previous next

Chapter 11: love and death.

Though Capitan Vasquez never sighed in vain to senorita, he nursed a great contempt for women.

“Do you think a woman had to do with your arrest?”

“No, surely not,” replies the brigand with a sneer: “ I never trusted women in my life.”

“Not with the secret of your hiding-places in the hills?”

“No, Senor; I never put myself in any woman's power, by telling her a secret that could do me injury.”

Yet men may be betrayed who never give their trust, even to the women they profess to love. His wounds being dressed, the brigand has been brought to San Jose, where he is nearer to the white settlements, than at Los Angeles. At San Jose, he is overshadowed by the power of San Francisco. [102]

San Jose, one of the Free Towns, has, like Los Angeles, a lower class of mongrel breed and vicious life; one of the great sinks from which such chiefs as Soto and Vasquez draw their bands. But these bad elements in the town, though rough and noisy, quail before the steady courage of the upper class --White men of British race, who having grown rich as advocates and physicians, bankers and merchants, have built their country houses on Coyote Creek; converting a camp of troops and squaws, with their unruly progeny, into a paradise of villas, colleges, and schools. These new comers are enrolled as vigilants, and are masters of the town.

While waiting trial, Vasquez is behaving like a true half-breed, lying in the faces of his friends, boasting of his noble deeds, and acting basely towards the woman who has wrecked her soul for him. He tells all those who go to see him, that he never killed a man in his life — not even Davidson. Leiva, he says, shot all the three men who were butchered at Tres Pinos. Having won Rosalia's love, in fair rivalry against her husband, he asserts that Leiva, like a jealous cur, betrayed him to the sheriffs out of envy at the preference of his wife. [103]

Sometimes he prattles of a second mistress, but he never breathes her name, and does not mark this woman, as either the mother of his child or the female of his cherished lock.

When ladies come to see him in his cell, he takes a tone of gallantry, yet with an air and distance flattering to their sex.

“I am distressed,” a lady says, “ to see so brave a man as you in such a place.”

“Sefiora,” smirks the brigand, “if I were as brave as you believe me, I should never have been here at all.”

“Well,” sighs his visitor, touching his bandaged fingers, “ I am grieved to think they caught you in the ranch.” He looks into her eyes, and lifting up his wounded hands, exclaims, “Que las bendiciones de Dias sean siempre contigo!” --(may the blessings of God be showered on you for ever more).

His cell is full of gifts-food, clothes, and money; sent by his admiring countrymen and more admiring countrywomen. A purse is being raised for his defence, and every one expects a stormy trial, a timid jury, and a doubtful sentence. [104]

“No one dares convict him,” sas a Mexican, who is sitting next to me at table.

“Not if he is guilty of three murders?”

“Not if he is guilty of a hundred murders-as they say he is. Whether right or wrong, our people think him an injured man, who loves his country and his religion, and is persecuted for the love which thousands share with him. They make his cause their own. No jury in San Jose will dare to find Tiburcio Vasquez guilty of a capital crime.”

An English settler listens to this talk, and when the Mexican stops, he says quietly, “In that case, Tiburcio Vasquez will be lynched.”

“ Lynched-by a White mob? ”

“Yes, if you like the word, by a White mob. I know the temper of our people well; their blood is up this time; and whether the jury find him guilty or not guilty, Vasquez will be hung at San Jose.”

This settler speaks the truth. The British race is master in these valleys; and the British race demands the brigand's blood. I04 [105]


Capitan Vasquez has been tried, found guilty, and executed. As all the twelve jurors on the panel are English in name, we need not wonder that they agreed to hang the murderer. Rosalia figures largely in the evidence; the theory set up in favour of Vasquez being rather Indian than Spanish in character. Vasquez and Leiva were pictured to the jury as rivals in love with the same woman; Vasquez having advantages of person, Leiva advantages of position. Any reference to Leiva's rights as Rosalia's husband was thought superfluous. Rosalia was represented as fair game for any lover to run down and capture. Vasquez ran her down; on which his rival, stung by jealousy, sold his secret to the sheriff. Mexicans would side with the bold wooer and the false wife, not with the deceived and outraged husband. Leiva admitted he was jealous, and that his jealousy drove him to betray his chief; but he denied that any of the facts which he had stated under oath were false.

Judge Belden told the jury that a man's oath is not to be rejected on the ground that his wife has [106] violated her marriage vow. This rule of law, so simple to an English ear, is inconceivable to a Mexican. If a wife is false, the Mexican thinks her husband is sure to go, in his revenge, beyond all legal and moral bounds. He will do any deed, swear any lie. The fact that he is wronged in his honour makes him a criminal, not to be credited on his oath. An English jury, having no difficulty in accepting Leiva's evidence, found a verdict of guilty against the brigand.

Belden deferred his sentence till an appeal for a new trial was heard and dismissed. Then he addressed the bandit, in words which burn with all the passion of the White Conquest, when the White conquerors have been provoked by deeds of blood:

“Tiburcio Vasquez-Aided by the situation of the country, you eluded for a time the officers who were in your pursuit, and at last seemed to have fancied that your offences were forgotten and your safety assured. Unfortunate man! Vain delusion! The blood of your murdered victims cried unceasingly for vengeance, and there could be for your crime no forgetfulness, for you no refuge. Justice might be for a time delayed-she would not be [107] baffled. The State whose laws you set at defiance, whose citizens you had ruthlessly murdered, aroused herself for retributive justice. The Commonwealth, with all her resources of men and treasure, was upon your track with tireless purpose and exhaustless means. She followed you in all your wanderings, and made of your vicious associates her most efficient instruments. In every camp that gave you shelter, her officers bartered for your surrender. In the confederates you trusted, she found the man ready to betray you. From such a pursuit there could be no escape, and you are here — here with the record of your lawless life well nigh ended, without one act of generosity or deed of even courage to relieve its utter depravity. The appeals you have made to your countrymen for aid in your present distress have met a response becoming them and befitting you. Shocked at your atrocities, they have neither aided you to escape the punishment merited nor pretended the sympathy you have sought to invoke. They have left you to answer alone at the bar of justice. With the memory of your many victims before you, and the dark shadow of an approaching gloom about you, indulge no [108] illusive hope that the fate can be averted or long delayed. Every appeal that zeal could suggest or eloquence urge was pressed upon your jury in the hope that they might be persuaded to leave for you the pitiful boon of life; but the jury heard the story of your crimes from yourself; they accepted the responsibility of adjudging the penalty merited; and in their deliberations they determined and in their verdict declared you unworthy to live. Of that verdict there can be but one opinion — that of unqualified approval. Upon this verdict the law declares the judgment, and speaking through the Court, awards the doom — a penalty commensurate with the crime of which you stand convicted, and therein merited by the threefold murder that stains your hands. The judgment is-death. That you be taken hence and securely kept by the sheriff of Santa Clara county until Friday, the 19th day of March, 1875. That upon that day, between the hours of nine o'clock in the morning and four in the afternoon, you be by him hanged by the neck until you are dead. And may God have mercy on your soul.”

He was taken out and hung accordingly. An [109] attempt at rescue was expected; but the White citizens were ready; the lower classes saw that the case was desperate; and on Friday, March 19, Capitan Vasquez, the most famous brigand in California, dangled from a tree in San Jose.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Adon Leiva (7)
Belden (2)
White (1)
Capitan Soto (1)
De Dias (1)
Leandro Davidson (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 19th, 1875 AD (1)
March 19th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: