The Lost Mine Of The Padres

: The Light Of Western Stars

In the cool, starry evenings the campers sat around a blazing fire and

told and listened to stories thrillingly fitted to the dark crags and

the wild solitude.

Monty Price had come to shine brilliantly as a storyteller. He was

an atrocious liar, but this fact would not have been evident to his

enthralled listeners if his cowboy comrades, in base jealousy, had not

betrayed him. The truth about his remarkab
e fabrications, however,

had not become known to Castleton, solely because of the Englishman's

obtuseness. And there was another thing much stranger than this and

quite as amusing. Dorothy Coombs knew Monty was a liar; but she was

so fascinated by the glittering, basilisk eyes he riveted upon her, so

taken in by his horrible tales of blood, that despite her knowledge she

could not help believing them.

Manifestly Monty was very proud of his suddenly acquired gift. Formerly

he had hardly been known to open his lips in the presence of strangers.

Monty had developed more than one singular and hitherto unknown trait

since his supremacy at golf had revealed his possibilities. He was

as sober and vain and pompous about his capacity for lying as about

anything else. Some of the cowboys were jealous of him because he held

the attention and, apparently, the admiration of the ladies; and Nels

was jealous, not because Monty made himself out to be a wonderful

gun-man, but because Monty could tell a story. Nels really had been the

hero of a hundred fights; he had never been known to talk about them;

but Dorothy's eyes and Helen's smile had somehow upset his modesty.

Whenever Monty would begin to talk Nels would growl and knock his pipe

on a log, and make it appear he could not stay and listen, though he

never really left the charmed circle of the camp-fire. Wild horses could

not have dragged him away.

One evening at twilight, as Madeline was leaving her tent, she

encountered Monty. Evidently, he had way-laid her. With the most

mysterious of signs and whispers he led her a little aside.

"Miss Hammond, I'm makin' bold to ask a favor of you," he said.

Madeline smiled her willingness.

"To-night, when they've all shot off their chins an' it's quiet-like,

I want you to ask me, jest this way, 'Monty, seein' as you've hed more

adventures than all them cow-punchers put together, tell us about the

most turrible time you ever hed.' Will you ask me, Miss Hammond, jest

kinda sincere like?"

"Certainly I will, Monty," she replied.

His dark, seared face had no more warmth than a piece of cold, volcanic

rock, which it resembled. Madeline appreciated how monstrous Dorothy

found this burned and distorted visage, how deformed the little man

looked to a woman of refined sensibilities. It was difficult for

Madeline to look into his face. But she saw behind the blackened mask.

And now she saw in Monty's deep eyes a spirit of pure fun.

So, true to her word, Madeline remembered at an opportune moment, when

conversation had hushed and only the long, dismal wail of coyotes broke

the silence, to turn toward the little cowboy.

"Monty," she said, and paused for effect--"Monty, seeing that you have

had more adventures than all the cowboys together, tell us about the

most terrible time you ever had."

Monty appeared startled at the question that fastened all eyes upon him.

He waved a deprecatory hand.

"Aw, Miss Hammond, thankin' you all modest-like fer the compliment, I'll

hev to refuse," replied Monty, laboring in distress. "It's too harrowin'

fer tender-hearted gurls to listen to."

"Go on?" cried everybody except the cowboys. Nels began to nod his head

as if he, as well as Monty, understood human nature. Dorothy hugged her

knees with a kind of shudder. Monty had fastened the hypnotic eyes upon

her. Castleton ceased smoking, adjusted his eyeglass, and prepared to

listen in great earnestness.

Monty changed his seat to one where the light from the blazing logs

fell upon his face; and he appeared plunged into melancholy and profound


"Now I tax myself, I can't jest decide which was the orfulest time I

ever hed," he said, reflectively.

Here Nels blew forth an immense cloud of smoke, as if he desired to hide

himself from sight. Monty pondered, and then when the smoke rolled away

he turned to Nels.

"See hyar, old pard, me an' you seen somethin' of each other in the

Panhandle, more 'n thirty years ago--"

"Which we didn't," interrupted Nels, bluntly. "Shore you can't make me

out an ole man."

"Mebbe it wasn't so darn long. Anyhow, Nels, you recollect them three

hoss-thieves I hung all on one cottonwood-tree, an' likewise thet

boo-tiful blond gurl I rescooed from a band of cutthroats who murdered

her paw, ole Bill Warren, the buffalo-hunter? Now, which of them two

scraps was the turriblest, in your idee?"

"Monty, my memory's shore bad," replied the unimpeachable Nels.

"Tell us about the beautiful blonde," cried at least three of the

ladies. Dorothy, who had suffered from nightmare because of a former

story of hanging men on trees, had voicelessly appealed to Monty to

spare her more of that.

"All right, we'll hev the blond gurl," said Monty, settling back,

"though I ain't thinkin' her story is most turrible of the two, an'

it'll rake over tender affections long slumberin' in my breast."

As he paused there came a sharp, rapping sound. This appeared to be Nels

knocking the ashes out of his pipe on a stump--a true indication of the

passing of content from that jealous cowboy.

"It was down in the Panhandle, 'way over in the west end of thet

Comanche huntin'-ground, an' all the redskins an' outlaws in thet

country were hidin' in the river-bottoms, an' chasin' some of the last

buffalo herds thet hed wintered in there. I was a young buck them days,

an' purty much of a desperado, I'm thinkin'. Though of all the seventeen

notches on my gun--an' each notch meant a man killed face to face--there

was only one thet I was ashamed of. Thet one was fer an express

messenger who I hit on the head most unprofessional like, jest because

he wouldn't hand over a leetle package. I hed the kind of a reputashun

thet made all the fellers in saloons smile an' buy drinks.

"Well, I dropped into a place named Taylor's Bend, an' was peaceful

standin' to the bar when three cow-punchers come in, an', me bein' with

my back turned, they didn't recognize me an' got playful. I didn't stop

drinkin', an' I didn't turn square round; but when I stopped shootin'

under my arm the saloon-keeper hed to go over to the sawmill an' fetch

a heap of sawdust to cover up what was left of them three cow-punchers,

after they was hauled out. You see, I was rough them days, an' would

shoot ears off an' noses off an' hands off; when in later days I'd jest

kill a man quick, same as Wild Bill.

"News drifts into town thet night thet a gang of cut-throats hed

murdered ole Bill Warren an' carried off his gurl. I gathers up a few

good gun-men, an' we rid out an' down the river-bottom, to an ole log

cabin, where the outlaws hed a rondevoo. We rid up boldlike, an' made a

hell of a racket. Then the gang began to throw lead from the cabin, an'

we all hunted cover. Fightin' went on all night. In the mornin' all my

outfit was killed but two, an' they was shot up bad. We fought all day

without eatin' or drinkin', except some whisky I hed, an' at night I was

on the job by my lonesome.

"Bein' bunged up some myself, I laid off an' went down to the river to

wash the blood off, tie up my wounds, an' drink a leetle. While I was

down there along comes one of the cutthroats with a bucket. Instead of

gettin' water he got lead, an' as he was about to croak he tells me a

whole bunch of outlaws was headin' in there, doo to-morrer. An' if I

wanted to rescoo the gurl I hed to be hurryin'. There was five fellers

left in the cabin.

"I went back to the thicket where I hed left my hoss, an' loaded up with

two more guns an' another belt, an' busted a fresh box of shells. If I

recollect proper, I got some cigarettes, too. Well, I mozied back to the

cabin. It was a boo-tiful moonshiny night, an' I wondered if ole Bill's

gun was as purty as I'd heerd. The grass growed long round the cabin,

an' I crawled up to the door without startin' anythin'. Then I figgered.

There was only one door in thet cabin, an' it was black dark inside. I

jest grabbed open the door an' slipped in quick. It worked all right.

They heerd me, but hedn't been quick enough to ketch me in the light of

the door. Of course there was some shots, but I ducked too quick, an'

changed my position.

"Ladies an' gentlemen, thet there was some dool by night. An' I wasn't

often in the place where they shot. I was most wonderful patient, an'

jest waited until one of them darned ruffians would get so nervous he'd

hev to hunt me up. When mornin' come there they was all piled up on

the floor, all shot to pieces. I found the gurl. Purty! Say, she was

boo-tiful. We went down to the river, where she begun to bathe my

wounds. I'd collected a dozen more or so, an' the sight of tears in her

lovely eyes, an' my blood a-stainin' of her little hands, jest nat'rally

wakened a trembly spell in my heart. I seen she was took the same way,

an' thet settled it.

"We was comin' up from the river, an' I hed jest straddled my hoss, with

the gurl behind, when we run right into thet cutthroat gang thet was

doo about then. Bein' some handicapped, I couldn't drop more 'n one

gun-round of them, an' then I hed to slope. The whole gang follered

me, an' some miles out chased me over a ridge right into a big herd of

buffalo. Before I knowed what was what thet herd broke into a stampede,

with me in the middle. Purty soon the buffalo closed in tight. I knowed

I was in some peril then. But the gurl trusted me somethin' pitiful. I

seen again thet she hed fell in love with me. I could tell from the way

she hugged me an' yelled. Before long I was some put to it to keep my

hoss on his feet. Far as I could see was dusty, black, bobbin', shaggy

humps. A huge cloud of dust went along over our heads. The roar of

tramplin' hoofs was turrible. My hoss weakened, went down, an' was

carried along a leetle while I slipped off with the gurl on to the backs

of the buffalo.

"Ladies, I ain't denyin' that then Monty Price was some scairt. Fust

time in my life! But the trustin' face of thet boo-tiful gurl, as she

lay in my arms an' hugged me an' yelled, made my spirit leap like a

shootin' star. I just began to jump from buffalo to buffalo. I must hev

jumped a mile of them bobbin' backs before I come to open places. An'

here's where I performed the greatest stunts of my life. I hed on my

big spurs, an' I jest sit down an' rid an' spurred till thet pertickler

buffalo I was on got near another, an' then I'd flop over. Thusly I got

to the edge of the herd, tumbled off'n the last one, an' rescooed the


"Well, as my memory takes me back, thet was a most affectin' walk home

to the little town where she lived. But she wasn't troo to me, an'

married another feller. I was too much a sport to kill him. But thet

low-down trick rankled in my breast. Gurls is strange. I've never

stopped wonderin' how any gurl who has been hugged an' kissed by one man

could marry another. But matoor experience teaches me thet sich is the


The cowboys roared; Helen and Mrs. Beck and Edith laughed till they

cried; Madeline found repression absolutely impossible; Dorothy sat

hugging her knees, her horror at the story no greater than at Monty's

unmistakable reference to her and to the fickleness of women;

and Castleton for the first time appeared to be moved out of his

imperturbability, though not in any sense by humor. Indeed, when he came

to notice it, he was dumfounded by the mirth.

"By Jove! you Americans are an extraordinary people," he said. "I don't

see anything blooming funny in Mr. Price's story of his adventure. By

Jove! that was a bally warm occasion. Mr. Price, when you speak of being

frightened for the only time in your life, I appreciate what you mean. I

have experienced that. I was frightened once."

"Dook, I wouldn't hev thought it of you," replied Monty. "I'm sure

tolerable curious to hear about it."

Madeline and her friends dared not break the spell, for fear that the

Englishman might hold to his usual modest reticence. He had explored

in Brazil, seen service in the Boer War, hunted in India and

Africa--matters of experience of which he never spoke. Upon this

occasion, however, evidently taking Monty's recital word for word as

literal truth, and excited by it into a Homeric mood, he might tell a

story. The cowboys almost fell upon their knees in their importunity.

There was a suppressed eagerness in their solicitations, a hint of

something that meant more than desire, great as it was, to hear a story

told by an English lord. Madeline divined instantly that the cowboys

had suddenly fancied that Castleton was not the dense and easily fooled

person they had made such game of; that he had played his part well;

that he was having fun at their expense; that he meant to tell a story,

a lie which would simply dwarf Monty's. Nels's keen, bright expectation

suggested how he would welcome the joke turned upon Monty. The slow

closing of Monty's cavernous smile, the gradual sinking of his proud

bearing, the doubt with which he began to regard Castleton--these were

proofs of his fears.

"I have faced charging tigers and elephants in India, and charging

rhinos and lions in Africa," began Castleton, his quick and fluent

speech so different from the drawl of his ordinary conversation; "but I

never was frightened but once. It will not do to hunt those wild beasts

if you are easily balled up. This adventure I have in mind happened in

British East Africa, in Uganda. I was out with safari, and we were in a

native district much infested by man-eating lions. Perhaps I may as well

state that man-eaters are very different from ordinary lions. They are

always matured beasts, and sometimes--indeed, mostly--are old. They

become man-eaters most likely by accident or necessity. When old they

find it more difficult to make a kill, being slower, probably, and with

poorer teeth. Driven by hunger, they stalk and kill a native, and, once

having tasted human blood, they want no other. They become absolutely

fearless and terrible in their attacks.

"The natives of this village near where we camped were in a terrorized

state owing to depredations of two or more man-eaters. The night of

our arrival a lion leaped a stockade fence, seized a native from

among others sitting round a fire, and leaped out again, carrying the

screaming fellow away into the darkness. I determined to kill these

lions, and made a permanent camp in the village for that purpose. By

day I sent beaters into the brush and rocks of the river-valley, and

by night I watched. Every night the lions visited us, but I did not see

one. I discovered that when they roared around the camp they were not so

liable to attack as when they were silent. It was indeed remarkable how

silently they could stalk a man. They could creep through a thicket

so dense you would not believe a rabbit could get through, and do it

without the slightest sound. Then, when ready to charge, they did so

with terrible onslaught and roar. They leaped right into a circle of

fires, tore down huts, even dragged natives from the low trees. There

was no way to tell at which point they would make an attack.

"After ten days or more of this I was worn out by loss of sleep. And one

night, when tired out with watching, I fell asleep. My gun-bearer

was alone in the tent with me. A terrible roar awakened me, then an

unearthly scream pierced right into my ears. I always slept with my

rifle in my hands, and, grasping it, I tried to rise. But I could not

for the reason that a lion was standing over me. Then I lay still. The

screams of my gun-bearer told me that the lion had him. I was fond of

this fellow and wanted to save him. I thought it best, however, not to

move while the lion stood over me. Suddenly he stepped, and I felt poor

Luki's feet dragging across me. He screamed, 'Save me, master!' And

instinctively I grasped at him and caught his foot. The lion walked out

of the tent dragging me as I held to Luki's foot. The night was bright

moonlight. I could see the lion distinctly. He was a huge, black-maned

brute, and he held Luki by the shoulder. The poor lad kept screaming

frightfully. The man-eater must have dragged me forty yards before he

became aware of a double incumbrance to his progress. Then he halted

and turned. By Jove! he made a devilish fierce object with his shaggy,

massive head, his green-fire eyes, and his huge jaws holding Luki. I let

go of Luki's foot and bethought myself of the gun. But as I lay there on

my side, before attempting to rise, I made a horrible discovery. I did

not have my rifle at all. I had Luki's iron spear, which he always had

near him. My rifle had slipped out of the hollow of my arm, and when the

lion awakened me, in my confusion I picked up Luki's spear instead. The

bloody brute dropped Luki and uttered a roar that shook the ground. It

was then I felt frightened. For an instant I was almost paralyzed.

The lion meant to charge, and in one spring he could reach me. Under

circumstances like those a man can think many things in little time. I

knew to try to run would be fatal. I remembered how strangely lions had

been known to act upon occasion. One had been frightened by an umbrella;

one had been frightened by a blast from a cow-horn; another had been

frightened by a native who in running from one lion ran right at the

other which he had not seen. Accordingly, I wondered if I could frighten

the lion that meant to leap at me. Acting upon wild impulse, I prodded

him in the hind quarters with the spear. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a

blooming idiot if that lion did not cower like a whipped dog, put his

tail down, and begin to slink away. Quick to see my chance, I jumped

up yelling, and made after him, prodding him again. He let out a bellow

such as you could imagine would come from an outraged king of beasts.

I prodded again, and then he loped off. I found Luki not badly hurt. In

fact, he got well. But I've never forgotten that scare."

When Castleton finished his narrative there was a trenchant silence. All

eyes were upon Monty. He looked beaten, disgraced, a disgusted man. Yet

there shone from his face a wonderful admiration for Castleton.

"Dook, you win!" he said; and, dropping his head, he left the camp-fire

circle with the manner of a deposed emperor.

Then the cowboys exploded. The quiet, serene, low-voiced Nels yelled

like a madman and he stood upon his head. All the other cowboys went

through marvelous contortions. Mere noise was insufficient to relieve

their joy at what they considered the fall and humiliation of the tyrant


The Englishman stood there and watched them in amused consternation.

They baffled his understanding. Plain it was to Madeline and her friends

that Castleton had told the simple truth. But never on the earth, or

anywhere else, could Nels and his comrades have been persuaded that

Castleton had not lied deliberately to humble their great exponent of


Everybody seemed reluctant to break the camp-fire spell. The logs had

burned out to a great heap of opal and gold and red coals, in the heart

of which quivered a glow alluring to the spirit of dreams. As the blaze

subsided the shadows of the pines encroached darker and darker upon the

circle of fading light. A cool wind fanned the embers, whipped up flakes

of white ashes, and moaned through the trees. The wild yelps of coyotes

were dying in the distance, and the sky was a wonderful dark-blue dome

spangled with white stars.

"What a perfect night!" said Madeline. "This is a night to understand

the dream, the mystery, the wonder of the Southwest. Florence, for long

you have promised to tell us the story of the lost mine of the padres.

It will give us all pleasure, make us understand something of the thrall

in which this land held the Spaniards who discovered it so many years

ago. It will be especially interesting now, because this mountain hides

somewhere under its crags the treasures of the lost mine of the padres."


"In the sixteenth century," Florence began, in her soft, slow voice so

suited to the nature of the legend, "a poor young padre of New Spain was

shepherding his goats upon a hill when the Virgin appeared before him.

He prostrated himself at her feet, and when he looked up she was gone.

But upon the maguey plant near where she had stood there were golden

ashes of a strange and wonderful substance. He took the incident as a

good omen and went again to the hilltop. Under the maguey had sprung

up slender stalks of white, bearing delicate gold flowers, and as these

flowers waved in the wind a fine golden dust, as fine as powdered ashes,

blew away toward the north. Padre Juan was mystified, but believed that

great fortune attended upon him and his poor people. So he went again

and again to the hilltop in hope that the Virgin would appear to him.

"One morning, as the sun rose gloriously, he looked across the windy

hill toward the waving grass and golden flowers under the maguey, and

he saw the Virgin beckoning to him. Again he fell upon his knees; but

she lifted him and gave him of the golden flowers, and bade him leave

his home and people to follow where these blowing golden ashes led.

There he would find gold--pure gold--wonderful fortune to bring back to

his poor people to build a church for them, and a city.

"Padre Juan took the flowers and left his home, promising to return,

and he traveled northward over the hot and dusty desert, through the

mountain passes, to a new country where fierce and warlike Indians

menaced his life. He was gentle and good, and of a persuasive speech.

Moreover, he was young and handsome of person. The Indians were Apaches,

and among them he became a missionary, while always he was searching for

the flowers of gold. He heard of gold lying in pebbles upon the mountain

slopes, but he never found any. A few of the Apaches he converted; the

most of them, however, were prone to be hostile to him and his religion.

But Padre Juan prayed and worked on.

"There came a time when the old Apache chief, imagining the padre had

designs upon his influence with the tribe, sought to put him to death

by fire. The chief's daughter, a beautiful, dark-eyed maiden, secretly

loved Juan and believed in his mission, and she interceded for his

life and saved him. Juan fell in love with her. One day she came to

him wearing golden flowers in her dark hair, and as the wind blew the

flowers a golden dust blew upon it. Juan asked her where to find such

flowers, and she told him that upon a certain day she would take him

to the mountain to look for them. And upon the day she led up to the

mountain-top from which they could see beautiful valleys and great trees

and cool waters. There at the top of a wonderful slope that looked down

upon the world, she showed Juan the flowers. And Juan found gold in such

abundance that he thought he would go out of his mind. Dust of gold!

Grains of gold! Pebbles of gold! Rocks of gold! He was rich beyond all

dreams. He remembered the Virgin and her words. He must return to his

people and build their church, and the great city that would bear his


"But Juan tarried. Always he was going manana. He loved the dark-eyed

Apache girl so well that he could not leave her. He hated himself for

his infidelity to his Virgin, to his people. He was weak and false,

a sinner. But he could not go, and he gave himself up to love of the

Indian maiden.

"The old Apache chief discovered the secret love of his daughter and the

padre. And, fierce in his anger, he took her up into the mountains and

burned her alive and cast her ashes upon the wind. He did not kill Padre

Juan. He was too wise, and perhaps too cruel, for he saw the strength

of Juan's love. Besides, many of his tribe had learned much from the


"Padre Juan fell into despair. He had no desire to live. He faded and

wasted away. But before he died he went to the old Indians who had

burned the maiden, and he begged them, when he was dead, to burn his

body and to cast his ashes to the wind from that wonderful slope,

where they would blow away to mingle forever with those of his Indian


"The Indians promised, and when Padre Juan died they burned his body and

took his ashes to the mountain heights and cast them to the wind, where

they drifted and fell to mix with the ashes of the Indian girl he had


"Years passed. More padres traveled across the desert to the home of

the Apaches, and they heard the story of Juan. Among their number was

a padre who in his youth had been one of Juan's people. He set forth to

find Juan's grave, where he believed he would also find the gold. And he

came back with pebbles of gold and flowers that shed a golden dust,

and he told a wonderful story. He had climbed and climbed into the

mountains, and he had come to a wonderful slope under the crags. That

slope was yellow with golden flowers. When he touched them golden ashes

drifted from them and blew down among the rocks. There the padre found

dust of gold, grains of gold, pebbles of gold, rocks of gold.

"Then all the padres went into the mountains. But the discoverer of the

mine lost his way. They searched and searched until they were old and

gray, but never found the wonderful slope and flowers that marked the

grave and the mine of Padre Juan.

"In the succeeding years the story was handed down from father to son.

But of the many who hunted for the lost mine of the padres there was

never a Mexican or an Apache. For the Apache the mountain slopes were

haunted by the spirit of an Indian maiden who had been false to her

tribe and forever accursed. For the Mexican the mountain slopes were

haunted by the spirit of the false padre who rolled stones upon the

heads of those adventurers who sought to find his grave and his accursed