Alessandro had warm friends among them, and the news that he had been murdered, and that his wife had run all the way down the mountain, with her baby in her arms, for help, went like wild-fire through the place. The people gathered in an excited group around the house where Ramona had taken refuge. She was lying, half unconscious, on a bed. As soon as she had gasped out her terrible story, she had fallen forward on the floor, fainting, and the baby had been snatched from her arms just in time to save it. She did not seem to miss the child; had not asked for it, or noticed it when it was brought to the bed. A merciful oblivion seemed to be fast stealing over her senses. But she had spoken words enough to set the village in a blaze of excitement. It ran higher and higher. Men were everywhere mounting their horses,-- some to go up and bring Alessandro's body down; some organizing a party to go at once to Jim Farrar's house and shoot him: these were the younger men, friends of Alessandro. Earnestly the aged Capitan of the village implored them to refrain from such violence.
"Why should ten be dead instead of one, my sons?" he said. "Will you leave your wives and your children like his? The whites will kill us all if you lay hands on the man. Perhaps they themselves will punish him."
A derisive laugh rose from the group. Never yet within their experience had a white man been punished for shooting an Indian. The Capitan knew that as well as they did. Why did he command them to sit still like women, and do nothing, when a friend was murdered?
"Because I am old, and you are young. I have seen that we fight in vain," said the wise old man. "It is not sweet to me, any more than to you. It is a fire in my veins; but I am old. I have seen. I forbid you to go."
The women added their entreaties to his, and the young men abandoned their project. But it was with sullen reluctance; and mutterings were to be heard, on all sides, that the time would come yet. There was more than one way of killing a man. Farrar would not be long seen in the valley. Alessandro should be avenged.
As Farrar rode slowly down the mountain, leading his recovered horse, he revolved in his thoughts what course to pursue. A few years before, he would have gone home, no more disquieted at having killed an Indian than if he had killed a fox or a wolf. But things were different now. This Agent, that the Government had taken it into its head to send out to look after the Indians, had made it hot, the other day, for some fellows in San Bernardino who had maltreated an Indian; he had even gone so far as to arrest several liquor-dealers for simply selling whiskey to Indians. If he were to take this case of Alessandro's in hand, it might be troublesome. Farrar concluded that his wisest course would be to make a show of good conscience and fair-dealing by delivering himself up at once to the nearest justice of the peace, as having killed a man in self-defence, Accordingly he rode straight to the house of a Judge Wells, a few miles below Saboba, and said that he wished to surrender himself as having committed "justifiable homicide" on an Indian, or Mexican, he did net know which, who had stolen his horse. He told a plausible story. He professed not to know the man, or the place; but did not explain how it was, that, knowing neither, he had gone so direct to the spot.
He said: "I followed the trail for some time, but when I reached a turn, I came into a sort of blind trail, where I lost the track. I think the horse had been led up on hard sod, to mislead any one on the track. I pushed on, crossed the creek, and soon found the tracks again in soft ground. This part of the mountain was perfectly unknown to me, and very wild. Finally I came to a ridge, from which I looked down on a little ranch. As I came near the house, the dogs began to bark, just as I discovered my horse tied to a tree. Hearing the dogs, an Indian, or Mexican, I could not tell which, came out of the house, flourishing a large knife. I called out to him, 'Whose horse is that?' He answered in Spanish, 'It is mine.' 'Where did you get it?' I asked. 'In San Jacinto,' was his reply. As he still came towards me, brandishing the knife, I drew my gun, and said, 'Stop, or I'll shoot!' He did not stop, and I fired; still he did not stop, so I fired again; and as he did not fall, I knocked him down with the butt of my gun. After he was down, I shot him twice with my pistol."
The duty of a justice in such a case as this was clear. Taking the prisoner into custody, he sent out messengers to summon a jury of six men to hold inquest on the body of said Indian, or Mexican; and early the next morning, led by Farrar, they set out for the mountain. When they reached the ranch, the body had been removed; the house was locked; no signs left of the tragedy of the day before, except a few blood-stains on the ground, where Alessandro had fallen. Farrar seemed greatly relieved at this unexpected phase of affairs. However, when he found that Judge Wells, instead of attempting to return to the valley that night, proposed to pass the night at a ranch only a few miles from the Cahuilla village, he became almost hysterical with fright. He declared that the Cahuillas would surely come and murder him in the night, and begged piteously that the men would all stay with him to guard him.