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The Secret Of Sobriente’s Well
by [?]

* That is, a viscid cement-like refuse of gold-washing.

He paused, and then, as the colonel made an impatient gesture, he went on.

“Well, one night just afore you took the place, and when Raintree was gettin’ just sick of it, he happened to be walkin’ in the garden. He was puzzlin’ his brain agin to know how old Sobriente made his pile, when all of a suddenst he saw suthin’ a-movin’ in the brush beside the house. He calls out, thinkin’ it was one of the boys, but got no answer. Then he goes to the bushes, and a tall figger, all in black, starts out afore him. He couldn’t see any face, for its head was covered with a hood, but he saw that it held suthin’ like a big cross clasped agin its breast. This made him think it was one them priests, until he looks agin and sees that it wasn’t no cross it was carryin,’ but a PICKAXE! He makes a jump towards it, but it vanished! He traipsed over the hull garden,–went though ev’ry bush,–but it was clean gone. Then the hull thing flashed upon him with a cold shiver. The old man bein’ found dead in the well! the goin’ away of the half-breed and the girl! the findin’ o’ that slumgullion! The old man HAD made a strike in that garden, the half-breed had discovered his secret and murdered him, throwin’ him down the well! It war no LIVIN’ man that he had seen, but the ghost of old Sobriente!”

The colonel emptied the remaining contents of his glass at a single gulp, and sat up. “It’s my opinion, sah, that Raintree had that night more than his usual allowance of corn-juice on board; and it’s only a wonder, sah, that he didn’t see a few pink alligators and sky-blue snakes at the same time. But what’s this got to do with that wanderin’ tramp?”

“They’re all the same thing, colonel, and in my opinion that there tramp ain’t no more alive than that figger was.”

“But YOU were the one that saw this tramp with your own eyes,” retorted the colonel quickly, “and you never before allowed it was a spirit!”

“Exactly! I saw it whar a minit afore nothin’ had been standin’, and a minit after nothin’ stood,” said Larry Hawkins, with a certain serious emphasis; “but I warn’t goin’ to say it to ANYBODY, and I warn’t goin’ to give you and the hacienda away. And ez nobody knew Raintree’s story, I jest shut up my head. But you kin bet your life that the man I saw warn’t no livin’ man!”

“We’ll see, sah!” said the colonel, rising from his chair with his fingers in the armholes of his nankeen waistcoat, “ef he ever intrudes on my property again. But look yar! don’t ye go sayin’ anything of this to Polly,–you know what women are!”

A faint color came into Larry’s face; an animation quite different to the lazy deliberation of his previous monologue shone in his eyes, as he said, with a certain rough respect he had not shown before to his companion, “That’s why I’m tellin’ ye, so that ef SHE happened to see anything and got skeert, ye’d know how to reason her out of it.”

“‘Sh!” said the colonel, with a warning gesture.

A young girl had just appeared in the doorway, and now stood leaning against the central pillar that supported it, with one hand above her head, in a lazy attitude strongly suggestive of the colonel’s Southern indolence, yet with a grace entirely her own. Indeed, it overcame the negligence of her creased and faded yellow cotton frock and unbuttoned collar, and suggested–at least to the eyes of ONE man–the curving and clinging of the jasmine vine against the outer column of the veranda. Larry Hawkins rose awkwardly to his feet.

“Now what are you two men mumblin’ and confidin’ to each other? You look for all the world like two old women gossips,” she said, with languid impertinence.