Loud and shrill came the nasal tones accompanied by the sharp ringing
of a little bell. The children rushed from the tent. It was just after
A square, black-covered wagon, with a very high seat, on which was
perched an odd-looking little man with grizled, curling hair, had
“Oh, I thought it was an Indian!” exclaimed Walter. “You’re not an
Indian, are you?”
“Think not,” replied the little man, pleasantly but tersely. “I’m a
Portugee–a long time away from my own country. Why you think me an
Indian, young man?”
“That foreign language you speak,” replied Walter. “I thought it was
“‘Foreign language?'” said the man, laughing merrily. “That’s English.”
“What was it?” asked Walter.
“Comalong–alcomout. I’ve said it so often I guess it don’t sound just
right; but I’ll do it better for you, so you can understand it. I’ll
say it slow: Come–along–all–come–out. Do you know what it is now?”
“Oh, yes; that’s easy enough,” said Walter. “What have you got in your
“Everything–calico, muslin, flannel, shoes, stockings, shirts, pots,
pans, perfume, ribbons, laces–everything.”
He had descended from his perch, and was opening the door of his wagon.
It was very neatly arranged inside. The various articles of merchandise
were placed separate and in order. With great good nature, the man
began exhibiting his wares.
“Here,” he said, taking a couple of calico dresses from a box in which
they had been neatly folded, “here are two pretty frocks, if you have a
little girl. I’ll sell ’em cheap. You see they’re not the latest style,
so we can’t very well dispose of them in this fashionable part of the
“That’s all right,” said Aunt Mary. “We may not be so particular. We
have a little girl here whom they may fit. Come, ‘Rita; let us see.”
The child came at her bidding, looking eagerly into the pasteboard box.
“Ho, hello!” said the pedlar, in surprise. “What have we here? Isn’t
this the little girl of the Barco’s? Isn’t this Dionysio’s sister?”
“Yes,” replied Walter. “She lives with us now. Her grandmother is dead.”
“Are you going to keep her?”
“For a while at least,” replied Aunt Mary.
“That is good–for her, very good,” said the pedlar, slowly. Then he
added: “That child is a relation of my wife’s.”
“Is your wife an Indian?” asked Aunt Mary.
“Oh, yes; she is an Indian–and a very good Indian. Pretty, too, like
the little girl. I would have taken the child–Dionysio knows it.”
“Have you no children of your own?” asked Aunt Mary.
“No; but we would be very good to this one. Perhaps you will not like
to keep her always.”
“I can not say. For the present she remains with us.”
‘Rita had climbed up on the wagon wheel, and was pulling the boxes
“She knows where to look for the candy,” said the pedlar, producing a
box of gum-drops.
The two little dresses were purchased by Aunt Mary, as well as some
other small articles for the child’s use. A pair of shoes and some
stockings were included.
“You will find it hard to get her to wear shoes,” said the pedlar. “She
has never had a pair on her feet.”
“I will try to get a pair that is quite large,” said Aunt Mary. “She
must become used to them gradually, of course.”
When all the purchases had been made, the pedlar said:
“I’ll be around here again in a couple of days; if you need anything
else, you can get it. I camp up there above the springs.”
“Do you sleep in your tent?” asked Walter.
“When it is cold I sleep in the wagon; when it is warm I have my cot.
Looking underneath the wagon they saw a cot strapped to the outer
floor. A number of cooking utensils hung from various hooks. There was
also a camp stove and portable oven–everything necessary for comfort.
“When I strike a place like this where there is a restaurant I don’t
cook for myself, but often I am miles from a settlement when night
comes. Then I _must_ cook for myself or starve.”
He prepared to depart, but before he went on his way he raised
Margarita in his arms and whispered something in her ear.
“No,” replied the child, shaking her head.
“_Dulces?_”[C] he said, pointing to the box of candy.
“No,” she said, “_muchas aqui_.”[D]
Aunt Mary did not like his actions. “What did he say?” she inquired,
but Margarita had not yet sufficient knowledge of English to explain.
The new dresses were tried on; they fitted very well, and the child
was delighted. When Dionysio came they told him about the pedlar.
“I saw him just now,” he said. “He was scolding me because I would
not give ‘Rita to him. He says my grandmother promised, but I do not
believe it. If so, she did not know what she was saying. Anyhow, she
had not the right.”
“He says you are cousins of his wife,” said Mr. Page.
“Oh, yes; but what is that? All are cousins here. His wife is not a
good woman; she is drunk many times, though he is well enough himself.
He thinks if she had the child, his wife would be better, but I do not
Margarita had been listening attentively. She went up to her brother,
put her hand in his and said in Spanish:
“Hernando told me he would give me pretty clothes if I would go home
with him, and I said the lady had given me some. He said I could every
day have candy, but I told him we had plenty here. I do not want to go
“And you shall not go, Margarita,” promised her brother. “You shall not
All that day the pedlar’s bell could be heard through the valley; the
children met him in their rambles several times, but he did not come
to their camp again.
The following morning, as they were preparing to go with Francisco for
water, he passed them.
“Are you going away for good now?” inquired Walter.
“Yes, until fall at least,” said the pedlar. “I have sold nearly all my
things. I am off to San Jacinto for more.”
His horses trotted off briskly, and the team was soon out of sight.
According to their usual custom the children remained some time at the
cold spring. Nellie and ‘Rita strolled from place to place, looking for
“sour-grass”; the boys lay in the shade of one of the large trees.
“Ay! ay!” shouted Francisco, after they had been there quite a while.
“It is time.”
“Ay! ay!” repeated a mocking voice. “It is time.”
“That’s William again,” said Francisco. “We have not seen him for long,
but now he is here.”
There was a crashing through the bushes, and the form of their enemy
appeared. He was whirling a dead rattlesnake on the point of a stick.
Much to their surprise, he neither paused nor sought to molest them.
Apparently he was in a hurry to get away.
They were greatly alarmed the next moment at sight of Nellie running
toward them. Her hat was off, her braids were unfastened, and she was
panting for breath.
“What is wrong? What is the matter?” cried Walter and Francisco
“I can not find ‘Rita,” she replied, and burst into tears. “We were
looking for sour-grass, and she went a little distance off. All at once
that horrid boy came with a dead snake. He began to run after me. I ran
ever so far, and at last he stopped. I begged and begged him not to
throw it on me, and I cried. Then, when he went away, I called ‘Rita
because I could not see her. She did not answer. I went back to the
place where she had been. She wasn’t there. And I can’t find her at
“But you were not far?” inquired Francisco. “She could not get lost so
soon. Walter and I will find her in a minute. Sit there and rest.”
The two boys were soon traversing the broad, grassy plateau. It was so
bare of trees that no one could possibly be roaming over it without
being seen. ‘Rita was not there. Francisco called to her Indian
fashion, but his calls were not answered.
“Come up, Nellie,” said Walter, at last, running down again to the edge
of the bank where they had left his sister. “Come and show us where
you last saw her. We can’t find her nor make her hear.”
The little girl was soon beside them.
“Just over there,” she said, “not far from those bushes. She must have
gone into them and got lost. I ran in the other direction when William
came after me with the snake. Let’s go down into the bushes and look
for her. What is there on the other side, Francisco?”
“All bushes, thicker and thicker till you come to the road,” said the
Indian boy. “On the other side of the road there are more bushes, and
after them a broad meadow like this.”
“She couldn’t get through them,” said Walter. “They are so very close
together and she is so timid–she would not try it.”
Francisco inclined his head on one side and listened.
“Do you hear the horse’s whinny?” he asked. “I have heard it three
times since we came up here.”
“No,” replied the brother and sister. They had not heard any such sound.
“I have a thought,” said the Indian boy. “I will go quietly through the
bushes. There is no need for all of us. When I come back you may come
along if you like. Just a stick for the snakes, and then I go.”
Seizing a branch that lay at the foot of a tree, Francisco started to
push his way through the thicket.
“Where do you suppose he has gone?” asked Nellie.
“Don’t know,” said Walter; “but Francisco is all right. He knows what
After a little while the Indian boy reappeared looking elated.
“I did not make a mistake,” he said. “It is Hernando who has taken
Margarita. There she sits on his lap by the wagon. He has stopped there
to water the horses. Come; I will show you.”
“Do you think he means to steal her, Francisco? Oh, do you think he
wants to take her away?” asked Nellie, tearfully.
“That I cannot tell,” said Francisco. “He will not dare, when he sees
“How can we stop him? He can run off with his horses. Oh, how dreadful!
how dreadful!” said Nellie, all but crying.
“Now, sister, if you are going to cry, we’ll have to leave you behind,”
said Walter, keen for an adventure. He stepped softly on tiptoe in the
tracks of Francisco as he had seen other boys do in pictures.
“But I won’t stay behind,” answered Nellie, stifling a sob. “Mamma
would not like it if you left me here.”
“We will not leave you; come along,” said Francisco, leading across the
meadow to another fringe of bushes. “Only be quiet,” he continued, “so
we will not be seen.” They skirted the thicket, going a long way round,
and after a time crossed the road and came out on a broad green expanse.
Two horses were feeding in the open; a wagon stood close by. The
pedlar, his back to the children, was smoking under a tree. Beside him,
contentedly munching candy from a box in her lap, sat Margarita.
“Ay! ay! ‘Rita!” cried Francisco, coming suddenly upon them, “why did
you run away?”
The child looked at the pedlar, who was visibly perturbed. “I found her
over there alone,” he explained to Francisco, “so I brought her here.
I would have taken her back in the wagon, though it would have lost me
time. I was going when I had finished my pipe.”
The child looked at him in astonishment.
“And not to go to Veronica?” she asked.
“Why to Veronica? Of course not,” he replied quickly.
“But you said—-” began the child.
“It does not matter what he said,” interrupted Francisco. “Come, now;
we must go home. I believe you are a rogue, Hernando,” he continued
turning to the pedlar. “I believe you are a great rogue—-”
Hernando laughed. “Well, if I am,” he said, “I am not the only one in
the world. You cannot prove anything of that which you are thinking.”
“If you were not guilty, Hernando,” answered Francisco, “you would not
so quickly understand my meaning.”
The man rose to his feet and busied himself with the ponies.
“Well, go now, and let that be all,” he said. “Take along with you the
Francisco lifted the child onto his shoulder. “I will carry you some,”
he said. “Did you want to go away from Nellie and Walter?” he asked in
“No, only till next week,” she replied. “Hernando said that there in
his home were pretty dolls–oh, such pretty dolls that Veronica had for
me–and many bright rings. He said that Dionysio had told him to take
“But, ‘Rita, do you not know that the other day Dionysio said you
should never go to Veronica.”
“Yes; but perhaps to-day it was different, I thought.”
“He would perhaps never have brought you back. You must promise not
again to go away with anybody.”
“He carried me.”
“Oh, well, I believe he meant to steal you. Veronica would have beaten
“I am glad not to have gone with him,” said the child. “Let me walk
He set her down, and taking Nellie by the hand she clung to her all the
As they passed the cottage where the missionary resided they saw a
crowd near the door.
“It is what they call a prayer-meeting, I think,” said the Indian boy.
“Not at this time of day,” remarked Walter. “The missionary woman is
“Maybe William frightened her with the rattlesnake,” said Francisco.
“But your uncle is there–I see him,” said Nellie. “He is talking to
“Very well; but it is late now, and we must not stop,” said Francisco.
“Perhaps she has been putting some pictures in the church again. My
uncle can get angry, too, sometimes.”
“But he would not make a woman cry, would he, Francisco?” asked Nellie,
with some anxiety.
“No; I do not think he would make a woman cry. It is strange, a little,
that he is there; but he would be displeased if I should go over and
leave the water on the roadside. Your people will be wondering why we
are not back.”
At the camp they had begun to feel uneasy. When everything had been
explained by the children, who now that Margarita was safe rather
enjoyed telling the experience, the elders were inclined to think
Hernando really intended to kidnap the child.
“That is what I think,” said Francisco. “When he went away to-day
he was not thinking of it, maybe, but when he saw her from his high
seat in the wagon he thought he would take her home with him. He has
not much good sense, that fellow. If she had cried on the road he
would, maybe, have brought her back. Anyhow, there is not much harm
done–maybe good–for she will be careful now.”
He was in the act of turning Rosinante homeward when he saw his uncle
approaching. The old man looked very much troubled.
“What is it?” asked the boy.
“Something very bad,” was the reply. “Something very, very bad. I
do not believe it, Francisco, but the missionary woman has lost her
pocket-book, and they say that you have stolen it.”
Francisco paled visibly under his swarthy skin. Then his face grew a
“They think I have stolen it!” he exclaimed. “I have never been in the
house of that woman. No one can say that they have ever seen me there.”
“So I told them. But there is someone there who saw you yesterday near
the _ramada_[E] next door,” said Mauricio.
“What of that, uncle? Do I not go every other day with water to the
people who live there? And is not the water kept under the _ramada_?”
“Very true. But there is much loud talking down there. She threatens to
have you arrested.”
“But you are the constable. You will not put me in the _cuartel_?”
“I must, if there is sworn out a warrant,” replied Mauricio, sadly.
“Come, come,” said Mr. Page, “it will not amount to that, I hope. Let
us go down at once to the house where the money was stolen and see
what they have to say–on what grounds, if any, they accuse you.”
“That is the best thing to do,” assented Mauricio. “It will show that
you are not afraid.”
The children stood amazed, grieved, and silent. Their busy minds
imagined all sorts of dire possibilities for their friend Francisco.
Without a word Francisco followed the two older men, his head erect,
his eyes fearless and unashamed. People looked at them in passing,
nearly all in sympathy, for Francisco was a favorite with all the
visitors save the very few friends of the missionary woman. The crowd
had not diminished when they reached the house, and all eyes were
turned toward them.
“Where is the person who has lost a pocket-book,” inquired Mr. Page,
looking from one to another.
“Inside,” replied a man, a cripple whom Francisco had often assisted at
the baths. “She is quite hysterical. I hear it contained a large sum of
money. I’ll never believe Francisco had anything to do with the theft.”
Mr. Page did not reply. The boy gave his defender a grateful look
before passing into the house with the others.
The loser of the pocket-book sat in a rocking-chair, somewhat calmer
and more composed than she had been when Mauricio left her. The sight
of Francisco, however, seemed to bring on a renewal of her excitement
until Mr. Page said:
“Pray be quiet, madam, until we have learned something of the
particulars of this theft. I am here on behalf of this boy, whom, I am
told, you accuse of having taken your pocket-book. It is a very serious
William, stationed back of his mother’s chair, darted a triumphant
glance at the Indian boy. Francisco stood, cap in hand, silently
awaiting what the woman had to say. With a hysterical gulp, she began:
“I always keep my pocket-book with me, usually in my bosom. Yesterday,
while I was lying in the hammock, a pedlar came with some notions.
I bought from him a paper of pins. After paying him I put the
pocket-book under the pillow of the hammock. I distinctly remember
doing that. Afterward I dozed off, and upon awaking forgot all about
the pocket-book. Everybody was at the baths at the time, and I hurried
there so as to get my bath before dinner.
“When I came back, the Indian boy was just going off with his
water-wagon. I would have spoken to him, but he avoided me. I
attributed this to surliness at the time, but now I believe it was
because he was guilty and could not meet my eye.”
Francisco was about to speak, but Mr. Page said: “Not yet, Francisco;
not yet. Is this all the evidence you have against the boy, madam?” he
“No, it is not,” she rejoined. “I did not miss the pocket-book until
this morning. As soon as I _did_ miss it I went to the hammock. It was
not there. My neighbor first put it into my head that the boy might
have taken it.”
“Please let me speak a word,” now interrupted a kindly-looking,
gray-haired woman sitting near the missionary. “I am Mrs. Minkson’s
nearest neighbor. We have the _ramada_ in common. I want everyone in
this room and in this village to understand, first and foremost, that
I had no idea of accusing Francisco when I said what I did. When Mrs.
Minkson came to me and told me she had lost her money, she also asked
me if I had seen anyone about the place yesterday. I told her no, only
Francisco just as I was coming up from my bath. I saw him stoop and
pick up a blanket from the ground and throw it on the hammock. He was
coming then with water for me. I saw him before he reached the _ramada_
and when he went away. I never meant that Mrs. Minkson should think he
had taken her pocket-book.”
“May I speak now, Mr. Page?” Francisco asked.
“Yes; tell what took place while you were in the neighborhood,” said
“Yesterday I came here with water about eleven o’clock,” began the
boy. “There was no one around. I saw Mrs. Plummer coming up from the
bath-house. When I went by the hammock a blanket was lying on the
ground. So it wouldn’t be trampled on by someone nor get wet from my
barrel, I picked it up and laid it at the foot of the hammock. I left
the water for Mrs. Plummer and went away. That is all I know.”
A murmur arose from the crowd, whether of approbation or the contrary
could not well be determined. Mr. Page was too much concerned to notice
it. Francisco and his uncle also were preoccupied.
“I believe your story, Francisco,” said Mr. Page. “I trust that
everyone here believes it. I can see nothing in what has been told to
warrant the accusation made.”
“That isn’t all,” exclaimed William, from behind his mother’s chair. “I
know something worse than that, I do.”
“Out with it at once, my boy,” said Mr. Page. “Let us hear everything
“Well, I didn’t tell this before, but I saw Francisco last night with a
twenty-dollar gold-piece in his hand, standing in the restaurant.”
“William,” protested his mother, sharply, pushing him away from her,
“didn’t I tell you that had nothing to do with it. There was no gold in
The crowd laughed, and William, nothing daunted, went on:
“I think it’s mighty funny when an Indian like him can throw
twenty-dollar gold-pieces ’round.”
Francisco looked at Mr. Page; that gentleman nodded.
“In order to clear the boy of any suspicion these ill-advised and
malicious remarks may have aroused in the minds of his hearers,” he
said, “I will now state that I gave Francisco the gold-piece to have
changed for me at the restaurant.”
A white boy in Francisco’s position would have faced his opponent with
a triumphant smile; the Indian did not even look toward him. But he
glanced gratefully at Mr. Page, and the face of Mauricio grew less
grave and troubled than it had been.
“I should like to ask,” said Mr. Page, once more turning to the
missionary, “whether you may not have been mistaken as to where you
placed your pocket-book? Have you looked everywhere about the house?”
“No, sir; I have _not_ been mistaken,” she replied. “I remember
perfectly well having put it under the pillow. It is very easy to go
through this house. There is not even a closet in it. Where could it be
“Have you looked under the mattress?”
“No, sir; I have not. I never put money under a mattress.”
“‘Tis my belief, ’tis my belief,” whispered a rheumatic old Irishman to
Mr. Page, “that the b’y yonder,” pointing to William, “has got up some
thrick agin the Indian. He have a great spite agin him.”
“You don’t believe he has hidden the money, do you?” inquired Mr. Page.
“I do, ye know,” was the reply. “He’s the divil’s own limb–that same
youngster. And they both of them, mother and son, have a great spite
agin the Indians because they’re Catholics. ‘Tis a shame, sir, to have
that innocent crathur accused in this way.”
“It is,” agreed Mr. Page. “But no one who knows him will believe it.
Further, there is not the slightest evidence to support the woman’s
The old man looked at him quizzically. “You are a lawyer, I believe,
sir,” he said.
“Yes, I am,” replied Mr. Page.
“From your point of view you are right, sir,” replied the old man
deliberately. “There’s nothing agin him. _But–but_,” he continued with
greater deliberation, laying his shriveled hand on Mr. Page’s arm, “till
that b’y’s cleared, till the pocket-book’s found or the real thief’s
caught–there always will be a suspicion agin him as long as he lives.”
“I agree with you,” said Mr. Page. “The matter is very unfortunate. But
we are powerless in the matter. We can do nothing.”
The old man shook his head sadly, and was about to leave the house when
his glance rested on the edge of the throng near the door. His old eyes
brightened. Again laying his finger on Mr. Page’s coat-sleeve, he said,
in a low voice:
“If I’m not mistaken here is someone who’ll go to the root of the
matter without much more ado. _He’ll_ put things through in a hurry.
_He’ll_ find the pocket-book or the thief, or he’ll know why.”
Following the old man’s glance, Mr. Page saw an Indian parting the
crowd. He was very tall and well-built, and his features were somewhat
rugged. An air of authority betokened him a person of some importance.
“It’s the Captain,” said the old man. “It’s Cecilio, the head man of
them all. Wait, now, till ye hear him.”
The Indian stepped to Mauricio’s side.
“As I came through the village,” he said, “I heard of the trouble.”
Then they talked together in their own language. Presently Cecilio went
over to Mrs. Minkson.
“Madam,” he said, politely in excellent English, “they say a
pocket-book has been lost here by you, and that you suspect this boy,
Francisco, to be the thief.
“I am the Captain of this village, and when we have sent away this
crowd of people, or, at least, made them stand on the outside, we will
search the house thoroughly.”
“You have no right to search my house,” said the missionary. “It has
been done already.”
“I have a right, and I will use it,” he said. “Will you go out, please,
my good friends, so that we may not be hindered?”
The people, complying with his request, slowly left the house.
“This is my good friend, Mr. Page,” said Francisco. “May he not stay
with us here?”
“Yes; that is all right,” said Cecilio. “It is better that we have a
“Or two,” said the old Irishman, coming nearer to Mr. Page.
“Or two,” repeated Cecilio, smilingly.
“Now, madam, will you kindly open these boxes and search through your
clothing?” requested the Captain.
“I tell you I will not do it,” said Mrs. Minkson. “This is an outrage.
This is my house while I am in it, and you dare not order me to do
anything I do not choose.”
“Very well, madam,” calmly remarked the Indian; “then we look
“You are up to some trick,” said the missionary. “The boy has probably
handed it to you, and you will pretend to find it. You shall _not_
search my house. Go out of here–go out!”
The two Indian men again conversed in low tones. Then Cecilio said:
“It is either that you look, or that we do. You will choose. They say
that you left it in the hammock. Will you go first to the hammock,
The woman saw determination in the eyes of the Captain. Very slowly she
walked to the door and stepped to the _ramada_, in front of which the
crowd still lingered. She lifted the pillow and was about to replace
it, protesting loudly, “This is a farce,” when it fell to the ground,
the open end of the cover facing downward. Out of this end a brown
leather pocket-book rolled toward the feet of the spectators.
Quite a tumult of congratulation ensued. Francisco soon became the
centre of a sympathetic throng. Mrs. Minkson, very much discomfited,
was not one of them. On the contrary, she hurried into the house
without a word and closed the door.
Cecilio turned to the spectators and, laying his hand on the shoulder
of Francisco, said:
“My good friends, I see that you have not believed this boy a thief.
You have seen that the woman, instead of putting the pocket-book under
the pillow, placed it by accident _in_ the cover. Some of you who are
here know us very well. To others we are strangers. But it is just and
right that the strangers should learn what is very well known to all
who are our friends; and it is this:
“For more than twenty-five years the Hot Springs have been visited by
white people; we have thrown open to them our houses, and we have moved
out of them, going elsewhere to live; we have always kept away from
them, staying in our own dwellings and going our own ways. That no one
can deny. And in all those years, in this village where no door is ever
locked, never once has an Indian been known to enter a house where the
people were not–not once has anything been stolen by an Indian. That,
my friends, can be proved.
“Francisco, this boy here, is without father and mother, but he has
been always good, always faithful, always industrious, always honest.
And to-day he has not lost his good name. Soon we Indians must leave
our homes, soon we must be cast out of the place of our fathers; but,
at least, if it be God’s will thus to chastise us, let it not be said
at the end what has never been said of us–that we are thieves or
With a courteous wave of the hand, he passed through the crowd and
quickly remounted his horse, a fine animal, on which he sat like a
cavalier of old. As he rode away there arose a cheer from the crowd for
The people–whites and Indians–gathered round Francisco, and nearly
everybody shook his hand. The boy received their good wishes quietly
but gratefully, with the natural dignity of his race. After many a
pause on the road he returned to the tent with Mr. Page and Mauricio.
The good news had preceded them, and the children shouted for joy;
Walter loudly expressed his belief that the whole thing had been a
plot devised by the missionary for the ruin of their friend. For this
he was immediately reproved by his parents for rash judgment and want
of charity, but subsided only after several reminders.
Francisco reported the next day that Mrs. Minkson had apologized to
him for her suspicions, which action showed her to be possessed of a
Christian spirit, even though mistaken zeal had carried her out of her
own province. The boy William remained implacable to the end.