The Bell-Ringer of Angel's and Other Stories
The Mystery Of The Hacienda
Dick Bracy gazed again at the Hacienda de los Osos, and hesitated. There it lay—its low
whitewashed walls looking like a quartz outcrop of the long lazy hillside—unmistakably
hot, treeless, and staring broadly in the uninterrupted Californian sunlight. Yet he knew
that behind those blistering walls was a reposeful patio, surrounded by low-pitched
verandas; that the casa was full of roomy corridors, nooks, and recesses, in which lurked
the shadows of a century, and that hidden by the further wall was a lonely old garden,
hoary with gnarled pear-trees, and smothered in the spice and dropping leaves of its
baking roses. He knew that, although the unwinking sun might glitter on its red tiles, and
the unresting trade winds whistle around its angles, it always kept one unvarying
temperature and untroubled calm, as if the dignity of years had triumphed over the
changes of ephemeral seasons. But would others see it with his eyes? Would his practical,
housekeeping aunt, and his pretty modern cousin—
"Well, what do you say? Speak the word, and you can go into it with your folks to-
morrow. And I reckon you won't want to take anything either, for you'll find everything
there—just as the old Don left it. I don't want it; the land is good enough for me; I shall
have my vaqueros and rancheros to look after the crops and the cattle, and they won't
trouble you, for their sheds and barns will be two miles away. You can stay there as long
as you like, and go when you choose. You might like to try it for a spell; it's all the same
to me. But I should think it the sort of thing a man like you would fancy, and it seems the
right thing to have you there. Well,—what shall it be? Is it a go?"
Dick knew that the speaker was sincere. It was an offer perfectly characteristic of his
friend, the Western millionaire, who had halted by his side. And he knew also that the
slow lifting of his bridle-rein, preparatory to starting forward again, was the business-like
gesture of a man who wasted no time even over his acts of impulsive liberality. In
another moment he would dismiss the unaccepted offer from his mind—without concern
and without resentment.
"Thank you—it is a go," said Dick gratefully.
Nevertheless, when he reached his own little home in the outskirts of San Francisco that
night, he was a trifle nervous in confiding to the lady, who was at once his aunt and
housekeeper, the fact that he was now the possessor of a huge mansion in whose patio
alone the little eight-roomed villa where they had lived contentedly might be casually
dropped. "You see, Aunt Viney," he hurriedly explained, "it would have been so
ungrateful to have refused him—and it really was an offer as spontaneous as it was
liberal. And then, you see, we need occupy only a part of the casa."
"And who will look after the other part?" said Aunt Viney grimly. "That will have to be
kept tidy, too; and the servants for such a house, where in heaven are they to come from?
Or do they go with it?"