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Adventure February 1911


by Will H.Thompson

Author of "The High Tide at Gettysburg"

IT SELDOM rains in Arizona. The narrow valleys that drain southward into Mexico are the most arid in America. But, on the night old Nuñez Pico died, a black cloud rolled over the ragged rim of the Canille Mountains, dragged itself slowly along, was ripped by the granite teeth, collapsed, and fell in a deluge of rain. The bare stone shoulders of the mountain heaved the floods into the canyons, from whose monstrous throats it came bellowing into the valley. The river-bed was overbrimmed and the lowland became a sea.

Far into the night we sat about the long table upon which lay the shrouded form of the old Spaniard. The solemnity of the vigil, the feeble light, and the tumult of the storm depressed our minds and caused our speech to be low and infrequent, and it was a distinct relief to me when Major Blanchard said:

"Twenty years ago to-night we had just such a storm as this."

Something in the tone of his voice, and in the introspective eyes of the old soldier, moved me to say: "Major, if there is a story waiting to be told, it would be kind of you to give it to us now. This watch is going to be heavy and long."

He mused for a moment, then said:

"It is hardly a story, yet more than an episode. It was the finest tragedy I ever witnessed."

Without further urging he began.

"Nuñez Pico, after fifteen years of life upon this ranch, revisited his early home in Spain, and returned, bringing with him his only daughter, who, after her mother's death, had been reared and educated in Seville. It is not surprising that she found little happiness in this isolated valley. She was a splendid woman, and her superiority of blood and training was at once and universally recognized by the inhabitants of this half-wild land. None of the young rancheros was bold enough to lay siege to her heart, and the 'Lady Isola,' as she was usually called, passed many lonely days.

"Tigre Palladis was a gambler, a robber, and many times a homicide. He was born to his estate of lawlessness. His mother was a Spanish-Indian half-blood, his father an American adventurer of the worst type, who was killed while Tigre was a babe. Possibly it was because of his father's ignominious death that the boy always bore his mother's name.

"The young devil grew into a marvelous physical manhood. Indeed, he was the handsomest animal I ever saw—very tall, of an exceedingly powerful build, and with a lightness and impetuosity of movement that indicated immense vital force. Dark of face and dark of heart he was, as all who knew him knew, yet there was something in his contemptuous defiance of lawful restraint, and in his measureless strength and lightning-like energy of action in emergency, that aroused enough of hero-worship in the hearts of the half-wild people of the valley to have spared him long and to have shielded him from the vengeance earned by many a desperate deed, had he not chanced to meet the Lady Isola.

"The love that flamed in his volcanic heart did not illuminate his reason. It did not counsel patience, reformation of character, abandonment of lawless ventures, and subjugation of his turbulent spirit, but seemed rather to multiply his activities and to increase the violence of his temperament. Had the lady accepted his attentions or even yielded the fine courtesy she gave to the poorest peon upon her father's ranch, it might have been better for her and for him at the last. But she seemed both to scorn and to fear him. She would neither receive him in her home nor walk abroad when he was in the vicinity.

"I knew Nuñez Pico well...

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