Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
Once again a tragic scene had been enacted under the shade of the catalpa tree before the Farrel hacienda. The shock of a terrible, unexpected trend of events heralded by the arrival of Pablo Artelan and his victim had, seemingly, paralyzed John Parker mentally and physically. He felt again a curious cold, weak, empty feeling in his breast. It was the concomitant of defeat; he had felt it twice before when he had been overwhelmed and mangled by the wolves of Wall Street.
He was almost nauseated. Not at sight of the dusty, bloody, shapeless bundle that lay at the end of Pablo's riata, but with the realization that, indirectly, he had been responsible for all of this.
Pablo's shrill, agonized denunciation had fallen upon deaf ears, once the old majordomo had conveyed to Parker the information of Don Mike's death.
"The rope--take it off!" he protested to the unconscious Pablo. "It's cutting him in two. He looks like a link of sausage! Ugh! A Jap! Horrible! I'm smeared--I can't explain--nobody in this country will believe me--Pablo will kill me--"
He sat down on the bench under the catalpa tree, covered his face with his hands and closed his eyes. When he ventured again to look up, he observed that Pablo, in falling from his horse, had caught one huge Mexican spur on the cantle of his saddle and was suspended by the heel, grotesquely, like a dead fowl. The black mare, a trained roping horse, stood patiently, her feet braced a little, still keeping a strain on the riata.
Parker roused himself. With his pocket knife he cut the spur strap, eased the majordomo to the ground, carried him to the bench and stretched him out thereon. Then, grasping the mare by the bridle, he led her around the adobe wall; he shuddered inwardly as he heard the steady, slithering sound behind her.
"Got to get that Thing out of the way," he mumbled. The great barn door was open; from within he could hear his chauffeur whistling. So he urged the mare to a trot and got past the barn without having been observed. An ancient straw stack stood in the rear of the barn and in the shadow of this he halted, removed the riata from the pommel, dragged the body close to the stack, and with a pitchfork he hastily covered it with old, weather-beaten straw. All of this he accomplished without any purpose more definite than a great desire to hide from his wife and from his daughter this offense which Pablo had thrust upon him.
He led the black mare into the barn and tied her. Then he returned to Pablo.
The old Indian was sitting up. At sight of Parker he commenced to curse bitterly, in Spanish and English, this invader who had brought woe upon the house of Farrel. But John Parker was a white man.
"Shut up, you saddle-colored old idol," he roared, and shook Pablo until the latter's teeth rattled together. "If the mischief is done it can't be helped--and it was none of my making. Pull yourself together and tell me where this killing occurred. We've got to get Don Miguel's body."
For answer Pablo snarled and tried to stab him, so Parker, recalling a fragment of the athletic lore of his youth, got a wristlock on the old man and took the dirk away from him. "Now then," he commanded, as he bumped Pablo's head against the adobe wall, "you behave yourself and help me find Don Miguel and bring him in."
Pablo's fury suddenly left him; again he was the servant, respectful, deferential to his master's guest. "Forgive me, seņor," he muttered, "I have been crazy in the head."
"Not so crazy that you didn't do a good job on that Jap murderer. Come now, old chap. Buck up! We can't go after him in my automobile. Have you some sort of wagon?"
"Then come inside a moment. We both need a drink. We're shaking like a pair of dotards."
He picked up Pablo's dirk and give it back to the old man. Pablo acknowledged this courtesy with a bow and followed to Parker's room, where the latter poured two glasses of whisky. Silently they drank.
"Gracias, seņor. I go hitch up one team," Pablo promised, and disappeared at once.
For about ten minutes Parker remained in his room, thinking. His wife and Kay had started, afoot, to visit the Mission shortly after Don Mike and Pablo had left the ranch that morning, and for this Parker was duly grateful to Providence. He shuddered to think what the effect upon them would have been had they been present when Pablo made his spectacular entrance; he rejoiced at an opportunity to get himself in hand against the return of Kay and her mother to the ranch house.
"That wretched Okada!" he groaned. "He concluded that the simplest and easiest way to an immediate consummation of our interrupted deal would be the removal of young Farrel. So he hired one of his countrymen to do the job, believing or at least hoping, that suspicion would naturally be aroused against that Basque, Loustalot, who is known to have an old feud with the Farrels. Kate is right. I've trained with white men all my life; the moment I started to train with pigmented mongrels and Orientals I had to do with a new psychology, with mongrelized moral codes--ah, God, that splendid, manly fellow killed by the insatiable lust of an alien race for this land of his they covet! God forgive me! And poor Kay--"
He was near to tears now; fearful that he might be caught in a moment of weakness, he fled to the barn and helped Pablo hitch a team of draft horses to an old spring wagon. Pablo's customary taciturnity and primitive stoicism had again descended upon him like a protecting garment; his madness had passed and he moved around the team briskly and efficiently. Parker climbed to the seat beside him as Pablo gathered up the reins and started out of the farmyard at a fast trot.
Ten minutes later they paused at the mouth of the draw down which Farrel had been riding when fired upon. Pablo turned the team, tied them to an oak tree and started up the draw at a swift dog trot, with Parker at his heels.
Jammed rather tightly in a narrow little dry water-course that ran through the center of the draw they found the body of Don Mike. He was lying face downward; Parker saw that flies already rosetted a wound thick with blood clots on top of his head.
"Poor, poor boy," Parker cried agonizedly.
Pablo straddled the little watercourse, got a grip around his master's body and lifted it out to Parker, who received it and laid the limp form out on the grass. While he stood looking down at Don Mike's white, relaxed face, Pablo knelt, made the sign of the cross and commenced to pray for the peaceful repose of his roaster's soul. It was a long prayer; Parker, waiting patiently for him to finish, did not know that Pablo recited the litany for the dying.
"Come, Pablo, my good fellow, you've prayed enough," he suggested presently. "Help me carry Don Miguel down to the wagon--Pablo, he's alive!"
"Hah!" Pablo's exclamation was a sort of surprised bleat. "Madre de Cristo! Look to me, Don Miguel. Ah, little dam' fool, you make believe to die, no?" he charged hysterically.
Don Mike's black eyes opened slightly and his slack lower jaw tightened in a ghastly little grimace. The transported Pablo seized him and shook him furiously, meanwhile deluging Don Mike with a stream of affectionate profanity that fell from his lips like a benediction.
"Listen," Don Mike murmured presently. "Pablo's new litany."
"Rascal! Little, wicked heretic! Blood of the devil! Speak, Don Miguel."
"Shut up! Took your--time--getting me--out--confounded ditch--damned--lazy--beggar--"
Pablo leaped to his feet, his dusky face radiant.
"You hear!" he yelled. "Seņor Parker, you hear those boy give to me hell like old times, no?"
"You ran--you colorado maduro good-for-nothing--left me stuck in--ditch--let bushwhacker--get away--fix you for this, Pablo."
Pablo's eyes popped in ecstasy. He grinned like a gargoyle. "You hear those boy, seņor?" he reiterated happily. "I tell you those boy he like ol' Pablo. The night he come back he rub my head; yesterday he poke the rib of me with the thumb--now pretty soon he say sometheeng, I bet you."
"Shut up, I tell you." Don Mike's voice, though very faint, was petulant. "You're a total idiot. Find my horse--get rifle--trail that man--who shot me--get him--damn your prayers--get him--"
"Ah, Don Miguel," Pablo assured him in Spanish, in tones that were prideful beyond measure, "that unfortunate fellow has been shaking hands with the devil for the last forty-five minutes."
Don Mike opened his eyes widely. He was rapidly regaining his full consciousness. "Your work, Pablo?"
"Mine--with the help of God, as your illustrious grandfather, the first Don Miguel, would have said. But you are pleased to doubt me so I shall show you the carcass of the animal. I roped him and dragged him for two miles behind the black mare."
Don Mike smiled and closed his eyes. "I will go home," he said presently, and Pablo and Parker lifted him between them and carried him down to the waiting wagon. Half an hour later he was stretched on his bed at the hacienda, while Carolina washed his head with a solution of warm water and lysol. John Parker, rejoiced beyond measure, stood beside him and watched this operation with an alert and sympathetic eye.
"That doesn't look like a bullet wound," he declared, after an examination of the rent in Don Mike's scalp. "Resembles the wound made by what reporters always refer to as 'some blunt instrument.' The scalp is split but the flesh around the wound is swollen as from a blow. You have a nice lump on your head, Farrel."
"Aches terribly," Don Mike murmured. "I had dismounted to tighten my cinch; going down hill the saddle had slid up on my horse's withers. I was tucking in the latigo. When I woke up I was lying on my face, wedged tightly in that little dry ditch; I was ill and dazed and too weak to pull myself out; I was lying with my head down hill and I suppose I lost consciousness again, after awhile. Pablo!"
"You caught the man who shot me. What did you do with him?"
"Oh, those fellow plenty good and dead, Don Miguel."
"He dragged the body home at the end of his rope," Parker explained. "He thought you had been done for and he must have gone war mad. I covered the body of the Jap with straw from that stack out by the barn."
"Jap, eh?" Don Mike smiled. Then, after a long silence. "I suppose, Mr. Parker, you understand now--"
"Yes, yes, Farrel. Please do not rub it in."
"Okada wants the San Gregorio rather badly, doesn't he? Couldn't wait. The enactment of that anti-alien land bill that will come up in the legislature next year--do Mrs. Parker and your daughter know about this attempt to assassinate me?"
"They must not know. Plant that Jap somewhere and do it quickly. Confound you, Pablo, you should have known better than to drag your kill home, like an old she-cat bringing in a gopher. As for my head--well, I was thrown from my horse and struck on a sharp rock. The ladies would be frightened and worried if they thought somebody was gunning for me. When Bill Conway shows up with your spark plugs I'd be obliged, Mr. Parker, if you'd run me in to El Toro. I'll have to have my head tailored a trifle, I think."
With a weak wave of his hand he dismissed everybody, so Parker and Pablo adjourned to the stables to talk over the events of the morning. Standing patiently at the corral gate they found the gray horse, waiting to be unsaddled--a favor which Pablo proceeded at once to extend.
"Mira!" he called suddenly and directed Parser's attention to the pommel of Don Mike's fancy saddle, The rawhide covering on the shank of the pommel had been torn and scored and the steel beneath lay exposed. "You see?" Pablo queried. "You understan', seņor?"
"No, I must confess I do not, Pablo."
"Don Miguel is standing beside thees horse. He makes tighter the saddle; he is tying those latigo and he have the head bent leetle hit while he pull those latigo through the ring. Bang! Those Jap shoot at Don Miguel. He miss, but the bullet she hit thees pommel, she go flat against the steel, she bounce off and hit Don Miguel on top the head. The force for keel heem is use' up when the bullet hit thees pommel, but still those bullet got plenty force for knock Don Miguel seelly, no?"
"Spent ball, eh? I think you're right, Pablo."
Pablo relapsed into one of his infrequent Gringo solecisms. "You bet you my life you know eet," he said.
John Parker took a hundred dollar bill from his pocket. "Pablo," he said with genuine feeling, "you're a splendid fellow. I know you don't like me, but perhaps that is because you do not know me very well. Don Miguel knows I had nothing to do with this attempt to kill him, and if Don Miguel bears me no ill-will, I'm sure you should not. I wish you would accept this hundred dollar bill, Pablo?"
Pablo eyed the bill askance. "What for?" he demanded.
"For the way you handled that murdering Jap. Pablo, that was a bully job of work. Please accept this bill. If I didn't like you I would not offer it to you."
"Well, I guess Carolina mebbeso she can use eet. But first I ask Don Miguel if eet is all right for me take eet." He departed for the house to return presently with an anticipatory smile on his dusky countenance. "Don Miguel say to me, seņor: 'Pablo, any people she's stay my house he's do what she please.' Gracias, Seņor Parker." And he pouched the bill. "Mille gracias, seņor."
"Pray, do not mention it, Pablo."
"All right," Pablo agreed. "Eef you don't like eet, well, I don' tell somebody!"
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.