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The Governor's Right Eye






Category: ON THE PACIFIC COAST

Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Old Governor Hermenegildo Salvatierra, of Presidio, California, sported
only one eye--the left--because the other had been shot out by an Indian
arrow. With his sound one he was gazing into the fire, on a windy
afternoon in the rainy season, when a chunky man in a sou'wester
was-ushered into his presence, and after announcing that he was no other
than Captain Peleg Scudder, of the schooner General Court, from Salem, he
was made welcome in a manner quite out of proportion in its warmth to the
importance that such a disclosure would have for the every-day citizen.

He was hailed with wassail and even with wine. The joy of the commandant
was so great that at the third bowl he sang a love ballad, in a voice
somewhat cracked, and got on the table to teach the Yankee how to dance
the cachuca. The law forbade any extended stay of Americans in Spanish
waters, and the General Court took herself off that very night--for this,
mind you, was in 1797, when the Spaniard ruled the farther coast.

Next day Salvatierra appeared before his astonished people with a right
eye. The priests attached to the fort gave a special service of praise,
and told the miracle to the red men of their neighborhood as an
illustration of the effect of goodness, prayer, and faith. People came
from far and near that they might go to church and see this marvel for
themselves. But, alas, for the governor's repute for piety! It soon began
to be whispered around that the new eye was an evil one; that it read the
deepest thoughts of men with its inflexible, cold stare; that under its
influence some of the fathers had been betrayed into confessing things
that the commandant had never supposed a clergyman to be guilty of. The
people feared that eye, and ascribed such rogueries to the old man as had
been entirely foreign to his nature hitherto.

This common fear and suspicion reacted, inevitably, and Salvatierra
began, unconsciously, to exhibit some of the traits that his subjects
said he possessed. He changed slowly from the indulgent parent to the
stern and exacting law-giver. He did not know, however, what the people
had been saying about him, and never suspected that his eye was likely to
get him into trouble.

It was a warm night and he had gone to bed with his windows open--windows
that opened from his garden, and were level, at the bottom, with the
floor. A shadowy form stole along the gravel path and entered one of
these windows. It was that of a mission Indian. He had gathered from the
talk of the faithful that it would be a service to the deity as well as
to men to destroy the power of that evil eye. He came beside the bed and
looked attentively at the governor, sleeping there in the light of a
candle. Then he howled with fright--howled so loudly that the old man
sprang to his feet--for while the left eye had been fast asleep the evil
one was broad awake and looking at him with a ghostly glare.

In another second the commandant was at the window whirling his trusty
Toledo about his head, lopping ears and noses from the red renegades who
had followed in the track of the first. In the scrimmage he received
another jab in the right eye with a fist. When day dawned it was
discovered, with joy, that the evil eye was darkened--and forever. The
people trusted him once more. Finding that he was no longer an object of
dread, his voice became kinder, his manner more gentle. A heavy and
unusual rain, that had been falling, passed off that very day, so that
the destruction from flood, which had been prophesied at the missions,
was stayed, and the clergy sang Te Deum in the church. The old
commandant never, to his dying day, had the heart to confess that the
evil eye was only a glass one.





Next: The Prisoner In American Shaft

Previous: Bridal Veil Fall



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