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- THE CRUSADE OF THE EXCELSIOR - 44/44 -


"The Commander," said Mrs. Markham briskly, "says it's against the rules; that visiting time is up; and you've already got a friend with you, and all that sort of thing; but I told him that I was bound to see you, if only to say that if there's any meanness going on, Susannah and James Markham ain't in it! No! But we're going to see you put right and square in the matter; and if we can't do it here, we'll do it, if we have to follow you to Mexico!--that's all!"

"And I," said Eleanor, grasping the Senor's hand, and half blushing as she glanced at Hurlstone, "see that I have already a friend here who will help me to put in action all the sympathy I feel."

Senor Perkins drew himself up, and cast a faint look of pride towards the Commander.

"To HEAR such assurances from beautiful and eloquent lips like those before me," he said, with his old oratorical wave of the hand, but a passing shadow across his mild eyes, "is more than sufficient. In my experience of life I have been favored, at various emergencies, by the sympathy and outspoken counsel of your noble sex; the last time by Mrs. Euphemia M'Corkle, of Peoria, Illinois, a lady of whom you have heard me speak--alas! now lately deceased. A few lines at present lying on yonder table--a tribute to her genius--will be forwarded to you, dear Mrs. Markham. But let us change the theme. You are looking well--and you, too, Miss Keene. From the roses that bloom on your cheeks--nourished by the humid air of Todos Santos--I am gratified in thinking you have forgiven me your enforced detention here."

At a gesture from the Commander he ceased, stepped back, bowed gravely, and the ladies recognized that their brief audience had terminated. As they passed through the gateway, looking back they saw Perkins still standing with the child on his shoulder and smiling affably upon them. Then the two massive doors of the gateway swung to with a crash, the bolts were shot, and the courtyard was impenetrable.

. . . . . .

A few moments later, the three friends had passed the outermost angle of the fortifications, and were descending towards the beach. By the time they had reached the sands they had fallen into a vague silence.

A noise like the cracking and fall of some slight scaffolding behind them arrested their attention. Hurlstone turned quickly. A light smoke, drifting from the courtyard, was mingling with the fog. A faint cry of "Dios y Libertad!" rose with it.

With a hurried excuse to his companions, Hurlstone ran rapidly back, and reached the gate as it slowly rolled upon its hinges to a file of men that issued from the courtyard. The first object that met his eyes was the hat of Senor Perkins lying on the ground near the wall, with a terrible suggestion in its helpless and pathetic vacuity. A few paces further lay its late owner, with twenty Mexican bullets in his breast, his benevolent forehead bared meekly to the sky, as if even then mutely appealing to the higher judgment. He was dead! The soul of the Liberator of Quinquinambo, and of various other peoples more or less distressed and more or less ungrateful, was itself liberated!

. . . . . .

With the death of Senor Perkins ended the Crusade of the Excelsior. Under charge of Captain Bunker the vessel was sent to Mazatlan by the authorities, bearing the banished and proscribed Americans, Banks, Brace, Winslow, and Crosby; and, by permission of the Council, also their friends, Markham and Brimmer, and the ladies, Mrs. Brimmer, Chubb, and Markham. Hurlstone and Miss Keene alone were invited to remain, but, on later representations, the Council graciously included Richard Keene in the invitation, with the concession of the right to work the mines and control the ranches he and Hurlstone had purchased from their proscribed countrymen. The complacency of the Council of Todos Santos may be accounted for when it is understood that on the day the firm of Hurlstone & Keene was really begun under the title of Mr. and Mrs. Hurlstone, Richard had prevailed upon the Alcalde to allow him to add the piquant Dona Isabel also to the firm under the title of Mrs. Keene. Although the port of Todos Santos was henceforth open to all commerce, the firm of Hurlstone & Keene long retained the monopoly of trade, and was a recognized power of intelligent civilization and honest progress on the Pacific coast. And none contributed more to that result than the clever and beautiful hostess of Excelsior Lodge, the charming country home of James Hurlstone, Esq., senior partner of the firm. Under the truly catholic shelter of its veranda Padre Esteban and the heretic stranger mingled harmoniously, and the dissensions of local and central Government were forgotten.

"I said that you were a dama de grandeza, you remember," said the youthful Mrs. Keene to Mrs. Hurlstone, "and, you see, you are!"


THE CRUSADE OF THE EXCELSIOR - 44/44

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