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account to a man under the table ; if there
could not be raised cards for the blind as
well as raised letters. The idea of feeling
a "pair" or a "flush" amused him greatly,
and then he remembered more gravely poor
Gordon, who, becoming gradually paralyzed,
blew his brains out. " The best thing he
could do," he soliloquized seriously. The



reflection, however, had left such a depress-
ing efiect upon his mind that the exaltation
of liquor for a moment seemed to be the
proper thing for him ; but the next moment,
remembering his promise to the doctor, he
changed his mind, and — with an effort — ^his
reflections.

For relief he turned his paling face to the
window. It gave upon a dusty court-yard,
the soil of which was pulverized by the paw-
ing of countless hoofe during the long, dry-
summer; upon a tiled roof that rose above
an adobe wall, over which again rose the
two square whitewashed towers of the Mis-
sion church. Between these towers he
caught a ghmpse of dark green foliage, and
beyond this the shining sea.

It was very hot and dry. Scarcely a wave
of air stirred the curtains of the window.
That afternoon the trade-winds which usually
harried and bullied the httle Mission of San
Antonio did not blow, and a writhing weep-
ing willow near the window, that whipped
, itself into trifling hysterics on the slightest
pretext, was surprised into a stony silence.
Even the sea beyond glittered and was
breathless. It reminded Jack of the mouth
of the man he met in Sacramento at the
hotel, and again had quarreled with in San
Francisco. And there, absolutely, was the
man, the very man, gazing up at the hotel
from the shadows of the court-yard. Jack
was instantly and illogically fiirious. Had
Pete been there he would at once have sent
an insulting message; but, while he was
looking at him, a sound rose upon the air
which more pleasandy arrested his attention.

It was an organ. Not a very fine instru-
ment, nor skillfully played. But an instru-
ment that Jack was passionately fond of. I
forgot to say that he had once occupied the
position of organist in the Second Presby-
terian Church of Sacramento, until a grow-
ing and more healthy public sentiment
detected an incongruity between his secular
and Sunday occupations, and a prominent
deacon, a successful liquor-dealer, demand-
ed his resignation. Although he afterward
changed his attentions to a piano, he never
entirely lost his old aff*ections. To become
the possessor of a large organ, to introduce
it gradually, educating the public taste, as
a special feature of a first-class gambling
saloon, had always been one of Jack's wild-
est ambitions. So he raised himself upon
his elbow and listened. He could see also
that the adjacent building was really a
recent addition to the old Mission chtuch,
and that what appeared to be a recess in



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GABRIEL CONROY.



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the wall was only a deeply embrasured
window. Presently a choir of fresh young
voices joined the organ. Mr. Hamlin list-
ened more attentively; it was one of
Mojsart's masses with which he was familiar.

For a few moments he forgot his pain and
lassitude, and lying there hummed in unison.
And then, like a true enthusiast, unmindful
of his surroundings, he lifted his voice — a
very touching tenor, well known among his
friends — and joined in, drowning, I fear, the
feebler pipe of the little acolytes within.
Indeed, it was a fine sight to see this sen-
timental scamp, lying sick nigh unto disso-
lution through a dissipated life and infamous
profession, down upon his back in the dingy
cuarto of a cheap Spanish inn, voicing the
litanies of Madame the Virgin. Howbeit,
once started in he sang it through, and only
paused when the antiphonal voices and
organ ceased. Then he lifted his head, and,
leaning on his elbow, looked across the
court-yard. He had hoped for the appear-
ance of some of the littie singers, and had.
all ready a handful of coin to throw to
them, and a few of those ingenious epithets
and persuasive arguments by which he had
always been successful with the young. But
he was disappointed. "I reckon school
ain't out yet," he said to himself, and was
about to lie down again, when a face sud-
denly appeared at the grating of the narrow
window.

Mr. Hamlin as suddenly became breath-
less, and the color rose to his pale face. He
was very susceptible to female beauty, and
the fiace that appeared at the grating was
that of a very tneautiful Indian girl. He
thought, and was ready to swear, that he
had never seen anything half so lovely.
Framed in the recess of the embrasure as a
shrine, it might have been a shadowed
devotional image, but that the face was not
so angelically beautiful as it was femininely
fascinating, and that the large deeply fringed
eyes had an expression of bright impatience
and human curiosity. From his secure
vantage behind the curtain Mr. Hamlin
knew that he could not be seen, and so lay
and absorbed this lovely bronze apparition
which his voice seemed to have evoked from
the cold bronze adobe wall. And then, as
suddenly, she was gone, and the staring sun-
light and glittering sea beyond seemed to
Mr. Hamlin to have gone too.

When Pete returned at sunset, he was
amazed and alarmed to find his master
dressed and sitting by the window. There
was a certain brightness in his eye and an



unwonted color in his cheek that alarmed
him still more.

"You ain*t bin and gone done nuffin ag'in
de doctor's orders, Mahs' Jack?" he began.

"You'll find the whisky flask all right,
imless you've been dippin' into it, you
infernal old hypocrite," responded Jack
cheerfully, accepting the implied suspicion
of his servant. " I've (hressed myself
because I'm goin' to chiurch to-night, to find
out where you get yoiur liquor. I'm happy
because I'm virtuous. Trot out that *Vol-
ney's Ruins' and wade in. You're gettin'
out o' practice, Pete. Stop. Because you're
religious, blank you, do you expect me to
starve ? Go and order supper first ! Stop.
Where in blank are you going? Here
you've been gone three hours on an errand
for me, and blank me if you ain't runnin'
off without a word about it"

"Gone on an errand foh you, sah?"
gasped the astonished Pete.

"Yes! Didn't I tell you to go round and
see what was the kind of religious dispen-
sation here?" continued Jack with an
xmmoved fece. " Didn't I charge you par-
ticularly to observe if the Catholic Church
was such as a professing Christian and the
former organist of the Second Presbyterian
Church of Sacramento could attend ? And
now I suppose I've got to find out myself
I'd bet ten to one you ain't been there at
all, blank you!"

In sheer embarrassment Pete began to
brush his master's clothes with ostentatious
and apologetic diligence, and said :

"I'se no Papist, Mahs Jack, but if I'd
thought — "

" Do you suppose, blank you, I'm going
to sit here without my supper while you
abuse the Catholic Church — the only church,
blank me, that a gentleman — " but the
frightened Pete was gone.

The Angelus bell had just rung, and it
lacked a full half hour yet before vespers,
when . Mr. Hamhn lounged into the old
Mission chiuxh. Only a few figures knelt
here and there — mere vague, black shadows
in the gloom. Aided, perhaps, more by
intuition than the light of the dim candles
on the high altar, he knew that the figure
he looked for was not among them; and
seeking the shadow of a column he calmly
waited its approach. It seemed a long
time. A heavy-looking woman, redolent
of garlic, came in and knelt nearly opposite.
A yellow vaquero, whom Mr. Hamlin
recalled at once as one he had met on the
road hither^ — a man whose Spanish profanity,



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incited by unruly cattle, had excited Jack's
amused admiration, — dropped on his knees,
and with equally characteristic volubility
began a supplication to the Virgin. Then
two or three men, whom Jack recognized as
the miJhte-players of' the " Fonda," began,
as it seemed to Jack, to bewail their losses
in lachrymose accents. And then Mr.
Hamlin, highly excited, with a pulse that
would have awakened the greatest concern
of his doctor, became nervously and mag-
netically aware that some one else was
apparendy waiting and anxious as himself,
and had turned his head at the entrance of
each one of the congregation. It was a figure
Jack had at first overlooked. Safe in the
shadow of the column, he could watch it
without being seen himself. Even in the
gloom he coidd see the teeth and eyes of
die man he had observed that afternoon —
his old antagonist at Sacramento.

Had it l^n anywhere else. Jack would
have indulged his general and abstract
detestation of Victor by instantiy picking a
quarrel with him. As it was, he determined
upon following him when he left the church —
of venting on him any possible chagrin or
disappointment he might then have, as an
excitement to mitigate the imsupportable
dreariness of the Mission. The passions are
not so exclusive as moralists imagine, for
Mr. Hamlin was beginning to have his
breast filled with wrath against Victor, in
proportion as his doubts of the appearance
of the beautifiil stranger grew stronger in
his mind, when two figures momentarily
darkened the church porch, and a rustie of
silk stole upon his ear. A faint odor of
spice penetrated through the incense. Jack
looked up, and his heart stopped beating.

It was she. As she reached the stall
nearly opposite she put aside her black veil,
and disclosed the same calm, nymph-like
face he had seen at the window. It was
doubly beautiful now. Even the strange
complexion had for Jack a bewildering
charm. She looked around, hesitated for
a moment, and then knelt between the two
monte players. With an almost instinctive
movement Jack started forward, as if to
warn her of the contaminating contact.
And then he stopped, his own face crim-
soned with shame. For the first time he
had doubted the morality of his profession.

The organ pealed out ; the incense swam ;
the monotonous voice of the priest rose
upon the close, sluggish air, and Mr. Jack
Hamlin dreamed a cLream. He had dispos-
sessed the cold, mechanical organist, and



seating himself at the instrument, had fl»
moned all the powers of reed and voice i»
sing the paeans — ah, me ! I fear not of aif
abstract Being, but of incarnate flesii ad
blood. He heard her pure, young vdce
lifted beside his ; even in that cold, pnot-
less commingling there was joy iin^)eib'
ble, and he knew himself exalted. Yet be
was conscious even in his dream, finon bs
own hurried breathing, and something tlot
seemed to swell in his throat, that he oonki
not have simg a note. And then he cane
back to his senses, and a close examinadoD
of the figure before him. He looked at dbe
gracefiil shining head, the rich lace veil, the
quiet elegance of attire, even to die sduC
satin slipper that stole fix>m beneath bcr
silken robe — all united with a refinenKDi
and an air of jealous seclusion, diat sooe-
how removed him to an inuneasiiiaUe
distance.

The anthem ceased, the last notes of the
organ died away, and the lady rose. Half
an hour before. Jack would have gladly
stepped forward to have challenged even a
passing glance from the beautiful eyes of tbe
stranger; now a timidity and distrust nev to
the man took possession of him. He cren
drew back closer in the shadow as die
stepped toward the pillar, which Mip|XMt ed
on its face a font of holy water. 9ie had
already shpped off her glove, and now die
leaned forward — so near he could ahnoa
feel her warm breath— and di{^)ed her loog,
slim fingers into the water. As she crosKd
herself with the Uquid symbol Jack gare a
slight start One or two drcps of boh
water thrown fi-om her little finges ha^
fallen on his face.

CHAPTER XXVn.
VICTOR MAKES A DISCOVERY.

Happily for Mr. Hamlin, the young pA
noticed neither the effect of her unconsdcMB
baptismal act, nor its object, but moved
away slowly to the door. As she did so.
Jack stepped fix)m the shadow of the colanc
and followed her with eyes of respectfai
awe and yearning. She had barely leachai
the porch, when she suddenly and swifiij
turned and walked hurriedly back, afaaart
brushing against Mr. Hamlin. Her beaxoi-
fill eyes were starded and embarrassed, bff
scarlet lips parted and paling rapidly, her
whole ^gure and manner agitated and da-
composed. Without noticing him die tuned
toward the colunm, and under the pMeit
of using the holy water took hold of tbt



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font and leaned against it, as if for support,
with her face averted from the light Jack
could see her hands tighten nervously on
the stone, and fancied that her whole figure
trembled as she stood there.

He hesitated for a moment and then
moved to her side; not audaciously and
confident, as was his wont with women, but
with a boyish color in his face, and a timid,
half embarrassed manner.

" Can I do anything for you, Miss ?" he
said falteringly. "You don't seem to be
well. I mean, you look tired. Sha'n*t I
bring you a chair? It's the heat of this
blasted hole — I mean it's so warm here.
Sha'n't I go for a glass of water, a carriage ? "

Here she suddenly lifted her eyes to his,
and his voice and presence of mind utterly
abandoned him.

" It is nothing," she said, with a dignified
calm, as sudden and as alarming to Jack as
herprevious agitation — ^**nothing," she added,
fbdng her clear eyes on his, with a look so
frank, so open, and withal, as it seemed to
Jack, so cold and indifferent, that his own
usually bold glance fell beneath it, " nothing
but the heat and closeness; I am better
now."

" Shall I — " began Jack awkwardly.

" I want nothing, thank you."

Seeming to think that her conduct re-
quired some explanation, she added hastily :

" There was a crowd at the door as I was
going out, and in the press I felt giddy. I
thought some one — some man — ^prished me
rudely. I dare say I was mistaken."

She glanced at the porch against which a
man was still leaning.

The suggestion of her look and speech —
if it were a suggestion — ^was caught instandy
by Jack. Widiout waiting for her to finish
the sentence, he strode to the door. To his
wrathful surprise the lounger was Victor.
Mr. Hamlin did not stop for explanatpry
speech. With a single expressive word, and
a single dexterous movement of his arm and
foot, he tumbled the astonished Victor down
the steps at one side, and then turned
toward his late companion. But she had
been equally prompt With a celerity quite
inconsistent with her previous faintness, she
seized the moment that Victor disappeared
to dart by him and gain her carriage, which
stood in waiting at the porch. But as it
swiftly rode away, Mr. Hamhn caught one
gratefiil glance fi-om those wonderful eyes,
one smile from those perfect lips« and was
happy. What matters that he had an expla-
nation — possibly a quarrel on his hands?



Ah me ! I fear this added zest to the rascal's
satisfaction.

A hand was laid on his shoulder. He
turned and saw the face of the furious Vic-
tor, with every tooth at a white heat, and
panting with passion. Mr. Hamlin smiled
pleasandy. '

"Why, I want to know!" he qaculated,
with an affectation of rustic simplicity — " if
it ain't you, Johnny. Why, dam my skin !
And this is your house? You and St
Anthony in partnership, eh? Well, that
gets me I And here I tumbled you off your
own stoop, didn't I ? I might have known
it was you by the way you stood there.
Mightn't I, Johnny?"

"My name is not Johnny — Cardmba/"
gasped Victor, almost beside himself with
impatient fury.

" Oh, it's that, is it ? Any relation to the
Cardmbas of Dutch Flat ? It ain't a pretty
name. I Uke Johnny better. And I wouldn't
make a row here now. Not to-day, Johnny ;
it's Sunday. I'd go home. I'd go quieUy
home, and I'd beat some woman or child to
keep myself in training. But I'd go home
first I wouldn't draw that knife, neither,
for it might cut your fingers, and fiighten
the folks around town. I'd go home quietly,
like a good nice little man. And in the
morning I'd come round to the hotel on
the next square, and I'd ask for Mr. Ham-
lin, Mr. Jack HamUn, Room No. 29 ; and
I'd go right up to his room, and I'd have
such a time with him — such a high old
time; I'd just make that hotel swim with
blood."

Two or three of the monte-players had
gathered around Victor, and seemed inclined
to take the part of their countryman. Victor
was not slow to improve this moment of
adhesion and support.

" Is it dogs that we are, my compatriots ? "
he said to them bitterly — " and he — this one
— a man infamous I "

Mr. Hamlin, who had a quick ear for
abusive and inteijaculatory Spanish, over-
heard him. There was a swift chorus of
^^Cardmba I^' firom the allies, albeit whole-
somely restrained by something in Mr.
Hamlin's eye which was visible, and prob-
al)ly a suspicion of something in Mr. Ham-
lin's pocket which was not visible. But the
remaining portion of Mr. Hamlin was iron-
ically gracious.

*^ Friends of yours, I suppose?" he in-
quired affably. '* *Ciirdmbas* all of them,
too I Perhaps they'll call with you ? May
be they haven't time and are in a hurry now ?



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GABRIEL CONROY.



If my room isn't large enough, and they
can't wait, there's a handy lot o' ground
beyond on the next square — P/azadel Toros,
eh ? What did you say ? I'm a little deaf
in this ear."

Under the pretense of hearing more dis-
tinctly, Jack Hamlm approached the near-
est man, who, I grieve to say, instantly, and
somewhat undignifiedly, retreated. Mr.
Hamlin laughed. But already a crowd of
loungers had gathered, and he felt it was
time to end this badinage, grateful as it was
to his sense of humor. So he lifted his hat
gravely to Victor and his friends, replaced
it perhaps aggressively tilted a trifle over
his straight nose, and lounged slowly back
to his hotel, leaving his late adversaries in
secure but unsatisfactory and dishonorable
possession of the field. Once in his own
quarters, he roused the sleeping Pete, and
insisted upon opening a religious discussion,
in which, to Pete's great horror, he warmly
espoused the Catholic Church, averring,
with several strong expletives, that it was
the only religion fit for a white man, and
ending somewhat irrelevantly by inquhing
into the condition of the pistols.

Meanwhile Victor had also taken leave
of his finends.

" He has fled — this most infamous ! " he
said ; " he dared not remain and face us !
Thou didst observe his fear, Tiburcio ? It
was thy great heart that did it!"

" Rather he recognized thee, my Victor,
and his heart was that of the coyote."

"It was the Mexican nation, ever re-
sponsive to the appeal of manhood and
liberty, that made his liver as blanched as
that of the chicken," returned the gentleman
who had retreated fi*om Jack. " Let us
then celebrate this triiunph with a little
glass."

And Victor, who was anxious to get away
from his fiiends, and saw in the prospective
aguardiente a chance for escape, generously
led the way to the first wine-shop.

It chanced to be the principal one of the
town. It had the generic quality — that is,
was dirty, dingy, ill-smelling, and yellow
with cigarette smoke. Its walls were adorned
by various prints— one or two French in
origin, excellent in art, and defective in
moral sentiment, and several of Spanish
origin, infamous in art, and admirable in
religious feeling. It had a portrait of Santa.
Anna, and another of the latest successftil
revolutionary general. It had an allegorical
picture representing the Genius of Liberty
descending with all the celestial machinery



upon the Mexican Confederacy. Moved
apparently by the same taste for poetry and
personification, the proprietor had added to
his artistic collection a highly colored Amer-
ican handbill representing the Angel of
Healing presenting a stricken family with a
bottle of somebody's Panacea. At the
further extremity of the low room a dozen
players sat at a green baize table absorbed
in monte. Beyond them, leaning against
the wall, a harp-player twanged the strings
of his instrument, in a lugubrious air, with
that singular stickiness of touch and rduc-
tancy of finger peculiar to itinerant perform-
ers on that instrument. The card-players
were profoimdly indifi*erent to both music
and performer.

The face of one of the players attracted
Victor's attention. It was that of the odd
English translator — the irascible stranger
upon whom he had intruded that night of
his memorable visit to Don Jos^. Victor
had no difficulty in recognizing him, although
his slovenly and neghgent working-dress
had been changed to his holiday antique
black suit He did not lift his eyes firom
the game until he had lost the few silver
coins placed in a pile before him, when he
rose grimly, and, nodding brusquely to the
other players, without speaking left the
room.

" He has lost five half-dollars — ^his regular
limit — ^no more, no less," said Victor to
his firiend. " He will not play again to-
night!"

" You know of him ?" asked Vincente in
admiration of his companion's superior
knowledge.

"Si!" said Victor. " He is a jackal, a
dog of the Americanos," he added, vaguely
intending to revenge himself on the stran-
ger's former brusqueness by this deprecia-
tion. " He aflfects to know our history —
our language. Is it a question of the fine
meaning of a word ? — the shade of a tech-
nical expression ? — it is him they ask, not
us ! It is thus they treat us, these heretics!
Cardmbaf'

^^Cardmba P' echoed Vincente, with a
vague patriotism superinduced by aguardi-
ente. But Victor had calculated to unloose
Vincente's tongue for his private service*

" It is the world, my friend," he said sen-
tentiously. " These Americanos — come they
here often?"

" You know the great American advocate
— our fiiend — Don Arturo Poinsett ? "

" Yes," said Victor impatiently. " Comes
he?"



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" Christ ! does he not! " laughed Vincente.
"Always. Ever. Eternally. He has a client
— a widow, young, handsome, rich, eh ? —
one of his oi^n race."

"Ah ! you are wise, Vincente ! "

yincente laughed a weak spirituous laugh.

"Ah, God ! it is a transparent fact. Truly
— of a verity. Believe me ! "

"And this fair client — who is she ? "

" Donna Maria Sepulvida ! " said Vincente
in a drunken whisper.

" How is this ? You said she was of his
own race."

" Truly, I did. She is Americana, But
it is years ago. She was very young. When
the Americans first came, she was of the
first. She taught the child of the widower
Don Jos6 SepiQvida, herself almost a child,
you understand ? It was the old story. She
was pretty, and poor, and young ; the Don
grizzled, and old, and rich. It was fire and
tow. Eh? Ha! Ha] The Don meant to
be kind, you imderstand, and made a rich
wife of the little Anuricana, He was kinder
than he meant, and in two years Cardmha !
made a richer widow of the Donna."

If Vincente had not been quite thrown
by his potations, he would have seen an
imdue eagerness in Victor's mouth and eyes.

"And she is pretty — tall and slender like
the Americans, eh? — large eyes, a sweet
mouth?"

" An angel. Ravishing ! "

"And Don Arturo — firom legal adviser
tarns a lover ! "

"It i» said," responded Vincente with
drunken cunning and exceeding archness;
" but thou and I, Victor, know better. Love
comes not with a brief! Eh ? Look, it is
an old flame, believe me. It is said it is
not two months that he first came here, and
she fell in love with him at the first glance.
Absurdo I Dispardtado / Hear me, Victor ;
it was an old flame ; an old quarrel made
up. Thou and I have heard the romance
before. Two lovers not rich, eh ? Good !
Separation ; despair. The Senorita marries
the rich man, eh?"

Victor was too completely carried away
by the suggestion of his fiiend's speech, to
conceal his satisfaction. Here was the
secret at last. Here was not only a clew,
but absolutely the missing Grace Conroy
herself. In this young Americana — this —
widow — this client of her former lover,
Philip Ashley, he held the secret of three
lives. In his joy he slapped Vincente on
the back and swore roimdly that he was
the wisest of men*



" I should have seen her — ^the heroine of
this romance — ^my fiiend. Possibly, she
was at mass ? "



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 120 of 163)