previous next

Chapter 10: brigand life.

Tres Pinos, a white hamlet on the Rio San Benito, was selected for the scene of his revenge. A mail passes through Tres Pinos every night. The place consists of a post office, a tavern, a stable, a drinking bar, a smithy, and a barn. Leandro Davidson kept the hotel, Andrew Snyder owned a store. Snyder was rich. If all went well with him, Vasquez could reckon on adding the profit of money and horses, to the pleasure of revenge.

Starting from Rock Creek, but leaving Rosalia at San Embro, the brigands rode down the San Benito Valley till they came within easy distance of Tres Pinos. Here they changed hats and cloaks, and gave a last look at their arms. Leiva and Gonzalez went up to the hamlet, with orders to lounge into the bar-room one by one, to call for drink, to count [89] how many men were near, to note how many of those men would fight, and learn where Snyder kept his gold. Moreno followed them. Vasquezand Chavez lay out of sight. On coming to Tres Pinos, Leiva saluted Snyder, asking him to have a drink. Snyder complied. A dozen loafers hung about the store. Two of these men were pals of Leiva, ready to assist him with their knives. Gonzalez hitched his horse, and took his post. A team belonging to a man named Haley drove up, on which Snyder left his store, and most of his neighbours followed him out into the road. Five or six loafers stayed behind. Moreno entered by a side-door with his pistol cocked. “Lie down!” he hissed between his teeth. “Down, down!” repeated Leiva. As the loafers dropped, Leiva held Moreno's weapon, while that brigand rolled them over, tied their hands and feet, and turned their faces to the wall. A rag was thrown on each, so that he could see nothing; and Leiva told them, with a string of oaths, that any one who either moved a limb or raised a murmur should be blown to pieces. Snyder was still chatting with Haley in the road, when Chavez came up, and asked him to go in, and find [90] a letter in the post bag. On entering he was seized. “ Lie down!” roared Leiva. Snyder glanced around, but five or six revolvers met his gaze. “Lie down,” exclaimed Moreno, “or we'll blow the top of your poll off!” Snyder was tied and covered like the rest. The rifling then began. Goods, clothes, and even meats, were put into sacks and tied up, ready to be flung across the mules. Gonzalez attended to the stable and the barn.

A shot was heard, and then a cry of pain, but no one knew on whom the bolt had fallen. No man dared to rise. A second shot was heard, followed by a piteous wail, and every one knew that blood was being shed. A moan came through the door; but not a soul could lift the cover from his face.

Vasquez had shot one man named Hill, a second man named Radford. They were strangers, but the colour of their skin was an offence. Davidson was trying to close the door of his hotel, when Vasquez, noticing his movement, raised his gun, and brought the poor innkeeper to the ground. Davidson never spoke again. Then turning to the teamster Haley, Vasquez said to him, “ Lie down!” [91]

“ What for?” asked Haley. Vasquez kicked him in the ribs, and knocked him on the skull. “Lie still,” he snarled, while tying him in a rope, emptying his pockets, and pitching him under the horses' feet.

“ All done there?” the Capitan now cried to those inside. Yes: all was done; a stock of goods and clothes, eight horses, and two gold watches were secured. But they had found no money in the till. No money! Jesu Maria, all this blood, and not a dollar for our pains! Striding into the room, Vasquez took hold of Snyder, and with pistol pointed at his temples, pulled him to the porch. “I want your money; if you bring it out I spare your life, if not you are a dead man.” Snyder led him to the door of his wife's apartment.

“ Any one with arms in there?” asked Vasquez, pausing at the door. A woman came out. “They want my money, dear,” said Snyder. “They shall have it if they do no harm,” she answered,, and she brought out all her coin. Snyder was taken back, and tied once more; after which the brigands packed their spoil, mounted-their horses, and decamped. [92]

On quitting Tres Pinos, the band separated; Leiva's pals going off at once, Moreno and Gonzalez afterwards. Pursuit was certain to be hot; and Vasquez thought that for a few weeks to come every man had better look to himself. Leiva and Chavez rode all night with their Capitan, hardly slackening speed until they reached San Embro, where Rosalia waited for her hero, and received him with the raptures due to his great deed.

Rosalia's rapture was the ruin of his gang.

Tipsy with love and joy, the brigand's mistress was so indiscreet in her caresses that her husband's eyes were opened. Leiva began to watch his cousin and his wife. In going from San Embro to Rock Creek, he saw enough to satisfy him that his wife was false. He spake no word, but, like a hybrid cur, skulked about Rock Creek, living with his false wife and false friend, until he heard that Adams, sheriff of Santa Clara, and Rowland, sheriff of Los Angeles, were in the field, scouring the country in pursuit of the assassins. Then he slipped away unseen, riding from point to point, ready to give himself up, and, on a promise of [93] blood-money, to lead the rangers straight into the robber's lair.

On finding his lieutenant gone, Vasquez put Rosalia on a mule, and bore her to a place of safety near Elizabeth Lake. Thence he rode back to Rock Creek, the camp where he had stalled his horses and concealed his goods. One day the rangers ran him down, but after some sharp fighting he escaped into the copse. At El Monte he had a second scrimmage with the rangers, and the chase became so hot that he feared Rosalia might be stolen from his arms. Riding down to the lake, and lifting her to his crupper, he set out for Rock Creek, as being the safest place he knew. No ranger had as yet been near the creek, for Leiva had not fallen in with Rowland; and even after his flight, the brigand hardly thought his lieutenant would betray him for a woman's sake. They watched and waited; hoping the hue and cry would turn some other way. Before Rosalia had been many days in her lover's camp, scouts brought in news that the rangers of Los Angeles were coming up the creek, riding in fiery haste and overpowering strength.

Vasquez and Rosalia were alone. “I hear their [94] hoofs,” said Vasquez, stepping out of his cave into the road. His mistress followed at his heels. “ We may as well go on and meet them,” he said jauntily, but when the rangers came in sight, Vasquez beckoned to Rosalia, who slipped after him silently into the wood and let them pass. His cave was found, his camp captured; thirty-six horses being retaken and restored to their several owners, as well as much of the property stolen from Tres Pinos.

Leiva, who was still lurking in the neighbourhood watching the White rangers, now came in, and Rowland, after listening to his tale, engaged his services as scout and guide. At length the Sheriff saw a chance of hunting the assassin down.

Aware of what was now going on, Vasquez took Rosalia to a — shepherd's ranch, where she lay in hiding three or four months, her lover going to see her now and then by stealth. Here they began to flout and quarrel. Vasquez had a dozen favourites whom he liked to see, and when Rosalia moped at being left so long, he told her he was weary, and must send her home. Not to let her go empty, he rode over the ridge to that Firebaugh ferry, on the San Joaquin river, where the passengers are all [95] Judges and Colonels, and having tied and robbed ten White men and one Yellow man, he brought their clothes and money to Rosalia, put her on a mule, and sent her under escort to her father's house.

Believing he had now done everything that a lover should do for a woman who has ceased to please him, Vasquez put Rosalia from his mind, except so far as his lieutenant Leiva was concerned in her affairs. Wanting to see no more of Leiva's wife, he hoped his cousin would take her back, forget his fit of jealousy, and rejoin the band. But Leiva's savage blood was stirred. The perfidy of his friend and the desertion of his wife had driven him mad. Instead of coming to the camp, he hung on Vasquez's footsteps like a Cuban bloodhound on the scent, not daring to attack him face to face, but hiding in his path, spying out his comings and goings, and crying to the bolder hunters, till he found his opportunity of dragging him to a felon's cell.

Guided by Leiva's messages, Rowland was often in his track and always on his trail. Not once but many times, the brigand had to crouch in the bush, and let the fierce pursuit sweep on. Nimble as a cantamount, Vasquez could climb into a tree or creep [96] into a hole. One day, while he was flying up a hill near San Gabriel, followed by Rowland and a dozen rangers, he met John Osborne, Charley Miles, and two other citizens of Los Angeles driving in a stylish team. “ Halt there!” cried Vasquez. Osborne, not knowing who the man was, began to laugh, and shaking his rein, drove his horses on three of the gang who happened to be riding behind their chief. Vasquez put up his rifle,

“Out with your money; quick! A dozen men are coming up.”

Osborne declared that he had no money.

“Then I'll take a watch,” said the impatient Vasquez. Miles and Osborne eyed each other. Miles had a hunting lever, Osborne a gold repeater. “Come, come,” cried the robber, looking down the road, and seeing the cloud of mounted men not more than a thousand yards behind, “ I'll take them both. Good-bye!”

Unable to ride the brigand down, Rowland, acting on Leiva's hints, affected to renounce the chase. Vasquez believed the storm gone by. His scouts were near the sheriff of Los Angeles day and night, and finding that he sat in his office, carelessly smoking his [97] cigar, and chatting lazily with anyone who called, the scouts imagined that Sheriff Rowland had given up the game, and that the mystery of Tres Pinos, like so many other mysteries of crime in California, was a thing of the past.

Ten miles from Los Angeles, at the foot of a ridge of hills, stands the lonely ranch belonging to Greek George-Jorge el Griego — which Vasquez made his lair. Windows command the two approaches to his house. A look-out sweeps his line of road. A dozen trails, unknown to strangers, lead into the hills, in which are many clumps and caves. It is a station to defy surprise. Greek George was in Los Angeles, watching the Sheriffs movements, and reporting to his chief that everything looked well.

One night a little after twelve o'clock, Undersheriff Johnson rode out of Los Angeles, with seven companions at his side. At dawn they drew up, under cover of a knoll, and held a long palaver. Some members of the party clomb a height, from which a field glass showed them every part of Greek George's house and grounds. A horse, often ridden by the brigand chief, was hitched to a tree; [98] and Vasquez himself was observed standing near the house. A white horse belonging to Chavez was bolting, and a mounted man was giving chase.

No doubt the under-sheriff and his rangers had their game in front, but how were they to seize it in the snare? The battery was masked, the garrison unknown. If any one were at the look-out in the hills, Vasquez would be warned of their approach, and with a start of ten minutes he could defy them to run him down. Even from his window, their approach would be observed a mile off, giving the murderers time to run for shelter to the woods.

Chance brought assistance to the rangers, for a Mexican team drove up from the direction of Greek George's ranch. Johnson seized this waggon, bade his men picket their steeds, crawl into the wagon, and lie flat down. Each ranger had his rifle ready for the fray. Putting a pistol to the driver's ear, Johnson told him to shut his mouth, and drive back towards Greek George's ranch. In a few minutes they were at the fence. The team stopped, the rangers leaped out. Two of the party ran to the west side, four made for the front. A [99] female, opening the door, and seeing so many armed men, raised a scream, and tried to close the door in their faces; but the rangers were too quick for her, and, tearing in, some of them caught sight of Vasquez leaping through a slit in the adobe wall. A bullet grazed him as he sprang. “There he goes through the window,” cried the ranger who had fired. Lighting on his feet in the garden, Vasquez looked around, as if in doubt. There stood his horse, if he had only time to mount. There grew the copse, if he had only time to hide. A second bullet struck him, and he reeled and fell. Bounding to his feet, like a wild cat, he glared from ranch to road, from horse to copse. A third shot smote him. Blood was flowing from his face and from his side. The game was over; he threw up his hands.

“Selior, you have done well,” he said to the undersheriff, who arrested him; “ I have been fooled, but it is all my fault.” He spake no more.

The rangers laid him on a pallet in the court yard, believing he was near his end. A tress of black hair and photographs of two children were found in his vest. The lock of hair was tied in a bit of blue ribbon. The photographs, he said, were [100] pictures of his children. Of the tress he would say nothing; but he gave the lock to Johnson, as a brave man; “a brave man like myself — a brave man like myself,” he added more than once; begging the under-sheriff to preserve it with the care of a gentleman till he asked for it again. Then he lay down on his pallet, fainting from loss of blood.

Adon Leiva was avenged.

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 (18)
Andrew Snyder (13)
Rowland (7)
John Osborne (5)
Capitan Moreno (5)
Johnson (4)
Haley (4)
Gonzalez (4)
Leandro Davidson (3)
Greek George (2)
White (1)
Radford (1)
Jesu Maria (1)
Hill (1)
Firebaugh (1)
Adams (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: