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Joaquin Murieta
by [?]

In the days of ’49 when Murphy’s Diggings was as lively a little placer camp as one could find in a long ride through the red foot-hills of the Sierras, a young Mexican monte-dealer disappeared. He was a handsome fellow, lighter of complexion than most of his countrymen, owned a sunny smile and spoke English fluently, all of which things made him a favorite among the American customers and consequently an asset to the house. So when dusk came and the booted miners began drifting into the long canvas-roofed hall, the proprietor scanned the crowd for him with some anxiety.

But the proprietor might as well have saved himself the trouble of that search; the monte-dealer had forsaken his table for a different sort of job.

Just at this time he was on the hill beyond the upper end of the camp kneeling beside an open grave; and in his clasped hands, uplifted high above his head, he held a naked bowie-knife. Some light still lingered here among the stiff-branched digger-pines, a faint reflection of the sunset far beyond the flat lands of the San Joaquin valley. It shone upon his face revealing a multitude of lines, so deeply scored, so terrible in their proclamation of deadly hate, that the sight of them would have startled the most case-hardened member of the crowds down there where the candles were twinkling in the humming camp.

The waning light which sifted through the long plumed tassels of the digger-pines showed a little group of Mexicans standing at some distance listening in frightened silence to what he was saying. He spoke to the dead man in the open grave; and when events that followed brought the words back to their minds some of these auditors repeated the vow he made: to color that knife-blade and his hands bright red with the blood of twenty men of Murphy’s Diggings; and after that to devote his life to killing Americans.

This was the monte-dealer’s new job, and in order to understand how he came to undertake such a piece of work it is necessary to go back a little.

He was only nineteen, but life had been moving so swiftly with him that the beginning of these events finds him in that year overseer of his father’s great rancho down in Sonora, a Mexican of the better class, well educated as education went in those days, a good dancer as every girl in the section could bear witness, pleasure-loving, easy-going, and able to play the guitar very prettily. Sometimes–and more often as the weeks went by–he played and sang at the home of Reyes Feliz, a packer in his father’s employ; and Rosita, the packer’s daughter, liked his music well enough to encourage his visits.

Class counted then, as it does to this day in Mexico, and parents liked to have a hand in marriages. But Reyes Feliz was away from home a great deal with his train of mules, the landholder was busy at his own affairs; the girl was a beauty and the landholder’s son had a winsome way with him. So one night Rosita took the horse which he brought for her and rode off with him to California.

They made their journey with their mounts and a single pack animal across the hot plains and arid mountains of the south, then up the long King’s Highway which the padres had beaten down nearly one hundred years before their time. It was winter and California winter means Eastern spring; green grass rippling in the soft breezes, poppy-fields and a rioting of meadow-larks to make their honeymoon ideal. They rode on northward into the Santa Clara valley where a gleaming mist of mustard blossoms hung under the great live oaks as far as the eye could reach; then they struck off eastward across the Coast Range and the flat lands of the San Joaquin, to climb into the red foot-hills where the Stanislaus comes out from the Sierras. Here they settled down and took a mining claim.