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The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Stories

The Right Eye Of The Commander
The year of grace 1797 passed away on the coast of California in a southwesterly gale.
The little bay of San Carlos, albeit sheltered by the headlands of the blessed Trinity, was
rough and turbulent; its foam clung quivering to the seaward wall of the Mission garden;
the air was filled with flying sand and spume, and as the Senor Commandante,
Hermenegildo Salvatierra, looked from the deep embrasured window of the Presidio
guardroom, he felt the salt breath of the distant sea buffet a color into his smoke-dried
cheeks.
The Commander, I have said, was gazing thoughtfully from the window of the
guardroom. He may have been reviewing the events of the year now about to pass away.
But, like the garrison at the Presidio, there was little to review; the year, like its
predecessors, had been uneventful--the days had slipped by in a delicious monotony of
simple duties, unbroken by incident or interruption. The regularly recurring feasts and
saints' days, the half-yearly courier from San Diego, the rare transport ship and rarer
foreign vessel, were the mere details of his patriarchal life. If there was no achievement,
there was certainly no failure. Abundant harvests and patient industry amply supplied the
wants of Presidio and Mission. Isolated from the family of nations, the wars which shook
the world concerned them not so much as the last earthquake; the struggle that
emancipated their sister colonies on the other side of the continent to them had no
suggestiveness. In short, it was that glorious Indian summer of California history around
which so much poetical haze still lingers--that bland, indolent autumn of Spanish rule, so
soon to be followed by the wintry storms of Mexican independence and the reviving
spring of American conquest.
The Commander turned from the window and walked toward the fire that burned brightly
on the deep ovenlike hearth. A pile of copybooks, the work of the Presidio school, lay on
the table. As he turned over the leaves with a paternal interest, and surveyed the fair
round Scripture text--the first pious pothooks of the pupils of San Carlos--an audible
commentary fell from his lips: "'Abimelech took her from Abraham'--ah, little one,
excellent!-- 'Jacob sent to see his brother'--body of Christ! that upstroke of thine, Paquita,
is marvelous; the Governor shall see it!" A film of honest pride dimmed the
Commander's left eye--the right, alas! twenty years before had been sealed by an Indian
arrow. He rubbed it softly with the sleeve of his leather jacket, and continued: "'The
Ishmaelites having arrived--'"
He stopped, for there was a step in the courtyard, a foot upon the threshold, and a stranger
entered. With the instinct of an old soldier, the Commander, after one glance at the
intruder, turned quickly toward the wall, where his trusty Toledo hung, or should have
been hanging. But it was not there, and as he recalled that the last time he had seen that
weapon it was being ridden up and down the gallery by Pepito, the infant son of Bautista,
the tortilla-maker, he blushed and then contented himself with frowning upon the
intruder.
 
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