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A Texas Matchmaker

XXII. Sunset
Of my exile of over two years in Mexico, little need be said. By easy stages, I
reached the haciendas on the Rio San Juan where we had received the cows in
the summer of '77. The reception extended me was all one could ask, but cooled
when it appeared that my errand was one of refuge and not of business. I
concealed my offense, and was given employment as corporal _segundo_ over a
squad of vaqueros. But while the hacienda to which I was attached was larger
than Las Palomas, with greater holdings in live-stock, yet my life there was one
of penal servitude. I strove to blot out past memories in the innocent pleasures of
my associates, mingling in all the social festivities, dancing with the dark-eyed
señoritas and gambling at every _fiesta_. Yet in the midst of the dissipation,
there was ever present to my mind the thought of a girl, likewise living a life of
loneliness at the mouth of the San Miguel.
During my banishment, but twice did any word or message reach me from the
Nueces valley. Within a few months after my locating on the Rio San Juan,
Enrique Lopez, a trusted vaquero from Las Palomas, came to the hacienda,
apparently seeking employment. Recognizing me at a glance, at the first
opportunity he slipped me a letter unsigned and in an unknown hand. After
reading it I breathed easier, for both Hunter and Oxenford had recovered, the
former having been shot through the upper lobe of a lung, while the latter had
sustained three wounds, one of which resulted in the loss of an arm. The judge
had reserved his decision until the recovery of both men was assured, but before
the final adjournment of court, refused the decree. I had had misgivings that this
would be the result, and the message warned me to remain away, as the stage
company was still offering a reward for my arrest. Enrique loitered around the
camp several days, and on being refused employment, made inquiry for a ranch
in the south and rode away in the darkness of evening. But we had had several
little chats together, in which the rascal delivered many oral messages, one of
which he swore by all the saints had been intrusted to him by my own sweetheart
while visiting at the ranch. But Enrique was capable of enriching any oral
message, and I was compelled to read between the lines; yet I hope the saints,
to whom he daily prayed, will blot out any untruthful embellishments.
The second message was given me by Frank Nancrede, early in January, '81. As
was his custom, he was buying saddle horses at Las Palomas during the winter
for trail purposes, when he learned of my whereabouts in Mexico. Deweese had
given him directions where I could be found, and as the Rio San Juan country
was noted for good horses, Nancrede and a companion rode directly from the
Nueces valley to the hacienda where I was employed. They were on the lookout
for a thousand saddle horses, and after buying two hundred from the ranch
where I was employed, secured my services as interpreter in buying the
remainder. We were less than a month in securing the number wanted, and I
accompanied the herd to the Rio Grande on its way to Texas. Nancrede offered