The Governor's Right Eye

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.

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