Vanguards of the Plains
Part 4 out of 6
showed us her bleeding hands and lashed shoulders. And again I heard
Beverly's boyish voice ring out:
"Let's take her and take our chances."
And then I was beside the glistening waters of the Flat Rock, and Little
Blue Flower was there in her white Grecian robe and the wrought-silver
headband with coral pendants. And Eloise. The golden hair, the soft dark
eyes, the dainty peach-bloom cheek. Eloise whom I had loved always and
always. Eloise who loved Beverly--good, big-hearted, sunny-faced
Beverly, who never had visions. Any girl would love him. Most of all,
Little Blue Flower. What a loving message she had left us in the one
word, _Lolomi_. God pity her.
A thousand sharp pains racked my body. I tried to move. I longed for
water. Then a merciful darkness fell upon me--not sleep, but
unconsciousness. And the stars watched over me through that black night,
lying there half dead and utterly alone.
Out to the northwest Jondo and Bill Banney rode long on the trail of the
fleeing Kiowas. A picture for an artist of the West, these two rough men
in the garb and mount and trappings of the plainsman, with eyes alert
and strong faces, riding only as men can ride who go to save a life more
eagerly than they would save their own. Not in rash haste, but with
unchecked speed, losing no mark along the trail that should guide them
more quickly to their goal, so they passed side by side, and neither
said a word for hours along the way. Night came, and the needs of their
ponies made them pause briefly. The trail, too, was harder to follow
now. They might lose it in the darkness and so lose time. And those two
men were going forth to victory. Not for one single heart-beat did they
doubt their power to win, and the stead-fast assurance made them calm.
Daylight again, and a fresher trail made them hurry on. They drank at
every stream and ate a snatch of food as they rode. They reached the
hurriedly quitted Kiowa camp, and searched for the sign of vengeance on
a captive there. Jondo knew those signs, and his heart beat high with
"They haven't done it yet," he said to his companion. "They want to get
away first. We are safe for a day."
And they rode swiftly on again.
"There's trouble here," Bill Banney declared as he watched the ground.
"Too many feet. Could it be here?"
His voice was hardly audible. The two men halted and read the ground
with piercing eyes. Something had happened, for there had been a
circling and chasing in and out, and the sod was cut deep with
"No council nor ceremony, no open space for anything." Jondo would not
even speak the word he was bound not to know.
"They've divided, Jondo. Here goes the big crowd, and there a smaller
one," Bill declared.
"There were a lot of Dog Indians along for thieving. They've split here.
Seem to have fussed a bit over it, too. And yonder runs the Kiowa trail
to the north. Here go the Dogs east." Jondo replied. "We'll follow the
Kiowas a spell," he added, after a thoughtful pause.
And again they were off. It was nearing noon now, and the trail was
fresher every minute. At last the plainsmen climbed a low swell, halting
out of sight on the hither side. Then creeping to the crest, they looked
down on the Indian camp lying in a little dry valley of a lost stream
whose course ran underground beneath them.
Lying flat on the ground, each with his head behind a low bush on the
top of the swell, the men read the valley with searching eyes. Then
Jondo, with Bill at his heels, slid swiftly down the slope.
"Gail Clarenden isn't there. We must take the trail east, and ride
hard," he said, in a hoarse voice.
And they rode hard until they were beyond the range of the Kiowa
"What's your game, Jondo?" Bill asked, at length.
"They quarreled back there. Either the Dogs have Gail, or he's lost
somewhere. The Kiowas are waiting for something. I can't quite
understand, but we'll go on."
It was mid-afternoon and the two riders were faint from the hardship of
the chase, but nobody who knew Jondo ever expected him to give up. The
sun blazed down in the heat of the late afternoon, and the baking earth
lay brown and dry beneath the heat-quivering air. There was no sound
nor motion on the plains as the two faithful brothers--in
purpose--followed hard on the track of the Dog Indian band.
Ahead of them the trail grew clearer until they saw the object of their
chase, a band nearly a hundred strong, riding slowly, far ahead. Jondo
and Bill halted and dropped to the ground. No cover was in sight, but if
the Indians were unsuspicious they might not be discovered. On went the
outlaw band, and the two white men followed after. Suddenly the Indians
halted and grouped themselves together. The plainsmen watched eagerly
for the cause. Out of the south six Indians came riding swiftly into
view. They, too, halted, but neither group seemed aware that the two
dull, motionless spots to the west were two white men watching them.
White men didn't belong there.
The six rode forward. There was much parleying and pointing eastward.
Then the six rode rapidly northward and the Dog band spurted east as
Jondo looked at Bill.
"I see it clear as day. God help us not to be too late!" he cried,
triumphantly, leaping to his saddle.
"What in Heaven's name to you see?" Bill asked eagerly.
"Gail wasn't with the Kiowas back there. He wasn't with the Dogs out
yonder. Don't you remember he told us about six of the devils getting
him in their friendly camp that morning? Yonder go the six. They have
left Gail somewhere to die and they are cutting back to join the tribe.
They have sent the Dogs on east. We'll run down this trail to the south.
Hurry, Bill! For God's sake, hurry! It's the Lord's mercy they didn't
see us back here."
That day Pawnee Rock saw the same old beauty of sunrise; the same clear
sweeping breeze; the same long shining hours on the green prairies; but
it all meant nothing to me, racked with pain and choking with thirst
through the awful lengths of that summer day. Fitful unconsciousness,
with fever and delirium, seeing mocking faces with snaky black eyes,
looking long at me; food almost touching my lips, and floods of crystal
waters everywhere just out of reach. I was on the bluff above the river
at Fort Leavenworth again, watching for the fish on the sand-bars. They
were Indians instead of fish, and they laughed at me and called me a big
brown bob-cat. Then Mother Bridget and Aunty Boone would have come to me
if I could only make them hear me. But the sun beat hot upon my burning
face, and my swollen lips refused to moan.
And then I looked to the eastward and hope sprang to life within me. A
wagon-train was crawling slowly toward Pawnee Rock. Tears drenched my
eyes until I could hardly count the wagons--twenty, thirty, forty. It
must be far in the afternoon now, and they might encamp here. But they
seemed to be hurrying. I could not see for pain, but I knew they were
near the headland now. I could hear the rattle of the wagon-chains and
the tramp of feet and shouts of the bull-whackers. I tugged masterfully
at my bonds. It was a useless effort. I tried to shout, but only low
moans came forth from my parched lips. I strove and raged and prayed.
The wagons hurried on and on, a long time, for there were many of them.
Then the rattling grew fainter, the voices were far off, the thud of
hoof-beats ceased. The train had passed the Rock, never dreaming that a
man lay dying in sight of the succor they would so gladly have given.
The sun began to strike in level rays across the land, and the air was
cooler, but I gave no heed to things about me. Death was waiting--slow,
taunting death. The stars would be kind again to-night as they had been
last night, but death crouching between me and the starlight, was slowly
crawling up Pawnee Rock. Oh, so slowly, yet so surely creeping on. The
sun was gone and a tender pink illumined the sky. The light was soft
now. If death would only steal in before the glare burst forth. I forgot
that night must come first. Pity, God of heaven, pity me!
And then the Presence came, and a sweet, low voice--I hear it still
sometimes, when sunsets soften to twilight, "_My presence shall go with_
_thee, and I will give thee rest."_ I felt a thrill of triumph pulse
through my being. Unconquered, strong, and glad is he who trusts.
"I shall not die. I shall live, and in God's good time I shall be
saved." I tried to speak the words, but I could not hear my voice. My
pains were gone and I lay staring at the evening sky all
mother-of-pearl and gold above my head. And on my lips a smile.
And so they found me at twilight, as a tired child about to fall asleep.
They did not cry out, nor fall on my neck, nor weep. But Bill Banney's
strong arms carried me tenderly away. Water, food, unbound swollen
limbs, bathed in the warm Arkansas flow, soft grass for a bed, and the
eyes of the big plainsman, my childhood idol, gentle as a girl's,
looking unutterable things into my eyes.
I've never known a mother's love, but for that loss the Lord gave
IN THE SHELTER OF SAN MIGUEL
Fear not, dear love, thy trial hour shall be
The dearest bond between my heart and thee.
--ALL THE YEAR ROUND.
When we reached the end of the trail and entered a second time into
Santa Fe the Stars and Stripes were floating lazily above the Palace of
the Governors. Out on the heights beyond the old Spanish prison stood
Fort Marcy, whose battlements told of a military might, strong to
control what by its strength it had secured. In its shadow was La
Garita, of old the place of execution, against whose blind wall many a
prisoner had started on the long trail at the word of a Spanish bullet,
La Garita changed now from a thing of legalized horror to a landmark of
But the city itself seemed unchanged, and there was little evidence that
Yankee thrift and energy had entered New Mexico with the new government.
The narrow street still marked the trail's end before the Exchange
Hotel. San Miguel, with its dun walls and triple-towered steeple, still
good guard over the soul of Santa Fe, as it had stood for three sunny
centuries. The Mexican still drove down the loaded burro-train of
firewood from the mountains. The Indian basked in the sunny corners of
the Plaza. The adobe dwellings clustered blindly along little lanes
leading out to nowhere in particular. The orchards and cornfields,
primitively cultivated, made tiny oases beside the trickling streams and
sandy beds of dry arroyos. The sheep grazed on the scant grasses of the
plain. The steep gray mesa slopes were splotched with clumps of
evergreen shrubs and pinon trees. And over all the silent mountains kept
The business house of Felix Narveo, however, did not share in this
lethargy. The streets about the Plaza were full of Conestoga wagons,
with tired ox-teams lying yoked or unyoked before them. Most of the
traffic borne in by these came directly or indirectly to the house of
Narveo. And its proprietor, the same silent, alert man, had taken
advantage of a less restricted government, following the Mexican War, to
increase his interests. So mine and meadow, flock and herd, trappers'
snare and Indian loom and forge, all poured their treasures into his
hands--a clearing-house for the products of New Mexico to swell the
great overland commerce that followed the Santa Fe Trail.
For all of which the ground plan had been laid mainly by Esmond
Clarenden, when with tremendous daring he came to Santa Fe and spied out
the land for these years to follow.
A boy's memory is keen, and all the hours of that other journey hither,
with their eager anticipation and youthful curiosity, and love of
surprise and adventure, came back to Beverly Clarenden and me as we
pulled along the last lap of the trail.
"Was it really so long ago, Bev, that we came in here, all eyes and
ears?" I asked my cousin.
"No, it was last evening. And not an eyebrow in this Rip Van Winkle town
has lifted since," Beverly replied. "Yonder stands that old church where
the gallant knight on a stiff-legged pony spied Little Lees and knocked
the head off of that tormenting Marcos villain, and kicked it under the
door-step. Say, Gail, I'd like mighty well to see the grown-up Little
Lees, wouldn't you? And I'd as soon this was Saint Louis as Santa Fe."
Since the night of Mat's wedding, I had been resolutely putting away all
thought of Eloise St. Vrain. I belonged to the plains. All my training
had been for this. I thought I was very old and settled now. But the
mention of her pet name sent a thrill through me; and these streets of
Santa Fe brought back a flood of memories and boyhood dreams and
"Bev, how many auld-lang-syners do you reckon we'll meet in this land of
sunshine and _chilly_ beans?" I asked, carelessly.
"Well, how many of them do you remember, Mr. Cyclopedia of Prominent Men
and Pretty Women?" Beverly inquired.
"Oh, there was Felix Narveo and Father Josef--and Little Blue
Flower"--A shadow flitted across my cousin's face for a moment, leaving
it sunny as ever again.
"And there was that black-eyed Marcos boy everywhere, and Ferdinand
Ramero whom we were warned to step wide of," I went on.
"Oh, that tall thin man with blue-glass eyes that cut your fingers when
he looked at you. Maybe he went out the back door of New Mexico when
General Kearny peeped in at the front transom. There wasn't any fight in
"Jondo says he is still in Santa Fe." Just as I spoke an Indian swept by
us, riding with the ease of that born-to-the-horseback race.
"Beverly, do you remember that Indian boy that we saw out at Agua Fria?"
"The day we found Little Lees asleep in the church?" Beverly broke in,
In our whole journey he had hardly spoken of Eloise, and, knowing
Beverly as I did, I had felt sure for that reason that she had not been
on his mind. Now twice in five minutes he had called her name. But why
should he not remember her here, as well as I?
"Yes, I remember there was an Indian boy, sort of sneaky like, and deaf
and dumb, that followed us until I turned and stared him out of it.
That's the way to get rid of 'em, Gail, same as a savage dog," Beverly
"What if there are six of them all staring at you?" I asked.
"Oh, Gail, for the Lord's sake forget that!"
Beverly cried, affectionately. "When you've got an arrow wound rotting
your arm off and six hundred and twenty degrees of fever in your blood,
and the son of your old age is gone for three days and nights, and you
don't dare to think where, you'll know why a fellow doesn't want to
remember." There were real tears in the boy's eyes. Beverly was deeper
than I had thought.
"Well, to change gradually, I wonder if that centaur who just passed us
might be that same Indian of Agua Fria of long ago."
"He couldn't be," Beverly declared, confidently. "That boy got one
square look at my eagle eye and he never stopped running till he jumped
into the Pacific Ocean. 'I shall see him again over there.'" Half
chanting the last words, Beverly, boy-hearted and daring and happy,
cracked his whip, and our mule-team began to prance off in mule style
the journey's latter end.
Oh, Beverly! Beverly! Why did that day on the parade-ground at Fort
Leavenworth and a boy's pleading face lifted to mine, come back to me at
that moment? Strange are the lines of life. I shall never clearly read
Down in the Plaza a tall, slender young man was sitting in the shade,
idly digging at the sod with an open pocket-knife. There was something
magnetic about him, the presence that even in a crowd demands a second
He was dressed in spotless white linen, and with his handsome mustache,
his well-groomed black hair, and sparkling black eyes, he was a true
type of the leisure son of the Spanish-Mexican grandee. He stared at
our travel-stained caravan as it rolled down the Plaza's edge, but his
careless smile changed to an insolent grin, showing all his perfect
teeth as he caught sight of Beverly and me.
We laid no claims to manly beauty, but we were stalwart young fellows,
with the easy strength of good health, good habits, clear conscience,
and the frank faces of boys reared on the frontier, and accustomed to
its dangers by men who defied the very devil to do them harm. But even
in our best clothes, saved for the display at the end of the trail, we
were uncouth compared to this young gentleman, and our tanned faces and
hard brown hands bespoke the rough bull-whacker of the plains.
As our train halted, the young man lighted a cigar and puffed the smoke
toward us, as if to ignore our presence.
"Its mamma has dressed it up to go and play in the park, but it mustn't
speak to little boys, nor soil its pinafore, nor listen to any naughty
words. And it couldn't hold its own against a kitten. Nice little
clothes-horse to hang white goods on!"
Beverly had turned his back to the Plaza and was speaking in a low tone,
with the serious face and far-away air of one who referred to a thing of
"Bev, you are a mind-reader, a character-sketcher--" I began, but
stopped short to stare into the Plaza beyond him.
The young man had sprung to his feet and stood there with flashing eyes
and hands clenched. Behind him was the same young Indian who had passed
us on the trail. He was lithe, with every muscle trained to strength and
swiftness and endurance.
He had muttered a word into the young white man's ear that made him
spring up. And while the face of the Indian was expressionless, the
other's face was full of surprise and anger; and I recognized both faces
in an instant.
"Beverly Clarenden, there are two auld-lang-syners behind you right now.
One is Marcos Ramero, and the other is Santan of Bent's Fort," I said,
Beverly turned quickly, something in his fearless face making the two
men drop their eyes. When we looked again they had left the Plaza by
After dinner that evening Jondo and Bill Banney hurried away for a
business conference with Felix Narveo. Rex and Beverly also disappeared
and I was alone.
The last clear light of a long summer day was lingering over the valley
of the Rio Grande, and the cool evening breeze was rippling in from the
mountains, when I started out along the narrow street that made the
terminal of the old Santa Fe Trail. I was hardly conscious of any
purpose of direction until I came to the half-dry Santa Fe River and saw
the spire of San Miguel beyond it. In a moment the same sense of loss
and longing swept over me that I had fought with on the night after
Mat's wedding, when I sat on the bluff and stared at the waters of the
Kaw flowing down to meet the Missouri. And then I remembered what Father
Josef had said long ago out by the sandy arroyo:
"Among friends or enemies, the one haven of safety always is the holy
I felt the strong need for a haven from myself as I crossed the stream
and followed the trail up to the doorway of San Miguel.
The shadows were growing long, few sounds broke the stillness of the
hour, and the spirit of peace brooded in the soft light and sweet air. I
had almost reached the church when I stopped suddenly, stunned by what I
saw. Two people were strolling up the narrow, crooked street that
wanders eastward beside the building--a tall, slender young man in white
linen clothes and a girl in a soft creamy gown, with a crimson scarf
draped about her shoulders. They were both bareheaded, and the man's
heavy black hair and curling black mustache, and the girl's coronal of
golden braids and the profile of her fair face left no doubt about the
two. It was Marcos Ramero and Eloise St. Vrain. They were talking
earnestly; and in a very lover-like manner the young man bent down to
catch his companion's words.
Something seemed to snap asunder in my brain, and from that moment I
knew myself; knew how futile is the belief that miles of prairie trail
and strength of busy days can ever cast down and break an idol of the
In a minute they had passed a turn in the street, and there was only
sandy earth and dust-colored walls and a yellow glare above them, where
a moment ago had been a shimmer of sunset's gold.
"The one haven of safety always is the holy sanctuary."
Father Josef's words sounded in my ears, and the face of old San Miguel
seemed to wear a welcoming smile. I stepped into the deep doorway and
stood there, aimless and unthinking, looking out toward where the Jemez
Mountains were outlined against the southwest horizon. Presently I
caught the sound of feet, and Marcos Ramero strode out of the narrow
street and followed the trail into the heart of the city.
I stared after him, noting the graceful carriage, the well-fitting
clothes, and the proud set of the handsome head. There was no doubt
about him. Did he hold the heart of the golden-haired girl who had
walked into my life to stay? As he passed out of my sight Eloise St.
Vrain came swiftly around the corner of the street to the church door,
and stopped before me in wide-eyed amazement. Eloise, with her clinging
creamy draperies, and the vivid red of her silken scarf, and her
"Oh, Gail Clarenden, is it really you?" she cried, stretching out both
hands toward me with a glad light in her eyes.
"Yes, Little Lees, it is I."
I took both of her hands in mine. They were soft and white, and mine
were brown and horny, but their touch sent a thrill of joy through me.
She clung tightly to my hands for an instant. Then a deeper pink swept
her cheeks, and she dropped her eyes and stepped back.
"They told me you were--lost--on the way; that some Kiowas had killed
She lifted her face again, and heaven had not anything better for me
than the depths of those big dark eyes looking into mine.
"Who told you, Eloise?"
The girl looked over her shoulder apprehensively, and lowered her voice
as she replied:
"He's a liar. I am awfully alive, and Marcos Ramero knows I am, for he
saw me and recognized me down in the Plaza this afternoon," I declared.
Just then the church door opened and a girl in Mexican dress came out. I
did not see her face, nor notice which way she took, for a priest
following her stepped between us. It was Father Josef.
"My children, come inside. The holy sanctuary offers you a better
shelter than the open street."
I shall never forget that voice, nor hear another like it. Inside, the
candles were burning dimly at the altar. The last rays of daylight came
through the high south windows, touching the carved old rafters and gray
adobe with a red glow. Long ago human hands, for lack of trowels, had
laid that adobe surface on the rough stone--hands whose imprint is
graven still on those crudely dented walls.
We sat down on a low seat inside of the doorway, and Father Josef passed
up the aisle to the altar, leaving us there alone.
"Eloise, Marcos Ramero is your friend, and I beg your pardon for
speaking of him as I did."
I resented with all my soul the thought of this girl caring for the son
of the man who in some infamous way had wronged Jondo, but I had no
right to be rude about him.
"Gail, may I say something to you?" The voice was as a pleading call and
the girl's farce was full of pathos.
"Say on, Little Lees," was all that I could venture to answer.
"Do you remember the day you came in here and threw Marcos Ramero out of
"I do," I replied.
"Would you do it again, if it were necessary? I mean--if--" the voice
I had heard the same pleading tone on the night of Mat's wedding when
Eloise and Beverly were in the little side porch together. I looked up
at the red light on the old church rafters and the rough gray walls. How
like to those hand-marked walls our memories are, deep-dented by the
words they hold forever! Then I looked down at the girl beside me and I
forgot everything else. Her golden hair, her creamy-white dress, and
that rich crimson scarf draped about her shoulders and falling across
her knees would have made a Madonna's model that old Giovanni Cimabue
himself would have joyed to copy.
"Is it likely to be necessary? Be fair with me, Eloise. I saw you two
strolling up that little goat-run of a street out there just now.
Judging from the back of his head, Marcos looked satisfied. I shouldn't
want to interfere nor make you any trouble," I said, earnestly.
"It is I who should not make you any trouble, but, oh, Gail, I came here
this evening because I was afraid and I didn't know where else to go,
and I found you. I thought you were dead somewhere out on the Kansas
prairie. Maybe it was to help me a little that you came here to-night."
Her hands were gripped tightly and her mouth was firm-set in an effort
to be brave.
"Why, Eloise, I'd never let Marcos Ramero, nor anybody else, make you
one little heart-throb afraid. If you will only let me help you, I
wouldn't call it trouble; I'd call it by another name." The longing to
say more made me pause there.
The light was fading overhead, but the church lamps gave a soft glow
that seemed to shield off the shadowy gloom.
"Father Josef came all the way from New Mexico to St. Ann's to have me
come back here, and Mother Bridget sent Sister Anita, you remember her,
up to St. Louis to come with me by way of New Orleans. I didn't tell you
that I might be here when your train came in overland because--because
of some things about my own people--"
The fair head was bowed and the soft voice trembled.
"Don't be afraid to tell me anything, Little Lees," I whispered,
"I never saw my father, but my mother was very beautiful and loving, and
we were so happy together. I was still a very little girl when she fell
sick and they took me away from her. I never knew when she died nor
where she was buried. Ferdinand Ramero had charge of her property. He
controlled everything after she went away, and I have always lived in
fear of his word. I am helpless when he commands, for he has a strange
power over minds; and as to Marcos--you know what a little cat I was. I
had to be to live with him. It wasn't until we were all at Bent's Fort
that I got over my fear of you and Beverly. The day you threw Marcos out
of here was the first time I ever had a champion to defend me."
I wanted to take her in my arms and tell her what I dared not think she
would let me say. So I listened in sympathetic silence.
"Then came an awful day out at Agua Fria, and Father Josef took me in
his arms as he would take a baby, and sang me to sleep with the songs my
mother loved to sing. I think it must have been midnight when I wakened.
It was dreary and cold, and Esmond Clarenden and Ferdinand Ramero were
there, and Father Josef and Jondo."
And then she told me, as she remembered them, the happenings of that
night at Agua Fria, the same story that Jondo told me later. But until
that evening I had known nothing of how Eloise had come to us.
"You know the rest," Eloise went on "I have had a boarding-school life,
and no real friends, except the Clarenden family, outside of these
"You poor little girl! One of the same Clarenden family is ready to be
your friend now," I said, tenderly, remembering keenly how Uncle Esmond
and Jondo had loved and protected three orphan children.
"The Rameros think nobody but a Ramero can do that now. Marcos is very
much changed. He has been educated in Europe, is handsome, and courtly
in his manners, and as his father's heir he will be wealthy. He came
to-night to ask me, to urge and plead with me, to marry him." Eloise
"Do you need the defense of a bull-whacker of the plains against these
things?" I asked.
"Oh, I could depend on myself if it were only Marcos. He comes with
polished ways and pleasing words," Eloise replied. "It is his father's
iron fist back of him that strikes at me through his graciousness. He
tells me that all the St. Vrain money, which he controls by the terms of
my father's will, he can give to the Church, if he chooses, and leave me
"We don't mind that a bit as a starter up in Kansas. Come out on our
prairies and try it," I suggested.
"But, Gail, that isn't all. There is something worse, dreadfully worse,
that I cannot tell you, that only the Rameros know, and hold like a
sword over my head. If I marry Marcos his father will destroy all
evidence of it and I shall have a handsome, talented, rich husband."
Eloise bowed her head and clasped her hands, crushed by the misery of
"And if you refuse to marry this scoundrel?" I asked, bluntly.
"Then I will be a penniless outcast. The Rameros are powerful here, and
the Church will be with them, for it will get my inheritance. I am
helpless and alone and I don't know what to do."
I think I had never known what anger meant before. This beautiful girl,
homeless, and about to be robbed of her fortune, reared in luxury, with
no chance for developing self-reliance and courage, was being hemmed in
and forced to a marriage by threats of poverty and a secret something
against which she was powerless. All the manhood in me rallied to her
cause, and she was an hundredfold dearer to me now, in her helplessness.
"Eloise, I'm a horny-handed driver of a bull-team on the Santa Fe Trail,
but you will let me help you if I can. So far as your money is
concerned, there's a lot of it on earth, even if the Church should grab
up your little bit because Ferdinand Ramero says your father's will
permits it. There are evil representatives in every Church, no matter
what its name may be, Catholic, Protestant, Indian, or Jew, but Father
Josef up there is bigger than his priestly coat, and you can trust that
size anywhere. And as to the knowledge of this 'something' known just to
Ferdinand Ramero, if he is the only one who knows it, it is too small to
get far, if it were turned loose. And any man who would use such
infamous means to get what he wants is too small to have much influence
if he doesn't get it. This is a big, wide, good world, Little Lees, and
the father of Marcos Ramero, with all his power and wealth, has a short
lariat that doesn't let him graze wide. Jondo holds the other end of
that lariat, and he knows."
Eloise listened eagerly, but her face was very white.
"Gail, you don't know the Ramero blood. I am helpless and terrified with
them in spite of their suave manners and flattering words. Why did
Father Josef bring me back here if the Church is not with them? And then
that awful shadow of some hidden thing that may darken my life. I know
their cruel, pitiless hearts. They stop at nothing when they want their
way. I have known them to do the most cold-blooded deeds."
Poor Eloise! The net about her had been skilfully drawn.
"I don't know Father Josef's motive, but I can trust him. And no shadow
shall trouble you long, Little Lees. Jondo and Uncle Esmond tote
together,' Aunty Boone said long ago. They know something about the
Ramero blood, and Jondo has promised to tell me his story some day. He
must do it to-night, and to-morrow we'll see the end of this tangle.
Trust me, Eloise," I said, comfortingly.
"But, Gail, I'm afraid Ferdinand will kill you if you get in his way."
Eloise clung to my arm imploringly.
"Six big Kiowas got fooled at that job. Do you think this thin streak of
humanity would try it?" I asked, lightly.
Eloise stood up beside me.
"I must go away now," she said.
"Then I'll go with you. Thank you, Father Josef, for your kindness," I
said as the priest came toward us.
"You are welcome, my son. In the sanctuary circle no harm can come.
Peace be with both of you."
There was a world of benediction in his deep tones, and his smile was
genial, as he followed us to the street and stood as if watching for
"I will meet you at San Miguel's to-morrow afternoon, Gail," Eloise
said, as we reached a low but pretentious adobe dwelling. "This is my
"Your new Mexican homes are thick-walled, and you live all on the
inside," I said, as we paused at the doorway. "They make me think of the
lower invertebrates, hard-shelled, soft-bodied animals. Up on the Kansas
prairies and the Missouri bluffs we have a central vetebra--the family
hearth-stone--and we live all around it. That is the people who have
them do. There isn't much home life for a freighter of the plains
anywhere. Good by, Little Lees." I took her offered hand. "I'm glad you
have let me be your friend, a hard-shelled bull-whacker like me."
The street was full of shadows and the evening air was chill as the door
closed on that sweet face and cloud of golden hair. But the pressure of
warm white fingers lingered long in my sense of touch as I retraced my
steps to the trail's end. At the church door I saw Father Josef still
waiting, as if watching for somebody.
All that Eloise had told me ran through my mind, but I felt sure that
neither financial nor churchly influence in Santa Fe could be turned to
evil purposes so long as men like Felix Narveo and Father Josef were
there. And then I thought of Esmond Clarenden, himself neither Mexican
nor Roman Catholic, who, nevertheless, drew to himself such
fair-dealing, high-minded men as these, always finding the best to aid
him, and combating the worst with daring fearlessness. Surely with the
priest and the merchant and Jondo as my uncle's representative, no harm
could come to the girl whom I knew that I should always love.
And with my mind full of Eloise and her need I sought out Jondo and
listened to his story.
OPENING THE RECORD
Fighting for leave to live and labor well,
God flung me peace and ease.
--"A SONG OF THE ENGLISH."
I found Jondo in the little piazza opening into the hotel court.
"Where did you leave Krane and Bev?" he asked, as I sat down beside him.
"I didn't leave them; they left me," I answered.
"Oh, you young bucks are all alike. You know just enough to be good to
yourselves. You don't think much about anybody else," Jondo said, with a
"I think of others, Jondo, and for that reason I want you to tell me
that story about Ferdinand Ramero that you promised to tell me one night
back on the trail."
Jondo gave a start.
"I'd like to forget that man, not talk about him," he replied.
"But it is to help somebody else, not just to be good to myself, that I
want to know it," I insisted, using his own terms. And then I told him
what Eloise had told me in the San Miguel church.
"Are the Ramero's so powerful here that they can control the Church in
their scheme to get what they want?" I asked.
"It would be foolish to underestimate the strength of Ferdinand Ramero,"
Jondo replied, adding, grimly, "It has been my lot to know the best of
men who could make me believe all men are good, and the worst of men who
make me doubt all humanity." He clenched his fists as if to hold himself
in check, and something, neither sigh nor groan nor oath nor prayer, but
like them all, burst from his lips.
"If you ever have a real cross, Gail, thank the Lord for the green
prairies and the open plains, and the danger-stimulus of the old Santa
Fe Trail. They will seal up your wounds, and soften your hard,
rebellious heart, and make you see things big, and despise the narrow
little crooks in your path."
One must have known Jondo, with his bluff manner and sunny smile and
daring spirit, to feel the force, of these brave sad words. I felt
intuitively that I had laid bare a wound of his by my story.
"It is for Eloise, not for my curiosity, that I have come to you," I
"And you didn't come too soon, boy." Jondo was himself in a moment. "It
is another cruel act in the old tragedy of Ramero against Clarenden and
"Will the Church be bribed by the St. Vrain estate and urge this
wedding?" I asked.
"The Church considers money as so much power for the Kingdom. I have
heard that the St. Vrain estate was left in Ramero's hands with the
proviso that if Eloise should marry foolishly before she was twenty-five
she, would lose her property. Do you see the trick in the game, and why
Ramero can say that if he chooses he can take her heritage away from
her? But as he keeps everything in his own hands it is hard to know the
truth about anything connected with money matters."
"Would Father Josef be party to such a transaction?" I asked, angrily.
"Ramero thinks so, but he is mistaken," Jondo replied.
"What makes you think he won't be?" I insisted.
"Because I knew Father Josef before he became a priest, and why he took
the vows," Jondo declared. "Unless a man brings some manhood to the
altar, he will not find it in the title nor the dress there, it makes no
difference whether he be Catholic, Protestant, Hebrew, or heathen.
Father Josef was a gentleman before he was a priest."
"Well, if he's all right, why did he bring Eloise back here into the
heart of all this trouble?" I questioned.
Jondo sat thinking for a little while, then he said, assuringly:
"I don't know his motive, unless he felt he could protect her here
himself; but I tell you, my boy, he can be trusted. Let me tell you
something, Gail. When Esmond Clarenden and I were boys back in a New
England college we knew two fellows from the Southwest whose fathers
were in official circles at Washington. One was Felix Narveo,
thoroughbred Mexican, thoroughbred gentleman, a bit lacking in
initiative sometimes, for he came from the warmer, lazier lands, but as
true as the compass in his character. The other fellow was Dick Verra,
French father, English mother; I think he had a strain of Indian blood
farther back somewhere, but he would have been a prince in any tribe or
nation. A happy, wholesome, red-blooded, young fellow, with the world
before him for his conquest.
"We knew another fellow, too, Fred Ramer, self-willed, imperious,
extravagant in his habits, greedy and unscrupulous; but he was handsome
and masterful, with a compelling magnetism that made us admire him and
bound us to him. He had never known what it meant to have a single wish
denied him. And with his make-up, he would stop at nothing to have his
own way, until his wilful pride and stubbornness and love of luxury
ruined him. But in our college days we were his satellites. He was
always in debt to all of us, for money was his only god and we never
dared to press him for payment. The only one of us who ever overruled
him was Dick Verra. But Dick was a born master of men. There was one
other chum of ours, but I'll tell you about him later. Boys together, we
had many escapades and some serious problems, until by the time our
college days were over we were bound together by those ties that are
made in jest and broken with choking voices and eyes full of tears."
Jondo paused and I waited, silent, until he should continue.
"Things happened to that little group of college men as time went on.
You know your uncle's life, leading merchant of Kansas City and the
Southwest; and mine, plainsman and freighter on the Santa Fe Trail.
Felix Narveo's history is easily read. Esmond Clarenden came down here
at the outbreak of the Mexican War, and together he and Narveo laid the
foundation for the present trail commerce that is making the country at
either end of it rich and strong. Dick Verra is now Father Josef." Jondo
paused as if to gather force for the rest of the story. Then he said:
"Back at college we all knew Mary Marchland, a beautiful Louisiana girl
who visited in Washington and New England, and all of us were in love
with her. When our life-lines crossed again Clarenden had come to St.
Louis. About that time his two older brothers and their wives died
suddenly of yellow fever, leaving you and Beverly alone. It was Felix
Narveo who brought you up to St. Louis to your uncle."
"I remember that. The steamboat, and the Spanish language, and Felix
Narveo's face. I recalled that when I saw him years ago," I exclaimed.
"You always were all eyes and ears, remembering names and faces, where
Beverly would not recall anything," Jondo declared.
"And what became of your Fred Ramer?" I asked.
"He is Ferdinand Ramero here. He married Narveo's sister later. She is
not the mother of Marcos, but a second wife. She owned a tract of land
inherited from the Narveo estate down in the San Christobal country.
There is a lonely ranch house in a picturesque canon, and many acres of
grazing-land. She keeps it still as hers, although her stepson, Marcos,
claims it now. It is for her sake that Narveo doesn't dare to move
openly against Ramero. And in his masterful way he has enough influence
with a certain ring of Mexicans here, some of whom are Narveo's
freighters, to reach pretty far into the Indian country. That's why I
knew those Mexicans were lying to us about the Kiowas at Pawnee Rock. I
could see Ramero's gold pieces in their hands. He joined the Catholic
Church, and plays the Pharisee generally. But the traits of his young
manhood, intensified, are still his. He is handsome, and attractive, and
rich, and influential, but he is also cold-blooded, and greedy for money
until it is his ruling passion, villainously unscrupulous, and
mercilessly unforgiving toward any one who opposes his will; and his
capacity for undying hatred is appalling."
And this was the man who was seeking to control the life of Eloise St.
Vrain. I fairly groaned in my anger.
"The failure to win Mary Marchland's love was the first time in his life
that Fred Ramer's will had ever been thwarted, and he went mad with
jealousy and anger. Gail, they are worse masters than whisky and opium,
once they get a man down."
Jondo paused, and when he spoke again he did it hurriedly, as one who,
from a sense of duty, would glance at the dead face of an enemy and turn
"When Fred lost his suit with Mary, he determined to wreck her life. He
came between her and the man she loved with such adroit cruelty that
they were separated, and although they loved each other always, they
never saw each other again. Through a terrible network of
misunderstandings she married Theron St. Vrain. He, by the way, was the
other college chum I spoke of just now. He and his foster-brother,
Bertrand, were wards of Fred Ramer's father. But their guardian, the
elder Ramer, had embezzled most of their property and there was bitter
enmity between them and him. Theron and Mary were the parents of Eloise
St. Vrain. It is no wonder that she is beautiful. She had Mary Marchland
for a mother. Theron St. Vrain died early, and the management of his
property fell into Fred Ramer's hands. At Mary's death it would descend
to Eloise, with the proviso I just mentioned of an unworthy marriage. In
that case, Ramer, at his own discretion, could give the estate to the
Church. Nobody knows when Mary Marchland died, nor where she is buried,
except Fred and his confessor, Father Josef."
"How far can a man's hate run, Jondo?" I asked.
"Oh, not so far as a man's love. Listen, Gail." Never a man had a truer
eye and a sweeter smile than my big Jondo.
"Fred Ramer was desperately in need of money when he was plotting to
darken the life of Mary Marchland--that was just before the birth of
Eloise--and through her sorrow to break the heart of the man whom she
loved--I said we college boys were all in love with her, you remember.
Let me make it short now. One night Fred's father was murdered, by whom
was never exactly proven. But he was last seen alive with his ward,
Theron St. Wain, who, with his foster-brother, Bertrand, thoroughly
despised him for his plain robbery of their heritage.
"The case was strong against Theron, for the evidence was very damaging,
and it would have gone hard with him but for the foster-brother.
Bertrand St. Wain took the guilt upon himself by disappearing suddenly.
He was supposed to have drowned himself in the lower Mississippi, for
his body, recognized only by some clothing, was recovered later in a
drift and decently buried. So _he_ was effaced from the records of man."
In the dim light Jondo's blue eyes were like dull steel and his face was
a face of stone, but he continued:
"Just here Clarenden comes into the story. He learned it through Felix
Narveo, and Felix got it from the Mexicans themselves, that Fred Ramer
had plotted with them to put his father out of the way--I said he was
desperately in need of money--and to lay the crime on Theron St.
Vrain, by whose disgrace the life of Mary Marchland would be blighted,
and Fred would have his revenge and his father's money. Narveo was
afraid to act against Ramer, but nothing ever scared Esmond Clarenden
away from what he wanted to do. Through his friendship for St. Vrain, to
whom some suspicion still clung, and that lost foster-brother, Bertrand,
he turned the screws on Fred Ramer that drove him out of the country. He
landed, finally, at Santa Fe, and became Ferdinand Ramero. He managed by
his charming manners to enchant the sister of Felix Narveo--and you know
"Didn't Felix Narveo go to Fort Leavenworth once, just before Uncle
Esmond brought us with him to Santa Fe?" I asked.
"Yes, he went to warn Clarenden not to leave you there unprotected, for
a band of Ramero's henchmen were on their way then to the Missouri
River--we passed them at Council Grove--to kidnap you three and take you
to old Mexico," Jondo said. "An example of Fred's efforts to get even
with Clarenden and of the loyalty of Narveo to his old college chum. The
same gang of Mexicans had kidnapped Little Blue Flower and given her to
"You told me that Uncle Esmond forced Ferdinand Ramero out of the
country on account of a wrong done to you, Jondo," I reminded the big
"He did," Jondo replied. "I told you that we all loved Mary Marchland.
Fred Ramer broke under his loss of her, and became the devil's own tool
of hate and revenge, and what generally gets tied up with these sooner
or later, a passion for money and irregular means of getting it. Money
is as great an asset for hate as for love, and Fred sold his soul for it
long ago. Clarenden came to the frontier and lost himself in the
building of the plains commerce, and his heart he gave to the three
orphan children to whom he gave a home. When New Mexico came under our
flag Narveo came with it, a good citizen and a loyal patriot. He married
a Mexican woman of culture and lives a contented life. Dick Verra went
into the Church. I came to the plains, and the stimulus of danger, and
the benediction of the open sky, and the healing touch of the prairie
winds, and the solemn stillness of the great distances have made me
something more of a man than I should have been. Maybe I was hurt the
worst. Clarenden thought I was. Sometimes I think Dick Verra got the
best of all of us."
Jondo's voice trailed off into silence and I knew what his hurt
was--that he was the man whom Mary Marchland had loved, from whom Fred
Ramer, by his cruel machinations, had separated her--"_and although they
loved each other always, they never saw each other again_." Poor Jondo!
What a man among men this unknown freighter of the plains might have
been--and what a loss to the plains in the best of the trail years if
Jondo had never dared its dangers for the safety of the generations to
But the thought of Eloise, driven out momentarily by Jondo's story, came
rushing in again.
"You said you put a ring around Ramero to keep him in Santa Fe. Can't we
get Eloise outside of it?" I urged, anxiously.
"Maybe I should have said that Father Josef put it around him for me,"
Jondo replied. "He confessed his crimes fully to the Church. He couldn't
get by Father Josef. Here he is much honored and secure and we let him
alone. The disgrace he holds the secret of--he alone--is that the father
of Eloise killed his father, the crime for which the foster-brother
fell. Ramero as guardian of Eloise and her property legally could have
kept her here. Only a man like Clarenden would have dared to take her
away, though he had the pleading call of her mother's last wish. Gail, I
have told you the heart-history of half a dozen men. If this had stopped
with us we could forgive after a while, but it runs down to you and
Beverly and Eloise and Marcos, who will carry out his father's plans to
the letter. So the battle is all to be fought over again. Let me leave
you a minute or two. I'll not be gone long."
I sat alone, staring out at the shadowy court and, above it, the blue
night-sky of New Mexico inlaid with stars, until a rush of feet in the
hall and a shout of inquiry told me that Beverly Clarenden was hunting
Meantime the girl in Mexican dress, who had come out of the church with
Father Josef when he came to greet Eloise and me, had passed unnoticed
through the Plaza and out on the way leading to the northeast. Here she
came to the blind adobe wall of La Garita, whose olden purpose one still
may read in the many bullet-holes in its brown sides. Here she paused,
and as the evening shadows lengthened the dress and wall blended their
dull tones together.
Beverly Clarenden, who had gone with Rex Krane up to Fort Marcy that
evening, had left his companion to watch the sunset and dream of Mat
back on the Missouri bluff, while he wandered down La Garita. He did not
see the Mexican woman standing motionless, a dark splotch against a dun
wall, until a soft Hopi voice called, eagerly, "Beverly, Beverly."
The black scarf fell from the bright face, and Indian garb--not Po-a-be,
the student of St. Ann's and the guest of the Clarenden home, with the
white Grecian robe and silver headband set with coral pendants, as
Beverly had seen her last in the side porch on the night of Mat's
wedding, but Little Blue Flower, the Indian of the desert lands, stood
"Where the devil--I mean the holy saints and angels, did you come from?"
Beverly cried, in delight, at seeing a familiar face.
"I came here to do Father Josef some service. He has been good to me. I
bring a message."
She reached out her hand with a letter. Beverly took the letter and the
hand. He put the message in his pocket, but he did not release the
"That's something for Jondo. I'll see that he gets it, all right. Tell
me all about yourself now, Little Run-Off-and-Never-Come-Back." It was
Beverly's way to make people love him, because he loved people.
It was late at last, too late for prudence, older heads would agree,
when these two separated, and my cousin came to pounce upon me in the
hotel court to tell me of his adventure.
"And I learned a lot of things," he added. "That Indian in the Plaza
to-day is Santan, or Satan, dead sure; and you'd never guess, but he's
the same redskin--Apache red--that was out at Agua Fria that time we
were there long ago. The very same little sneak! He followed us clear to
Bent's Fort. He put up a good story to Jondo, but I'll bet he was
somebody's tool. You know what a critter he was there. But listen now!
He's got his eye on Little Blue Flower. He's plain wild Injun, and she's
a Saint Ann's scholar. Isn't that presumption, though! She's afraid of
him, too. This country fairly teams with romance, doesn't it?"
"Bev, don't you ever take anything seriously?" I asked.
"Well, I guess I do. I found that Santan, dead loaded with jealousy,
sneaking after us in the dark to-night when I took Little Blue Flower
for a stroll. I took him seriously, and told him exactly where he'd
find me next time he was looking for me. That I'd stand him up against
La Garita and make a sieve out of him," Beverly said, carelessly.
"Beverly Clarenden, you are a fool to get that Apache's ill-will," I
"I may be, but I'm no coward," Beverly retorted. "Oh, here comes Jondo.
I've got a letter from Father Josef. Invitation to some churchly dinner,
Beverly threw the letter into Jondo's hands and turned to leave us.
"Wait a minute!" Jondo commanded, and my cousin halted in surprise.
"When did you get this? I should have had it two hours ago," Jondo said,
sternly. "Father Josef must have waited a long time up at the church
door for his messenger to come back and bring him word from me."
Beverly frankly told him the truth, as from childhood we had learned was
the easiest way out of trouble.
Jondo's smile came back to his eyes, but his lips did not smile as he
said: "Gail, you can explain things to Bev. This is serious business,
but it had to come sooner or later. The battle is on, and we'll fight it
out. Ferdinand Ramero is determined that Eloise and his son shall be
married early to-morrow morning. The bribe to the Church is one-half of
the St. Vrain estate. The club over Eloise is the shame of some disgrace
that he holds the key to. He will stop at nothing to have his own way,
and he will stoop to any brutal means to secure it. He has a host of
fellows ready at his call to do any crime for his sake. That's how far
money and an ungovernable passion can lead a man. If I had known this
sooner, we would have acted to-night."
"Let me go and kill that man. There ought to be a bounty on such wild
beasts," he declared.
"He'd do that for you through a Mexican dagger, or an Apache arrow, if
you got in his way," Jondo replied. "But what we must do is this: Twenty
miles south on the San Christobal Arroyo there is a lonely ranch-house
on the old Narveo estate, a forgotten place, but it is a veritable fort,
built a hundred years ago, when every house here was a fort. To-morrow
at daybreak you must start with Eloise and Sister Anita down there. I
will see Father Josef later and tell him where I have sent you. Little
Blue Flower will show you the way. It is a dangerous ride, and you must
make it as quickly and as silently as possible. A bullet from some
little canon could find you easily if Ramero should know your trail.
Will you go?"
There was no need for the question as Jondo well knew, but his face was
bright with courage and hope, and a thankfulness he could not express
shone in his eyes as he looked at us, big, stalwart, eager and unafraid.
THE SANCTUARY ROCKS OF SAN CHRISTOBAL
Mark where she stands! Around her form I draw
The awful circle of our solemn church!
Set but a foot within that holy ground,
And on thy head--yea, though it wore a crown--
launch the curse of Rome.
The faint rose hue of early dawn was touching the highest peaks of the
Sandia and Jemez mountain ranges, while the valley of the Rio Grande
still lay asleep under dull night shadows, when five ponies and their
riders left the door of San Miguel church and rode southward in the
slowly paling gloom. In the stillness of the hour the ponies' feet,
muffled in the sand of the way, seemed to clatter noisily, and their
trappings creaked loudly in the dead silence of the place. Little Blue
Flower, no longer in her Mexican dress, led the line. Behind her Beverly
and the white-faced nun of St. Ann's rode side by side; and behind these
came Eloise St. Vrain and myself. From the church door Jondo had watched
us until we melted into the misty shadows of the trail.
"Go carefully and fearlessly and ride hard if you must. But the
struggle will be here with me to-day, not where you are," he assured us,
when we started away.
As he turned to leave the church, an Indian rose from the shadows beyond
it and stepped before him.
"You remember me, Santan, the Apache, at Fort Bent?" he questioned.
Jondo looked keenly to be sure that his memory fitted the man before
"Yes, you are Santan. You brought me a message from Father Josef once."
The Indian's face did not change by the twitch of an eyelash as he
"I would bring another message from him. He would see you an hour later
than you planned. The young riders, where shall I tell him they have
"To the old ranch-house on the San Christobal Arroyo," Jondo replied.
The Indian smiled, and turning quickly, he disappeared up the dark
street. A sudden thrill shook Jondo.
"Father Josef said I could trust that boy entirely. Surely old Dick
Verra, part Indian himself, couldn't be mistaken. But that Apache lied
to me. I know it now; and I told him where our boys are taking Eloise. I
never made a blunder like that before. Damned fool that I am!"
He ground his teeth in anger and disgust, as he sat down in the doorway
of the church to await the coming of Ferdinand Ramero and his son,
Out on the trail our ponies beat off the miles with steady gait. As the
way narrowed, we struck into single file, moving silently forward under
the guidance of Little Blue Flower, now plunging into dark canons, where
the trail was rocky and perilous, now climbing the steep sidling paths
above the open plain. Morning came swiftly over the Gloriettas. Darkness
turned to gray; shapeless masses took on distinctness; the night chill
softened to the crisp breeze of dawn. Then came the rare June day in
whose bright opening hour the crystal skies of New Mexico hung above us,
and about us lay a landscape with radiant lights on the rich green of
the mesa slopes, and gray levels atint with mother-of-pearl and gold.
The Indian pueblos were astir. Mexican faces showed now and then at the
doorways of far-scattered groups of adobe huts. Outside of these all was
silence--a motionless land full of wild, rugged beauty, and thrilling
with the spell of mystery and glamour of romance. And overbrooding all,
the spirit of the past, that made each winding trail a footpath of the
centuries; each sheer cliff a watch-tower of the ages; each wide sandy
plain, a rallying-ground for the tribes long ago gone to dust; each
narrow valley a battle-field for the death-struggle between the dusky
sovereigns of a wilderness kingdom and the pale-faced conquerors of the
coat of mail and the dominant soul. The sense of danger lessened with
distance and no knight of old Spain ever rode more proudly in the days
of chivalry than Beverly Clarenden and I rode that morning, fearing
nothing, sure of our power to protect the golden-haired girl, thrilled
by this strange flight through a land of strange scenes fraught with the
charm of daring and danger. Beverly rode forward now with Little Blue
Flower. I did not wonder at her spell over him, for she was in her own
land now, and she matched its picturesque phases with her own
picturesque racial charm.
I rode beside Eloise, forgetting, in the sweet air and glorious June
sunlight, that we were following an uncertain trail away from certain
The white-faced nun in her somber dress, rode between, with serious
countenance and downcast eyes.
"What happened to you, Little Lees, after I left you?" I asked, as we
trotted forward toward the San Christobal valley.
"Everything, Gail," she replied, looking up at me with shy, sad eyes.
"First Ferdinand Ramero came to me with the command that I should
consent to be married this morning. By this time I would have been
Marcos' wife." She shivered as she spoke. "I can't tell you the way of
it, it was so final, so cruel, so impossible to oppose. Ferdinand's eyes
cut like steel when they look at you, and you know he will do more than
he threatens. He said the Church demanded one-half of my little fortune
and that he could give it the other half if he chose. He is as imperious
as a tyrant in his pleasanter moods; in his anger he is a maniac. I
believe he would murder Marcos if the boy got in his way, and his
threats of disgracing me were terrible."
"But what else happened?" I wanted to turn her away from her wretched
"I have not seen anybody else except Little Blue Flower. She has an
Indian admirer who is Ferdinand's tool and spy. He let her come in to
see me late last night or I should not have been here now. I had almost
given up when she brought me word that you and Beverly would meet me at
the church at daylight. I have not slept since. What will be the end of
this day's work? Isn't there safety for me somewhere?" The sight of the
fair, sad face with the hunted look in the dark eyes cut me to the soul.
"Jondo said last night that the battle was on and he would fight it out
in Santa Fe to-day. It is our work to go where the Hopi blossom leads
us, and Bev Clarenden and I will not let anything happen to you."
I meant what I said, and my heart is always young when I recall that
morning ride toward the San Christobal Arroyo and my abounding vigor and
confidence in my courage and my powers.
Our trail ran into a narrow plain now where a yellow band marked the way
of the San Christobal River toward the Rio Grande. On either hand tall
cliffs, huge weather-worn points of rock, and steep slopes, spotted with
evergreen shrubs, bordered the river's course. The silent bigness of
every feature of the landscape and the beauty of the June day in the
June time of our lives, and our sense of security in having escaped the
shadows and strife in Santa Fe, all combined to make us free-spirited.
Only Sister Anita rode, alert and sorrowful-faced, between Beverly and
the gaily-robed Indian girl, and myself with Eloise, the beautiful.
As we rounded a bend in the narrow valley, Little Blue Flower halted us,
and pointing to an old half-ruined rock structure beside the stream, she
"See, yonder is the chapel where Father Josef comes sometimes to pray
for the souls of the Hopi people. The house we go to find is farther up
a canon over there."
"I remember the place," Eloise declared. "Father Josef brought me here
once and left me awhile. I wasn't afraid, although I was alone, for he
told me I was always safe in a church. But I was never allowed to come
Sister Anita crossed herself and, glancing over her shoulder, gave a
sharp cry of alarm. We turned about to see a group, of horsemen dashing
madly up the trail behind us. The wind in their faces blew back the
great cloud of dust made by their horses hoofs, hiding their number and
the way behind them. Their steeds were wet with foam, but their riders
spurred them on with merciless fury. In the forefront Ferdinand Ramero's
tall form, towering above the small statured evil-faced Mexican band he
was leading, was outlined against the dust-cloud following them, and I
caught the glint of light on his drawn revolver.
"Ride! Ride like the devil!" Beverly shouted.
At the same time he and the Hopi girl whirled out and, letting us pass,
fell in as a rear guard between us and our pursuers. And the race was
Jondo had said the lonely ranch-house whither we were tending was as
strong as a fort. Surely it could not be far away, and our ponies were
not spent with hard riding. Before us the valley narrowed slightly, and
on its rim jagged rock cliffs rose through three hundred feet of
earthquake-burst, volcanic-tossed confusion to the high tableland
As we strained forward, half a dozen Mexican horsemen suddenly appeared
on the trail before us to cut off our advance. Down between us and the
new enemy stood the old stone chapel, like the shadow of a great rock in
a weary land, where for two hundred long years it had set up an altar to
the Most High on this lonely savage plain.
"The chapel! The chapel! We must run to that now," cried Sister Anita.
Her long veil was streaming back in the wind, and her rosary and
crucifix beating about her shoulders with the hard riding, but her white
face was brave with a divine trust. Yet even as she urged us I saw how
imposible was her plea, for the men in front were already nearer
to the place than we were. At the same time a pony dashed up beside me,
and Little Blue Flower's voice rang in my ears.
"The rocks! Climb up and hide in the rocks!" She dropped back on one
side of Beverly, with Sister Anita on the other, guarding our rear. As
I turned our flight toward the cliff, I caught sight of an Indian in a
wedge of rock just across the river, and I heard the singing flight of
an arrow behind me, followed almost instantly by another arrow. I looked
back to see Sister Anita's pony staggering and rearing in agony, with
Little Blue Flower trying vainly to catch its bridle-rein, and Sister
Anita, clutching wildly at her rosary, a great stream of blood flowing
from an arrow wound in her neck.
Men think swiftly in moments like these. The impulse to halt, and the
duty to press on for the protection of the girl beside me, holding me in
doubt. Instantly I saw the dark crew, with Ferdinand Ramero leading
fiercely forward, almost upon us, and I heard Beverly Clarenden's voice
filling the valley--"Run, Gail, run! You can beat 'em up there."
It was a cry of insistences and assurances and power, and withal there
was that minor tone of sympathy which had sounded in the boy's defiant
voice long ago in the gray-black shadows below Pawnee Rock, when his
chivalric soul had been stirred by the cruel wrongs of Little Blue
Flower and he had cried:
"Uncle Esmond, let's take her, and take our chances."
I knew in a flash that the three behind us were cut off, and Eloise St.
Vrain and I pressed on alone. We crossed the narrow strip of rising
ground to where the first rocks lay as they had fallen from the cliff
above, split off by some titanic agony of nature. Up and up we went, our
ponies stumbling now and then, but almost as surefooted as men, as they
climbed the narrow way. Now the rocks hid us from the plain as we crept
sturdily through narrow crevices, and now we clambered up an open path
where nothing concealed our way. But higher still and higher, foot, by
foot we pressed, while with oath and growl behind us came our pursuers.
At last we could ride no farther, and the miracle was that our ponies
could have climbed so far. Above us huge slabs of stone, by some
internal cataclysm hurled into fragments of unguessed tons of weight,
seemed poised in air, about to topple down upon the plain below. Between
these wild, irregular masses a narrow footing zigzagged upward to still
other wild, irregular masses, a footing of long leaps in cramped spaces
between sharp edges of upright clefts, all gigantic, unbending, now
shielding by their immense angles, now standing sheer and stark before
us, casting no shadows to cover us from the great white glare of the
I have said no man knows where his mind will run in moments of peril. As
we left our ponies and clambered up and up in hope of safety somewhere,
the face of the rocks cut and carved by the rude stone tools of a race
long perished, seemed to hold groups of living things staring at us and
pointing the way. And there was no end to these crude pictographs. Over
and over and over--the human hand, the track of the little road-runner
bird, the plumed serpent coiled or in waving line, the human form with
the square body and round head, with staring circles for eyes and mouth,
and straight-line limbs.
We were fleeing for safety through the sacred aisles of a people God had
made; and when they served His purpose no longer, they had perished. I
did not think of them so that morning. I thought only of some
hiding-place, some inaccessible point where nothing could reach the girl
I must protect. But these crawling serpents, cut in the rock surfaces,
crawled on and on. These human hands, poor detached hands, were lifted
up in mute token of what had gone before. These two-eyed, one-mouthed
circles on heads fast to body-boxes, from which waved tentacle limbs,
jigged by us, to give place to other coiled or crawling serpents and
their companion carvings, with the track of the swift road-runner
skipping by us everywhere.
At last, with bleeding hands and torn clothing, we stood on a level rock
like a tiny mesa set out from the high summit of the cliff.
Eloise sat down at my feet as I looked back eagerly over the precipitous
way we had come, and watched the band of Mexicans less rapidly swarming
up the same steep, devious trail.
Three hundred feet below us lay the plain with the thin current of the
San Christobal River sparkling here and there in the sunlight. The black
spot on the trail that scarcely moved must be Beverly and Little Blue
Flower with Sister Anita. No, there was only the Indian girl there, and
something moving in and out of the shadow near them. I could not see for
the intervening rocks.
"Gail! Gail! You will not let them take you. You will not leave me,"
And I was one against a dozen. I stooped to where she sat and gently
lifted her limp white hand, saying:
"Eloise, I was on a rock like this a night and a day alone on the
prairie. I could not move nor cry out. But something inside told me to
'hold fast'--the old law of the trail. You must do that with me now."
A shout broke over the valley and the rocks about us seemed suddenly to
grow men, as if every pictograph of the old stone age had become a
sentient thing, a being with a Mexican dress, and the soul of a devil.
Just across a narrow chasm, a little below us, Ferdinand Ramero stood in
all the insolence of a conqueror, with a smile that showed his white
teeth, and in his steely eyes was the glitter of a snake about to
"You have given us a hard race. By Jove, you rode magnificently and
climbed heroically. I admire you for it. It is fine to bring down game
like you, Clarenden. You have your uncle's spirit, and a six-foot body
that dwarfs his short stature. And we come as gentlemen only, if we can
deal with a gentleman. It wasn't our men who struck your nun down there.
But if you, young man, dare to show one ounce of fighting spirit now,
behind you on the rocks--don't look--as I lift my hand are my good
friends who will put a bullet into the brain beneath that golden hair,
and you will follow. Being a game-cock cannot help you now. It will only
hasten things. Deliver that girl to me at once, or my men will close in
upon you and no power on earth can save you."
Eloise had sprung to her feet and stood beside me, and both of us knew
the helplessness of our plight. A startling picture it must have been,
and one the cliffs above the San Christobal will hardly see again: the
blue June sky arched overhead, unscarred by a single cloud-fleck, the
yellow plain winding between the high picturesque cliffs, where silence
broods all through the long hours of the sunny day; the pictured rocks
with their furnace-blackened faces white--outlined with the story of the
dim beginnings of human strivings. And standing alone and defenseless on
the little table of stone, as if for sacrifice, the tall, stalwart young
plainsman and the beautiful girl with her golden hair in waving masses
about her uncovered head, her sweet face white as the face of the dying
nun beside the sandy arroyo below us, her big dark eyes full of a
"I order you to close in and take these two at once." The imperious
command rang out, and the rocks across the valley must have echoed its
"And I order you to halt."
The voice of Father Josef, clear and rich and powerful, burst upon the
silence like cathedral music on the still midnight air. The priest's
tall form rose up on a great mass of rock across the cleft before
us--Father Josef with bared head and flashing eyes and a physique of
Ferdinand Ramero turned like a lion at bay. "You are one man. My force
number a full dozen. Move on," he ordered.
Again the voice of Father Josef ruled the listening ears.
"Since the days of old the Church has had the power to guard all that
come within the shelter of the holy sanctuary. And to the Church of God
was given also long ago the might to protect, by sanctuary privilege,
the needy and the defenseless. Ferdinand Ramero, note that little table
of rock where those two stand helpless in your grasp. Around them now I
throw, as I have power to throw, the sacred circle of our Holy Church in
sanctuary shelter. Who dares to step inside it will be accursed in the
sight of God."
Never, never will I live through another moment like to that, nor see
the power of the Unseen rule things that are seen with such unbreakable
The Mexicans dropped to their knees in humble prayer, and Ferdinand
Ramero seemed turned to a man of stone. A hand was gently laid upon my
arm and Jondo and Rex Krane stood beside us. A voice far off was
sounding in my ears.
"Go back to your homes and meet me at the church to-morrow night. You,
Ferdinand Ramero, go now to the chapel yonder and wait until I come."
What happened next is lost in misty waves of forgetfulness.
"_Yet there be certain times in a young man's life when through
great sorrow or sin all the boy in him is burnt and seared away so
that he passes at one step to the more sorrowful state of
The heat of midday was tempered by a light breeze up the San Christobal
Valley, and there was not a single cloud in the June skies to throw a
softening shadow on the yellow plain. A little group of Mexicans, riding
northward with sullen faces, urged on their jaded ponies viciously as
they thought of the gold that was to have been paid them for this
morning's work, and of the gold that to-morrow night must go to pay the
priest who should shrive them; and they had nothing gained wherewith to
pay. Their leader, whom they had served, had been trapped in his own
game, and they felt themselves abused and deceived.
Down by the brown sands of the river Father Josef waited at the door of
the half-ruined little stone chapel for the strange group coming slowly
toward him: Ferdinand Ramero, riding like a captured but unconquered
king, his head erect, his flashing eyes seeing nobody; Jondo who could
make the shabbiest piece of horseflesh take on grace when he mounted it,
his tanned cheek flushed, and the spirit of supreme sacrifice looking
out through his dark-blue eyes; Eloise, drooping like a white flower,
but brave of spirit now, sure that her grief and anxiety would be lifted
somehow. I rode beside her, glad to catch the faint smile in her eyes
when she looked at me. And last of all, Rex Krane, with the same old
Yankee spirit, quick to help a fellow-man and oblivious to personal
danger. So we all came to the chapel, but at the door Rex wheeled and
rode away, muttering, as he passed me:
"I've got business to look after, and not a darned thing to confess."
And Beverly! He was not with us.
When Rex Krane told his bride good-by up in the Clarenden home on the
Missouri bluff, Mat had whispered one last request:
"Look after Bev. He never sees danger for himself, nor takes anything
seriously, least of all an enemy, whom he will befriend, and make a joke
And so it happened that Rex had stayed behind to care for Beverly's
arrow wound when Bill Banney had gone out with Jondo on the Kiowa trail
to search for me this side of Pawnee Rock.
So also it happened that Rex had strolled down from Fort Marcy the night
before, in time to see Beverly and the girl in the Mexican dress
loitering along the brown front of La Garita. And his keen eyes had
caught sight of Santan crouching in an angle of the wall, watching them.
"Indians and Mexes don't mix a lot. And Bev oughtn't mix with either
one," Rex commented. "I'll line the boy up for review to-morrow, so Mat
won't say I've neglected him."
But the Yankee took the precaution to follow the trail to the Indian's
possible abiding-place on the outskirts of Santa Fe. And it was Rex who
most aided Jondo in finding that the Indian had gone with Ramero's men
"That fellow is Santan, of Fort Bent, Rex," Jondo said.
"Yes, you thought he was _Santa_ and I took him for _Satan_ then. We
missed out on which to knock out of him. Bev won't care nothin' about
his name. He will knock hell out of him if he gets in that Clarenden
boy's way," Rex had replied.
At the chapel door now the Yankee turned away and rode down the trail
toward the little angle where an Indian arrow had whizzed at our party
an hour before.
In the shadow of a fallen mass of rock below the cliff Little Blue
Flower had spread her blanket, with Beverly's coat tucked under it in a
roll for a pillow, and now she sat beside the dying nun, holding the
crucifix to Sister Anita's lips. The Indian girl's hands were
blood-stained and the nun's black veil and gown were disheveled, and her
white head-dress and coif were soaked with gore. But her white face was
full of peace as the light faded from her eyes.
And Beverly! The boy forgot the rest of the world when one of the
Apache's arrows struck down the pony and the other pierced Sister
Anita's neck. Tenderly as a mother would lift a babe he quickly carried
the stricken woman to the shelter of the rock, and with one glance at
her he turned away.
"You can do all that she needs done for her. Give her her cross to
hold," he said, gently, to Little Blue Flower.
Then he sprang up and dashed across the river, splashing the bright
waters as he leaped to the farther side where Santan stood concealed,
waiting for the return of Ramero's Mexicans.
At the sound of Beverly's feet he leaped to the open just in time to
meet Beverly's fist square between the eyes.
"Take that, you dirty dog, to shoot down an innocent nun. And that!"
Beverly followed his first blow with another.
The Apache, who had reeled back with the weight of the boy's iron fist,
was too quick for the second thrust, struggling to get hold of his
arrows and his scalping-knife. But the space was too narrow and Beverly
was upon him with a shout.
"I told you I'd make a sieve or you the next time you tried to see me,
and I'm going to do it."
He seized the Indian's knife and flung it clear into the river, where
it stuck upright in the sands of the bed, parting the little stream of
water gurgling against it; and with a powerful grip on the Apache's
shoulders he wrenched the arrows from their place and tramped on them
with his heavy boot.
The Indian's surprise and submission were gone in a flash, and the two
clinched in combat.
On the one hand, jealousy, the inherited hatred of a mistreated race,
the savage instinct, a gloating joy in brute strife, blood-lust, and a
dogged will to trample in the dirt the man who made the sun shine black
for the Apache. On the other hand, a mad rage, a sense of insult, a
righteous greed for vengeance for a cruel deed against an innocent
woman, and all the superiority of a dominant people. The one would
conquer a powerful enemy, the other would exterminate a despicable and
Back and forth across the narrow space hidden from the trail by fallen
rock they threshed like beasts of prey. The Apache had the swiftness of
the snake, his muscles were like steel springs, and there was no rule of
honorable warfare in his code. He bit and clawed and pinched and
scratched and choked and wrenched, with the grim face and burning eyes
of a murderer. But the Saxon youth, slower of motion, heavier of bone
and muscle, with a grip like iron and a stony endurance, with pride in a
conquest by sheer clean skill, and with a purpose, not to take life, but
to humble and avenge, hammered back blow for blow; and there was
nothing for many minutes to show which was offensive and which
As the struggle raged on, the one grew more furious and the other more
"Oh, I'll make you eat dust yet!" Beverly cried, as Santan in triumph
flung him backward and sprang upon his prostrate form.
They clinched again, and with a mighty surge of strength my cousin
lifted himself, and the Indian with him, and in the next fall Beverly
had his antagonist gripped and helpless.
"I can choke you out now as easy as you shot that arrow. Say your
prayers." He fairly growled out the words.
"I didn't aim at her," the Apache half whined, half boasted. "I wanted
At that moment Beverly, spent, bruised, and bleeding with fighting and
surcharged with the lust of combat, felt all the instinct of murder
urging him on to utterly destroy a poison-fanged foe to humanity. At
Santan's words he paused and, flinging back the hair from his forehead,
he caught his breath and his better self in the same heart-beat. And the
instinct of the gentleman--he was Esmond Clarenden's brother's son--held
the destroying hand.
"You aimed at me! Well, learn your lesson on that right now. Promise
never to play the fool that way again. Promise the everlasting God's
truth, or here you go."
The boy's clutch tightened on Santan's throat. "By all that's holy,
you'll go to your happy hunting-ground _right now, unless you do_!" He
growled out the words, and his blazing eyes glared threateningly at his
"I promise!" Santan muttered, gasping for breath.
"You didn't mean to kill the nun? Then you'll go with me and ask her to
forgive you before she dies. You will. You needn't try to get away from
me. I let you thrash your strength out before we came to this
settlement. Be still!" Beverly commanded, as Santan made a mad effort to
"Hurry up, and remember she is dying. Go softly and speak gently, or by
the God of heaven, you'll go with her to the Judgment Seat to answer for
that deed right now!"
Slowly the two rose. Their clothes were torn, their hair disheveled, the
ground at their feet was red with their blood. They were as bitter, as
distrustful now as when their struggle began. For brute force never
conquers anything. It can only hold in check by fear of its power to
destroy the body. Above the iron fist of the fighter, and the sword and
cannon of the soldier, stands the risen Christ who carried his own cross
up Mount Calvary--and "there they crucified him."
The two young men, spent with their struggle, their faces stained with
dirt and bloody sweat, crossed the river and sought the shadowy place
where Little Blue Flower sat beside Sister Anita. Twice Santan tried to
escape, and twice Beverly brought him quickly to his place. It must
have been here that I caught sight of them from the rock above.
"One more move like that and the ghost of Sister Anita will walk behind
you on every trail you follow as long as your flat feet hit the earth,"
"All Indians are afraid of ghosts and I was just too tired to fight any
more," he said to me afterward when he told me the story of that hour by
the San Christobal River.
Sister Anita lay with wide-open eyes, her hands moving feebly as she
clutched at her crucifix. Her hour was almost spent.
Santan stood motionless before her, as Beverly with a grip on his arm
"Tell her you did not aim at her, and ask her to forgive you. It will
help to save your own soul sometime, maybe."
Santan looked at Little Blue Flower. But she gave no heed to him as she
put the dropped crucifix into the weakening fingers. Murder, as such, is
as horrifying to the gentle Hopi tribe as it is sport for the cruel
Beverly loosed his hold now.
"I did not want to hurt you. Forgive me!" Santan said, slowly, as though
each word were plucked from him by red-hot pincers.
Sister Anita heard and turned her eyes.
"Kneel down and tell her again," Beverly said, more gently.
The Apache dropped on his knees beside the dying woman and repeated his
words. Sister Anita smiled sweetly.
"Heaven will forgive you even as I do," she murmured, and closed her
"Go softly. This is sacred ground," my cousin said.
The Indian rose and passed silently down the trail, leaving Little Blue
Flower and Beverly Clarenden together with the dead. At the stream he
paused and pulled his knife from the sands beneath the trickling waters,
and then went on his way.
But an Indian never forgets.
Rex Krane, who had hurried hither from the chapel, closed the eyes and
folded the thin hands of the martyred woman, and sent Beverly forward
for help to dispose of the garment of clay that had been Sister Anita.
From that day something manly and serious came into Beverly Clarenden's
face to stay, but his sense of humor and his fearlessness were
That was a solemn hour in the shadow of the rock down in that yellow
valley, but beautiful in its forgiving triumph. We who had gathered in
the dimly lighted chapel had an hour more solemn for that it was made up
of such dramatic minutes as change the trend of life-trails for all the
years to come.
The chapel was very old. They tell me that only a broken portion of the
circular wall about the altar stands there to-day, a lonely monument to
some holy padre's faith and courage and sacrifice in the forgotten
years when, in far Hesperia, men dreamed of a Quivera and found only a
It may be that I, Gail Clarenden, was also changed as I listened to the
deliberations of that day; that something of youth gave place for the
stronger manhood that should stay me through the years that came after.
Eloise sat where I could see her face. The pink bloom had come back to
it, and the golden hair, disordered by our wild ride and rough climb
among the pictured rocks of the cliff, curled carelessly on her white
brow and rippled about her shapely head. I used to wonder what setting
fitted her beauty best--why wonder that about any beautiful woman?--but
the gracious loveliness of this woman was never more appealing to me
than in the soft light and sacred atmosphere of the church.
Father Josef's first thought was for her, but he brought water and
coarse linen towels, so that, refreshed and clean-faced, we came in to
"Eloise," his voice was deep and sweet, "so long as you were a child I
tried to protect and direct you. Now that you are a woman, you must
still be protected, but you must live your own life and choose for
yourself. You must meet sorrow and not be crushed by it. You must take
up your cross and bear it. It is for this that I have called you back to
New Mexico at this time. But remember, my daughter, that life is not
given to us for defeat, but for victory; not for tears, but for smiles;
not for idle cringing safety, but for brave and joyous struggle."
I thought of Dick Verra, the college man, whose own young years were
full of hope and ambition, whose love for a woman had brought him to the
priesthood, but as I caught the rich tones of Father Josef's voice,
somehow, to me, he stood for success, not failure.
Eloise bowed her head and listened.
"You must no longer be threatened with the loss of your own heritage,
nor coerced into a marriage for which the Church has been offered a
bribe to help to accomplish. Blood money purifies no altars nor extends
the limits of the Kingdom of the Christ. Your property is your own to
use for the holy purposes of a goodly life wherever your days may lead
you; and whatever the civil law may grant of power to control it for
you, you shall no longer be harassed or annoyed. The Church demands that
it shall henceforth be yours."
Father Josef's dark eyes were full of fire as he turned to Ferdinand
"You will now relinquish all claim upon the control of this estate,
whose revenue made your father and yourself to be accounted rich, and
upon which your son has been allowed to build up a life expectation; and
though on account of it, you go forth a poor man in wordly goods, you
may go out rich in the blessing of restoration and repentance."
Ferdinand Ramero's steel eyes were fixed like the eyes of a snake on the
holy man's face. Restoration and repentance do not belong behind eyes
"I can fight you in the courts. You and your Church may go to the
devil;" he seemed to hiss rather than to speak these words.
"We do go to him every day to bring back souls like yours," Father
Josef's voice was calm. "I have waited a long time for you to repent.
You can go to the courts, but you will not do it. For the sake of your
wife, Gloria Ramero, and Felix Narveo, her brother, we do not move
against you, and you dare not move for yourself, because your own record
will not bear the light of legal investigation."
Ferdinand Ramero sprang up, the blaze of passion, uncontrolled through
all his years, bursting forth in the tragedy of the hour. Eloise was
right. In his anger he was a maniac.
"You dare to threaten me! You pen me in a corner to stab me to death!
You hold disgrace and miserable poverty over my head, and cant of
restoration and repentance! Not until here you name each thing that you
count against me, and I have met them point by point, will I restore. I
never will repent!"
In the vehemence of anger, Ramero was the embodiment of the dramatic
force of unrestraint, and withal he was handsome, with a controlling
magnetism even in his hour of downfall.
Jondo had said that Father Josef had somewhere back a strain of Indian
blood in his veins. It must have been this that gave the fiber of self
control to his countenance as he looked with pitying eyes at Jondo and
Eloise St. Vrain.
"The hour is struck," he said, sadly. "And you shall hear your record,
point by point, because you ask it now. First: you have retained,
controlled, misused, and at last embezzled the fortune of Theron St.
Vrain, as it was retained, controlled, misused, and embezzled by your
father, Henry Ramer, in his lifetime. Any case in civil courts must show
how the heritage of Eloise St. Vrain, heir to Theron St. Vrain at the
death of her mother--"
"Not until the death of her mother--" Ferdinand Ramero broke in,
For the first time to-day the priest's cheek paled, but his voice was
unbroken as he continued:
"I would have been kinder for your own sake. You desire otherwise. Yes,
only after the death of Mary Marchland St. Vrain could you dictate
concerning her daughter's affairs, with most questionable legality even
then. Mary Marchland St. Vrain is not dead."
The chapel was as silent as the grave. My heart stood still. Before me
was Jondo, big, strong, self-controlled, inured to the tragic deeds of
the epic years of the West. No pen of mine will ever make the picture of
Jondo's face at these words of Father Josef.
Eloise turned deathly pale, and her dark eyes opened wide, seeing
nothing. It was not I who comforted her, but Jondo, who put his strong
arm about her, and she leaned against his shoulder. Father and daughter
in spirit, stricken to the heart.
"For many years she has lived in that lonely ranch-house on the Narveo
grant in the little canon up the San Christobal Arroyo. When the fever
left her with memory darkened forever, you recorded her as dead. But
your wife, Gloria Ramero, spared no pains to make her comfortable. She
has never known a want, nor lived through one unhappy hour, because she
"A priest, confessor for men's inmost souls, who babbles all he knows! I
wonder that this roof does not fall on you and strike you dead before
this altar." Ferdinand Ramero's voice rose to a shout.
"It was too strongly built by one who knew men's inmost souls, and what
they needed most," Father Josef replied. "You drove me to this by your
insistence. I would have shielded you--and these."
He turned to Eloise and Jondo as he spoke.
"One more point, since you hold it ready to spring when I am through.
You stand accused of plotting for your father's murder. The evidence
still holds, and some men who rode with you to-day to seize this gentle
girl and drag her back to a marriage with your son--and save your
ill-gotten gold thereby--some of these men who will confess to me and do
penance to-morrow night, are the same men who long ago confessed to
other crimes--you can guess what they were.
"It pays well to repent before such a holy tattler as yourself."
Ramero's blue eyes burned deep as their fire was centered on the priest.
"These are the counts against you," Father Josef said in review,
ignoring the last outburst of wrath. "A life of ease and inheritance
through money not your own, nor even rightly yours to control. A
stricken woman listed with the dead, whose memory might have come
again--God knows--if but the loving touch of childish hands had long ago
been on her hands. It is years too late for all that now. A brave young
ward rescued from your direct control by Esmond Clarenden's force of
will and daring to do the right. You know that last pleading cry of Mary
Marchland's, for Jondo to protect her child, and how Clarenden, for love
of this brave man, came to New Mexico on perilous trails to take the
little Eloise from you. And lastly in this matter, the threats to force
a marriage unholy in God's sight, because no love could go with it. Your
mad chase and villainous intention to use brute force to secure your
will out yonder on the rocks above the cliff. You have debauched an
Apache boy, making him your tool and spy. You sanctioned the seizing of
a Hopi girl whose parents you permitted to be murdered, and their child
sold into slavery among foreign tribes. You have stirred up and kept
alive a feud of hatred and revenge among the Kiowa people against the
life and property of Esmond Clarenden and all who belong to him. And,
added to all these, you stand to-day a patricide in spirit, accused of
plotting for the murder of your own father. Do not these things call
for restoration and repentance?"
Ferdinand Ramero rose to his feet and stood in the aisle near the door.
His face hardened, and all the suave polish and cool concentration and
dominant magnetism fell away. What remained was the man as shaped by the
ruling passions of years, from whose control only divine power could
bring deliverance. And when he spoke there was a remorseless cruelty and
selfishness in his low, even tones.
"You have called me a plotter for my father's life--based on some lying
Mexican's love of blackmail. You do not even try to prove your charge.
The man who would have killed him was Theron St. Vrain, and his brother,
Bertrand. That Theron was disgraced by the fact you know very well, and
the blackness of it drove him to an early grave. So this young lady
here, whom I would have shielded from this stain upon her name in the
marriage to my son, may know the truth about her father. He was what
you, Father Josef, try to prove me to be."
He paused as if to gather venom for his last shaft.
"These two, Theron and Bertrand, were equally guilty, but through tricks
of their own, Theron escaped and Bertrand took the whole crime on
himself. He disappeared and paid the penalty by his death. His body was
recovered from the river and placed in an unmarked grave. Why go back to
that now? Because Bertrand St. Vrain's clothes alone on some poor
drowned unknown man were buried. Bertrand himself sits here beside his
niece, Eloise St. Vrain. John Doe to the world, the man who lives
without a name, and dares not sign a business document, a walking dead
man. I could even pity him if he were real. But who can pity nothing?"
A look of defiance came into the man's glittering eyes as he took one
step nearer to the door and continued:
"Esmond Clarenden drove me out of the United States with threats of
implicating me in the death of my father, and I knew his power and
brutal daring to do anything he chose to do. It was but his wish to have
revenge for this nameless thing--"
The scorn of Ramero's eyes and voice as he looked at Jondo were
"And this thing keeps me here by threats of attacks, even when he knows
that by such attacks he will reveal himself. It has been a grim game."
Something of a grin showed all of the man's fine teeth. "A grim game,
and never played to a finish till now. I leave it to you, Father Josef,
to judge who has been the stronger and who comes out of it victor. I
make restoration--of what? I leave the St. Vrain money that I have
guarded for Eloise, the daughter of the man who killed, or helped to
kill, my father. You can control it now, among you: Clarenden, already
rich; your Church, notorious in its robbery of the poor by enriching its
coffers; or this uncle here, who is dead and buried in an unknown grave.
That is all the restoration I can make. Repentance, I do not know what
that word means. Keep it for the poor devils you will gather in
to-morrow night to be shriven. They need it. I do not."
He turned and strode out of the church and, mounting his horse, rode
like a madman up the yellow valley of the San Christobal. In after years
I could find no term to so well describe that last act as the words of
Beverly Clarenden, who came to the chapel just in time to hear Ferdinand
Ramero's closing declaration, and to see his black scowl and scornful
air, as, in a royal madness, he defied the power of man and denounced
the all-pitying love that is big enough for the most sinful.
"It was Paradise lost," Beverly declared, "and Satan falling clear to
hell before the Archangel's flaming sword. Only he went east and the
real Satan dropped down to his place. But they will meet up somewhere,
Ramero and the real one, and not be able to tell each other apart."
And Jondo. My boyhood idol, brave, gentle, unselfish, able everywhere!
Jondo, who had kept my toddling feet from stumbling, who had taught me
to ride and swim and shoot, who had made me wise in plains lore, and
manly and clean among the rough and vulgar things of the Missouri
frontier. Jondo, whose big, cool hand had touched my feverish face,
whose deep blue eyes had looked love into my eyes when I lay dying on
Pawnee Rock! A man without a name! A murderer who had by a trick escaped
the law, and must walk evermore unknown among his fellow-men! Something
went out of my life as I looked at him. The boy in me was burned and
seared away, and only the man-to-be, was left.
He offered no word of defense from the accusation against him, nor made
a plea of innocence, but sat looking straight at Father Josef, who
looked at him as if expecting nothing. And as they gazed into each
other's eyes, a something strong and beautiful swept the face of each. I
could not understand it, and I was young. My lifetime hero had turned to
nothingness before my eyes. The world was full of evil. I hated it and
all that in it was, my trusting, foolish, short-sighted self most of
But Eloise--the heart of woman is past understanding--Eloise turned to
the man beside her and, putting both arms around his neck, she pressed
one fair cheek against his brown bearded one, and kissed him gently on
the forehead. Then turning to Father Josef, no longer the dependent,
clinging maiden, but the loving woman, strong and sure of will, she
"I must go to my mother. So long as she lives I will never leave her
She did not even look at me, nor speak a word of farewell, as if I were
the murderer instead of that man, Jondo, whom she had kissed.
I saw her ride away, with Little Blue Flower beside her. I saw the green
mesa, the red cliffs above the growing things, the glitter of the San
Christobal water on yellow sands, the level plain where the narrow white
trail crept far away toward Gloria Narveo's lonely ranch-house, strong
as a fort built a hundred years ago, in a little canon of the valley. I
saw a young, graceful figure on horseback, and the glint of sunlight on
golden hair. But the rider did not turn her head and I could not get one
glance of those beautiful dark eyes. A great mass of rock hid the line
of the trail, and the two, Eloise and Little Blue Flower, rounded the
angle and rode on out of my sight.
I helped to dig open the curly mesquite and to shovel out the sand. I
heard the burial service, and saw a rudely coffined form lowered into an
open grave. I saw Rex Krane at the head, and Jondo at the foot, and
Beverly's bleeding hands as he scraped the loose earth back and heaped
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