drank so deeply to dispel his nervousness that it was with
difficulty he could mount his horse again.  The exaltation of liquor,
however, appeared only to intensify his characteristics: his face
became more lugubrious and melancholy; his manner more ceremonious and
dignified; and, erect and stiff in his saddle from the waist upwards,
but leaning from side to side with the motion of his horse, like the
tall mast of some laboring sloop, he "loped" away towards the House of
the Lost Mission.  Once or twice he broke into sentimental song.
Strangely enough, his ditty was a popular Spanish refrain of some
matador's aristocratic inamorata:--

     Do you see my black eyes?
     I am Manuel's Duchess,--

sang Pereo, with infinite gravity.  His horse's hoofs seemed to keep
time with the refrain, and he occasionally waved in the air the long
leather thong of his bridle-rein.

It was quite late when he reached La Mision Perdida.  Turning into the
little lane that led to the stable-yard, he dismounted at a gate in the
hedge which led to the summerhouse of the old Mision garden, and,
throwing his reins on his mustang's neck, let the animal precede him to
the stables.  The moon shone full on the inclosure as he emerged from
the labyrinth.  With uncovered head he approached the Indian mound, and
sank on his knees before it.

The next moment he rose, with an exclamation of terror, and his hat
dropped from his trembling hand.  Directly before him, a small, gray,
wolfish-looking animal had stopped half-way down the mound on
encountering his motionless figure.  Frightened by his outcry, and
unable to retreat, the shadowy depredator had fallen back on his
slinking haunches with a snarl, and bared teeth that glittered in the
moonlight.

In an instant the expression of terror on the old man's ashen face
turned into a fixed look of insane exaltation.  His white lips moved;
he advanced a step further, and held out both hands towards the
crouching animal.

"So!  It is thou--at last!  And comest thou here thy tardy Pereo to
chide?  Comest THOU, too, to tell the poor old man his heart is cold,
his limbs are feeble, his brain weak and dizzy? that he is no longer
fit to do thy master's work?  Ay, gnash thy teeth at him! Curse
him!--curse him in thy throat!  But listen!--listen, good friend--I
will tell thee a secret--ay, good gray friar, a secret--such a secret!
A plan, all mine--fresh from this old gray head; ha! ha!--all mine!  To
be wrought by these poor old arms; ha! ha! All mine!  Listen!"

He stealthily made a step nearer the affrighted animal.  With a sudden
sidelong snap, it swiftly bounded by his side, and vanished in the
thicket; and Pereo, turning wildly, with a moan sank down helplessly on
the grave of his forefathers.



CHAPTER VI

To the open chagrin of most of the gentlemen and the unexpected relief
of some of her own sex, Maruja, after an evening of more than usual
caprice and willfulness, retired early to her chamber. Here she
beguiled Enriquita, a younger sister, to share her solitude for an
hour, and with a new and charming melancholy presented her with mature
counsel and some younger trinkets and adornments.

"Thou wilt find them but folly, 'Riquita; but thou art young, and wilt
outgrow them as I have.  I am sick of the Indian beads, everybody wears
them; but they seem to suit thy complexion.  Thou art not yet quite old
enough for jewelry; but take thy choice of these."  "'Ruja," replied
Enriquita, eagerly, "surely thou wilt not give up this necklace of
carved amber, that was brought thee from Manilla--it becomes thee so!
Everybody says it.  All the caballeros, Raymond and Victor, swear that
it sets off thy beauty like nothing else."  "When thou knowest men
better," responded Maruja, in a deep voice, "thou wilt care less for
what they say, and despise what they do.  Besides, I wore it
to-day--and--I hate it."  "But what fan wilt thou keep thyself?  The
one of sandal-wood thou hadst to-day?" continued Enriquita, timidly
eying the pretty things upon the table.  "None," responded Maruja,
didactically, "but the simplest, which I shall buy myself.  Truly, it
is time to set one's self against this extravagance.  Girls think
nothing of spending as much upon a fan as would buy a horse and saddle
for a poor man."  "But why so serious tonight, my sister?" said the
little Enriquita, her eyes filling with ready tears.  "It grieves me,"
responded Maruja, promptly, "to find thee, like the rest, giving thy
soul up to the mere glitter of the world.  However, go, child, take the
heads, but leave the amber; it would make thee yellower than thou art;
which the blessed Virgin forbid! Good-night!"

She kissed her affectionately, and pushed her from the room.
Nevertheless, after a moment's survey of her lonely chamber, she
hastily slipped on a pale satin dressing-gown, and, darting across the
passage, dashed into the bedroom of the youngest Miss Wilson, haled
that sentimental brunette from her night toilet, dragged her into her
own chamber, and, enwrapping her in a huge mantle of silk and gray fur,
fed her with chocolates and chestnuts, and, reclining on her
sympathetic shoulder, continued her arraignment of the world and its
follies until nearly daybreak.

It was past noon when Maruja awoke, to find Faquita standing by her
bedside with ill-concealed impatience.

"I ventured to awaken the Dona Maruja," she said, with vivacious
alacrity, "for news!  Terrible news!  The American, Dr. West, is found
dead this morning in the San Jose road!"

"Dr. West dead!" repeated Maruja, thoughtfully, but without emotion.

"Surely dead--very dead.  He was thrown from his horse and dragged by
the stirrups--how far, the Blessed Virgin only knows.  But he is found
dead--this Dr. West--his foot in the broken stirrup, his hand holding a
piece of the bridle!  I thought I would waken the Dona Maruja, that no
one else should break it to the Dona Maria."

"That no one else should break it to my mother?" repeated Maruja,
coldly.  "What mean you, girl?"

"I mean that no stranger should tell her," stammered Faquita, lowering
her bold eyes.

"You mean," said Maruja, slowly, "that no silly, staring,
tongue-wagging gossip should dare to break upon the morning devotions
of the lady mother with open-mouthed tales of horror!  You are wise,
Faquita!  I will tell her myself.  Help me to dress."

But the news had already touched the outer shell of the great house,
and little groups of the visitors were discussing it upon the veranda.
For once, the idle badinage of a pleasure-seeking existence was
suspended; stupid people with facts came to the fore; practical people
with inquiring minds became interesting; servants were confidentially
appealed to; the local expressman became a hero, and it was even
noticed that he was intelligent and good-looking.

"What makes it more distressing," said Raymond, joining one of the
groups, "is, that it appears the Doctor visited Mrs. Saltonstall last
evening, and left the casa at eleven.  Sanchez, who was perhaps the
last person who saw him alive, says that he noticed his horse was very
violent, and the Doctor did not seem able to control him.  The accident
probably happened half an hour later, as he was picked up about three
miles from here, and from appearances must have been dragged, with his
foot in the stirrup, fully half a mile before the girth broke and freed
the saddle and stirrup together. The mustang, with nothing on but his
broken bridle, was found grazing at the rancho as early as four
o'clock, an hour before the body of his master was discovered by the
men sent from the rancho to look for him."

"Eh, but the man must have been clean daft to have trusted himself to
one of those savage beasts of the country," said Mr. Buchanan. "And he
was no so young either--about sixty, I should say.  It didna look even
respectable, I remember, when we met him the other day, careering over
the country for all the world like one of those crazy Mexicans.  And
yet he seemed steady and sensible enough when he didna let his schemes
of 'improvements' run away with him like yon furious beastie.  Eh well,
puir man--it was a sudden ending! And his family--eh?"

"I don't think he has one--at least here," said Raymond.  "You can't
always tell in California.  I believe he was a widower."

"Ay, man, but the heirs; there must be considerable property?" said
Buchanan, impatiently.

"Oh, the heirs.  If he's made no will, which doesn't look like so
prudent and practical a man as he was--the heirs will probably crop up
some day."

"PROBABLY! crop up some day," repeated Buchanan, aghast.

"Yes.  You must remember that WE don't take heirs quite as much into
account as you do in the old country.  The loss of the MAN, and how to
replace HIM, is much more to us than the disposal of his property.
Now, Doctor West was a power far beyond his actual possessions--and we
will know very soon how much those were dependent upon him."

"What do you mean?" asked Buchanan, anxiously.

"I mean that five minutes after the news of the Doctor's death was
confirmed, your friend Mr. Stanton sent a messenger with a despatch to
the nearest telegraphic office, and that he himself drove over to catch
Aladdin before the news could reach him."

Buchanan looked uneasy; so did one or two of the native Californians
who composed the group, and who had been listening attentively.  "And
where is this same telegraphic office?" asked Buchanan, cautiously.

"I'll drive you over there presently," responded Raymond, grimly.
"There'll be nothing doing here to-day.  As Dr. West was a near
neighbor of the family, his death suspends our pleasure-seeking until
after the funeral."

Mr. Buchanan moved away.  Captain Carroll and Garnier drew nearer the
speaker.  "I trust it will not withdraw from us the society of Miss
Saltonstall," said Garnier, lightly--"at least, that she will not be
inconsolable."

"She did not seem to be particularly sympathetic with Dr. West the
other day," said Captain Carroll, coloring slightly with the
recollection of the morning in the summer-house, yet willing, in his
hopeless passion, even to share that recollection with his rival.  "Did
you not think so, Monsieur Garnier?"

"Very possibly; and, as Miss Saltonstall is quite artless and childlike
in the expression of her likes and dislikes," said Raymond, with the
faintest touch of irony, "you can judge as well as I can."

Garnier parried the thrust lightly.  "You are no kinder to our follies
than you are to the grand passions of these gentlemen. Confess, you
frightened them horribly.  You are---what is called--a bear--eh?  You
depreciate in the interests of business."

Raymond did not at first appear to notice the sarcasm.  "I only
stated," he said, gravely, "that which these gentlemen will find out
for themselves before they are many hours older.  Dr. West was the
brain of the county, as Aladdin is its life-blood.  It only remains to
be seen how far the loss of that brain affects the county.  The Stock
Exchange market in San Francisco will indicate that today in the shares
of the San Antonio and Soquel Railroad and the West Mills and
Manufacturing Co.  It is a matter that may affect even our friends
here.  Whatever West's social standing was in this house, lately he was
in confidential business relations with Mrs. Saltonstall."  He raised
his eyes for the first time to Garnier as he added, slowly, "It is to
be hoped that if our hostess has no social reasons to deplore the loss
of Dr. West, she at least will have no other."

With a lover's instinct, conscious only of some annoyance to Maruja, in
all this, Carroll anxiously looked for her appearance among the others.
He was doomed to disappointment, however.  His half-timid inquiries
only resulted in the information that Maruja was closeted with her
mother.  The penetralia of the casa was only accessible to the family;
yet, as he wandered uneasily about, he could not help passing once or
twice before the quaint low archway, with its grated door, that opened
from the central hall.  His surprise may be imagined when he suddenly
heard his name uttered in a low voice; and, looking up, he beheld the
soft eyes of Maruja at the grating.

She held the door partly open with one little hand, and made a sign for
him to enter with the other.  When he had done so, she said, "Come with
me," and preceded him down the dim corridor.  His heart beat thickly;
the incense of this sacred inner life, with its faint suggestion of
dead rose-leaves, filled him with a voluptuous languor; his breath was
lost, as if a soft kiss had taken it away; his senses swam in the light
mist that seemed to suffuse everything.  His step trembled as she
suddenly turned aside, and, opening a door, ushered him into a small
vaulted chamber.

In the first glance it seemed to be an oratory or chapel.  A large gold
and ebony crucifix hung on the wall.  There was a prie-dieu of heavy
dark mahogany in the centre of the tiled floor; there was a low ottoman
or couch, covered with a mantle of dark violet velvet, like a pall;
there were two quaintly carved stiff chairs; a religious, almost
ascetic, air pervaded the apartment; but no dreamy eastern seraglio
could have affected him with an intoxication so profoundly and
mysteriously sensuous.

Maruja pointed to a chair, and then, with a peculiarly feminine
movement, placed herself sideways upon the ottoman, half reclining on
her elbow on a high cushion, her deep billowy flounces partly veiling
the funereal velvet below.  Her oval face was pale and melancholy, her
eyes moist as if with recent tears; an expression as of troubled
passion lurked in their depths and in the corners of her mouth.
Scarcely knowing why, Carroll fancied that thus she might appear if she
were in love; and the daring thought made him tremble.

"I wanted to speak with you alone," she said, gently, as if in
explanation; "but don't look at me so.  I have had a bad night, and now
this calamity"--she stopped and then added, softly, "I want you to do a
favor for--my mother?"

Captain Carroll, with an effort, at last found his voice.  "But YOU are
in trouble; YOU are suffering.  I had no idea this unfortunate affair
came so near to you."

"Nor did I," said Maruja, closing her fan with a slight snap.  "I knew
nothing of it until my mother told me this morning.  To be frank with
you, it now appears that Dr. West was her most intimate business
adviser.  All her affairs were in his hands.  I cannot explain how, or
why, or when; but it is so."

"And is that all?" said Carroll, with boyish openness of relief. "And
you have no other sorrow?"

In spite of herself, a tender smile, such as she might have bestowed on
an impulsive boy, broke on her lips.  "And is that not enough?  What
would you?  No--sit where you are!  We are here to talk seriously.  And
you do not ask what is this favor my mother wishes?"

"No matter what it is, it shall be done," said Carroll, quickly. "I am
your mother's slave if she will but let me serve at your side.  Only,"
he paused, "I wish it was not business--I know nothing of business."

"If it were only business, Captain Carroll," said Maruja, slowly, "I
would have spoken to Raymond or the Senor Buchanan; if it were only
confidence, Pereo, our mayordomo, would have dragged himself from his
sick-bed this morning to do my mother's bidding.  But it is more than
that--it is the functions of a gentleman--and my mother, Captain
Carroll, would like to say of--a friend."

He seized her hand and covered it with kisses.  She withdrew it gently.

"What have I to do?" he asked, eagerly.

She drew a note from her belt.  "It is very simple.  You must ride over
to Aladdin with that note.  You must give it to him ALONE--more than
that, you must not let any one who may be there think you are making
any but a social call.  If he keeps you to dine--you must stay--you
will bring back anything he may give you and deliver it to me secretly
for her."

"Is that all?" asked Carroll, with a slight touch of disappointment in
his tone.

"No," said Maruja, rising impulsively.  "No, Captain Carroll--it is NOT
all!  And you shall know all, if only to prove to you how we confide in
you--and to leave you free, after you have heard it, to do as you
please."  She stood before him, quite white, opening and shutting her
fan quickly, and tapping the tiled floor with her little foot.  "I have
told you Dr. West was my mother's business adviser.  She looked upon
him as more--as a friend.  Do you know what a dangerous thing it is for
a woman who has lost one protector to begin to rely upon another?
Well, my mother is not yet old. Dr. West appreciated her--Dr. West did
not depreciate himself--two things that go far with a woman, Captain
Carroll, and my mother is a woman."  She paused, and then, with a light
toss of her fan, said: "Well, to make an end, but for this excellent
horse and this too ambitious rider, one knows not how far the old story
of my mother's first choice would have been repeated, and the curse of
Koorotora again fallen on the land."

"And you tell me this--you, Maruja--you who warned me against my
hopeless passion for you?"

"Could I foresee this?" she said, passionately; "and are you mad enough
not to see that this very act would have made YOUR suit intolerable to
my relations?"

"Then you did think of my suit, Maruja," he said, grasping her hand.

"Or any one's suit," she continued, hurriedly, turning away with a
slight increase of color in her cheeks.  After a moment's pause, she
added, in a gentler and half-reproachful voice, "Do you think I have
confided my mother's story to you for this purpose only?  Is this the
help you proffer?"

"Forgive me, Maruja," said the young officer, earnestly.  "I am
selfish, I know--for I love you.  But you have not told me yet how I
could help your mother by delivering this letter, which any one could
do."

"Let me finish then," said Maruja.  "It is for you to judge what may be
done.  Letters have passed between my mother and Dr. West. My mother is
imprudent; I know not what she may have written, or what she might not
write, in confidence.  But you understand, they are not letters to be
made public nor to pass into any hands but hers.  They are not to be
left to be bandied about by his American friends; to be commented upon
by strangers; to reach the ears of the Guitierrez.  They belong to that
grave which lies between the Past and my mother; they must not rise
from it to haunt her."

"I understand," said the young officer, quietly.  "This letter, then,
is my authority to recover them?"

"Partly, though it refers to other matters.  This Mr. Prince, whom you
Americans call Aladdin, was a friend of Dr. West; they were associated
in business, and he will probably have access to his papers.  The rest
we must leave to you."

"I think you may," said Carroll, simply.

Maruja stretched out her hand.  The young man bent over it respectfully
and moved towards the door.

She had expected him to make some protestation--perhaps even to claim
some reward.  But the instinct which made him forbear even in thought
to take advantage of the duty laid upon him, which dominated even his
miserable passion for her, and made it subservient to his exaltation of
honor; this epaulet of the officer, and blood of the gentleman, this
simple possession of knighthood not laid on by perfunctory steel, but
springing from within--all this, I grieve to say, was partly
unintelligible to Maruja, and not entirely satisfactory.  Since he had
entered the room they seemed to have changed their situations; he was
no longer the pleading lover that trembled at her feet.  For one base
moment she thought it was the result of his knowledge of her mother's
weakness; but the next instant, meeting his clear glance, she colored
with shame.  Yet she detained him vaguely a moment before the grated
door in the secure shadow of the arch.  He might have kissed her there!
He did not.

In the gloomy stagnation of the great house, it was natural that he
should escape from it for a while, and the saddling of his horse for a
solitary ride attracted no attention.  But it might have been noticed
that his manner had lost much of that nervous susceptibility and
anxiety which indicates a lover; and it was with a return of his
professional coolness and precision that he rode out of the patio as if
on parade.  Erect, observant, and self-possessed, he felt himself "on
duty," and, putting spurs to his horse, cantered along the high-road,
finding an inexpressible relief in motion.  He was doing something in
the interest of helplessness and of HER.  He had no doubt of his right
to interfere.  He did not bother himself with the rights of others.
Like all self-contained men, he had no plan of action, except what the
occasion might suggest.

He was more than two miles from La Mision Perdida, when his quick eye
was attracted by a saddle-blanket lying in the roadside ditch. A
recollection of the calamity of the previous night made him rein in his
horse and examine it.  It was without doubt the saddle-blanket of Dr.
West's horse, lost when the saddle came off, after the Doctor's body
had been dragged by the runaway beast.  But a second fact forced itself
equally upon the young officer.  It was lying nearly a mile from the
spot where the body had been picked up.  This certainly did not agree
with the accepted theory that the accident had taken place further on,
and that the body had been dragged until the saddle came off where it
was found.  His professional knowledge of equitation and the technique
of accoutrements exploded the idea that the saddle could have slipped
here, the saddle-blanket fallen and the horse have run nearly a mile
hampered by the saddle hanging under him.  Consequently, the saddle,
blanket, and unfortunate rider must have been precipitated together,
and at the same moment, on or near this very spot. Captain Carroll was
not a detective; he had no theory to establish, no motive to discover,
only as an officer, he would have simply rejected any excuse offered on
those terms by one of his troopers to account for a similar accident.
He troubled himself with no further deduction.  Without dismounting, he
gave a closer attention to the marks of struggling hoofs near the edge
of the ditch, which had not yet been obliterated by the daily travel.
In doing so, his horse's hoof struck a small object partly hidden in
the thick dust of the highway.  It seemed to be a leather letter or
memorandum case adapted for the breast pocket.  Carroll instantly
dismounted and picked it up.  The name and address of Dr. West were
legibly written on the inside.  It contained a few papers and notes,
but nothing more.  The possibility that it might disclose the letters
he was seeking was a hope quickly past.  It was only a corroborative
fact that the accident had taken place on the spot where he was
standing.  He was losing time; he hurriedly put the book in his pocket,
and once more spurred forward on his road.



CHAPTER VII

The exterior of Aladdin's Palace, familiar as it already was to
Carroll, struck him that afternoon as looking more than usually unreal,
ephemeral, and unsubstantial.  The Moorish arches, of the thinnest
white pine; the arabesque screens and lattices that looked as if made
of pierced cardboard; the golden minarets that seemed to be glued to
the shell-like towers, and the hollow battlements that visibly warped
and cracked in the fierce sunlight,--all appeared more than ever like a
theatrical scene that might sink through the ground, or vanish on
either side to the sound of the prompter's whistle.  Recalling
Raymond's cynical insinuations, he could not help fancying that the
house had been built by a conscientious genie with a view to the
possibility of the lamp and the ring passing, with other effects, into
the hands of the sheriff.

Nevertheless, the servant who took Captain Carroll's horse summoned
another domestic, who preceded him into a small waiting-room off the
gorgeous central hall, which looked not unlike the private bar-room of
a first-class hotel, and presented him with a sherry cobbler.  It was a
peculiarity of Aladdin's Palace that the host seldom did the honors of
his own house, but usually deputed the task to some friend, and
generally the last new-comer.  Carroll was consequently not surprised
when he was presently joined by an utter stranger, who again pressed
upon him the refreshment he had just declined.  "You see," said the
transitory host, "I'm a stranger myself here, and haven't got the ways
of the regular customers; but call for anything you like, and I'll see
it got for you.  Jim" (the actual Christian name of Aladdin) "is
headin' a party through the stables.  Would you like to join 'em--they
ain't more than half through now--or will you come right to the
billiard-room--the latest thing out in stained glass and iron--ez
pretty as fresh paint? or will you meander along to the bridal suite,
and see the bamboo and silver dressing-room, and the white satin and
crystal bed that cost fifteen thousand dollars as it stands.  Or," he
added, confidentially, "would you like to cut the whole cussed thing,
and I'll get out Jim's 2.32 trotter and his spider-legged buggy and
we'll take a spin over to the Springs afore dinner?"  It was, however,
more convenient to Carroll's purpose to conceal his familiarity with
the Aladdin treasures, and to politely offer to follow his guide
through the house.  "I reckon Jim's pretty busy just now," continued
the stranger; "what with old Doc West going under so suddent, just ez
he'd got things boomin' with that railroad and his manufactory company.
The stocks went down to nothing this morning; and, 'twixt you and me,
the boys say," he added, mysteriously sinking his voice, "it was jest
the tightest squeeze there whether there wouldn't be a general burst-up
all round.  But Jim was over at San Antonio afore the Doctor's body was
laid out; just ran that telegraph himself for about two hours; had a
meeting of trustees and directors afore the Coroner came; had the
Doctor's books and papers brought over here in a buggy, and another
meeting before luncheon.  Why, by the time the other fellows began to
drop in to know if the Doctor was really dead, Jim Prince had
discounted the whole affair two years ahead.  Why, bless you, nearly
everybody is in it.  That Spanish woman over there, with the pretty
daughter--that high-toned Greaser with the big house--you know who I
mean." ...

"I don't think I do," said Carroll, coldly.  "I know a lady named
Saltonstall, with several daughters."

"That's her; thought I'd seen you there once.  Well, the Doctor's got
her into it, up to the eyes.  I reckon she's mortgaged everything to
him."

It required all Carroll's trained self-possession to prevent his
garrulous guide from reading his emotion in his face.  This, then, was
the secret of Maruja's melancholy.  Poor child! how bravely she had
borne up under it; and HE, in his utter selfishness, had never
suspected it.  Perhaps that letter was her delicate way of breaking the
news to him, for he should certainly now hear it all from Aladdin's
lips.  And this man, who evidently had succeeded to the control of Dr.
West's property, doubtless had possession of the letters too!  Humph!
He shut his lips firmly together, and strode along by the side of his
innocent guide, erect and defiant.

He did not have long to wait.  The sound of voices, the opening of
doors, and the trampling of feet indicated that the other party were
being "shown over" that part of the building Carroll and his companion
were approaching.  "There's Jim and his gang now," said his cicerone;
"I'll tell him you're here, and step out of this show business myself.
So long!  I reckon I'll see you at dinner."  At this moment Prince and
a number of ladies and gentlemen appeared at the further end of the
hall; his late guide joined them, and apparently indicated Carroll's
presence, as, with a certain lounging, off-duty, officer-like way, the
young man sauntered on.

Aladdin, like others of his class, objected to the military,
theoretically and practically; but he was not above recognizing their
social importance in a country of no society, and of even being
fascinated by Carroll's quiet and secure self-possession and
self-contentment in a community of restless ambition and aggressive
assertion.  He came forward to welcome him cordially; he introduced him
with an air of satisfaction; he would have preferred if he had been in
uniform, but he contented himself with the fact that Carroll, like all
men of disciplined limbs, carried himself equally well in mufti.

"You have shown us everything," said Carroll, smiling, "except the
secret chamber where you keep the magic lamp and ring.  Are we not to
see the spot where the incantation that produces these marvels is held,
even if we are forbidden to witness the ceremony?  The ladies are dying
to see your sanctum--your study--your workshop--where you really live."

"You'll find it a mere den, as plain as my bed-room," said Prince, who
prided himself on the Spartan simplicity of his own habits, and was not
averse to the exhibition.  "Come this way."  He crossed the hall, and
entered a small, plainly furnished room, containing a table piled with
papers, some of which were dusty and worn-looking. Carroll instantly
conceived the idea that these were Dr. West's property.  He took his
letter quietly from his pocket; and, when the attention of the others
was diverted, laid it on the table, with the remark, in an undertone,
audible only to Prince, "From Mrs. Saltonstall."

Aladdin had that sublime audacity which so often fills the place of
tact.  Casting a rapid glance at Carroll, he cried, "Hallo!" and,
wheeling suddenly round on his following guests, with a bewildering
extravagance of playful brusqueness, actually bundled them from the
room.  "The incantation is on!" he cried, waving his arms in the air;
"the genie is at work.  No admittance except on business! Follow Miss
Wilson," he added, clapping both hands on the shoulders of the
prettiest and shyest young lady of the party, with an irresistible
paternal familiarity.  "She's your hostess.  I'll honor her drafts to
any amount;" and before they were aware of his purpose or that Carroll
was no longer among them, Aladdin had closed the door, that shut with a
spring lock, and was alone with the young man.  He walked quickly to
his desk, took up the letter, and opened it.

His face of dominant, self-satisfied good-humor became set and stern.
Without taking the least notice of Carroll, he rose, and, stepping to a
telegraph instrument at a side table, manipulated half a dozen ivory
knobs with a sudden energy.  Then he returned to the table, and began
hurriedly to glance over the memoranda and indorsements of the files of
papers piled upon it.  Carroll's quick eye caught sight of a small
packet of letters in a writing of unmistakable feminine delicacy, and
made certain they were the ones he was in quest of.  Without raising
his eyes, Mr. Prince asked, almost rudely,--

"Who else has she told this to?"

"If you refer to the contents of that letter, it was written and handed
to me about three hours ago.  It has not been out of my possession
since then."

"Humph!  Who's at the casa?  There's Buchanan, and Raymond, and Victor
Guitierrez, eh?"

"I think I can say almost positively that Mrs. Saltonstall has seen no
one but her daughter since the news reached her, if that is what you
wish to know," said Carroll, still following the particular package of
letters with his eyes, as Mr. Prince continued his examination.  Prince
stopped.

"Are you sure?"

"Almost sure."

Prince rose, this time with a greater ease of manner, and, going to the
table, ran his fingers over the knobs, as if mechanically. "One would
like to know at once all there is to know about a transaction that
changes the front of four millions of capital in about four hours, eh,
Captain?" he said, for the first time really regarding his guest.
"Just four hours ago, in this very room, we found out that the widow
Saltonstall owed Dr. West about a million, tied up in investments, and
we calculated to pull her through with perhaps the loss of half.  If
she's got this assignment of the Doctor's property that she speaks of
in her letter, as collateral security, and it's all regular, and
she--so to speak--steps into Dr. West's place, by G-d, sir, we owe HIM
about three millions, and we've got to settle with HER--and that's all
about it.  You've dropped a little bomb-shell in here, Captain, and the
splinters are flying around as far as San Francisco, now.  I confess it
beats me regularly.  I always thought the old man was a little keen
over there at the casa--but she was a woman, and he was a man for all
his sixty years, and THAT combination I never thought of.  I only
wonder she hadn't gobbled him up before."

Captain Carroll's face betrayed no trace of the bewilderment and
satisfaction at this news of which he had been the unconscious bearer,
nor of resentment at the coarseness of its translation.

"There does not seem to be any memorandum of this assignment,"
continued Prince, turning over the papers.

"Have you looked here?" said Carroll, taking up the packet of letters.

"No--they seem to me some private letters she refers to in this letter,
and that she wants back again."

"Let us see," said Carroll, untying the packet.  There were three or
four closely written notes in Spanish and English.

"Love-letters, I reckon," said Prince--"that's why the old girl wants
'em back.  She don't care to have the wheedling that fetched the Doctor
trotted out to the public."

"Let us look more carefully," said Carroll, pleasantly, opening each
letter before Prince, yet so skillfully as to frustrate any attempt of
the latter to read them.  "There does not seem to be any memorandum
here.  They are evidently only private letters."

"Quite so," said Prince.

Captain Carroll retied the packet and put it in his pocket.  "Then I'll
return them to her," he said, quietly.

"Hullo!--here--I say," said Prince, starting to his feet.

"I said I would return them to her," repeated Carroll, calmly.

"But I never gave them to you!  I never consented to their withdrawal
from the papers."

"I'm sorry you did not," said Carroll, coldly; "it would have been more
polite."

"Polite!  D--n it, sir!  I call this stealing."

"Stealing, Mr. Prince, is a word that might be used by the person who
claims these letters to describe the act of any one who would keep them
from HER.  It really can not apply to you or me."

"Once for all, do you refuse to return them to me?" said Prince, pale
with anger.

"Decidedly."

"Very well, sir!  We shall see."  He stepped to the corner and rang a
bell.  "I have summoned my manager, and will charge you with the theft
in his presence."

"I think not."

"And why, sir?"

"Because the presence of a third party would enable me to throw this
glove in your face, which, as a gentleman, I couldn't do without
witnesses."  Steps were heard along the passage; Prince was no coward
in a certain way; neither was he a fool.  He knew that Carroll would
keep his word; he knew that he should have to fight him; that, whatever
the issue of the duel was, the cause of the quarrel would be known, and
scarcely redound to his credit.  At present there were no witnesses to
the offered insult, and none would be wiser.  The letters were not
worth it.  He stepped to the door, opened it, said, "No matter," and
closed it again.

He returned with an affectation of carelessness.  "You are right. I
don't know that I'm called upon to make a scene here which the LAW can
do for me as well elsewhere.  It will settle pretty quick whether
you've got the right to those letters, and whether you've taken the
right way to get them sir."

"I have no desire to evade any responsibility in this matter, legal or
otherwise," said Carroll, coldly, rising to his feet.

"Look here," said Prince, suddenly, with a return of his brusque
frankness; "you might have ASKED me for those letters, you know."

"And you wouldn't have given them to me," said Carroll.

Prince laughed.  "That's so!  I say, Captain.  Did they teach you this
sort of strategy at West Point?"

"They taught me that I could neither receive nor give an insult under a
white flag," said Carroll, pleasantly.  "And they allowed me to make
exchanges under the same rule.  I picked up this pocket-book on the
spot where the accident occurred to Dr. West.  It is evidently his.  I
leave it with you, who are his executor."

The instinct of reticence before a man with whom he could never be
confidential kept him from alluding to his other discovery.

Prince took the pocket-book, and opened it mechanically.  After a
moment's scrutiny of the memoranda it contained, his face assumed
something of the same concentrated attention it wore at the beginning
of the interview.  Raising his eyes suddenly to Carroll, he said,
quickly,--

"You have examined it?"

"Only so far as to see that it contained nothing of importance to the
person I represent," returned Carroll, simply.

The capitalist looked at the young officer's clear eyes.  Something of
embarrassment came into his own as he turned them away.

"Certainly.  Only memoranda of the Doctor's business.  Quite important
to us, you know.  But nothing referring to YOUR principal."  He
laughed.  "Thank you for the exchange.  I say--take a drink!"

"Thank you--no!" returned Carroll, going to the door.

"Well, good-by."

He held out his hand.  Carroll, with his clear eyes still regarding
him, passed quietly by the outstretched hand, opened the door, bowed,
and made his exit.

A slight flush came into Prince's cheek.  Then, as the door closed, he
burst into a half-laugh.  Had he been a dramatic villain, he would have
added to it several lines of soliloquy, in which he would have
rehearsed the fact that the opportunity for revenge had "come at last";
that the "haughty victor who had just left with his ill-gotten spoil
had put into his hands the weapon of his friend's destruction"; that
the "hour had come"; and, possibly he might have said, "Ha! ha!"  But,
being a practical, good-natured, selfish rascal, not much better or
worse than his neighbors, he sat himself down at his desk and began to
carefully consider how HE could best make use of the memoranda jotted
down by Dr. West of the proofs of the existence of his son, and the
consequent discovery of a legal heir to his property.



CHAPTER VIII

When Faquita had made sure that her young mistress was so securely
closeted with Dona Maria that morning as to be inaccessible to curious
eyes and ears, she saw fit to bewail to her fellow-servants this
further evidence of the decay of the old feudal and patriarchal mutual
family confidences.  "Time was, thou rememberest, Pepita, when an
affair of this kind was openly discussed at chocolate with everybody
present, and before us all. When Joaquin Padilla was shot at Monterey,
it was the Dona herself who told us, who read aloud the letters
describing it and the bullet-holes in his clothes, and made it quite a
gala-day--and he was a first-cousin of Guitierrez.  And now, when this
American goat of a doctor is kicked to death by a mule, the family must
shut themselves up, that never a question is asked or answered."  "Ay,"
responded Pepita; "and as regards that, Sanchez there knows as much as
they do, for it was he that almost saw the whole affair."

"How?--sawest it?" inquired Faquita, eagerly.

"Why, was it not he that was bringing home Pereo, who had been lying in
one of his trances or visions--blessed St. Antonio preserve us!" said
Pepita, hastily crossing herself--"on Kooratora's grave, when the
Doctor's mustang charged down upon them like a wild bull, and the
Doctor's foot half out of the stirrups, and he not yet fast in his
seat.  And Pereo laughs a wild laugh and says: 'Watch if the coyote
does not drag yet at his mustang's heels;' and Sanchez ran and watched
the Doctor out of sight, careering and galloping to his death!--ay, as
Pereo prophesied. For it was only half an hour afterward that Sanchez
again heard the tramp of his hoofs--as if it were here--and knowing it
two miles away--thou understandest, he said to himself: 'It is over.'"

The two women shuddered and crossed themselves.

"And what says Pereo of the fulfillment of his prophecy?" asked
Faquita, hugging herself in her shawl with a certain titillating shrug
of fascinating horror.

"It is even possible he understands it not.  Thou knowest how dazed and
dumb he ever is after these visions--that he comes from them as one
from the grave, remembering nothing.  He has lain like a log all the
morning."

"Ay; but this news should awaken him, if aught can.  He loved not this
sneaking Doctor.  Let us seek him; mayhap, Sanchez may be there.  Come!
The mistress lacks us not just now; the guests are provided for.  Come!"

She led the way to the eastern angle of the casa communicating by a low
corridor with the corral and stables.  This was the old "gate-keep" or
quarters of the mayordomo, who, among his functions, was supposed to
exercise a supervision over the exits and entrances of the house.  A
large steward's room or office, beyond it a room of general assembly,
half guard-room, half servants' hall, and Pereo's sleeping-room,
constituted his domain.  A few peons were gathered in the hall near the
open door of the apartment where Pereo lay.

Stretched on a low pallet, his face yellow as wax, a light burning
under a crucifix near his head, and a spray of blessed palm, popularly
supposed to avert the attempts of evil spirits to gain possession of
his suspended faculties, Pereo looked not unlike a corpse.  Two muffled
and shawled domestics, who sat by his side, might have been mourners,
but for their voluble and incessant chattering.

"So thou art here, Faquita," said a stout virago.  "It is a wonder thou
couldst spare time from prayers for the repose of the American Doctor's
soul to look after the health of thy superior, poor Pereo! Is it, then,
true that Dona Maria said she would have naught more to do with the
drunken brute of her mayordomo?"

The awful fascination of Pereo's upturned face did not prevent Faquita
from tossing her head as she replied, pertly, that she was not there to
defend her mistress from lazy gossip.  "Nay, but WHAT said she?" asked
the other attendant.

"She said Pereo was to want for nothing; but at present she could not
see him."

A murmur of indignation and sympathy passed through the company. It was
followed by a long sigh from the insensible man.  "His lips move," said
Faquita, still fascinated by curiosity.  "Hush! he would speak."

"His lips move, but his soul is still asleep," said Sanchez,
oracularly.  "Thus they have moved since early morning, when I came to
speak with him, and found him lying here in a fit upon the floor.  He
was half dressed, thou seest, as if he had risen to go forth, and had
been struck down so--"

"Hush!  I tell thee he speaks," said Faquita.

The sick man was faintly articulating through a few tiny bubbles that
broke upon his rigid lips.  "He--dared--me!  He--said--I was old--too
old."

"Who dared thee?  Who said thou wast too old?" asked the eager Faquita,
bending over him.

"He, Koorotora himself! in the shape of a coyote."

Faquita fell back with a little giggle, half of shame, half of awe.

"It is ever thus," said Sanchez, sententiously; "it is what he said
last night, when I picked him up on the mound.  He will sleep now--thou
shalt see.  He will get no further than Koorotora and the coyote--and
then he will sleep."

And to the awe of the group, and the increased respect for Sanchez's
wisdom, Pereo seemed to fall again into a lethargic slumber.  It was
late in the evening when he appeared to regain perfect consciousness.
"Ah--what is this?" he said, roughly, sitting up in bed, and eying the
watchers around him, some of whom had succumbed to sleep, and others
were engaged in playing cards. "Caramba! are ye mad?  Thou, Sanchez,
here; who shouldst be at thy work in the stables!  Thou, Pepita, is thy
mistress asleep or dead, that thou sittest here?  Blessed San Antonio!
would ye drive me mad?"  He lifted his hand to his head, with a dull
movement of pain, and attempted to rise from the bed.

"Softly, good Pereo; lie still," said Sanchez, approaching him. "Thou
hast been ill--so ill.  These, thy friends, have been waiting only for
this moment to be assured that thou art better.  For this idleness
there is no blame--truly none.  The Dona Maria has said that thou
shouldst lack no care; and, truly, since the terrible news there has
been little to do."

"The terrible news?" repeated Pereo.

Sanchez cast a meaning glance upon the others, as if to indicate this
coaffirmation of his diagnosis.

"Ay, terrible news!  The Doctor West was found this morning dead two
miles from the casa."

"Dr. West dead!" repeated Pereo, slowly, as if endeavoring to master
the real meaning of the words.  Then, seeing the vacuity of his
question reflected on the faces of those around him, he added,
hurriedly, with a feeble smile, "O--ay--dead!  Yes!  I remember. And he
has been ill--very ill, eh?"

"It was an accident.  He was thrown from his horse, and so killed,"
returned Sanchez, gravely.

"Killed--by his horse! sayest thou?" said Pereo, with a sudden fixed
look in his eye.

"Ay, good Pereo.  Dost thou not remember when the mustang bolted with
him down upon us in the lane, and then thou didst say he would come to
evil with the brute?  He did--blessed San Antonio!--within half an
hour!"

"How--thou sawest it?"

"Nay; for the mustang was running away and I did not follow. Bueno! it
happened all the same.  The Alcalde, Coroner, who knows all about it,
has said so an hour ago!  Juan brought the news from the rancho where
the inquest was.  There will be a funeral the day after to-morrow! and
so it is that some of the family will go. Fancy, Pereo, a Guitierrez at
the funeral of the Americano Doctor! Nay, I doubt not that the Dona
Maria will ask thee to say a prayer over his bier."

"Peace, fool! and speak not of thy lady mistress," thundered the old
man, sitting upright.  "Begone to the stables.  Dost thou hear me?  Go!"

"Now, by the Mother of Miracles," said Sanchez, hastening from the room
as the gaunt figure of the old man rose, like a sheeted spectre, from
the bed, "that was his old self again!  Blessed San Antonio!  Pereo has
recovered."

The next day he was at his usual duties, with perhaps a slight increase
of sternness in his manner.  The fulfillment of his prophecy related by
Sanchez added to the superstitious reputation in which he was held,
although Faquita voiced the opinions of a growing skeptical party in
the statement that it was easy to prophesy the Doctor's accident, with
the spectacle of the horse actually running away before the prophet's
eyes.  It was even said that Dona Maria's aversion to Pereo since the
accident arose from a belief that some assistance might have been
rendered by him.  But it was pointed out by Sanchez that Pereo had, a
few moments before, fallen under one of those singular, epileptic-like
strokes to which he was subject, and not only was unfit, but even
required the entire care of Sanchez at the time.  He did not attend the
funeral, nor did Mrs. Saltonstall; but the family was represented by
Maruja and Amita, accompanied by one or two dark-faced cousins, Captain
Carroll, and Raymond.  A number of friends and business associates from
the neighboring towns, Aladdin and a party from his house, the farm
laborers, and a crowd of working men from his mills in the foot-hills,
swelled the assemblage that met in and around the rude agricultural
sheds and outhouses which formed the only pastoral habitation of the
Rancho of San Antonio.  It had been a characteristic injunction of the
deceased that he should be buried in the midst of one of his most
prolific grain fields, as a grim return to that nature he was
impoverishing, with neither mark nor monument to indicate the spot; and
that even the temporary mound above him should, at the fitting season
of the year, be leveled with the rest of the field by the obliterating
plowshares.  A grave was accordingly dug about a quarter of a mile from
his office amidst a "volunteer" crop so dense that the large space mown
around the narrow opening, to admit of the presence of the multitude,
seemed like a golden amphitheatre.

A distinguished clergyman from San Francisco officiated.

A man of tact and politic adaptation, he dwelt upon the blameless life
of the deceased, on his practical benefit for civilization in the
county, and even treated his grim Pantheism in the selection of his
grave as a formal recognition of the text, "dust to dust."  He paid a
not ungrateful compliment to the business associates of the deceased,
and, without actually claiming in the usual terms "a continuance of
past favors" for their successors, managed to interpolate so strong a
recommendation of the late Doctor's commercial projects as to elicit
from Aladdin the expressive commendation that his sermon was "as good
as five per cent. in the stock."

Maruja, who had been standing near the carriage, languidly silent and
abstracted even under the tender attentions of Carroll, suddenly felt
the consciousness of another pair of eyes fixed upon her.  Looking up,
she was surprised to find herself regarded by the man she had twice
met, once as a tramp and once as a wayfarer at the fonda, who had
quietly joined a group not far from her.  At once impressed by the idea
that this was the first time that he had really looked at her, she felt
a singular shyness creeping over her, until, to her own astonishment
and indignation, she was obliged to lower her eyes before his gaze.  In
vain she tried to lift them, with her old supreme power of fascination.
If she had ever blushed, she felt she would have done so now.  She knew
that her face must betray her consciousness; and at last she--Maruja,
the self-poised and all-sufficient goddess--actually turned, in
half-hysterical and girlish bashfulness, to Carroll for relief in an
affected and exaggerated absorption of his attentions.  She scarcely
knew that the clergyman had finished speaking, when Raymond approached
them softly from behind.  "Pray don't believe," he said, appealingly,
"that all the human virtues are about to be buried--I should say
sown--in that wheatfield.  A few will still survive, and creep about
above the Doctor's grave.  Listen to a story just told me, and
disbelieve--if you dare--in human gratitude.  Do you see that
picturesque young ruffian over there?"

Maruja did not lift her eyes.  She felt herself breathlessly hanging on
the speaker's next words.

"Why, that's the young man of the fonda, who picked up your fan," said
Carroll, "isn't it?"

"Perhaps," said Maruja, indifferently.  She would have given worlds to
have been able to turn coldly and stare at him at that moment with the
others, but she dared not.  She contented herself with softly brushing
some dust from Captain Carroll's arm with her fan and a feminine
suggestion of tender care which thrilled that gentleman.

"Well," continued Raymond, "that Robert Macaire over yonder came here
some three or four days ago as a tramp, in want of everything but
honest labor.  Our lamented friend consented to parley with him, which
was something remarkable in the Doctor; still more remarkable, he gave
him a suit of clothes, and, it is said, some money, and sent him on his
way.  Now, more remarkable than all, our friend, on hearing of his
benefactor's death, actually tramps back here to attend his funeral.
The Doctor being dead, his executors not of a kind to emulate the
Doctor's spasmodic generosity, and there being no chance of future
favors, the act must be recorded as purely and simply gratitude.  By
Jove! I don't know but that he is the only one here who can be called a
real mourner.  I'm here because your sister is here; Carroll comes
because YOU do, and you come because your mother can not."

"And who tells you these pretty stories?" asked Maruja, with her face
still turned towards Carroll.

"The foreman, Harrison, who, with an extensive practical experience of
tramps, was struck with this exception to the general rule."

"Poor man; one ought to do something for him," said Amita,
compassionately.

"What!" said Raymond, with affected terror, "and spoil this perfect
story?  Never!  If I should offer him ten dollars, I'd expect him to
kick me; if he took it, I'd expect to kick HIM."

"He is not so bad-looking, is he, Maruja?" asked Amita of her sister.
But Maruja had already moved a few paces off with Carroll, and seemed
to be listening to him only.  Raymond smiled at the pretty perplexity
of Amita's eyebrows over this pronounced indiscretion.

"Don't mind them," he whispered; "you really cannot expect to duena
your elder sister.  Tell me, would you actually like me to see if I
could assist the virtuous tramp?  You have only to speak."  But Amita's
interest appeared to be so completely appeased with Raymond's simple
offer that she only smiled, blushed, and said "No."

Maruja's quick ears had taken in every word of these asides, and for an
instant she hated her sister for her aimless declination of Raymond's
proposal.  But becoming conscious--under her eyelids--that the stranger
was moving away with the dispersing crowd, she rejoined Amita with her
usual manner.  The others had re-entered the carriage, but Maruja took
it into her head to proceed on foot to the rude building whence the
mourners had issued.  The foreman, Harrison, flushed and startled by
this apparition of inaccessible beauty at his threshold, came eagerly
forward.  "I shall not trouble you now, Mr. Har-r-r-rison," she said,
with a polite exaggeration of the consonants; "but some day I shall
ride over here, and ask you to show me your wonderful machines."

She smiled, and turned back to seek her carriage.  But before she had
gone many yards she found that she had completely lost it in the
intervening billows of grain.  She stopped, with an impatient little
Spanish ejaculation.  The next moment the stalks of wheat parted before
her and a figure emerged.  It was the stranger.

She fell back a step in utter helplessness.

He, on his side, retreated again into the wheat, holding it back with
extended arms to let her pass.  As she moved forward mechanically,
without a word he moved backward, making a path for her until she was
able to discern the coachman's whip above the bending heads of the
grain just beyond her.  He stopped here and drew to one side, his arms
still extended, to give her free passage.  She tried to speak, but
could only bow her head, and slipped by him with a strange
feeling--suggested by his attitude--that she was evading his embrace.
But the next moment his arms were lowered, the grain closed around him,
and he was lost to her view.  She reached the carriage almost
unperceived by the inmates, and pounced upon her sister with a laugh.

"Blessed Virgin!" said Amita, "where did you come from?"

"From there!" said Maruja, with a slight nervous shiver, pointing to
the clustering grain.

"We were afraid you were lost."

"So was I," said Maruja, raising her pretty lashes heavenwards, as she
drew a shawl tightly round her shoulders.

"Has anything happened.  You look strange," said Carroll, drawing
closer to her.

Here eyes were sparkling, but she was very pale.

"Nothing, nothing!" she said, hastily, glancing at the grain again.

"If it were not that the haste would have been absolutely indecent, I
should say that the late Doctor had made you a ghostly visit," said
Raymond, looking at her curiously.

"He would have been polite enough not to have commented on my looks,"
said Maruja.  "Am I really such a fright?"

Carroll thought he had never seen her so beautiful.  Her eyelids were
quivering over their fires as if they had been brushed by the passing
wing of a strong passion.

"What are you thinking of?" said Carroll, as they drove on.

She was thinking that the stranger had looked at her admiringly, and
that his eyes were blue.  But she looked quietly into her lover's face,
and said, sweetly, "Nothing, I fear, that would interest you!"



CHAPTER IX

The news of the assignment of Dr. West's property to Mrs. Saltonstall
was followed by the still more astonishing discovery that the Doctor's
will further bequeathed to her his entire property, after payment of
his debts and liabilities.  It was given in recognition of her talents
and business integrity during their late association, and as an
evidence of the confidence and "undying affection" of the testator.
Nevertheless, after the first surprise, the fact was accepted by the
community as both natural and proper under that singular instinct of
humanity which acquiesces without scruple in the union of two large
fortunes, but sharply questions the conjunction of poverty and
affluence, and looks only for interested motives where there is
disparity of wealth.  Had Mrs. Saltonstall been a poor widow instead of
a rich one; had she been the Doctor's housekeeper instead of his
business friend, the bequest would have been strongly criticised--if
not legally tested.  But this combination, which placed the entire
valley of San Antonio in the control of a single individual, appeared
to be perfectly legitimate.  More than that, some vague rumor of the
Doctor's past and his early entanglements only seemed to make this
eminently practical disposition of his property the more respectable,
and condoned for any moral irregularities of his youth.

The effect upon the collateral branches of the Guitierrez family and
the servants and retainers was even more impressive.  For once, it
seemed that the fortunes and traditions of the family were changed; the
female Guitierrez, instead of impoverishing the property, had augmented
it; the foreigner and intruder had been despoiled; the fate of La
Mision Perdida had been changed; the curse of Koorotora had proved a
blessing; his prophet and descendant, Pereo, the mayordomo, moved in an
atmosphere of superstitious adulation and respect among the domestics
and common people.  This recognition of his power he received at times
with a certain exaltation of grandiloquent pride beyond the conception
of any but a Spanish servant, and at times with a certain dull, pained
vacancy of perception and an expression of frightened bewilderment
which also went far to establish his reputation as an unconscious seer
and thaumaturgist.  "Thou seest," said Sanchez to the partly skeptical
Faquita, "he does not know more than an infant what is his power.  That
is the proof of it."  The Dona Maria alone did not participate in this
appreciation of Pereo, and when it was proposed that a feast or
celebration of rejoicing should be given under the old pear-tree by the
Indian's mound, her indignation was long remembered by those that
witnessed it.  "It is not enough that we have been made ridiculous in
the past," she said to Maruja, "by the interference of this solemn
fool, but that the memory of our friend is to be insulted by his
generosity being made into a triumph of Pereo's idiotic ancestor.  One
would have thought those coyotes and Koorotora's bones had been buried
with the cruel gossip of your relations"--(it had been the recent habit
of Dona Maria to allude to "the family" as being particularly related
to Maruja alone)--"over my poor friend.  Let him beware that his
ancestor's mound is not uprooted with the pear-tree, and his heathenish
temple destroyed.  If, as the engineer says, a branch of the new
railroad can be established for La Mision Perdida, I agree with him
that it can better pass at that point with less sacrifice to the
domain. It is the one uncultivated part of the park, and lies at the
proper angle."

"You surely would not consent to this, my mother?" said Maruja, with a
sudden impression of a newly found force in her mother's character.

"Why not, child?" said the relict of Mr. Saltonstall and the mourner of
Dr. West, coldly.  "I admit it was discreet of thee in old times to
have thy sentimental passages there with caballeros who, like the
guests of the hidalgo that kept a skeleton at his feast, were reminded
of the mutability of their hopes by Koorotora's bones and the legend.
But with the explosion of this idea of a primal curse, like Eve's, on
the property," added the Dona Maria, with a slight bitterness, "thou
mayest have thy citas--elsewhere.  Thou canst scarcely keep this
Captain Carroll any longer at a distance by rattling those bones of
Koorotora in his face.  And of a truth, child, since the affair of the
letters, and his discreet and honorable conduct since, I see not why
thou shouldst.  He has thy mother's reputation in his hands."

"He is a gentleman, my mother," said Maruja, quietly.

"And they are scarce, child, and should be rewarded and preserved. That
is what I meant, silly one; this Captain is not rich--but then, thou
hast enough for both."

"But it was Amita that first brought him here," said Maruja, looking
down with an air of embarrassed thoughtfulness, which Dona Maria chose
to instantly accept as exaggerated coyness.

"Do not think to deceive me or thyself, child, with this folly. Thou
art old enough to know a man's mind, if not thine own. Besides, I do
not know that I shall object to her liking for Raymond.  He is very
clever, and would be a relief to some of thy relatives.  He would be
invaluable to us in the emergencies that may grow out of these
mechanical affairs that I do not understand--such as the mill and the
railroad."

"And you propose to take a few husbands as partners in the business?"
said Maruja, who had recovered her spirits.  "I warn you that Captain
Carroll is as stupid as a gentleman could be.  I wonder that he has not
blundered in other things as badly as he has in preferring me to Amita.
He confided to me only last night, that he had picked up a pocket-book
belonging to the Doctor and given it to Aladdin, without a witness or
receipt, and evidently of his own accord."

"A pocket-book of the Doctor's?" repeated Dona Maria.

"Ay; but it contained nothing of thine," said Maruja.  "The poor child
had sense enough to think of that.  But I am in no hurry to ask your
consent and your blessing yet, little mother.  I could even bear that
Amita should precede me to the altar, if the exigencies of thy
'business' require it.  It might also secure Captain Carroll for me.
Nay, look not at me in that cheapening, commercial way--with compound
interest in thine eyes.  I am not so poor an investment, truly, of thy
original capital."

"Thou art thy father's child," said her mother, suddenly kissing her;
"and that is saying enough, the Blessed Virgin knows.  Go now," she
continued, gently pushing her from the room, "and send Amita hither."
She watched the disappearance of Maruja's slightly rebellious
shoulders, and added to herself, "And this is the child that Amita
really believes is pining with lovesickness for Carroll, so that she
can neither sleep nor eat.  This is the girl that Faquita would have me
think hath no longer any heart in her dress or in her finery!  Soul of
Joseph Saltonstall!" ejaculated the widow, lifting her shoulders and
her eyes together, "thou hast much to account for."

Two weeks later she again astonished her daughter.  "Why dost thou not
join the party that drives over to see the wonders of Aladdin's Palace
to-day?  It would seem more proper that thou shouldst accompany thy
guests than Raymond and Amita."

"I have never entered his doors since the day he was disrespectful to
my mother's daughter," said Maruja, in surprise.

"Disrespectful!" repeated Dona Maria, impatiently.  "Thy father's
daughter ought to know that such as he may be ignorant and vulgar, but
can not be disrespectful to her.  And there are offenses, child, it is
much more crushing to forget than to remember.  As long as he has not
the presumption to APOLOGIZE, I see no reason why thou mayst not go.
He has not been here since that affair of the letters.  I shall not
permit him to be uncivil over THAT--dost thou understand?  He is of use
to me in business.  Thou mayst take Carroll with thee; he will
understand that."

"But Carroll will not go," said Maruja.  "He will not say what passed
between them, but I suspect they quarreled."

"All the better, then, that thou goest alone.  He need not be reminded
of it.  Fear not but that he will be only too proud of thy visit to
think of aught else."

Maruja, who seemed relieved at this prospect of being unaccompanied by
Captain Carroll, shrugged her shoulders and assented.

When the party that afternoon drove into the courtyard of Aladdin's
Palace, the announcement that its hospitable proprietor was absent, and
would not return until dinner, did not abate either their pleasure or
their curiosity.  As already intimated to the reader, Mr. Prince's
functions as host were characteristically irregular; and the servant's
suggestion, that Mr. Prince's private secretary would attend to do the
honors, created little interest, and was laughingly waived by Maruja.
"There really is not the slightest necessity to trouble the gentleman,"
she said, politely.  "I know the house thoroughly, and I think I have
shown it once or twice before for your master.  Indeed," she added,
turning to her party, "I have been already complimented on my skill as
a cicerone." After a pause, she continued, with a slight exaggeration
of action and in her deepest contralto, "Ahem, ladies and gentlemen,
the ball and court in which we are now standing is a perfect copy of
the Court of Lions at the Alhambra, and was finished in fourteen days
in white pine, gold, and plaster, at a cost of ten thousand dollars.  A
photograph of the original structure hangs on the wall: you will
observe, ladies and gentlemen, that the reproduction is perfect.  The
Alhambra is in Granada, a province of Spain, which it is said in some
respects to resemble California, where you have probably observed the
Spanish language is still spoken by the old settlers.  We now cross the
stable-yard on a bridge which is a facsimile in appearance and
dimensions of the Bridge of Sighs at Venice, connecting the Doge's
Palace with the State Prison.  Here, on the contrary, instead of being
ushered into a dreary dungeon, as in the great original, a fresh
surprise awaits us.  Allow me, ladies and gentlemen, to precede you for
the surprise.  We open a door thus--and--presto!"--

She stopped, speechless, on the threshold; the fan fell from her
gesticulating hand.

In the centre of a brilliantly-lit conservatory, with golden columns, a
young man was standing.  As her fan dropped on the tessellated
pavement, he came forward, picked it up, and put it in her rigid and
mechanical fingers.  The party, who had applauded her apparently
artistic climax, laughingly pushed by her into the conservatory,
without noticing her agitation.

It was the same face and figure she remembered as last standing before
her, holding back the crowding grain in the San Antonio field.  But
here he was appareled and appointed like a gentleman, and even seemed
to be superior to the garish glitter of his new surroundings.

"I believe I have the pleasure of speaking to Miss Saltonstall," he
said, with the faintest suggestion of his former manner in his
half-resentful sidelong glance.  "I hear that you offered to dispense
with my services, but I knew that Mr. Prince would scarcely be
satisfied if I did not urge it once more upon you in person.  I am his
private secretary."

At the same moment, Amita and Raymond, attracted by the conversation,
turned towards him.  Their recognition of the man they had seen at Dr.
West's was equally distinct.  The silence became embarrassing.  Two
pretty girls of the party pressed to Amita's side, with half-audible
whispers.  "What is it?"  "Who's your handsome and wicked-looking
friend?"  "Is this the surprise?"

At the sound of their voices, Maruja recovered herself coldly.
"Ladies," she said, with a slight wave of her fan, "this is Mr.
Prince's private secretary.  I believe it is hardly fair to take up his
valuable time.  Allow me to thank you, sir, FOR PICKING UP MY FAN."

With a single subtle flash of the eye she swept by him, taking her
companions to the other end of the conservatory.  When she turned, he
was gone.

"This was certainly an unexpected climax," said Raymond, mischievously.
"Did you really arrange it beforehand?  We leave a picturesque tramp at
the edge of a grave; we pass over six weeks and a Bridge of Sighs, and
hey, presto! we find a private secretary in a conservatory!  This is
quite the regular Aladdin business."

"You may laugh," said Maruja, who had recovered her spirits, "but if
you were really clever you'd find out what it all means.  Don't you see
that Amita is dying of curiosity?"

"Let us fly at once and discover the secret, then," said Raymond,
slipping Amita's arm through his.  "We will consult the oracle in the
stables.  Come."

The others followed, leaving Maruja for an instant alone.  She was
about to rejoin them when she heard footsteps in the passage they had
just crossed, and then perceived that the young stranger had merely
withdrawn to allow the party to precede him before he returned to the
other building through the conservatory, which he was just entering.
In turning quickly to escape, the black lace of her over-skirt caught
in the spines of a snaky-looking cactus.  She stopped to disengage
herself with feverish haste in vain.  She was about to sacrifice the
delicate material, in her impatience, when the young man stepped
quietly to her side.

"Allow me.  Perhaps I have more patience, even if I have less time," he
said, stooping down.  Their ungloved hands touched. Maruja stopped in
her efforts and stood up.  He continued until he had freed the luckless
flounce, conscious of the soft fire of her eyes on his head and neck.

"There," he said, rising, and encountering her glance.  As she did not
speak, he continued: "You are thinking, Miss Saltonstall, that you have
seen me before, are you not?  Well--you HAVE; I asked you the road to
San Jose one morning when I was tramping by your hedge."

"And as you probably were looking for something better--which you seem
to have found--you didn't care to listen to MY directions," said
Maruja, quickly.

"I found a man--almost the only one who ever offered me a gratuitous
kindness--at whose grave I afterwards met you.  I found another man who
befriended me here--where I meet you again."

She was beginning to be hysterically nervous lest any one should return
and find them together.  She was conscious of a tingling of vague
shame.  Yet she lingered.  The strange fascination of his half-savage
melancholy, and a reproachfulness that seemed to arraign her, with the
rest of the world, at the bar of his vague resentment, held the
delicate fibres of her sensitive being as cruelly and relentlessly as
the thorns of the cactus had gripped her silken lace.  Without knowing
what she was saying, she stammered that she "was glad he connected her
with his better fortune," and began to move away.  He noticed it with
his sidelong lids, and added, with a slight bitterness:--

"I don't think I should have intruded here again, but I thought you had
gone.  But I--I--am afraid you have not seen the last of me. It was the
intention of my employer, Mr. Prince, to introduce me to you and your
mother.  I suppose he considers it part of my duties here.  I must warn
you that, if you are here when he returns, he will insist upon it, and
upon your meeting me with these ladies at dinner."

"Perhaps so--he is my mother's friend," said Maruja; "but you have the
advantage of us--you can always take to the road, you know."

The smile with which she had intended to accompany this speech did not
come as readily in execution as it had in conception, and she would
have given worlds to have recalled her words.  But he said, "That's
so," quietly, and turned away, as if to give her an opportunity to
escape.  She moved hesitatingly towards the passage and stopped.  The
sound of the returning voices gave her a sudden courage.

"Mr.--"

"Guest," said the young man.

"If we do conclude to stay to dinner as Mr. Prince has said nothing of
introducing you to my sister, you must let ME have that pleasure."

He lifted his eyes to hers with a sudden flush.  But she had fled.

She reached her party, displaying her torn flounce as the cause of her
delay, and there was a slight quickness in her breathing and her speech
which was attributed to the same grave reason.  "But, only listen,"
said Amita, "we've got it all out of the butler and the grooms.  It's
such a romantic story!"

"What is?" said Maruja, suddenly.

"Why, the private tramp's."

"The peripatetic secretary," suggested Raymond.

"Yes," continued Amita, "Mr. Prince was so struck with his gratitude to
the old Doctor that he hunted him up in San Jose, and brought him here.
Since then Prince has been so interested in him--it appears he was
somebody in the States, or has rich relations--that he has been
telegraphing and making all sorts of inquiries about him, and has even
sent out his own lawyer to hunt up everything about him.  Are you
listening?"

"Yes."

"You seem abstracted."

"I am hungry."

"Why not dine here; it's an hour earlier than at home.  Aladdin would
fall at your feet for the honor.  Do!"

Maruja looked at them with innocent vagueness, as if the possibility
were just beginning to dawn upon her.

"And Clara Wilson is just dying to see the mysterious unknown again.
Say yes, little Maruja."

Little Maruja glanced at them with a large maternal compassion. "We
shall see."

Mr. Prince, on his return an hour later, was unexpectedly delighted
with Maruja's gracious acceptance of his invitation to dinner.  He was
thoroughly sensible of the significance which his neighbors had
attached to the avoidance by the Saltonstall heiress of his various
parties and gorgeous festivities ever since a certain act of
indiscretion--now alleged to have been produced by the exaltation of
wine--had placed him under ban.  Whatever his feelings were towards her
mother, he could not fail to appreciate fully this act of the daughter,
which rehabilitated him.  It was with more than his usual
extravagance--shown even in a certain exaggeration of respect towards
Maruja--that he welcomed the party, and made preparations for the
dinner.  The telegraph and mounted messengers were put into rapid
requisition.  The bridal suite was placed at the disposal of the young
ladies for a dressing-room.  The attendant genii surpassed themselves.
The evening dresses of Maruja, Amita, and the Misses Wilson, summoned
by electricity from La Mision Perdida, and dispatched by the fleetest
conveyances, were placed in the arms of their maids, smothered with
bouquets, an hour before dinner.  An operatic concert troupe, passing
through the nearest town, were diverted from their course by the slaves
of the ring to discourse hidden music in the music-room during dinner.
"Bite my finger, Sweetlips," said Miss Clara Wilson, who had a neat
taste for apt quotation, to Maruja, "that I may see if I am awake. It's
the Arabian Nights all over again!"

The dinner was a marvel, even in a land of gastronomic marvels; the
dessert a miracle of fruits, even in a climate that bore the products
of two zones.  Maruja, from her seat beside her satisfied host, looked
across a bank of yellow roses at her sister and Raymond, and was
timidly conscious of the eyes of young Guest, who was seated at the
other end of the table, between the two Misses Wilson.  With a strange
haunting of his appearance on the day she first met him, she stole
glances of half-frightened curiosity at him while he was eating, and
was relieved to find that he used his knife and fork like the others,
and that his appetite was far from voracious.  It was his employer who
was the first to recall the experiences of his past life, with a
certain enthusiasm and the air of a host anxious to contribute to the
entertainment of his guests. "You'd hardly believe, Miss Saltonstall,
that that young gentleman over there walked across the Continent--and
two thousand odd miles, wasn't it?--all alone, and with not much more
in the way of traps than he's got on now.  Tell 'em, Harry, how the
Apaches nearly gobbled you up, and then let you go because they thought
you as good an Injun as any one of them, and how you lived a week in
the desert on two biscuits as big as that."  A chorus of entreaty and
delighted anticipation followed the suggestion.  The old expression of
being at bay returned for an instant to Guest's face, but, lifting his
eyes, he caught a look of almost sympathetic anxiety from Maruja's, who
had not spoken.

"It became necessary for me, some time ago," said Guest, half
explanatorily, to Maruja, "to be rather explicit in the details of my
journey here, and I told Mr. Prince some things which he seems to think
interesting to others.  That is all.  To save my life on one occasion,
I was obliged to show myself as good as an Indian, in his own way, and
I lived among them and traveled with them for two weeks.  I have been
hungry, as I suppose others have on like occasions, but nothing more."

Nevertheless, in spite of his evident reticence, he was obliged to give
way to their entreaties, and, with a certain grim and uncompromising
truthfulness of statement, recounted some episodes of his journey.  It
was none the less thrilling that he did it reluctantly, and in much the
same manner as he had answered his father's questions, and as he had
probably responded to the later cross-examination of Mr. Prince.  He
did not tell it emotionally, but rather with the dogged air of one who
had been subjected to a personal grievance for which he neither asked
nor expected sympathy.  When he did not raise his eyes to Maruja's, he
kept them fixed on his plate.

"Well," said Prince, when a long-drawn sigh of suspended emotion among
the guests testified to his powers as a caterer to their amusement,
"what do you say to some music with our coffee to follow the story?"

"It's more like a play," said Amita to Raymond.  "What a pity Captain
Carroll, who knows all about Indians, isn't here to have enjoyed it.
But I suppose Maruja, who hasn't lost a word, will tell it to him."

"I don't think she will," said Raymond, dryly, glancing at Maruja, who,
lost in some intricate pattern of her Chinese plate, was apparently
unconscious that her host was waiting her signal to withdraw.

At last she raised her head, and said, gently but audibly, to the
waiting Prince,--

"It is positively a newer pattern; the old one had not that delicate
straw line in the arabesque.  You must have had it made for you."

"I did," said the gratified Prince, taking up the plate.  "What eyes
you have, Miss Saltonstall.  They see everything."

"Except that I'm keeping you all waiting," she returned, with a smile,
letting the eyes in question fall with a half-parting salutation on
Guest as she rose.  It was the first exchange of a common instinct
between them, and left them as conscious as if they had pressed hands.

The music gave an opportunity for some desultory conversation, in which
Mr. Prince and his young friend received an invitation from Maruja to
visit La Mision, and the party, by common consent, turned into the
conservatory, where the genial host begged them each to select a flower
from a few especially rare exotics.  When Maruja received hers, she
said, laughingly, to Prince, "Will you think me very importunate if I
ask for another?"  "Take what you like--you have only to name it," he
replied, gallantly.  "But that's just what I can't do," responded the
young girl, "unless," she added, turning to Guest, "unless you can
assist me.  It was the plant I was examining to-day."  "I think I can
show it to you," said Guest, with a slight increase of color, as he
preceded her towards the memorable cactus near the door, "but I doubt
if it has any flower."

Nevertheless, it had.  A bright red blossom, like a spot of blood drawn
by one of its thorns.  He plucked it for her, and she placed it in her
belt.

"You are forgiving," he said, admiringly.

"YOU ought to know that," she returned, looking down.

"I?--why?"

"You were rude to me twice."

"Twice!"

"Yes--once at the Mision of La Perdida; once in the road at San
Antonio."

His eyes became downcast and gloomy.  "At the Mision that morning, I, a
wretched outcast, only saw in you a beautiful girl intent on overriding
me with her merciless beauty.  At San Antonio I handed the fan I picked
up to the man whose eyes told me he loved you."

She started impatiently.  "You might have been more gallant, and found
more difficulty in the selection," she said, pertly.  "But since when
have you gentlemen become so observant and so punctilious?  Would you
expect him to be as considerate of others?"

"I have few claims that any one seems bound to respect," he returned,
brusquely.  Then, in a softer voice, he added, looking at her, gently,--

"You were in mourning when you came here this afternoon, Miss
Saltonstall."

"Was I?  It was for Dr. West--my mother's friend."

"It was very becoming to you."

"You are complimenting me.  But I warn you that Captain Carroll said
something better than that; he said mourning was not necessary for me.
I had only to 'put my eye-lashes at half-mast.'  He is a soldier you
know."

"He seems to be as witty as he is fortunate," said Guest, bitterly.

"Do you think he is fortunate?" said Maruja, raising her eyes to his.
There was so much in this apparently simple question that Guest looked
in her eyes for a suggestion.  What he saw there for an instant made
his heart stop beating.  She apparently did not know it, for she began
to tremble too.

"Is he not?" said Guest, in a low voice.

"Do you think he ought to be?" she found herself whispering.

A sudden silence fell upon them.  The voices of their companions seemed
very far in the distance; the warm breath of the flowers appeared to be
drowning their senses; they tried to speak, but could not; they were so
near to each other that the two long blades of a palm served to hide
them.  In the midst of this profound silence a voice that was like and
yet unlike Maruja's said twice, "Go! go!" but each time seemed hushed
in the stifling silence.  The next moment the palms were pushed aside,
the dark figure of a young man slipped like some lithe animal through
the shrubbery, and Maruja found herself standing, pale and rigid, in
the middle of the walk, in the full glare of the light, and looking
down the corridor toward her approaching companions.  She was furious
and frightened; she was triumphant and trembling; without thought,
sense, or reason, she had been kissed by Henry Guest, and--had returned
it.

The fleetest horses of Aladdin's stud that night could not carry her
far enough or fast enough to take her away from that moment, that
scene, and that sensation.  Wise and experienced, confident in her
beauty, secure in her selfishness, strong over others' weaknesses,
weighing accurately the deeds and words of men and women, recognizing
all there was in position and tradition, seeing with her father's clear
eyes the practical meaning of any divergence from that conventionality
which as a woman of the world she valued, she returned again and again
to the trembling joy of that intoxicating moment.  She though of her
mother and sisters, of Raymond and Garnier, of Aladdin--she even forced
herself to think of Carroll--only to shut her eyes, with a faint smile,
and dream again the brief but thrilling dream of Guest that began and
ended in their joined and parted lips.  Small wonder that, hidden and
silent in her enwrappings, as she lay back in the carriage, with her
pale face against the cold starry sky, two other stars came out and
glistened and trembled on her passion-fringed lashes.



CHAPTER X

The rainy season had set in early.  The last three weeks of summer
drought had drained the great valley of its lifeblood; the dead stalks
of grain rustled like dry bones over Dr. West's grave.  The desiccating
wind and sun had wrought some disenchanting cracks and fissures in
Aladdin's Palace, and otherwise disjoined it, so that it not only
looked as if it were ready to be packed away, but had become finally
untenable in the furious onset of the southwesterly rains.  The
gorgeous furniture of the reception-rooms was wrapped in mackintoshes,
the conservatory was changed into an aquarium, the Bridge of Sighs
crossed an actual canal in the stable-yard.  Only the billiard-room and
Mr. Prince's bed-room and office remained intact, and in the latter,
one stormy afternoon, Mr. Prince himself sat busy over his books and
papers.  His station-wagon, splashed and streaked with mud, stood in
the court-yard, just as it had been driven from the station, and the
smell of the smoke of newly-lit fires showed that the house had been
opened only for this hurried visit of its owner.

The tramping of horse hoofs in the court-yard was soon followed by
steps along the corridor, and the servant ushered Captain Carroll into
the presence of his master.  The Captain did not remove his military
overcoat, but remained standing erect in the centre of the room, with
his forage cap in his hand.

"I could have given you a lift from the station," said Prince, "if you
had come that way.  I've only just got in myself."

"I preferred to ride," said Carroll, dryly.

"Sit down by the fire," said Prince, motioning to a chair, "and dry
yourself."

"I must ask you first the purport of this interview," said Carroll,
curtly, "before I prolong it further.  You have asked me to come here
in reference to certain letters I returned to their rightful owner some
months ago.  If you seek to reclaim them again, or to refer to a
subject which must remain forgotten, I decline to proceed further."

"It DOES refer to the letters, and it rests with you whether they shall
be forgotten or not.  It is not my fault if the subject has been
dropped.  You must remember that until yesterday you have been absent
on a tour of inspection and could not be applied to before."

Carroll cast a cold glance at Prince, and then threw himself into a
chair, with his overcoat still on and his long military boots crossed
before the fire.  Sitting there in profile Prince could not but notice
that he looked older and sterner than at their last interview, and his
cheeks were thinned as if by something more than active service.

"When you were here last summer," began Prince, leaning forward over
his desk, "you brought me a piece of news that astounded me, as it did
many others.  It was the assignment of Dr. West's property to Mrs.
Saltonstall.  That was something there was no gainsaying; it was a
purely business affair, and involved nobody's rights but the assignor.
But this was followed, a day or two after, by the announcement of the
Doctor's will, making the same lady the absolute and sole inheritor of
the same property.  That seemed all right too; for there were,
apparently, no legal heirs. Since then, however, it has been discovered
that there is a legal heir--none other than the Doctor's only son.
Now, as no allusion to the son's existence was made in that will--which
was a great oversight of the Doctor's--it is a fiction of the law that
such an omission is an act of forgetfulness, and therefore leaves the
son the same rights as if there had been no will at all.  In other
words, if the Doctor had seen fit to throw his scapegrace son a hundred
dollar bill, it would have been legal evidence that he remembered him.
As he did not, it's a fair legal presumption that he forgot him, or
that the will is incomplete."

"This seems to be a question for Mrs. Saltonstall's lawyers--not for
her friends," said Carroll, coldly.

"Excuse me; that remains for you to decide--when you hear all.  You
understand at present, then, that Dr. West's property, both by
assignment and will, was made over, in the event of his death, not to
his legal heirs, but to a comparative stranger.  It looked queer to a
good many people, but the only explanation was, that the Doctor had
fallen very much in love with the widow--that he would have probably
married her--had he lived."

With an unpleasant recollection that this was almost exactly Maruja's
explanation of her mother's relations to Dr. West, Carroll returned,
impatiently, "If you mean that their private relations may be made the
subject of legal discussion, in the event of litigation in regard to
the property, that again is a matter for Mrs. Saltonstall to
decide--and not her friends.  It is purely a matter of taste."

"It may be a matter of discretion, Captain Carroll."

"Of discretion!" repeated Carroll, superciliously.

"Well," said Prince, leaving his desk and coming to the fire-place,
with his hands in his pockets, "what would you call it, if it could be
found that Dr. West, on leaving Mrs. Saltonstall's that night, did not
meet with an accident, was not thrown from his horse, but was coolly
and deliberately murdered!"

Captain Carroll's swift recollection of the discovery he himself had
made in the road, and its inconsistency with the accepted theory of the
accident, unmistakably showed itself in his face.  It was a moment
before he recovered himself.

"But even if it can be proved to have been a murder and not an
accident, what has that to do with Mrs. Saltonstall or her claim to the
property?"

"Only that she was the one person directly benefited by his death."

Captain Carroll looked at him steadily, and then rose to his feet. "Do
I understand that you have called me here to listen to this infamous
aspersion of a lady?"

"I have called you here, Captain Carroll, to listen to the arguments
that may be used to set aside Dr. West's will, and return the property
to the legal heir.  You are to listen to them or not, as you choose;
but I warn you that your opportunity to hear them in confidence and
convey them to your friend will end here.  I have no opinion in the
case.  I only tell you that it will be argued that Dr. West was unduly
influenced to make a will in Mrs. Saltonstall's favor; that, after
having done so, it will be shown that, just before his death, he became
aware of the existence of his son and heir, and actually had an
interview with him; that he visited Mrs. Saltonstall that evening, with
the records of his son's identity and a memorandum of his interview in
his pocket-book; and that, an hour after leaving the house, he was
foully murdered.  That is the theory which Mrs. Saltonstall has to
consider.  I told you I have no opinion.  I only know that there are
witnesses to the interview of the Doctor and his son; there is evidence
of murder, and the murderer is suspected; there is the evidence of the
pocket-book, with the memorandum picked up on the spot, which you
handed me yourself."

"Do you mean to say that you will permit this pocketbook, handed you in
confidence, to be used for such an infamous purpose?" said Carroll.

"I think you offered it to me in exchange for Dr. West's letters to
Mrs. Saltonstall," returned Prince, dryly.  "The less said about that,
the less is likely to be said about compromising letters written by the
widow to the Doctor, which she got you to recover--letters which they
may claim had a bearing on the case, and even lured him to his fate."

For an instant Captain Carroll recoiled before the gulf which seemed to
open at the feet of the unhappy family.  For an instant a terrible
doubt possessed him, and in that doubt he found a new reason for a
certain changed and altered tone in Maruja's later correspondence with
him, and the vague hints she had thrown out of the impossibility of
their union.  "I beg you will not press me to greater candor," she had
written, "and try to forget me before you learn to hate me."  For an
instant he believed--and even took a miserable comfort in the
belief--that it was this hideous secret, and not some coquettish
caprice, to which she vaguely alluded.  But it was only for a moment;
the next instant the monstrous doubt passed from the mind of the simple
gentleman, with only a slight flush of shame at his momentary
disloyalty.

Prince, however, had noticed it, not without a faint sense of sympathy.
"Look here!" he said, with a certain brusqueness, which in a man of his
character was less dangerous than his smoothness. "I know your feelings
to that family--at least to one of them--and, if I've been playing it
pretty rough on you, it's only because you played it rather rough on ME
the last time you were here.  Let's understand each other.  I'll go so
far as to say I don't believe that Mrs. Saltonstall had anything to do
with that murder, but, as a business man, I'm bound to say that these
circumstances and her own indiscretion are quite enough to bring the
biggest pressure down on her.  I wouldn't want any better 'bear' on the
market value of her rights than this.  Take it at its best.  Say that
the Coroner's verdict is set aside, and a charge of murder against
unknown parties is made--"

"One moment, Mr. Prince," said Carroll.  "I shall be one of the first
to insist that this is done, and I have confidence enough in Mrs.
Saltonstall's honest friendship for the Doctor to know that she will
lose no time in pursuing his murderers."

Prince looked at Carroll with a feeling of half envy and half pity. "I
think not," he said, dryly; "for all suspicion points to one man as the
perpetrator, and that man was Mrs. Saltonstall's confidential
servant--the mayordomo, Pereo."  He waited for a moment for the effect
of this announcement on Carroll, and then went on: "You now understand
that, even if Mrs. Saltonstall is acquitted of any connivance with or
even knowledge of the deed, she will hardly enjoy the prosecution of
her confidential servant for murder."

"But how can this be prevented?  If, as you say, there are actual
proofs, why have they not been acted upon before?  What can keep them
from being acted upon now?"

"The proofs have been collected by one man, have been in possession of
one man, and will only pass out of his possession when it is for the
benefit of the legal heir--who does not yet even know of their
existence."

"And who is this one man?"

"Myself."

"You?--You?" said Carroll, advancing towards him.  "Then this is YOUR
work!"

"Captain Carroll," said Prince, without moving, but drawing his lips
tightly together and putting his head on one side, "I don't propose to
have another scene like the one we had at our last meeting.  If you try
on anything of that kind, I shall put the whole matter into a lawyer's
hands.  I don't say that you won't regret it; I don't say that I sha'nt
be disappointed, too, for I have been managing this thing purely as a
matter of business, with a view to profiting by it.  It so happens that
we can both work to the same end, even if our motives are not the same.
I don't call myself an officer and a gentleman, but I reckon I've run
this affair about as delicately as the best of them, and with a d----d
sight more horse sense.  I want this thing hushed up and compromised,
to get some control of the property again, and to prevent it
depreciating, as it would, in litigation; you want it hushed up for the
sake of the girl and your future mother-in-law. I don't know anything
about your laws of honor, but I've laid my cards on the table for you
to see, without asking what you've got in your hand.  You can play the
game or leave the board, as you choose."  He turned and walked to the
window--not without leaving on Carroll's mind a certain sense of
firmness, truthfulness, and sincerity which commanded his respect.

"I withdraw any remark that might have seemed to reflect on your
business integrity, Mr. Prince," said Carroll, quietly.  "I am willing
to admit that you have managed this thing better than I could, and, if
I join you in an act to suppress these revelations, I have no right to
judge of your intentions.  What do you propose to have me do?"

"To state the whole case to Mrs. Saltonstall, and to ask her to
acknowledge the young man's legal claim without litigation."

"But how do you know that she would not do this without--excuse
me--without intimidation?"

"I only reckon that a woman clever enough to get hold of a million,
would be clever enough to keep it--against others."

"I hope to show you are mistaken.  But where is this heir?"

"Here."

"Here?"

"Yes.  For the last six months he has been my private secretary.  I
know what you are thinking of, Captain Carroll.  You would consider it
indelicate--eh?  Well, that's just where we differ.  By this means I
have kept everything in my own hands--prevented him from getting into
the hands of outsiders--and I intend to dispose of just as much of the
facts to him as may be necessary for him to prove his title.  What
bargain I make with HIM--is my affair."

"Does he suspect the murder?"

"No.  I did not think it necessary for his good or mine.  He can be an
ugly devil if he likes, and although there wasn't much love lost
between him and the old man, it wouldn't pay to have any revenge mixed
up with business.  He knows nothing of it.  It was only by accident
that, looking after his movements while he was here, I ran across the
tracks of the murderer."

"But what has kept him from making known his claim to the Saltonstalls?
Are you sure he has not?" said Carroll, with a sudden thought that it
might account for Maruja's strangeness.

"Positive.  He's too proud to make a claim unless he could thoroughly
prove it, and only a month ago he made me promise to keep it dark.
He's too lazy to trouble himself about it much anyway--as far as I can
see.  D----d if I don't think his being a tramp has made him lose his
taste for everything!  Don't worry yourself about HIM.  He isn't likely
to make confidences with the Saltonstalls, for he don't like 'em, and
never went there but once. Instinctively or not, the widow didn't
cotton to him; and I fancy Miss Maruja has some old grudge against him
for that fan business on the road.  She isn't a girl to forgive or
forget anything, as I happen to know," he added, with an uneasy laugh.

Carroll was too preoccupied with the danger that seemed to threaten his
friends from this surly pretender to resent Prince's tactless allusion.
He was thinking of Maruja's ominous agitation at his presence at Dr.
West's grave.  "Do they suspect him at all?"--he asked, hurriedly.

"How should they?  He goes by the name of Guest--which was his father's
real name until changed by an act of legislation when he first came
here.  Nobody remembers it.  We only found it out from his papers.  It
was quite legal, as all his property was acquired under the name of
West."

Carroll rose and buttoned his overcoat.  "I presume you are able to
offer conclusive proofs of everything you have asserted?"

"Perfectly."

"I am going to the Mision Perdida now," said Captain Carroll, quietly.
"To-morrow I will bring you the answer--Peace or War." He walked to the
door, lifted his hand to his cap, with a brief military salutation, and
disappeared.



CHAPTER XI

As Captain Carroll urged his horse along the miry road to La Mision
Perdida, he was struck with certain changes in the landscape before him
other than those wrought by the winter rains.  There were the usual
deep gullies and trenches, half-filled with water, in the fields and
along the road, but there were ominous embankments and ridges of
freshly turned soil, and a scattered fringe of timbers following a
cruel, undeviating furrow on the broad grazing lands of the Mision.
But it was not until he had crossed the arroyo that he felt the full
extent of the late improvements.  A quick rumbling in the distance, a
light flash of steam above the willow copse, that drifted across the
field on his right, and he knew that the railroad was already in
operation.  Captain Carroll reined in his frightened charger, and
passed his hand across his brow with a dazed sense of loss.  He had
been gone only four months--yet he already felt strange and forgotten.

It was with a feeling of relief that he at last turned from the
high-road into the lane.  Here everything was unchanged, except that
the ditches were more thickly strewn with the sodden leaves of fringing
oaks and sycamores.  Giving his horse to a servant in the court-yard,
he did not enter the patio, but, crossing the lawn, stepped upon the
long veranda.  The rain was dripping from its eaves and striking a
minute spray from the vines that clung to its columns; his footfall
awoke a hollow echo as he passed, as if the outer shell of the house
were deserted; the formal yews and hemlocks that in summer had relieved
the dazzling glare of six months' sunshine had now taken gloomy
possession of the garden, and the evening shadows, thickened by rain,
seemed to lie in wait at every corner.  The servant, who had, with
old-fashioned courtesy, placed the keys and the "disposition" of that
wing of the house at his service, said that Dona Maria would wait upon
him in the salon before dinner.  Knowing the difficulty of breaking the
usual rigid etiquette, and trusting to the happy intervention of
Maruja--though here, again, custom debarred him from asking for her--he
allowed the servant to remove his wet overcoat, and followed him to the
stately and solemn chamber prepared for him.  The silence and gloom of
the great house, so grateful and impressive in the ardent summer, began
to weigh upon him under this shadow of an overcast sky.  He walked to
the window and gazed out on the cloister-like veranda.  A melancholy
willow at an angle of the stables seemed to be wringing its hands in
the rising wind.  He turned for relief to the dim fire that flickered
like a votive taper in the vault-like hearth, and drew a chair towards
it.  In spite of the impatience and preoccupation of a lover, he found
himself again and again recurring to the story he had just heard, until
the vengeful spirit of the murdered Doctor seemed to darken and possess
the house.  He was striving to shake off the feeling, when his
attention was attracted to stealthy footsteps in the passage.  Could it
be Maruja?  He rose to his feet, with his eye upon the door.  The
footsteps ceased--it remained closed.  But another door, which had
escaped his attention in the darkened corner, slowly swung on its
hinges, and, with a stealthy step, Pereo, the mayordomo, entered the
room.

Courageous and self-possessed as Captain Carroll was by nature and
education, this malevolent vision, and incarnation of the thought
uppermost in his mind, turned him cold.  He had half drawn a derringer
from his breast, when his eye fell on the grizzled locks and wrinkled
face of the old man, and his hand dropped to his side. But Pereo, with
the quick observation of insanity, had noticed the weapon, and rubbed
his hands together, with a malicious laugh.

"Good! good! good!" he whispered, rapidly, in a strange bodiless voice;
"'t will serve! 't will serve!  And you are a soldier too--and know how
to use it!  Good, it is a Providence!"  He lifted his hollow eyes to
heaven, and then added, "Come! come!"

Carroll stepped towards him.  He was alone and in the presence of an
undoubted madman--one strong enough, in spite of his years, to inflict
a deadly injury, and one whom he now began to realize might have done
so once before.  Nevertheless, he laid his hand on the old man's arm,
and, looking him calmly in the eye, said, quietly, "Come?  Where,
Pereo?  I have only just arrived."

"I know it," whispered the old man, nodding his head violently.  "I was
watching them, when you rode up.  That is why I lost the scent; but
together we can track them still--we can track them.  Eh, Captain, eh!
Come!  Come!" and he moved slowly backward, waving his hand towards the
door.

"Track whom, Pereo?" said Carroll, soothingly.  "Whom do you seek?"

"Whom?" said the old man, startled for a moment and passing his hand
over his wrinkled forehead.  "Whom?  Eh!  Why, the Dona Maruja and the
little black cat--her maid--Faquita!"

"Yes, but why seek them?  Why track them?"

"Why?" said the old man, with a sudden burst of impotent passion. "YOU
ask me why!  Because they are going to the rendezvous again. They are
going to seek him.  Do you understand--to seek HIM--the Coyote!"

Carroll smiled a faint smile of relief--"So--the Coyote!"

"Ay," said the old man, in a confidential whisper; "the Coyote! But not
the big one--you understand--the little one.  The big one is
dead--dead--dead!  But the little one lives yet.  You shall do for HIM
what I, Pereo--listen--" he glanced around the room furtively--"what
I--the good old Pereo, did for the big one!  Good, it is a Providence.
Come!"

Of the terrible thoughts that crossed Carroll's mind at this unexpected
climax one alone was uppermost.  The trembling irresponsible wretch
before him meditated some vague crime--and Maruja was in danger.  He
did not allow himself to dwell upon any other suspicion suggested by
that speech; he quickly conceived a plan of action.  To have rung the
bell and given Pereo into the hands of the servants would have only
exposed to them the lunatic's secret--if he had any--and he might
either escape in his fury or relapse into useless imbecility.  To humor
him and follow him, and trust afterwards to his own quickness and
courage to avert any calamity, seemed to be the only plan.  Captain
Carroll turned his clear glance on the restless eyes of Pereo, and
said, without emotion, "Let us go, then, and quickly.  You shall track
them for me; but remember, good Pereo, you must leave the rest to me."

In spite of himself, some accidental significance in this ostentatious
adjuration to lull Pereo's suspicions struck him with pain. But the old
man's eyes glittered with gratified passion as he said, "Ay, good!  I
will keep my word.  Thou shalt work thy will on the little one as I
have said.  Truly it is a Providence!  Come!" Seeing Captain Carroll
glance round for his overcoat, he seized a poncho from the wall,
wrapped it round him, and grasped his hand. Carroll, who would have
evaded this semblance of disguise, had no time to parley, and they
turned together, through the door by which Pereo had entered, into a
long dark passage, which seemed to be made through the outer shell of
the building that flanked the park. Following his guide in the profound
obscurity, perfectly conscious that any change in his madness might be
followed by a struggle in the dark, where no help could reach them,
they presently came to a door that opened upon the fresh smell of rain
and leaves.  They were standing at the bottom of a secluded alley,
between two high hedges that hid it from the end of the garden.  Its
grass-grown walk and untrimmed hedges showed that it was seldom used.
Carroll, still keeping close to Pereo's side, felt him suddenly stop
and tremble.  "Look!" he said, pointing to a shadowy figure some
distance before them; "look, 'tis Maruja, and alone!"

With a dexterous movement, Carroll managed to slip his arm securely
through the old man's, and even to throw himself before him, as if in
his eagerness to discern the figure.

"'Tis Maruja--and alone!" said Pereo, trembling.  "Alone!  Eh!  And the
Coyote is not here!"  He passed his hand over his staring eyes. "So."
Suddenly he turned upon Carroll.  "Ah, do you not see, it is a trick!
The Coyote is escaping with Faquita!  Come!  Nay; thou wilt not?  Then
will I!"  With an unexpected strength born of his madness, he freed his
arm from Carroll and darted down the alley. The figure of Maruja,
evidently alarmed at his approach, glided into the hedge, as Pereo
passed swiftly by, intent only on his one wild fancy.  Without a
further thought of his companion or even the luckless Faquita, Carroll
also plunged through the hedge, to intercept Maruja.  But by that time
she was already crossing the upper end of the lawn, hurrying towards
the entrance to the patio. Carroll did not hesitate to follow.  Keeping
in view the lithe, dark, active little figure, now hidden by an
intervening cluster of bushes, now fading in the gathering evening
shadows, he nevertheless did not succeed in gaining upon her until she
had nearly reached the patio.  Here he lost ground, as turning to the
right, instead of entering the court-yard, she kept her way toward the
stables.  He was near enough, however, to speak.  "One moment, Miss
Saltonstall," he said hurriedly; "there is no danger.  I am alone.  But
I must speak with you."

The young girl seemed only to redouble her exertions.  At last she
stopped before a narrow door hidden in the wall, and fumbled in her
pocket for a key.  That moment Carroll was upon her.

"Forgive me, Miss Saltonstall--Maruja; but you must hear me!  You are
safe, but I fear for your maid, Faquita!"

A little laugh followed his speech; the door yielded and opened to her
vanishing figure.  For an instant the lace shawl muffling her face was
lifted, as the door closed and locked behind her.  Carroll drew back in
consternation.  It was the laughing eyes and saucy face of Faquita!



CHAPTER XII

When Captain Carroll turned from the high-road into the lane, an hour
before, Maruja and Faquita had already left the house by the same
secret passage and garden-door that opened afterwards upon himself and
Pereo.  The young women had evidently changed dresses: Maruja was
wearing the costume of her maid; Faquita was closely veiled and habited
like her mistress; but it was characteristic that, while Faquita
appeared awkward and over-dressed in her borrowed plumes, Maruja's
short saya and trim bodice, with the striped shawl that hid her fair
head, looked infinitely more coquettish and bewitching than on its
legitimate owner.

They passed hurriedly down the long alley, and at its further end
turned at right angles to a small gate half hidden in the shrubbery.
It opened upon a venerable vineyard, that dated back to the occupation
of the padres, but was now given over to the chance cultivation of
peons and domestics.  Its long, broken rows of low vines, knotted and
overgrown with age, reached to the thicketed hillside of buckeye that
marked the beginning of the canada.  Here Maruja parted from her maid,
and, muffling the shawl more closely round her head, hastily passed
between the vine rows to a ruined adobe building near the hillside.  It
was originally part of the refectory of the old Mision, but had been
more recently used as a vinadero's cottage.  As she neared it, her
steps grew slower, until, reaching its door, she hesitated, with her
hand timidly on the latch.  The next moment she opened it gently; it
was closed quickly behind her, and, with a little stifled cry, she
found herself in the arms of Henry Guest.

It was only for an instant; the pleading of her white hands, disengaged
from his neck, where at first they had found themselves, and uplifted
before her face, touched him more than the petitioning eyes or the
sweet voiceless mouth, whose breath even was forgotten. Letting her
sink into the chair from which he had just risen, he drew back a step,
with his hands clasped before him, and his dark half-savage eyes bent
earnestly upon her.  Well might he have gazed.  It was no longer the
conscious beauty, proud and regnant, seated before him; but a timid,
frightened girl, struggling with her first deep passion.

All that was wise and gentle that she had intended to say, all that her
clear intellect and experience had taught her, died upon her lips with
that kiss.  And all that she could do of womanly dignity and high-bred
decorum was to tuck her small feet under her chair, in the desperate
attempt to lengthen her short skirt, and beg him not to look at her.

"I have had to change dresses with Faquita, because we were watched,"
she said, leaning forward in her chair and drawing the striped shawl
around her shoulders.  "I have had to steal out of my mother's house
and through the fields, as if I was a gypsy.  If I only were a gypsy,
Harry, and not--"

"And not the proudest heiress in the land," he interrupted, with
something of his old bitterness.  "True, I had forgot."

"But I never reminded you of it," she said, lifting her eyes to his.
"I did not remind you of it on that day--in--in--in the conservatory,
nor at the time you first spoke of--of--love to me--nor from the time I
first consented to meet you here.  It is YOU, Harry, who have spoken of
the difference of our condition, YOU who have talked of my wealth, my
family, my position--until I would gladly have changed places with
Faquita as I have garments, if I had thought it would make you happier."

"Forgive me, darling!" he said, dropping on one knee before her and
bending over the cold little hand he had taken, until his dark head
almost rested in her lap.  "Forgive me!  You are too proud, Maruja, to
admit, even to yourself, that you have given your heart where your hand
and fortune could not follow.  But others may not think so.  I am
proud, too, and will not have it said that I have won you before I was
worthy of you."

"You have no right to be more proud than I, sir," she said, rising to
her feet, with a touch of her old supreme assertion.  "No--don't,
Harry--please, Harry--there!"  Nevertheless, she succumbed; and, when
she went on, it was with her head resting on his shoulder.  "It's this
deceit and secrecy that is so shameful, Harry.  I think I could bear
everything with you, if it were all known--if you came to woo me
like--like--the others.  Even if they abused you--if they spoke of your
doubtful origin--of your poverty--of your hardships!  When they
aspersed you, I could fight them; when they spoke of your having no
father that you could claim, I could even lie for you, I think, Harry,
and say that you had; if they spoke of your poverty, I would speak of
my wealth; if they talked of your hardships, I should only be proud of
your endurance--if I could only keep the tears from my eyes!"  They
were there now.  He kissed them away.

"But if they threatened you?  If they drove me from the house?"

"I should fly with you," she said, hiding her head in his breast.

"What if I were to ask you to fly with me now?" he said, gloomily.

"Now!" she repeated, lifting her frightened eyes to his.

His face darkened, with its old look of savage resentment.  "Hear me,
Maruja," he said, taking her hands tightly in his own.  "When I forgot
myself--when I was mad that day in the conservatory, the only expiation
I could think of was to swear in my inmost soul that I would never take
advantage of your forgiveness, that I would never tempt you to forget
yourself, your friends, your family, for me, an unknown outcast.  When
I found you pitied me, and listened to my love--I was too weak to
forego the one ray of sunshine in my wretched life--and, thinking that
I had a prospect before me in an idea I promised to reveal to you
later, I swore never to beguile you or myself in that hope by any act
that might bring you to repent it--or myself to dishonor.  But I taxed
myself too much, Maruja.  I have asked too much of you.  You are right,
darling; this secrecy--this deceit--is unworthy of us!  Every hour of
it--blest as it has been to me--every moment--sweet as it is--blackens
the purity of our only defense, makes you false and me a coward! It
must end here--to-day!  Maruja, darling, my precious one!  God knows
what may be the success of my plans.  We have but one chance now.  I
must leave here to-day, never to return, or I must take you with me.
Do not start, Maruja--but hear me out.  Dare you risk all?  Dare you
fly with me now, to-night, to the old Padre at the ruined Mision, and
let him bind us in those bonds that none dare break?  We can take
Faquita with us--it is but a few miles--and we can return and throw
ourselves at your mother's feet.  She can only drive us forth together.
Or we can fly from this cursed wealth, and all the misery it has
entailed--forever."

She raised her head, and, with her two hands on his shoulders, gazed at
him with her father's searching eyes, as if to read his very soul.

"Are you mad, Harry!--think what you propose!  Is this not tempting me?
Think again, dearest," she said, half convulsively, seizing his arm
when her grasp had slipped from his shoulder.

There was a momentary silence as she stood with her eyes fixed almost
wildly on his set face.  But a sudden shock against the bolted door and
an inarticulate outcry startled them.  With an instinctive movement,
Guest threw his arm round her.

"It's Pereo," she said, in a hurried whisper, but once more mistress of
her strength and resolution.  "He is seeking YOU!  Fly at once.  He is
mad, Harry; a raving lunatic.  He watched us the last time.  He has
tracked us here.  He suspects you.  You must not meet him.  You can
escape through the other door, that opens upon the canada.  If you love
me--fly!"

"And leave YOU exposed to his fury--are you mad!  No.  Fly yourself by
the other door, lock it behind you, and alarm the servants.  I will
open this door to him, secure him here, and then be gone.  Do not fear
for me.  There is no danger--and if I mistake not," he added, with a
strange significance, "he will hardly attack me!"

"But he may have already alarmed the household.  Hark!"

There was the noise of a struggle outside the door, and then the voice
of Captain Carroll, calm and collected, rose clearly for an instant.
"You are quite safe, Miss Saltonstall.  I think I have him secure, but
perhaps you had better not open the door until assistance comes."

They gazed at each other, without a word.  A grim challenge played on
Guest's lips.  Maruja lifted her little hands deliberately, and clasped
them round his defiant neck.

"Listen, darling," she said, softly and quietly, as if only the
security of silence and darkness encompassed them.  "You asked me just
now if I would fly with you--if I would marry you, without the consent
of my family--against the protest of my friends--and at once!  I
hesitated, Harry, for I was frightened and foolish.  But I say to you
now that I will marry you when and where you like--for I love you,
Harry, and you alone."

"Then let us go at once," he said, passionately seizing her; "we can
reach the road by the canada before assistance comes--before we are
discovered.  Come!"

"And you will remember in the years to come, Harry," she said, still
composedly, and with her arms still around his neck, "that I never
loved any but you--that I never knew what love was before, and that
since I have loved you--I have never thought of any other. Will you
not?"

"I will--and now--"

"And now," she said, with a superb gesture towards the barrier which
separated them from Carroll, "OPEN THE DOOR!"



CHAPTER XIII

With a swift glance of admiration at Maruja, Guest flung open the door.
The hastily-summoned servants were already bearing away the madman,
exhausted by his efforts.  Captain Carroll alone remained there, erect
and motionless, before the threshold.

At a sign from Maruja, he entered the room.  In the flash of light made
by the opening door, he had been perfectly conscious of her companion,
but not a motion of his eye or the movement of a muscle of his face
betrayed it.  The trained discipline of his youth stood him in good
service, and for the moment left him master of the situation.

"I think no apology is needed for this intrusion," he said, with cool
composure.  "Pereo seemed intent on murdering somebody or something,
and I followed him here.  I suppose I might have got him away more
quietly, but I was afraid you might have thoughtlessly opened the
door."  He stopped, and added, "I see now how unfounded was the
supposition."

It was a fatal addition.  In the next instant, the Maruja who had been
standing beside Guest, conscious-stricken and remorseful in the
presence of the man she had deceived, and calmly awaiting her
punishment, changed at this luckless exhibition of her own peculiar
womanly weapons.  The old Maruja, supreme, ready, undaunted, and
passionless, returned to the fray.

"You were wrong, Captain," she said, sweetly; "fortunately, Mr.
Guest--whom I see you have forgotten in your absence--was with me, and
I think would have felt it his duty to have protected me.  But I thank
you all the same, and I think even Mr. Guest will not allow his envy of
your good fortune in coming so gallantly to my rescue to prevent his
appreciating its full value.  I am only sorry that on your return to La
Mision Perdida you should have fallen into the arms of a madman before
extending your hands to your friends."

Their eyes met.  She saw that he hated her--and felt relieved.

"It may not have been so entirely unfortunate," he said, with a
coldness strongly in contrast with his gradually blazing eyes, "for I
was charged with a message to you, in which this madman is supposed by
some to play an important part."

"Is it a matter of business?" said Maruja, lightly, yet with a sudden
instinctive premonition of coming evil in the relentless tones of his
voice.

"It is business, Miss Saltonstall--purely and simply business," said
Carroll, dryly, "under whatever OTHER name it may have been since
presented to you."

"Perhaps you have no objection to tell it before Mr. Guest," said
Maruja, with an inspiration of audacity; "it sounds so mysterious that
it must be interesting.  Otherwise, Captain Carroll, who abhors
business, would not have undertaken it with more than his usual
enthusiasm."

"As the business DOES interest Mr. Guest, or Mr. West, or whatever name
he may have decided upon since I had the pleasure of meeting him," said
Carroll--for the first time striking fire from the eyes of his
rival--"I see no reason why I should not, even at the risk of telling
you what you already know.  Briefly, then, Mr. Prince charged me to
advise you and your mother to avoid litigation with this gentleman, and
admit his claim, as the son of Dr. West, to his share of the property."

The utter consternation and bewilderment shown in the face of Maruja
convinced Carroll of his fatal error.  She HAD received the addresses
of this man without knowing his real position!  The wild theory that
had seemed to justify his resentment--that she had sold herself to
Guest to possess the property--now recoiled upon him in its utter
baseness.  She had loved Guest for himself alone; by this base
revelation he had helped to throw her into his arms.

But he did not even yet know Maruja.  Turning to Guest, with flashing
eyes, she said, "Is it true--are you the son of Dr. West, and"--she
hesitated--"kept out of your inheritance by US?"

"I AM the son of Dr. West," he said, earnestly, "though I alone had the
right to tell you that at the proper time and occasion. Believe me that
I have given no one the right--least of all any tool of Prince--to
TRADE upon it."

"Then," said Carroll, fiercely, forgetting everything in his anger,
"perhaps you will disclaim before this young lady the charge made by
your employer that Pereo was instigated to Dr. West's murder by her
mother?"

Again he had overshot the mark.  The horror and indignation depicted in
Guest's face was too plainly visible to Maruja, as well as himself, to
permit a doubt that the idea was as new as the accusation.  Forgetting
her bewilderment at these revelations, her wounded pride, a torturing
doubt suggested by Guest's want of confidence in her--indeed everything
but the outraged feelings of her lover, she flew to his side.  "Not a
word," she said, proudly, lifting her little hand before his darkening
face.  "Do not insult me by replying to such an accusation in my
presence.  Captain Carroll," she continued, turning towards him, "I
cannot forget that you were introduced into my mother's house as an
officer and a gentleman.  When you return to it as such, and not as a
MAN OF BUSINESS, you will be welcome.  Until then, farewell!"

She remained standing, erect and passionless, as Carroll, with a cold
salutation, stepped back and disappeared in the darkness; and then she
turned, and, with tottering step and a little cry, fell upon Guest's
breast.  "O Harry--Harry!--why have you deceived me!"

"I thought it for the best, darling," he said, lifting her face to his.
"You know now the prospect I spoke of--the hope that buoyed me up!  I
wanted to win you myself alone, without appealing to your sense of
justice or even your sympathies!  I did win you.  God knows, if I had
not, you would never have learned through me that a son of Dr. West had
ever lived.  But that was not enough.  When I found that I could
establish my right to my father's property, I wanted you to marry me
before YOU knew it; so that it never could be said that you were
influenced by anything but love for me.  That was why I came here
to-day.  That was why I pressed you to fly with me!"

He ceased.  She was fumbling with the buttons of his waistcoat.
"Harry," she said, softly, "did you think of the property
when--when--you kissed me in the conservatory?"

"I thought of nothing but YOU," he answered, tenderly.

Suddenly she started from his embrace.  "But Pereo!--Harry--tell me
quick--no one-nobody can think that this poor demented old man
could--that Dr. West was--that--it's all a trick--isn't it?
Harry--speak!"

He was silent for a moment, and then said, gravely, "There were strange
men at the fonda that night, and--my father was supposed to carry money
with him.  My own life was attempted at the Mision the same evening for
the sake of some paltry gold pieces that I had imprudently shown.  I
was saved solely by the interference of one man.  That man was Pereo,
your mayordomo!"

She seized his hand and raised it joyfully to her lips.  "Thank you for
those words!  And you will come to him with me at once; and he will
recognize you; and we will laugh at those lies; won't we, Harry?"

He did not reply.  Perhaps he was listening to a confused sound of
voices rapidly approaching the cottage.  Together they stepped out into
the gathering night.  A number of figures were coming towards them,
among them Faquita, who ran a little ahead to meet her mistress.

"Oh, Dona Maruja, he has escaped!"

"Who?  Not Pereo!"

"Truly.  And on his horse.  It was saddled and bridled in the stable
all day.  One knew it not.  He was walking like a cat, when suddenly he
parted the peons around him, like grain before a mad bull--and behold!
he was on the pinto's back and away.  And, alas! there is no horse that
can keep up with the pinto.  God grant he may not get in the way of the
r-r-railroad, that, in his very madness, he will even despise."

"My own horse is in the thicket," whispered Guest, hurriedly, in
Maruja's ear.  "I have measured him with the pinto before now. Give me
your blessing, and I will bring him back if he be alive."

She pressed his hand and said, "Go."  Before the astonished servants
could identify the strange escort of their mistress, he was gone.

It was already quite dark.  To any but Guest, who had made the
topography of La Mision Perdida a practical study, and who had known
the habitual circuit of the mayordomo in his efforts to avoid him, the
search would have been hopeless.  But, rightly conjecturing that he
would in his demented condition follow the force of habit, he spurred
his horse along the high-road until he reached the lane leading to the
grassy amphitheatre already described, which was once his favorite
resort.  Since then it had participated in the terrible transformation
already wrought in the valley by the railroad.  A deep cutting through
one of the grassy hills had been made for the line that now crossed the
lower arc of the amphitheatre.

His conjecture was justified on entering it by the appearance of a
shadowy horseman in full career round the circle, and he had no
difficulty in recognizing Pereo.  As there was no other exit than the
one by which he came, the other being inaccessible by reason of the
railroad track, he calmly watched him twice make the circuit of the
arena, ready to ride towards him when he showed symptoms of slackening
his speed.

Suddenly he became aware of some strange exercise on the part of the
mysterious rider; and, as he swept by on the nearer side of the circle,
he saw that he was throwing a lasso!  A horrible thought that he was
witnessing an insane rehearsal of the murder of his father flashed
across his mind.

A far-off whistle from the distant woods recalled him to his calmer
senses at the same moment that it seemed also to check the evolutions
of the furious rider.  Guest felt confident that the wretched man could
not escape him now.  It was the approaching train, whose appearance
would undoubtedly frighten Pereo toward the entrance of the little
valley guarded by him.  The hill-side was already alive with the
clattering echoes of the oncoming monster, when, to his horror, he saw
the madman advancing rapidly towards the cutting.  He put spurs to his
horse, and started in pursuit; but the train was already emerging from
the narrow passage, followed by the furious rider, who had wheeled
abreast of the engine, and was, for a moment or two, madly keeping up
with it. Guest shouted to him, but his voice was lost in the roar of
the rushing caravan.

Something seemed to fly from Pereo's hand.  The next moment the train
had passed; rider and horse, crushed and battered out of all life, were
rolling in the ditch, while the murderer's empty saddle dangled at the
end of a lasso, caught on the smoke-stack of one of the murdered man's
avenging improvements!

     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

The marriage of Maruja and the son of the late Dr. West was received in
the valley of San Antonio as one of the most admirably conceived and
skillfully matured plans of that lamented genius. There were many who
were ready to state that the Doctor had confided it to them years
before; and it was generally accepted that the widow Saltonstall had
been simply made a trustee for the benefit of the prospective young
couple.  Only one person perhaps, did not entirely accept these views;
it was Mr. James Price--otherwise known as Aladdin.  In later years, he
is said to have stated authoritatively "that the only combination in
business that was uncertain--was man and woman."





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