The captain follows his ship.
When Padre Esteban had finished reading
the document he laid it down and fixed his eyes on
the young man. Hurlstone met his look with a glance
of impatient disdain.
“What have you to say to this?”
asked the ecclesiastic, a little impressed by his
“That as far as it concerns
myself it is a farrago of absurdity. If I
were the person described there, why should I have
sought you with what you call a lie of ‘sentimental
passion,’ when I could have claimed protection
openly with my sister patriot,” he
added, with a bitter laugh.
“Because you did not know then
the sympathy of the people nor the decision of the
Council,” said the priest.
“But I know it now, and I refuse to accept
“You refuse to to accept
it?” echoed the priest.
“I do.” He walked
towards the door. “Before I go, let me thank
you for the few hours’ rest and security that
you have given to one who may be a cursed man, yet
is no impostor. But I do not blame you for doubting
one who talks like a desperate man, yet lacks the
courage of desperation. Good-by!”
“Where are you going?”
“What matters? There is
a safer protection and security to be found than even
that offered by the Council of Todos Santos.”
His eyes were averted, but not before
the priest had seen them glaze again with the same
gloomy absorption that had horrified him in the church
the evening before. Father Esteban stepped forward
and placed his soft hand on Hurlstone’s shoulder.
“Look at me. Don’t
turn your face aside, but hear me; for I believe your
Without raising his eyes, the young
man lifted Father Esteban’s hand from his shoulder,
pressed it lightly, and put it quietly aside.
“I thank you,” he said,
“for keeping at least that unstained memory of
me. But it matters little now. Good-by!”
He had his hand upon the door, but
the priest again withheld him.
“When I tell you I believe your
story, it is only to tell you more. I believe
that God has directed your wayward, wandering feet
here to His house, that you may lay down the burden
of your weak and suffering manhood before His altar,
and become once more a child of His. I stand
here to offer you, not a refuge of a day or a night,
but for all time; not a hiding-place from man or woman,
but from yourself, my son yourself, your
weak and mortal self, more fatal to you than all.
I stand here to open for you not only the door of this
humble cell, but that of His yonder blessed mansion.
You shall share my life with me; you shall be one
of my disciples; you shall help me strive for other
souls as I have striven for yours; the protection
of the Church, which is all-powerful, shall be around
you if you wish to be known; you shall hide yourself
in its mysteries if you wish to be forgotten.
You shall be my child, my companion, my friend; all
that my age can give you shall be yours while I live,
and it shall be your place one day to take up my unfinished
work when it falls from these palsied hands forever.”
“You are mistaken,” said
the young man coldly. “I came to you for
human aid, and thank you for what you have granted
me: I have not been presumptuous enough to ask
more, nor to believe myself a fitting subject for
conversion. I am weak, but not weak enough to
take advantage of the mistaken kindness of either
the temporal Council of Todos Santos or its spiritual
head.” He opened the door leading into the
garden. “Forget and forgive me, Father
Esteban, and let me say farewell.”
“Stop!” said the ecclesiastic,
raising himself to his full height and stepping before
Hurlstone. “Then if you will not hear me
in the name of your Father who lives, in the name
of your father who is dead I command you to stay!
I stand here to-day in the place of that man I never
knew to hold back his son from madness and
crime. Think of me as of him whom you loved,
and grant to an old man who might have had a son as
old as you the right of throwing a father’s
protecting arm around you.”
There was a moment’s silence.
“What do you want me to do?”
said Hurlstone, suddenly lifting his now moist and
glistening eyes upon the old man.
“Give me your word of honor
that for twenty-four hours you will remain as you
are pledging yourself to nothing only
promising to commit no act, take no step, without
consulting me. You will not be sought here, nor
yet need you keep yourself a prisoner in these gloomy
walls except that, by exposing yourself
to the people now, you might be compromised to some
course that you are not ready to take.”
“I promise,” said Hurlstone.
He turned and held out both his hands;
but Father Esteban anticipated him with a paternal
gesture of uplifted and opened arms, and for an instant
the young man’s forehead was bowed on the priest’s
Father Esteban gently raised the young man’s
“You will take a pasear
in the garden until the Angelus rings, my son, while
the air is sweet and wholesome, and think this over.
Remember that you may accept the hospitality of the
Council without sin of deception. You were not
in sympathy with either the captors of the Excelsior
or their defeated party; for you would have flown
from both. You, of all your party now in Todos
Santos, are most in sympathy with us. You have
no cause to love your own people; you have abandoned
them for us. Go, my son; and meditate upon my
words. I will fetch you from yonder slope in
time for the evening refection.”
Hurlstone bowed his head and turned
his irresolute feet towards the upper extremity of
the garden, indicated by the priest, which seemed to
offer more seclusion and security than the avenue of
pear-trees. He was dazed and benumbed. The
old dogged impulses of self-destruction revived
by the priest’s reproaches, but checked by the
vision of his dead and forgotten father, which the
priest’s words had called up gave
way, in turn, to his former despair. With it
came a craving for peace and rest so insidious that
in some vague fear of yielding to it he quickened his
pace, as if to increase his distance from the church
and its apostle. He was almost out of breath
when he reached the summit, and turned to look back
upon the Mission buildings and the straggling street
of the pueblo, which now for the first time he saw
skirted the wall of the garden in its descent towards
the sea. He had not known the full extent of Todos
Santos before; when he swam ashore he had landed under
a crumbling outwork of the fort; he gazed now with
curious interest over the hamlet that might have been
his home. He looked over the red-tiled roofs,
and further on to the shining bay, shut in by the
impenetrable rampart of fog. He might have found
rest and oblivion here but for the intrusion of those
fellow-passengers to share his exile and make it intolerable.
How he hated and loathed them all! Yet the next
moment he found himself scrutinizing the street and
plaza below him for a glimpse of his countrywomen,
whom he knew were still in the town or vainly endeavoring
to locate their habitation among the red-tiled roofs.
And that frank, clear-eyed girl Miss Keene! she
who had seemed to vaguely pity him she
was somewhere here too selected by the irony
of fate to be his confederate! He could not help
thinking of her beauty and kindness now, with a vague
curiosity that was half an uneasiness. It had
not struck him before, but if he were to accept the
ridiculous attitude forced upon him by Todos Santos,
its absurdity, as well as its responsibility, would
become less odious by sharing it with another.
Perhaps it might be to her advantage and
if so, would he be justified in exposing its absurdity?
He would have to see her first and if he
did, how would he explain his real position?
A returning wave of bitterness threw him back into
his old despair.
The twilight had slowly gathered over
the view as he gazed or, rather a luminous
concentration above the pueblo and bay had left the
outer circle of fog denser and darker. Emboldened
by the apparent desertion of the Embarcadero, he began
to retrace his steps down the slope, keeping close
to the wall so as to avoid passing before the church
again, or a closer contact with the gardener among
the vines. In this way he reached the path he
had skirted the night before, and stopped almost under
the shadow of the Alcalde’s house. It was
here he had rested and hidden, here he
had tasted the first sweets of isolation and oblivion
in the dreamy garden, here he had looked
forward to peace with the passing of the ship, and
now? The sound of voices and laughter suddenly
grated upon his ear. He had heard those voices
before. Their distinctness startled him until
he became aware that he was standing before a broken,
half-rotting door that permitted a glimpse of the
courtyard of the neighboring house. He glided
quickly past it without pausing, but in that glimpse
beheld Mrs. Brimmer and Miss Chubb half reclining
in the corridor in the attitude he had often
seen them on the deck of the ship talking
and laughing with a group of Mexican gallants.
A feeling of inconceivable loathing and aversion took
possession of him. Was it to this he was
returning after his despairing search for oblivion?
Their empty, idle laughter seemed to ring mockingly
in his ears as he hurried on, scarce knowing whither,
until he paused before the broken cactus hedge and
crumbling wall that faced the Embarcadero. A
glance over the hedge showed him that the strip of
beach was deserted. He looked up the narrow street;
it was empty. A few rapid strides across it gained
him the shadow of the sea-wall of the Presidio, unchecked
and unhindered. The ebbing tide had left a foot
or two of narrow shingle between the sea and the wall.
He crept along this until, a hundred yards distant,
the sea-wall reentered inland around a bastion at the
entrance of a moat half filled at high tide by the
waters of the bay, but now a ditch of shallow pools,
sand, and debris. He leaned against the bastion,
and looked over the softly darkening water.
How quiet it looked, and, under that
vaporous veil, how profound and inscrutable!
How easy to slip into its all-embracing arms, and sink
into its yielding bosom, leaving behind no stain,
trace, or record! A surer oblivion than the Church,
which could not absolve memory, grant forgetfulness,
nor even hide the ghastly footprints of its occupants.
Here was obliteration. But was he sure of that?
He thought of the body of the murdered Peruvian, laid
out at the feet of the Council by this same fickle
and uncertain sea; he thought of his own distorted
face subjected to the cold curiosity of these aliens
or the contemptuous pity of his countrymen. But
that could be avoided. It was easy for him a
good swimmer to reach a point far enough
out in the channel for the ebbing tides to carry him
past that barrier of fog into the open and obliterating
ocean. And then, at least, it might seem as if
he had attempted to escape indeed,
if he cared, he might be able to keep afloat until
he was picked up by some passing vessel, bound to a
distant land! The self-delusion pleased him,
and seemed to add the clinching argument to his resolution.
It was not suicide; it was escape certainly
no more than escape he intended! And
this miserable sophism of self-apology, the last flashes
of expiring conscience, helped to light up his pale,
determined face with satisfaction. He began coolly
to divest himself of his coat.
What was that? the sound
of some dislodged stones splashing in one of the pools
further up! He glanced hurriedly round the wall
of the bastion. A figure crouching against the
side of the ditch, as if concealing itself from observation
on the glacis above, was slowly approaching the sea.
Suddenly, when within a hundred yards of Hurlstone,
it turned, crossed the ditch, rapidly mounted its crumbling
sides, and disappeared over the crest. But in
that hurried glimpse he had recognized Captain Bunker!
The sudden and mysterious apparition
of this man produced on Hurlstone an effect that the
most violent opposition could not have created.
Without a thought of the terrible purpose it had interrupted,
and obeying some stronger instinct that had seized
him, he dashed down into the ditch and up to the crest
again after Captain Bunker. But he had completely
disappeared. A little lagoon, making in from the
bay, on which a small fishing-boat was riding, and
a solitary fisherman mending his nets on the muddy
shore a few feet from it, were all that was to be
He was turning back, when he saw the
object of his search creeping from some reeds, on
all fours, with a stealthy, panther-like movement towards
the unconscious fisherman. Before Hurlstone could
utter a cry, Bunker had sprung upon the unfortunate
man, thrown him to the earth, rapidly rolled him over
and over, enwrapping him hand and foot in his own
net, and involving him hopelessly in its meshes.
Tossing the helpless victim who was apparently
too stupefied to call out to one side,
he was rushing towards the boat when, with a single
bound, Hurlstone reached his side and laid his hand
upon his shoulder.
“Captain Bunker, for God’s sake! what
are you doing?”
Captain Bunker turned slowly and without
apparent concern towards his captor. Hurlstone
fell back before the vacant, lack-lustre eyes that
were fixed upon him.
“Captain Bunker’s my name,”
said the madman, in a whisper. “Lemuel
Bunker, of Nantucket! Hush! don’t waken
him,” pointing to the prostrate fisherman; “I’ve
put him to sleep. I’m Captain Bunker old
drunken Bunker who stole one ship from
her owners, and disgraced himself, and now is going
to steal another ha, ha! Let me go.”
“Captain Bunker,” said
Hurlstone, recovering himself in time to prevent the
maniac from dashing into the water. “Look
at me. Don’t you know me?”
“Yes, yes; you’re one
of old Bunker’s dogs kicked overboard by Perkins.
I’m one of Perkins’ dogs gone mad, and
locked up by Perkins! Ha, ha! But I got
out! Hush! She let me out. She
thought I was going to see the boys at San Antonio.
But I’m going off to see the old barque out there
in the fog. I’m going to chuck Perkins
overboard and the two mates. Let me go.”
He struggled violently. Hurlstone,
fearful of quitting his hold to release the fisherman,
whom Captain Bunker no longer noticed, and not daring
to increase the Captain’s fury by openly calling
to him, beckoned the pinioned man to make an effort.
But, paralyzed by fear, the wretched captive remained
immovable, staring at the struggling men. With
the strength of desperation Hurlstone at last forced
the Captain down upon his knees.
“Listen, Captain! We’ll
go together you understand. I’ll
help you but we must get a larger boat
first you know.”
“But they won’t give it,”
said Captain Bunker mysteriously. “Didn’t
you hear the Council the owners the
underwriters say: ’He lost his ship, he’s
ruined and disgraced, for rum, all for rum!’
And we want rum, you know, and it’s all over
there, in the Excelsior’s locker!”
“Yes, yes,” said Hurlstone
soothingly; “but there’s more in the bigger
boat. Come with me. We’ll let the man
loose, and we’ll make him show us his bigger
It was an unfortunate suggestion;
for the Captain, who had listened with an insane chuckle,
and allowed himself to be taken lightly by the hand,
again caught sight of the prostrate fisherman.
A yell broke from him his former frenzy
returned. With a cry of “Treachery! all
hands on deck!” he threw off Hurlstone and rushed
into the water.
“Help!” cried the young
man, springing after him, “It is madness.
He will kill himself!”
The water was shallow, they were both
wading, they both reached the boat at the same time;
but the Captain had scrambled into the stern-sheets,
and cast loose the painter, as Hurlstone once more
threw his arms about him.
“Hear me, Captain. I’ll
go with you. Listen! I know the way through
the fog. You understand: I’ll pilot
you!” He was desperate, but no longer from despair
of himself, but of another; he was reckless, but only
to save a madman from the fate that but a moment before
he had chosen for himself.
Captain Bunker seemed to soften.
“Get in for’ard,” he said, in a lower
voice. Hurlstone released his grasp, but still
clinging to the boat, which had now drifted into deeper
water, made his way to the bow. He was climbing
over the thwarts when a horrified cry from the fisherman
ashore and a jarring laugh in his ear caused him to
look up. But not in time to save himself!
The treacherous maniac had suddenly launched a blow
from an oar at the unsuspecting man as he was rising
to his knees. It missed his head, but fell upon
his arm and shoulder, precipitating him violently
into the sea.
Stunned by the shock, he sank at first
like lead to the bottom. When he rose again,
with his returning consciousness, he could see that
Captain Bunker had already hoisted sail, and, with
the assistance of his oars, was rapidly increasing
his distance from the shore. With his returning
desperation he turned to strike out after him, but
groaned as his one arm sank powerless to his side.
A few strokes showed him the madness of the attempt;
a few more convinced him that he himself could barely
return to the shore. A sudden torpor had taken
possession of him he was sinking!
With this thought, a struggle for
life began; and this man who had just now sought death
so eagerly with no feeling of inconsistency,
with no physical fear of dissolution, with only a
vague, blind, dogged determination to live for some
unknown purpose a determination as vague
and dogged as his former ideas of self-destruction summoned
all his energies to reach the shore. He struck
out wildly, desperately; once or twice he thought
he felt his feet touch the bottom, only to find himself
powerlessly dragged back towards the sea. With
a final superhuman effort he gained at last a foothold
on the muddy strand, and, half scrambling, half crawling,
sank exhaustedly beside the fisherman’s net.
But the fisherman was gone! He attempted again
to rise to his feet, but a strange dizziness attacked
him. The darkening landscape, with its contracting
wall of fog; the gloomy flat; the still, pale sea,
as yet unruffled by the faint land breeze that was
slowly wafting the escaping boat into the shadowy
offing all swam round him! Through
the roaring in his ears he thought he heard drumbeats,
and the fanfare of a trumpet, and voices. The
next moment he had lost all consciousness.
When he came to, he was lying in the
guard-room of the Presidio. Among the group of
people who surrounded him he recognized the gaunt features
of the Commander, the sympathetic eyes of Father Esteban,
and the fisherman who had disappeared. When he
rose on his elbow, and attempted to lift himself feebly,
the fisherman, with a cry of gratitude, threw himself
on his knees, and kissed his helpless hand.
“He lives, he lives! your Excellencies!
Saints be praised, he lives! The hero the
brave Americano the noble caballero
who delivered me from the madman.”
“Who are you? and whence come
you?” demanded the Commander of Hurlstone, with
Hurlstone hesitated; the priest leaned
forward with a half anxious, half warning gesture.
There was a sudden rustle in the passage; the crowd
gave way as Miss Keene, followed by Mrs. Markham, entered.
The young girl’s eyes caught those of the prostrate
man. With an impulsive cry she ran towards him.
“Hurlstone,” echoed the group, pressing
nearer the astonished man.
The Comandante lifted his hand gravely
with a gesture of silence, and then slowly removed
his plumed hat. Every head was instantly uncovered.
“Long live our brave and noble
ally, Don Diego! Long live the beautiful Dona
A faint shade of sadness passed over
the priest’s face. He glanced from Hurlstone
to Miss Keene.
“Then you have consented?” he whispered.
Hurlstone cast a rapid glance at Eleanor Keene.