The Guzman Incident





Ricardo Guzman did not return from Romero. When two days had

passed with no word from him, his sons became alarmed and started

an investigation, but without the slightest result. Even Colonel

Blanco himself could not hazard a guess as to Guzman's fate; the

man had disappeared, it seemed, completely and mysteriously.

Meanwhile, from other quarters of the Mexican town came rumors

that set the border afire.



Readers of this story may remember the famous "Guzman incident,"

so called, and the complications that resulted from it, for at the

time it raised a storm of indignation as the crowning atrocity of

the Mexican revolution, serving further to disturb the troubled

waters of diplomacy and threatening for a moment to upset the

precariously balanced relations of the two countries.



At first the facts appeared plain: a citizen of the United States

had been lured across the border and done to death by Mexican

soldiers--for it soon became evident that Ricardo was dead. The

outrage was a casus belli such as no self-respecting people could

ignore; so ran the popular verdict. Then when that ominous mailed

serpent which lay coiled along the Rio Grande stirred itself,

warlike Americans prepared themselves to hear of big events.



A motive for Ricardo Guzman's murder was not lacking, for it was

generally known that President Potosi had long resented Yankee

enmity, particularly as that enmity was directed at him

personally. A succession of irritating diplomatic skirmishes, an

unsatisfactory series of verbal sparring matches, had roused the

old Indian's anger, and it was considered likely that he had

adopted this means of permanently severing his relations with

Washington.



Of course, the people of Texas were delighted that the long-

delayed hour had struck; accordingly, when the State Department

seemed strangely loath to investigate the matter, when, in fact,

it manifested a willingness to allow Don Ricardo ample time in

which to come to life in preference to putting a further strain

upon international relations, they were both surprised and

enraged. Telegraph wires began to buzz; the governor of the state

sent a crisply sarcastic message to the national capital, offering

to despatch a company of Rangers after Guzman's body just to prove

that he was indeed dead and that the Mexican authorities were

lying when they professed ignorance of the fact.



This offer not only caught the popular fancy north of the Rio

Grande, but it likewise had an effect on the other side of the

river, for on the very next day General Luis Longorio set out for

Romero to investigate personally the rancher's disappearance.



Now, throughout all this public clamor, truth, as usual, lay

hidden at the bottom of its well, and few even of Ricardo's

closest friends suspected the real reason for his murder.



Jonesville, of course, could think or talk of little else than

this outrage, and Blaze Jones, as befitted its leading citizen,

was loudest in his criticism of the government's weak-kneed

policy.



"It makes me right sore to think I'm an American," he confided to

Dave. "Why, if Ricardo had been an Englishman the British consul

at Mexico City would have called on Potosi the minute the news

came. He'd have stuck a six-shooter under the President's nose and

made him locate Don Ricardo, or pay an indemnity and kiss the

Union Jack." Blaze's conception of diplomacy was peculiar. "If

Potosi didn't talk straight that British consul would have bent a

gun-bar'l over the old ruffian's bean and telephoned for a couple

hundred battle-ships. England protects her sons. But we Americans

are cussed with notions of brotherly love and universal peace.

Bah! We're bound to have war, Dave, some day or other. Why not

start it now?"



Dave nodded his agreement. "Yes. We'll have to step in and take

the country over, sooner or later. But--everybody has the wrong

idea of this Guzman killing. The Federal officers in Romero didn't

frame it up."



"No? Who did?"



"Tad Lewis."



Jones started. "What makes you think that?"



"Listen! Tad was afraid to let Urbina come to trial--you remember

one of his men boasted that the case would never be heard? Well,

it won't. Ricardo's dead and the other witness is gone. Now draw

your own conclusions."



"Gone? You mean the fellow who saw Urbina and Garza together?"



"Yes. He has disappeared, too--evidently frightened away."





Jones was amazed. "Say, Dave," he cried, "that means your case has

blown up, eh?"



"Absolutely. Lewis has been selling 'wet' stock to the Federals,

and he probably arranged with some of them to murder Ricardo. At

any rate, that's my theory."



Blaze cursed eloquently. "I'd like to hang it on to Tad; I'd sure

clean house down his way if I was positive."



"I sent a man over to Romero," Dave explained further. "He tells

me Ricardo is dead, all right; but nobody knows how he died, or

why. There's a new grave in the little cemetery above the town,

but nobody knows who's buried in it. There hasn't been a death in

Romero lately." The speaker watched his friend closely. "Ricardo's

family would like to have his body, and I'd like to see it myself.

Wouldn't you? We could tell just what happened to him. If he

really faced a firing-squad, for instance--I reckon Washington

would have something to say, eh?"



"What are you aimin' at?" Blaze inquired.



"If we had Ricardo's body on this side it would put an end to all

the lies, and perhaps force Colonel Blanco to make known the real

facts. It might even mean a case against Tad Lewis. What do you

think of my reasoning?"



"It's eighteen karat. What d'you say we go over there and get

Ricardo?"



Dave smiled. "That's what I've been leading up to. Will you take a

chance?"



"Hell, yes!"



"I knew you would. All we need is a pair of Mexicans to--do the

work. I liked Ricardo; I owe him something."



"Suppose we're caught?"



"In that case we'll have to run for it, and--I presume I'll be

discharged from the Ranger service."



"I ain't very good at runnin'--not from Mexicans." Blaze's eyes

were bright and hard at the thought. "It's more'n possible that,

if they discover us, we can start a nice little war of our own."



That evening Dave managed to get his Ranger captain by long-

distance telephone, and for some time the two talked guardedly.

When Dave rang off they had come to a thorough understanding.



It had been an easy matter for Jose Sanchez to secure a leave of

absence from Las Palmas, especially since Benito was not a little

interested in the unexplained disappearance of Panfilo and work

was light at this time. Benito did not think it necessary to

mention the horse-breaker's journey to his employer; so that

Alaire knew nothing whatever about the matter until Jose himself

asked permission to see her on a matter of importance.



The man had ridden hard most of the previous night, and his

excitement was patent. Even before he spoke Alaire realized that

Panfilo's fate was known to him, and she decided swiftly that

there must be no further concealment.



"Senora! A terrible thing!" Jose burst forth. "God knows, I am

nearly mad with grief. It is about my sainted cousin. It is

strange, unbelievable! My head whirls--"



Alaire quieted him, saying in Spanish, "Calm yourself, Jose, and

tell me everything from the beginning."



"But how can I be calm? Oh, what a crime! What a misfortune! Well,

then, Panfilo is completely dead. I rode to that tanque where you

saw him last, and what do you think? But--you know?"



Alaire nodded. "I--suspected."



Jose's dark face blazed; he bent forward eagerly. "What did you

suspect, and why? Tell me all. There is something black and

hellish here, and I must know about it quickly."



"Suppose you tell me your story first," Alaire answered, "and

remember that you are excited."



The Mexican lowered his voice. "Bueno! Forgive me if I seem half

crazed. Well, I rode to that water-hole and found--nothing. It is

a lonely place; only the brush cattle use it; but I said to

myself, 'Panfilo drank here. He was here. Beyond there is nothing.

So I will begin.' God was my helper, senora. I found him--his

bones as naked and clean as pebbles. Caramba! You should have

heard me then! I was like a demon! I couldn't think, I couldn't

reason. I rode from that accursed spot as if Panfilo's ghost

pursued me and--I am here. I shall rouse the country; the people

shall demand the blood of my cousin's assassin. It is the crime of

a century."



"Wait! When you spoke to me last I didn't dream that Panfilo was

dead, but since then I have learned the truth, and why he was

killed. You must let me tell you everything, Jose, just as it

happened; then--you may do whatever you think best. And you shall

have the whole truth."



It was a trying situation; in spite of her brave beginning, Alaire

was tempted to send the Mexican on to Jonesville, there to receive

an explanation directly from David Law himself; but such a course

she dared not risk. Jose was indeed half crazed, and at this

moment quite irresponsible; if he met Dave, terrible consequences

would surely follow. Accordingly, it was with a peculiar,

apprehensive flatter in her breast that Alaire realized the crisis

had come. Heretofore she had blamed Law, but now, oddly enough,

she found herself interested in defending him. As calmly as she

could she related all that had led up to the tragedy, while Jose

listened with eyes wide and mouth open.



"You see, I had no suspicion of the truth," she concluded. "It was

a terrible thing, and Mr. Law regrets it deeply. He would have

made a report to the authorities, only--he feared it might

embarrass me. He will repeat to you all that I have said, and he

is ready to meet the consequences."



Jose was torn with rage, yet plainly a prey to indecision; he

rolled his eyes and cursed under his breath. "These Rangers!" he

muttered. "That is the kind of men they are. They murder honest

people."



"This was not murder," Alaire cried, sharply. "Panfilo was aiding

a felon to escape. The courts will not punish Mr. Law."



"Bah! Who cares for the courts? This man is a Gringo, and these

are Gringo laws. But I am Mexican, and Panfilo was my cousin. We

shall see."



Alaire's eyes darkened. "Don't be rash, Jose," she exclaimed,

warningly. "Mr. Law bears you no ill-will, but--he is a dangerous

man. You would do well to make some inquiries about him. You are a

good man; you have a long life before you." Reading the fellow's

black look, she argued: "You think I am taking his part because he

is my countryman, but he needs no one to defend him. He will make

this whole story public and face the consequences. I like you, and

I don't wish to see you come to a worse end than your cousin

Panfilo."



Jose continued to glower. Then, turning away, he said, without

meeting his employer's eyes, "I would like to draw my money."



"Very well. I am sorry to have you leave Las Palmas, for I have

regarded you as one of my gente." Jose's face remained stony.

"What do you intend to do? Where are you going?"



The fellow shrugged. "Quien sabe! Perhaps I shall go to my General

Longorio. He is in Romero, just across the river; he knows a brave

man when he sees one, and he needs fellows like me to kill rebels.

Well, you shall hear of me. People will tell you about that demon

of a Jose whose cousin was murdered by the Rangers. Yes, I have

the heart of a bandit."



Alaire smiled faintly. "You will be shot," she told him. "Those

soldiers have little to eat and no money at all."



But Jose's bright eyes remained hostile and his expression

baffling. It was plain to Alaire that her explanation of his

cousin's death had carried not the slightest conviction, and she

even began to fear that her part in the affair had caused him to

look upon her as an accessory. Nevertheless, when she paid him his

wages she gave him a good horse, which Jose accepted with thanks

but without gratitude. As Alaire watched him ride away with never

a backward glance she decided that she must lose no time in

apprising the Ranger of this new condition of affairs.



She drove her automobile to Jonesville that afternoon, more

worried than she cared to admit. It was a moral certainty, she

knew, that Jose Sanchez would, sooner or later, attempt to take

vengeance upon his cousin's slayer, and there was no telling when

he might become sufficiently inflamed with poisonous Mexican

liquor to be in the mood for killing. Then, too, there were

friends of Panfilo always ready to lend bad counsel.



Law was nowhere in town, and so, in spite of her reluctance,

Alaire was forced to look for him at the Joneses' home. As she had

never called upon Paloma, and had made it almost impossible for

the girl to visit Las Palmas, the meeting of the two women was

somewhat formal. But no one could long remain stiff or constrained

with Paloma Jones; the girl had a directness of manner and an

honest, friendly smile that simply would not be denied. Her

delight that Alaire had come to see her pleased and shamed the

elder woman, who hesitatingly confessed the object of her visit.



"Oh, I thought you were calling on me." Paloma pouted her pretty

lips. "Dave isn't here. He and father--have gone away." A little

pucker of apprehension appeared upon her brow.



"I must get word to him at once."



Miss Jones shook her head. "Is it very important?"



It needed no close observation to discover the concern in Paloma's

eyes; Alaire told her story quickly. "Mr. Law must be warned right

away," she added, "for the man is capable of anything."



Paloma nodded. "Dave told us how he had killed Panfilo--" She

hesitated, and then cried, impulsively: "Mrs. Austin, I'm going to

confess something--I've got to tell somebody or I'll burst. I was

walking the floor when you came. Well, Dad and Dave have

completely lost their wits. They have gone across the river--to

get Ricardo Guzman's body."



"What?" Alaire stared at the girl uncomprehendingly.



"They are going to dig him up and bring him back to prove that he

was killed. Dave knows where he's buried, and he's doing this for

Ricardo's family--some foolish sentiment about a bridle--but Dad,

I think, merely wants to start a war between the United States and

Mexico."



"My dear girl, aren't you dreaming?"



"I thought I must be when I heard about it. Dad wouldn't have told

me at all, only he thought I ought to know in case anything

happens to him." Paloma's breath failed her momentarily. "They'll

be killed. I told them so, but Dave seems to enjoy the risk. He

said Ricardo had a sentimental nature--and, of course, the

possibility of danger delighted both him and Dad. They're perfect

fools."



"When did they go? Tell me everything."



"They left an hour ago in my machine, with two Mexicans to help

them. They intend to cross at your pumping-plant as soon as it

gets dark, and be back by mid-night--that is, if they ever get

back."



"Why, it's--unbelievable."



"It's too much for me. Longorio himself is in Romero, and he'd

have them shot if he caught them. We'd never even hear of it."

Paloma's face was pale, her eyes were strained and tragic. "Father

always has been a trial to me, but I thought I could do something

with Dave." She made a hopeless gesture, and Alaire wondered

momentarily whether the girl's anxiety was keenest for the safety

of her father or--the other?



"Can't we prevent them from going?" she inquired. "Why, they are

breaking the law, aren't they?"



"Something like that. But what can we do? It's nearly dark, and

they'll go, anyhow, regardless of what we say."



"Mr. Law is a Ranger, too!"



The girl nodded. "Oh, if it's ever discovered he'll be ruined. And

think of Dad--a man of property! Dave declares Tad Lewis is at the

bottom of it all and put the Federals up to murder Ricardo; he

thinks in this way he can force them into telling the truth. But

Dad is just looking for a fight and wants to be a hero!"



There was a moment of silence. Then Alaire reasoned aloud: "I

presume they chose our pumping-plant because it is directly

opposite the Romero cemetery. I could have Benito and some trusty

men waiting on this side. Or I could even send them over--"



"No, no! Don't you understand? The whole thing is illegal."



"Well, we could be there--you and I."



Paloma agreed eagerly. "Yes! Maybe we could even help them if they

got into trouble."



"Come, then! We'll have supper at Las Palmas and slip down to the

river and wait."



Paloma was gone with a rush. In a moment she returned, ready for

the trip, and with her she carried a Winchester rifle nearly as

long as herself.



"I hope you aren't afraid of firearms," she panted. "I've owned

this gun for years."



"I am rather a good shot," Alaire told her.



Paloma closed her lips firmly. "Good! Maybe we'll come in handy,

after all. Anyhow, I'll bet those Mexicans won't chase Dad and

Dave very far."



Jose Sanchez was true to his declared purpose. With a horse of his

own between his knees, with money in his pocket and hate in his

heart, he left Las Palmas, and, riding to the Lewis crossing,

forded the Rio Grande. By early afternoon he was in Romero, and

there, after some effort, he succeeded in finding General

Longorio.



Romero, at this time the southern outpost of Federal territory,

standing guard against the Rebel forces in Tamaulipas, is a sun-

baked little town sprawling about a naked plaza, and, except for

the presence of Colonel Blanco's detachment of troops, it would

have presented much the same appearance as any one of the lazy

border villages. A scow ferry had at one time linked it on the

American side with a group of 'dobe houses which were sanctified

by the pious name of Sangre de Cristo, but of late years more

advantageous crossings above and below had come into some use and

Romero's ferry had been abandoned. Perhaps a mile above Sangre de

Cristo, and directly opposite Romero's weed-grown cemetery, stood

the pumping-plant of Las Palmas, its corrugated iron roof and

high-flung chimney forming a conspicuous landmark.



Luis Longorio had just awakened from his siesta when Jose gained

admittance to his presence. The general lay at ease in the best

bed of the best house in the village; he greeted the new-comer

with a smile.



"So, my brave Jose, you wish to become a soldier and fight for

your country, eh?"



"Yes, my general."



Longorio yawned and stretched lazily. "Body of Christ! This is a

hard life. Here am I in this goatherd's hovel, hot, dirty, and

half starved, and all because of a fellow I never saw who got

himself killed. You would think this Ricardo was an Englishman

instead of a Gringo, for the fuss that is made. Who was he? Some

great jefe?



"A miserable fellow. I knew him well. Then he is indeed dead?"



"Quite dead, I believe," Longorio said, carelessly; then turning

his large, bright eyes upon the visitor, he continued, with more

interest, "Now tell me about the beautiful senora, your mistress."



Jose scowled. "She's not my mistress. I am no longer of her gente.

I have a debt of blood to wipe out."



Longorio sat up in his bed; the smile left his face. "My Jose", he

said, quietly, "if you harm her in the least I shall bury you to

the neck in an ant's nest and fill your mouth with honey. Now,

what is this you are telling me?"



Jose, uncomfortably startled by this barbarous threat, told as

connectedly as he knew how all about his cousin's death and his

reasons for leaving Las Palmas.



"Ah-h!" Longorio relaxed. "You gave me a start. At first I thought

you came with a message from her--but that was too much to expect;

then I feared you meant the lady some evil. Now I shall tell you a

little secret: I love your senora! Yes, I love her madly,

furiously; I can think of nothing but her. I came to this

abominable village more to see her than to annoy myself over the

death of Ricardo Guzman. I must see my divinity; I must hear her

blessed voice, or I shall go mad. Why do I tell you this? Because

I have decided that you shall lead me to her to-night." The

general fell silent for a moment, then, "I intend to have her some

day, Jose, and--perhaps you will be my right hand. See, I make you

my confidant because you will not dare to anger me or--Well, my

little friend, you must understand what fate would befall you in

that case. I can reach across the Rio Grande."



Amazement and then fear were depicted in Jose's face as he

listened; he asserted his loyalty vehemently.



"Yes, yes, I know you love me," the general agreed, carelessly.

"But what is far more to the point, I intend to pay well for your

services. Perhaps I shall also arrange so that you may have a

reckoning with the murderer of your cousin. What is his name?"



It was Jose's opportunity to make an impression, and he used it to

the full, telling all that he knew of the killing of Panfilo, and

describing Law with the eloquence of hatred.



Longorio listened for a time, and then held up his hand. "Enough.

For my sake, too, you shall kill him, for you have made me

jealous."



"Impossible!" Jose raised protesting palms. He was sure the

general was wrong. Senora Austin was above suspicion of any kind.



"And yet this man met her in Pueblo and rode with her to Las

Palmas? He comes to see her frequently, you say?" The general bent

his bright, keen eyes upon the visitor.



"Yes. She gave him the finest horse at Las Palmas, too, and--" A

new thought presented itself to Jose. "Ho! By the way, they were

alone at the water-hole when my cousin Panfilo was shot. Now that

I think of it, they were alone together for a day and a night. I

begin to wonder--"



Longorio breathed an oath and swung his long legs over the edge of

the bed. "You have poisoned my mind. A whole day and night, eh?

That is bad. What happened? What kind of a fool is her husband? I

cannot bear to think of this! See, I am beside myself. Caramba! I

live in paradise; I come flying on the wings of the wind, only to

learn that my blessed divinity has a lover. If only my excellent

Blanco had shot this fellow Law instead of that Guzman! If only I

could lay hands upon him here in Mexico! Ha! There would be

something to print in the American papers." He began to dress

himself feverishly, muttering, as he did so: "I will permit no one

to come between us. ... The thought kills me. ... You bring me bad

news, Jose, and yet I am glad you came. I accept your offer, and

you shall be my man henceforth; ... but you shall not go out to be

shot by those rebels. No, you shall return to Las Palmas to be my

eyes and my ears, and, when the time comes, you shall be my hands,

too. ... I will avenge your cousin Panfilo for you, my word on

that. Yes, and I will make you a rich man."



Jose listened hungrily to these promises. He was relieved at the

change in his plans, for, after all, a soldier's life offered few

attractions, and--the food at Las Palmas was good. The general

promised him fine wages, too. Truly, it was fortunate that he had

come to Romero.



"Now we have settled this," Jose's new employer declared, "run

away and amuse yourself until dark. Then we will take a little

journey by way of the old ferry."



"It is not altogether safe," ventured Jose. "That country over

there is alive with refugees."



"I will take some men with me," said Longorio. "Now go and let me

think."





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