The Passing of Enriquez by Bret Harte
When Enriquez Saltillo ran away with Miss Mannersley, as already recorded
in these chronicles,* her relatives and friends found it much easier to
forgive that ill-assorted union than to understand it. For, after all,
Enriquez was the scion of an old Spanish-Californian family, and in due
time would have his share of his father's three square leagues, whatever
incongruity there was between his lively Latin extravagance and Miss
Mannersley's Puritan precision and intellectual superiority. They had gone
to Mexico; Mrs. Saltillo, as was known, having an interest in Aztec
antiquities, and he being utterly submissive to her wishes. For myself
from my knowledge of Enriquez's nature, I had grave doubts of his entire
subjugation, although I knew the prevailing opinion was that Mrs.
Saltillo's superiority would speedily tame him. Since his brief and
characteristic note apprising me of his marriage, I had not heard from
him. It was, therefore, with some surprise, a good deal of reminiscent
affection, and a slight twinge of reproach that, two years after, I looked
up from some proofs, in the sanctum of the "Daily Excelsior," to recognize
his handwriting on a note that was handed to me by a yellow Mexican boy.
* See "The Devotion of Enriquez," in Selected Stories by
Bret Harte Gutenberg #1312.
A single glance at its contents showed me that Mrs. Saltillo's correct
Bostonian speech had not yet subdued Enriquez's peculiar Spanish-American
"Here we are again,—right side up with care,—at 1110 Dupont
Street, Telegraph Hill. Second floor from top. 'Ring and push.' 'No book
agents need apply.' How's your royal nibs? I kiss your hand! Come at six,—the
band shall play at seven,—and regard your friend 'Mees Boston,' who
will tell you about the little old nigger boys, and your old Uncle
Two things struck me: Enriquez had not changed; Mrs. Saltillo had
certainly yielded up some of her peculiar prejudices. For the address
given, far from being a fashionable district, was known as the "Spanish
quarter," which, while it still held some old Spanish families, was
chiefly given over to half-castes and obscurer foreigners. Even poverty
could not have driven Mrs. Saltillo to such a refuge against her will;
nevertheless, a good deal of concern for Enriquez's fortune mingled with
my curiosity, as I impatiently waited for six o'clock to satisfy it.
It was a breezy climb to 1110 Dupont Street; and although the street had
been graded, the houses retained their airy elevation, and were accessible
only by successive flights of wooden steps to the front door, which still
gave perilously upon the street, sixty feet below. I now painfully
appreciated Enriquez's adaptation of the time-honored joke about the
second floor. An invincible smell of garlic almost took my remaining
breath away as the door was opened to me by a swarthy Mexican woman, whose
loose camisa seemed to be slipping from her unstable bust, and was held on
only by the mantua-like shawl which supplemented it, gripped by one brown
hand. Dizzy from my ascent to that narrow perch, which looked upon nothing
but the distant bay and shores of Contra Costa, I felt as apologetic as if
I had landed from a balloon; but the woman greeted me with a languid
Spanish smile and a lazy display of white teeth, as if my arrival was
quite natural. Don Enriquez, "of a fact," was not himself in the casa, but
was expected "on the instant." "Donna Urania" was at home.
"Donna Urania"? For an instant I had forgotten that Mrs. Saltillo's first
name was Urania, so pleasantly and spontaneously did it fall from the
Spanish lips. Nor was I displeased at this chance of learning something of
Don Enriquez's fortunes and the Saltillo menage before confronting my old
friend. The servant preceded me to the next floor, and, opening a door,
ushered me into the lady's presence.
I had carried with me, on that upward climb, a lively recollection of Miss
Mannersley as I had known her two years before. I remembered her upright,
almost stiff, slight figure, the graceful precision of her poses, the
faultless symmetry and taste of her dress, and the atmosphere of a
fastidious and wholesome cleanliness which exhaled from her. In the lady I
saw before me, half reclining in a rocking-chair, there was none of the
stiffness and nicety. Habited in a loose gown of some easy, flexible, but
rich material, worn with that peculiarly indolent slouch of the Mexican
woman, Mrs. Saltillo had parted with half her individuality. Even her
arched feet and thin ankles, the close-fitting boots or small slippers of
which were wont to accent their delicacy, were now lost in a short,
low-quartered kid shoe of the Spanish type, in which they moved loosely.
Her hair, which she had always worn with a certain Greek simplicity, was
parted at one side. Yet her face, with its regularity of feature, and
small, thin, red-lipped mouth, was quite unchanged; and her velvety brown
eyes were as beautiful and inscrutable as ever.
With the same glance I had taken in her surroundings, quite as incongruous
to her former habits. The furniture, though of old and heavy mahogany, had
suffered from careless alien hands, and was interspersed with modern and
unmatchable makeshifts, yet preserving the distinctly scant and formal
attitude of furnished lodgings. It was certainly unlike the artistic
trifles and delicate refinements of her uncle's drawing-room, which we all
knew her taste had dictated and ruled. The black and white engravings, the
outlined heads of Minerva and Diana, were excluded from the walls for two
cheap colored Catholic prints,—a soulless Virgin, and the mystery of
the Bleeding Heart. Against the wall, in one corner, hung the only object
which seemed a memento of their travels,—a singular-looking upright
Indian "papoose-case" or cradle, glaringly decorated with beads and paint,
probably an Aztec relic. On a round table, the velvet cover of which
showed marks of usage and abusage, there were scattered books and writing
materials; and my editorial instinct suddenly recognized, with a thrill of
apprehension, the loose leaves of an undoubted manuscript. This
circumstance, taken with the fact of Donna Urania's hair being parted on
one side, and the general negligee of her appearance, was a disturbing
My wandering eye apparently struck her, for after the first greeting she
pointed to the manuscript with a smile.
"Yes; that is THE manuscript. I suppose Enriquez told you all about it? He
said he had written."
I was dumfounded. I certainly had not understood ALL of Enriquez's slang;
it was always so decidedly his own, and peculiar. Yet I could not recall
any allusion to this.
"He told me something of it, but very vaguely," I ventured to say
deprecatingly; "but I am afraid that I thought more of seeing my old
friend again than of anything else."
"During our stay in Mexico," continued Mrs. Saltillo, with something of
her old precision, "I made some researches into Aztec history, a subject
always deeply interesting to me, and I thought I would utilize the result
by throwing it on paper. Of course it is better fitted for a volume of
reference than for a newspaper, but Enriquez thought you might want to use
it for your journal."
I knew that Enriquez had no taste for literature, and had even rather
depreciated it in the old days, with his usual extravagance; but I managed
to say very pleasantly that I was delighted with his suggestion and should
be glad to read the manuscript. After all, it was not improbable that Mrs.
Saltillo, who was educated and intelligent, should write well, if not
popularly. "Then Enriquez does not begrudge you the time that your work
takes from him," I added laughingly. "You seem to have occupied your
"We quite comprehend our respective duties," said Mrs. Saltillo dryly;
"and have from the first. We have our own lives to live, independent of my
uncle and Enriquez's father. We have not only accepted the responsibility
of our own actions, but we both feel the higher privilege of creating our
own conditions without extraneous aid from our relatives."
It struck me that this somewhat exalted statement was decidedly a pose, or
a return of Urania Mannersley's old ironical style. I looked quietly into
her brown, near-sighted eyes; but, as once before, my glance seemed to
slip from their moist surface without penetrating the inner thought
beneath. "And what does Enriquez do for HIS part?" I asked smilingly.
I fully expected to hear that the energetic Enriquez was utilizing his
peculiar tastes and experiences by horse-breaking, stock-raising,
professional bull-fighting, or even horse-racing, but was quite astonished
when she answered quietly:—
"Enriquez is giving himself up to geology and practical metallurgy, with a
view to scientific, purely scientific, mining."
Enriquez and geology! In that instant all I could remember of it were his
gibes at the "geologian," as he was wont to term Professor Dobbs, a former
admirer of Miss Mannersley's. To add to my confusion Mrs. Saltillo at the
same moment absolutely voiced my thought.
"You may remember Professor Dobbs," she went on calmly, "one of the most
eminent scientists over here, and a very old Boston friend. He has taken
Enriquez in hand. His progress is most satisfactory; we have the greatest
hopes of him."
"And how soon do you both hope to have some practical results of his
study?" I could not help asking a little mischievously; for I somehow
resented the plural pronoun in her last sentence.
"Very soon," said Mrs. Saltillo, ignoring everything but the question.
"You know Enriquez's sanguine temperament. Perhaps he is already given to
evolving theories without a sufficient basis of fact. Still, he has the
daring of a discoverer. His ideas of the oolitic formation are not without
originality, and Professor Dobbs says that in his conception of the
Silurian beach there are gleams that are distinctly precious."
I looked at Mrs. Saltillo, who had reinforced her eyes with her old
piquant pince-nez, but could detect no irony in them. She was prettily
imperturbable, that was all. There was an awkward silence. Then it was
broken by a bounding step on the stairs, a wide-open fling of the door,
and Enriquez pirouetted into the room: Enriquez, as of old, unchanged from
the crown of his smooth, coal-black hair to the tips of his small, narrow
Arabian feet; Enriquez, with his thin, curling mustache, his dancing eyes
set in his immovable face, just as I had always known him!
He affected to lapse against the door for a minute, as if staggered by a
resplendent vision. Then he said:—
"What do I regard? Is it a dream, or have I again got them—thees
jimjams? My best friend and my best—I mean my ONLY—wife!
He gave me an enthusiastic embrace and a wink like sheet-lightning, passed
quickly to his wife, before whom he dropped on one knee, raised the toe of
her slipper to his lips, and then sank on the sofa in simulated collapse,
murmuring, "Thees is too mooch of white stone for one day!"
Through all this I saw his wife regarding him with exactly the same
critically amused expression with which she had looked upon him in the
days of their strange courtship. She evidently had not tired of his
extravagance, and yet I feel as puzzled by her manner as then. She rose
and said: "I suppose you have a good deal to say to each other, and I will
leave you by yourselves." Turning to her husband, she added, "I have
already spoken about the Aztec manuscript."
The word brought Enriquez to his feet again. "Ah! The little old nigger—you
have read?" I began to understand. "My wife, my best friend, and the
little old nigger, all in one day. Eet is perfect!" Nevertheless, in spite
of this ecstatic and overpowering combination, he hurried to take his
wife's hand; kissing it, he led her to a door opening into another room,
made her a low bow to the ground as she passed out, and then rejoined me.
"So these are the little old niggers you spoke of in your note," I said,
pointing to the manuscript. "Deuce take me if I understood you!"
"Ah, my leetle brother, it is YOU who have changed!" said Enriquez
dolorously. "Is it that you no more understand American, or have the 'big
head' of the editor? Regard me! Of these Aztecs my wife have made study.
She have pursued the little nigger to his cave, his grotto, where he is
dead a thousand year. I have myself assist, though I like it not, because
thees mummy, look you, Pancho, is not lively. And the mummy who is not
dead, believe me! even the young lady mummy, you shall not take to your
heart. But my wife"—he stopped, and kissed his hand toward the door
whence she had flitted—"ah, SHE is wonderful! She has made the story
of them, the peecture of them, from the life and on the instant! You shall
take them, my leetle brother, for your journal; you shall announce in the
big letter: 'Mooch Importance. The Aztec, He is Found.' 'How He Look and
Lif.' 'The Everlasting Nigger.' You shall sell many paper, and Urania
shall have scoop in much spondulics and rocks. Hoop-la! For—you
comprehend?—my wife and I have settled that she shall forgif her
oncle; I shall forgif my father; but from them we take no cent, not a red,
not a scad! We are independent! Of ourselves we make a Fourth of July.
United we stand; divided we shall fall over! There you are! Bueno!"
It was impossible to resist his wild, yet perfectly sincere, extravagance,
his dancing black eyes and occasional flash of white teeth in his
otherwise immovable and serious countenance. Nevertheless, I managed to
"But how about yourself, Enriquez, and this geology, you know?"
His eyes twinkled. "Ah, you shall hear. But first you shall take a drink.
I have the very old Bourbon. He is not so old as the Aztec, but, believe
me, he is very much liflier. Attend! Hol' on!" He was already rummaging on
a shelf, but apparently without success; then he explored a buffet, with
no better results, and finally attacked a large drawer, throwing out on
the floor, with his old impetuosity, a number of geological specimens,
carefully labeled. I picked up one that had rolled near me. It was labeled
"Conglomerate sandstone." I picked up another: it had the same label.
"Then you are really collecting?" I said, with astonishment.
"Ciertamente," responded Enriquez,—"what other fool shall I look? I
shall relate of this geology when I shall have found this beast of a
bottle. Ah, here he have hide!" He extracted from a drawer a bottle nearly
full of spirits,—tippling was not one of Enriquez's vices. "You
shall say 'when.' 'Ere's to our noble selfs!"
When he had drunk, I picked up another fragment of his collection. It had
the same label. "You are very rich in 'conglomerate sandstone,'" I said.
"Where do you find it?"
"In the street," said Enriquez, with great calmness.
"In the street?" I echoed.
"Yes, my friend! He ees call the 'cobblestone,' also the 'pouding-stone,'
when he ees at his home in the country. He ees also a small 'boulder.' I
pick him up; I crack him; he made three separate piece of conglomerate
sandstone. I bring him home to my wife in my pocket. She rejoice; we are
happy. When comes the efening, I sit down and make him a label; while my
wife, she sit down and write of the Aztec. Ah, my friend, you shall say of
the geology it ees a fine, a BEAUTIFUL study; but the study of the wife,
and what shall please her, believe me, ees much finer! Believe your old
Uncle 'Ennery every time! On thees question he gets there; he gets left,
"But Professor Dobbs, your geologian, what does HE say to this frequent
recurrence of the conglomerate sandstone period in your study?" I asked
"He say nothing. You comprehend? He ees a profound geologian, but he also
has the admiration excessif for my wife Urania." He stopped to kiss his
hand again toward the door, and lighted a cigarette. "The geologian would
not that he should break up the happy efening of his friends by thees
small detail. He put aside his head—so; he say, 'A leetle freestone,
a leetle granite, now and then, for variety; they are building in
Montgomery Street.' I take the hint, like a wink to the horse that has
gone blind. I attach to myself part of the edifice that is erecting
himself in Montgomery Street. I crack him; I bring him home. I sit again
at the feet of my beautiful Urania, and I label him 'Freestone,'
'Granite;' but I do not say 'from Parrott's Bank'—eet is not
necessary for our happiness."
"And you do this sort of thing only because you think it pleases your
wife?" I asked bluntly.
"My friend," rejoined Enriquez, perching himself on the back of the sofa,
and caressing his knees as he puffed his cigarette meditatively, "you have
ask a conundrum. Gif to me an easier one! It is of truth that I make much
of these thing to please Urania. But I shall confess all. Behold, I appear
to you, my leetle brother, in my camisa—my shirt! I blow on myself;
I gif myself away."
He rose gravely from the sofa, and drew a small box from one of the
drawers of the wardrobe. Opening it, he discovered several specimens of
gold-bearing quartz, and one or two scales of gold. "Thees," he said,
"friend Pancho, is my own geology; for thees I am what you see. But I say
nothing to Urania; for she have much disgust of mere gold,—of what
she calls 'vulgar mining,'—and believe me, a fear of the effect of
'speculation' upon my temperamento—you comprehend my complexion, my
brother? Reflect upon it, Pancho! I, who am the filosofo, if that I am
anything!" He looked at me with great levity of eye and supernatural
gravity of demeanor. "But eet ees the jealous affection of the wife, my
friend, for which I make play to her with the humble leetle pouding-stone
rather than the gold quartz that affrights."
"But what do you want with them, if you have no shares in anything and do
not speculate?" I asked.
"Pardon! That ees where you slip up, my leetle friend." He took from the
same drawer a clasped portfolio, and unlocked it, producing half a dozen
prospectuses and certificates of mining shares. I stood aghast as I
recognized the names of one or two extravagant failures of the last ten
years,—"played-out" mines that had been galvanized into deceptive
life in London, Paris, and New York, to the grief of shareholders abroad
and the laughter of the initiated at home. I could scarcely keep my
equanimity. "You do not mean to say that you have any belief or interest
in this rubbish?" I said quickly.
"What you call 'rubbish,' my good Pancho, ees the rubbish that the
American speculator have dump himself upon them in the shaft, the rubbish
of the advertisement, of the extravagant expense, of the salary, of the
assessment, of the 'freeze-out.' For thees, look you, is the old Mexican
mine. My grandfather and hees father have both seen them work before you
were born, and the American knew not there was gold in California."
I knew he spoke truly. One or two were original silver mines in the south,
worked by peons and Indian slaves, a rope windlass, and a venerable
"But those were silver mines," I said suspiciously, "and these are gold
"They are from the same mother," said the imperturbable Enriquez,—"the
same mine. The old peons worked him for SILVER, the precious dollar that
buy everything, that he send in the galleon to the Philippines for the
silk and spice! THAT is good enough for HIM! For the gold he made nothing,
even as my leetle wife Urania. And regard me here! There ees a proverb of
my father's which say that 'it shall take a gold mine to work a silver
mine,' so mooch more he cost. You work him, you are lost! Naturalmente, if
you turn him round, if it take you only a silver mine to work a gold mine,
you are gain. Thees ees logic!"
The intense gravity of his face at this extraordinary deduction upset my
own. But as I was never certain that Enriquez was not purposely mystifying
me, with some ulterior object, I could not help saying a little wickedly:—
"Yes, I understand all that; but how about this geologian? Will he not
tell your wife? You know he was a great admirer of hers."
"That shall show the great intelligence of him, my Pancho. He will have
the four S's,' especially the secreto!"
There could be no serious discussion in his present mood. I gathered up
the pages of his wife's manuscript, said lightly that, as she had the
first claim upon my time, I should examine the Aztec material and report
in a day or two. As I knew I had little chance in the hands of these two
incomprehensibles together, I begged him not to call his wife, but to
convey my adieus to her, and, in spite of his embraces and protestations,
I managed to get out of the room. But I had scarcely reached the front
door when I heard Enriquez's voice and his bounding step on the stairs. In
another moment his arm was round my neck.
"You must return on the instant! Mother of God! I haf forget, SHE haf
forget, WE all haf forget! But you have not seen him!"
"El nino, the baby! You comprehend, pig! The criaturica, the leetle child
"The baby?" I said confusedly. "IS there—is there a BABY?"
"You hear him?" said Enriquez, sending an appealing voice upward. "You
hear him, Urania? You comprehend. This beast of a leetle brother demands
if there ees one!"
"I beg your pardon," I said, hurriedly reascending the stairs. On the
landing I met Mrs. Saltillo, but as calm, composed, and precise as her
husband was extravagant and vehement. "It was an oversight of Enriquez's,"
she said quietly, reentering the room with us; "and was all the more
strange, as the child was in the room with you all the time."
She pointed to the corner of the wall, where hung what I had believed to
be an old Indian relic. To my consternation, it WAS a bark "papoose-case,"
occupied by a LIVING child, swathed and bandaged after the approved Indian
fashion. It was asleep, I believe, but it opened a pair of bright
huckleberry eyes, set in the smallest of features, that were like those of
a carved ivory idol, and uttered a "coo" at the sound of its mother's
voice. She stood on one side with unruffled composure, while Enriquez
threw himself into an attitude before it, with clasped hands, as if it had
been an image of the Holy Child. For myself, I was too astounded to speak;
luckily, my confusion was attributed to the inexperience of a bachelor.
"I have adopted," said Mrs. Saltillo, with the faintest touch of maternal
pride in her manner, "what I am convinced is the only natural and hygienic
mode of treating the human child. It may be said to be a reversion to the
aborigine, but I have yet to learn that it is not superior to our
civilized custom. By these bandages the limbs of the infant are kept in
proper position until they are strong enough to support the body, and such
a thing as malformation is unknown. It is protected by its cradle, which
takes the place of its incubating-shell, from external injury, the
injudicious coddling of nurses, the so-called 'dancings' and pernicious
rockings. The supine position, as in the adult, is imposed only at night.
By the aid of this strap it may be carried on long journeys, either by
myself or by Enriquez, who thus shares with me, as he fully recognizes,
its equal responsibility and burden."
"It—certainly does not—cry," I stammered.
"Crying," said Mrs. Saltillo, with a curve of her pretty red lip, "is the
protest of the child against insanitary and artificial treatment. In its
upright, unostentatious cradle it is protected against that injudicious
fondling and dangerous promiscuous osculation to which, as an infant in
human arms, it is so often subjected. Above all, it is kept from that
shameless and mortifying publicity so unjust to the weak and unformed
animal. The child repays this consideration by a gratifying silence. It
cannot be expected to understand our thoughts, speech, or actions; it
cannot participate in our pleasures. Why should it be forced into
premature contact with them, merely to feed our vanity or selfishness? Why
should we assume our particular parental accident as superior to the
common lot? If we do not give our offspring that prominence before our
visitors so common to the young wife and husband, it is for that reason
solely; and this may account for what seemed the forgetfulness of Enriquez
in speaking of it or pointing it out to you. And I think his action in
calling you back to see it was somewhat precipitate. As one does not
usually introduce an unknown and inferior stranger without some previous
introduction, he might have asked you if you wished to see the baby before
he recalled you."
I looked from Urania's unfathomable eyes to Enriquez's impenetrable
countenance. I might have been equal to either of them alone, but together
they were invincible. I looked hopelessly at the baby. With its sharp
little eyes and composed face, it certainly was a marvelous miniature of
Enriquez. I said so.
"It would be singular if it was not," said Mrs. Saltillo dryly; "and as I
believe it is by no means an uncommon fact in human nature, it seems to me
strange that people should insist upon it as a discovery. It is an
inheritance, however, that in due time progress and science will no doubt
interrupt, to the advancement of the human race. I need not say that both
Enriquez and myself look forward to it with confident tranquillity."
There was clearly nothing for me to do now but to shake hands again and
take my leave. Yet I was so much impressed with the unreality of the whole
scene that when I reached the front door I had a strong impulse to return
suddenly and fall in upon them in their relaxed and natural attitudes.
They could not keep up this pose between themselves; and I half expected
to see their laughing faces at the window, as I glanced up before wending
my perilous way to the street.
I found Mrs. Saltillo's manuscript well written and, in the narrative
parts, even graphic and sparkling. I suppressed some general remarks on
the universe, and some correlative theories of existence, as not
appertaining particularly to the Aztecs, and as not meeting any
unquenchable thirst for information on the part of the readers of the
"Daily Excelsior." I even promoted my fair contributor to the position of
having been commissioned, at great expense, to make the Mexican journey
especially for the "Excelsior." This, with Mrs. Saltillo's somewhat
precise preraphaelite drawings and water-colors, vilely reproduced by
woodcuts, gave quite a sensational air to her production, which, divided
into parts, for two or three days filled a whole page of the paper. I am
not aware of any particular service that it did to ethnology; but, as I
pointed out in the editorial column, it showed that the people of
California were not given over by material greed to the exclusion of
intellectual research; and as it was attacked instantly in long
communications from one or two scientific men, it thus produced more copy.
Briefly, it was a boom for the author and the "Daily Excelsior." I should
add, however, that a rival newspaper intimated that it was also a boom for
Mrs. Saitillo's HUSBAND, and called attention to the fact that a deserted
Mexican mine, known as "El Bolero," was described graphically in the Aztec
article among the news, and again appeared in the advertising columns of
the same paper. I turned somewhat indignantly to the file of the
"Excelsior," and, singularly enough, found in the elaborate prospectus of
a new gold-mining company the description of the El Bolero mine as a
QUOTATION from the Aztec article, with extraordinary inducements for the
investment of capital in the projected working of an old mine. If I had
had any difficulty in recognizing in the extravagant style the flamboyant
hand of Enriquez in English writing, I might have read his name plainly
enough displayed as president of the company. It was evidently the
prospectus of one of the ventures he had shown me. I was more amused than
indignant at the little trick he had played upon my editorial astuteness.
After all, if I had thus benefited the young couple I was satisfied. I had
not seen them since my first visit, as I was very busy,—my
communications with Mrs. Saltillo had been carried on by letters and
proofs,—and when I did finally call at their house, it was only to
find that they were visiting at San Jose. I wondered whether the baby was
still hanging on the wall, or, if he was taken with them, who carried him.
A week later the stock of El Bolero was quoted at par. More than that, an
incomprehensible activity had been given to all the deserted Mexican
mines, and people began to look up scrip hitherto thrown aside as
worthless. Whether it was one of those extraordinary fevers which attacked
Californian speculation in the early days, or whether Enriquez Saltillo
had infected the stock-market with his own extravagance, I never knew; but
plans as wild, inventions as fantastic, and arguments as illogical as ever
emanated from his own brain, were set forth "on 'Change" with a gravity
equal to his own. The most reasonable hypothesis was that it was the
effect of the well-known fact that the Spanish Californian hitherto had
not been a mining speculator, nor connected in any way with the gold
production on his native soil, deeming it inconsistent with his
patriarchal life and landed dignity, and that when a "son of one of the
oldest Spanish families, identified with the land and its peculiar
character for centuries, lent himself to its mineral exploitations,"—I
beg to say that I am quoting from the advertisement in the "Excelsior,"—"it
was a guerdon of success." This was so far true that in a week Enriquez
Saltillo was rich, and in a fair way to become a millionaire.
It was a hot afternoon when I alighted from the stifling Wingdam coach,
and stood upon the cool, deep veranda of the Carquinez Springs Hotel.
After I had shaken off the dust which had lazily followed us, in our
descent of the mountain road, like a red smoke, occasionally overflowing
the coach windows, I went up to the room I had engaged for my brief
holiday. I knew the place well, although I could see that the hotel itself
had lately been redecorated and enlarged to meet the increasing
requirements of fashion. I knew the forest of enormous redwoods where one
might lose one's self in a five minutes' walk from the veranda. I knew the
rocky trail that climbed the mountain to the springs, twisting between
giant boulders. I knew the arid garden, deep in the wayside dust, with its
hurriedly planted tropical plants, already withering in the dry autumn
sunshine, and washed into fictitious freshness, night and morning by the
hydraulic irrigating-hose. I knew, too, the cool, reposeful night winds
that swept down from invisible snow-crests beyond, with the hanging out of
monstrous stars, that too often failed to bring repose to the feverish
guests. For the overstrained neurotic workers who fled hither from the
baking plains of Sacramento, or from the chill sea-fogs of San Francisco,
never lost the fierce unrest that had driven them here. Unaccustomed to
leisure, their enforced idleness impelled them to seek excitement in the
wildest gayeties; the bracing mountain air only reinvigorated them to
pursue pleasure as they had pursued the occupations they had left behind.
Their sole recreations were furious drives over break-neck roads; mad,
scampering cavalcades through the sedate woods; gambling parties in
private rooms, where large sums were lost by capitalists on leave;
champagne suppers; and impromptu balls that lasted through the calm,
reposeful night to the first rays of light on the distant snowline.
Unimaginative men, in their temporary sojourn they more often outraged or
dispossessed nature in her own fastnesses than courted her for sympathy or
solitude. There were playing-cards left lying behind boulders, and empty
champagne bottles forgotten in forest depths.
I remembered all this when, refreshed by a bath, I leaned from the balcony
of my room and watched the pulling up of a brake, drawn by six dusty,
foam-bespattered horses, driven by a noted capitalist. As its hot,
perspiring, closely veiled yet burning-faced fair occupants descended, in
all the dazzling glory of summer toilets, and I saw the gentlemen consult
their watches with satisfaction, and congratulate their triumphant driver,
I knew the characteristic excitement they had enjoyed from a "record run,"
probably for a bet, over a mountain road in a burning sun.
"Not bad, eh? Forty-four minutes from the summit!"
The voice seemed at my elbow. I turned quickly, to recognize an
acquaintance, a young San Francisco broker, leaning from the next balcony
to mine. But my attention was just then preoccupied by the face and
figure, which seemed familiar to me, of a woman who was alighting from the
"Who is that?" I asked; "the straight slim woman in gray, with the white
veil twisted round her felt hat?"
"Mrs. Saltillo," he answered; "wife of 'El Bolero' Saltillo, don't you
know. Mighty pretty woman, if she is a little stiffish and set up."
Then I had not been mistaken! "Is Enriquez—is her husband—here?"
I asked quickly.
The man laughed. "I reckon not. This is the place for other people's
husbands, don't you know."
Alas! I DID know; and as there flashed upon me all the miserable scandals
and gossip connected with this reckless, frivolous caravansary, I felt
like resenting his suggestion. But my companion's next words were more
"Besides, if what they say is true, Saltillo wouldn't be very popular
"I don't understand," I said quickly.
"Why, after all that row he had with the El Bolero Company."
"I never heard of any row," I said, in astonishment.
The broker laughed incredulously. "Come! and YOU a newspaper man! Well,
maybe they DID try to hush it up, and keep it out of the papers, on
account of the stock. But it seems he got up a reg'lar shindy with the
board, one day; called 'em thieves and swindlers, and allowed he was
disgracing himself as a Spanish hidalgo by having anything to do with 'em.
Talked, they say, about Charles V. of Spain, or some other royal galoot,
giving his ancestors the land in trust! Clean off his head, I reckon. Then
shunted himself off the company, and sold out. You can guess he wouldn't
be very popular around here, with Jim Bestley, there," pointing to the
capitalist who had driven the brake, "who used to be on the board with
him. No, sir. He was either lying low for something, or was off his head.
Think of his throwing up a place like that!"
"Nonsense!" I said indignantly. "He is mercurial, and has the quick
impulsiveness of his race, but I believe him as sane as any who sat with
him on the board. There must be some mistake, or you haven't got the whole
story." Nevertheless, I did not care to discuss an old friend with a mere
acquaintance, and I felt secretly puzzled to account for his conduct, in
the face of his previous cleverness in manipulating the El Bolero, and the
undoubted fascination he had previously exercised over the stockholders.
The story had, of course, been garbled in repetition. I had never before
imagined what might be the effect of Enriquez's peculiar eccentricities
upon matter-of-fact people,—I had found them only amusing,—and
the broker's suggestion annoyed me. However, Mrs. Saltillo was here in the
hotel, and I should, of course, meet her. Would she be as frank with me?
I was disappointed at not finding her in the drawing-room or on the
veranda; and the heat being still unusually oppressive, I strolled out
toward the redwoods, hesitating for a moment in the shade before I ran the
fiery gauntlet of the garden. To my surprise, I had scarcely passed the
giant sentinels on its outskirts before I found that, from some unusual
condition of the atmosphere, the cold undercurrent of air which generally
drew through these pillared aisles was withheld that afternoon; it was
absolutely hotter than in the open, and the wood was charged throughout
with the acrid spices of the pine. I turned back to the hotel, reascended
to my bedroom, and threw myself in an armchair by the open window. My room
was near the end of a wing; the corner room at the end was next to mine,
on the same landing. Its closed door, at right angles to my open one, gave
upon the staircase, but was plainly visible from where I sat. I remembered
being glad that it was shut, as it enabled me without offense to keep my
own door open.
The house was very quiet. The leaves of a catalpa, across the roadway,
hung motionless. Somebody yawned on the veranda below. I threw away my
half-finished cigar, and closed my eyes. I think I had not lost
consciousness for more than a few seconds before I was awakened by the
shaking and thrilling of the whole building. As I staggered to my feet, I
saw the four pictures hanging against the wall swing outwardly from it on
their cords, and my door swing back against the wall. At the same moment,
acted upon by the same potential impulse, the door of the end room in the
hall, opposite the stairs, also swung open. In that brief moment I had a
glimpse of the interior of the room, of two figures, a man and a woman,
the latter clinging to her companion in abject terror. It was only for an
instant, for a second thrill passed through the house, the pictures
clattered back against the wall, the door of the end room closed violently
on its strange revelation, and my own door swung back also. Apprehensive
of what might happen, I sprang toward it, but only to arrest it an inch or
two before it should shut, when, as my experience had taught me, it might
stick by the subsidence of the walls. But it did stick ajar, and remained
firmly fixed in that position. From the clattering of the knob of the
other door, and the sound of hurried voices behind it, I knew that the
same thing had happened there when that door had fully closed.
I was familiar enough with earthquakes to know that, with the second shock
or subsidence of the earth, the immediate danger was passed, and so I was
able to note more clearly what else was passing. There was the usual
sudden stampede of hurrying feet, the solitary oath and scream, the
half-hysterical laughter, and silence. Then the tumult was reawakened to
the sound of high voices, talking all together, or the impatient calling
of absentees in halls and corridors. Then I heard the quick swish of
female skirts on the staircase, and one of the fair guests knocked
impatiently at the door of the end room, still immovably fixed. At the
first knock there was a sudden cessation of the hurried whisperings and
turning of the doorknob.
"Mrs. Saltillo, are you there? Are you frightened?" she called.
"Mrs. Saltillo"! It was SHE, then, who was in the room! I drew nearer my
door, which was still fixed ajar. Presently a voice,—Mrs. Saltillo's
voice,—with a constrained laugh in it, came from behind the door:
"Not a bit. I'll come down in a minute."
"Do," persisted the would-be intruder. "It's all over now, but we're all
going out into the garden; it's safer."
"All right," answered Mrs. Saltillo. "Don't wait, dear. I'll follow. Run
The visitor, who was evidently still nervous, was glad to hurry away, and
I heard her retreating step on the staircase. The rattling of the door
began again, and at last it seemed to yield to a stronger pull, and opened
sufficiently to allow Mrs. Saltillo to squeeze through. I withdrew behind
my door. I fancied that it creaked as she passed, as if, noticing it ajar,
she had laid an inquiring hand upon it. I waited, but she was not followed
by any one. I wondered if I had been mistaken. I was going to the
bell-rope to summon assistance to move my own door when a sudden instinct
withheld me. If there was any one still in that room, he might come from
it just as the servant answered my call, and a public discovery would be
unavoidable. I was right. In another instant the figure of a man, whose
face I could not discern, slipped out of the room, passed my door, and
went stealthily down the staircase.
Convinced of this, I resolved not to call public attention to my being in
my own room at the time of the incident; so I did not summon any one, but,
redoubling my efforts, I at last opened the door sufficiently to pass out,
and at once joined the other guests in the garden. Already, with
characteristic recklessness and audacity, the earthquake was made light
of; the only dictate of prudence had resolved itself into a hilarious
proposal to "camp out" in the woods all night, and have a "torch-light
picnic." Even then preparations were being made for carrying tents,
blankets, and pillows to the adjacent redwoods; dinner and supper, cooked
at campfires, were to be served there on stumps of trees and fallen logs.
The convulsion of nature had been used as an excuse for one of the wildest
freaks of extravagance that Carquinez Springs had ever known. Perhaps that
quick sense of humor which dominates the American male in exigencies of
this kind kept the extravagances from being merely bizarre and grotesque,
and it was presently known that the hotel and its menage were to be
appropriately burlesqued by some of the guests, who, attired as Indians,
would personate the staff, from the oracular hotel proprietor himself down
to the smart hotel clerk.
During these arrangements I had a chance of drawing near Mrs. Saltillo. I
fancied she gave a slight start as she recognized me; but her greetings
were given with her usual precision. "Have you been here long?" she asked.
"I have only just come," I replied laughingly; "in time for the shock."
"Ah, you felt it, then? I was telling these ladies that our eminent
geologist, Professor Dobbs, assured me that these seismic disturbances in
California have a very remote centre, and are seldom serious."
"It must be very satisfactory to have the support of geology at such a
moment," I could not help saying, though I had not the slightest idea
whose the figure was that I had seen, nor, indeed, had I recognized it
among the guests. She did not seem to detect any significance in my
speech, and I added: "And where is Enriquez? He would enjoy this proposed
"Enriquez is at Salvatierra Rancho, which he lately bought from his
"And the baby? Surely, here is a chance for you to hang him up on a
redwood tonight, in his cradle."
"The boy," said Mrs. Saltillo quickly, "is no longer in his cradle; he has
passed the pupa state, and is now free to develop his own perfected limbs.
He is with his father. I do not approve of children being submitted to the
indiscriminate attentions of a hotel. I am here myself only for that
supply of ozone indicated for brain exhaustion."
She looked so pretty and prim in her gray dress, so like her old correct
self, that I could not think of anything but her mental attitude, which
did not, by the way, seem much like mental depression. Yet I was aware
that I was getting no information of Enriquez's condition or affairs,
unless the whole story told by the broker was an exaggeration. I did not,
however, dare to ask more particularly.
"You remember Professor Dobbs?" she asked abruptly.
This recalled a suspicion awakened by my vision, so suddenly that I felt
myself blushing. She did not seem to notice it, and was perfectly
"I do remember him. Is he here?"
"He is; that is what makes it so particularly unfortunate for me. You see,
after that affair of the board, and Enriquez's withdrawal, although
Enriquez may have been a little precipitate in his energetic way, I
naturally took my husband's part in public; for although we preserve our
own independence inviolable, we believe in absolute confederation as
"But what has Professor Dobbs to do with the board?" I interrupted.
"The professor was scientific and geological adviser to the board, and it
was upon some report or suggestion of his that Enriquez took issue,
against the sentiment of the board. It was a principle affecting
Enriquez's Spanish sense of honor."
"Do tell me all about it," I said eagerly; "I am very anxious to know the
"As I was not present at the time," said Mrs. Saltillo, rebuking my
eagerness with a gentle frigidity, "I am unable to do so. Anything else
would be mere hearsay, and more or less ex parte. I do not approve of
"But what did Enriquez tell you? You surely know that."
"THAT, being purely confidential, as between husband and wife,—perhaps
I should say partner and partner,—of course you do not expect me to
disclose. Enough that I was satisfied with it. I should not have spoken to
you about it at all, but that, through myself and Enriquez, you are an
acquaintance of the professor's, and I might save you the awkwardness of
presenting yourself with him. Otherwise, although you are a friend of
Enriquez, it need not affect your acquaintance with the professor."
"Hang the professor!" I ejaculated. "I don't care a rap for HIM."
"Then I differ with you," said Mrs. Saltillo, with precision. "He is
distinctly an able man, and one cannot but miss the contact of his
original mind and his liberal teachings."
Here she was joined by one of the ladies, and I lounged away. I dare say
it was very mean and very illogical, but the unsatisfactory character of
this interview made me revert again to the singular revelation I had seen
a few hours before. I looked anxiously for Professor Dobbs; but when I did
meet him, with an indifferent nod of recognition, I found I could by no
means identify him with the figure of her mysterious companion. And why
should I suspect him at all, in the face of Mrs. Saltillo's confessed
avoidance of him? Who, then, could it have been? I had seen them but an
instant, in the opening and the shutting of a door. It was merely the
shadowy bulk of a man that flitted past my door, after all. Could I have
imagined the whole thing? Were my perceptive faculties—just aroused
from slumber, too insufficiently clear to be relied upon? Would I not have
laughed had Urania, or even Enriquez himself, told me such a story?
As I reentered the hotel the clerk handed me a telegram. "There's been a
pretty big shake all over the country," he said eagerly. "Everybody is
getting news and inquiries from their friends. Anything fresh?" He paused
interrogatively as I tore open the envelope. The dispatch had been
redirected from the office of the "Daily Excelsior." It was dated,
"Salvatierra Rancho," and contained a single line: "Come and see your old
There was nothing in the wording of the message that was unlike Enriquez's
usual light-hearted levity, but the fact that he should have TELEGRAPHED
it to me struck me uneasily. That I should have received it at the hotel
where his wife and Professor Dobbs were both staying, and where I had had
such a singular experience, seemed to me more than a mere coincidence. An
instinct that the message was something personal to Enriquez and myself
kept me from imparting it to Mrs. Saltillo. After worrying half the night
in our bizarre camp in the redwoods, in the midst of a restless festivity
which was scarcely the repose I had been seeking at Carquinez Springs, I
resolved to leave the next day for Salvatierra Rancho. I remembered the
rancho,—a low, golden-brown, adobe-walled quadrangle, sleeping like
some monstrous ruminant in a hollow of the Contra Costa Range. I recalled,
in the midst of this noisy picnic, the slumberous coolness of its long
corridors and soundless courtyard, and hailed it as a relief. The telegram
was a sufficient excuse for my abrupt departure. In the morning I left,
but without again seeing either Mrs. Saltillo or the professor.
It was late the next afternoon when I rode through the canada that led to
the rancho. I confess my thoughts were somewhat gloomy, in spite of my
escape from the noisy hotel; but this was due to the sombre scenery
through which I had just ridden, and the monotonous russet of the leagues
of wild oats. As I approached the rancho, I saw that Enriquez had made no
attempt to modernize the old casa, and that even the garden was left in
its lawless native luxuriance, while the rude tiled sheds near the walled
corral contained the old farming implements, unchanged for a century, even
to the ox-carts, the wheels of which were made of a single block of wood.
A few peons, in striped shirts and velvet jackets, were sunning themselves
against a wall, and near them hung a half-drained pellejo, or goatskin
water-bag. The air of absolute shiftlessness must have been repellent to
Mrs. Saltillo's orderly precision, and for a moment I pitied her. But it
was equally inconsistent with Enriquez's enthusiastic ideas of American
progress, and the extravagant designs he had often imparted to me of the
improvements he would make when he had a fortune. I was feeling uneasy
again, when I suddenly heard the rapid clack of unshod hoofs on a rocky
trail that joined my own. At the same instant a horseman dashed past me at
full speed. I had barely time to swerve my own horse aside to avoid a
collision, yet in that brief moment I recognized the figure of Enriquez.
But his face I should have scarcely known. It was hard and fixed. His
upper lip and thin, penciled mustache were drawn up over his teeth, which
were like a white gash in his dark face. He turned into the courtyard of
the rancho. I put spurs to my horse, and followed, in nervous expectation.
He turned in his saddle as I entered. But the next moment he bounded from
his horse, and, before I could dismount, flew to my side and absolutely
lifted me from the saddle to embrace me. It was the old Enriquez again;
his face seemed to have utterly changed in that brief moment.
"This is all very well, old chap," I said; "but do you know that you
nearly ran me down, just now, with that infernal half-broken mustang? Do
you usually charge the casa at that speed?"
"Pardon, my leetle brother! But here you shall slip up. The mustang is not
HALF-broken; he is not broke at all! Look at his hoof—never have a
shoe been there. For myself—attend me! When I ride alone, I think
mooch; when I think mooch I think fast; my idea he go like a cannon-ball!
Consequent, if I ride not thees horse like the cannon-ball, my thought HE
arrive first, and where are you? You get left! Believe me that I fly thees
horse, thees old Mexican plug, and your de' uncle 'Ennery and his leetle
old idea arrive all the same time, and on the instant."
It WAS the old Enriquez! I perfectly understood his extravagant speech and
illustration, and yet for the first time I wondered if others did.
"Tak'-a-drink!" he said, all in one word. "You shall possess the old
Bourbon or the rhum from the Santa Cruz! Name your poison, gentlemen!"
He had already dragged me up the steps from the patio to the veranda, and
seated me before a small round table still covered with the chocolate
equipage of the morning. A little dried-up old Indian woman took it away,
and brought the spirits and glasses.
"Mirar the leetle old one!" said Enriquez, with unflinching gravity.
"Consider her, Pancho, to the bloosh! She is not truly an Aztec, but she
is of years one hundred and one, and LIFS! Possibly she haf not the beauty
which ravishes, which devastates. But she shall attent you to the hot
water, to the bath. Thus shall you be protect, my leetle brother, from
"Enriquez," I burst out suddenly, "tell me about yourself. Why did you
leave the El Bolero board? What was the row about?"
Enriquez's eyes for a moment glittered; then they danced as before.
"Ah," he said, "you have heard?"
"Something; but I want to know the truth from you."
He lighted a cigarette, lifted himself backward into a grass hammock, on
which he sat, swinging his feet. Then, pointing to another hammock, he
said: "Tranquillize yourself there. I will relate; but, truly, it ees
He took a long pull at his cigarette, and for a few moments seemed quietly
to exude smoke from his eyes, ears, nose, even his finger-ends—everywhere,
in fact, but his mouth. That and his mustache remained fixed. Then he said
slowly, flicking away the ashes with his little finger:—
"First you understand, friend Pancho, that I make no row. The other
themself make the row, the shindig. They make the dance, the howl, the
snap of the finger, the oath, the 'Helen blazes,' the 'Wot the devil,' the
'That be d—d,' the bad language; they themselves finger the
revolver, advance the bowie-knife, throw off the coat, square off, and say
'Come on.' I remain as you see me now, little brother—tranquil." He
lighted another cigarette, made his position more comfortable in the
hammock, and resumed: "The Professor Dobbs, who is the geologian of the
company, made a report for which he got two thousand dollar. But thees
report—look you, friend Pancho—he is not good for the mine.
For in the hole in the ground the Professor Dobbs have found a 'hoss.'"
"A what?" I asked.
"A hoss," repeated Enriquez, with infinite gravity. "But not, leetle
Pancho, the hoss that run, the hoss that buck-jump, but what the miner
call a 'hoss,' a something that rear up in the vein and stop him. You pick
around the hoss; you pick under him; sometimes you find the vein,
sometimes you do not. The hoss rear up, and remain! Eet ees not good for
the mine. The board say, 'D—- the hoss!' 'Get rid of the hoss.'
'Chuck out the hoss.' Then they talk together, and one say to the
Professor Dobbs: 'Eef you cannot thees hoss remove from the mine, you can
take him out of the report.' He look to me, thees professor. I see
nothing; I remain tranquil. Then the board say: 'Thees report with the
hoss in him is worth two thousand dollar, but WITHOUT the hoss he is worth
five thousand dollar. For the stockholder is frighted of the rearing hoss.
It is of a necessity that the stockholder should remain tranquil. Without
the hoss the report is good; the stock shall errise; the director shall
sell out, and leave the stockholder the hoss to play with.' The professor
he say, 'Al-right;' he scratch out the hoss, sign his name, and get a
check for three thousand dollar."
"Then I errise—so!" He got up from the hammock, suiting the action
to the word, and during the rest of his narrative, I honestly believe,
assumed the same attitude and deliberate intonation he had exhibited at
the board. I could even fancy I saw the reckless, cynical faces of his
brother directors turned upon his grim, impassive features. "I am
tranquil. I smoke my cigarette. I say that for three hundred year my
family have held the land of thees mine; that it pass from father to son,
and from son to son; it pass by gift, it pass by grant, but that NEVARRE
THERE PASS A LIE WITH IT! I say it was a gift by a Spanish Christian king
to a Christian hidalgo for the spread of the gospel, and not for the cheat
and the swindle! I say that this mine was worked by the slave, and by the
mule, by the ass, but never by the cheat and swindler. I say that if they
have struck the hoss in the mine, they have struck a hoss IN THE LAND, a
Spanish hoss; a hoss that have no bridle worth five thousand dollar in his
mouth, but a hoss to rear, and a hoss that cannot be struck out by a
Yankee geologian; and that hoss is Enriquez Saltillo!"
He paused, and laid aside his cigarette.
"Then they say, 'Dry up,' and 'Sell out;' and the great bankers say, 'Name
your own price for your stock, and resign.' And I say, 'There is not
enough gold in your bank, in your San Francisco, in the mines of
California, that shall buy a Spanish gentleman. When I leave, I leave the
stock at my back; I shall take it, nevarre! Then the banker he say, 'And
you will go and blab, I suppose?' And then, Pancho, I smile, I pick up my
mustache—so! and I say: 'Pardon, senor, you haf mistake, The
Saltillo haf for three hundred year no stain, no blot upon him. Eet is not
now—the last of the race—who shall confess that he haf sit at
a board of disgrace and dishonor!' And then it is that the band begin to
play, and the animals stand on their hind leg and waltz, and behold, the
row he haf begin!"
I ran over to him, and fairly hugged him. But he put me aside with a
gentle and philosophical calm. "Ah, eet is nothing, Pancho. It is, believe
me, all the same a hundred years to come, and where are you, then? The
earth he turn round, and then come el temblor, the earthquake, and there
you are! Bah! eet is not of the board that I have asked you to come; it is
something else I would tell you. Go and wash yourself of thees journey, my
leetle brother, as I have"—looking at his narrow, brown, well-bred
hands—"wash myself of the board. Be very careful of the leetle old
woman, Pancho; do not wink to her of the eye! Consider, my leetle brother,
for one hundred and one year he haf been as a nun, a saint! Disturb not
Yes, it was the old Enriquez; but he seemed graver,—if I could use
that word of one of such persistent gravity; only his gravity heretofore
had suggested a certain irony rather than a melancholy which I now fancied
I detected. And what was this "something else" he was to "tell me later"?
Did it refer to Mrs. Saltillo? I had purposely waited for him to speak of
her, before I should say anything of my visit to Carquinez Springs. I
hurried through my ablutions in the hot water, brought in a bronze jar on
the head of the centenarian handmaid; and even while I was smiling over
Enriquez's caution regarding this aged Ruth, I felt I was getting nervous
to hear his news.
I found him in his sitting-room, or study,—a long, low apartment
with small, deep windows like embrasures in the outer adobe wall, but
glazed in lightly upon the veranda. He was sitting quite abstractedly,
with a pen in his hand, before a table, on which a number of sealed
envelopes were lying. He looked SO formal and methodical for Enriquez.
"You like the old casa, Pancho?" he said in reply to my praise of its
studious and monastic gloom. "Well, my leetle brother, some day that is
fair—who knows?—it may be at your disposicion; not of our
politeness, but of a truth, friend Pancho. For, if I leave it to my wife"—it
was the first time he had spoken of her—"for my leetle child," he
added quickly, "I shall put in a bond, an obligacion, that my friend
Pancho shall come and go as he will."
"The Saltillos are a long-lived race," I laughed. "I shall be a
gray-haired man, with a house and family of my own by that time." But I
did not like the way he had spoken.
"Quien sabe?" he only said, dismissing the question with the national
gesture. After a moment he added: "I shall tell you something that is
strrange, so strrange that you shall say, like the banker say, 'Thees
Enriquez, he ees off his head; he ees a crank, a lunatico;' but it ees a
FACT; believe me, I have said!"
He rose, and, going to the end of the room, opened a door. It showed a
pretty little room, femininely arranged in Mrs. Saltillo's refined taste.
"Eet is pretty; eet is the room of my wife. Bueno! attend me now." He
closed the door, and walked back to the table. "I have sit here and write
when the earthquake arrive. I have feel the shock, the grind of the walls
on themselves, the tremor, the stagger, and—that—door—he
"The door?" I said, with a smile that I felt was ghastly.
"Comprehend me," he said quickly; "it ees not THAT which ees strrange. The
wall lift, the lock slip, the door he fell open; it is frequent; it comes
so ever when the earthquake come. But eet is not my wife's room I see; it
is ANOTHER ROOM, a room I know not. My wife Urania, she stand there, of a
fear, of a tremble; she grasp, she cling to someone. The earth shake
again; the door shut. I jump from my table; I shake and tumble to the
door. I fling him open. Maravilloso! it is the room of my wife again. She
is NOT there; it is empty; it is nothing!"
I felt myself turning hot and cold by turns. I was horrified, and—and
I blundered. "And who was the other figure?" I gasped.
"Who?" repeated Enriquez, with a pause, a fixed look at me, and a sublime
gesture. "Who SHOULD it be, but myself, Enriquez Saltillo?"
A terrible premonition that this was a chivalrous LIE, that it was NOT
himself he had seen, but that our two visions were identical, came upon
me. "After all," I said, with a fixed smile, "if you could imagine you saw
your wife, you could easily imagine you saw yourself too. In the shock of
the moment you thought of HER naturally, for then she would as naturally
seek your protection. You have written for news of her?"
"No," said Enriquez quietly.
"No?" I repeated amazedly.
"You understand, Pancho! Eef it was the trick of my eyes, why should I
affright her for the thing that is not? If it is the truth, and it arrive
to ME, as a warning, why shall I affright her before it come?"
"Before WHAT comes? What is it a warning of?" I asked impetuously.
"That we shall be separated! That I go, and she do not."
To my surprise, his dancing eyes had a slight film over them. "I don't
understand you," I said awkwardly.
"Your head is not of a level, my Pancho. Thees earthquake he remain for
only ten seconds, and he fling open the door. If he remain for twenty
seconds, he fling open the wall, the hoose toomble, and your friend
Enriquez is feenish."
"Nonsense!" I said. "Professor—I mean the geologists—say that
the centre of disturbance of these Californian earthquakes is some
far-away point in the Pacific and there never will be any serious
"Ah, the geologist," said Enriquez gravely, "understand the hoss that rear
in the mine, and the five thousand dollar, believe me, no more. He haf lif
here three year. My family haf lif here three hundred. My grandfather saw
the earth swallow the church of San Juan Baptista."
I laughed, until, looking up, I was shocked to see for the first time that
his dancing eyes were moist and shining. But almost instantly he jumped
up, and declared that I had not seen the garden and the corral, and,
linking his arm in mine, swept me like a whirlwind into the patio. For an
hour or two he was in his old invincible spirits. I was glad I had said
nothing of my visit to Carquinez Springs and of seeing his wife; I
determined to avoid it as long as possible; and as he did not again refer
to her, except in the past, it was not difficult. At last he infected me
with his extravagance, and for a while I forgot even the strangeness of
his conduct and his confidences. We walked and talked together as of old.
I understood and enjoyed him perfectly, and it was not strange that in the
end I began to believe that this strange revelation was a bit of his
extravagant acting, got up to amuse me. The coincidence of his story with
my own experience was not, after all, such a wonderful thing, considering
what must have been the nervous and mental disturbance produced by the
earthquake. We dined together, attended only by Pedro, an old half-caste
body-servant. It was easy to see that the household was carried on
economically, and, from a word or two casually dropped by Enriquez, it
appeared that the rancho and a small sum of money were all that he
retained from his former fortune when he left the El Bolero. The stock he
kept intact, refusing to take the dividend upon it until that collapse of
the company should occur which he confidently predicted, when he would
make good the swindled stockholders. I had no reason to doubt his perfect
faith in this.
The next morning we were up early for a breezy gallop over the three
square miles of Enriquez's estate. I was astounded, when I descended to
the patio, to find Enriquez already mounted, and carrying before him,
astride of the horn of his saddle, a small child,—the identical
papoose of my memorable first visit. But the boy was no longer swathed and
bandaged, although, for security, his plump little body was engirt by the
same sash that encircled his father's own waist. I felt a stirring of
self-reproach; I had forgotten all about him! To my suggestion that the
exercise might be fatiguing to him, Enriquez shrugged his shoulders:—
"Believe me, no! He is ever with me when I go on the pasear. He is not too
yonge. For he shall learn 'to rride, to shoot, and to speak the truth,'
even as the Persian chile. Eet ees all I can gif to him."
Nevertheless, I think the boy enjoyed it, and I knew he was safe with such
an accomplished horseman as his father. Indeed, it was a fine sight to see
them both careering over the broad plain, Enriquez with jingling spurs and
whirling riata, and the boy, with a face as composed as his father's, and
his tiny hand grasping the end of the flapping rein with a touch scarcely
lighter than the skillful rider's own. It was a lovely morning; though
warm and still, there was a faint haze—a rare thing in that climate—on
the distant range. The sun-baked soil, arid and thirsty from the long
summer drought, and cracked into long fissures, broke into puffs of dust,
with a slight detonation like a pistol-shot, at each stroke of our
pounding hoofs. Suddenly my horse swerved in full gallop, almost lost his
footing, "broke," and halted with braced fore feet, trembling in every
limb. I heard a shout from Enriquez at the same instant, and saw that he
too had halted about a hundred paces from me, with his hand uplifted in
warning, and between us a long chasm in the dry earth, extending across
the whole field. But the trembling of the horse continued until it
communicated itself to me. I was shaking, too, and, looking about for the
cause, when I beheld the most weird and remarkable spectacle I had ever
witnessed. The whole llano, or plain, stretching to the horizon-line, was
DISTINCTLY UNDULATING! The faint haze of the hills was repeated over its
surface, as if a dust had arisen from some grinding displacement of the
soil. I threw myself from my horse, but the next moment was fain to cling
to him, as I felt the thrill under my very feet. Then there was a pause,
and I lifted my head to look for Enriquez. He was nowhere to be seen! With
a terrible recollection of the fissure that had yawned between us, I
sprang to the saddle again, and spurred the frightened beast toward that
point. BUT IT WAS GONE, TOO! I rode backward and forward repeatedly along
the line where I had seen it only a moment before. The plain lay compact
and uninterrupted, without a crack or fissure. The dusty haze that had
arisen had passed as mysteriously away; the clear outline of the valley
returned; the great field was empty!
Presently I was aware of the sound of galloping hoofs. I remembered then—what
I had at first forgotten—that a few moments before we had crossed an
arroyo, or dried bed of a stream, depressed below the level of the field.
How foolish that I had not remembered! He had evidently sought that
refuge; there were his returning hoofs. I galloped toward it, but only to
meet a frightened vaquero, who had taken that avenue of escape to the
"Did you see Don Enriquez?" I asked impatiently.
I saw that the man's terror was extreme, and his eyes were staring in
their sockets. He hastily crossed himself:—
"Ah, God, yes!"
"Where is he?" I demanded.
He looked at me with staring, vacant eyes, and, pointing to the ground,
said in Spanish: "He has returned to the land of his fathers!"
We searched for him that day and the next, when the country was aroused
and his neighbors joined in a quest that proved useless. Neither he nor
his innocent burden was ever seen again of men. Whether he had been
engulfed by mischance in some unsuspected yawning chasm in that brief
moment, or had fulfilled his own prophecy by deliberately erasing himself
for some purpose known only to himself, no one ever knew. His
country-people shook their heads and said "it was like a Saltillo." And
the few among his retainers who knew him and loved him, whispered still
more ominously: "He will yet return to his land to confound the
Yet the widow of Enriquez did NOT marry Professor Dobbs. But she too
disappeared from California, and years afterward I was told that she was
well known to the ingenuous Parisians as the usual wealthy widow "from