HotFreeBooks.com
The Pride of Palomar
by Peter B. Kyne
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

E-text prepared by Al Haines



THE PRIDE OF PALOMAR

by

PETER B. KYNE

Author of Kindred of the Dust, etc.

Illustrated by H. R. Ballinger and Dean Cornwell

Cosmopolitan Book Corporation New York

MCMXXII



[Frontispiece: The man—Don Miguel Farrel.]



DEDICATION

FRANK L. MULGREW, ESQ. THE BOHEMIAN CLUB SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

DEAR FRIEND MUL.—

I have at last finished writing "The Pride of Palomar." It isn't at all what I wanted it to be; it isn't at all what I planned it to be, but it does contain something of what you and I both feel, something of what you wanted me to put into it. Indeed, I shall always wish to think that it contains just a few faint little echoes of the spirit of that old California that was fast vanishing when I first disturbed the quiet of the Mission Dolores with infantile shrieks—when you first gazed upon the redwood-studded hills of Sonoma County.

You adventured with me in my quest for local color for "The Valley of the Giants," in Northern California; you performed a similar service in Southern California last summer and unearthed for me more local color, more touches of tender sentiment than I could use. Therefore, "The Pride of Palomar" is peculiarly your book.

On a day a year ago, when the story was still so vague I could scarcely find words in which to sketch for you an outline of the novel I purposed writing, you said: "It will be a good story. I'm sold on it already!" To you the hacienda of a Rancho Palomar will always bring delightful recollections of the gracious hospitality of Senor Cave Coutts, sitting at the head of that table hewed in the forties. Little did Senor Coutts realize that he, the last of the dons in San Diego County, was to furnish copy for my novel; that his pride of ancestry, both American and Castilian, his love for his ancestral hacienda at the Rancho Guajome, and his old-fashioned garden with the great Bougainvillea in flower, were the ingredients necessary to the production of what I trust will be a book with a mission.

When we call again at the Moreno hacienda on the Rio San Luis Rey, Carolina will not be there to metamorphose her home into a restaurant and serve us galina con arroz, tortillas and frijoles refritos. But if she should be, she will not answer, when asked the amount of the score: "What you will, senor." Ah, no, Mul. Scoundrels devoid of romance will have discovered her, and she will have opened an inn with a Jap cook and the tariff will be dos pesos y media; there will be a strange waiter and he will scowl at us and expect a large tip. And Stephen Crane's brother, the genial judge, will have made his fortune in the mine on the hill, and there will be no more California wine as a first aid to digestion.

I had intended to paint the picture that will remain longest in your memory—the dim candle-light in the white-washed chapel at the Indian Reservation at Pala, during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament—the young Indian Madonna, with her naked baby lying in her lap, while she sang:

"Come, Holy Ghost, creator blest, And in my heart take up thy rest."

But the picture was crowded out in the make-up. There was too much to write about, and I was always over-set! I saw and felt, with you, and regarded it as more poignantly pathetic, the tragedy of that little handful of San Luisanos, herded away in the heart of those barren hills to make way for the white man. And now the white man is almost gone and Father Dominic's Angelus, ringing from Mission San Luis Rey, falls upon the dull ear of a Japanese farmer, usurping that sweet valley, hallowed by sentiment, by historical association, by the lives and loves and ashes of the men and women who carved California from the wilderness.

I have given to this book the labor of love. I know it isn't literature, Mul, but I have joyed in writing it and it has, at least, the merit of sincerity. It is an expression of faith and for all its faults and imperfections, I think you will find, tucked away in it somewhere, a modicum of merit. I have tried to limn something, however vague, of the beauty of the land we saw through boyish eyes before the real estate agent had profaned it.

You were born with a great love, a great reverence for beauty. That must be because you were born in Sonoma County in the light of God's smile. Each spring in California the dogwood blossoms are, for you, a creamier white, the buckeye blossoms more numerous and fragrant, the hills a trifle greener and the old order, the old places, the old friends a little dearer.

Wherefore, with much appreciation of your aid in its creation and of your unfaltering friendship and affection, I dedicate "The Pride of Palomar" to you.

Faithfully,

PETER B. KYNE.

SAN FRANCISCO

JUNE 9, 1921.



Acknowledgment is made of the indebtedness of the author for much of the material used in this book to Mr. Montaville Flowers, author of "The Japanese Conquest of American Opinion."

P. B. K.



THE ILLUSTRATIONS

LOI The Man—Don Miguel Farrel . . . . Frontispiece

Here amidst the golden romance of the old mission, the girl suddenly understood Don Mike

The Girl—Kay Parker ELOI



THE PRIDE of PALOMAR

I

For the first time in sixty years, Pablo Artelan, the majordomo of the Rancho Palomar, was troubled of soul at the approach of winter. Old Don Miguel Farrel had observed signs of mental travail in Pablo for a month past, and was at a loss to account for them. He knew Pablo possessed one extra pair of overalls, brand-new, two pairs of boots which young Don Miguel had bequeathed him when the Great White Father at Washington had summoned the boy to the war in April of 1917, three chambray shirts in an excellent state of repair, half of a fat steer jerked, a full bag of Bayo beans, and a string of red chilli-peppers pendant from the rafters of an adobe shack which Pablo and his wife, Carolina, occupied rent free. Certainly (thought old Don Miguel) life could hold no problems for one of Pablo's race thus pleasantly situated.

Coming upon Pablo this morning, as the latter sat in his favorite seat under the catalpa tree just outside the wall of the ancient adobe compound, where he could command a view of the white wagon-road winding down the valley of the San Gregorio, Don Miguel decided to question his ancient retainer.

"My good Pablo," he queried, "what has come over thee of late? Thou art of a mien as sorrowful as that of a sick steer. Can it be that thy stomach refuses longer to digest thy food? Come; permit me to examine thy teeth. Yes, by my soul; therein lies the secret. Thou hast a toothache and decline to complain, thinking that, by thy silence, I shall be saved a dentist's bill." But Pablo shook his head in negation. "Come!" roared old Don Miguel. "Open thy mouth!"

Pablo rose creakily and opened a mouth in which not a tooth was missing. Old Don Miguel made a most minute examination, but failed to discover the slightest evidence of deterioration.

"Blood of the devil!" he cried, disgusted beyond measure. "Out with thy secret! It has annoyed me for a month."

"The ache is not in my teeth, Don Miguel. It is here." And Pablo laid a swarthy hand upon his torso. "There is a sadness in my heart, Don Miguel. Two years has Don Mike been with the soldiers. Is it not time that he returned to us?"

Don Miguel's aristocratic old face softened.

"So that is what disturbs thee, my Pablo?"

Pablo nodded miserably, seated himself, and resumed his task of fashioning the hondo of a new rawhide riata.

"It is a very dry year," he complained. "Never before have I seen December arrive ere the grass in the San Gregorio was green with the October rains. Everything is burned; the streams and the springs have dried up, and for a month I have listened to hear the quail call on the hillside yonder. But I listen in vain. The quail have moved to another range."

"Well, what of it, Pablo?"

"How our beloved Don Mike enjoyed the quail-shooting in the fall! Should he return now to the Palomar, there will be no quail to shoot." He wagged his gray head sorrowfully. "Don Mike will think that, with the years, laziness and ingratitude have descended upon old Pablo. Truly, Satan afflicts me." And he cursed with great depth of feeling—in English.

"Yes, poor boy," old Don Miguel agreed; "he will miss more than the quail-shooting when he returns—if he should return. They sent him to Siberia to fight the Bolsheviki."

"What sort of country is this where Don Mike slays our enemy?" Pablo queried.

"It is always winter there, Pablo. It is inhabited by a wild race of men with much whiskers."

"Ah, our poor Don Mike! And he a child of the sun!"

"He but does his duty," old Don Miguel replied proudly. "He adds to the fame of an illustrious family, noted throughout the centuries for the gallantry of its warriors."

"A small comfort, Don Miguel, if our Don Mike comes not again to those that love him."

"Pray for him," the old Don suggested piously.

Fell a silence. Then,

"Don Miguel, yonder comes one over the trail from El Toro."

Don Miguel gazed across the valley to the crest of the hills. There, against the sky-line, a solitary horseman showed. Pablo cupped his hands over his eyes and gazed long and steadily.

"It is Tony Moreno," he said, while the man was still a mile distant. "I know that scuffling cripple of a horse he rides."

Don Miguel seated himself On the bench beside Pablo and awaited the arrival of the horseman. As he drew nearer, the Don saw that Pablo was right.

"Now, what news does that vagabond bear?" he muttered. "Assuredly he brings a telegram; otherwise the devil himself could not induce that lazy wastrel to ride twenty miles."

"Of a truth you are right, Don Miguel. Tony Moreno is the only man in El Toro who is forever out of a job, and the agent of the telegraph company calls upon him always to deliver messages of importance."

With the Don, he awaited, with vague apprehension, the arrival of Tony Moreno. As the latter pulled his sweating horse up before them, they rose and gazed upon him questioningly. Tony Moreno, on his part, doffed his shabby sombrero with his right hand and murmured courteously,

"Buenas tardes, Don Miguel."

Pablo he ignored. With his left hand, he caught a yellow envelope as it fell from under the hat.

"Good-afternoon, Moreno." Don Miguel returned his salutation with a gravity he felt incumbent upon one of his station to assume when addressing a social inferior. "You bring me a telegram?" He spoke in English, for the sole purpose of indicating to the messenger that the gulf between them could not be spanned by the bridge of their mother tongue. He suspected Tony Moreno very strongly of having stolen a yearling from him many years ago.

Tony Moreno remembered his manners, and dismounted before handing Don Miguel the telegram.

"The delivery charges?" Don Miguel queried courteously.

"Nothing, Don Miguel." Moreno's voice was strangely subdued. "It is a pleasure to serve you, senor."

"You are very kind." And Don Miguel thrust the telegram, unopened, into his pocket. "However," he continued, "it will please me, Moreno, if you accept this slight token of my appreciation." And he handed the messenger a five-dollar bill. The don was a proud man, and disliked being under obligation to the Tony Morenos of this world. Tony protested, but the don stood his ground, silently insistent, and, in the end, the other pouched the bill, and rode away. Don Miguel seated himself once more beside his retainer and drew forth the telegram.

"It must be evil news," he murmured, with the shade of a tremor in his musical voice; "otherwise, that fellow could not have felt so much pity for me that it moved him to decline a gratuity."

"Read, Don Miguel!" Pablo croaked. "Read!"

Don Miguel read. Then he carefully folded the telegram and replaced it in the envelope; as deliberately, he returned the envelope to his pocket. Suddenly his hands gripped the bench, and he trembled violently.

"Don Mike is dead?" old Pablo queried softly. He possessed all the acute intuition of a primitive people.

Don Miguel did not reply; so presently Pablo turned his head and gazed up into the master's face. Then he knew—his fingers trembled slightly as he returned to work on the hondo, and, for a long time, no sound broke the silence save the song of an oriole in the catalpa tree.

Suddenly, the sound for which old Pablo had waited so long burst forth from the sage-clad hillside. It was a cock quail calling, and, to the majordomo, it seemed to say: "Don Mike! Come home! Don Mike! Come home!"

"Ah, little truant, who has told you that you are safe?" Pablo cried in agony. "For Don Mike shall not come home—no, no—never any more!"

His Indian stoicism broke at last; he clasped his hands and fell to his knees beside the bench, sobbing aloud.

Don Miguel regarded him not, and when Pablo's babbling became incoherent, the aged master of Palomar controlled his twitching hands sufficiently to roll and light a cigarette. Then he reread the telegram.

Yes; it was true. It was from Washington, and signed by the adjutant-general; it informed Don Miguel Jose Farrel, with regret, that his son, First Sergeant Miguel Jose Maria Federico Noriaga Farrel, Number 765,438, had been killed in action in Siberia on the fourth instant.

"At least," the old don murmured, "he died like a gentleman. Had he returned to the Rancho Palomar, he could not have continued to live like one. Oh, my son, my son!"

He rose blindly and groped his way along the wall until he came to the inset gate leading into the patio; like a stricken animal retreating to its lair, he sought the privacy of his old-fashioned garden, where none might intrude upon his grief.



II

First Sergeant Michael Joseph Farrel entered the orderly-room and saluted his captain, who sat, with his chair tilted back, staring mournfully at the opposite wall.

"I have to report, sir, that I have personally delivered the battery records, correctly sorted, labeled, and securely crated, to the demobilization office. The typewriter, field-desk, and stationery have been turned in, and here are the receipts."

The captain tucked the receipts in his blouse pocket.

"Well, Sergeant, I dare say that marks the completion of your duties—all but the last formation." He glanced at his wrist-watch. "Fall in the battery and call the roll. By that time, I will have organized my farewell speech to the men. Hope I can deliver it without making a fool of myself."

"Very well, sir."

The first sergeant stepped out of the orderly-room and blew three long blasts on his whistle—his signal to the battery to "fall in." The men came out of the demobilization-shacks with alacrity and formed within a minute; without command, they "dressed" to the right and straightened the line. Farrel stepped to the right of it, glanced down the long row of silent, eager men, and commanded,

"Front!"

Nearly two hundred heads described a quarter circle.

Farrel stepped lithely down the long front to the geometrical center of the formation, made a right-face, walked six paces, executed an about-face, and announced complainingly:

"Well, I've barked at you for eighteen months—and finally you made it snappy. On the last day of your service, you manage to fall in within the time-limit and dress the line perfectly. I congratulate you." Covert grins greeted his ironical sally. He continued: "I'm going to say good-by to those of you who think there are worse tops in the service than I. To those who did not take kindly to my methods, I have no apologies to offer. I gave everybody a square deal, and for the information of some half-dozen Hot-spurs who have vowed to give me the beating of my life the day we should be demobilized, I take pleasure in announcing that I will be the first man to be discharged, that there is a nice clear space between these two demobilization-shacks and the ground is not too hard, that there will be no guards to interfere, and if any man with the right to call himself 'Mister' desires to air his grievance, he can make his engagement now, and I shall be at his service at the hour stipulated. Does anybody make me an offer?" He stood there, balanced nicely on the balls of his feet, cool, alert, glancing interestedly up and down the battery front. "What?" he bantered, "nobody bids? Well, I'm glad of that. I part friends with everybody. Call rolls!"

The section-chiefs called the rolls of their sections and reported them present. Farrel stepped to the door of the orderly-room.

"The men are waiting for the captain," he reported.

"Sergeant Farrel," that bedeviled individual replied frantically, "I can't do it. You'll have to do it for me."

"Yes, sir; I understand."

Farrel returned to the battery, brought them to attention, and said:

"The skipper wants to say good-by, men, but he isn't up to the job. He's afraid to tackle it; so he has asked me to wish you light duty, heavy pay, and double rations in civil life. He has asked me to say to you that he loves you all and will not soon forget such soldiers as you have proved yourselves to be."

"Three for the Skipper! Give him three and a tiger!" somebody pleaded, and the cheers were given with a hearty generosity which even the most disgruntled organization can develop on the day of demobilization.

The skipper came to the door of the orderly-room.

"Good-by, good luck, and God bless you, lads!" he shouted, and nod with the discharges under his arm, while the battery "counted off," and, in command of Farrel (the lieutenants had already been demobilized), marched to the pay-tables. As they emerged from the paymaster's shack, they scattered singly, in little groups, back to the demobilization-shacks. Presently, bearing straw suitcases, "tin" helmets, and gas-masks (these latter articles presented to them by a paternal government as souvenirs of their service), they drifted out through the Presidio gate, where the world swallowed them.

Although he had been the first man in the battery to receive his discharge, Farrel was the last man to leave the Presidio. He waited until the captain, having distributed the discharges, came out of the pay-office and repaired again to his deserted orderly-room; whereupon the former first sergeant followed him.

"I hesitate to obtrude, sir," he announced, as he entered the room, "but whether the captain likes it or not, he'll have to say good-by to me. I have attended to everything I can think of, sir; so, unless the captain has some further use for me, I shall be jogging along."

"Farrel," the captain declared, "if I had ever had a doubt as to why I made you top cutter of B battery, that last remark of yours would have dissipated it. Please do not be in a hurry. Sit down and mourn with me for a little while."

"Well, I'll sit down with you, sir, but I'll be hanged if I'll be mournful. I'm too happy in the knowledge that I'm going home."

"Where is your home, sergeant?"

"In San Marcos County, in the southern part of the state. After two years of Siberia and four days of this San Francisco fog, I'm fed up on low temperatures, and, by the holy poker, I want to go home. It isn't much of a home—just a quaint, old, crumbling adobe ruin, but it's home, and it's mine. Yes, sir; I'm going home and sleep in the bed my great-greatgrandfather was born in."

"If I had a bed that old, I'd fumigate it," the captain declared. Like all regular army officers, he was a very devil of a fellow for sanitation. "Do you worship your ancestors, Farrel?"

"Well, come to think of it, I have rather a reverence for 'the ashes of my fathers and the temples of my gods.'"

"So have the Chinese. Among Americans, however, I thought all that sort of thing was confined to the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers."

"If I had an ancestor who had been a Pilgrim Father," Farrel declared, "I'd locate his grave and build a garbage-incinerator on it."

"What's your grouch against the Pilgrim Fathers?"

"They let their religion get on top of them, and they took all the joy out of life. My Catalonian ancestors, on the other hand, while taking their religion seriously, never permitted it to interfere with a fiesta. They were what might be called 'regular fellows.'"

"Your Catalonian ancestors? Why, I thought you were black Irish, Farrel?"

"The first of my line that I know anything about was a lieutenant in the force that marched overland from Mexico to California under command of Don Gaspar de Portola. Don Gaspar was accompanied by Fray Junipero Serra. They carried a sword and a cross respectively, and arrived in San Diego on July first, 1769. So, you see, I'm a real Californian."

"You mean Spanish-Californian."

"Well, hardly in the sense that most people use that term, sir. We have never intermarried with Mexican or Indian, and until my grandfather Farrel arrived at the ranch and refused to go away until my grandmother Noriaga went with him, we were pure-bred Spanish blonds. My grandmother had red hair, brown eyes, and a skin as white as an old bleached-linen napkin. Grandfather Farrel is the fellow to whom I am indebted for my saddle-colored complexion."

"Siberia has bleached you considerably. I should say you're an ordinary brunet now."

Farrel removed his overseas cap and ran long fingers through his hair.

"If I had a strain of Indian in me, sir," he explained, "my hair would be straight, thick, coarse, and blue-black. You will observe that it is wavy, a medium crop, of average fineness, and jet black."

The captain laughed at his frankness.

"Very well, Farrel; I'll admit you're clean-strain white. But tell me: How much of you is Latin and how much Farrel?"

It was Farrel's turn to chuckle now.

"Seriously, I cannot answer that question. My grandmother, as I have stated, was pure-bred Castilian or Catalonian, for I suppose they mixed. The original Michael Joseph Farrel (I am the third of the name) was Tipperary Irish, and could trace his ancestry back to the fairies—to hear him tell it. But one can never be quite certain how much Spanish there is in an Irishman from the west, so I have always started with the premise that the result of that marriage—my father—was three-fifths Latin. Father married a Galvez, who was half Scotch; so I suppose I'm an American."

"I should like to see you on your native heath, Farrel. Does your dad still wear a conical-crowned sombrero, bell-shaped trousers, bolero jacket, and all that sort of thing?"

"No, sir. The original Mike insisted upon wearing regular trousers and hats. He had all of the prejudices of his race, and regarded folks who did things differently from him as inferior people. He was a lieutenant on a British sloop-of-war that was wrecked on the coast of San Marcos County in the early 'Forties. All hands were drowned, with the exception of my grandfather, who was a very contrary man. He swam ashore and strolled up to the hacienda of the Rancho Palomar, arriving just before luncheon. What with a twenty-mile hike in the sun, he was dry by the time he arrived, and in his uniform, although somewhat bedraggled, he looked gay enough to make a hit with my great-grandfather Noriaga, who invited him to luncheon and begged him to stay a while. Michael Joseph liked the place; so he stayed. You see, there were thousands of horses on the ranch and, like all sailors, he had equestrian ambitions."

"Great snakes! It must have been a sizable place."

"It was. The original Mexican grant was twenty leagues square."

"I take it, then, that the estate has dwindled in size."

"Oh, yes, certainly. My great-grandfather Noriaga, Michael Joseph I, and Michael Joseph II shot craps with it, and bet it on horse-races, and gave it away for wedding-doweries, and, in general, did their little best to put the Farrel posterity out in the mesquite with the last of the Mission Indians."

"How much of this principality have you left?"

"I do not know. When I enlisted, we had a hundred thousand acres of the finest valley and rolling grazing-land in California and the hacienda that was built in 1782. But I've been gone two years, and haven't heard from home for five months."

"Mortgaged?"

"Of course. The Farrels never worked while money could be raised at ten per cent. Neither did the Noriagas. You might as well attempt to yoke an elk and teach him how to haul a cart."

"Oh, nonsense, Farrel! You're the hardest-working man I have ever known."

Farrel smiled boyishly.

"That was in Siberia, and I had to hustle to keep warm. But I know I'll not be home six months before that delicious manana spirit will settle over me again, like mildew on old boots."

The captain shook his head.

"Any man who can see so clearly the economic faults of his race and nevertheless sympathize with them is not one to be lulled to the ruin that has overtaken practically all of the old native California families. That strain of Celt and Gael in you will triumph over the easy-going Latin."

"Well, perhaps. And two years in the army has helped tremendously to eradicate an inherited tendency toward procrastination."

"I shall like to think that I had something to do with that," the officer answered. "What are your plans?"

"Well, sir, this hungry world must be fed by the United States for the next ten years, and I have an idea that the Rancho Palomar can pull itself out of the hole with beef cattle. My father has always raised short-legged, long-horned scrubs, descendants of the old Mexican breeds, and there is no money in that sort of stock. If I can induce him to turn the ranch over to me, I'll try to raise sufficient money to buy a couple of car-loads of pure-bred Hereford bulls and grade up that scrub stock; in four or five years I'll have steers that will weigh eighteen hundred to two thousand pounds on the hoof, instead of the little eight-hundred-pounders that have swindled us for a hundred years."

"How many head of cattle can you run on your ranch?"

"About ten thousand—one to every ten acres. If I could develop water for irrigation in the San Gregorio valley, I could raise alfalfa and lot-feed a couple of thousand more."

"What is the ranch worth?"

"About eight per acre is the average price of good cattle-range nowadays. With plenty of water for irrigation, the valley-land would be worth five hundred dollars an acre. It's as rich as cream, and will grow anything—with water."

"Well, I hope your dad takes a back seat and gives you a free hand, Farrel. I think you'll make good with half a chance."

"I feel that way also," Farrel replied seriously.

"Are you going south to-night?"

"Oh, no. Indeed not! I don't want to go home in the dark, sir." The captain was puzzled. "Because I love my California, and I haven't seen her for two years," Farrel replied, to the other's unspoken query. "It's been so foggy since we landed in San Francisco I've had a hard job making my way round the Presidio. But if I take the eight-o'clock train tomorrow morning, I'll run out of the fog-belt in forty-five minutes and be in the sunshine for the remainder of the journey. Yes, by Jupiter—and for the remainder of my life!"

"You want to feast your eyes on the countryside, eh?"

"I do. It's April, and I want to see the Salinas valley with its oaks; I want to see the bench-lands with the grape-vines just budding; I want to see some bald-faced cows clinging to the Santa Barbara hillsides, and I want to meet some fellow on the train who speaks the language of my tribe."

"Farrel, you're all Irish. You're romantic and poetical, and you feel the call of kind to kind. That's distinctly a Celtic trait."

"Quien sabe? But I have a great yearning to speak Spanish with somebody. It's my mother tongue."

"There must be another reason," the captain bantered him. "Sure there isn't a girl somewhere along the right of way and you are fearful, if you take the night-train, that the porter may fail to waken you in time to wave to her as you go by her station?"

Farrel shook his head.

"There's another reason, but that isn't it. Captain, haven't you been visualizing every little detail of your home-coming?"

"You forget, Farrel, that I'm a regular-army man, and we poor devils get accustomed to being uprooted. I've learned not to build castles in Spain, and I never believe I'm going to get a leave until the old man hands me the order. Even then, I'm always fearful of an order recalling it."

"You're missing a lot of happiness, sir. Why, I really believe I've had more fun out of the anticipation of my home-coming than I may get out of the realization. I've planned every detail for months, and, if anything slips, I'm liable to sit right down and bawl like a kid."

"Let's listen to your plan of operations, Farrel," the captain suggested. "I'll never have one myself, in all probability, but I'm child enough to want to listen to yours."

"Well, in the first place, I haven't communicated with my father since landing here. He doesn't know I'm back in California, and I do not want him to know until I drop in on him."

"And your mother, Farrel?"'

"Died when I was a little chap. No brothers or sisters. Well, if I had written him or wired him when I first arrived, he would have had a week of the most damnable suspense, because, owing to the uncertainty of the exact date of our demobilization, I could not have informed him of the exact time of my arrival home. Consequently, he'd have had old Carolina, our cook, dishing up nightly fearful quantities of the sort of grub I was raised on. And that would be wasteful. Also, he'd sit under the catalpa tree outside the western wall of the hacienda and never take his eyes off the highway from El Toro or the trail from Sespe. And every night after the sun had set and I'd failed to show up, he'd go to bed heavy-hearted. Suspense is hard on an old man, sir."

"On young men, too. Go on."

"Well, I'll drop off the train to-morrow afternoon about four o'clock at a lonely little flag-station called Sespe. After the train leaves Sespe, it runs south-west for almost twenty miles to the coast, and turns south to El Toro. Nearly everybody enters the San Gregorio from El Toro, but, via the short-cut trail from Sespe, I can hike it home in three hours and arrive absolutely unannounced and unheralded.

"Now, as I pop up over the mile-high ridge back of Sespe, I'll be looking down on the San Gregorio while the last of the sunlight still lingers there. You see, sir, I'm only looking at an old picture I've always loved. Tucked away down in the heart of the valley, there is an old ruin of a mission—the Mission de la Madre Dolorosa—the Mother of Sorrows. The light will be shining on its dirty white walls and red-tiled roof, and I'll sit me down in the shade of a manzanita bush and wait, because that's my valley and I know what's coming.

"Exactly at six o'clock, I shall see a figure come out on the roof of the mission and stand in front of the old gallows-frame on which hang eight chimes that were carried in on mules from the City of Mexico when Junipero Serra planted the cross of Catholicism at San Diego, in 1769. That distant figure will be Brother Flavio, of the Franciscan Order, and the old boy is going to ramp up and down in front of those chimes with a hammer and give me a concert. He'll bang out 'Adeste Fideles' and 'Gloria in Excelsis.' That's a cinch, because he's a creature of habit. Occasionally he plays 'Lead, Kindly Light' and 'Ave Maria'!"

Farrel paused, a faint smile of amusement fringing his handsome mouth. He rolled and lighted a cigarette and continued:

"My father wrote me that old Brother Flavio, after a terrible battle with his own conscience and at the risk of being hove out of the valley by his indignant superior, Father Dominic, was practising 'Hail, The Conquering Hero Comes!' against the day of my home-coming. I wrote father to tell Brother Flavio to cut that out and substitute 'In the Good Old Summertime' if he wanted to make a hit with me. Awfully good old hunks, Brother Flavio! He knows I like those old chimes, and, when I'm home, he most certainly bangs them so the melody will carry clear up to the Palomar."

The captain was gazing with increasing amazement upon his former first sergeant. After eighteen months, he had discovered a man he had not known heretofore."

"And after the 'Angelus'—what?" he demanded.

Farrel's smug little smile of complacency had broadened.

"Well, sir, when Brother Flavio pegs out, I'll get up and run down to the Mission, where Father Dominic, Father Andreas, Brother Flavio, Brother Anthony, and Brother Benedict will all extend a welcome and muss me up, and we'll all talk at once and get nowhere with the conversation for the first five minutes. Brother Anthony is just a little bit—ah—nutty, but harmless. He'll want to know how many men I've killed, and I'll tell him two hundred and nineteen. He has a leaning toward odd numbers, as tending more toward exactitude. Right away, he'll go into the chapel and pray for their souls, and while he's at this pious exercise, Father Dominic will dig up a bottle of old wine that's too good for a nut like Brother Anthony, and we'll sit on a bench in the mission garden in the shade of the largest bougainvillea in the world and tuck away the wine. Between tucks, Father Dominic will inquire casually into the state of my soul, and the information thus elicited will scandalize the old saint. The only way I can square myself is to go into the chapel with them and give thanks for my escape from the Bolsheviki.

"By that time, it will be a quarter of seven and dark, so Father Dominic will crank up a prehistoric little automobile my father gave him in order that he might spread himself over San Marcos County on Sundays and say two masses. I have a notion that the task of keeping that old car in running order has upset Brother Anthony's mental balance. He used to be a blacksmith's helper in El Toro in his youth, and therefore is supposed to be a mechanic in his old age."

"Then the old padre drives you home, eh?" the captain suggested.

"He does. Providentially, it is now the cool of the evening. The San Gregorio is warm enough, for all practical purposes, even on a day in April, and, knowing this, I am grateful to myself for timing my arrival after the heat of the day. Father Dominic is grateful also. The old man wears thin sandals, and on hot days he suffers continuous martyrdom from the heat of that little motor. He is always begging Satan to fly away with that hot-foot accelerator.

"Well, arrived home, I greet my father alone in the patio. Father Dominic, meanwhile, sits outside in his flivver and permits the motor to roar, just to let my father know he's there, although not for money enough to restore his mission would he butt in on us at that moment.

"Well, my father will not be able to hear a word I say until Padre Dominic shuts off his motor; so my father will yell at him and ask him what the devil he's doing out there and to come in, and be quick about it, or he'll throw his share of the dinner to the hogs. We always dine at seven; so we'll be in time for dinner. But before we go in to dinner, my dad will ring the bell in the compound, and the help will report. Amid loud cries of wonder and delight, I shall be welcomed by a mess of mixed breeds of assorted sexes, and old Pablo, the majordomo, will be ordered to pass out some wine to celebrate my arrival. It's against the law to give wine to an Indian, but then, as my father always remarks on such occasions: 'To hell with the law! They're my Indians, and there are damned few of them left.'

"Padre Dominic, my father, and I will, in all probability, get just a little bit jingled at dinner. After dinner, we'll sit on the porch flanking the patio and smoke cigars, and I'll smell the lemon verbena and heliotrope and other old-fashioned flowers modern gardeners have forgotten how to grow. About midnight, Father Dominic's brain will have cleared, and he will be fit to be trusted with his accursed automobile; so he will snort home in the moonlight, and my father will then carefully lock the patio gate with a nine-inch key. Not that anybody ever steals anything in our country, except a cow once in a while—and cows never range in our patio—but just because we're hell-benders for conforming to custom. When I was a boy, Pablo Artelan, our majordomo, always slept athwart that gate, like an old watchdog. I give you my word I've climbed that patio wall a hundred times and dropped down on Pablo's stomach without wakening him. And, for a quarter of a century, to my personal knowledge, that patio gate has supported itself on a hinge and a half. Oh, we're a wonderful institution, we Farrels!"

"What did you say this Pablo was?"

"He used to be a majordomo. That is, he was the foreman of the ranch when we needed a foreman. We haven't needed Pablo for a long time, but it doesn't cost much to keep him on the pay-roll, except when his relatives come to visit him and stay a couple of weeks."

"And your father feeds them?"

"Certainly. Also, he houses them. It can't be helped. It's an old custom."

"How long has Pablo been a pensioner?"

"From birth. He's mostly Indian, and all the work he ever did never hurt him. But, then, he was never paid very much. He was born on the ranch and has never been more than twenty miles from it. And his wife is our cook. She has relatives, too."

The captain burst out laughing.

"But surely this Pablo has some use," he suggested.

"Well he feeds the dogs, and in order to season his frijoles with the salt of honest labor, he saddles my father's horse and leads him round to the house every morning. Throughout the remainder of the day, he sits outside the wall and, by following the sun, he manages to remain in the shade. He watches the road to proclaim the arrival of visitors, smokes cigarettes, and delivers caustic criticisms on the younger generation when he can get anybody to listen to him."

"How old is your father, Farrel?"

"Seventy-eight."

"And he rides a horse!"

"He does worse than that." Farrel laughed. "He rides a horse that would police you, sir. On his seventieth birthday, at a rodeo, he won first prize for roping and hog-tying a steer."

"I'd like to meet that father of yours, Farrel."

"You'd like him. Any time you want to spend a furlough on the Palomar, we'll make you mighty welcome. Better come in the fall for the quail-shooting." He glanced at his wrist-watch and sighed. "Well, I suppose I'd do well to be toddling along. Is the captain going to remain in the service?"

The captain nodded.

"My people are hell-benders on conforming to custom, also," he added. "We've all been field-artillerymen.

"I believe I thanked you for a favor you did me once, but to prove I meant what I said, I'm going to send you a horse, sir. He is a chestnut with silver points, five years old, sixteen hands high, sound as a Liberty Bond, and bred in the purple. He is beautifully reined, game, full of ginger, but gentle and sensible. He'll weigh ten hundred in condition, and he's as active as a cat. You can win with him at any horse-show and at the head of a battery. Dios! He is every inch a caballero!"

"Sergeant, you're much too kind. Really—"

"The things we have been through together, sir—all that we have been to each other—never can happen again. You will add greatly to my happiness if you will accept this animal as a souvenir of our very pleasant association."

"Oh, son, this is too much! You're giving me your own private mount. You love him. He loves you. Doubtless he'll know you the minute you enter the pasture."

Farrel's fine white teeth, flashed in a brilliant smile, "I do not desire to have the captain mounted on an inferior horse. We have many other good horses on the Palomar. This one's name is Panchito; I will express him to you some day this week."

"Farrel, you quite overwhelm me. A thousand thanks! I'll treasure Panchito for your sake as well as his own."

The soldier extended his hand, and the captain grasped it.

"Good-by, Sergeant. Pleasant green fields!"

"Good-by, sir. Dry camps and quick promotion."

The descendant of a conquistador picked up his straw suitcase, his helmet, and gas-mask. At the door, he stood to attention, and saluted. The captain leaped to his feet and returned this salutation of warriors; the door opened and closed, and the officer stood staring at the space so lately occupied by the man who, for eighteen months, had been his right hand.

"Strange man!" he muttered. "I didn't know they bred his kind any more. Why, he's a feudal baron!"



III

There were three people in the observation-car when Michael Joseph Farrel boarded it a few minutes before eight o'clock the following morning. Of the three, one was a girl, and, as Farrel entered, carrying the souvenirs of his service—a helmet and gas-mask—she glanced at him with the interest which the average civilian manifests in any soldier obviously just released from service and homeward bound. Farrel's glance met hers for an instant with equal interest; then he turned to stow his impedimenta in the brass rack over his seat. He was granted an equally swift but more direct appraisal of her as he walked down the observation-car to the rear platform, where he selected a chair in a corner that offered him sanctuary from the cold, fog-laden breeze, lighted a cigar, and surrendered himself to contemplating, in his mind's eye, the joys of home-coming.

He had the platform to himself until after the train had passed Palo Alto, when others joined him. The first to emerge on the platform was a Japanese. Farrel favored him with a cool, contemptuous scrutiny, for he was a Californian and did not hold the members of this race in a tithe of the esteem he accorded other Orientals. This Japanese was rather shorter and thinner than the majority of his race. He wore large, round tortoise-shell spectacles, and clothes that proclaimed the attention of the very best tailors; a gold-band ring, set with one blue-white diamond and two exquisite sapphires, adorned the pudgy finger of his right hand. Farrel judged that his gray beaver hat must have cost at least fifty dollars.

"We ought to have Jim Crow cars for these cock-sure sons of Nippon," the ex-soldier growled to himself. "We'll come to it yet if something isn't done about them. They breed so fast they'll have us crowded into back seats in another decade."

He had had some unpleasant clashes with Japanese troops in Siberia, and the memory of their studied insolence was all the more poignant because it had gone unchallenged. He observed, now, that the Japanese passenger had permitted the screen door to slam in the face of the man following him; with a very definite appreciation of the good things of life, he had instantly selected the chair in the corner opposite Farrel, where he could smoke his cigar free from the wind. Following the Japanese came an American, as distinctive of his class as the Japanese was of his. In point of age, this man was about fifty years old—a large man strikingly handsome and of impressive personality. He courteously held the door open to permit the passage of the girl whom Farrel had noticed when he first entered the car.

To Farrel, at least, a surprising incident now occurred. There were eight vacant seats on the platform, and the girl's glance swept them all; he fancied it rested longest upon the chair beside him. Then, with the faintest possible little moue of disapproval, she seated herself beside the Japanese. The other man took the seat in front of the girl, half turned, and entered into conversation with the Jap.

Farrel studied the trio with interest, decided that they were traveling together, and that the man in the gray tweeds was the father of the girl. She bore a striking resemblance to him and had inherited his handsome features a thousandfold, albeit her eyes were different, being large, brown, and wide apart; from them beamed a sweetness, a benignancy, and tenderness that, to the impressionable Farrel, bespoke mental as well as physical beauty. She was gowned, gloved, and hatted with rich simplicity.

"I think that white man is from the East," Farrel concluded, although why that impression came to him, he would have been at a loss to explain. Perhaps it was because he appeared to associate on terms of social equality with a Japanese whose boorishness, coupled with an evident desire to agree with everything the white man said, proclaimed him anything but a consular representative or a visiting merchant.

Presently the girl's brown eyes were turned casually in Farrel's direction, seemingly without interest. Instantly he rose, fixed her with a comprehending look, nodded almost imperceptibly toward the chair he was vacating, and returned to his seat inside the car. Her fine brows lifted a trifle; her slight inclination of the head was robbed of the chill of brevity by a fleeting smile of gratitude, not so much for the sacrifice of his seat in her favor as for the fine courtesy which had moved him to proffer it without making of his action an excuse to sit beside her and attempt an acquaintance.

From his exile, Farrel observed with satisfaction how quickly the girl excused herself to her companions and crossed over to the seat vacated in her favor.

At the first call for luncheon, he entered the diner and was given a seat at a small table. The seat opposite him was unoccupied, and when the girl entered the diner alone and was shown to this vacant seat, Farrel thrilled pleasurably.

"Three long, loud ones for you, young lady!" he soliloquized. "You didn't care to eat at the same table with the brown beggar; so you came to luncheon alone."

As their glances met, there was in Farrel's black eyes no hint of recognition, for he possessed in full measure all of the modesty and timidity of the most modest and timid race on earth where women are concerned—the Irish—tempered with the exquisite courtesy of that race for whom courtesy and gallantry toward woman are a tradition—the Spanish of that all but extinct Californian caste known as the gente.

It pleased Farrel to pretend careful study of the menu. Although his preferences in food were simple, he was extraordinarily hungry and knew exactly what he wanted. For long months he had dreamed of a porterhouse steak smothered in mushrooms, and now, finding that appetizing viand listed on the menu, he ordered it without giving mature deliberation to the possible consequences of his act. For the past two months he had been forced to avoid, when dining alone, meats served in such a manner as to necessitate firm and skilful manipulation of a knife—and when the waiter served his steak, he discovered, to his embarrassment, that it was not particularly tender nor was his knife even reasonably sharp. Consequently, following an unsatisfactory assault, he laid the knife aside and cast an anxious glance toward the kitchen, into which his waiter had disappeared; while awaiting the aid of this functionary, he hid his right hand under the table and gently massaged the back of it at a point where a vivid red scar showed.

He was aware that the girl was watching him, and, with the fascination peculiar to such a situation, he could not forbear a quick glance at her. Interest and concern showed in the brown eyes, and she smiled frankly, as she said:

"I very much fear, Mr. Ex-First Sergeant, that your steak constitutes an order you are unable to execute. Perhaps you will not mind if I carve it for you."

"Please do not bother about me!" he exclaimed. "The waiter will be here presently. You are very kind, but—"

"Oh, I'm quite an expert in the gentle art of mothering military men. I commanded a hot-cake-and-doughnut brigade in France." She reached across the little table and possessed herself of his plate.

"I'll bet my last copeck you had good discipline, too," he declared admiringly. He could imagine the number of daring devils from whose amorous advances even a hot-cake queen was not immune.

"The recipe was absurdly simple: No discipline, no hot-cakes. And there were always a sufficient number of good fellows around to squelch anybody who tried to interfere with my efficiency. By the way, I observed how hungrily you were looking out the window this morning. Quite a change from Siberia, isn't it?"

"How did you know I'd soldiered in Siberia?"

"You said you'd bet your last copeck."

"You should have served in Intelligence."

"You are blessed with a fair amount of intuition yourself."

"Oh, I knew you didn't want to sit near that Jap. Can't bear the race myself."

She nodded approvingly.

"Waiter's still out in the kitchen," she reminded him. "Now, old soldier, aren't you glad I took pity on you? Your steak would have been cold before he got round to you, and I imagine you've had sufficient cold rations to do you quite a while."

"It was sweet of you to come to my rescue. I'm not exactly crippled, though I haven't used my hand for more than two months, and the muscles are slightly atrophied. The knife slips because I cannot close my hand tightly. But I'll be all right in another month."

"What happened to it?"

"Saber-thrust. Wouldn't have amounted to much if the Bolshevik who did the thrusting had had a clean saber. Blood-poisoning set in, but our battalion surgeon got to work on it in time to save me from being permanently crippled."

"'Saber-thrust?' They got that close to you?"

He nodded.

"Troop of Semenoff's bandits in a little two-by-four fight out on the trans-Siberian railroad. Guess they wanted the trainload of rations we were guarding. My captain killed the fellow who stuck me and accounted for four others who tried to finish me."

"Captains think a great deal of good first sergeants," she suggested. "And you got a wound-chevron out of it. I suppose, like every soldier, you wanted one, provided it didn't cost too much."

"Oh, yes. And I got mine rather cheap. The battalion surgeon fixed it so I didn't have to go to the hospital. Never missed a day of duty."

She handed him his plate with the steak cut into bits.

"It was nice of you to surrender your cozy seat to me this morning, Sergeant." She buttered a piece of bread for him and added, "But very much nicer the way you did it."

"'Cast thy bread upon the waters,'" he quoted, and grinned brazenly. "Nevertheless, if I were in civvies, you'd have permitted the waiter to cut my steak."

"Oh, of course we veterans must stand together, Sergeant."

"I find it pleasanter sitting together. By the way, may I ask the identity of the Nipponese person, with your father?"

"How do you know he is my father?" she parried.

"I do not know. I merely thought he looked quite worthy of the honor."

"While away with the rough, bad soldiers, you did not forget how to make graceful speeches," she complimented him. "The object of your pardonable curiosity is a Mr. Okada, the potato baron of California. He was formerly prime minister to the potato king of the San Joaquin, but revolted and became a pretender to the throne. While the king lives, however, Okada is merely a baron, although in a few years he will probably control the potato market absolutely."

He thumped the table lightly with his maimed hand.

"I knew he was just a coolie dressed up."

She reached for an olive.

"Go as far as you like, native son. He's no friend of mine."

"Well, in that case, I'll spare his life," he countered boldly. "And I've always wanted to kill a Japanese potato baron. Do you not think it would be patriotic of me to immolate myself and reduce the cost of spuds?"

"I never eat them. They're very fattening. Now, if you really wish to be a humanitarian, why not search out the Japanese garlic king?"

"I dare not. His demise would place me in bad odor."

She laughed merrily. Evidently she was finding him amusing company. She looked him over appraisingly and queried bluntly,

"Were you educated abroad?"

"I was not. I'm a product of a one-room schoolhouse perched on a bare hill down in San Marcos County."

"But you speak like a college man."

"I am. I'm a graduate of the University of California Agricultural College, at Davis. I'm a sharp on pure-bred beef cattle, pure-bred swine, and irrigation. I know why hens decline to lay when eggs are worth eighty cents a dozen, and why young turkeys are so blamed hard to raise in the fall. My grandfather and my father were educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and were sharps on Latin and Greek, but I never figured the dead languages as much of an aid to a man doomed from birth to view cows from the hurricane-deck of a horse."

"But you have such a funny little clipped accent."

He opened his great black eyes in feigned astonishment.

"Oh, didn't you know?" he whispered.

"Know what?"

"Unfortunate young woman!" he murmured to his water-glass. "No wonder she sits in public with that pudgy son of a chrysanthemum, when she isn't even able to recognize a greaser at a glance. Oh, Lord!"

"You're not a greaser," she challenged.

"No?" he bantered. "You ought to see me squatting under an avocado tree, singing the 'Spanish Cavalier' to a guitar accompaniment. Listen: I'll prove it without the accompaniment." And he hummed softly:

"The Spanish cavalier, Went out to rope a steer, Along with his paper cigar-o, 'Car-ramba!' says he. 'Manana you will be Mucho bueno carne par mio!'"

Her brown eyes danced.

"That doesn't prove anything except that you're an incorrigible Celt. When you stooped down to kiss the stone at Blarney Castle, you lost your balance and fell in the well. And you've dripped blarney ever since."

"Oh, not that bad, really! I'm a very serious person ordinarily. That little forget-me-not of language is a heritage of my childhood. Mother taught me to pray in Spanish, and I learned that language first. Later, my grandfather taught me to swear in English with an Irish accent, and I've been fearfully balled up ever since. It's very inconvenient."

"Be serious, soldier, or I shall not cut your meat for you at dinner."

"Excuse me. I forgot I was addressing a hot-cake queen. But please do not threaten me, because I'm out of the army just twenty-four hours, and I'm independent and I may resent it. I can order spoon-victuals, you know."

"You aren't really Spanish?"

"Not really. Mostly. I'd fight a wild bull this minute for a single red-chilli pepper. I eat them raw."

"And you're going home to your ranch now?"

"Si. And I'll not take advantage of any stop-over privileges on the way, either. Remember the fellow in the song who kept on proclaiming that he had to go back—that he must go back—that he would go back—to that dear old Chicago town? Well, that poor exile had only just commenced to think that he ought to begin feeling the urge to go home. And when you consider that the unfortunate man hailed from Chicago, while I—" He blew a kiss out the window and hummed:

"I love you, California. You're the greatest state of all—"

"Oh dear! You native sons are all alike. Congenital advertisers, every one."

"Well, isn't it beautiful? Isn't it wonderful?" He was serious now.

"One-half of your state is worthless mountain country—"

"He-country—and beautiful!" he interrupted.

"The other half is desert."

"Ever see the Mojave in the late afternoon from the top of the Tejon Pass?" he challenged. "The wild, barbaric beauty of it? And with water it would be a garden-spot."

"Of course your valleys are wonderful."

"Gracias, senorita."

"But the bare brown hills in summer-time—and the ghost-rivers of the South! I do not think they are beautiful."

"They grow on one," he assured her earnestly. "You wait and see. I wish you could ride over the hills back of Sespe with me this afternoon, and see the San Gregorio valley in her new spring gown. Ah, how my heart yearns for the San Gregorio!"

To her amazement, she detected a mistiness in his eyes, and her generous heart warmed to him.

"How profoundly happy you are!" she commented.

"'Happy'? I should tell a man! I'm as happy as a cock valley-quail with a large family and no coyotes in sight. Wow! This steak is good."

"Not very, I think. It's tough."

"I have good teeth."

She permitted him to eat in silence for several minutes, and when he had disposed of the steak, she asked,

"You live in the San Gregorio valley?"

He nodded.

"We have a ranch there also," she volunteered. "Father acquired it recently."

"From whom did he acquire it?"

"I do not know the man's name, but the ranch is one of those old Mexican grants. It has a Spanish name. I'll try to remember it." She knitted her delicate brows. "It's Pal-something or other."

"Is it the Palomares grant?" he suggested.

"I think it is. I know the former owner is dead, and my father acquired the ranch by foreclosure of mortgage on the estate."

"Then it's the Palomares grant. My father wrote in his last letter that old man Gonzales had died and that a suit to foreclose the mortgage had been entered against the estate. The eastern edge of that grant laps over the lower end of the San Gregorio. Is your father a banker?"

"He controls the First National Bank of El Toro."

"That settles the identity of the ranch. Gonzales was mortgaged to the First National." He smiled a trifle foolishly. "You gave me a bad ten seconds," he explained. "I thought you meant my father's ranch at first."

"Horrible!" She favored him with a delightful little grimace of sympathy. "Just think of coming home and finding yourself homeless!"

"I think such a condition would make me wish that Russian had been given time to finish what he started. By the way, I knew all of the stockholders in the First National Bank, of El Toro. Your father is a newcomer. He must have bought out old Dan Hayes' interest." She nodded affirmatively. "Am I at liberty to be inquisitive—just a little bit?" he queried.

"That depends, Sergeant. Ask your question, and if I feel at liberty to answer it, I shall."

"Is that Japanese, Okada, a member of your party?"

"Yes; he is traveling with us. He has a land-deal on with my father."

"Ah!"

She glanced across at him with new interest.

"There was resentment in that last observation of yours," she challenged.

"In common with all other Californians with manhood enough to resent imposition, I resent all Japanese."

"Is it true, then, that there is a real Japanese problem out here?"

"Why, I thought everybody knew that," he replied, a trifle reproachfully. "As the outpost of Occidental civilization, we've been battling Oriental aggression for forty years."

"I had thought this agitation largely the mouthings of professional agitators—a part of the labor-leaders' plan to pose as the watch-dogs of the rights of the California laboring man."

"That is sheer buncombe carefully fostered by a very efficient corps of Japanese propagandists. The resentment against the Japanese invasion of California is not confined to any class, but is a very vital issue with every white citizen of the state who has reached the age of reason and regardless of whether he was born in California or Timbuctoo. Look!"

He pointed to a huge sign-board fronting a bend in the highway that ran close to the railroad track and parallel with it:

NO MORE JAPS WANTED HERE

"This is entirely an agricultural section," he explained. "There are no labor-unions here. But," he added bitterly, "you could throw a stone in the air and be moderately safe on the small end of a bet that the stone would land on a Jap farmer."

"Do the white farmers think that sign will frighten them away?"

"No; of course not. That sign is merely a polite intimation to white men who may contemplate selling or leasing their lands to Japs that the organized sentiment of this community is against such a course. The lower standards of living of the Oriental enable him to pay much higher prices for land than a white man can."

"But," she persisted, "these aliens have a legal right to own and lease land in this state, have they not?"

"Unfortunately, through the treachery of white lawyers, they have devised means to comply with the letter of a law denying them the right to own land, while evading the spirit of that law. Corporations with white dummy directors—purchases by alien Japs in the names of their infants in arms who happen to have been born in this country—" he shrugged.

"Then you should amend your laws."

He looked at her with the faintest hint of cool belligerence in his fine dark eyes.

"Every time we Californians try to enact a law calculated to keep our state a white man's country, you Easterners, who know nothing of our problem, and are too infernally lazy to read up on it, permit yourselves to be stampeded by that hoary shibboleth of strained diplomatic relations with the Mikado's government. Pressure is brought to bear on us from the seat of the national government; the President sends us a message to proceed cautiously, and our loyalty to the sisterhood of states is used as a club to beat our brains out. Once, when we were all primed to settle this issue decisively, the immortal Theodore Roosevelt—our two-fisted, non-bluffable President at that time—made us call off our dogs. Later, when again we began to squirm under our burden, the Secretary of State, pacific William J. Bryan, hurried out to our state capital, held up both pious hands, and cried: 'Oh, no! Really, you mustn't! We insist that you consider the other members of the family. Withhold this radical legislation until we can settle this row amicably.' Well, we were dutiful sons. We tried out the gentleman's agreement imposed on us in 1907, but when, in 1913, we knew it for a failure, we passed our Alien Land Bill, which hampered but did not prevent, although we knew from experience that the class of Japs who have a strangle-hold on California are not gentlemen but coolies, and never respect an agreement they can break if, in the breaking, they are financially benefited."

"Well," the girl queried, a little subdued by his vehemence, "how has that law worked out?"

"Fine—for the Japs. The Japanese population of California has doubled in five years; the area of fertile lands under their domination has increased a thousand-fold, until eighty-five per cent. of the vegetables raised in this state are controlled by Japs. They are not a dull people, and they know how to make that control yield rich dividends—at the expense of the white race. That man Okada is called the 'potato baron' because presently he will actually control the potato crop of central California—and that is where most of the potatoes of this state are raised. Which reminds me that I started to ask you a question about him. Do you happen to know if he is contemplating expanding his enterprise to include a section of southern California?"

"I suppose I ought not discuss my father's business affairs with a stranger," she replied, "but since he is making no secret of them, I dare say I do not violate his confidence when I tell you that he has a deal on with Mr. Okada to colonize the San Gregorio valley in San Marcos County."

The look of a thousand devils leaped into Farrel's eyes. The storm of passion that swept him was truly Latin in its terrible intensity. He glared at the girl with a malevolence that terrified her.

"My valley'" he managed to murmur presently. "My beautiful San Gregorio! Japs! Japs!"

"I hadn't the faintest idea that information would upset you so," the girl protested. "Please forgive me."

"I—I come from the San Gregorio," he cried passionately. "I love every rock and cactus and rattlesnake in it. Valgame Dios!" And the maimed right hand twisted and clutched as, subconsciously, he strove to clench his fist. "Ah, who was the coward—who was the traitor that betrayed us for a handful of silver?"

"Yes; I believe there is a great deal of the Latin about you," she said demurely. "If I had a temper as volcanic as yours, I would never, never go armed."

"I could kill with my naked hands the white man who betrays his community to a Jap. Madre de Dios, how I hate them!"

"Well, wait until your trusty right hand is healed before you try garroting anybody," she suggested dryly. "Suppose you cool off, Mr. Pepper-pot, and tell me more about this terrible menace?"

"You are interested—really?"

"I could be made to listen without interrupting you, if you could bring yourself to cease glaring at me with those terrible chile-con-carne eyes. I can almost see myself at my own funeral. Please remember that I have nothing whatsoever to do with my father's business affairs."

"Your father looks like a human being, and if he realized the economic crime he is fostering—"

"Easy, soldier! You're discussing my father, whereas I desire to discuss the Yellow Peril. To begin, are you prejudiced against a citizen of Japan just because he's a Jap?"

"I will be frank. I do not like the race. To a white man, there is nothing lovable about a Jap, nothing that would lead, except in isolated cases, to a warm friendship between members of our race and theirs. And I dare say the individual Jap has as instinctive a dislike for us as we have for him."

"Well then, how about John Chinaman?"

His face brightened.

"Oh, a Chinaman is different. He's a regular fellow. You can have a great deal of respect and downright admiration for a Chinaman, even of the coolie class."

"Nevertheless, the Chinese are excluded from California."

He nodded.

"But not because of strong racial prejudice. The Chinese, like any other Oriental, are not assimilable; also, like the Jap and the Hindu, they are smart enough to know a good thing when they see it—and California looks good to everybody. John Chinaman would overrun us if we permitted it, but since he is a mighty decent sort and realizes the sanity of our contention that he is not assimilable with us, or we with him, he admits the wisdom and justice of our slogan: 'California for white men.' There was no protest from Peking when we passed the Exclusion Act. Now, however, when we endeavor to exclude Japanese, Tokio throws a fit. But if we can muster enough courage among our state legislators to pass a law that will absolutely divorce the Japanese coolie from California land, we can cope with him in other lines of trade."

She had listened earnestly to his argument, delivered with all the earnestness of which he was capable.

"Why is he not assimilable?" she asked.

"Would you marry the potato baron?" he demanded bluntly.

"Certainly not!" she answered.

"He has gobs of money. Is that not a point worthy of consideration?"

"Not with me. It never could be."

"Perhaps you have gobs of money also."

"If I were a scrubwoman, and starving, I wouldn't consider a proposal of marriage from that Jap sufficiently long to reject it."

"Then you have answered your own question," he reminded her triumphantly. "The purity of our race—aye, the purity of the Japanese race—forbids intermarriage; hence we are confronted with the intolerable prospect of sharing our wonderful state with an alien race that must forever remain, alien—in thought, language, morals, religion, patriotism, and standards of living. They will dominate us, because they are a dominant people; they will shoulder us aside, control us, dictate to us, and we shall disappear from this beautiful land as surely and as swiftly as did the Mission Indian. While the South has its negro problem—and a sorry problem it is—we Californians have had an infinitely more dangerous problem thrust upon us. We've got to shake them off. We've got to!"

"I'll speak to my father. I do not think he understands—that he fully realizes—"

"Ah! Thank you so much. Your father is rich, is he not?"

"I think he possesses more money than he will ever need," she replied soberly.

"Please try to make him see that the big American thing to do would be to colonize his land in the San Gregorio for white men and take a lesser profit. Really, I do not relish the idea of Japanese neighbors."

"You live there, then?"

He nodded.

"Hope to die there, too. You leave the train at El Toro, I suppose?"

"My father has telegraphed mother to have the car meet us there. We shall motor out to the ranch. And are you alighting at El Toro also?"

"No. I plan to pile off at Sespe, away up the line, and take a short cut via a cattle-trail over the hills. I'll hike it."

She hesitated slightly. Then:

"I'm sure father would be very happy to give you a lift out from El Toro, Sergeant. We shall have oodles of room."

"Thank you. You are very kind. But the fact is," he went on to explain, "nobody knows I'm coming home, and I have a childish desire to sneak in the back way and surprise them. Were I to appear in El Toro, I'd have to shake hands with everybody in town and relate a history of my exploits and—"

"I understand perfectly. You just want to get home, don't you?" And she bent upon him a smile of complete understanding—a smile all-compelling, maternal. "But did you say you'd hike it in from Sespe? Why not hire a horse?"

"I'd like to have a horse, and if I cared to ask far one, I could borrow one. But I'll hike it instead. It will be easy in light marching-order."

"Speaking of horses," she said abruptly. "Do you know a horse in the San Gregorio named Panchito?"

"A very dark chestnut with silver mane and tail, five-gaited, and as stylish as a lady?"

"The very same."

"I should say I do know that horse! What about him?"

"My father is going to buy him for me."

This was news, and Farrel's manner indicated as much.

"Where did you see Panchito?" he demanded.

"An Indian named Pablo rode him into El Toro to be shod one day while we were living at the hotel there. He's perfectly adorable."

"Pablo? Hardly. I know the old rascal."

"Be serious. Panchito—I was passing the blacksmith's shop, and I simply had to step in and admire him."

"That tickled old Pablo to death—of course."

"It did. He put Panchito through all of his tricks for me, and, after the horse was shod, he permitted me to ride the dear for half an hour. Pablo was so kind! He waited until I could run back to the hotel and change into my riding-habit."

"Did you try to give Pablo some money—say, about five dollars?" he demanded, smilingly.

"Yes." Her eyes betrayed wonder.

"He declined it with profuse thanks, didn't he?"

"You're the queerest man I've ever met. Pablo did refuse it. How did you know?"

"I know Pablo. He wouldn't take money from a lady. It's against the code of the Rancho Palomar, and if his boss ever heard that he had fractured that code, he'd skin him alive."

"Not Pablo's boss. Pablo told me his Don Mike, as he calls him, was killed by the bewhiskered devils in a cold country the name of which he had heard but could not remember. He meant Siberia."

Farrel sat up suddenly.

"What's that?" he cried sharply. "He told you Don Mike had been killed?"

"Yes—poor fellow! Pablo said Don Mike's father had had a telegram from the War Department."

Farrel's first impulse was to curse the War Department—in Spanish, so she would not understand. His second was to laugh, and his third to burst into tears. How his father had suffered! Then he remembered that to-night, he, the said Don Mike, was to have the proud privilege of returning from Valhalla, of bringing the light of joy back to the faded eyes of old Don Miguel, and in the swift contemplation of the drama and the comedy impending, he stood staring at her rather stupidly. Pablo would doubtless believe he was a ghost returned to haunt old scenes; the majordomo would make the sign of the cross and start running, never pausing till he would reach the Mission of the Mother of Sorrows, there to pour forth his unbelievable tale to Father Dominic. Whereupon Father Dominic would spring into his prehistoric automobile and come up to investigate. Great jumped-up Jehoshaphat! What a climax to two years of soldiering!

"Wha—what—why—do you mean to tell me poor old Mike Farrel has lost the number of his mess?" he blurted. "Great snakes! That news breaks me all up in business."

"You knew him well, then?"

"'Knew him?' Why, I ate with him, slept with turn, rode with him, went to school with him. Know him? I should tell a man! We even soldiered together in Siberia; but, strange to say, I hadn't heard of his death."

"Judging by all the nice things I heard about him in El Toro, his death was a genuine loss to his section of the country. Everybody appears to have known him and loved him."

"One has to die before his virtues are apparent to some people," Farrel murmured philosophically. "And now that Don Mike Farrel is dead, you hope to acquire Panchito, eh?"

"I'll be broken-hearted if I cannot."

"He'll cost you a lot of money."

"He's worth a lot of money."

He gazed at her very solemnly.

"I am aware that what I am about to say is but poor return for your sweet courtesy, but I feel that you might as well begin now to abandon all hope of ever owning Panchito."

"Why?"

"I—I hate to tell you this, but the fact is—I'm going to acquire him."

She shook, her head and smiled at him—the superior smile of one quite conscious of her strength.

"He is to be sold at public auction," she informed him. "And the man who outbids me for that horse will have to mortgage his ranch and borrow money on his Liberty Bonds."

"We shall see that which we shall see," he returned, enigmatically. "Waiter, bring me my check, please."

While the waiter was counting out the change from a twenty-dollar bill, Farrel resumed his conversation with the girl.

"Do you plan to remain in the San Gregorio very long?"

"All summer, I think."

He rose from his chair and bowed to her with an Old-World courtliness.

"Once more I thank you for your kindness to me, senorita," he said. "It is a debt that I shall always remember—and rejoice because I can never repay it. I dare say we shall meet again in the very near future, and when we do, I am going to arrange matters so that I may have the honor of being properly introduced." He pocketed his change. "Until some day in the San Gregorio, then," he finished, "adios!"

Despite his smile, her woman's intuition told her that something more poignant than the threatened Japanese invasion of the San Gregorio valley had cast a shadow over his sunny soul. She concluded it must have been the news of the death of his childhood chum, the beloved Don Mike.

"What a wonderful fellow Don Mike must have been!" she mused. "White men sing his praises, and Indians and mixed breeds cry them. No wonder this ex-soldier plans to outbid me for Panchito. He attaches a sentimental value to the horse because of his love for poor Don Mike. I wonder if I ought to bid against him under the circumstances. Poor dear! He wants his buddy's horse so badly. He's really very nice—so old-fashioned and sincere. And he's dreadfully good-looking."

"Nature was overgenerous with that young lady," Farrel decided, as he made his way up to the smoking-car. "As a usual thing, she seldom dispenses brains with beauty—and this girl has both. I wonder who she can be? Well, she's too late for Panchito. She may have any other horse on the ranch, but—"

He glanced down at the angry red scar on the back of his right hand and remembered. What a charger was Panchito for a battery commander!



IV

Farrel remained in the smoking-car throughout the rest of his journey, for he feared the possibility of a renewal of acquaintance with his quondam companion of the dining-car should he return to the observation-platform. He did not wish to meet her as a discharged soldier, homeward bound—the sort of stray dog every man, woman, and child feels free to enter into conversation with and question regarding his battles, wounds, and post-office address. When he met that girl again, he wanted to meet her as Don Miguel Jose Farrel, of Palomar. He was not so unintelligent as to fail to realize that in his own country he was a personage, and he had sufficient self-esteem to desire her to realize it also. He had a feeling that, should they meet frequently in the future, they would become very good friends. Also, he looked forward with quiet amusement to the explanations that would ensue when the supposedly dead should return to life.

During their brief conversation, she had given him much food for thought—so much, in fact, that presently he forgot about her entirely. His mind was occupied with the problem that confronts practically all discharged soldiers—that of readjustment, not to the life of pre-war days, but to one newer, better, more ambitious, and efficient. Farrel realized that a continuation of his dolce-far-niente life on the Rancho Palomar under the careless, generous, and rather shiftless administration of his father was not for him. Indeed, the threatened invasion of the San Gregorio by Japanese rendered imperative an immediate decision to that effect. He was the first of an ancient lineage who had even dreamed of progress; he had progressed, and he could never, by any possibility, afford to retrograde.

The Farrels had never challenged competition. They had been content to make their broad acres pay a sum sufficient to meet operating-expenses and the interest-charges on the ancient mortgage, meanwhile supporting themselves in all the ease and comfort of their class by nibbling at their principal. Just how far his ancestors had nibbled, the last of the Farrels was not fully informed, but he was young and optimistic, and believed that, with proper management and the application of modern ranching principles, he would succeed, by the time he was fifty, in saving this principality intact for those who might come after him, for it was not a part of his life plan to die childless—now that the war was over and he out of it practically with a whole skin. This aspect of his future he considered as the train rolled into the Southland. He was twenty-eight years old, and he had never been in love, although, since his twenty-first birthday, his father and Don Juan Sepulvida, of the Rancho Carpajo, had planned a merger of their involved estates through the simple medium of a merger of their families. Anita Sepulvida was a beauty that any man might be proud of; her blood was of the purest and best, but, with a certain curious hard-headedness (the faint strain of Scotch in him, in all likelihood), Don Mike had declined to please the oldsters by paying court to her.

"There's sufficient of the manana spirit in our tribe now, even with the Celtic admixture," he had declared forcibly. "I believe that like begets like in the human family as well as in the animal kingdom, and we know from experience that it never fails there. An infusion of pep is what our family needs, and I'll be hanged if I relish the job of rehabilitating two decayed estates for a posterity that I know could no more compete with the Anglo-Saxon race than did their ancestors."

Whereat, old Don Miguel, who possessed a large measure of the Celtic instinct for domination, had informed Don Mike that the latter was too infernally particular. By the blood of the devil, his son's statement indicated a certain priggishness, which he, Don Miguel, could not deplore too greatly.

"You taught me pride of race," his son reminded him. "I merely desire to improve our race by judicious selection when I mate. And, of course, I'll have to love the woman I marry. And I do not love Anita Sepulvida."

"She loves you," the old don had declared bluntly.

"Then she's playing in hard luck. Believe me, father, I'm no prig, but I do realize the necessity for grafting a little gringo hustle to our family tree. Consider the supergrandson you will have if you leave me to follow my own desires in this matter. In him will be blended the courtliness and chivalry of Spain, the imagery and romance and belligerency of the Irish, the thrift and caution of the Scotch, and the go-get-him-boy, knock-down-and-drag-out spirit of our own Uncle Sam. Why, that's a combination you cannot improve upon!"

"I wish I could fall in love with some fine girl, marry her, and give my father optical assurance, before he passes on, that the Farrel tribe is not, like the mule, without pride of ancestry or hope of posterity," he mused; "but I'll be shot if I'll ever permit myself to fall in love with the sort of woman I want until I know I have something more tangible than love and kisses to offer her. About all I own in this world is this old uniform and Panchito—and I'm getting home just in time to prevent my father from selling him at auction for the benefit of my estate. And since I'm going to chuck this uniform to-morrow and give Panchito away the day after—by the gods of War, that girl gave me a fright when she was trying to remember the name of old man Gonzales's ranch! If it had been the Palomar instead of the Palomares! I might be able to stand the sight of Japs on the Palomares end of the San Gregorio, but on the Palomar—"

At four o'clock, when the train whistled for Sespe, he hurried back to the observation-car to procure his baggage preparatory to alighting from the train. The girl sat in the seat opposite his, and she looked up at him now with friendly eyes.

"Would you care to leave your things in the car and entrust them to father's man?" she queried. "We would be glad to take them in the motor as far as the mission. My father suggested it," she added.

"Your father's a brick. I shall be happy to accept, thank you. Just tell the chauffeur to leave them off in front of the mission and I'll pick them up when I come over the trail from Sespe. I can make far better time over the hills without this suitcase, light as it is."

"You're exceedingly welcome, Sergeant. And, by the way, I have decided not to contest your right to Panchito. It wouldn't be sporty of me to outbid you for your dead buddy's horse."

His heart leaped.

"I think you're tremendously sweet," he declared bluntly. "As matters stand, we happen to have a half-brother of Panchito up on the ranch—or, at least, we did have when I enlisted. He's coming four, and he ought to be a beauty. I'll break him for you myself. However," he added, with a deprecatory grin, "I—I realize you're not the sort of girl who accepts gifts from strangers; so, if you have a nickel on you, I'll sell you this horse, sight unseen. If he's gone, I'll give the nickel back."

"You are quite right," she replied, with an arch smile. "I could not possibly accept a gift from a stranger. Neither could I buy a horse from a stranger—no; not even at the ridiculous price of five cents."

"Perhaps if I introduced myself—have I your permission to be that bold?"

"Well," she replied, still with that bright, friendly, understanding smile, "that might make a difference."

"I do not deserve such consideration. Consequently, for your gentle forbearance, you shall be accorded a unique privilege—that of meeting a dead soldier. I am Miguel Jose Farrel, better known as 'Don Mike,' of the Rancho Palomar, and I own Panchito. To quote the language of Mark Twain, 'the report of my death has been grossly exaggerated,' as is the case of several thousand other soldiers in this man's army." He chuckled as he saw a look of amazement replace the sweet smile. "And you are Miss—" he queried.

She did not answer. She could only stare at him, and in that look he thought he noted signs of perturbation. While he had talked, the train had slid to a momentary halt for the flag-station, and while he waited now for her name, the train began creeping out of Sespe.

"All right," he laughed. "You can tell me your name when we meet again. I must run for it. Good-by." He hurried through the screen door to the platform, stepped over the brass railing, and clung there a moment, looking back into the car at her before dropping lightly to the ground between the tracks.

"Now what the devil is the meaning of that?" he mused, as he stood there watching the train. "There were tears in her eyes."

He crossed the tracks, climbed a fence, and after traversing a small piece of bottom-land, entered a trail through the chaparral, and started his upward climb to the crest of the range that hid the San Gregorio. Suddenly he paused.

Had the girl's unfamiliarity with Spanish names caused her to confuse Palomar with Palomares? And why was Panchito to be sold at auction? Was it like his father to sacrifice his son's horse to any fellow with the money to buy him? No! No! Rather would he sell his own mount and retain Panchito for the sake of the son he mourned as dead. The Palomares end of the San Gregorio was too infertile to interest an experienced agriculturist like Okada; there wasn't sufficient acreage to make a colonization-scheme worth while. On the contrary, fifty thousand acres of the Rancho Palomar lay in the heart of the valley and immediately contiguous to the flood-waters at the head of the ghost-river for which the valley was named.

Don Mike, of Palomar, leaned against the bole of a scrub-oak and closed his eyes in sudden pain. Presently, he roused himself and went his way with uncertain step, for, from time to time, tears blinded him. And the last of the sunlight had faded from the San Gregorio before he topped the crest of its western boundary; the melody of Brother Flavio's angelus had ceased an hour previous, and over the mountains to the east a full moon stood in a cloudless sky, flooding the silent valley with its silver light, and pricking out in bold relief the gray-white walls of the Mission de la Madre Dolorosa, crumbling souvenir of a day that was done.

He ran down the long hill, and came presently to the mission. In the grass beside the white road, he searched for his straw suitcase, his gas-mask, and the helmet, but failing to find them, he concluded the girl had neglected to remind her father's chauffeur to throw them off in front of the mission, as promised. So he passed along the front of the ancient pile and let himself in through a wooden door in the high adobe wall that surrounded the churchyard immediately adjacent to the mission. With the assurance of one who treads familiar ground, he strode rapidly up a weed-grown path to a spot where a tall black-granite monument proclaimed that here rested the clay of one superior to his peon and Indian neighbors. And this was so, for the shaft marked the grave of the original Michael Joseph Farrel, the adventurer the sea had cast up on the shore of San Marcos County.

Immediately to the left of this monument, Don Mike saw a grave that had not been there when he left the Palomar. At the head of it stood a tile taken from the ruin of the mission roof, and on this brown tile some one had printed in rude lettering with white paint:

Fallecio Don Miguel Jose Noriaga Farrel Nacio, Junio 3, 1841 Muerto, Deciembre 29, 1919.

The last scion of that ancient house knelt in the mold of his father's grave and made the sign of the cross.



V

The tears which Don Mike Farrel had descried in the eyes of his acquaintance on the train were, as he came to realize when he climbed the steep cattle-trail from Sespe, the tribute of a gentle heart moved to quick and uncontrollable sympathy. Following their conversation in the dining-car, the girl—her name was Kay Parker—had continued her luncheon, her mind busy with thoughts of this strange home-bound ex-soldier who had so signally challenged her attention. "There's breeding back of that man," the girl mused. "He's only a rancher's son from the San Gregorio; where did he acquire his drawing-room manners?"

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse