Part 3 out of 3
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Do you mean to say that you will permit this pocketbook, handed
you in confidence, to be used for such an infamous purpose?" said
"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
"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
"And who is this one man?"
"You?--You?" said Carroll, advancing towards him. "Then this is
"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--
"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?"
"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
"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?"
"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.
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
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
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!
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
"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
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!"
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
"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
"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
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
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--
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,
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
"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
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
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
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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