B. M. Bower
Part 2 out of 5
to the dried tules overhead, and laughed a lazy surrender of the
argument, if not of his opinion upon the subject.
"You're surely the most ambitious trouble-hunter I ever saw," he said,
returning to his habitual humorous drawl, with the twinkle in his eyes
that went with it. "Just the same, we'll not go back to the mine just
yet. Till the dust settles, we're both better off down here with
Don Andres Picardo. I don't want to be hung for the company I keep.
"I'll bet ten ounces there's a senorita," hazarded. Jack maliciously.
"You're like Bill Wilson; but you can preach caution till your jaws
ache; you can't fool me into believing you're afraid to go back to the
mine. Is there a senorita?"
"You shut up and go to sleep," snapped Dade, and afterward would not
speak at all.
Manuel, in the shadow, frowned over the only words he understood--Don
Andres Picardo and senorita. The senors were agreeable companions, and
they were his guests. But they were gringos, after all. And if
they should presume to lift desireful eyes to the little Senorita
Teresa--Teresita, they called her fondly who knew her--Manuel's
mustache lifted suddenly at one side at the bare possibility.
In the valley of Santa Clara, which lies cradled easily between
mountains and smiles up at the sun nearly the whole year through,
Spring has a winter home, wherein she dwells contentedly while the
northern land is locked in the chill embrace of the Snow King. In
February, unless the north wind sweeps down jealously and stays her
hand, she flings a golden brocade of poppies over the green hillsides
and the lower slopes which the forest has left her. Time was when she
spread a deep-piled carpet of mustard over the floor of the valley
as well, and watched smiling while it grew thicker and higher and the
lemon-yellow blossoms vied with the orange of the poppies, until the
two set all the valley aglow.
Now it was March, and the hillsides were ablaze with the poppies,
and the valley floor was soft green and yellow to the knees; with
the great live oaks standing grouped in stately calm, like a herd
of gigantic, green elephants scattered over their feeding-ground and
finding the peace of repletion with the coming of the sun.
The cabin of Manuel squatted upon a little rise of ground at the head
of the valley. When Jack stood in the doorway and looked down upon the
green sweep of grazing ground with the hills behind, and farther away
another range facing him, he owned to himself that it was good to be
there. The squalidness of the town he had left so tumultuously struck
upon his memory nauseatingly.
Spring was here in the valley, even though the mountains shone white
beyond. A wind had come out of the south and driven the fog back to
the bay, and the sun shone warmly down upon the land. Two robins
sang exultantly in the higher branches of the oak, where they had
breakfasted satisfyingly upon the first of the little, green worms
that gave early promise of being a pest until such time as they
stiffened and clung inertly, waiting for the dainty, gray wings to
grow and set them aflutter over the tree upon which they had fed.
One of them dropped upon Jack's arm while he stood there and crawled
aimlessly from the barren buckskin to his wrist. He flung it off
mechanically. Spring was here of a truth; in the town he had not
noticed her coming.
"You're right, Dade," he declared suddenly, over his shoulder. "This
beats getting up at noon and going through the motions of living for
twelve or fourteen hours in town. I believe I'll have Manuel get me
a riding outfit, if he will. Maybe I'll take you up on that rodeo
proposition. Reckon your old don will give me a job?"
"Won't cost a peso to find out," said Dade, coming out and standing
beside him in the sun. "I've been talking to Manuel, and he thinks
we'd better pull out right away. Valencia's got an extra saddle here,
and Manuel says he'll catch a horse for you."
"I believe I'll send a letter to Bill," proposed Jack. "He'll give
Manuel enough dust to buy what I need; and I ought to let him know how
we made out, anyway."
A blank leaf from the little memorandum book he always carried, and a
bullet for pencil--perforce, the note was brief; but it told what he
wanted: gold to buy a riding outfit, his pistols which Perkins had
taken from him, and news of Bill's well-being. When the paper would
hold no more and hold it legibly, he folded it carefully so that it
would not smudge, and gave it to his host.
"What if the Committee catches you with that buckskin, Manuel?" he
asked abruptly. The risk Manuel would run had not before occurred to
him. "Dade he's liable to get into trouble, if they catch him with
that horse; let's turn the darned thing loose."
"Me, I shall not ride where the gringos will see me," broke in Manuel
briskly. "The senors need not be alarmed. I shall keep away from El
Camino Real. At the Mission I will buy what the senor desires, and I
will bring it to him at the hacienda."
"Get the best they've got," Jack adjured him. "An outfit better than
Dade's, if you can find one. Bill Wilson has got about twelve hundred
dollars of mine; get the best if it cleans the sack." He grinned at
Dade. "If you're going to bully me into turning vaquero again, I'm
going to have the fun of riding in style, anyway. You've set the pace,
you know. I never saw you so gaudy. Er--what did you say her name is?"
"I didn't say."
"Must be serious. Too bad." Jack shook his head dolefully. "Say,
Manuel, do you know a good riata, when you see one lying around
"Si, Senor. Me, I have braided the riatas and bridles since I was
so high." From the height of his measuring hand from the beaten clay
beneath the oak, he proclaimed himself an infant prodigy; but Jack did
not happen to be looking at him and so remained unamazed.
"Well, you ought to know something about them. Get the best riata you
can find. I leave it to your judgment."
"Si, Senor. To-morrow I will bring them to you." He hesitated, his
eyes dwelling curiously upon the coppery hair of this stranger, whose
presence he was not quite sure that he did not resent vaguely. Dade he
had come to accept as a man whose innate kindliness, which was as much
a part of him as the blood in his veins, wiped out any stain of alien
birth; but this blue-eyed one--"The senor himself is perhaps a judge
of riatas?" he insinuated, politely veiling the quick jealousy of his
"We-el-l--you bring me one ready to fall all to pieces, and I reckon I
could tell it was poor, after it had stranded."
Dade laughed. "Judge of riatas? You wait till you see him with one in
Manuel's teeth shone briefly, but the smile did not come from his
heart. "Me, I shall surely bring the senor a riata worthy even of his
skill," he declared sententiously, as he walked away with his bridle
slung over his arm and his back very straight.
"That sounded sarcastic," commented Jack, looking after him. "What's
the matter? Is the old fellow jealous?" Dade flicked his cigarette
against the trunk of the oak to remove the white crown of ashes, and
shook his head. "What of?" he asked bluntly. "Half your trouble, Jack,
comes from looking for it. Manuel's a fine old fellow. I stayed a few
days with him here when I first left town, and rode around with him.
He's straight as the road to heaven, and I never heard him brag about
anything, except the goodness of his 'patron,' and the things some of
his friends can do. I'll have to ask you to saddle up for me, Jack;
this arm of mine's pretty stiff and sore this morning. Watch how
Surry's trained! You wouldn't believe some of the things he'll do."
He turned towards the horse, feeding knee-deep in grass and young
mustard in the opening farther down the slope, and whistled a long,
high note. The white head went up with a fling of the heavy mane, to
perk ears forward at the sound. Then he turned and came towards them
at a long, swinging walk that was a joy to behold.
"Do you know, I hate the way nature's trimmed down the life of a horse
to a few measly years," said Dade. "A good horse you can love like a
human--and fifteen years is about as long as he can expect to live and
amount to anything. Surry's four now, by his teeth. In fifteen years
I'll still be at my best; I'll want that horse like the very devil;
and he'll be dead of old age, if he lasts that long. And a turtle,"
he added resentfully after a pause, "lives hundreds of years, just
because the darned things aren't any good on earth!"
"Trade him for a camel," drawled Jack unsympathetically. "They're more
"Watch him come, now!" Dade gave three short, shrill whistles, and
with a toss of head by way of answer, Surry came tearing up the slope,
straight for his master. The shadow of the oak was all about him when
he planted his front feet stiffly and stopped; flared his nostrils in
a snort and, because Dade waved his hand to the right, wheeled that
way, circled the oak at a pace which set his body aslant and stopped
again quite as suddenly as before. Dade held out his hand, and Surry
came up and rubbed the palm playfully with his soft muzzle.
"For a camel, did you say?" Dade grinned triumphantly at the other
over the sleek back of his pet.
"What'll you take for him?"
Dade pulled the heavy forelock straight with fingers that caressed
with every touch. "Jose Pacheco asked me that, and I came pretty near
hitting him. I don't reckon I'll ever be drunk enough to name a price.
But I might--"
Jack glanced at him, and saw that his lips were half parted in a smile
born of some fancy of his own, and that his eyes were seeing dreams.
Jack stared for a full minute before Dade's thoughts jerked back to
his surroundings. Dade was not a dreamer; or if he were, Jack had
never had occasion to suspect him of it, and he wondered a little what
it was that had sent Dade into dreams at that hour of the morning.
But Manuel was returning, riding one pony and leading another; so Jack
threw away his cigarette stub and picked up the saddle blanket.
Manuel came up and saddled his mount silently, his deft fingers
working mechanically while his black eyes stole sidelong looks at
Jack saddling Surry, as if he would measure the man anew. While he was
anathematizing the buckskin in language for which he would need to do
a penance later on, if he confessed the blasphemy to the padre, Jack
threw Valencia's saddle upon the little sorrel pony Manuel had led up
for him to ride.
"Truly one would not like to die for having stolen such a beast,"
stated Manuel earnestly, knotting a macarte around the neck of the
buckskin. "He is only fit to carry men to hangings. Come, accursed
one! The Vigilantes are weeping for one so like themselves. Adios,
He rode away, still heaping opprobrium upon the reluctant buckskin,
and speedily he disappeared behind a clump of willows clothed in the
pale green of new leaves.
Dade dropped the bullock hide which served for a door, to signify that
the master of the house was absent. Though the old don's cattle might
be butchered under his very nose, Manuel's few belongings would not be
molested, though only the dingy brown hide of a bull long since gone
the way of all flesh barred the way; a week, one month or six the hut
would stand inviolate from despoliation; for such was the unwritten
law of a land where life was held cheaper than the things necessary to
On such a morning, when the air was like summer and all the birds were
rehearsing most industriously their parts in the opening chorus with
which Spring meant to celebrate her return to the northern land, a
ride down the valley was pure joy to any man whose soul was tuned in
harmony with the great outdoors; and trouble lagged and could not keep
pace with the riders.
Half-way down, they met Valencia, a slim young Spaniard with one of
those amazing smiles that was like a flash of sunlight, what with his
perfect teeth, his eyes that could almost laugh out loud, and a sunny
soul behind them. Valencia, having an appetite for acquiring wisdom of
various kinds and qualities, knew some English and was not averse to
making strangers aware of the accomplishment.
Therefore, when the two greeted him in Spanish, he calmly replied:
"Hello, pardner," and pulled up for a smoke.
"How you feel for my dam-close call to-morrow?" he wanted to know of
Jack, when he learned his name.
"Pretty well. How did you know--?" began Jack, but the other cut him
"Jose, she heard on town. The patron, she's worry leetle. She's 'fraid
for Senor Hunter be keel. Me, I ride to find for-sure." Valencia
dropped his match, and leaned negligently from the saddle and picked
it out of the grass, his eyes stealing a look at the stranger as he
"Good work," commented Jack under his breath to Dade. But Valencia's
ears were keen for praise; he heard, and from that moment he was
"I borrowed your saddle, Valencia," Jack announced, meaning to promise
a speedy return of it.
"Not my saddle; yours and mine, amigo," amended Valencia quite simply
and sincerely. "Mine, she's yours also. You keep him." While he
smoked the little, corn-husk cigarette, he eyed with admiration the
copper-red hair upon which Manuel had looked with disfavor.
Before they rode on and left him, his friendliness had stamped
an agreeable impression upon Jack's consciousness. He looked back
approvingly at the sombreroed head bobbing along behind a clump of
young manzanita just making ready to bloom daintily.
"I like that vaquero," he stated emphatically. "He's worth two of
Manuel, to my notion."
"Valencia? He's not half the man old Manuel is. He gambles worse than
an Injun, and never has anything more than his riding outfit and the
clothes on his back, they tell me. And he fights like a catamount when
the notion strikes him; and it doesn't seem to make much difference
whether he's got an excuse or not. He's a good deal like you, in that
respect," he added, with that perfect frankness which true friendship
affects as a special privilege earned by its loyalty.
"Manuel's got tricky eyes," countered Jack. "He's the kind of Spaniard
that will 'Si, Senor,' while he's hitching his knife loose to get you
in the back. I know the breed; I lived amongst 'em before I ever saw
you. Valencia's the kind I'd tie to."
"And I was working with 'em when you were saying 'pitty horsey!' My
first job was with a Spanish outfit. A Mexican majordomo licked me
into shape when I was sweet sixteen. And," he clinched the argument
mercilessly, "I was sixteen and drawing a man's pay on rodeo when you
wore your pants buttoned on to your waist!"
"And you don't know anything yet!" Jack came back at him. Whereat they
laughed and called a truce, which was the way of them.
THE LORD OF THE VALLEY
Scattered, grazing herds of wild, long-horned cattle that ran from
their approach gave place to feeding mustangs with the mark of the
saddle upon them. Later, an adobe wall confronted them; and this they
followed through a grove of great live oaks and up a grassy slope
beyond, to where the long, low adobe house sat solidly upon a natural
terrace, with the valley lying before and the hills at its back;
a wide-armed, wide-porched, red-roofed adobe such as the Spanish
aristocracy loved to build for themselves. The sun shone warmly upon
the great, latticed porch, screened by the passion vines that hid
one end completely from view. To the left, a wing stretched out
generously, with windows curtained primly with some white stuff that
flapped desultorily in the fitful breeze from the south. At the right,
so close that they came near being a part of the main structure and
helped to give the general effect of a hollow, open-sided square,
stood a row of small adobe huts; two of them were tiled like the
house, and the last, at the outer end, was thatched with tules.
Into the immaculate patio thus formed before the porch, Dade led the
way boldly, as one sure of his welcome. Behind the vines a girl's
voice, speaking rapidly and softly with a laugh running all through
the tones, hushed as suddenly as does a wild bird's twitter when
strange steps approach. And just as suddenly did Dade's nostrils
flare with the quick breath he drew; for tones, if one listens
understandingly, may tell a great deal. Even Jack knew instinctively
that a young man sat with the girl behind the vines.
After the hush they heard the faint swish of feminine movement. She
came and stood demurely at the top of the wide steps, a little hoop
overflowing soft, white embroidered stuff in her hands.
"Welcome home, Senor Hunter," she said, and made him a courtesy that
was one-third politeness and the rest pure mockery. "My father will
be relieved in his mind when he sees you. I think he slept badly last
night on your account."
Wistfulness was in Dade's eyes when he looked at her; as though he
wanted to ask if she also were relieved at seeing him. But there was
the man behind the lattice where the vines were thickest; the man who
was young and whom she had found a pleasant companion. Also there was
Jack, who was staring with perfect frankness, his eyes a full
shade darker as he looked at her. And there was the peon scampering
barefooted across from one of the huts to take their horses. Dade
therefore confined himself to conventional phrases.
"Senorita, let me present to you my friend, Jack Allen," he said.
"Jack, this is the Senorita Teresa Picardo."
His nostrils widened again when he looked casually at Jack; for Jack's
sombrero was swept down to his knees in salute--though it was not
that; it was the look in his face that sent Dade's glance seeking
Teresita's eyes for answer.
But Teresita only showed him how effectively black lashes contrast
with the faint flush of cheeks just hinting at dimples, and he got no
She made another little courtesy, lifting her lashes unexpectedly
for a swift glance at Jack, as he dismounted hastily and went up two
steps, his hand outstretched to her.
"We Americanos like to shake hands upon a new friendship," he said
The senorita laughed a little, changed her embroidery hoop from her
right hand to her left, laid her fingers in his palm, blushed when his
hand closed upon them eagerly, and laughed again when her gold thimble
slipped and rolled tinkling down the steps.
Dade picked the thimble out of a matted corner of a violet bed, and
returned it to her unsmilingly; got a flash of her eyes and a little
nod for his reward, and stood back, waiting her further pleasure.
"You have had adventures, Senor, since yesterday morning," she said
to him lightly. "Truly, you Americanos do very wonderful things!
Jose, here is Senor Hunter and his friend whom he stole away from the
Vigilantes yesterday! Did you have the invisible cap, Senor? It was
truly a miracle such as the padres tell of, that the blessed saints
performed in the books. Jose told us what he heard--but when I have
called my mother, you yourself must tell us every little bit of it."
While she was talking she was also pulling forward two of the easiest
chairs, playing the hostess prettily and stealing a lash-hidden glance
now and then at the tall senor with such blue eyes and hair the like
of which she had never seen, and the mouth curved like the lips of a
The young man whom she addressed as Jose rose negligently and greeted
them punctiliously; seated himself again, picked up a guitar and
strummed a minor chord lazily.
"Don Andres is busy at the corrals," Jose volunteered, when the girl
had gone. "He will return soon. You had a disagreeable experience,
Senor? One of my vaqueros heard the story in town. There was a rumor
that the Vigilantes were sending out parties to search for you when
Carlos started home. Senor Allen is lucky to get off so easily."
Jack held a match unlighted in his fingers while he studied the face
of Jose. The tone of him had jarred, but his features were wiped clean
of any expression save faint boredom; and his fingers, plucking a
plaintive fragment of a fandango from the strings, belied the sarcasm
Jack had suspected. Don Andres himself, at that moment coming eagerly
across from the hut at the end of the row, saved the necessity of
"Welcome home, amigo mio!" cried the don, hurrying up the steps,
sombrero in hand. "Never has sight of a horse pleased me as when Diego
led yours to the stable. Thrice welcome--since you bring your friend
to honor my poor household with his presence."
No need to measure guardedly those tones, or that manner. Don Andres
Picardo was as clean, as honest, and as kindly as the sunshine that
mellowed the dim distances behind him. The two came to their feet
unconsciously and received his handclasp with inner humility.
Don Andres held Dade's hand a shade longer than the most gracious
hospitality demanded, while his eyes dwelt solicitously upon his face,
browned near to the shade of a native son of those western slopes.
"I heard of your brave deed, Senor--of how you rode into the midst of
the Vigilantes and snatched your friend from under the very shadow of
the oak. I did not hear that you escaped their vengeance afterwards,
and I feared greatly lest harm had befallen you. Dios! It was
gallantly done, like a knight of olden times--"
"Oh, no. I didn't rescue any lady, Don Andres. Just Jack--and he was
in a fair way to rescue himself, by the way. It wasn't anything much,
but I suppose the story did grow pretty big by the time it got to
"And does your friend also call it a little thing?" The don turned
quizzically to Jack.
"He does not," Jack returned promptly, although his ears were
listening attentively for a nearer approach of the girl-voice he heard
within the house. "He calls it one of the big things Dade is always
doing for his friends." He dropped a hand on Dade's shoulder and
shook him with an affectionate make-believe of disfavor. "He's always
risking his valuable neck to save my worthless one, Don Andres. He
means well, but he doesn't know any better. He packed me out of a nest
of Indians once, just as foolishly; we were coming out from Texas at
the time. You'd be amazed at some of the things I could tell you about
"And about himself, if he would," drawled Dade. "If he ever tells you
about the Indian scrape, Don Andres, ask him how he happened to get
into the nest. As to yesterday, perhaps you heard how it came that
Jack got so close to the oak!"
"No--I heard merely of the danger you were in. Jose's head vaquero
was in town when the Vigilantes returned with their Captain and those
others, and there were many rumors. This morning I sent Valencia to
learn the truth, and if you were in danger--Perhaps I could have done
little, but I should have tried to save you," he added simply. "I
should not like a clash with the gringos--pardon, Senors; I speak of
the class whom you also despise."
Jose laughed and swept the strings harshly with his thumb. "The clash
will come, Don Andres, whether you like it or not," he said. "This
morning I saw one more unasked tenant on your meadow, near the grove
of alders. What they call a 'prairie schooner.' A big, red-topped
hombre, and his woman--gringos of the class I despise; which
includes"--again he flung his thumb across the guitar string--"all
Jack's lips opened for hot answer, but Don Andres forestalled him
"One more tenant does not harm me, Jose. When the American government
puts its seal upon the seal of Spain and restores my land to me, these
unasked tenants will go the way they came. There will be no clash."
But he sighed even while he made the statement, as if the subject were
neither new nor pleasant to dwell upon.
"Why," demanded Jose bitterly, "should the Americanos presume to
question our right to our land? You and my father made the valley what
it is; your shiploads of hides and tallow that you sent from Yerba
Buena made the town prosper, and called adventurers this way; and now
they steal your cattle and lands, and their government is the biggest
thief of all, for it tells them to steal more. They will make you
poor, Don Andres, while you wait for them to be just. No, I permit
no 'prairie schooner' to stop, even that their oxen may drink. My
vaqueros ride beside them till they have crossed the boundary. You,
Don Andres, if you would permit your vaqueros to do likewise, instead
of shaking hands with the gringos and bidding them welcome--"
"But I do not permit it; nor do I seek counsel from the children I
have tossed on my foot to the tune of a nursery rhyme." He shook
his white-crowned head reprovingly. "He was always screaming at his
duenna, one child that I recollect," he smiled.
"Art thou scolding Jose again, my Andres? He loves to play that thou
and Teresita are children still, Jose; it serves to beguile him into
forgetting the years upon his head! Welcome, Senors. Teresita but told
me this moment that you had come. She is bringing the wine--"
On their feet they greeted the Senora Picardo. Like the don, her
husband, honest friendliness was in her voice, her smile, the warm
clasp of her plump hand. The sort of woman who will mother you at
sight, was the senora. Purple silk--hastily put on for the guests, one
might suspect--clothed her royally. Golden hoops hung from her ears,
a diamond brooch held together the lace beneath her cushiony chin; a
comfortable woman who smiled much, talked much and worried more lest
she leave some little thing undone for those about her.
"And this is the poor senor who was in such dreadful danger!" she
went on commiseratingly. "Ah, the wicked times that have come upon us!
Presently we shall fear to sleep in our beds--Senor Hunter, you have
been hurt! The mark of blood is on your sleeve, the stain is on your
side! A-ah, my poor friend! Come instantly and I will--"
"Gracias, Senora; it is nothing. Besides, Manuel put on a poultice of
herbs. It's only a scratch, but it bled a little while I rode to the
hut of Manuel." If blushes could have shown through the tan, Dade
might have looked as uncomfortable as he felt at that moment.
The senorita was already in the doorway, convoying a sloe-eyed maid
who bore wine and glasses upon a tray of beaten silver; and the smile
of the senorita was disturbing to a degree, brief though it was.
Behind the wine came cakes, and the senorita pointed tragically to
the silver dish that held them. "Madre mia, those terrible children
of Margarita have stolen half the cakes! I ran after them in the
orchard--but they swallow fast, those ninos! Now the senors must
Up went the hand of the senora in dismay, and down went the head of
the senorita to hide how she was biting the laughter from her lips.
"I ran," she murmured pathetically, "and I caught Angelo--but at that
moment he popped the cake into his mouth and it was gone! Then I ran
after Maria--and she swallowed--"
"Teresita mia! The senors will think--" What they would think she
did not stipulate, but her eyes implored them to judge leniently the
irrepressibility of her beautiful one. There were cakes sufficient--a
hasty glance reassured her upon that point--and Teresita was in one of
her mischievous moods. The mother who had reared her sighed resignedly
and poured the wine into the small glasses with a quaint design
cut into their sides, perfectly unconscious of the good the little
diversion had done.
For a half-hour there was peaceful converse; of the adventure which
had brought the two gringos to the ranch as to a sanctuary, of the
land which lay before them, and of the unsettled conditions that
filled the days with violence.
Jose still strummed softly upon the guitar, a pleasant undertone to
the voices. And because he said very little, he saw and thought the
more; seeing glances and smiles between a strange man and the maid
whom he loved desirefully, bred the thought which culminated in a
sudden burst of speech against the gringos who had come into the
peaceful land and brought with them strife. Who stole the cattle of
the natives, calmly appropriated the choicest bits of valley land
without so much as a by-your-leave, and who treated the rightful
owners with contempt and as though they had no right to live in the
valley where they were born.
"Last week," he went on hotly, "an evil gringo with the clay of his
burrowings still upon his garments cursed me and called me greaser
because I did not give him all the road for his burro. I, Jose
Pacheco! They had better have a care, or the 'greasers' will drive
them back whence they came, like the cattle they are. When I, a don,
must give the road to a gringo lower than the peons whom I flog for
less impertinence, it is time we ceased taking them by the hand as
though they were our equals!" His eyes went accusingly to the face of
She flung up her head and met the challenge in her own way, which was
with the knife-thrust of her light laughter. "Ah, the poor Americanos!
Not the prayers of all the padres can save them from the blackness of
their fate, since Don Jose Pacheco frowns and will not take their
hand in friendship! How they will gnash the teeth when they hear the
terrible tidings--Jose Pacheco, don and son of a don, will have none
of them, nor will he give way to their poor burros on the highway!"
She shook her head as she had done over the tragedy of the little
cakes. "Pobre gringos! Pobre gringos!" she murmured mockingly.
"Children, have done!" The hand of the senora went chidingly to
the shoulder of her incorrigible daughter. "This is foolish and
unseemly--though all thy quarreling is that, the saints know well. Our
guests are Americanos; our guests, who are our friends," she stated
gently, looking at Jose. "Not all Spaniards are good, Jose; not all
gringos are bad. They are as we are, good and bad together. Speak not
like a child, amigo mio."
The guitar which Jose flung down upon a broad stool beside him hummed
resonant accompaniment to his footsteps as he left the veranda. "Thy
house, Senora, has been as my mother's house since I can remember.
Until thy gringo guests have made room for me, I leave it!"
"Senor Allen, would you like to see my birds?" invited Teresita
wickedly, her glance flicking scornfully the reproachful face of Jose,
as he turned it towards her, and dwelling with a smile upon Jack.
"Wicked one!" murmured the senora, in her heart more than half
approving the discipline.
Jose had humiliation as well as much bitterness to carry away with
him; for he saw the senor with the bright blue eyes follow gladly the
laughing Teresita to her rose garden, and as he went jingling across
the patio without waiting to summon a peon to bring him his horse, he
heard the voice of Don Andres making apology to Dade for the rudeness
of him, Jose.
DON ANDRES WANTS A MAJORDOMO
"Senor, those things which you desired that I should bring, I have
brought. All is of the best. Also have I brought a letter from the
Senor Weelson, and what remains of the gold the senor will find laid
carefully in the midst of his clothing. So I have done all as it
would have been done for the patron himself." In the downward sweep of
Manuel's sombrero one might read that peculiar quality of irony which
dislike loves to inject into formal courtesy.
Behind Manuel waited a peon burdened with elegant riding gear and a
bundle of clothing, and a gesture brought him forward to deposit his
load upon the porch before the gringo guest, whose "Gracias" Manuel
waved into nothingness; as did the quick shrug disdain the little
bag of gold which Jack drew from his pocket and would have tossed to
Manuel for reward.
"It was nothing," he smiled remotely; and went his way to find the
patron and deliver to him a message from a friend.
Behind Jack came the click of slipper-heels upon the hardwood; and he
turned from staring, puzzled, after the stiff-necked Manuel, and gave
the girl a smile such as a man reserves for the woman who has entered
into his dreams.
"Santa Maria, what elegance! Now will the senor ride in splendor
that will dazzle the eyes to look upon!" Teresita bantered, poking a
slipper-toe tentatively towards the saddle, and clasping her hands in
mock rapture. "On every corner, silver crescents; on the tapideros,
silver stars bigger than Venus; riding behind the cantle, a whole
milky way; Jose will surely go mad with rage when he sees. Stars has
Jose, but no moon to bear him company when he rides. Surely the cattle
will fall upon their knees when the senor draws near!"
"Shall we ride out and put them to the test?" he asked wishfully,
shaking out the bridle to show the beautiful design of silver inlaid
upon the leather cheek-piece, and stooping to adjust a big-roweled,
silver-incrusted spur upon his boot-heel. "Manuel does exactly as he
is told. I said he was to get the best he could find--"
"And so no vaquero in the valley will be so gorgeous--" She broke off
suddenly to sing in lilting Spanish a fragment of some old song that
told of the lilies of the field that "Toil not, neither do they spin."
"That is not kind. I may not spin, but I toil--I leave it to Dade if I
don't." This last, because he caught sight of Dade coming across from
the row of huts, which was a short cut up from the corrals. "And I can
show you the remains of blisters--" He held out a very nice appearing
palm towards her, and looked his fill at her pretty face, while she
bent her brows and inspected the hand with the gravity that threatened
to break at any instant into laughter.
That sickening grip in the chest which is a real, physical pain,
though the hurt be given to the soul of a man, slowed Dade's steps to
a lagging advance towards the tableau the two made on the steps. So
had the senorita sent him dizzy with desire (and with hope to brighten
it) in the two weeks and more that he had been the honored guest. So
had she laughed and teased him and mocked him; and he had believed
that to him alone would she show the sweet whimsies of her nature. But
from the moment when he laid her gold thimble in her waiting hand and
got no reward save an absent little nod of thanks, the dull ache had
been growing in his heart. He knew what it was that had sent Jose off
in that headlong rage against all gringos; though two days before
he would have said that Jose's jealousy was for him, and with good
reason. There had been glances between those two who stood now so
close together--swift measuring of the weapons which sex uses against
sex, with quick smiles when the glances chanced to meet. Jose also had
seen the byplay; and the fire had smoldered in his eyes until at last
it kindled into flame and drove him cursing from the place. In his
heart Dade could not blame Jose.
Forgotten while Teresita held back with one hand a black lock which
the wind was trying to fling across her eyes, and murmured mocking
commiseration over the half obliterated callouses on Jack's hand,
Dade loitered across the patio, remembering many things whose very
sweetness made the present hurt more bitter. He might have known it
would be like this, he told himself sternly; but life during the past
two weeks had been too sweet for forebodings or for precaution. He
had wanted Jack to see and admire Teresita, with the same impulse that
would have made him want to show Jack any other treasure which Chance
held out to him while Hope smiled over her shoulder and whispered that
it was his.
Well, Jack had seen her, and Jack surely admired her; and the grim
humor of Dade's plight struck through the ache and made him laugh,
even though his jaws immediately went together with a click of teeth
and cut the laugh short. He might have known--but he was not the sort
of man who stands guard against friend and foe alike.
And, he owned to himself, Jack was unconscious of any hurt for his
friend in this rather transparent wooing. A little thought would have
enlightened him, perhaps, or a little observation; but Dade could
not blame Jack for not seeking for some obstacle in the path of his
"She says I'm lazy and got these callouses grabbing the soft snaps
last summer in the mines," Jack called lightly, when finally it
occurred to him that the world held more than two persons. "I'm always
getting the worst of it when you and I are compared. But I believe
I've got the best of you on riding outfit, old man. Take a look at
that saddle, will you! And these spurs! And this bridle! The senorita
says the cattle will fall on their knees when I ride past; we're going
to take a gallop and find out. Want to come along?"
"Arrogant one! The senorita did not agree to that ride! The senorita
has something better to do than bask in the glory of so gorgeous a
senor while he indulges his vanity--and frightens the poor cattle so
that, if they yield their hides at killing time, there will be little
tallow for the ships to carry away!"
The Senorita Teresita would surely never be guilty of a conscious
lowering of one eyelid to point her raillery, but the little twist she
gave to her lips when she looked at Dade offered a fair substitute;
and the flirt of her silken skirts as she turned to run back into the
house was sufficient excuse for any imbecility in a man.
Jack looked after her with some chagrin. "The little minx! A man might
as well put up his hands when he hears her coming--huh? Unless he's
absolutely woman-proof, like you. How do you manage it, anyway?"
"By taking a squint at myself in the looking-glass every morning."
Dade's face managed to wrinkle humorously. "H-m. You are pretty
gorgeous, for a fact. Where's the riata?"
Jack had forgotten that he had ever wanted one. He lifted the heavy,
high-cantled saddle, flung it down upon the other side and untied the
new coil of braided rawhide from its place on the right fork.
"A six-strand, eh? I could tell Manuel a few things about riatas, if
he calls that the best! Four strands are stronger than six, any time.
I've seen too many stranded--"
"The senor is not pleased with the riata?"
Manuel, following Don Andres across to the veranda, had caught the
gesture and tone; and while his knowledge of English was extremely
sketchy, he knew six and four when he heard those numerals mentioned,
and the rest was easy guessing.
"The four strands are good, but the six are better--when Joaquin
Murieta lays the strands. From the hide of a very old bull was this
riata cut; perhaps the senor is aware that the hide is thus of the
same thickness throughout and strong as the bull that grew it. Not one
strand is laid tighter than the other strand; the wildest bull in the
valley could not break it--if the senor should please to catch him!
Me, I could have bought three riatas for the gold I gave for this one;
but the senor told me to get the best." His shoulders went up an inch,
though Don Andres was frowning at the tone of him. "The senor can
return it to the Mission and get the three, or he can exchange it with
any vaquero in the valley for one which has four strands. I am very
sorry that the senor is not pleased with my choice."
"You needn't be sorry. It's a very pretty riata, and I have no doubt
it will do all I ask of it. The saddle's a beauty, and the bridle and
spurs--I'm a thousand times obliged."
"It is nothing and less than nothing," disclaimed Manuel once more;
and went in to ask the senora for a most palatable decoction whose
chief ingredient was blackberry wine, which the senora recommended to
all and sundry for various ailments. Though Manuel, the deceitful one,
had no ailment, he did have a keen appreciation of the flavour of the
cordial, and his medicine bottle was never long empty--or full--if he
could help it.
A moment later Jack, hearing a human, feminine twitter from the
direction of the rose garden, left off examining pridefully his
belongings, and bolted without apology, after his usual headlong
Don Andres sat him down in an easy-chair in the sun, and sighed as he
did so. "He is hot-tempered, that vaquero," he said regretfully, his
mind upon Manuel. "Something has stirred his blood; surely your friend
has done nothing to offend him?"
"Nothing except remark that he has always liked a four-strand riata
better than six. At the hut he was friendly enough."
"He is not the only one whose anger is easily stirred against the
gringos," remarked the don, reaching mechanically for his tobacco
pouch, while he watched Dade absently examining the new riata.
"Senor Hunter," Don Andres began suddenly, "have you decided what
you will do? Your mine in the mountains--it will be foolish to return
there while the hands of the Vigilantes are reaching out to clutch
you; do you not think so? More of the tale I have heard from Valencia,
who returned with Manuel. Those men who died at the hand of your
friend--and died justly, I am convinced--had friends who would give
much for close sight of you both."
"I know; I told Jack we'd have to keep away from town or the mine for
a while. He wanted to go right back and finish up the fight!" Dade
grinned at the absurdity. "I sat down hard on that proposition."
Not that phrase, exactly, did he use. One may be pardoned a free
translation, since, though he spoke in excellent Spanish, he did not
twist his sentences like a native, and he was not averse to making
use of certain idioms quite as striking in their way as our own
Don Andres rolled a cigarette and smoked it thoughtfully. "You were
wise. Also, I bear in mind your statement that you could not long be
content to remain my guest. Terribly independent and energetic are
you Americanos." He smoked through another pause, while Dade's puzzled
glance dwelt secretly upon his face and tried to read what lay in his
mind. It seemed to him that the don was working his way carefully up
to a polite hint that the visit might be agreeably terminated; and his
uneasy thoughts went to the girl. Did her father resent--
"My majordomo," the don continued, just in time to hold back Dade's
hasty assurance that they would leave immediately, "my majordomo does
not please me. Many faults might I name, sufficient to make plain my
need for another." A longer wait, as if time were indeed infinite, and
he owned it all. "Also I might name reasons for my choice of another,
who is yourself, Senor Hunter. Perhaps in you I recognize simply
the qualities which I desire my majordomo to possess. Perhaps also
I desire that some prejudiced countrymen of mine shall be taught a
lesson and made to see that not all Americanos are unworthy. However
that may be, I shall be truly glad if you will accept. The salary we
will arrange as pleases you, and your friend will, I hope, remain in
whatever capacity you may desire. Further, when your government has
given some legal assurance that my land is mine," he smiled wrily at
the necessity for such assurance, "as much land as you Americanos call
a 'section,' choose it where you will--except that it shall not take
my house or my cultivated land--shall be yours for the taking."
"Not so much the offer of a position would I have you consider it,"
interrupted the other with the first hint of haste he had shown, "as
a favor that I would ask. Times are changing, and we natives are
high-chested and must learn to make room for others who are coming
amongst us. To speak praises to the face of a friend is not my habit,
yet I will say that I would teach my people to respect good men,
whatever the race; and especially Americanos, who will be our
neighbors henceforth. I shall be greatly pleased when you tell me
that you will be my majordomo; more than ever one needs a man of
intelligence and tact--"
"And are none of our own people tactful or intelligent, Don Andres
Picardo?" demanded Manuel, having overheard the last sentence or two
from the doorway. He came out and stood before his beloved "patron,"
his whole fat body quivering with amazed indignation, so that the
bottle which the senora had filled for him shook in his hand. "Amongst
the gringos must you go to find one worthy? Truly it is as Don Jose
tells me; these gringos have come but to make trouble where all was
peace. To-day he told me all his thoughts, and me, I hardly believed
it was as he said. Would the patron have a majordomo who knows nothing
of rodeos, nothing of the cattle--"
"You're mistaken there, Manuel," Dade broke in calmly. "Whether I
become majordomo or not, I know cattle. They have a few in Texas,
where I came from. I can qualify in cowology any time. And," he added
loyally, "so can Jack. You thought he didn't know what he was talking
about, when he was looking at that riata; but I'll back him against
any man in California when it comes to riding and roping.
"But that needn't make us bad friends, Manuel. I didn't come to make
trouble, and I won't stay to make any. We've been friends; let's
stay that way. I'm a gringo, all right, but I've lived more with your
people than my own, and if you want the truth, I don't know but what
I feel more at home with them. And the same with Jack. We've eaten and
slept with Spaniards and worked with them and played with them, half
"Still it is as Jose says," reiterated Manuel stubbornly. "Till the
gringos came all was well; when they came, trouble came also. Till
the gringos came, no watch was put over the cattle, for only those
who hungered killed and ate. Now they steal the patron's cattle by
hundreds, they steal his land, and if Jose speaks truly, they would
steal also--" He hesitated to speak what was on his tongue, and
finished lamely: "what is more precious still.
"And the patron will have a gringo for majordomo?" He returned to the
issue. "Then I, Manuel, must leave the patron's employ. I and half the
vaqueros. The patron," he added with what came close to a sneer, "had
best seek gringo vaqueros--with the clay of the mines on their boots,
and their red shirts to call the bulls!"
"I shall do what it pleases me to do," declared the don sternly.
"Advice from my vaqueros I do not seek. And you," he said haughtily,
"have choice of two things; you may crave pardon for your insolence to
my guest, who is also my friend, and who will henceforth have charge
of my vaqueros and my cattle, or you may go whither you will; to Don
Jose Pacheco, I doubt not."
He leaned his white-crowned head against the high chair-back, and
while he waited for Manuel's decision he gazed calmly at the border
of red tiles which showed at the low eaves of the porch--calmly as to
features only, for his eyes held the blaze of anger.
"Senors, I go." The brim of Manuel's sombrero flicked the dust of the
"Come, then, and I will reckon your wage," invited the don, coldly
courteous as to a stranger. "You will excuse me, Senor? I shall not be
Dade's impulse was to protest, to intercede, to say that he and Jack
would go immediately, rather than stir up strife. But he had served a
stern apprenticeship in life, and he knew it was too late now to
put out the fires of wrath burning hotly in the hearts of those two;
however completely he might efface himself, the resentment was too
keen, the quarrel too fresh to be so easily forgotten.
He was standing irresolutely on the steps when Jack came hack from the
rose garden, whistling softly an old love-song and smiling fatuously
"We're going to take that ride, after all," he announced gleefully.
"Want to come along? She's going to ask her father to come, too--says
it would be terribly improper for us two to ride alone. What's the
matter? Got the toothache?"
Dade straightened himself automatically after the slap on the back
that was like a cuff from a she-bear, and grunted an uncivil sentence.
"Come over to the saddle-house," he commanded afterward. "And take
that truck off the senora's front steps before she sees it and has a
fit. I want to talk to you."
"Oh, Lord!" wailed Jack, under his breath, but he shouldered the heavy
saddle obediently, leaving Dade to bring what remained. "Cut it short,
then; she's gone to dress and ask her dad; and I'm supposed to order
the horses and get you started. What's the trouble?"
Dade first went over to the steps before their sleeping-room and
deposited Jack's personal belongings; and Jack seized the minute of
grace to call a peon and order the horses saddled.
He turned from watching proudly the glitter of the trimmings on his
new saddle as the peon bore it away on his shoulder, and confronted
Dade with a tinge of defiance in his manner.
"Well, what have I done now?" he challenged. "Anything particularly
damnable about talking five minutes to a girl in plain sight of her--"
Dade threw out both hands in a gesture of impatience. "That isn't the
only important thing in the world," he pointed out sarcastically. If
the inner hurt served to sharpen his voice, he did not know it. "Don
Andres wants to make me his majordomo."
Jack's eyes bulged a little; and if Dade had not wisely side-stepped
he would have received another one of Jack's muscle-tingling slaps on
the shoulder. "Whee-ee! Say, you're getting appreciated, at last, old
man. Good for you! Give me a job?"
"I'm not going to take it," said Dade. "I was going to ask you if you
want to pull out with me to-morrow."
Jack's jaw went slack. "Not going to take it!" He leaned against the
adobe wall behind him and stuck both hands savagely into his pockets.
"Why, you darned chump, how long ago was it that you talked yourself
black in the face, trying to make me say I'd stay? Argued like a man
trying to sell shaving soap; swore that nobody but a born idiot would
think of passing up such a chance; badgered me into giving in; and now
when you've got a chance like this, you--Say, you're loco!"
"Maybe." Dade's eyes went involuntarily toward the veranda, where
Teresita appeared for an instant, looking questioningly towards them.
"Maybe I am loco. But Manuel's mad because the don offered me the
place, and has quit; and he says half the vaqueros will leave, that
they won't work under a gringo."
Jack's indignant eyes changed to a queer, curious stare. "Dade Hunter!
If I didn't know you, if I hadn't seen you in more tight places than
I've got fingers and toes, I'd say--But you aren't scared; you never
had sense enough to be afraid of anything in your life. You can't
choke that down me, old man. What's the real reason why you want to
The real reason came again to the doorway sixty feet away and looked
out impatiently to where the senors were talking so earnestly and
privately; but Dade would have died several different and unpleasant
deaths before he would name that reason. Instead:
"It will be mighty disagreeable for Don Andres, trying to keep things
smooth," he said. "And it isn't as if he were stuck for a majordomo.
Manuel has turned against me from pure jealousy. He opened his heart,
one night when we were alone together, and told me that when Carlos
Pacorra went--and Manuel said the patron would not keep him long, for
his insolence--he, Manuel, would be majordomo. He's mad as the deuce,
and I don't blame him; and he's a good man for the place; the vaqueros
"You say he's quit?"
"Yes. He got pretty nasty, and the don has gone to pay him off."
"Well, what good would it do for you to turn down the offer, then?
Manuel wouldn't get it, would he?"
"No-o, he wouldn't."
"Well, then--oh, thunder! Something ought to be done for that
ingrowing modesty of yours! Dade, if you pass up that place,
I'll--I'll swear you're crazy. I know you like it, here. You worked
hard enough to convert me to that belief!"
A sudden thought made him draw a long breath; he reached out and
caught Dade by both shoulders.
"Say, you can't fool me a little bit! You're backing up because you're
afraid I may be jealous or something. You're afraid you're standing
in my light. Darn you, I've had enough of that blamed unselfishness
of yours, old man." The endearing smile lighted his face then and his
eyes. "You go ahead and take the job, Dade. I don't want it. I'll be
more than content to have you boss me around." He hesitated, looking
at the other a bit wistfully. "Of course, you know that if you go, old
boy, I'll go with you. But--" The look he sent towards Teresita,
who appeared definitely upon the porch and stood waiting openly and
impatiently, amply finished the sentence.
Dade's eyes followed Jack's understandingly, and the thing he had
meant to do seemed all at once contemptible, selfish, and weak. He had
meant to leave and take Jack with him, because it hurt him mightily to
see those two falling in love with each other. The trouble his staying
might bring to Don Andres was nothing more nor less than a subterfuge.
If Teresita's smiles had continued to be given to him as they had
been before Jack came, he told himself bitterly, he would never
have thought of going. And Jack thought he hesitated from pure
unselfishness! The fingers that groped mechanically for his tobacco,
though he had no intention of smoking just then, trembled noticeably.
"All right," he said quietly. "I'll stay, then." And a moment after:
"Go ask her if she wants to ride Surry. I promised her she could, next
time she rode."
JERRY SIMPSON, SQUATTER
The senorita, it would seem, had lost interest in the white horse
as well as in his master. That was the construction which Dade
pessimistically put upon her smiling assurance that she could never be
so selfish as to take Senor Hunter's wonderful Surry and condemn him
to some commonplace caballo; though she gave also a better reason than
that, which was that her own horse was already saddled--witness the
peon leading the animal into the patio at that very moment--and that
an exchange would mean delay. Dade took both reasons smilingly, and
mentally made a vow with a fearsome penalty attached to the breaking
of it. After which he felt a little more of a man, with his pride to
bear him company.
Manuel came out from the room which Don Andres used for an office,
saluted the senorita with the air of a permanent leave-taking, as
well as a greeting, and passed the gringos with face averted. A moment
later the don followed him with the look of one who would dismiss
a distasteful business from his mind; and entered amiably into the
pleasure-seeking spirit of the ride.
With the March sun warm upon them when they rode out from the wide
shade of the oaks, they faced the cooling little breeze which blew out
of the south.
"Valencia tells me that the prairie schooner which Jose spoke of
has of a truth cast anchor upon my land," observed the don to Dade,
reining in beside him where he rode a little in advance of the others.
"Since we are riding that way, we may as well see the fellow and make
him aware of the fact that he is trespassing upon land which belongs
to another; though if he has halted but to rest his cattle and
himself, he is welcome. But Valencia tells me that the fellow is
cutting down trees for a house, and that I do not like."
"Some emigrants seem to think, because they have traveled over so much
wilderness, there is no land west of the Mississippi that they haven't
a perfect right to take, if it suits them. They are a little like your
countryman Columbus, I suppose. Every man who crosses the desert feels
as if he's out on a voyage of discovery to a new world; and when he
does strike California, it's hard for him to realize that he can't
take what he wants of it."
"I think you are right," admitted Don Andres after a minute. "And
your government also seems to believe it has come into possession of a
wilderness, peopled only by savages who must give way to the march
of civilization. Whereas we Spaniards were in possession of the land
while yet your colonies paid tribute to their king in England, and we
ourselves have brought the savages to the ways of Christian people,
and have for our reward the homes which we have built with much toil
and some hardships, like yourselves when your colonies were young.
Twenty-one years have I looked upon this valley and called it mine,
with the word of his Majesty for my authority! And surely my right to
it is as the right of your people to their haciendas in Virginia or
Vermont. Yet men will drive their prairie schooners to a spot which
pleases them and say: 'Here, I will have this place for my home.' That
is not lawful, or right."
Ten steps in the rear of them Teresita was laughing her mocking little
laugh that still had in it a maddening note of tenderness. Dade tried
not to hear it; for so had she laughed at him, a week ago, and set
his blood leaping towards his heart. He was not skilled in the ways of
women, yet he did not accuse her of deliberate coquetry, as a man is
prone to do under the smart of a hurt like his; for he sensed dimly
that it was but the seeking sex-instinct of healthy youth that
brightened her eyes and sent the laugh to her lips when she faced
a man who pleased her; and if she were fickle, it was with the
instinctive fickleness of one who has not made final choice of a mate.
Hope lifted its head at that, but he crushed it sternly into the dust
again; for the man who rode behind was his friend, whom he loved.
It is to be feared that the voice of the girl held more of his
attention than the complaint of the don, just then, and that the sting
of injustice under which Don Andres squirmed seemed less poignant and
vital than the hurt he himself was bearing. He answered him at random;
and he might have betrayed his inattention if they had not at that
moment caught sight of the interlopers.
Valencia had not borne false witness against them; the emigrants were
indeed cutting down trees. More, they were industriously hauling the
logs to the immediate vicinity of their camp, which was chosen with an
eye to many advantages; shade, water, a broad view of the valley and
plenty of open grass land already fit for the plow, if to plow were
A loose-jointed giant of a man seated upon the load of logs which two
yoke of great, meek-eyed oxen had just drawn up beside a waiting pile
of their fellows, waited phlegmatically their approach. A woman, all
personality hidden beneath flapping calico and slat sunbonnet, climbed
hastily down upon the farther side of the wagon and disappeared
into the little tent that was simply the wagon-box with its canvas
covering, placed upon the ground.
"Valencia told me truly. Senor Hunter, will you speak for me? Tell the
big hombre that the land is mine."
To do his bidding, Dade flicked the reins upon Surry's neck and rode
ahead, the others closely following. Thirty feet from the wagon
a great dog of the color called brindle disputed his advance with
bristling hair and throaty grumble.
"Lay down, Tige! Wait till you're asked to take a holt," advised
the man on the wagon, regarding the group with an air of perfect
neutrality. Tige obeying sullenly, to the extent that he crouched
where he was and still growled; his master rested his elbows on his
great, bony knees, sucked at a short-stemmed clay pipe and waited
"How d'yuh do?" Dade, holding Surry as close to the belligerent Tige
as was wise, tried to make his greeting as neutral as the attitude of
"Tol'ble, thank yuh, how's y'self? Shet your trap, Tige! Tige thought
you was all greasers, and he ain't made up his mind yet whether he
likes 'em mixed--whites and greasers. I dunno's I blame 'im, either.
We ain't either of us had much call to hanker after the dark meat.
T'other day a bunch come boilin' up outa the dim distance like they
was sent fur and didn't have much time to git here. Tied their tongues
into hard knots tryin' to tell me somethin' I didn't have time to
listen to, and looked like they wanted to see my hide hangin' on a
"Tige, he didn't take to 'em much. He kept walkin' back and forth
between me and them, talking as sensible as they did, I must say, and
makin' his meanin' full as clear. I dunno how we'd all 'a' come out,
if I hadn't brought Jemimy and the twins out and let 'em into the
argument. Them greasers didn't like the looks of old Jemimy, and they
backed off. Tige, he follered 'em right up, and soon's they got outa
reach of Jemimy, they took down their lariats an' tried to hitch onto
"They didn't know Tige. That thar dawg's the quickest dawg on earth.
He hopped through their loops like they was playin' jump-the-rope
with him. Fact is, he'd learned jump-the-rope when he was a purp. He
wouldn't 'a' minded that, only they didn't do it friendly. One feller
whipped out his knife and throwed it at Tige--and he come mighty nigh
makin' dawg-meat outa him, too. Slit his ear, it come that close.
Tige ain't got no likin' fer greasers sence then. He thought you was
another bunch--and so did I. Mary, she put inside after Jemimy and the
"Know anything about them greasers? I see yuh got a sample along. T'
other crowd was headed by a slim feller all tricked up in velvet
and silver braid and red sash; called himself Don Jose Pacheco, and
claimed to own all Ameriky from the ocean over there, back to the
Allegheny Mountains, near as I could make out. I don't talk that kinda
talk much; but I been thinkin' mebby I better get m' tongue split, so
I can. Might come handy, some time; only Tige, he hates the sound of
it like he hates porkypines--or badgers.
"Mary and me and Tige laid up in Los Angeles fer a spell, resting
the cattle. All greasers, down there--and fleas--and take the two
t'gether, they jest about wore out the hull kit and b'ilin' of us.
"What's pesterin' the ole feller? Pears like he's gittin' his tongue
twisted up ready to talk--if they call it talkin'."
"What is the hombre saying?--" asked the don at that moment, seeing
the glance and sensing that at last his presence was noticed.
Dade grinned and winked at Jack, who, by the way, was neither looking
nor listening; for Teresita was once more tenderly ridiculing his
star-incrusted saddle and so claimed his whole attention.
"He says Jose Pacheco and some others came and ordered him off. They
were pretty ugly, but he called out a lady--the Senora Jemima and dos
"Sa-ay, mister," interrupted the giant Jerry Simpson from the load of
logs. "D'you say Senory Jemimy?"
"Why, yes. Senora means madame, or--"
"Ya'as, I know what it means. Jemimy, mister, ain't no senory, nor no
madame. Jemimy's my old Kentucky rifle, mister. And the twins ain't no
neenos, but a brace uh pistols that can shoot fur as it's respectable
fer a pistol to shoot, and hit all it's lawful to hit. You tell him
who Jemimy is, mister; and tell 'im she's a derned good talker, and
most convincin' in a argyment."
"He says Jemima is not a senora," translated Dade, his eyes twinkling,
"but his rifle; and the ninos are his pistols."
Don Andres hid a smile under his white mustache. "Very good. Yet I
think your language must lack expression, Senor Hunter. It required
much speech to say so little." There was a twinkle in his own eyes.
"Also, Jose acts like a fool. You may tell the big senor that the
land is mine, but that I do not desire to use harsh methods, nor have
ill-feeling between us. It is my wish to live in harmony with all
men; my choice of a majordomo should bear witness that I look upon
Americanos with a friendly eye. I think the big hombre is honest and
intelligent; his face rather pleases me. So you may tell him that Jose
shall not trouble him again, and that I shall not dispute with him
about his remaining here, if to remain should be his purpose when he
knows the land belongs to me. But I shall look upon him as a guest. As
a guest, he will be welcome until such time as he may find some free
land upon which to build his casa."
Because the speech was kindly and just, and because he was in the
service of the don, Dade translated as nearly verbatim as the two
languages would permit. And Jerry Simpson, while he listened, gave
several hard pulls with his lips upon the short stem of his pipe,
discovered that there was no fire there, straightened his long leg
and felt gropingly for a match in the depth of a great pocket in his
trousers. His eyes, of that indeterminate color which may be either
gray, hazel, or green, as the light and his mood may affect them,
measured the don calmly, dispassionately, unawed; measured also Dade
and the beautiful white horse he rode; and finally went twinkling
over Jack and the girl, standing a little apart, wholly absorbed in
trivialities that could interest no one save themselves.
"How much land does he say belongs to him? And whar did he git his
title to it?" Jerry Simpson asked, when Dade was waiting for his
Out of his own knowledge Dade told him.
Jerry Simpson brought two matches from his pocket, inspected them
gravely and returned one carefully; lighted the other with the same
care, applied the flame to his tobacco, made sure that the pipe was
going to "draw" well, blew out the match, and tucked the stub down out
of sight in a crease in the bark of the log upon which he was sitting.
After that he rested his elbows upon his great, bony knees and smoked
THE FINEST LITTLE WOMAN IN THE WORLD
"You tell Mr. Picardy that I ain't visitin' nobody, so he needn't
consider that I'm company," announced Jerry, after a wait that was
beginning to rasp the nerves of his visitors. "I come here to live!
He's called this land hisn, by authority uh the king uh Spain, you
say, for over twenty year. Wall, in twenty year he ain't set so much
as a fence-post fur as the eye can see. I been five mile from here on
every side, and I don't see no signs of his ever usin' the land fer
nothin'. Now, mebby the king uh Spain knew what he was talkin' about
when he give this land away, and then agin mebby he didn't. 'T any
rate, I don't know as I think much of a king that'll give away a hull
great gob uh land he never seen, and give it to one feller--more 'n
that feller could use in a hull lifetime; more 'n he would ever need
fer his young 'uns, even s'posin' he had a couple uh dozen--which
ain't skurcely respectable fer one man, nohow. How many's he got,
"One--his daughter, over there."
"Hum-mh! Wall, she ain't goin' to need so derned much. You tell Mr.
Picardy I've come a long ways to find a home fer Mary and me; a long
road and a hard road. I can't go no further without I swim fer it, and
that I don't calc'late on doin'. I ain't the kind to hog more land
'n what I can use--not mentionin' no names; but I calc'late on havin'
what I need, if I can get it honest. My old mother used to read outa
the Bible that the earth was the Lord's and the fullness thereof; and
I ain't never heard of him handin' over two-thirds of it to any king
uh Spain. What he's snoopin' around in Ameriky fur, givin' away
great big patches uh country he never seen, I ain't askin'. Californy
belongs to the United States of Ameriky, and the United States of
Ameriky lets her citizens make homes for themselves and their families
on land that ain't already in use. If Mr. Picardy can show me a deed
from Gawd Almighty, signed, sealed, and delivered along about the time
Moses got hisn fer the Land uh Canyan, or if he can show a paper from
Uncle Sam, sayin' this place belongs to him, I'll throw off these
logs, h'ist the box back on the wagon and look further; but I ain't
goin' to move on the say-so uh no furrin' king, which I don't believe
He took the pipe from his mouth, and with it pointed to a spot twenty
feet away, so that they all looked towards the place.
"Right thar," he stated slowly, "is whar I'm goin' to build my cabin,
fer me and Mary. And right over thar I'm goin' to plow me up a truck
patch. I'm a peaceable man, mister. I don't aim to have no fussin'
with my neighbors. But you tell Mr. Picardy that thar'll be loopholes
cut on all four sides uh that thar cabin, and Jemimy and the twins'll
be ready to argy with anybody that comes moochin' around unfriendly.
I'm the peaceablest man you ever seen, but when I make up my mind to
a thing, I'm firm! Pur-ty tol'able firm!" he added with complacent
He waited expectantly while Dade put a revised version of this speech
into Spanish, and placidly smoked his little black pipe while the don
"Already I find that I have done well to choose an Americano for my
majordomo," Don Andres observed, a smile in his eyes. "With a few more
such as this great hombre, who is firm and peaceful together, I should
find my days full of trouble with a hot-blooded Manuel to deal with
them. But with you, Senor, I have no fear. Something there is in the
face of this Senor Seem'son which pleases me; we shall be friends,
and he shall stay and plant his garden and build his house where it
pleases him to do. You may tell him that I say so, and that I shall
rely upon his honor to pay me for the land a reasonable price when the
American government places its seal beside the seal on his Majesty's
grant. For that it will be done I am very sure. The land is mine, even
though I have no tablet of stone to proclaim from the Creator my right
to call it so. But he shall have his home if he is honest, without
swimming across the ocean to find it."
"Wall, now, that's fair enough fer anybody. Hey, Mary! Come on out and
git acquainted with yer neighbor's girl. Likely-lookin' young woman,"
he passed judgment, nodding towards Teresita. "Skittish, mebby--young
blood most gen'rally is, when there's any ginger in it. What's yer
name, mister? I want yuh all to meet the finest little woman in the
world--Mrs. Jerry Simpson. We've pulled in the harness together fer
twelve year, now, so I guess I know! Come out, Mary."
She came shyly from the makeshift tent, her dingy brown sunbonnet
in her hand, and the redoubtable Tige walking close to her shapeless
brown skirt. And although her face was tanned nearly as brown as
her bonnet, with the desert sun and desert winds of that long, weary
journey in search of a home, it was as delicately modeled as that of
the girl who rode forward to greet her; and sweet with the sweetness
of soul which made that big man worship her. Her hair was a soft gold
such as one sees sometimes upon the head of a child or in the pictures
of angels, and it was cut short and curled in distracting little rings
about her head, and framed softly her smooth forehead. Her eyes
were brown and soft and wistful--with a twinkle at the corners,
nevertheless, which brightened them wonderfully; and although her
mouth drooped slightly with the same wistfulness, a little smile
lurked there also, as though her life had been spent largely in
longing for the unattainable, and in laughing at herself because she
knew the futility of the longing.
"I hope you've taken a good look at Jerry's face," she said, "and seen
that he ain't half as bad as he tries to make out. Jerry'll make a
fine neighbor for any man if he's let be; and we do want a home of
our own, awful bad! We was ten years paying for a little farm back
in Illinois, and then we lost it at the last minute because there was
something wrong with the deed, and we didn't have any money to go to
law about it. Jerry didn't tell you that; but it's that makes him talk
kinda bitter, sometimes. He was terrible disappointed about losing the
farm. And when we took what we had left and struck out, he said he
was going as far as he could get and be away from lawyers and law, and
make us a home on land that nobody but the Lord laid any claim to. So
he picked out this place; and then along come that Spaniard and a lot
of fellows with him and said we hadn't no right here. So I hope you
won't blame Jerry for being a little mite uppish. That Spaniard got
him kinda wrought up."
Her voice was as soft as her eyes, and winsome as her wistful little
smile. She had those four smiling with her in sheer sympathy before
she had spoken three sentences; and the two who did not understand her
words smiled just as sympathetically as the two who knew what she was
"Tell the senora I am sorry, and she shall stay; and my mother will
give her hens and a bottle of her very good medicine, which Manuel
drinks so greedily," Teresita cried, when Dade told her what the woman
said, and leaned impulsively and held out her hand. "I would do as
the Americanos do, and shake the hands for a new friendship," she
explained, blushing a little. "We shall be friends. Senor Hunter, tell
the pretty senora that I say we shall be friends. Amiga mia, I shall
call her, and I shall learn the Americano language, that we may talk
She meant every word of it, Dade knew; and with a troublesome,
squeezed feeling in his throat he interpreted her speech with
Mrs. Jerry took the senorita's hand and smiled up at her with the
brightness of tears in her eyes. "You've got lots of friends, honey,"
she said simply, "and I've left all of mine so far behind me they
might as well be dead, as far as ever seeing 'em again is concerned;
so it's like finding gold to find a woman friend away out here. I
ain't casting no reflections on Jerry, mind," she hastened to
warn them, blinking the tears away and leaving the twinkle in full
possession; "but good as he is, and satisfying as his company is, he
ain't a woman. And, my dear, a woman does get awful hungry sometimes
[Illustration: Mrs. Jerry took the senorita's hand and smiled up at
"Santa Maria! that must be true. She shall come and let my mother be
her friend also. I will send a carriage, or if she can ride--ask the
big senor if he has no horses!"
Jack it was who took up right willingly the burden of translation, for
the pure pleasure of repeating the senorita's words and doing her a
service; and Dade dropped back beside the don, where he thought he
belonged, and stayed there.
"Wall, I ain't got any horses, but I got two of the derndest mules you
ever seen, mister. Moll and Poll's good as any mustang in this valley.
Mary and me can ride 'em anywheres; that's why I brung 'em along, to
ride in case we had to eat the cattle."
"Then they must surely ride Moll and Poll to visit my mother!" the
senorita declared with her customary decisiveness. "Padre mio!"
Obediently the don accepted the responsibility laid upon him by
his sole-born who ruled him without question, and made official the
invitation. It was not what he had expected to do; he was not quite
sure that it was what he wanted to do; but he did it, and did it
with the courtliness which would have flowered his invitation to
the governor to honor his poor household by his presence; he did it
because his daughter had glanced at him and said "My father?" in a
certain tone which he knew well.
Something else was done, which no one had expected to do when the four
galloped up to the trespassers. Jack and Dade dismounted and helped
Jerry unload the logs from the wagon, for one thing; while Teresita
inspected Mrs. Jerry's ingenious domestic makeshifts and managed
somehow, with Mrs. Jerry's help, to make the bond of mutual liking
serve very well in the place of intelligible speech. For another, the
don fairly committed himself to the promise of a peon or two to help
in the further devastation of the trees upon the Picardo mountain
slope behind the little, natural meadow, which Jerry Simpson had so
calmly appropriated to his own use.
"He is honest," Don Andres asserted more than once on the ride home,
perhaps in self-justification for his soft dealing. "He is honest;
and when he sees that the land is mine, he will pay; or if he does
not pay, he will go--and tilled acres and a cabin will not harm me.
Valencia, if he marries the daughter of Carlos (as the senora says
will come to pass), will be glad to have a cabin to live in apart from
the mother of his wife, who is a shrew and will be disquieting in any
man's household. Therefore, Senor Hunter, you may order the peons to
assist the big hombre and his beautiful senora, that they may soon
have a hut to shelter them from the rains. It is not good to see so
gentle a woman endure hardship within my boundary. Many tules, they
will need," he added after a minute, "and it is unlikely that the
Senor Seem'son understands the making of a thatch. Diego and Juan are
skillful; and the tules they lay upon a roof will let no drop of rain
fall within the room. Order them to assist."
"I shall tell Margarita to bake many little cakes," cried Teresita,
riding up between her father and Dade, that she might assist in the
planning. "And madre mia will give me coffee and sugar for the pretty
senora. So soft is her voice, like one of my pigeons! And her hair is
more beautiful than the golden hair of our Blessed Lady at Dolores.
Oh, if the Blessed Virgin would make me as beautiful as she, and as
gentle, I should--I should finish the altar cloth immediately, which I
began two years ago!"
"Thou art well enough as thou art," comforted her father, trying
to hide his pride in her under frowning brows, and to sterilize the
praise with a tone of belittlement.
"I love that pretty senora," sighed Teresita, turning in the saddle to
glance wistfully back at the meager little camp. "She shall have the
black puppy Rosa gave me when last I was at the Mission San Jose. But
I hope," she added plaintively, like the child she was at heart, "she
will make that big, ugly beast they called Tige be kind to her; and
the milk must be warm to the finger when Chico is fed. To-night, Senor
Allen, you shall teach me Americano words that I may say to the senora
what is necessary, for the happiness of my black puppy. I must learn
to say that her name is Chico, and that the milk must be warm to the
finger, and that the big dog must be kind."
AN ILL WIND
A wind rose in the night, blowing straight out of the north; a wind
so chill that the senora unpacked extra blankets and distributed them
lavishly amongst the beds of her household, and the oldest peon at the
hacienda (who was Gustavo and a prophet more infallible than Elijah)
stared into the heavens until his neck went lame; and predicted much
cold, so that the frost would surely kill the fruit blossoms on the
slope behind the house; and after that much rain.
Don Andres, believing him implicitly, repeated the warning to Dade;
and Dade, because that was now his business, rode here and there,
giving orders to the peons and making sure that all would be snug when
the storm broke.
The Senorita Teresa, bethinking her of the "pretty senora" who would
have scant shelter in that canvas-topped wagon-box, even though it
had been set under the thickest branches of a great live oak, called
guardedly to Diego who was passing, and ordered Tejon, her swiftest
little mustang, saddled and held ready for her behind the last hut,
where it could not be seen from the house.
Tejon, so named by his mistress because he was gray like a badger,
hated wind, which the senorita knew well. Also, when the hatred grew
into rebellion, it needed a strong hand indeed to control him, if the
mood seized him to run. But the senorita was in a perverse mood, and
none but Tejon would she ride; even though--or perhaps because--she
knew that his temper would be uncertain.
She wanted to beg the pretty Senora Simpson to come and stay with them
until the weather cleared and the cabin was finished. But more than
that she wanted to punish Senor Jack Allen for laughing when she tried
to speak the Americano sentence he had taught her the night before,
and got it all backwards. Senor Jack would be frightened, perhaps,
when he learned that she had ridden away alone upon Tejon; he would
ride after her--perhaps. And she would not talk to him when he found
her, but would be absolutely implacable in her displeasure, so that he
would be speedily reduced to the most abject humility.
Diego, when she ran stealthily across the patio, her riding-habit
flapping about her feet in the wind, looked at her uneasily as if he
would like to remonstrate; but being a mere peon, he bent silently
and held his calloused, brown palm for the senorita's foot; reverently
straightened the flapping skirt when she was mounted, and sent a hasty
prayer to whatever saint might be counted upon to watch most carefully
over a foolish little Spanish girl.
"An evil spirit is in the caballo to-day," Diego finally ventured to
inform his mistress gravely. "For a week he has not felt the weight
of saddle, and he loves not the trees which sway and sing, or the wind
whistling in his ears."
"And for that he pleases me much," retorted the senorita, and touched
Tejon with her spurred heel, so that he came near upsetting Diego with
the lunge he gave.
When the peon recovered his balance, he stood braced against the wind,
and with both hands held his hat upon his head while he watched her
flying down the slope and out of sight amongst the trees. No girl in
all the valley rode better than the Senorita Teresa Picardo, and Diego
knew it well and boasted of it to the peons of other hacendados; but
for all that he was ill-at-ease, and when, ten minutes later, he
came upon Valencia at the stable, he told him of the madness of the
"Tejon she would ride, and none other; and to-day he is a devil. Twice
he would have bitten my shoulder while I was saddling, and that is the
sign that his heart is full of wickedness. Me, I would have put the
freno Chilene (Chilian bit) in his mouth--but that would start him
bucking; for he hates it because then he cannot run."
Valencia, a little later, met the new majordomo and repeated what
Diego had said; and Dade, catching a little of the uneasiness and yet
not wanting to frighten the girl's father with the tale, made it his
immediate business to find Jack and tell him that Teresita had ridden
away alone upon a horse that neither Diego nor Valencia considered
Jack, at first declaring that he wouldn't go where he plainly was
not wanted, at the end of an uncomfortable half-hour borrowed Surry,
because he was fleet as any mustang in the valley, and rode after her.
In this wise did circumstances and Jack obey the piqued desire of the
After the first headlong half mile, Tejon became the perfect little
saddle-pony which fair weather found him; and Teresita, cheated of her
battle of wills and yet too honest to provoke him deliberately,
began to think a little less of her own whims and more of the Senora
Simpson, housed miserably beneath the canvas covering of the prairie
She found Mrs. Jerry sitting inside, with a patchwork quilt over
her shoulders, her eyes holding a shade more of wistfulness and less
twinkle, perhaps, but with her lips quite ready to smile upon her
visitor. Teresita sat down upon a box and curiously watched the pretty
senora try to make a small, triangular piece of cloth cover a large,
irregular hole in the elbow of the big senor's coat sleeve. Sometimes,
when she turned it so, the hole was nearly covered--except that there
was the frayed rent at the bottom still grinning maliciously up at the
"'Patch beside patch is neighborly, but patch upon patch is
beggarly!'" quoted Mrs. Jerry, at the moment forgetting that the girl
could not understand.
Whereupon Teresita bethought her of her last night's lesson,
and replied slowly and solemnly: "My dear Mrs. Seem'son,
"Mrs. Seem'son," realizing the underlying friendliness of the
carefully enunciated greeting, flushed with pleasure and for a minute
forgot all about the patch problem.
"Why, honey, you've been learnin' English jest so's you can talk to
me!" She leaned and kissed the girl where the red blood of youth dyed
brightest the Latin duskiness of the cheek. "I wish't you could say
some more. Can't you?"
Teresita could; but her further store of American words related
chiefly to the diet and general well-being of one very small and
very black pup, which was at that moment sleeping luxuriously in the
chimney corner at home; and without the pup the words would be no more
than parrot-chattering. So the senorita shook her head and smiled, and
Mrs. Jerry went back to the problem of the small patch and the large
Hampered thus by having no common language between them, Teresita
failed absolutely to accomplish her mission.
Mrs. Jerry, hazily guessing at the invitation without realizing any
urgent need of immediate acceptance, shook her head and pointed to her
pitifully few household appurtenances, and tried to make it plain
that she had duties which kept her there in the little camp which she
pathetically called home.
Teresita gathered that the pretty senora did not wish to leave that
great, gaunt hombre who was her husband. So, when she could no longer
conceal her shiverings, and having no hope that the big senor would
understand her any better when he returned with the load of logs he
and the peons were after, she rose and prepared to depart. Surely the
Senor Jack, if he were going to follow, would by this time be coming,
and the hope rather hastened her adieu.
"Adios, amiga mia," she said, her eyes innocently turning from the
Senora Simpson to scan stealthily the northern slope.
"Good-by, honey. Come again and see me. Jerry knows a few Spanish
words, and I'll make him learn 'em to me so I can talk a little of
your kind, next time. And tell your mother I'm obliged for the wine;
and them dried peaches tasted fine, after being without so long.
Shan't I hold your horse while you git on? Seems to me he's pretty
frisky for a girl to be riding; but I guess you're equal to him!"
Teresita smiled vaguely. She had no idea of what the woman was saying,
and she was beginning to wish that she had not tried in just this
way to punish the Senor Jack; if he were here now, he could make the
Senora Simpson understand that the storm would be a very dreadful
one--else Gustavo was a liar, and whom should one believe?
Even while she was coaxing Tejon alongside a log and persuading him to
stand so until she was in the saddle, she was generously forswearing
Senor Jack's punishment that she might serve the pretty senora who had
Tejon by the bit and was talking to him softly in words he had never
heard before in his life. She resolved that if she met Senor Jack, she
would ask him to come back with her and explain to the senora about
the cold and the rain, and urge her to accept the hospitality of her
For that reason she looked more anxiously than before for some sign
of him riding towards her through the fields of flowering mustard that
heaved in the wind like the waves on some strange, lemon-colored sea
tossing between high, green islands of oak and willow. Surely that
fool Diego would never keep the still tongue! He would tell, when some
one missed her. If he did not, or if Senor Allen was an obstinate pig
of a man and would not come, then she would tell Senor Hunter, who was
always so kind, though not so handsome as the other, perhaps.
Senor Hunter's eyes were brown--and she had looked into brown eyes
all her life. But the blue! The blue eyes that could so quickly change
lighter or darker that they bewildered one; and could smile, or light
flames that could wither the soul of one.
Even the best rider among the Spanish girls as far south as Paso
Robles should not meditate so deeply upon the color of a senor's eyes
that she forgets the horse she is riding, especially when the horse is
Tejon, whose heart is full of wickedness.
A coyote, stalking the new-made nest of a quail, leaped out of the
mustard and gave Tejon the excuse he wanted, and the dreaming senorita
was nearly unseated when he ducked and whirled in his tracks. He ran,
and she could not stop him, pull hard as she might. If he had only
run towards home! But instead, he ran down the valley, because then he
need not face the wind; and he tried to outstrip the wind as he went.
It was when they topped a low knoll and darted under the wide,
writhing branches of a live oak, that Jack glimpsed them and gave
chase; and his heart forgot to beat until he saw them in the open
beyond, and knew that she had not been swept from the saddle by a
low branch. He leaned lower over Surry's neck and felt gratefully the
instant response of the horse; he had thought that Surry was running
his best on such uneven ground; but even a horse may call up an
unsuspected reserve of speed or endurance, if his whole heart is given
to the service of his master; there was a perceptible quickening and a
lengthening of stride, and Jack knew then that Surry could do no
more and keep his feet. Indeed, if he held that pace for long without
stumbling, he would prove himself a more remarkable horse than even
Dade declared him to be.
He hoped to overtake the girl soon, for in the glimpses he got of her
now and then, as she flew across an open space, he saw that she
was putting her whole weight upon the reins; and that should make a
sufficient handicap to the gray to wipe out the three-hundred-yard
distance between them. It did not seem possible that Tejon could be
running as fast as Surry; and yet, after a half-mile or so of that
killing pace, Jack could not see that he was gaining much. Perhaps it
was his anxiety to overtake her that made the chase seem interminable;
for presently they emerged upon the highway which led south to Santa
Clara and so on down the valley, and he saw, on a straight, open
stretch, that he was much nearer; so near he could see that her hair
was down and blowing about her face in a way that must have blinded
her at times.
Tejon showed no disposition to stop, however; and Jack, bethinking him
of the trick Dade had played upon the Vigilantes with his riata, threw
off the loop that held it. If he could get close enough, he meant
to lasso the horse unless she managed by that time to get him under
control. Now that they were in the road, Surry's stride was more even,
and although his breathing was becoming audible, he held his pace
wonderfully well--though for that matter, Tejon also seemed to be
running just as fast as at first, in spite of that steady pull;
indeed, Tejon knew the trick of curling his chin down close to his
chest, so that the girl's strength upon the reins was as nothing.
Jack was almost close enough to make it seem worth while to call
encouragement, when a horseman appeared suddenly from behind a willow
clump and pulled up in astonishment, as he saw Teresita bearing down
upon him like a small whirlwind. Whereupon Tejon, recognizing horse
and rider and knowing of old that they meant leisurely riding and much
chatter, with little laughs for punctuation, slowed of his own accord
and so came up to the man at his usual easy lope, and stopped before
So quickly did it happen that a witness might easily have sworn in
perfect good faith that the girl was fleeing from Jack Allen and
pulled up thankfully when she met Jose Pacheco. One could not blame
Jose for so interpreting the race, or for the anger that blazed in
his eyes for the pursuer, even while his lips parted in a smile at
the coming of the girl. He reined in protectingly between her and the
approaching Jack, and spoke soothingly because of her apparent need.
"Be not frightened, querida mia. Thou art safe with me--and the
accursed gringo will get a lesson he will not soon forget, for
Teresita, looking back, discovered Jack behind her. He was pulling
Surry in, now, and he held his riata in one hand as though he were
ready to use it at a moment's notice, and blank astonishment was
on his face. That, perhaps, was because of Jose and Jose's hostile
attitude, standing crosswise of the trail like that, and scowling
while he waited, with the fingers of his right hand fumbling inside
his sash--for his dagger, perchance! Teresita smiled wickedly, in
appreciation of the joke on them both.
"Do not kill him, Jose," she begged caressingly. "Truly he did not
harm me! I but ran from him because--" She sent a smile straight to
the leaping heart of Jose, and fumbled with her tossing banner of
hair, and turned eyes of innocent surprise on the Senor Allen, who
needed some punishment--and was in fair way to get it.
"What is the pleasure of the senor?" Jose's voice was as smooth and as
keen as the dagger-blade under his sash. "His message must indeed
be urgent to warrant such haste! You would do well to ride back as
hastily as you came; for truly a blind man could see that the senorita
has not the smallest desire for your presence. As for me--" As for
him, he smiled a sneer and a threat together.
Jack looked to the girl for a rebuke of the man's insult; but
Teresita's head was drooped and tilted sidewise while she made shift
to braid her hair, and if she heard she surely did not seem to heed.
"As for you, it wouldn't be a bad idea for you to mind your own
business," Jack retorted bluntly. "The senorita doesn't need any
interpreter. The senorita is perfectly well-qualified to speak for
herself. She knows--"
"The senorita knows whom she can trust--and it is not a low dog of
a gringo, who would be rotting now with a neck stretched by the
hangman's rope, if he had but received his deserts; murderer of five
men in one day, men of his own race at that! Gambler! loafer--"
At the press of silver rowels against his sides, Surry lunged forward.
But Teresita's horse sidled suddenly between the two men.
"Senor Jack, we will go now, if this wicked caballo of mine will
consent to do his running towards home. Thank you, Jose, for stopping
him for me; truly, I think he was minded to carry me to Santa Clara,
whether I wished to go or not! But doubtless Senor Jack would have
overtaken him soon. Adios, Jose. Gracias, amigo mio!" Having put her
hair into some sort of confinement, she picked up her reins and smiled
at Jose and then at Jack in a way to tie the tongues of them both;
though their brows were black with the hatred which must, if they met
again, bear fruit of violence.
Fifty yards away, Teresita looked back and waved a hand at the gay
horseman who still stood fair across the highway and stared blankly
"Poor Jose!" she murmured mischievously. "Very puzzled and unhappy he
looks. I wonder if the privilege of tearing you in pieces would not
bring the smile to his lips? Senor Jack, if so be you should ever
desire death, will you let Jose do the killing? To serve you thus
would give him great pleasure, I am sure."
Jack, usually so headlong in his speech and actions, rode a moody
three minutes without replying. He was not a fool, even though he was
rather deeply in love; he felt in her that feline instinct to torment
which wise men believe they can detect in all women; and angry as he
was at Jose's deliberate insults, he knew quite well in his heart that
Teresita had purposely provoked them.
"I've heard," he said at last, looking at her with the hard glint in
his eyes that thrilled her pleasurably, "that all women are either
angels or devils. I believe you're both, Senorita!"
Teresita laughed and pouted her lips at him. "Such injustice! Am I
then to be blamed because Jose has a bad temper and speech hotter than
the enchilladas of Margarita? I could love him for his rages! When
the Blessed Mary sends me a lover--" She looked over her shoulder and
sighed romantically, hiding the laughter in her eyes and the telltale
twist of her lips as best she could, with lashes downcast and face
Even a kitten the size of your two fists knows how to paw a mouse,
even though it lacks the appetite for devouring it after the torture.
One cannot logically blame Teresita. She merely used the weapons which
nature put into her pink palms.
So engrossed was the senorita in her truly feminine game of
cat-and-mouse that she quite forgot her worry over Mrs. Jerry until
she was in her own room and smiling impishly at herself in the mirror,
while she brushed the wind-tangles from her hair and planned fresh
torment for the Senor Jack. The senorita liked to see his eyes
darken and then light with the flames that thrilled her; and it was
exceedingly pleasant to know that she could produce that effect almost
whenever she chose. Also, her lips would curve of themselves whenever
she thought of Jose's rage and subsequent bafflement when she rode off
with Senor Jack; and of Senor Jack's black looks when she praised
Jose afterwards. Truly they hated each other very much--those two
caballeros! She was woman enough to know the reason why, and to find a
great deal of pleasure in the knowledge.
Still smiling, she lifted a heavy lock of hair to the light and
speculated upon the mystery of coloring. Black it was, except when
the sun lighted it and brought a sheen that was almost blue; and Senor
Jack's was neither red, as was the hair of the big Senor Simpson, nor
brown nor gold, but a tantalizing mixture of all; especially where
it waved it had many different shades, just as the light gold and the
dark of the pretty senora's--It was then that remembrance came to the
senorita and made her glance a self-accusing one, when she looked at
her reflected face.
"Selfish, thoughtless one that thou art to forget that sweet senora!"
she cried. And for punishment she pulled the lock of hair so that
it hurt--a little. "I shall ask Senor Hunter if he will not send the
carriage for her--and perhaps I shall go with him to bring her; though
truly she will never leave the big hombre who speaks so many words
over such slight matters. I am glad I did not yet carry Chico to live
there in that small camp. Till the house is finished, he shall stay
with me. Truly the storm would kill him if he were there. But perhaps
the storm will not be so great, after all--not so great as is the
storm in the hearts of those two who met and would have fought, had
I not so skillfully prevented it! Santa Maria, I truly must have been
inspired, to act like the dove with the branch of the olive when
I flew between them; and the eyes of Jose were blazing; and Senor
Jack--" There came the smile again, and the dawdling of the brush
while she thought of those two. So the pretty senora was forgotten,
after all, and left to shiver over her mending in the prairie schooner
because Teresita was a spoiled child with more hearts than it is good
for a girl to play with.
As a matter of fact, however, the pretty senora was quite accustomed
to discomfort in varying degrees, and gave less thought to the weather
than did the more tenderly sheltered women of the valley, so that no
harm came of the forgetfulness; especially since the storm fell far
short of Gustavo's expectations and caused that particular prophet the
inconvenience of searching his soul and the heavens for an explanation
of the sunshine that reprehensibly bathed the valley next day in its
Also, no immediate harm resulted from the rage of the two caballeros,
although not even the most partial judge could give the credit to
Teresita's "olive branch." Chance herself stepped in, and sent a
heavy, dead branch crashing down from a swaying oak upon the head
and right shoulder of Jose, while he was riding into his own patio.
Whereupon Jose, who had been promising himself vengefully that he
would send Manuel immediately with a challenge to the gringo who had
dared lift eyes to the Senorita Teresa Picardo, instantly forgot both
his love and his hate in the oblivion that held him until nightfall.
After that his stiffened muscles and the gash in his scalp gave him
time for meditation; and meditation counseled patience. The gringo
would doubtless go to the rodeo, and he would meet him there without
the spectacular flavor of a formal challenge. For Jose was a decent
sort of a fellow and had no desire to cheapen his passion or cause
the senorita the pain of public gossip. It was that same quality of
dignity in his love that had restrained him from seeking a deliberate
quarrel with Jack before now; and though he fumed inwardly while his
outer hurts healed, he resolved to wait. The rodeo would give him his
Because it is not in the nature of the normal human to keep his soul
always under the lock and key of utter silence, a little of his
hate and a little of his hope seeped into the ears of Manuel, whose
poultices of herbs were doing their work upon the bruised muscles of
Jose's shoulder, and whose epithets against the two gringos who were
responsible for his exile from the Picardo hacienda had the peculiar
flavor of absolute sincerity. Frequently he cursed them while he
changed the poultices; and Don Jose, listening approvingly, added now
and then a curse of his own, and a vague prediction of how he meant
to teach the blue-eyed one a lesson which he would weep at
remembering--if he lived to remember anything.
Manuel did not mean to tattle; he merely let fall a word or two to
Valencia, whom he met occasionally in the open and accused bitterly of
having a treacherous friendship for the gringos, and particularly for
the blue-eyed one.
"Because that mongrel whose hair is neither red nor yellow nor black
speaks praise to you of your skill, perchance, and because he makes
you laugh with the foolish tales he tells, you would turn against your
own kind, Valencia. No honest Spaniard can be a friend of the gringos.
Of the patron," he added rather sorrowfully, "I do not speak, for
truly he is in his dotage and therefore not to be judged too harshly.
But you, Valencia--you should think twice before you choose a gringo
for your friend; a gringo who speaks fair to the father that he may
cover his love-making to the daughter, who is easily fooled, like all
"The young Don Jose will deal with that blue-eyed one, Valencia. Every
day he swears it by all the saints. He but waits for the rodeo and
until I have healed his shoulder--and then you shall see! There will
be no love-making then for the gringo. Jose will have the senorita
yet for his bride, just as the saints have desired since they played
together in the patio and I watched them that they did not run into
the corrals to be kicked in the head, perchance, by the mustangs we
had there. Jose, I tell you, has loved her too long to stand now with
the sombrero in hand while that arrogant hombre steals her away. When
the shoulder is well--and truly, it was near broken--and when they
meet at the rodeo, then you shall see what will happen to your new
Valencia did not quarrel with Manuel. He merely listened and smiled
his startlingly sunny smile, and afterwards repeated Manuel's words
almost verbatim to Jack. Later, he recounted as much as he considered
politic to Don Andres himself, just to show how bitter Manuel had
become and how unjust. Valencia, it must be admitted, was not in any
sense working in the interests of peace. He looked forward with a good
deal of eagerness to that meeting of which Manuel prated. He had all
the faith of your true hero-worshiper in his new friend, and with the
story of that last eventful day which Jack had spent in San Francisco
to build his faith upon, he confidently expected to see Jose learn a
much-needed lesson in humility--aye, and Manuel also.
Since even the best-natured gossip is like a breeze to fan the flames
of dissension, Don Andres spent an anxious hour in devising a plan
that would preserve the peace he loved better even than prosperity.
While he smoked behind the passion vines on the veranda, he thought
his way slowly from frowns to a smile of satisfaction, and finally
called a peon scurrying across the patio to stand humbly before him
while he gave a calm order. His majordomo he would see, as speedily as
was convenient to a man as full of ranch business as Dade Hunter found
Dade, tired and hot from a forenoon in the saddle inspecting the
horses that were to bear the burden of rodeo work, presently
came clanking up to the porch and lifted the sombrero off his
sweat-dampened forehead thankfully, when the shade of the vines
The eyes of the don dwelt pleasedly upon the tanned face of his
foreman. More and more Don Andres was coming to value the keen
common-sense which is so rare, and which distinguished Dade's
character almost as much as did the kindliness that made nearly every
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