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Concho. Two caballeros have dismounted in the corral, and seek the honor of Don Jose's presence.

Don Jose. Bueno! (Aside.) Follow that fellow beyond the Mission. (Aloud.) Admit the strangers. Did they give their names?

Concho. They did, Don Jose,--Col. Culpepper Starbottle and the Don Alexandro Morton.

Sandy (dropping glass of aguardiente, and staggering stupidly to the centre, confronting DON JOSE and CONCHO, still holding bottle). Eh! Wot? Wot name did you say? (Looks stupidly and amazedly at CONCHO and DON JOSE, and then slowly passes his hand over his forehead. Then slowly and apologetically.) I axes your pardon, Don Jose, and yours, sir (to CONCHO), but I thought ye called me. No!--that ez--I mean--I mean--I'm a little off color here (pointing to his head). I don't follow suit--I--eh--eh! Oh!--ye'll pardon me, sir, but thar's names--perhaps yer darter will remember that I was took a bit ago on a name--thar's names sorter hangin' round me yer (pointing to his head), that I thinks I hear--but bein' drunk-- I hopes ye'll excoos me. Adios. (Staggers to gateway, CONCHO following.)

Concho (aside). There is something more in this than Don Jose would have known. I'll watch Diego, and keep an eye on Miss Jovita too.

Exit, following SANDY, who, in exit, jostles against COL. STARBOTTLE entering, who stops and leans exhaustedly at the wall to get his breath; following him closely, and oblivious of SANDY MORTON, ALEXANDER MORTON, sen. Enter COL. STARBOTTLE and ALEXANDER MORTON, sen.

SCENE 2.--The Same.

Col. Starbottle (entering, to DON JOSE). Overlooking the insult of--er--inebriated individual, whose menial position in this--er-- er--household precludes a demand for personal satisfaction, sir, I believe I have the honor of addressing Don Jose Castro. Very good, sir. Permit me, sir, to introduce myself as Col. Culpepper Starbottle--demn me! the legal adviser of Mr. Alexander Morton, sen., and I may add, sir, the friend of that gentleman, and as such, sir--er--er--personally--personally responsible.

Alexander Morton (puritanically and lugubriously). As a God- fearing man and forgiving Christian, Mr. Castro, I trust you will overlook the habitual profanity of the erring but well-meaning man, who, by the necessities of my situation, accompanies me. I am the person--a helpless sinner--mentioned in the letters which I believe have preceded me. As a professing member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, I have ventured, in the interest of works rather than faith, to overlook the plain doctrines of the church in claiming sympathy of a superstitious Papist.

Starbottle (interrupting, aside to ALEXANDER MORTON). Ahem! ahem! (Aloud to DON JOSE.) My friend's manner, sir, reminds me of--er-- er--Ram Bootgum Sing, first secretary of Turkish legation at Washington in '45; most remarkable man--demn me--most remarkable-- and warm personal friend. Challenged Tod Robinson for putting him next to Hebrew banker at dinner, with remark--demn me--that they were both believers in the profit! he, he! Amusing, perhaps; irreverent, certainly. Fought with cimeters. Second pass, Ram divided Tod in two pieces--fact, sir--just here (pointing) in--er-- er--regions of moral emotions. Upper half called to me,--said to me warningly--last words--never forget it,--"Star,"--always called me Star,--"Respect man's religious convictions." Legs dead; emotion confined to upper part of body--pathetic picture. Ged, sir, something to be remembered!

Don Jose (with grave Spanish courtesy). You are welcome, gentlemen, to the rancho of the Blessed Fisherman. Your letters, with their honorable report, are here. Believe me, senores, in your modesty you have forgotten to mention your strongest claim to the hospitality of my house,--the royal right of strangers.

Morton. Angels before this have been entertained as strangers, says the Good Book; and that, I take it, is your authority for this ceremoniousness which else were but lip-service and Papist airs. But I am here in the performance of a duty, Mr. Castro,--the duty of a Christian father. I am seeking a prodigal son. I am seeking him in his wine-husks and among his harl--

Starbottle (interrupting). A single moment. (To DON JOSE.) Permit me to--er--er--explain. As my friend Mr. Morton states, we are, in fact, at present engaged in--er--er--quest--er--pilgrimage that possibly to some, unless deterred by considerations of responsibility--personal responsibility--sir--Ged, sir, might be looked upon as visionary, enthusiastic, sentimental, fanatical. We are seeking a son, or, as my friend tersely and scripturally expresses it--er--er--prodigal son. I say scripturally, sir, and tersely, but not, you understand it, literally, nor I may add, sir, legally. Ged, sir, as a precedent, I admit we are wrong. To the best of my knowledge, sir, the--er--Prodigal Son sought his own father. To be frank, sir,--and Ged, sir, if Culpepper Starbottle has a fault, it is frankness, sir. As Nelse Buckthorne said to me in Nashville, in '47, "You would infer, Col. Starbottle, that I equivocate." I replied, "I do, sir; and permit me to add that equivocation has all the guilt of a lie, with cowardice superadded." The next morning at nine o'clock, Ged, sir, he gasped to me--he was lying on the ground, hole through his left lung just here (illustrating with DON JOSE'S coat),--he gasped, "If you have a merit, Star, above others, it is frankness!" his last words, sir,--demn me. . . . To be frank, sir, years ago, in the wild exuberance of youth, the son of this gentleman left his--er--er-- er--boyhood's home, owing to an innocent but natural misunderstanding with the legal protector of his youth--

Morton (interrupting gravely and demurely). Driven from home by my own sinful and then unregenerate hand--

Starbottle (quickly). One moment, a simple moment. We will not weary you with--er--er--history, or the vagaries of youth. He--er-- came to California in '49. A year ago, touched by--er--er-- parental emotion and solicitude, my friend resolved to seek him here. Believing that the--er--er--lawlessness of--er--er-- untrammelled youth and boyish inexperience might have led him into some trifling indiscretion, we have sought him successively in hospitals, alms-houses, reformatories, State's prisons, lunatic and inebriate asylums, and--er--er--even on the monumental inscriptions of the--er--er--country churchyards. We have thus far, I grieve to say, although acquiring much and valuable information of a varied character and interest, as far as the direct matter of our search,-- we have been, I think I may say, unsuccessful. Our search has been attended with the--er--disbursement of some capital under my-- er--er--direction, which, though large, represents quite inadequately the--er--er--earnestness of our endeavors.


Manuela (to DON JOSE). The Dona Jovita is waiting to receive you.

Don Jose (to MORTON). You shall tell me further of your interesting pilgrimage hereafter. At present my daughter awaits us to place this humble roof at your disposal. I am a widower, Don Alexandro, like yourself. When I say that, like you, I have an only child, and that I love her, you will understand how earnest is my sympathy. This way, gentlemen. (Leading to door in corridor, and awaiting them.)

Starbottle (aside). Umph! an interview with lovely woman means-- er--intoxication, but--er--er--no liquor. It's evident that the Don doesn't drink. Eh! (Catches sight of table in corridor, and bottle.) Oh, he does, but some absurd Spanish formality prevents his doing the polite thing before dinner. (Aloud, to DON JOSE.) One moment, sir, one moment. If you will--er--er--pardon the--er-- seeming discourtesy, for which I am, I admit--or--personally responsible, I will for a few moments enjoy the--er--er--delicious air of the courtyard, and the beauties of Nature as displayed in the--er--sunset. I will--er--rejoin you and the--er--er--ladies a moment later.

Don Jose. The house is your own, senor: do as you will. This way, Don Alexandro. [Exit, in door L., DON JOSE and MORTON, sen.

Starbottle. "Do as you will." Well, I don't understand Spanish ceremony, but that's certainly good English. (Going to table.) Eh! (Smelling decanter.) Robinson County whiskey! Umph! I have observed that the spirit of American institutions, sir, are already penetrating the--er--er--superstitions of--er--foreign and effete civilizations. (Pours out glass of whiskey, and drinks; pours again, and observes MANUELA watching him respectfully.) What the Devil is that girl looking at? Eh! (Puts down glass.)

Manuela (aside). He is fierce and warlike. Mother of God! But he is not so awful as that gray-haired caballero, who looks like a fasting St. Anthony. And he loves aguardiente: he will pity poor Diego the more. (Aloud.) Ahem! Senor. (Courtesies coquettishly.)

Col. Starbottle (aside). Oh, I see. Ged! not a bad-looking girl,-- a trifle dark, but Southern, and--er--tropical. Ged, Star, Star, this won't do, sir; no, sir. The filial affections of Aeneas are not to be sacrificed through the blandishments of--er--Dodo--I mean a Dido.

Manuela. O senor, you are kind, you are good. You are an Americano, one of a great nation. You will feel sympathy for a poor young man,--a mere muchacho,--one of your own race, who was a vaquero here, senor. He has been sent away from us here disgraced, alone, hungry, perhaps penniless. (Wipes her eyes.)

Col. Starbottle. The Devil! Another prodigal. (Aloud.) My dear, the case you have just stated would appear to be the--er--er-- normal condition of the--er--youth of America. But why was he discharged? (Pouring out liquor.)

Manuela (demurely glancing at the colonel). He was drunk, senor.

Starbottle (potently). Drunkenness, my child, which is--er-- weakness in the--er--er--gentleman, in the subordinate is a crime. What--er--excites the social impulse and exhilarates the fancy of the--er--master of the house, in the performance of his duty, renders the servant unfit for his. Legally it is a breach of contract. I should give it as my opinion,--for which I am personally responsible,--that your friend Diego could not recover. Ged! (Aside.) I wonder if this scapegoat could be our black sheep.

Manuela. But that was not all, senor. It was an excuse only. He


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