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The Passing Of Enriquez
by [?]

When Enriquez Saltillo ran away with Miss Mannersley, her relatives and friends found it much easier to forgive that ill-assorted union than to understand it. For, after all, Enriquez was the scion of an old Spanish-Californian family, and in due time would have his share of his father’s three square leagues, whatever incongruity there was between his lively Latin extravagance and Miss Mannersley’s Puritan precision and intellectual superiority. They had gone to Mexico; Mrs. Saltillo, as was known, having an interest in Aztec antiquities, and he being utterly submissive to her wishes. For myself from my knowledge of Enriquez’s nature, I had grave doubts of his entire subjugation, although I knew the prevailing opinion was that Mrs. Saltillo’s superiority would speedily tame him. Since his brief and characteristic note apprising me of his marriage, I had not heard from him. It was, therefore, with some surprise, a good deal of reminiscent affection, and a slight twinge of reproach that, two years after, I looked up from some proofs, in the sanctum of the “Daily Excelsior,” to recognize his handwriting on a note that was handed to me by a yellow Mexican boy.

A single glance at its contents showed me that Mrs. Saltillo’s correct Bostonian speech had not yet subdued Enriquez’s peculiar Spanish-American slang:–

“Here we are again,–right side up with care,–at 1110 Dupont Street, Telegraph Hill. Second floor from top. ‘Ring and push.’ ‘No book agents need apply.’ How’s your royal nibs? I kiss your hand! Come at six,–the band shall play at seven,–and regard your friend ‘Mees Boston,’ who will tell you about the little old nigger boys, and your old Uncle ‘Ennery.”

Two things struck me: Enriquez had not changed; Mrs. Saltillo had certainly yielded up some of her peculiar prejudices. For the address given, far from being a fashionable district, was known as the “Spanish quarter,” which, while it still held some old Spanish families, was chiefly given over to half-castes and obscurer foreigners. Even poverty could not have driven Mrs. Saltillo to such a refuge against her will; nevertheless, a good deal of concern for Enriquez’s fortune mingled with my curiosity, as I impatiently waited for six o’clock to satisfy it.

It was a breezy climb to 1110 Dupont Street; and although the street had been graded, the houses retained their airy elevation, and were accessible only by successive flights of wooden steps to the front door, which still gave perilously upon the street, sixty feet below. I now painfully appreciated Enriquez’s adaptation of the time-honored joke about the second floor. An invincible smell of garlic almost took my remaining breath away as the door was opened to me by a swarthy Mexican woman, whose loose camisa seemed to be slipping from her unstable bust, and was held on only by the mantua-like shawl which supplemented it, gripped by one brown hand. Dizzy from my ascent to that narrow perch, which looked upon nothing but the distant bay and shores of Contra Costa, I felt as apologetic as if I had landed from a balloon; but the woman greeted me with a languid Spanish smile and a lazy display of white teeth, as if my arrival was quite natural. Don Enriquez, “of a fact,” was not himself in the casa, but was expected “on the instant.” “Donna Urania” was at home.

“Donna Urania”? For an instant I had forgotten that Mrs. Saltillo’s first name was Urania, so pleasantly and spontaneously did it fall from the Spanish lips. Nor was I displeased at this chance of learning something of Don Enriquez’s fortunes and the Saltillo menage before confronting my old friend. The servant preceded me to the next floor, and, opening a door, ushered me into the lady’s presence.

I had carried with me, on that upward climb, a lively recollection of Miss Mannersley as I had known her two years before. I remembered her upright, almost stiff, slight figure, the graceful precision of her poses, the faultless symmetry and taste of her dress, and the atmosphere of a fastidious and wholesome cleanliness which exhaled from her. In the lady I saw before me, half reclining in a rocking-chair, there was none of the stiffness and nicety. Habited in a loose gown of some easy, flexible, but rich material, worn with that peculiarly indolent slouch of the Mexican woman, Mrs. Saltillo had parted with half her individuality. Even her arched feet and thin ankles, the close-fitting boots or small slippers of which were wont to accent their delicacy, were now lost in a short, low-quartered kid shoe of the Spanish type, in which they moved loosely. Her hair, which she had always worn with a certain Greek simplicity, was parted at one side. Yet her face, with its regularity of feature, and small, thin, red-lipped mouth, was quite unchanged; and her velvety brown eyes were as beautiful and inscrutable as ever.