Hail And Farewell

: The Crusade Of The Excelsior

Supper was served in the inner room opening from the corridor lit by

a few swinging lanterns of polished horn and a dozen wax candles of

sacerdotal size and suggestion. The apartment, though spacious, was low

and crypt-like, and was not relieved by the two deep oven-like hearths

that warmed it without the play of firelight. But when the company had

assembled it was evident that the velvet jackets, gold lace, silver

ons, and red sashes of the entertainers not only lost their tawdry

and theatrical appearance in the half decorous and thoughtful gloom, but

actually seemed more in harmony with it than the modern dresses of the

guests. It was the Excelsior party who looked strange and bizarre in

these surroundings; to the sensitive fancy of Miss Keene, Mrs. Brimmer's

Parisian toilet had an air of provincial assumption; her own pretty

Zouave jacket and black silk skirt horrified her with its apparent

ostentatious eccentricity; and Mrs. Markham and Miss Chubb seemed

dowdy and overdressed beside the satin mantillas and black lace of the

Senoritas. Nor were the gentlemen less outres: the stiff correctness

of Mr. Banks, and the lighter foppishness of Winslow and Crosby, not to

mention Senor Perkins' more pronounced unconventionality, appeared as

burlesques of their own characters in a play. The crowning contrast was

reached by Captain Bunker, who, in accordance with the habits of the

mercantile marine of that period when in port, wore a shore-going suit

of black broadcloth, with a tall hat, high shirt collar, and diamond

pin. Seated next to the Commander, it was no longer Don Miguel who

looked old-fashioned, it was Captain Bunker who appeared impossible.

Nevertheless, as the meal progressed, lightened by a sweet native wine

made from the Mission grape, and stimulated by champagne--a present of

Captain Bunker from the cabin lockers of the Excelsior--this contrast,

and much of the restraint that it occasioned, seemed to melt away. The

passengers became talkative; the Commander and his friends unbent, and

grew sympathetic and inquiring. The temptation to recite the news of the

last half century, and to recount the wonderful strides of civilization

in that time, was too great to be resisted by the Excelsior party. That

some of them--notwithstanding the caution of Senor Perkins--approached

dangerously near the subject of the late war between the United States

and Mexico, of which Todos Santos was supposed to be still ignorant,

or that Crosby in particular seized upon this opportunity for humorous

exaggeration, may be readily imagined. But as the translation of the

humorist's speech, as well as the indiscretions of his companions, were

left to the Senor, in Spanish, and to Mrs. Brimmer and Miss Keene, in

French, any imminent danger to the harmony of the evening was averted.

Don Ramon Ramirez, the Alcalde, a youngish man of evident distinction,

sat next to Miss Keene, and monopolized her conversation with a certain

curiosity that was both grave and childish in its frank trustfulness.

Some of his questions were so simple and incompatible with his apparent

intelligence that she unconsciously lowered her voice in answering them,

in dread of the ridicule of her companions. She could not resist the

impression, which repeatedly obtruded upon her imagination, that

the entire population of Todos Santos were a party of lost children,

forgotten by their parents, and grown to man and womanhood in utter

ignorance of the world.

The Commander had, half informally, drunk the health of Captain Bunker,

without rising from his seat, when, to Miss Keene's alarm, Captain

Bunker staggered to his feet. He had been drinking freely, as usual; but

he was bent on indulging a loquacity which his discipline on shipboard

had hitherto precluded, and which had, perhaps, strengthened his

solitary habit. His speech was voluble and incoherent, complimentary and

tactless, kindly and aggressive, courteous and dogmatic. It was left

to Senor Perkins to translate it to the eye and ear of his host without

incongruity or offense. This he did so admirably as to elicit not only

the applause of the foreigners who did not understand English, but of

his own countrymen who did not understand Spanish.

"I feel," said Senor Perkins, in graceful peroration, "that I have

done poor justice to the eloquence of this gallant sailor. My unhappy

translation cannot offer you that voice, at times trembling with

generous emotion, and again inaudible from excessive modesty in the

presence of this illustrious assembly--those limbs that waver and bend

under the undulations of the chivalrous sentiment which carries him away

as if he were still on that powerful element he daily battles with and


But when coffee and sweets were reached, the crowning triumph of Senor

Perkins' oratory was achieved. After an impassioned burst of enthusiasm

towards his hosts in their own tongue, he turned towards his own party

with bland felicity.

"And how is it with us, dear friends? We find ourselves not in the

port we were seeking; not in the goal of our ambition, the haven of our

hopes; but on the shores of the decaying past. 'Ever drifting' on one of



Currents of the restless main,'

if our fascinating friend Mrs. Brimmer will permit us to use the words

of her accomplished fellow-townsman, H. W. Longfellow, of Boston--we

find ourselves borne not to the busy hum and clatter of modern

progress, but to the soft cadences of a dying crusade, and the hush of

ecclesiastical repose. In place of the busy marts of commerce and

the towering chimneys of labor, we have the ruined embattlements of a

warlike age, and the crumbling church of an ancient Mission. Towards

the close of an eventful voyage, during which we have been guided by the

skillful hand and watchful eye of that gallant navigator Captain Bunker,

we have turned aside from our onward course of progress to look back for

a moment upon the faded footprints of those who have so long preceded

us, who have lived according to their lights, and whose record is now

before us. As I have just stated, our journey is near its end, and

we may, in some sense, look upon this occasion, with its sumptuous

entertainment, and its goodly company of gallant men and fair women, as

a parting banquet. Our voyage has been a successful one. I do not now

especially speak of the daring speculations of the distinguished husband

of a beautiful lady whose delightful society is known to us all--need I

say I refer to Quincy Brimmer, Esq., of Boston" (loud applause)--"whose

successful fulfillment of a contract with the Peruvian Government, and

the landing of munitions of war at Callao, has checked the uprising

of the Quinquinambo insurgents? I do not refer especially to our

keen-sighted business friend Mr. Banks" (applause), "who, by buying up

all the flour in Callao, and shipping it to California, has virtually

starved into submission the revolutionary party of Ariquipa--I do not

refer to these admirable illustrations of the relations of commerce and

politics, for this, my friends--this is history, and beyond my feeble

praise. Let me rather speak of the social and literary triumphs of our

little community, of our floating Arcadia--may I say Olympus? Where

shall we find another Minerva like Mrs. Markham, another Thalia like

Miss Chubb, another Juno like Mrs. Brimmer, worthy of the Jove-like

Quincy Brimmer; another Queen of Love and Beauty like--like"--continued

the gallant Senor, with an effective oratorical pause, and a profound

obeisance to Miss Keene, "like one whose mantling maiden blushes forbid

me to name?" (Prolonged applause.) "Where shall we find more worthy

mortals to worship them than our young friends, the handsome Brace,

the energetic Winslow, the humorous Crosby? When we look back upon our

concerts and plays, our minstrel entertainments, with the incomparable

performances of our friend Crosby as Brother Bones; our recitations,

to which the genius of Mrs. M'Corkle, of Peoria, Illinois, has lent her

charm and her manuscript" (a burlesque start of terror from Crosby),

"I am forcibly impelled to quote the impassioned words from that gifted


'When idly Life's barque on the billows of Time,

Drifts hither and yon by eternity's sea;

On the swift feet of verse and the pinions of rhyme

My thoughts, Ulricardo, fly ever to thee!'"

"Who's Ulricardo?" interrupted Crosby, with assumed eagerness, followed

by a "hush!" from the ladies.

"Perhaps I should have anticipated our friend's humorous question," said

Senor Perkins, with unassailable good-humor. "Ulricardo, though not

my own name, is a poetical substitute for it, and a mere figure of

apostrophe. The poem is personal to myself," he continued, with a slight

increase of color in his smooth cheek which did not escape the attention

of the ladies,--"purely as an exigency of verse, and that the inspired

authoress might more easily express herself to a friend. My acquaintance

with Mrs. M'Corkle has been only epistolary. Pardon this digression, my

friends, but an allusion to the muse of poetry did not seem to me to be

inconsistent with our gathering here. Let me briefly conclude by saying

that the occasion is a happy and memorable one; I think I echo the

sentiment of all present when I add that it is one which will not be

easily forgotten by either the grateful guests, whose feelings I have

tried to express, or the chivalrous hosts, whose kindness I have already

so feebly translated."

In the applause that followed, and the clicking of glasses, Senor

Perkins slipped away. He mingled a moment with some of the other guests

who had already withdrawn to the corridor, lit a cigar, and then passed

through a narrow doorway on to the ramparts. Here he strolled to some

distance, as if in deep thought, until he reached a spot where the

crumbling wall and its fallen debris afforded an easy descent into the

ditch. Following the ditch, he turned an angle, and came upon the beach,

and the low sound of oars in the invisible offing. A whistle brought the

boat to his feet, and without a word he stepped into the stern sheets. A

few strokes of the oars showed him that the fog had lifted slightly

from the water, and a green light hanging from the side of the Excelsior

could be plainly seen. Ten minutes' more steady pulling placed him on

her deck, where the second officer stood with a number of the sailors

listlessly grouped around him.

"The landing has been completed?" said Senor Perkins interrogatively.

"All except one boat-load more, which waits to take your final

instructions," said the mate. "The men have growled a little about it,"

he added, in a lower tone. "They don't want to lose anything, it seems,"

he continued, with a half sarcastic laugh.

Senor Perkins smiled peculiarly.

"I am sorry to disappoint them. Who's that in the boat?" he asked


The mate followed the Senor's glance.

"It is Yoto. He says he is going ashore, and you will not forbid him."

Senor Perkins approached the ship's side.

"Come here," he said to the man.

The Peruvian sailor rose, but did not make the slightest movement to

obey the command.

"You say you are going ashore?" said Perkins blandly.

"Yes, Patrono."

"What for?"

"To follow him--the thief, the assassin--who struck me here;" he pointed

to his head. "He has escaped again with his booty."

"You are very foolish, my Yoto; he is no thief, and has no booty. They

will put YOU in prison, not him."

"YOU say so," said the man surlily. "Perhaps they will hear me--for

other things," he added significantly.

"And for this you would abandon the cause?"

The man shrugged his shoulders.

"Why not?" he glanced meaningly at two of his companions, who had

approached the side; "perhaps others would. Who is sending the booty

ashore, eh?"

"Come out of that boat," said the Senor, leaning over the bulwarks with

folded arms, and his eyes firmly fixed on the man.

The man did not move. But the Senor's hand suddenly flew to the back

of his neck, smote violently downwards, and sent eighteen inches of

glittering steel hurtling through the air. The bowie-knife entered

the upturned throat of the man and buried itself halfway to the hilt.

Without a gasp or groan he staggered forward, caught wildly at the side

of the ship, and disappeared between the boat and the vessel.

"My lads," said Senor Perkins, turning with a gentle smile towards the

faces that in the light of the swinging lantern formed a ghastly circle

around him, "when I boarded this ship that had brought aid and succor

to our oppressors at Callao, I determined to take possession of it

peacefully, without imperiling the peace and property of the innocent

passengers who were intrusted to its care, and without endangering your

own lives or freedom. But I made no allowance for TRAITORS. The blood

that has been shed to-night has not been spilt in obedience to my

orders, nor to the cause that we serve; it was from DEFIANCE of it; and

the real and only culprit has just atoned for it."

He stopped, and then stepped back from the gangway, as if to leave it

open to the men.

"What I have done," he continued calmly, "I do not ask you to consider

either as an example or a warning. You are free to do what HE would have

done," he repeated, with a wave of his hand towards the open gangway and

the empty boat. "You are free to break your contract and leave the ship,

and I give you my word that I will not lift a hand to prevent it. But if

you stay with me," he said, suddenly turning upon them a face as livid

as their own, "I swear by the living God, that, if between this and the

accomplishment of my design, you as much as shirk or question any order

given by me, you shall die the death of that dog who went before you.

Choose as you please--but quickly."

The mate was the first to move. Without a word, he crossed over to

the Senor's side. The men hesitated a moment longer, until one, with

a strange foreign cry, threw himself on his knees before the Senor,

ejaculating, "Pardon! pardon!" The others followed, some impulsively

catching at the hand that had just slain their comrade, and covering it

with kisses!

"Pardon, Patrono--we are yours."

"You are the State's," said Senor Perkins coldly, with every vestige of

his former urbanity gone from his colorless face. "Enough! Go back to

your duty." He watched them slink away, and then turned to the mate.

"Get the last boat-load ready, and report to me."

From that moment another power seemed to dominate the ship. The men no

longer moved listlessly, or slunk along the deck with perfunctory limbs;

a feverish haste and eagerness possessed them; the boat was quickly

loaded, and the mysterious debarkation completed in rapidity and

silence. This done, the fog once more appeared to rise from the water

and softly encompass the ship, until she seemed to be obliterated from

its face. In this vague obscurity, from time to time, the faint rattling

of chains was heard, the soft creaking of blocks, and later on, the

regular rise and fall of oars. And then the darkness fell heavier, the

sounds became more and more indistinct and were utterly lost.

Ashore, however, the lanterns still glittered brightly in the courtyard

of the Presidio; the noise of laughter and revel still came from the

supper-room, and, later, the tinkling of guitars and rhythmical

clapping hands showed that the festivities were being wound up by a

characteristic fandango. Captain Bunker succumbed early to his potations

of fiery aguardiente, and was put to bed in the room of the Commander,

to whom he had sworn eternal friendship and alliance. It was long

past midnight before the other guests were disposed of in the various

quarters of the Presidio; but to the ladies were reserved the more

ostentatious hospitalities of the Alcalde himself, the walls of whose

ambitious hacienda raised themselves across the plaza and overlooked the

gardens of the Mission.

It was from one of the deep, quaintly barred windows of the hacienda

that Miss Keene gazed thoughtfully on the night, unable to compose

herself to sleep. An antique guest-chamber had been assigned to her in

deference to her wish to be alone, for which she had declined the couch

and vivacious prattle of her new friend, Dona Isabel. The events of the

day had impressed her more deeply than they had her companions, partly

from her peculiar inexperience of the world, and partly from her

singular sensitiveness to external causes. The whole quaint story of

the forgotten and isolated settlement, which had seemed to the other

passengers as a trivial and half humorous incident, affected her

imagination profoundly. When she could escape the attentions of her

entertainers, or the frivolities of her companions, she tried to touch

the far-off past on the wings of her fancy; she tried to imagine the

life of those people, forgetting the world and forgotten by it; she

endeavored to picture the fifty years of solitude amidst these decaying

ruins, over which even ambition had crumbled and fallen. It seemed to

her the true conventual seclusion from the world without the loss of

kinship or home influences; she contrasted it with her boarding-school

life in the fashionable seminary; she wondered what she would have

become had she been brought up here; she thought of the happy ignorance

of Dona Isabel, and--shuddered; and yet she felt herself examining

the odd furniture of the room with an equally childlike and admiring

curiosity. And these people looked upon HER as a superior being!

From the deep embrasure of the window she could see the tops of the pear

and olive trees, in the misty light of an invisible moon that suffused

the old Mission garden with an ineffable and angelic radiance. To her

religious fancy it seemed to be a spiritual effusion of the church

itself, enveloping the two gray dome-shaped towers with an atmosphere

and repose of its own, until it became the incarnate mystery and passion

where it stood.

She was suddenly startled by a moving shadow beside the wall, almost

immediately below her--the figure of a man! He was stealing cautiously

towards the church, as if to gain the concealment of the shrubbery

that grew beside it, and, furtively glancing from side to side, looked

towards her window. She unconsciously drew back, forgetting at the

moment that her light was extinguished, and that it was impossible

for the stranger to see her. But she had seen HIM, and in that instant

recognized Mr. Hurlstone!

Then he HAD come ashore, and secretly, for the other passengers believed

him still on the ship! But what was he doing there?--and why had he not

appeared with the others at the entertainment? She could understand

his avoidance of them from what she knew of his reserved and unsocial

habits; but when he could so naturally have remained on shipboard, she

could not, at first, conceive why he should wish to prowl around the

town at the risk of detection. The idea suddenly occurred to her that

he had had another attack of his infirmity and was walking in his sleep,

and for an instant she thought of alarming the house, that some one

might go to his assistance. But his furtive movements had not the serene

impassibility of the somnambulist. Another thought withheld her; he had

looked up at her window! Did he know she was there? A faint stirring of

shame and pleasure sent a slight color to her cheek. But he had gained

the corner of the shrubbery and was lost in the shadow. She turned from

the window. A gentle sense of vague and half maternal pity suffused her

soft eyes as she at last sought her couch and fell into a deep slumber.

Towards daybreak a wind arose over the sleeping town and far outlying

waters. It breathed through the leaves of the Mission garden, brushed

away the clinging mists from the angles of the towers, and restored

the sharp outlines of the ruined fortifications. It swept across the

unruffled sea to where the Excelsior, cradled in the softly heaving bay,

had peacefully swung at anchor on the previous night, and lifted the

snowy curtain of the fog to seaward as far as the fringe of surf, a

league away.

But the cradle of the deep was empty--the ship was gone!