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Todos Santos Solves The Mystery








From: The Crusade Of The Excelsior

Notwithstanding his promise, and the summons of the Council, Father
Esteban, on parting with the Excelsior prisoners in the San Antonio
Road, did not proceed immediately to the presence of the Comandante.
Partly anxious to inform himself more thoroughly regarding Hurlstone's
antecedents before entering upon legislative functions that might
concern him, partly uneasy at Brace's allusion to any possible
ungentleness in the treatment of the fair Americanas, and partly
apprehensive that Mrs. Brimmer might seek him at the Mission in
the present emergency, the good Father turned his steps towards the
Alcalde's house.

Mrs. Brimmer, in a becoming morning wrapper, half reclining in an
Indian hammock in the corridor, supported by Miss Chubb, started at his
approach. So did the young Alcalde, sympathetically seated at her side.
Padre Esteban for an instant was himself embarrassed; Mrs. Brimmer
quickly recovered her usual bewildering naivete.

"I knew you would come; but if you hadn't, I should have mustered
courage enough to go with Miss Chubb to find you at the Mission," she
said, half coquettishly. "Not but that Don Ramon has been all kindness
and consideration, but you know one always clings to one's spiritual
adviser in such an emergency; and although there are differences of
opinion between us, I think I may speak to you as freely as I would
speak to my dear friend Dr. Potts, of Trinity Chapel. Of course you
don't know HIM; but you couldn't have helped liking him, he's so gentle,
so tactful, so refined! But do tell me the fullest particulars of this
terrible calamity that has happened so awkwardly. Tell me all! I fear
that Don Ramon, out of kindness, has not told me everything. I have been
perfectly frank, I told him everything--who I am, who Mr. Brimmer is,
and given him even the connections of my friend Miss Chubb. I can do
no more; but you will surely have no difficulty in finding some one in
Todos Santos who has heard of the Quincys and Brimmers. I've no doubt
that there are books in your library that mention them. Of course I can
say nothing of the other passengers, except that Mr. Brimmer would not
have probably permitted me to associate with any notorious persons. I
confess now--I think I told you once before, Clarissa--that I greatly
doubted Captain Bunker's ability"--

"Ah," murmured Don Ramon.

"--To make a social selection," continued Mrs. Brimmer. "He may have
been a good sailor, and boxed his compass, but he lacked a knowledge
of the world. Of the other passengers I can truly say I know nothing;
I cannot think that Mr. Crosby's sense of humor led him into bad
associations, or that he ever went beyond verbal impropriety. Certainly
nothing in Miss Keene's character has led me to believe she could so far
forget what was due to herself and to us as to address a lawless mob in
the streets as she did just now; although her friend Mrs. Markham, as
I just told Don Ramon, is an advocate of Women's Rights and Female
Suffrage, and I believe she contemplates addressing the public from the
lecturer's platform."

"It isn't possible!" interrupted Don Ramon excitedly, in mingled
horror of the masculinely rampant Mrs. Markham and admiration of the
fascinatingly feminine Mrs. Brimmer; "a lady cannot be an orator--a
haranguer of men!"

"Not in society," responded Mrs. Brimmer, with a sigh, "and I do not
remember to have met the lady before. The fact is, she does not move in
our circle--in the upper classes."

The Alcalde exchanged a glance with the Padre.

"Ah! you have classes? and she is of a distinct class, perhaps?"

"Decidedly," said Mrs. Brimmer promptly.

"Pardon me," said Padre Esteban, with gentle persuasiveness, "but you
are speaking of your fellow-passengers. Know you not, then, of one
Hurlstone, who is believed to be still in the ship Excelsior, and
perhaps of the party who seized it?"

"Mr. Hurlstone?--it is possible; but I know really nothing of him," said
Mrs. Brimmer carelessly. "I don't think Clarissa did, either--did you,
dear? Even in our enforced companionship we had to use some reserve,
and we may have drawn the line at him! He was a friend of Miss Keene's;
indeed, she was the only one who seemed to know him."

"And she is now here?" asked the Padre eagerly.

"No. She is with her friend the Senora Markham, at the Presidio. The
Comandante has given her the disposition of his house," said Don Ramon,
with a glance of grave archness at Mrs. Brimmer; "it is not known which
is the most favored, the eloquent orator or the beautiful and daring
leader!"

"Mrs. Markham is a married woman," said Mrs. Brimmer severely, "and,
of course, she can do as she pleases; but it is far different with Miss
Keene. I should scarcely consider it proper to expose Miss Chubb to
the hospitality of a single man, without other women, and I cannot
understand how she could leave the companionship and protection of your
lovely sisters."

The priest here rose, and, with formal politeness, excused himself,
urging the peremptory summons of the Council.

"I scarcely expected, indeed, to have had the pleasure of seeing my
colleague here," he added with quiet suavity, turning to the Alcalde.

"I have already expressed my views to the Comandante," said the
official, with some embarrassment, "and my attendance will hardly be
required."

The occasional misleading phosphorescence of Mrs. Brimmer's quiet eyes,
early alluded to in these pages, did not escape Father Esteban's quick
perception at that moment; however, he preferred to leave his companion
to follow its aberrations rather than to permit that fair ignis fatuus
to light him on his way by it.

"But my visit to you, Father Esteban," she began sweetly, "is only
postponed."

"Until I have the pleasure of anticipating it here," said the priest,
with paternal politeness bending before the two ladies; "but for the
present, au revoir!"

"It would be an easy victory to win this discreetly emotional Americana
to the Church," said Father Esteban to himself, as he crossed the plaza;
"but, if I mistake not, she would not cease to be a disturbing element
even there. However, she is not such as would give this Hurlstone any
trouble. It seems I must look elsewhere for the brains of this party,
and to find a solution of this young man's mystery; and, if I judge
correctly, it is with this beautiful young agitator of revolutions and
her oratorical duenna I must deal."

He entered the low gateway of the Presidio unchallenged, and even
traversed the courtyard without meeting a soul. The guard and sentries
had evidently withdrawn to their habitual peaceful vocations, and the
former mediaeval repose of the venerable building had returned. There
was no one in the guard-room; but as the priest turned back to the
corridor, his quick ear was suddenly startled by the unhallowed
and inconsistent sounds of a guitar. A monotonous voice also--the
Comandante's evidently--was raised in a thin, high recitative.

The Padre passed hastily through the guard-room, and opened the door
of the passage leading to the garden slope. Here an extraordinary group
presented itself to his astonished eyes. In the shadow of a palm-tree,
Mrs. Markham, seated on her Saratoga trunk as on a throne, was gazing
blandly down upon the earnest features of the Commander, who, at her
feet, guitar in hand, was evidently repeating some musical composition.
His subaltern sat near him, divided in admiration of his chief and the
guest. Miss Keene, at a little distance, aided by the secretary,
was holding an animated conversation with a short, stout, Sancho
Panza-looking man, whom the Padre recognized as the doctor of Todos
Santos.

At the apparition of the reverend Father, the Commander started,
the subaltern stared, and even the secretary and the doctor looked
discomposed.

"I am decidedly de trop this morning," soliloquized the ecclesiastic;
but Miss Keene cut short his reflection by running to him frankly, with
outstretched hand.

"I am so glad that you have come," she said, with a youthful,
unrestrained earnestness that was as convincing as it was fascinating,
"for you will help me to persuade this gentleman that poor Captain
Bunker is suffering more from excitement of mind than body, and that
bleeding him is more than folly."

"The man's veins are in a burning fever and delirium from aguardiente,"
said the little doctor excitedly, "and the fire must first be put out by
the lancet."

"He is only crazy with remorse for having lost his ship through his own
carelessness and the treachery of others," said Miss Keene doughtily.

"He is a maniac and will kill himself, unless his fever is subdued,"
persisted the doctor.

"And you would surely kill him by your way of subduing it," said the
young girl boldly. "Better for him, a disgraced man of honor, to die
by his own hand, than to be bled like a calf into a feeble and helpless
dissolution. I would, if I were in his place--if I had to do it by
tearing off the bandages."

She made a swift, half unconscious gesture of her little hand, and
stopped, her beautiful eyes sparkling, her thin pink nostrils dilated,
her red lips parted, her round throat lifted in the air, and one small
foot advanced before her. The men glanced hurriedly at each other, and
then fixed their eyes upon her with a rapt yet frightened admiration. To
their simple minds it was Anarchy and Revolution personified, beautiful,
and victorious.

"Ah!" said the secretary to Padre Esteban, in Spanish, "it is true! she
knows not fear! She was in the room alone with the madman; he would let
none approach but her! She took a knife from him--else the medico had
suffered!"

"He recognized her, you see! Ah! they know her power," said the
Comandante, joining the group.

"You will help me, Father Esteban?" said the young girl, letting the
fire of her dark eyes soften to a look of almost childish appeal--"you
will help me to intercede for him? It is the restraint only that is
killing him--that is goading him to madness! Think of him, Father--think
of him: ruined and disgraced, dying to retrieve himself by any reckless
action, any desperate chance of recovery, and yet locked up where he can
do nothing--attempt nothing--not even lift a hand to pursue the man who
has helped to bring him to this!"

"But he CAN do nothing! The ship is gone!" remonstrated the Comandante.

"Yes, the ship is gone; but the ocean is still there," said Miss Keene.

"But he has no boat."

"He will find or make one."

"And the fog conceals the channel."

"He can go where THEY have gone, or meet their fate. You do not know my
countrymen, Senor Comandante," she said proudly.

"Ah, yes--pardon! They are at San Antonio--the baker, the buffoon, the
two young men who dig. They are already baking and digging and joking.
We have it from my officer, who has just returned."

Miss Keene bit her pretty lips.

"They think it is a mistake; they cannot believe that any intentional
indignity is offered them," she said quietly. "Perhaps it is well they
do not."

"They desired me to express their condolences to the Senora," said the
Padre, with exasperating gentleness, "and were relieved to be assured by
me of your perfect security in the hands of these gentlemen."

Miss Keene raised her clear eyes to the ecclesiastic. That accomplished
diplomat of Todos Santos absolutely felt confused under the cool
scrutiny of this girl's unbiased and unsophisticated intelligence.

"Then you HAVE seen them," she said, "and you know their innocence, and
the utter absurdity of this surveillance?"

"I have not seen them ALL," said the priest softly. "There is still
another--a Senor Hurlstone--who is missing? Is he not?"

It was not in the possibility of Eleanor Keene's truthful blood to do
other than respond with a slight color to this question. She had already
concealed from every one the fact of having seen the missing man in the
Mission garden the evening before. It did not, however, prevent her the
next moment from calmly meeting the glance of the priest as she answered
gravely,--

"I believe so. But I cannot see what that has to do with the detention
of the others."

"Much, perhaps. It has been said that you alone, my child, were in the
confidence of this man."

"Who dared say that?" exclaimed Miss Keene in English, forgetting
herself in her indignation.

"If it's anything mean--it's Mrs. Brimmer, I'll bet a cooky," said
Mrs. Markham, whose linguistic deficiencies had debarred her from the
previous conversation.

"You have only," continued the priest, without noticing the
interruption, "to tell us what you know of this Hurlstone's plans,--of
his complicity with Senor Perkins, or," he added significantly, "his
opposition to them--to insure that perfect justice shall be done to
all."

Relieved that the question involved no disclosure of her only secret
regarding Hurlstone, Miss Keene was about to repeat the truth that
she had no confidential knowledge of him, or of his absurd alleged
connection with Senor Perkins, when, with an instinct of tact, she
hesitated. Might she not serve them all--even Hurlstone himself--by
saying nothing, and leaving the burden of proof to their idiotic
accusers? Was she altogether sure that Hurlstone was entirely ignorant
of Senor Perkins' plans, or might he not have refused, at the last
moment, to join in the conspiracy, and so left the ship?

"I will not press you for your answer now," said the priest gently. "But
you will not, I know, keep back anything that may throw a light on this
sad affair, and perhaps help to reinstate your friend Mr. Hurlstone in
his REAL position."

"If you ask me if I believe that Mr. Hurlstone had anything to do with
this conspiracy, I should say, unhesitatingly, that I do NOT. And more,
I believe that he would have jumped overboard rather than assent to so
infamous an act," said the young girl boldly.

"Then you think he had no other motive for leaving the ship?" said the
priest slowly.

"Decidedly not." She stopped; a curious anxious look in the Padre's
persistent eyes both annoyed and frightened her. "What other motive
could he have?" she said coldly.

Father Esteban's face lightened.

"I only ask because I think you would have known it. Thank you for the
assurance all the same, and in return I promise you I will use my best
endeavors with the Comandante for your friend the Captain Bunker. Adieu,
my daughter. Adieu, Madame Markham," he said, as, taking the arm of Don
Miguel, he turned with him and the doctor towards the guard-room. The
secretary lingered behind for a moment.

"Fear nothing," he said, in whispered English to Miss Keene. "I, Ruy
Sanchez, shall make you free of Capitano Bunker's cell," and passed on.

"Well," said Mrs. Markham, when the two women were alone again. "I don't
pretend to fathom the befogged brains of Todos Santos; but as far as I
can understand their grown-up child's play, they are making believe this
unfortunate Mr. Hurlstone, who may be dead for all we know, is in
revolt against the United States Government, which is supposed to be
represented by Senor Perkins and the Excelsior--think of that!"

"But Perkins signed himself of the Quinquinambo navy!" said Miss Keene
wonderingly.

"That is firmly believed by those idiots to be one of OUR States.
Remember they know nothing of what has happened anywhere in the last
fifty years. I dare say they never heard of filibusters like Perkins,
and they couldn't comprehend him if they had. I've given up trying to
enlighten them, and I think they're grateful for it. It makes their poor
dear heads ache."

"And it is turning mine! But, for Heaven's sake, tell me what part I am
supposed to act in this farce!" said Miss Keene.

"You are the friend and colleague of Hurlstone, don't you see?" said
Mrs. Markham. "You are two beautiful young patriots--don't blush, my
dear!--endeared to each other and a common cause, and ready to die for
your country in opposition to Perkins, and the faint-heartedness of such
neutrals as Mrs. Brimmer, Miss Chubb, the poor Captain, and all the men
whom they have packed off to San Antonio."

"Impossible!" said Miss Keene, yet with an uneasy feeling that it not
only was possible, but that she herself had contributed something to the
delusion. "But how do they account for my friendship with YOU--you, who
are supposed to be a correspondent--an accomplice of Perkins?"

"No, no," returned Mrs. Markham, with a half serious smile, "I am not
allowed that honor. I am presumed to be only the disconsolate Dulcinea
of Perkins, abandoned by HIM, pitied by you, and converted to the true
faith--at least, that is what I make out from the broken English of that
little secretary of the Commander."

Miss Keene winced.

"That's all my fault, dear," she said, suddenly entwining her arms round
Mrs. Markham, and hiding her half embarrassed smile on the shoulder of
her strong-minded friend; "they suggested it to me, and I half assented,
to save you. Please forgive me."

"Don't think I am blaming you, my dear Eleanor," said Mrs. Markham. "For
Heaven's sake assent to the wildest and most extravagant hypothesis they
can offer, if it will leave us free to arrange our own plans for getting
away. I begin to think we were not a very harmonious party on the
Excelsior, and most of our troubles here are owing to that. We forget
we have fallen among a lot of original saints, as guileless and as
unsophisticated as our first parents, who know nothing of our customs
and antecedents. They have accepted us on what they believe to be our
own showing. From first to last we've underrated them, forgetting they
are in the majority. We can't expect to correct the ignorance of fifty
years in twenty-four hours, and I, for one, sha'n't attempt it. I'd much
rather trust to the character those people would conceive of me from
their own consciousness than to one Mrs. Brimmer or Mr. Winslow would
give of me. From this moment I've taken a firm resolve to leave my
reputation and the reputation of my friends entirely in their hands.
If you are wise you will do the same. They are inclined to worship
you--don't hinder them. My belief is, if we only take things quietly,
we might find worse places to be stranded on than Todos Santos. If Mrs.
Brimmer and those men of ours, who, I dare say, have acted as silly as
the Mexicans themselves, will only be quiet, we can have our own way
here yet."

"And poor Captain Bunker?" said Miss Keene.

"It seems hard to say it, but, in my opinion, he is better under lock
and key, for everybody's good, at present. He'd be a firebrand in the
town if he got away. Meantime, let us go to our room. It is about the
time when everybody is taking a siesta, and for two hours, thank Heaven!
we're certain nothing more can happen."

"I'll join you in a moment," said Miss Keene.

Her quick ear had caught the sound of voices approaching. As Mrs.
Markham disappeared in the passage, the Commander and his party
reappeared from the guard-room, taking leave of Padre Esteban. The
secretary, as he passed Miss Keene, managed to add to his formal
salutation the whispered words,--"When the Angelus rings I will await
you before the grating of his prison."

Padre Esteban was too preoccupied to observe this incident. As soon as
he quitted the Presidio, he hastened to the Mission with a disquieting
fear that his strange guest might have vanished. But, crossing the
silent refectory, and opening the door of the little apartment, he was
relieved to find him stretched on the pallet in a profound slumber.
The peacefulness of the venerable walls had laid a gentle finger on his
weary eyelids.

The Padre glanced round the little cell, and back again at the handsome
suffering face that seemed to have found surcease and rest in the narrow
walls, with a stirring of regret. But the next moment he awakened the
sleeper, and in the briefest, almost frigid, sentences, related the
events of the morning.

The young man rose to his feet with a bitter laugh.

"You see," he said, "God is against me! And yet a few hours ago I dared
to think that He had guided me to a haven of rest and forgetfulness!

"Have you told the truth to him and to me?" said the priest sternly,
"or have you--a mere political refugee--taken advantage of an old man's
weakness to forge a foolish lie of sentimental passion?"

"What do you mean?" said Hurlstone, turning upon him almost fiercely.

The priest rose, and drawing a folded paper from his bosom, opened it
before the eyes of his indignant guest.

"Remember what you told me last night in the sacred confidences of
yonder holy church, and hear what you really are from the lips of the
Council of Todos Santos."

Smoothing out the paper, he read slowly as follows:--


"Whereas, it being presented to an Emergency Council, held at the
Presidio of Todos Santos, that the foreign barque Excelsior had
mutinied, discharged her captain and passengers, and escaped from the
waters of the bay, it was, on examination, found and decreed that the
said barque was a vessel primarily owned by a foreign Power, then and
there confessed and admitted to be at war with Mexico and equipped to
invade one of her northern provinces. But that the God of Liberty and
Justice awakening in the breasts of certain patriots--to wit, the heroic
Senor Diego Hurlstone and the invincible Dona Leonor--the courage and
discretion to resist the tyranny and injustice of their oppressors,
caused them to mutiny and abandon the vessel rather than become
accomplices, in the company of certain neutral and non-combatant traders
and artisans, severally known as Brace, Banks, Winslow, and Crosby;
and certain aristocrats, known as Senoras Brimmer and Chubb. In
consideration thereof, it is decreed by the Council of Todos Santos that
asylum, refuge, hospitality, protection, amity, and alliance be offered
and extended to the patriots, Senor Diego Hurlstone, Dona Leonor, and
a certain Duenna Susana Markham, particularly attached to Dona Leonor's
person; and that war, reprisal, banishment, and death be declared
against Senor Perkins, his unknown aiders and abettors. And that for
the purposes of probation, and in the interests of clemency, provisional
parole shall be extended to the alleged neutrals--Brace, Banks, Crosby,
and Winslow--within the limits and boundaries of the lazaretto of San
Antonio, until their neutrality shall be established, and pending the
further pleasure of the Council. And it is further decreed and declared
that one Capitano Bunker, formerly of the Excelsior, but now a maniac
and lunatic--being irresponsible and visited of God, shall be exempted
from the ordinances of this decree until his reason shall be restored;
and during that interval subjected to the ordinary remedial and
beneficent restraint of civilization and humanity. By order of the
Council,--

"The signatures and rubrics of--

"DON MIGUEL BRIONES,

Comandante.

"PADRE ESTEBAN,

of the Order of San Francisco d'Assisis.

"DON RAMON RAMIREZ,

Alcalde of the Pueblo of Todos Santos."





Next: The Captain Follows His Ship

Previous: An Open-air Prison



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