Colonel Kate's Protégée
by Florence Finch Kelly
"Colonel Kate," as both the Select and the Unassorted of Santa Fé society
were accustomed to speak of Mrs. Harrison Winthrop Coolidge, had long ago
proved her right to do whatever she chose, by always accomplishing
whatever she attempted. She had done so many startling things, and
always with such dashing success, since Governor Coolidge had brought
her, a bride, to the old town, that people had become accustomed to her,
just as they had grown used to the climate, and expected her deeds of
daring as unthinkingly as they did cool breezes in summer, or sunshine in
winter. Besides, everybody liked her; for she had both the charm which
makes new friends and the tact which holds them loyal.
When, finally, Colonel Kate brought an Indian girl from the pueblo of
Acoma and made it known that she intended her protégée to grace the
innermost circles of Santa Fé society, it is possible that some of the
Select may have shrugged their shoulders a trifle; but, if they did, they
were careful to have no witnesses. For Governor Coolidge was the
richest, the most influential, and the most prominent American in New
Mexico, and his wife could make and unmake social circles as she chose.
The Santa Fé Blast, which was the organ of the Governor's party,
announced the event as follows:
"Mrs. Governor Coolidge and guests returned yesterday from a trip to
Acoma. As always, Mrs. Coolidge was the life of the party and charmed
all by her wit and beauty and vivacity.… She even persuaded old
Ambrosio, the grizzled civil chief of the pueblo, to entrust to her care
his most precious treasure, his lovely and charming daughter, Miss
Barbara Koitza. This beautiful and talented young lady, whom Mrs.
Coolidge has installed as a friend and guest in her hospitable and
interesting home, where she is soon to be introduced to Santa Fé society,
is as cultured as she is handsome. She has spent a year in the Indian
school at Albuquerque and two years at Carlyle, and is well fitted to
adorn the choicest social circles in the land. She will no doubt be
warmly welcomed by Santa Fé society and will at once take that position
in its midst to which her beauty, grace, and talents entitle her."
If she had known of it, poor little Barbara would have been overwhelmed
by this flourish of trumpets. But Colonel Kate did not allow it to fall
under her eye. And the girl did not even know that, whatever she was
not, she certainly was interesting and picturesque on the day when she
first entered her new friend's door.
She wore her Indian costume, and was neat and clean as any white maiden
with a heritage of bath-tubs. Spotlessly white were her buckskin
moccasins and leggings, which encased a pair of tiny feet and then wound
round and round her sturdy legs until they looked as shapeless as
telegraph posts. Her scant, red calico skirt met her leggings at the
knee; and her red mantle, of Navajo weave, fell back from her head, but
wrapped closely her waist and arms, and then dropped long ends down the
front of her dress. Her coal-black hair, heavy and shining, was combed
smoothly back from her forehead and fastened in a chongo behind. Her
brown face was handsomer than that of most Indian maidens, being longer
in proportion to its width than is the pueblo type, the cheek bones less
prominent, the forehead broader, and the lips fuller and more delicately
chiselled. It is possible that, far back in Barbara's ancestry, perhaps
even as far back as the times of the Conquistadores, there had been
some admixture of the white man's race which, after generations of
quiescence, in her had at last made its influence felt again.
As Mrs. Coolidge led the girl into her new home she looked down at her
with approving eye and inwardly exclaimed, the conqueror's joy already
filling her heart, "She 'll be a success! A tremendous success! The
Colonel's wife can do what she pleases now!"
For in the days of which this chronicle tells, Santa Fé was still a
military post, and the wife of the commanding officer had been all winter
a thorn in the flesh of Mrs. Coolidge. The Colonel had been recently
transferred from an Eastern post; and his wife, who had never been West
before, had supposed that of course she would at once become the social
leader of Santa Fe. Her disappointment was bitter when she found that
place already firmly held and learned that she, the wife of a colonel in
the army, and just from the East, would have to yield first place to the
wife of a mere civilian who had lived in the West for a dozen years. She
rebelled and tried to start a clique of her own, and all winter she had
made trouble among the Select by getting up affairs which clashed with
Colonel Kate's plans, and by introducing innovations of which Colonel
Kate did not approve. Mrs. Coolidge had no fears for her social
supremacy,—she had reigned too long for the thought of downfall to be
possible,—but she was tired of being crossed and annoyed, and she
purposed with one audacious blow to humble the Colonel's wife and put an
end to her pretensions.
The plan came to her suddenly while she talked with old Ambrosio's
daughter in the street at Acoma. She saw that Barbara was discontented
and unhappy, and that she longed to return to even so much of the life of
the whites as she had found in the Indian schools. Colonel Kate pitied
her and determined to help her. She was saying to herself that the girl
was certainly intelligent and attractive, when she suddenly realized that
this Indian maid was gifted with that indefinable but most potent of
feminine attractions—personal charm. And then, like an inspiration, the
idea took possession of her mind. She turned impulsively to Barbara:
"Will you go home with me and be my guest for all this spring and summer?"
The joy that beamed in the girl's face told how gladly she would go. But
it faded quickly and she shook her head sadly, as she answered:
"I can not. My father would not allow it. He will not even let me go
back to school. He says that I am an Indian, and that I must stay in
Acoma and be an Indian."
When Mrs. Coolidge saw that look of eager desire leap into Barbara's eyes
she determined that the thing should be brought to pass and set herself
to the task of overcoming old Ambrosio's determination that his daughter
should never again leave Acoma. It was not an easy thing to do, but
Colonel Kate finally accomplished it, on condition that Barbara should
return whenever he wished her to do so.
During the remaining days of Lent, dressmakers were busy with Barbara's
wardrobe; and Mrs. Coolidge carefully schooled her in a hundred little
particulars of manner and deportment. And meanwhile the Select of Santa
Fé waited with impatience for a first view of the Indian girl. For
Colonel Kate was too shrewd a manager to discount the sensation she
intended to produce, and so she kept Barbara at home, away from the front
doors and windows, and out of sight of curious callers. In the meantime
she diplomatically helped on the growing interest and excitement, and
lost no opportunity of arousing curiosity about her protégée.
And at last, when Barbara had been three weeks in her home, and no one
outside her own household had even seen the girl's face; when the town
was full of rumors and chatter and all manner of romantic stories about
the Indian girl; when everybody was wondering what she could be like, and
why Colonel Kate had taken such a fancy to her, then Mrs. Coolidge gave
her a coming-out party which eclipsed everything in Santa Fe's social
All the Select were there, including the Colonel's wife, who had not even
thought of trying to have a card party the same night. The doors had
been opened wide, also, for the Unassorted. All the most eligible of
these had received invitations, and not one had sent regrets. The editor
of The Blast, which was the mouthpiece of the Governor's party, and the
editor of The Bugle, the organ of the opposition, were both there; and
each of them published a glowing account of the occasion, the former
because he considered it his duty to "stand in" with whatever concerned
the Governor; and the latter because he hoped the Governor's wife would
make it possible for him to be transferred from the Unassorted to the
The Blast said: "The Governor's palatial mansion was a dream of
Oriental magnificence, and the beautiful and artistic placita, lighted
by sparkling eyes of ladies fair and Japanese lanterns, was a vision of
fairy land." The Bugle declared: "No, not even in the marble
drawing-rooms of Fifth Avenue and adjoining streets, nor in the luxurious
mansions of Washington, could be gathered together a more cultured, a
more polished, a more interesting, a more recherché assemblage than
that which filled the Governor's palatial residence and vied with one
another in doing homage to the winsome Indian maiden."
To call the Governor's residence "palatial" was part of the common law of
Santa Fé journalism. In actual fact, it was a one-story, flat-roofed,
adobe house, enclosing a placita, or little court, and having a
portal, or roofed sidewalk, along its front.
When she first went to New Mexico, Mrs. Coolidge enjoyed transports of
enthusiasm over the quaintness and picturesqueness of its alien modes of
living. So she hunted all over Santa Fé for a house of the requisite
age, dilapidation, and eventful history, to transform into her own home.
And when at last she found this one, with an authenticated age of two
hundred years, and a romance, a crime, or a startling event for almost
every year in its history; with rough, irregular walls four feet thick;
with tiny, unglazed, iron-barred windows,—then time stopped, it seemed
to her, until the deed was recorded in her name.
With much sadness of heart she made sentiment give way to civilization
and renovated the interior. Wooden floors, instead of the packed earth,
hardened and glazed by the tread of many generations, plastered and
papered ceilings and walls and ample windows gave to the inside of the
house a modern air which its mistress deeply regretted, but accepted
mournfully as a necessary evil. But she did not allow a weed or a blade
of grass to be plucked from its roof; and upon the suggestion that the
old brown adobe walls should be treated to a coat of gray plaster she
frowned as if it had been blasphemy.
Upon the placita, which had been given over to weeds, tin cans, rags,
and broken dishes, she lavished loving care and made it the blooming,
fragrant heart of her home. In the centre was a locust tree of lusty
growth, plumy of foliage and brilliant of color; and underneath the tree
a little fountain shot upward a thin stream, which broke into a diamond
shower and fell plashing back into a pool whose rim was outlined by a
circle of purple-flowered iris. Around this spread a velvet turf, dotted
with dandelions and English daisies. An irregular, winding path inclosed
the tiny lawn, and all the space between the path and the narrow stone
walk that hugged the four sides of the house was rich with roses. La
France and American Beauty and Jacqueminot and many others were there in
profusion and made the placita a thing of beauty from the time the frosts
ended until they came again. A hand rail covered with climbing roses
guarded the stone walk on three sides of the court, while the fourth side
of the house was screened by a portal over which roses and honeysuckles
clambered to the roof. Facing the wide, roofed passage which gave
entrance from the street, stood an arch loaded with honeysuckle vines.
Mrs. Coolidge's enthusiasm over New Mexican history, and her admiration
for the heroic times of the Conquistadores, had caused her to make the
interior of her home almost a museum of antiquities. On the floors
Navajo blankets—fifty, a hundred, a hundred and fifty years old, and
each one with its own dramatic tale—served as rugs. Silken rebozos,
worn by high-hearted cavaliers riding in search of "la gran Quivera"
draped her windows. Pueblo pottery, dug from villages that were in ruins
when the first white men saw them, filled cabinets and shelves. Saddle
skirts of embroidered leather, which had pleased the fancy of some brave
capitan leading a handful of men against a rebellious pueblo two
centuries ago, made a background for the huge silver spurs of cunning
workmanship with which some other daring caballero had urged his horse
in search of adventures and of gold. And beside them lay the stone axe
with which a courageous señora, a heroine of the Southwest, had cleft the
skull of a Navajo chief and saved her townspeople from falling into the
hands of the savage enemy. On the walls were old, old paintings of
Nuestra Señora de this and that, proud of neck and sad and sweet of
face, which had been brought from the City of Mexico on the backs of
burros, and adored in little adobe churches by generations of men, women,
and children, and pierced by the arrows of angry and revengeful Indians
during the pueblo rebellion, or scarred by fires of destruction, from
which they had been saved by brave and pious devotees.
Such things as these made a picturesque setting for the Indian maid on
the night of her début. It might have been a painful ordeal for her had
she known that all these people were there mainly to satisfy their
curiosity concerning her. But Mrs. Coolidge had carefully kept from her
the knowledge that she was of especial interest and was expected to
produce a sensation. So she knew only that she was having a delightful
time and that everybody was so kind and cordial and took so much interest
in her that she did not have a minute during the whole evening in which
to think about herself. Everybody was eager to dance, or talk, or stroll
in the placita with her, and all who were not engaged with her were
talking enthusiastically in praise of her appearance, her manner, or her
Colonel Kate moved about, proud and happy in the brilliant success of her
hazardous undertaking and serene in the confidence that the Colonel's
wife would not again attempt rebellion. She was even more glad and happy
for Barbara's sake, for the two had grown very fond of each other and she
had begun to wonder if old Ambrosio could not be induced to let her adopt
the girl. Already it made her heart ache to think she might have to give
up her protégée. She cast a glance at Barbara, who was holding her
usual court, a circle of men about her, and thought:
"Nonsense! Old Ambrosio is not so stupid as to refuse his daughter such
a chance as I can give her!"
For Colonel Kate, with all her cleverness, had never measured, or even
imagined, the world-wide difference between the view-points of a pueblo
chief and an ambitious white woman. So she felt happy and secure, as she
smiled in response to one of Barbara's bright glances, and noticed that
Lieutenant Wemple was still dancing close attendance upon her young
Barbara was gowned very simply in white, and carried a bouquet of
Jacqueminot roses. Her shining black hair was drawn back from her
forehead in loose, waving masses and filleted with bands of silver
filigree. The brown-faced girl, in her white dress with the glowing
roses at her breast, made a pleasing picture as she stood beside a
cabinet of pueblo pottery, against a Navajo portière. Lieutenant
Wemple, who stood nearest her, thought that, altogether, it made the most
striking and suggestive composition he had ever seen, and that he would
like to see her portrait painted just as she stood there; but that would
be impossible, for no artist could paint two girls into one figure. And
she—at one moment she was a bronze figure, listening with drooped
eyelids, closed lips, and impassive face, and the next she was vibrant
with life; her big black eyes, which would have redeemed a countenance of
less attractiveness than hers, sparkled and glowed; her face was radiant
with eager interest; and the Lieutenant felt that beneath those rich red
roses must beat a heart as glowing with warm bright life as they.
Santa Fé might be, geographically, far in the deeps of the red and woolly
West, but the feminine portion of its social circles did not think that
any reason why they should relapse into barbarism. And as one means of
preventing such a dire catastrophe, they made the law of party calls even
as the laws of the Medes and Persians. Among themselves the men might
groan and swear and protest as much as they pleased, but if any one of
them neglected that duty the ladies forthwith hurled him from the circles
of the Select into the outer shades of the Unassorted. After the night
of Barbara's success these calls did not lag as usual, and Lieutenant
Wemple, who was wont to be the last, was the very first to present
Then followed a series of gayeties in which Barbara was the central
figure, and Lieutenant Wemple her constant attendant. Whether it was a
dinner, or a reception, or a picnic party up the canyon, or a horseback
excursion to the turquoise mines, he spent as much time by her side as
the other people allowed. Barbara enjoyed it all with the zest of a
mortal let loose in wonderland, and thought that nowhere else in the
world could there be such delightful people as her new friends. It
seemed to her that she had at last come into her own inheritance and
found the people among whom she really belonged. But she liked best of
all the quiet afternoons at home, when she and Mrs. Coolidge sat in the
placita, and Lieutenant Wemple came, and they three read and talked
The young officer thought her a more interesting companion than any white
girl he had ever met. The world—his world—was all so new and
marvellous to her that it was like opening its doors to some visitor from
another planet. He took great pleasure in doing that service and in
seeing how quickly and eagerly she absorbed everything she saw and heard
and read; and he found her fresh and constant interest entirely
delightful. So it soon came about that the quiet afternoons at home grew
more and more frequent.
One day in early June they stood together in the placita and agreed
that it was very beautiful. The proposition was evident enough and
likely to cap forth enthusiastic assent from any one. For the plumy
green branches of the locust tree were heavy with pendent clusters of
odorous white bloom; the iris that circled the fountain was glorious in
its purple raiment; the honeysuckle arch was a mass of red and white
blossoms trumpeting their fragrance; beside it a great spreading
rose-bush was yellow with golden treasure; the velvety, emerald turf was
dotted with white and gold; the rose-bushes were weighted with opening
buds or perfect flowers, and the warm, soft air was vivid with sunlight,
and sweet with mingled odors.
So they could hardly have done anything but agree upon the beauty of the
little court, even if they had wanted to quarrel. But for the hundredth
time it struck him that it was very remarkable they should so often think
alike. When he made mention of this remarkable fact, she flashed up at
him one of her eager, brilliant glances. Then, meeting something more
than usual in his look, she quickly dropped her eyes again, and over her
manner there came that mystifying air of shyness and reserve, as if some
invisible attendant had wrapped about her an impenetrable veil. In their
early acquaintance he had often noticed that quick and baffling change in
her manner, and had liked it, because it seemed to tell of a refined and
sensitive nature. From their later frank and friendly intercourse it had
been absent, and now, when it appeared again and seemed to take her away
from him, his heart beat fast with the longing to tear the veil away.
For a moment she stood with her gaze resolutely upon the ground and her
expression and figure impassive. But she felt his eyes upon her, and her
brown fingers trembled over the yellow rose in her hand. Suddenly, as if
compelled, she lifted her face and the look in his eyes called all her
heart into hers. For a second they stood so, revealing to each other
their inmost feeling, and then, covering her face with her hands, she ran
into the house. The Lieutenant picked up the yellow rose she had dropped
and went out through the street entrance, a very thoughtful look upon his
Wemple had not realized before what was happening to them both, although
all Santa Fé, except themselves, knew it very well. But at last he
understood that he loved her and that she knew it, and that she also knew
she had confessed in her eyes her love for him. What was he going to do
about it? That was the question he had to face and to settle; and he
went out alone and tramped over the brown hills and across arroyos and
through clumps of sage brush and juniper and cactus, and argued it out
He loved her, and she loved him. Yet—she was an Indian, and did he want
an Indian wife? But after all that had passed between them, and the
silent, mutual confession of the afternoon, could he in honor do else
than marry her? Ever since he had come West he had held the firm
conviction that an Indian can never be anything but an Indian, and that
to attempt to make anything else out of him is not only a sheer waste of
time, effort, and money, but is also an injury to the Indian himself,
because it gives him desires and ambitions that can do nothing but make
discord with his Indian nature.
But it seemed different with her. In truth, he told himself, she seemed
more akin to the white than to the Indian race. That age-long heritage
of religious belief and practice that has made a basis of character for
the pueblo Indian did not seem to have found expression in her. But if
after years should bring it to the surface and she should prove to be
Indian at heart, would it raise a wall between them or would it drag him
down, because of his great love for her, to that same Indian level? If
that Indian nature was there now, patched over and hidden by present
surroundings, would not happiness be impossible between them? And if he
believed that unhappiness would be the sure result of their marriage
would it not be more dishonorable to marry her than to leave her at once?
But at the idea of leaving her a sharp pain pierced his heart. He thrust
at it the thought that in the long run she would probably be happier if
she were never to see him again. Then he ground his teeth together,
whirled about and started for the town.
Presently he put his hand in his pocket and his fingers closed over
Barbara's yellow rose. He raised it to his lips and something very like
a sob trembled through his soldierly figure. And then suddenly, in a
great wave, came the remembrance of her graces of mind and heart and
body, and of how frank and simple and sincere she was, how sweet and
gentle and womanly and winning. At the same moment his own faults rose
up and upbraided him, and his heart cast away the arguments his brain had
been weaving, and cried out with all its strength, "Indian or not, she is
better than I!" All his white-man's pride and prejudice of race fell
from him as he pressed her rose to his lips and kissed it again and again.
On the morrow it happened that Lieutenant Wemple was officer of the day
at the post and his duties kept him so closely confined in and about the
fort that he had not time to see Barbara. But in the latter part of the
afternoon it became necessary for him to see the commanding officer. The
Colonel had gone, he knew, on a business errand to the farther end of the
town, and the Lieutenant started out to find him. His way back took him
past the Coolidge residence. He was walking hurriedly down the street,
in haste to return to his duties, his blonde head erect, his cap at
right-eyed angle, his uniform buttoned tightly across his broad shoulders
and around his trim waist, his sword on hip, and his eyes straight in
front of him. But his thoughts were inside the adobe walls of the
Governor's home and he was calculating how long it would be until,
released from duty, he could hasten back to pour into a little brown ear
the words of love of which his heart was full.
Across the street, in the shadow of a portal, an old Indian,
gray-haired and wrinkled, was curiously surveying the Coolidge house.
The heavy, double doors of the placita entrance were open, and as
Lieutenant Wemple strode past he heard a sound from within, a half
suppressed exclamation in a voice that trembled with feeling. It sent
through him a sudden shock, stopped him in mid-step, and swiftly turned
him to the placita door. Barbara, in a white muslin gown, stood under
the honeysuckle arch, her hands full of yellow roses which she had just
been plucking from the bush that glowed behind her. She was looking at
him with soft and glowing eyes, her eager face radiant with love, her
lips still parted by the exclamation which sight of him had forced
The old Indian under the portal considered him impassively for a moment
and then sauntered across the street.
An instant only the Lieutenant stood looking at her, spellbound by the
beauty and sweetness of the picture, and then he sprang to her side and
gathered her in his arms, forgetful alike of the open doors behind them
and of his duties at the fort. It was only for a moment, and then he
took her hand and led her to Mrs. Coolidge.
But during that moment the Indian with the gray hair and the wrinkled
face stood in front of the placita doors and looked at them with
evident interest. When they went indoors he shut his thin lips close
together, crossed to the other side of the street, and leaned against the
column of a portal while he watched the doors and windows of the
It was only a few minutes until Lieutenant Wemple appeared again and
walked rapidly away. For army discipline must be remembered and
maintained, even in times of peace and days of love. The old man gazed
at him until he disappeared around a corner, and then crossed the street
and knocked at the Coolidge door. Colonel Kate herself opened it and at
once held out her hands in welcome, crying, "Entra! Entra!" She
seized his hands and drew him in, pouring forth a voluble welcome in
Spanish. He did not give much heed to her words, but coldly asked, in
the same tongue:
"Where is my daughter?"
Barbara, in the next room, heard his voice, and her first unthinking
thrill of pleasure was quickly followed by a sinking of her heart which
chilled and saddened her happy face. Intuitively she knew what would
"She is here," Mrs. Coolidge replied. "She will be so glad! Barbara!
Come quickly! Here is some one very anxious to see you!"
The girl came slowly and stood before her father with downcast eyes. His
piercing glance ran over her dress, and then he grunted in severe
"Go, put on your own clothing. Then stand before your father."
"Yes, dear," chimed in Colonel Kate soothingly, "you must seem very
strange to him in that dress,—scarcely like his daughter. Put on your
native costume and come back to us quickly."
Barbara went to her room and Mrs. Coolidge began to tell her visitor,
with her most charming enthusiasm and with all the delighted expletives
which her knowledge of Spanish made possible, of Barbara's success, of
her love affair, and of how very desirable the match would be. The old
man listened quietly to the end, looked at her steadily for a moment in
silence, and then spoke:
Colonel Kate's eyes opened wide in amazement at the word. "What! Don
"He wishes to marry her?" the old man broke in.
"Indeed he does! He told me so scarcely ten minutes ago. He is very
much in love with her and she with him!"
"No!" repeated the Indian emphatically. "It cannot be!"
"Surely, señor, you do not understand! You could not find a more
desirable husband for Barbara! Why, he is a lieutenant in the army, a
first lieutenant, too, and his position will take her into any society
she wishes to enter. He has money enough to keep her well, and he loves
"No! He forgets she is an Indian! He has seen her in all these clothes
of the white women in which you have tricked her out, and he thinks she
is the same as a white woman. She is not. She was born an Indian, and
an Indian she must be until she dies. Never again shall she leave Acoma."
"Señor! How can you be so blind to your daughter's interests? You will
break her heart! Surely you cannot be so cruel!"
But Mrs. Coolidge's protests were broken off by Barbara's return. The
girl stood before her father with her eyes on the floor and her face cold
and impassive. She was dressed again in the garments she had worn when
she first entered the house, three months before, and she seemed a far
different creature from the happy and radiant girl to whom her lover had
but just said good-bye. Ambrosio looked her over approvingly.
"Now you are my daughter. Come."
With the pueblo children centuries of training have caused unhesitating
obedience to parents to become an instinct. So Barbara did not question,
but at once followed her father toward the door. Mrs. Coolidge was
weeping. Barbara threw both arms around her neck and kissed her again
and again. The girl's face was expressionless and there were no tears in
her voice, but her wide, black eyes, paling now to brown, told the agony
that was in her heart.
"Tell him," she whispered in English, "that I must go back. My father
bids me, and I must go. My father will never again let me leave Acoma.
Tell him I shall never see him again, but I shall love him always."
"My poor child!" sobbed Mrs. Coolidge. "We must find some way to bring
"It is useless to try. I know my father, and I know it will be
impossible for me ever again to leave the pueblo. I must be an Indian
all the rest of my life. But I shall love him always. Tell him so."
"Come!" called Ambrosio from the portal.
Half an hour later the train was carrying them back to Acoma. Colonel
Kate at once sent a note to Barbara's lover, telling him what had
happened. But the messenger, being a small boy, met other small boys on
the way, and by the time the young officer read the news the Indian girl
was well on her way toward home.
Lieutenant Wemple applied for leave of absence, and as soon as possible
he followed old Ambrosio. At Laguna, where he left the railroad, he
hired a horse and inquired the way to Acoma. It was the middle of the
night, but he refused to wait for daylight, and started at once across
the plain, galloping as though life and death depended on his mission.
In the early morning he reached the great rock-island of Acoma, towering
four hundred feet above the plain, and climbed the steep ascent to the
village on its summit. A file of maidens, and among them his lover's eye
quickly sought out Barbara, were coming from the pool far beyond,
carrying water jars upon their heads, graceful as a procession of
Caryatides. Wemple found his way to Ambrosio's door, where the old chief
was sitting in the early sunlight. As he stopped his horse Barbara came
up the street, her tinaja poised on her head. One swift and frightened
flash of her black eyes was all the recognition she gave him as she
hurried into the house.
Briefly the Lieutenant told the old man that he loved Barbara and wished
to marry her. Inside the house the girl stood out of sight, listening
anxiously for her father's reply, although she well knew what it would be.
"The señor forgets that my daughter is an Indian and that he is a white
"I do not care whether she is Indian or white. I love her and I want her
to be my wife."
"You mean that you do not care what she is now. But after she is your
wife you want her to be a white woman in her heart. You want to take her
away from me, her father, and away from her mother, and her clan, and all
our people, and make her forget us and forget that she is an Indian. No!"
"No, señor!" urged the Lieutenant, "I do not wish her to forget you. She
shall come back to visit you whenever she wishes."
A crafty look came into Ambrosio's eyes. "There is one way," he went on
quietly, not heeding Wemple's reply, "in which you may make her your
wife. But there is only one."
The officer leaned eagerly forward in his saddle and the girl inside the
door clasped her hands and listened breathlessly. The old Indian went
on, slowly and deliberately, as if to give his listener time to weigh his
words, while his keen eyes searched the white man's face.
"You think my daughter loves you well enough to forsake and forget her
people if I would let her. Do you love her well enough to leave your
people and become one of us? Do you love her well enough to be an Indian
all the rest of your life, wear your hair in side-locks, enter the clan
of the eagle, or the panther, become Koshare or Cuirana, dance at the
feasts, forget your people, and never again be other than an Indian? If
you do, speak, and she shall be your wife."
Ambrosio shut his lips tightly and waited for the young man's answer.
And the young man stared back, his ruddy cheek paling under its sunburn,
and spoke not. A whirling panorama of visions was filling his brain as
he realized what the old chief's words meant. He saw himself living the
life of these people; renouncing everything that meant "the world" and
"life" to him—everything except Barbara; driving burros loaded with wood
to town and tramping about its streets with a basket of pottery at his
back; saw himself with painted face and nude, smeared body dancing the
clownish antics of the Koshare; planting prayer sticks; sprinkling the
sacred meal; taking part and pretending belief in all the heathen rites
of the pueblo secret religion—and then Barbara sprang out of the house,
crying to her father in the Indian tongue, "Wait! Wait!"
Both men turned toward her inquiringly. She stood before them,
hesitating, excited, her eyes on the ground, as if anxious but yet
unwilling to speak.
"Father," she began in Spanish, "it is useless for you and the señor to
speak longer about this. For since I have returned to my home I do not
feel as I did before." She stopped an instant and then went on
hurriedly, pouring out her words with now and then little, gasping stops
for breath. "Now I do not wish to marry him. I wish to marry one of my
own people. He is not an Indian and never can become one. I know now
that I can never be anything but an Indian and so it is better for me to
marry one of my own people. I do not wish to marry the señor, even if he
should become one of us."
Wemple looked at her blankly, as if hardly comprehending her words, and
then cried out, "Barbara! You cannot mean this!"
"You see, señor," said the old man, "there is nothing more to say."
"Is there nothing more to say, Barbara?" Wemple appealed to her in a
She did not look at him, but shook her head and went back into the house.
Lieutenant Wemple turned his horse and with head hanging on his breast
rode slowly, very slowly, back toward the long declivity leading to the
plain below. If he had not ridden so slowly this tale might have had a
Ambrosio went into the house and began telling his wife what had
happened. Barbara took an empty tinaja and said she would go for more
water. When she stepped outside she could still see the forlorn figure
of her lover riding slowly down the trail. Her heart yearned after him
as she bitterly thought:
"He will believe it! I made him believe it! And I can never tell him
that it is not true!"
Then something set her heart on fire and put into it the thought of
rebellion. She looked around her at the village and thought of the life
it meant for her, as long as she should live; of the heartbreak she would
have to conceal from sneering eyes, of the obscene dances in which she
would soon be forced to take part, of the persecutions she would have to
suffer because she could no longer think as her people thought; and
hatred of it all filled her to the teeth. Rebellion burned high in her
soul and with clenched fingers she said to herself, "I hate the Indians!
In my heart I am a white woman!" She cast one more longing, loving
glance at the disappearing figure and resolution was born in her heart:
"And I will be a white woman, or die!"
She looked hastily about. No one seemed to be watching her. She dropped
the tinaja beside the house and walked swiftly—she feared to run lest
she might attract attention—to the edge of the precipice. There she
looked down over the flight of rude steps, hacked centuries ago in the
stone and worn smooth by many scores of generations of moccasined feet,
which was once the only approach to the fortress-pueblo. It was three
hundred feet down that precipitous wall to where the steps joined the
trail, but from babyhood she had gone up and down, and she knew them
every one. From one to another she fearlessly sprang, and over several
at a time she dropped herself, catching here by her hands and there by
her toes and finally landed, with a last long leap, on the trail. One
glance told her that her lover had almost reached the road at the foot of
the cliff and that if he should then quicken his pace she could scarcely
hope to catch him. But love and determination made steel springs of her
muscles, and she bent herself to the task. For if she could not overtake
him there was no hope anywhere.
Lieutenant Wemple, with his head still hanging on his breast and his
horse creeping along at its own pace, turned from the declivity into the
road which would take him back to Laguna, to the railroad, and to his own
life. There the horse decided to take a rest; and Wemple, aroused to
realization of his surroundings by the sudden stop, jerked himself
together again, straightened up, sent a keen glance across the plain and
over the road in front of him, and struck home his spurs for the gallop
to the railroad station. As the horse leaped forward, he thought he
heard some one calling. Turning in his saddle he saw Barbara running
toward him, her breast heaving, her arms outstretched. She almost fell
against the horse's side, panting for breath.
"It was not true," she gasped, "what I said up there! I wanted to save
you. Take me with you if you still love me! For I love you and I
hate—I hate all that—" turning her face for an instant toward the
heights above them—"and if you do not want me I must die, for I will not
For an instant their eyes read each other's souls, and then she hastily
put up her hand to stop him from leaping from his horse.
"No, no! Do not get off! They will be sure to follow us and we must
lose no time. Take me up behind you and gallop for Laguna. If we can
catch the next train we'll be all right!"
She seized his hand and sprang to her seat behind his saddle. He turned
and kissed her.
"Put spurs to your horse," she said. "They will be sure to follow us
There was need of haste, for scarcely had the horse pricked up his ears
and sprung into a long gallop when they heard loud shouts from the top of
"Hurry, hurry!" exclaimed Barbara. "They have found me out and they will
Scarcely had she spoken when the sound of a rifle report came from the
top of the cliff, and Wemple's left arm dropped helpless beside him.
"They dare not shoot to kill," she said, "but they think they can
frighten you, and they may cripple the horse. My darling, you will not
let them have me again?" The terror in her voice told how intense was
her fear of capture.
"Sweetheart, they shall not have you again unless they kill me first!"
A dozen Indians were galloping recklessly down the steep trail. "Promise
me," Barbara, pleaded, "if it comes to that, if you must die, you will
kill me first! For it would be hell—it would be worse than hell—to go
back there now!"
Wemple did not answer. "Promise me that you will," she begged. "You do
not know what you would save me from; but believe me, and promise me that
you will not send me back to it!"
"I promise!" he answered as another shot whistled in front of them and
clipped the top of the horse's ear. Wemple dug his spurs into its
sweating side and the beast sprang forward at a faster gallop. The
Indians, shouting loudly, were urging their ponies across the plain at
breakneck speed. Lieutenant Wemple glanced back again and a frown
wrinkled his forehead, as he said, "If our horse does not break down we
may keep ahead of them until we reach Laguna."
[Illustration: Wemple dug his spurs into its sweating side
and the beast sprang forward at a faster gallop.]
Barbara patted the horse and whispered soft words of encouragement and
then under her breath she sent up a fervent petition to the Virgin Mary
to protect them. Looking back, she recognized their pursuers, and told
Wemple that one of them was her brother, and another was a young man whom
her parents wished her to marry. This one had a faster horse than the
others and perceptibly gained upon the fugitives. He left the road where
a turn in it seemed to offer an advantage and, galloping across the
plain, was presently parallel with them and not more than two hundred
yards away. He raised his gun and Wemple, with quick perception noting
that his aim was toward their horse's neck, gave the bridle a jerk that
brought the animal to its hind feet as the bullet whistled barely in
front of them. It would have been quickly followed by another, but the
Indian's pony stumbled, went down on its knees, and horse and rider
rolled over together.
The other Indians came trooping on in a cloud of dust, yelling and
shouting, and now and then firing a shot, apparently aimed at the good
horse that so steadily kept his pace.
"They only want me," said Barbara. "If they can overtake us there are
enough of them to overpower you. They will not try to do much harm to
you, for they would not dare. But they will take me and carry me back
with them—if you let them."
"I will not let them," he replied between set teeth.
At last Wemple saw that their pursuers were slowly but surely gaining on
them. Barbara saw it too, and she redoubled her prayers to the Virgin,
and both she and her lover with words and caresses strove to keep up the
courage in their horse's heart. The good steed was of the sort whose
spirit does not falter until strength is gone, and he seemed to
understand that these people on his back were under some mighty need.
For with unwavering pace he kept up his long, swift gallop,
notwithstanding his double burden and the distance he had travelled
before the race began.
So they kept on, mile after mile, with their pursuers gaining, little by
little, upon them, and when at last they neared Laguna the Indians were
within a hundred yards. A banner of smoke across the plain told them
that the east-bound train was approaching.
"I believe we can make it!" exclaimed Wemple, as they heard the engine's
announcing scream. Apparently their pursuers guessed what the fugitives
would try to do, for as they saw the train they shouted and yelled louder
than before and urged their ponies to a still higher speed. They gained
rapidly for a little while, for the Lieutenant's horse was beginning to
flag, and Wemple, leaning to one side, gave the bridle into Barbara's
hands and, with left arm dangling useless, reached for his revolver. He
began to fear that they might yet head him off and surround him. They
outnumbered him hopelessly, but he would try to fight his way through
them. If worst came to worst,—he would save two shots out of the
six,—Barbara should not fall into their hands.
The train drew into the station and the Indians were not more than a
hundred feet behind him. The horse's faltering gait and heaving sides
showed that he had reached almost his limit of strength. Some dogs ran
out from a house, barking furiously. But being in his rear they only
made Wemple's horse quicken his pace. They darted at the heads of the
ponies, which shied and pranced about, and so lost to their riders some
The train was already moving as Wemple dashed up to its hindmost car, his
horse staggering and their pursuers almost upon them.
"Jump for the car-steps!" he shouted to Barbara. She had not leaped and
clambered up and down the stair in the Acoma cliff all her life for
nothing, and her strength and agility stood her in good stead in this
moment of supreme necessity. She leaped from the horse's back, landed
upon the upper step, and whirled about to assist her lover.
The train was moving faster, the Indians, with shouts and yells and
curses, were grasping at his bridle, and Wemple felt his horse giving way
beneath him. With a last encouraging call to the poor beast he urged it
to one more leap, and as it brought him again even with the end of the
car he threw his leg over its neck and jumped. The horse staggered and
fell as he left the saddle and caused him to lose his balance. He went
down upon the car-steps, his wounded left arm beside him and his right
doubled beneath his body. In another instant he would have rolled back
to the ground beneath the hoofs of the Indian ponies, but Barbara seized
him by the shoulders, and held him until he recovered his footing.
The Indians, seeing his predicament, whipped up their horses and galloped
beside the platform, reviling and jeering at him. Wemple scrambled to
his feet and put his arm about Barbara, as though fearful they might yet
try to take her from him. She leaned over the rail, laughed in their
faces, and called out, in the Indian tongue:
"Good-bye! Good-bye, forever! Now I shall be a white woman!"