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superficially smooth, for since the reader had
the honor of his acquaintance, he had shaved
off his beard, as a probable unnecessary
indication of character. It was still early,
but he had abready dispatched much busi-
ness with that prompt decision which made
even an occasional blunder seem heroic.
He was signing a letter that one of his clerks
had brought him, when he said, briskly,
without looking up :

" Send Mr. Ramirez in."

Mr. Ramirez, who had already called for
three successive days without obtaining an
audience of Dumphy, entered the private
room with an excited sense of having been
wronged, which, however, instantly disap-
peared, as far as external manifestation was
concerned, on his contact with the hard-
headed, aggressive, and prompt Dumphy.

" How do ? " said Dumphy, without look-
ing up from his desk.

Mr. Ramirez uttered some objection to
the weather, and then took a seat uneasily
near Dumphy.

" Go on," said Dumphy. " I can listen."

" It is I who came to listen," said Mr.
Ramirez, with great suavity. " It is of the
news, I would hear."

"Yes," said Mr. Dumphy, signing, his
name rapidly to several documents, " Yes,
YeSy Yes." He finished them, turned
rapidly upon Ramirez, and said *'YesI"
again, in such a positive manner as to
utterly shipwreck that gentleman's self-con-
trol.

"Ramirez!" said Dumphy, abruptly.
" How much have you got m that thing ?"

Mr. Ramirez, still floating on a sea of
conjecture, could only say, " Eh ! Ah ! It
is what?"

" How deep are you ? How much would
you hseV^

Mr. Ramirez endeavored to fix his eyes
upon Dumphy*s.

" How — much-^would I lose ? — ^if how ?
If what?"

" What — money — have — ^you — ^got — ^in —
it?" said Mr. Dumphy, emphasizing each
word sharply, with the blunt end of his pen
on the desk.

" No money I I have much interest in
the success of Madame Devarges 1 "

"Then you're not *in' much! That's



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376



GABRIEL CONROY,



lucky for you. Read that letter. Show
him in!"

The last remark was in reply to a. mum-
bled interrogatory of the clerk, who had just
entered. Perhaps it was lucky for Mr.
Ramirez that Mr. Dumphy's absorption
with his new visitor prevented his observa-
tion of his previous visitor's face. As he
read the letter, Ramirez's face first tmned
to an ashen-gray hue, then to a livid pur-
ple; then he smacked his dry lips thrice,
and said " Caramba^^ then with burning
eyes he turned toward Dumphy.

" You have read this ? " he asked, shaking
the letter toward Dumphy.

"One moment," interrupted Dumphy,
finishing the conversation with his latest
visitor, and following him to the door.
" Yes," he continued, returning to his desk
and facing Ramirez, " Yes ! "

Mr. Ramirez could only shake the letter
and smile in a ghasdy way at Dimiphy.

" Yes," said Dumphy, reaching forward
and coolly taking the letter out of Ramirez's
hand. "Yes. Seems she's going to get
married," he continued, consulting the let-
ter. ** Going to marry the brother, the man
in possession. That puts her all right;
any way the cat jumps. And it \^\&you out"

With the air of having finished Uie mter-
view, Mr. Dumphy quietiy retiuned the let-
ter, followed by Ramirez's glaring eyes, to
a pigeon-hole in his desk, and tapped his
desk with his pen-holder.

"And you — ^you?" gasped Ramirez,
hoarsely, "you?"

" Oh, /didn't go into it a dollar. Yet it
was a good investment She could have
made out a strong case. You had posses-
sion of the deed or will, didn't you ? There
was no evidence of the existence of the
other woman," continued Mr. Dumphy, in
his usually loud voice, overlooking the cau-
tionary gestinies of Mr. Ramirez, with perfect
indifference. "Hello! How do?" he added,
to another visitor. " I was just sending you
a note."

Mr. Ramirez rose. His long finger-nails
were buried in the yellow flesh of his palms.
His face was quite bloodless and bis. lips
were dry.

"What's your hurry?" said Dumphy,
looking up. "Come in again! There's
another matter I want you to look into,
Ramirez ! We've got some money out on
a claim that ought to have one or two essen-
tial 'papers to make it right I dare say
they're lying round somewhere where, you
can find 'em. Draw on me for the expense."



Mr. Dumphy did not say this slyly, nor
with any dark significance, but with perfect
fi-ankness. Virtually it said: "You're a
scamp, so am I ; whether or not this other
man who overhears us is one likewise, it
matters not" He took his seat again, turned
to the latest comer, and became oblivious
of his previous companion.

Luckily for Mr. Ramirez, when he reached
the street he had recovered the control of
his featiures if not his natural color. At
least the fog, which seemed to lend a bluish-
gray shade to all complexions, allowed his
own livid cheek to pass unnoticed. He
walked . quickly, and it appeared, almost
unconsciously, toward the water, for it wa^
not until he reached the st^mboat wharf
that he knew where he was. He seemed to
have taken one step fix)m Mr. Dumphy's
office to the pier. There was nothing be-
tween these two objects in his conscious-
ness. The interval was utterly annihilated.

The steamboat did not leave for Sacra-
mento until eight that evening, and it was
only ten o'clock now. He had been con-
scious of this as he walked, but he could not
have resisted this one movement, even if a
fiitile one, toward the object of his revenge-
fiil fi^nzy. Ten hours to wait — ten hours to
be passive, inactive— to be doing nothing 1
How could he pass the time ?

He could sharpen his knife. He could
buy a new one. He could purchase a bet-
ter pistol. He remembered passing a gun-
smith's shop with a display of glittering
weapons in its window. He retraced his
steps and entered the shop, spending some
moments in turning over the gunsmith's
various wares. Espainally was he fascinated
by a long, broad-bladed bowie-knife. " My
own make," said the tradesman, with pro-
fessional pride, passing a broad, leathery
thumb along the keen edge of the blade.
" It'll split a half-dollar. See!"

He threw a half-dollar on the counter,
and with a quick, straight, down-darting
stab pierced it in halves. Mr. Ramirez was
pleased, and professed a desire to make the
experiment himself. But the point slipped,
sending the half dollar across the shop and
cutting a long splintering furrow in the
counter.

" Yer narves ain't steady. * And ye try
too hwd," said the man coolly. "Thet's
the way it's apt to be with you gents. Ye
jest work yourself up into a fever "bout a
littie thing like the^ ez if everythin' de-
pended on it Don't make sich a big thing
of it Take it easy like this," and with a



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GABRIEL CONROY.



377



quick, firm, workmanlike stroke the trades-
man repeated the act successfully.

Mr. Ramirez bought the knife. As the
man wrapped it up in paper, he remarked
with philosophic kindness :

" I wouldn't try to do it agin this momin*.
It's eariy in the day and I've noticed thet
gents ez hez been runnin' free all night ain't
apt to do theirselves justice next momin'.
Take it quiedy alone by yourself, this arter-
noon; don't think you're goin' to do any-
thin' big, and you'll fetch it, sure !"

When Mr. Ramirez was in the street again
he looked at his watch. Eleven o'clock !
Only one hour gone. He buttoned his coat
tightly over the knife in his breast pocket,
and started on again feverishly. Twelve
o'clock found him rambUng over the sand-
hiUs near the Mission Dolores. In one of
the by-streets he came upon a woman look-
ing so like the one that fiUed all his thoughts,
that he turned to look at her again with a
glance so full of malevolence diat she turned
from him in terror. This circumstance, his
a^tation, and the continual dryness of his
lips sent him into a saloon, where he drank
fiedy, without, however, increasing or abat-
ing his excitement When he returned to
the crowded streets again, he walked
quickly, imagining that his manner was
noticed by others, in such intervals as he
snatched from the ccHitemplation of a single
intention.

There were several ways of doing it. One
was to tax her with her deceit and then kill
her in the tempest of his indignation. An-
other and a more frivorite thought was to
surprise her and her new accomplice — for Mr.
Ramirez, after the manner of most jealous
rcasoners, never gave her credit for any
higher motive than that she had shown to
him — and kill them both. Another and a
later idea was to spend the strength of his
murderous passion upon the man, and then
to enjoy her discomfiture, the failure of her
plans, and perhaps her appeals for forgive-
ness. But it would still be two days before
he could reach them. Perhaps they wwe
already married. Periiaps they would be
gone!

In all this wild, passionate, and tumultu-
ous contemplation of an effect, there never
had been for u single moment in his mind
the least doubt of the adequacy of the cause.
That he was a dt^^ — a hopeless, helpless
diq)e^ — ^was sufficient Since he had read the
letter, his self-consciousness had centered
upon a single thought, expressed to him in
a sin^e native word, '* Bobo." It was con-



tinually before his eyes. He spelled it on
the signs in the street It kept up a dull
monotonous echo in his ears. **Bobo."
Ah ! she should see !

It was past noon, and the fog had deep-
ened. Afar from the bay came the sounds
of bells and whisdes. If the steamer should
not go ? If she should be delayed, as often
hs^pened, for several hours? He would
go down to the wharf and inquire. In the
meantime, let the devil seize the fog ! Might
the Holy St. Bartholomew damn forever the
cowardly dog of a captain and the cayote crew
who would refuse to go 1 He came sharply
enough down Commerdal street, and then,
when opposite the Arcade Saloon, with the
instinct that leads desperate men into des-
perate places, he entered and glared vin-
dictively around him.

The mmiense room, bright with lights and
glittering with gilding and mirrors, seemed
quiet and grave in contrast with the busy
thoroughfare without It was still too eariy
for the usual habituSs of the place ; only a
few of the long gambling tables were occu-
pied. There was only a single manie bank
'* open," and to this Ramirez bent his steps
with the peculiar predilections of his race.
It so chanced that Mr. Jack Hamlin was
temporarily in charge of the interests of this
bank, and was dealmg in a listless, perfunc-
tory manner. It may be parenthetically
remarked that his own game was fruro. His
present position was one of pure friendliness
to the absent dealer, who was taking his
dinner above stairs.

Ramirez flung a piece of gold on the
table and lost Again he tempted fortune
and lost He lost the third time. Then
his pent-up feelings found vent in the char-
acteristic ^^ Caramlfa /'^ Mr. Jack Hamlin
looked up. It was not the oath, it was not
the expression of ill-humor, both of which
were common enough in Mr. Hamlin's expe-
rience, but a certain distinguishing quality in
the voice which awoke Jack's peculiarly
retentive memory. He looked up and, to
borrow his own dialect, at once "spotted"
the owner of the voice. He made no out-
ward sign of his recognition, but quietly
pursued the gamel In the next deal Mr.
Ramirez won! Mr. Hamlin quiedy ex-
tended his crot^ and raked down Mr.
Ramirez's money with the losers.

As Mr. Hamlin doubUess had fiilly ex-
pected, Mr. Ramirez rose with a passionate
scream of rage. Whereat Mr. Hamlin
coolly pushed back Mr. Ramirez's stake and
winnmgs without looking up. Leaving it



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378



GABRIEL CONROY,



upon the table, Ramirez leaped to the gam-
bler's side.

" You would insult me, so ! You would
ch — ee — at ! eh ? You would take my
money, so ! " he said, hoarsely, gesticulating
passionately with one hand, while with the
other he grasped as wildly in his breast.

Mr. Jack Hamlin turned a pair of dark
eyes on the speaker and said quietly :

"Sit down, Johnny!"

With the pent-up passion of the last few
hoius boiling in his blood, with the murder-
ous intent of the morning still darkling in his
mind, with the passionate sense of a new
insult stinging him to madness, Mr. Ramirez
should have struck the gambler to the earth.
Possibly that was his intention as he crossed
to his side ; possibly that was his conviction
as he heard himself— ^^r — ^Victor Ramirez !
whose presence in two days should strike ter-
ror to two hearts in One Horse Gulch ! — ad-
dressed as Johnny ! But he looked into the
eyes of Mr. Hamlin and hesitated. What he
saw there I cannot say. They were handsome
eyes, clear and well opened, and had been
considered by several members of a fond
and confiding sex as peculiarly arch and
tender. But, it must be confessed, Mr.
Ramirez returned to his seat without doing
anything.

"Ye don't know that man," said Mr.
Hamlin to the two players nearest him, in a
tone of the deepest confidence, which was,
however, singularly loud enough to be heard
distinctiy by every one at the table, includ-
ing Ramirez. " You don't know him, but
I do ! He's a desprit character," continued
Mr. Hamlin glancing at him and quietly
shuffling the cards, "a very desprit char-
acter! Make your game, gentlemen ! Keeps
a catde ranch in Sonoma, and a private
grave-yard whar he buries his own dead.
They call him the * Yaller Hawk of Sonoma.'
He's outer sorts jest now; probably jest
killed some one up thar, and smells blood."

Mr. Ramirez smiled a ghasdy smile,
affected to examine the game minutely and
critically as Mr. Hamlin paused to raJce in
the gold.

"He's artfiil — ^is Johnny!" continued
Mr. Hamlin in the interval of shuffling,
**artftil and sly! Partiklerly when he's
after blood ! See him sittin' thar and smil-
in'. He doesn't want to interrupt the game.
He knows, gentlemen, thet in five minutes
from now, Jim will be back here and I'll be
fi-ee. Thefs what he's waitin* for! Thet's
what's the matter with the * Yaller Slaughterer
of Sonoma.' Got his knife ready in his breast,



too. Done up in brown paper to keep it clean.
He's mighty pertikler 'bout his weppins is
Johnny. Hez a new knife for every new
man."

Ramirez r&se with an attempt at jocularity,
and pocketed his gains. Mr. Hamlin affected
not to notice him until he was about to leave
the table.

" He's goin' to wait for me outside," he
exclaimed. " In five minutes, Johnny," he
called to Ramirez's retreating figure. "If
you can't wait, I'll expect to see you at the
Marysville Hotel next week, Room No. 95,
the next room, Johnny, the next room !"

The Mr. Ramirez who reached the busy
thoroughfare again was so different fit>m the
Mr. Ramirez who twenty minutes before
had entered the Arcade that his identity
might have easily been doubted. He did
not even breathe in the same way; his
cheek, although haggard, had resumed its
color; his eyes, which hitherto had been
fixed and contemplative, had retiuned to their
usual restiess vivacity. With the exception
that at first he walked quickly on leaving
the saloon, and once or twice hurriedly
turned to see if anybody were following
him, his manner was totally changed. And
this without efflision of blood, or the indul-
gence of an insatiable desire for revenge!
As I prefer to deal with Mr. Ramirez with-
out affecting to know any more of that gen-
tleman than he did himself, I am imable to
explain any more clearly than he did to him-
self the reason for this change in his manner,
or the utter subjection of his murderous pas-
sion. When it is remembered that for sev-
eral hours he had had unlimited indulgence,
without opposition, in his own instincts, but
that for the last twenty minutes he had some
reason to doubt their omnipotence, perhaps
some explanation may be adduced. I only
know that by half past six Mr. Ramirez had
settled in his mind that physical punishment
of his enemies was not the most efficacious
means of revenge, and that at half past
seven he had concluded tiot to take the
Sacramento boat. And yet for the previous
six hours I have reason to believe that Mr.
Ramirez was as sincere a murderer as ever
suffered the penalty of his act, or to whom
circumstances had not offered a Mr. Ham-
lin to act upon a constitutional cowardice.

Mr. Ramirez proceeded leisurely down
Montgomery street until he came to Pacific
street. At the comer 0/ the street his way
was for a moment stopped by a rattling team
and wa^on that dashed off through the fog
in the durection of the wharf. Mr. Ramirez



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GABRIEL CONROY,



379



.recognized the express and mail for the
Sacramento boat. But Mr. Ramirez did
not know that the express contamed a letter
which ran as fallows :

"Dear Madam: Yours of the loth received,
and contents noted. Am willing to make our ser- i
vices contingent upon vour success. We believe
your present course will be quite as satis&ctory as
the plan you first proposed. Would advise you not
give a personal interview to Mr. Ramirez, but refer
him to Mr. Gabriel Conroy. Mr. Ramirez's man-
ner is such as to lead us to suppose that he mieht
offer violence, unless withheld ty the presence of a
third party. Yours respectfully,

"Peter Dumphy."



CHAPTER XVI.
A CLOUD OF WITNESSES.

The street into which Ramirez plunged
at first sight appeared almost impassable,
and but for a certain regularity in the paral-
lels of irregular, oddly built houses, its orig-
inal intention as a thoroughfare might have
been open to grave doubt It was dirty, it
was muddy, it was ill-lighted ; it was rocky
and precipitous in some places, and sandy
and monotonous in others. The grade had
been changed two or three times, and each
time apparently for the worse, but alwa)^
with a noble disregard for the dwellings,
which were invariably treated as an accident
in the original design, or as obstacles to be
overcome at any hazard. The near result
of this large intent was to isolate some
houses completely, to render others utterly
inaccessible except by scaling ladders, and
to produce the general impression that they
were begun at the top and built down. The
remoter effect was to place the locality under
a social ban, and work a kind of outlawry
among the inhabitants. Several of the
houses were originaUy occupied by the
Spanish native Califomians, who, with the
conservative instincts of their race, still clung
to their casas after the Americans had flown
to pastures new and less rocky and inacces-
sible beyond. Their vacant places were
again filled by other native Califomians,
through that social law which draws the
members of an inferior and politically
degraded race into gregarious solitude and
isolation, and the locality became known as
the Spanish Quarter. That they lived in
houses utterly inconsistent with their habits
and tastes; that they afiected a locality
utteriy foreign to their inclinations or cus-
toms, was not the least pathetic and gro-
tesque element to a contemplative observer.

Before, or rather beneath one of these



structures, Mr. Ramirez stopped, and began
the ascent of a long flight of wooden steps,
that at last brought him to the foimdations
of the dwelling. Another equally long
exterior staircase brought him at last to the
veranda or gallery of the second story, the
first being partly hidden by an embankment.
Here Mr. Ramirez discovered another flight
of narrower steps leading down to a plat-
form before the front door. It was open.
In the hall-way two or three dark-faced
men were lounging, smoking cigaritoSy and
enjoying, in spite of the fog, the apparently
imseasonable n^gUg^ of shirt sleeves and no
collars. At the open front windows of the
parlor two or three women were sitting,
clad in the lightest and whitest of flounced
mushn skirts, with heavy shawls over their
heads and shoulders, as if summer had stop-
ped at their waists, like an equator.

The house was feebly lighted, or rather
the gloom of yellowish-browned walls and
dark furniture, from which aU luster and
polish had been smoked, made it seem'
darker Nearly every room and all 'the
piazzas were dim with the yellow haze of
burning cigaritos. There were light brown
stains on the shirt sleeves of the men, there
were yellowish streaks on the otherwise
spotless skirts of the women ; every mascu-
line and feminine forefinger and thumb
was steeped to its first joint with yellow.
The fumes of burnt paper and tobacco per-
meated the whole house like some religious
incense, through which occasionally strug-
gled an inspiration of red peppers and garlic.

Two or three of the loungers addressed
Ramirez m terms of grave recognition.
One of the women — the stoutest — appeared
at the door-way, holding her shawl tightly
over her shoulders with one hand, as if to
conceal a dangerous dishabille above the
waist, and, playfully shaking a black fan at
the young man with the other hand, appUed
to him the various epithets of " Ingrate,"
** Traitor," and " Judas," with great vivacity
and volubility. Then she faced him coquet-
tishly.

"And after so long, whence now, thou
little blackguard?"

" It is of business, my heart and soul,"
exclaimed Ramirez, with hasty and some-
what perfunctory gallantry. "Who is above?"

"Those who testify."

"And Don Pedro?"

" He is there, and the Seftor Perkins."

"Good. I will go on after a little,"
he nodded apologetically, as he hastily
ascended the staircase. On the first landing



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GABRIEL CONROY,



above he paused, turned doubtfully toward
tfie nearest door, and knocked hesitatingly.
There was no response. Ramirez knocked
again more sharply and decidedly. This
resulted in a quick rattling of the lock, the
sudden opening of the door, and the abrupt
appearance of a man in ragged alpaca coat
and frayed trowsers. He stared fiercely at
Ramirez, said in English, ''what in h — !
next door!" and as abruptly slammed the
door in Ramirez's &ce. Ramirez entered
hastily the room indicated by the savage
stranger, and was at once greeted by a
dense cloud of smoke and the soimd of
welcoming voices.

Around a long table d and pleased
curiosity of men to whom business and the
present importance of its results was a novelty.
At a few minutes before nine Don Pedro
re-appeared with Victor. I grieve to say
that either from the reaction of the intense
excitement of the morning, from the active
sympathy of his friend, or from the equally
soothing anodyne of aguardiente^ he was
somewhat incoherent, interjectional, and
efilusive. The effect of excessive stimulation
on passionate natures like Victor's is to ren-
der them either maudlin or affectionate.
Mr. Ramirez was both. He demanded with
tears in his eyes to be led to the ladies. He
would seek in the company of Manuela, the
stout female before introduced to the reader,
that sympathy which an injured, deceived,
and confiding nature Uke his own so deeply
craved.

On the staircase he ran against a stranger,
precise, dignified, accurately clothed and
fitted — the "Senor Perkins" just released
from his slavery, a very different person fix>m
the one accidentally disclosed to him an
hour before, on his probable way to the
gaming table, and his habitual enjoyment
of the evening of the day. In his maudlin
condition, Victor would have fain exchanged
views with him in regard to the general
deceitfidness of the fair, and the misfortunes
that attend a sincere passion, but Don Pedro
hurried him below into the parlor, and out
of the reach of the serenely contemptuous
observation of the Senor Perkins's eye. Once
in the parlor, and in the presence of the
coquettish Manuela, who was still closely
shawled, as if yet uncertain and doubtfril
in regard to the propriety of her garments
above the waist, Victor, after a few vague
remarks upon the general inability of the



sex to understand a nature so profoundly
deep and so wildly passionate as his own,
eventually succumbed in a large black hair-
cloth arm-chair, and became helplessly and
hopelessly comatose.

"We must find a bed here for him to-
night," said the sympathizing, but practical
Manuela ; " he is not fit, poor imbecile, to
be sent to his hotel Mother of God, what
is this?"

In* lifting him out of the chair into which
he had subsided with a fatal tendency to
slide to the floor, unless held by main force,
something had fallen firom his breast pocket,
and Manuela had picked it up. It was
the bowie-knife he had purchased that
morning.

''Ah!" said Manuela, *< desperate little



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 65 of 163)