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CHAPTER V


The two men kept their secret. Mr. Poindexter convinced Mrs.
Tucker that the sale of Los Cuervos could not be effected until the
notoriety of her husband's flight had been fairly forgotten, and
she was forced to accept her fate. The sale of her diamonds, which
seemed to her to have realized a singularly extravagant sum,
enabled her to quietly reinstate the Pattersons in the tienda and
to discharge in full her husband's liabilities to the rancheros and
his humbler retainers.

Meanwhile the winter rains had ceased. It seemed to her as if the
clouds had suddenly one night struck their white tents and stolen
away, leaving the unvanquished sun to mount the vacant sky the next
morning alone, and possess it thenceforward unchallenged. One
afternoon she thought the long sad waste before her window had
caught some tint of gayer color from the sunset; a week later she
found it a blazing landscape of poppies, broken here and there by
blue lagoons of lupine, by pools of daisies, by banks of dog-roses,
by broad outlying shores of dandelions that scattered their lavish
gold to the foot of the hills, where the green billows of wild oats
carried it on and upwards to the darker crest of pines. For two
months she was dazzled and bewildered with color. She had never
before been face to face with this spendthrift Californian Flora,
in her virgin wastefulness, her more than goddess-like prodigality.
The teeming earth seemed to quicken and throb beneath her feet; the
few circuits of a plough around the outlying corral were enough to
call out a jungle growth of giant grain that almost hid the low
walls of the hacienda. In this glorious fecundity of the earth, in
this joyous renewal of life and color, in this opulent youth and
freshness of soil and sky, it alone remained, the dead and sterile
Past, left in the midst of buoyant rejuvenescence and resurrection,
like an empty churchyard skull upturned on the springing turf. Its
bronzed adobe walls mocked the green vine that embraced them, the
crumbling dust of its courtyard remained ungerminating and
unfruitful; to the thousand stirring voices without, its dry lips
alone remained mute, unresponsive and unchanged.

During this time Don Jose had become a frequent visitor at Los
Cuervos, bringing with him at first his niece and sister in a
stately precision of politeness that was not lost on the proud Blue
Grass stranger. She returned their visit at Los Gatos, and there
made the formal acquaintance of Don Jose's grandmother, a lady who
still regarded the decrepit Concha as a giddy muchacha, and who
herself glittered as with the phosphorescence of refined decay.
Through this circumstance she learned that Don Jose was not yet
fifty, and that his gravity of manner and sedateness was more the
result of fastidious isolation and temperament than years. She
could not tell why the information gave her a feeling of annoyance,
but it caused her to regret the absence of Poindexter, and to
wonder, also somewhat nervously, why he had lately avoided her
presence. The thought that he might be doing so from a recollection
of the innuendoes of Mrs. Patterson caused a little tremor of
indignation in her pulses. "As if--" but she did not finish the
sentence even to herself, and her eyes filled with bitter tears.

Yet she had thought of the husband who had so cruelly wronged her
less feverishly, less impatiently than before. For she thought she
loved him now the more deeply, because, although she was not
reconciled to his absence, it seemed to keep alive the memory of
what he had been before his one wild act separated them. She had
never seen the reflection of another woman's eyes in his; the past
contained no haunting recollection of waning or alienated
affection; she could meet him again, and, clasping her arms around
him, awaken as if from a troubled dream without reproach or
explanation. Her strong belief in this made her patient; she no
longer sought to know the particulars of his flight, and never
dreamed that her passive submission to his absence was partly due
to a fear that something in his actual presence at that moment
would have destroyed that belief forever.

For this reason the delicate reticence of the people at Los Gatos,
and their seclusion from the world which knew of her husband's
fault, had made her encourage the visits of Don Jose, until from
the instinct already alluded to she one day summoned Poindexter to
Los Cuervos, on the day that Don Jose usually called. But to her
surprise the two men met more or less awkwardly and coldly, and her
tact as hostess was tried to the utmost to keep their evident
antagonism from being too apparent. The effort to reconcile their
mutual discontent, and some other feeling she did not quite
understand, produced a nervous excitement which called the blood to
her cheek and gave a dangerous brilliancy to her eyes, two
circumstances not unnoticed nor unappreciated by her two guests.
But instead of reuniting them, the prettier Mrs. Tucker became, the
more distant and reserved grew the men, until Don Jose rose before
the usual hour, and with more than usual ceremoniousness departed.

"Then my business does not seem to be with HIM?" said Poindexter,
with quiet coolness, as Mrs. Tucker turned her somewhat mystified
face towards him. "Or have you anything to say to me about him in
private?"

"I am sure I don't know what you both mean," she returned with a
slight tremor of voice. "I had no idea you were not on good terms.
I thought you were! It's very awkward." Without coquetry and
unconsciously she raised her blue eyes under her lids until the
clear pupils coyly and softly hid themselves in the corners of the
brown lashes, and added, "You have both been so kind to me."

"Perhaps that is the reason," said Poindexter, gravely. But Mrs.
Tucker refused to accept the suggestion with equal gravity, and
began to laugh. The laugh, which was at first frank, spontaneous,
and almost child-like, was becoming hysterical and nervous as she
went on, until it was suddenly checked by Poindexter.

"I have had no difficulties with Don Jose Santierra," he said,
somewhat coldly ignoring her hilarity, "but perhaps he is not
inclined to be as polite to the friend of the husband as he is to
the wife."

"Mr. Poindexter!" said Mrs. Tucker quickly, her face becoming pale
again.

"I beg your pardon!" said Poindexter, flushing; "but--"

"You want to say," she interrupted coolly, "that you are not
friends, I see. Is that the reason why you have avoided this
house?" she continued gently.

"I thought I could be of more service to you elsewhere," he replied
evasively. "I have been lately following up a certain clue rather
closely. I think I am on the track of a confidante of--of--that
woman."

A quick shadow passed over Mrs. Tucker's face. "Indeed!" she said
coldly. "Then I am to believe that you prefer to spend your
leisure moments in looking after that creature to calling here?"

Poindexter was stupefied. Was this the woman who only four months
ago was almost vindictively eager to pursue her husband's paramour!
There could be but one answer to it--Don Jose! Four months ago he
would have smiled compassionately at it from his cynical pre-
eminence. Now he managed with difficulty to stifle the bitterness
of his reply.

"If you do not wish the inquiry carried on," he began, "of course--"

"I? What does it matter to me?" she said coolly. "Do as you
please."

Nevertheless, half an hour later, as he was leaving, she said, with
a certain hesitating timidity, "Do not leave me so much alone here,
and let that woman go."

This was not the only unlooked-for sequel to her innocent desire to
propitiate her best friends. Don Jose did not call again upon his
usual day, but in his place came Dona Clara, his younger sister.
When Mrs. Tucker had politely asked after the absent Don Jose, Dona
Clara wound her swarthy arms around the fair American's waist and
replied, "But why did you send for the abogado Poindexter when my
brother called?"

"But Captain Poindexter calls as one of my friends," said the
amazed Mrs. Tucker. "He is a gentleman, and has been a soldier and
an officer," she added with some warmth.

"Ah, yes, a soldier of the law, what you call an oficial de
policia, a chief of gendarmes, my sister, but not a gentleman--a
camarero to protect a lady."

Mrs. Tucker would have uttered a hasty reply, but the perfect and
good-natured simplicity of Dona Clara withheld her. Nevertheless,
she treated Don Jose with a certain reserve at their next meeting,
until it brought the simple-minded Castilian so dangerously near
the point of demanding an explanation which implied too much that
she was obliged to restore him temporarily to his old footing.
Meantime she had a brilliant idea. She would write to Calhoun
Weaver, whom she had avoided since that memorable day. She would
say she wished to consult him. He would come to Los Cuervos; he
might suggest something to lighten this weary waiting; at least she
would show them all that she had still old friends. Yet she did
not dream of returning to her Blue Grass home; her parents had died
since she left; she shrank from the thought of dragging her ruined
life before the hopeful youth of her girlhood's companions.

Mr. Calhoun Weaver arrived promptly, ostentatiously, oracularly,
and cordially, but a little coarsely. He had--did she remember?--
expected this from the first. Spencer had lost his head through
vanity, and had attempted too much. It required foresight and
firmness, as he himself--who had lately made successful
"combinations" which she might perhaps have heard of--well knew.
But Spencer had got the "big head." "As to that woman--a devilish
handsome woman too!--well, everybody knew that Spencer always had a
weakness that way, and he would say--but if she didn't care to hear
any more about her--well, perhaps she was right. That was the best
way to take it." Sitting before her, prosperous, weak,
egotistical, incompetent, unavailable, and yet filled with a vague
kindliness of intent, Mrs. Tucker loathed him. A sickening
perception of her own weakness in sending for him, a new and aching
sense of her utter isolation and helplessness, seemed to paralyze
her.

"Nat'rally you feel bad," he continued, with the large air of a
profound student of human nature. "Nat'rally, nat'rally you're
kept in an uncomfortable state, not knowing jist how you stand.
There ain't but one thing to do. Jist rise up, quiet like, and get
a divorce agin Spencer. Hold on! There ain't a judge or jury in
California that wouldn't give it to you right off the nail, without
asking questions. Why, you 'ld get it by default if you wanted to;
you 'ld just have to walk over the course! And then, Belle," he
drew his chair still nearer her, "when you've settled down again--
well!--I don't mind renewing that offer I once made ye, before
Spencer ever came round ye--I don't mind, Belle, I swear I don't!
Honest Injin! I'm in earnest, there's my hand!"

Mrs. Tucker's reply has not been recorded. Enough that half an
hour later Mr. Weaver appeared in the courtyard with traces of
tears on his foolish face, a broken falsetto voice, and other
evidence of mental and moral disturbance. His cordiality and
oracular predisposition remained sufficiently to enable him to
suggest the magical words "Blue Grass" mysteriously to Concha, with
an indication of his hand to the erect figure of her pale mistress
in the doorway, who waved to him a silent but half-compassionate
farewell.

At about this time a slight change in her manner was noticed by the
few who saw her more frequently. Her apparently invincible
girlishness of spirit had given way to a certain matronly
seriousness. She applied herself to her household cares and the
improvement of the hacienda with a new sense of duty and a settled
earnestness, until by degrees she wrought into it not only her
instinctive delicacy and taste, but part of her own individuality.
Even the rude rancheros and tradesmen who were permitted to enter
the walls in the exercise of their calling began to speak
mysteriously of the beauty of this garden of the almarjal. She
went out but seldom, and then accompanied by the one or the other
of her female servants, in long drives on unfrequented roads. On
Sundays she sometimes drove to the half-ruined mission church of
Santa Inez, and hid herself, during mass, in the dim monastic
shadows of the choir. Gradually the poorer people whom she met in
these journeys began to show an almost devotional reverence for
her, stopping in the roads with uncovered heads for her to pass, or
making way for her in the tienda or plaza of the wretched town with
dumb courtesy. She began to feel a strange sense of widowhood,
that, while it at times brought tears to her eyes, was, not without
a certain tender solace. In the sympathy and simpleness of this
impulse she went as far as to revive the mourning she had worn for
her parents, but with such a fatal accenting of her beauty, and
dangerous misinterpreting of her condition to eligible bachelors
strange to the country, that she was obliged to put it off again.
Her reserve and dignified manner caused others to mistake her
nationality for that of the Santierras, and in "Dona Bella" the
simple Mrs. Tucker was for a while forgotten. At times she even
forgot it herself. Accustomed now almost entirely to the accents
of another language and the features of another race, she would sit
for hours in the corridor, whose massive bronzed inclosure even her
tasteful care could only make an embowered mausoleum of the Past,
or gaze abstractedly from the dark embrasures of her windows across
the stretching almarjal to the shining lagoon beyond that
terminated the estuary. She had a strange fondness for this
tranquil mirror, which under sun or stars always retained the
passive reflex of the sky above, and seemed to rest her weary eyes.
She had objected to one of the plans projected by Poindexter to
redeem the land and deepen the water at the embarcadero, as it
would have drained the lagoon, and the lawyer had postponed the
improvement to gratify her fancy. So she kept it through the long
summer unchanged save by the shadows of passing wings or the lazy
files of sleeping sea-fowl.

On one of these afternoons she noticed a slowly moving carriage
leave the high road and cross the almarjal skirting the edge of the
lagoon. If it contained visitors for Los Cuervos they had
evidently taken a shorter cut without waiting to go on to the
regular road which intersected the highway at right angles a mile
farther on. It was with some sense of annoyance and irritation
that she watched the trespass, and finally saw the vehicle approach
the house. A few moments later the servant informed her that Mr.
Patterson would like to see her alone. When she entered the
corridor, which in the dry season served as a reception hall, she
was surprised to see that Patterson was not alone. Near him stood
a well-dressed handsome woman, gazing about her with good-humored
admiration of Mrs. Tucker's taste and ingenuity.

"It don't look much like it did two years ago," said the stranger
cheerfully. "You've improved it wonderfully."

Stiffening slightly, Mrs. Tucker turned inquiringly to Mr.
Patterson. But that gentleman's usual profound melancholy appeared
to be intensified by the hilarity of his companion. He only sighed
deeply and rubbed his leg with the brim of his hat in gloomy
abstraction.

"Well! go on, then," said the woman, laughing and nudging him. "Go
on--introduce me--can't you? Don't stand there like a tombstone.
You won't? Well, I'll introduce myself." She laughed again, and
then, with an excellent imitation of Patterson's lugubrious
accents, said, "Mr. Spencer Tucker's wife that IS, allow me to
introduce you to Mr. Spencer Tucker's sweetheart that WAS! Hold
on! I said THAT WAS. For true as I stand here, ma'am--and I
reckon I wouldn't stand here if it wasn't true--I haven't set eyes
on him since the day he left you."

"It's the Gospel truth, every word," said Patterson, stirred into a
sudden activity by Mrs. Tucker's white and rigid face. "It's the
frozen truth, and I kin prove it. For I kin swear that when that
there young woman was sailin' outer the Golden Gate, Spencer Tucker
was in my bar room; I kin swear that I fed him, lickered him, give
him a hoss and set him in his road to Monterey that very night."

"Then, where is he now?" said Mrs. Tucker, suddenly facing them.

They looked at each other, and then looked at Mrs. Tucker. Then
both together replied slowly and in perfect unison, "That's--what--
we--want--to--know." They seemed so satisfied with this effect
that they as deliberately repeated, "Yes--that's--what--we--want--
to--know."

Between the shock of meeting the partner of her husband's guilt and
the unexpected revelation to her inexperience, that in suggestion
and appearance there was nothing beyond the recollection of that
guilt that was really shocking in the woman--between the
extravagant extremes of hope and fear suggested by their words,
there was something so grotesquely absurd in the melodramatic
chorus that she with difficulty suppressed a hysterical laugh.

"That's the way to take it," said the woman, putting her own good-
humored interpretation upon Mrs. Tucker's expression. "Now, look
here! I'll tell you all about it." She carefully selected the
most comfortable chair, and sitting down, lightly crossed her hands
in her lap. "Well, I left here on the 13th of last January on the
ship Argo, calculating that your husband would join the ship just
inside the Heads. That was our arrangement, but if anything
happened to prevent him, he was to join me in Acapulco. Well! He
didn't come aboard, and we sailed without him. But it appears now
he did attempt to join the ship, but his boat was capsized. There,
now, don't be alarmed! he wasn't drowned, as Patterson can swear
to--no, catch HIM! not a hair of him was hurt; but I--I was bundled
off to the end of the earth in Mexico, alone, without a cent to
bless me. For true as you live, that hound of a captain, when he
found, as he thought, that Spencer was nabbed, he just confiscated
all his trunks and valuables and left me in the lurch. If I hadn't
met a man down there that offered to marry me and brought me here,
I might have died there, I reckon. But I did, and here I am. I
went down there as your husband's sweetheart, I've come back as the
wife of an honest man, and I reckon it's about square!"

There was something so startlingly frank, so hopelessly self-
satisfied, so contagiously good-humored in the woman's perfect
moral unconsciousness, that even if Mrs. Tucker had been less
preoccupied her resentment would have abated. But her eyes were
fixed on the gloomy face of Patterson, who was beginning to unlock
the sepulchres of his memory and disinter his deeply buried
thoughts.

"You kin bet your whole pile on what this Mrs. Capting Baxter--ez
used to be French Inez of New Orleans--hez told ye. Ye kin take
everything she's unloaded. And it's only doin' the square thing to
her to say, she hain't done it out o' no cussedness, but just to
satisfy herself, now she's a married woman and past such
foolishness. But that ain't neither here nor there. The gist of
the whole matter is that Spencer Tucker was at the tienda the day
after she sailed and after his boat capsized." He then gave a
detailed account of the interview, with the unnecessary but
truthful minutiae of his class, adding to the particulars already
known that the following week he visited the Summit House and was
surprised to find that Spencer had never been there, nor had he
ever sailed from Monterey.

"But why was this not told to me before?" said Mrs. Tucker,
suddenly. "Why not at the time? Why," she demanded almost
fiercely, turning from the one to the other, "has this been kept
from me?"

"I'll tell ye why," said Patterson, sinking with crushed submission
into a chair. "When I found he wasn't where he ought to be, I got
to lookin' elsewhere. I knew the track of the hoss I lent him by a
loose shoe. I examined; and found he had turned off the high road
somewhere beyond the lagoon, jist as if he was makin' a bee line
here."

"Well," said Mrs. Tucker, breathlessly.

"Well," said Patterson, with the resigned tone of an accustomed
martyr, "mebbe I'm a God-forsaken idiot, but I reckon he DID come
yer. And mebbe I'm that much of a habitooal lunatic, but thinking
so, I calkilated you'ld know it without tellin'."

With their eyes fixed upon her, Mrs. Tucker felt the quick blood
rush to her cheeks, although she knew not why. But they were
apparently satisfied with her ignorance, for Patterson resumed,
yet more gloomily:--

"Then if he wasn't hidin' here beknownst to you, he must have
changed his mind agin and got away by the embarcadero. The only
thing wantin' to prove that idea is to know how he got a boat,
and what he did with the hoss. And thar's one more idea, and ez
that can't be proved," continued Patterson, sinking his voice
still lower, "mebbe it's accordin' to God's laws."

Unsympathetic to her as the speaker had always been and still
was, Mrs. Tucker felt a vague chill creep over her that seemed
to be the result of his manner more than his words. "And that
idea is . . . ?" she suggested with pale lips.

"It's this! Fust, I don't say it means much to anybody but me.
I've heard of these warnings afore now, ez comin' only to folks ez
hear them for themselves alone, and I reckon I kin stand it, if
it's the will o' God. The idea is then--that--Spencer Tucker--WAS
DROWNDED in that boat; the idea is"--his voice was almost lost in a
hoarse whisper--"that it was no living man that kem to me that
night, but a spirit that kem out of the darkness and went back into
it! No eye saw him but mine--no ears heard him but mine. I reckon
it weren't intended it should." He paused, and passed the flap of
his hat across his eyes. "The pie, you'll say, is agin it," he
continued in the same tone of voice,--"the whiskey is agin it--a
few cuss words that dropped from him, accidental like, may have
been agin it. All the same they mout have been only the little
signs and tokens that it was him."

But Mrs. Baxter's ready laugh somewhat rudely dispelled the
infection of Patterson's gloom. "I reckon the only spirit was that
which you and Spencer consumed," she said, cheerfully. "I don't
wonder you're a little mixed. Like as not you've misunderstood his
plans." Patterson shook his head. "He'll turn up yet, alive and
kicking! Like as not, then, Poindexter knows where he is all the
time."

"Impossible! He would have told me," said Mrs. Tucker, quickly.

Mrs. Baxter looked at Patterson without speaking. Patterson
replied by a long lugubrious whistle.

"I don't understand you," said Mrs. Tucker, drawing back with cold
dignity.

"You don't?" returned Mrs. Baxter. "Bless your innocent heart!
Why was he so keen to hunt me up at first, shadowing my friends and
all that, and why has he dropped it now he knows I'm here, if he
didn't know where Spencer was?"

"I can explain that," interrupted Mrs. Tucker, hastily, with a
blush of confusion. "That is--I--"

"Then mebbe you kin explain too," broke in Patterson with gloomy
significance, "why he has bought up most of Spencer's debts
himself, and perhaps you're satisfied it ISN'T to hold the whip
hand of him and keep him from coming back openly. Pr'aps you know
why he's movin' heaven and earth to make Don Jose Santierra sell
the ranch, and why the Don don't see it all."

"Don Jose sell Los Cuervos! Buy it, you mean?" said Mrs. Tucker.
"I offered to sell it to him."

Patterson arose from the chair, looked despairingly around him,
passed his hand sadly across his forehead, and said: "It's come! I
knew it would. It's the warning! It's suthing betwixt jim-jams
and doddering idjiocy. Here I'd hev been willin' to swear that
Mrs. Baxter here told me SHE had sold this yer ranch nearly two
years ago to Don Jose, and now you--"

"Stop!" said Mrs. Tucker, in a voice that chilled them.

She was standing upright and rigid, as if stricken to stone. "I
command you to tell me what this means!" she said, turning only her
blazing eyes upon the woman.

Even the ready smile faded from Mrs. Baxter's lips as she replied
hesitatingly and submissively: "I thought you knew already that
Spencer had given this ranch to me. I sold it to Don Jose to get
the money for us to go away with. It was Spencer's idea--"

"You lie!" said Mrs. Tucker.

There was a dead silence. The wrathful blood that had quickly
mounted to Mrs. Baxter's cheek, to Patterson's additional
bewilderment, faded as quickly. She did not lift her eyes again to
Mrs. Tucker's, but, slowly raising herself from her seat, said, "I
wish to God I did lie; but it's true. And it's true that I never
touched a cent of the money, but gave it all to him!" She laid her
hand on Patterson's arm, and said, "Come! let us go," and led him a
few steps towards the gateway. But here Patterson paused, and
again passed his hand over his melancholy brow. The necessity of
coherently and logically closing the conversation impressed itself
upon his darkening mind. "Then you don't happen to have heard
anything of Spencer?" he said sadly, and vanished with Mrs. Baxter
through the gate.

Left alone to herself, Mrs. Tucker raised her hands above her head
with a little cry, interlocked her rigid fingers, and slowly
brought her palms down upon her upturned face and eyes, pressing
hard as if to crush out all light and sense of life before her.
She stood thus for a moment motionless and silent, with the rising
wind whispering without and flecking her white morning dress with
gusty shadows from the arbor. Then, with closed eyes, dropping her
hands to her breast, still pressing hard, she slowly passed them
down the shapely contours of her figure to the waist, and with
another cry cast them off as if she were stripping herself of some
loathsome garment. Then she walked quickly to the gateway, looked
out, returned to the corridor, unloosening and taking off her
wedding-ring from her finger as she walked. Here she paused, then
slowly and deliberately rearranged the chairs and adjusted the gay-
colored rugs that draped them, and quietly re-entered her chamber.


Two days afterwards the sweating steed of Captain Poindexter was
turned loose in the corral, and a moment later the captain entered
the corridor. Handing a letter to the decrepit Concha, who seemed
to be utterly disorganized by its contents, and the few curt words
with which it was delivered, he gazed silently upon the vacant
bower, still fresh and redolent with the delicacy and perfume of
its graceful occupant, until his dark eyes filled with unaccustomed
moisture. But his reverie was interrupted by the sound of jingling
spurs without, and the old humor struggled back in his eyes as Don
Jose impetuously entered. The Spaniard started back, but instantly
recovered himself.

"So I find you here. Ah! it is well!" he said passionately,
producing a letter from his bosom. "Look! Do you call this honor?
Look how you keep your compact!"

Poindexter coolly took the letter. It contained a few words of
gentle dignity from Mrs. Tucker, informing Don Jose that she had
only that instant learned of his just claims upon Los Cuervos,
tendering him her gratitude for his delicate intentions, but
pointing out with respectful firmness that he must know that a
moment's further acceptance of his courtesy was impossible.

"She has gained this knowledge from no word of mine," said
Poindexter, calmly. "Right or wrong, I have kept my promise to
you. I have as much reason to accuse you of betraying my secret in
this," he added coldly, as he took another letter from his pocket
and handed it to Don Jose.

It seemed briefer and colder, but was neither. It reminded
Poindexter that as he had again deceived her she must take the
government of her affairs in her own hands henceforth. She
abandoned all the furniture and improvements she had put in Los
Cuervos to him, to whom she now knew she was indebted for them.
She could not thank him for what his habitual generosity
impelled him to do for any woman, but she could forgive him for
misunderstanding her like any other woman, perhaps she should say,
like a child. When he received this she would be already on her
way to her old home in Kentucky, where she still hoped to be able
by her own efforts to amass enough to discharge her obligations to
him.

"She does not speak of her husband, this woman," said Don Jose,
scanning Poindexter's face. "It is possible she rejoins him, eh?"

"Perhaps in one way she has never left him, Don Jose," said
Poindexter, with grave significance.

Don Jose's face flushed, but he returned carelessly, "And the
rancho, naturally you will not buy it now?"

"On the contrary, I shall abide by my offer," said Poindexter,
quietly.

Don Jose eyed him narrowly, and then said, "Ah, we shall consider
of it."

He did consider it, and accepted the offer. With the full control
of the land, Captain Poindexter's improvements, so indefinitely
postponed, were actively pushed forward. The thick walls of the
hacienda were the first to melt away before them; the low lines of
corral were effaced, and the early breath of the summer trade winds
swept uninterruptedly across the now leveled plain to the
embarcadero, where a newer structure arose. A more vivid green
alone marked the spot where the crumbling adobe walls of the casa
had returned to the parent soil that gave it. The channel was
deepened, the lagoon was drained, until one evening the magic
mirror that had so long reflected the weary waiting of the Blue
Grass Penelope lay dull, dead, lustreless, an opaque quagmire of
noisome corruption and decay to be put away from the sight of man
forever. On this spot the crows, the titular tenants of Los
Cuervos, assembled in tumultuous congress, coming and going in
mysterious clouds, or laboring in thick and writhing masses, as if
they were continuing the work of improvement begun by human agency.
So well had they done the work that by the end of a week only a few
scattered white objects remained glittering on the surface of the
quickly drying soil. But they were the bones of the missing
outcast, Spencer Tucker!

    .     .     .     .     .     .

The same spring a breath of war swept over a foul, decaying
quagmire of the whole land, before which such passing deeds as
these were blown as vapor. It called men of all rank and condition
to battle for a nation's life, and among the first to respond were
those into whose boyish hands had been placed the nation's honor.
It returned the epaulets to Poindexter's shoulder with the addition
of a double star, carried him triumphantly to the front, and left
him, at the end of a summer's day and a hard-won fight, sorely
wounded, at the door of a Blue Grass farmhouse. And the woman who
sought him out and ministered to his wants said timidly, as she
left her hand in his, "I told you I should live to repay you."





On the Frontier by Bret Harte
Category:
General Fiction
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