THE SPLENDID IDLE FORTIES
STORIES OF OLD CALIFORNIA
AUTHOR OF "THE CONQUEROR," "SENATOR NORTH" "THE ARISTOCRATS," ETC.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY HARRISON FISHER
THE BOHEMIAN CLUB
OF SAN FRANCISCO
AS A SLIGHT ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF
ITS COURTESY IN PLACING
LIBRARY OF CALIFORNIAN LITERATURE
AT MY DISPOSAL
This is a revised and enlarged edition of the volume which was issued
some years ago under the title, "Before the Gringo Came."
THE PEARLS OF LORETO
THE EARS OF TWENTY AMERICANS
THE WASH-TUB MAIL
THE CONQUEST OF DOÑA JACOBA
A RAMBLE WITH EULOGIA
THE ISLE OF SKULLS
THE HEAD OF A PRIEST
NATALIE IVANHOFF: A MEMORY OF FORT ROSS
THE VENGEANCE OF PADRE ARROYO
THE BELLS OF SAN GABRIEL
WHEN THE DEVIL WAS WELL
THE PEARLS OF LORETO
Within memory of the most gnarled and coffee-coloured Montereño never
had there been so exciting a race day. All essential conditions seemed
to have held counsel and agreed to combine. Not a wreath of fog floated
across the bay to dim the sparkling air. Every horse, every vaquero,
was alert and physically perfect. The rains were over; the dust was not
gathered. Pio Pico, Governor of the Californias, was in Monterey on
one of his brief infrequent visits. Clad in black velvet, covered with
jewels and ropes of gold, he sat on his big chestnut horse at the upper
end of the field, with General Castro, Doña Modeste Castro, and other
prominent Montereños, his interest so keen that more than once the
official dignity relaxed, and he shouted "Brava!" with the rest.
And what a brilliant sight it was! The flowers had faded on the hills,
for June was upon them; but gayer than the hills had been was the
race-field of Monterey. Caballeros, with silver on their wide gray hats
and on their saddles of embossed leather, gold and silver embroidery on
their velvet serapes, crimson sashes about their slender waists, silver
spurs and buckskin botas, stood tensely in their stirrups as the racers
flew by, or, during the short intervals, pressed each other with eager
wagers. There was little money in that time. The golden skeleton within
the sleeping body of California had not yet been laid bare. But ranchos
were lost and won; thousands of cattle would pass to other hands at the
next rodeo; many a superbly caparisoned steed would rear and plunge
between the spurs of a new master.
And caballeros were not the only living pictures of that memorable day
of a time for ever gone. Beautiful women in silken fluttering gowns,
bright flowers holding the mantilla from flushed awakened faces, sat
their impatient horses as easily as a gull rides a wave. The sun beat
down, making dark cheeks pink and white cheeks darker, but those great
eyes, strong with their own fires, never faltered. The old women in
attendance grumbled vague remonstrances at all things, from the heat to
intercepted coquetries. But their charges gave the good dueñas little
heed. They shouted until their little throats were hoarse, smashed
their fans, beat the sides of their mounts with their tender hands, in
imitation of the vaqueros.
"It is the gayest, the happiest, the most careless life in the world,"
thought Pio Pico, shutting his teeth, as he looked about him. "But how
long will it last? Curse the Americans! They are coming."
But the bright hot spark that convulsed assembled Monterey shot from no
ordinary condition. A stranger was there, a guest of General Castro, Don
Vicente de la Vega y Arillaga, of Los Angeles. Not that a stranger was
matter for comment in Monterey, capital of California, but this stranger
had brought with him horses which threatened to disgrace the famous
winners of the North. Two races had been won already by the black
"Dios de mi alma!" cried the girls, one to the other, "their coats are
blacker than our hair! Their nostrils pulse like a heart on fire! Their
eyes flash like water in the sun! Ay! the handsome stranger, will he
roll us in the dust? Ay! our golden horses, with the tails and manes of
silver—how beautiful is the contrast with the vaqueros in their black
and silver, their soft white linen! The shame! the shame!—if they are
put to shame! Poor Guido! Will he lose this day, when he has won so
many? But the stranger is so handsome! Dios de mi vida! his eyes are
like dark blue stars. And he is so cold! He alone—he seems not to care.
Madre de Dios! Madre de Dios! he wins again! No! no! no! Yes! Ay! yi!
Guido Cabañares dug his spurs into his horse and dashed to the head of
the field, where Don Vicente sat at the left of General Castro. He was
followed hotly by several friends, sympathetic and indignant. As he
rode, he tore off his serape and flung it to the ground; even his silk
riding-clothes sat heavily upon his fury. Don Vicente smiled, and rode
forward to meet him.
"At your service, señor," he said, lifting his sombrero.
"Take your mustangs back to Los Angeles!" cried Don Guido, beside
himself with rage, the politeness and dignity of his race routed by
passion. "Why do you bring your hideous brutes here to shame me in the
eyes of Monterey? Why—"
"Yes! Why? Why?" demanded his friends, surrounding De la Vega. "This is
not the humiliation of a man, but of the North by the accursed South!
You even would take our capital from us! Los Angeles, the capital of the
"What have politics to do with horse-racing?" asked De la Vega, coldly.
"Other strangers have brought their horses to your field, I suppose."
"Yes, but they have not won. They have not been from the South."
By this time almost every caballero on the field was wheeling about De
la Vega. Some felt with Cabañares, others rejoiced in his defeat, but
all resented the victory of the South over the North.
"Will you run again?" demanded Cabañares.
"Certainly. Do you think of putting your knife into my neck?"
Cabañares drew back, somewhat abashed, the indifference of the other
sputtering like water on his passion.
"It is not a matter for blood," he said sulkily; "but the head is hot
and words are quick when horses run neck to neck. And, by the Mother of
God, you shall not have the last race. My best horse has not run. Viva
"Viva El Rayo!" shouted the caballeros.
"And let the race be between you two alone," cried one. "The North or
the South! Los Angeles or Monterey! It will be the race of our life."
"The North or the South!" cried the caballeros, wheeling and galloping
across the field to the doñas. "Twenty leagues to a real for Guido
"What a pity that Ysabel is not here!" said Doña Modeste Castro to Pio
Pico. "How those green eyes of hers would flash to-day!"
"She would not come," said the Governor. "She said she was tired of the
"Of whom do you speak?" asked De la Vega, who had rejoined them.
"Of Ysabel Herrera, La Favorita of Monterey," answered Pio Pico. "The
most beautiful woman in the Californias, since Chonita Iturbi y Moncada,
my Vicente. It is at her uncle's that I stay. You have heard me speak of
my old friend; and surely you have heard of her."
"Ay!" said De la Vega. "I have heard of her."
"Viva El Rayo!"
"Ay, the ugly brute!"
"What name? Vitriolo? Mother of God! Diablo or Demonio would suit him
better. He looks as if he had been bred in hell. He will not stand the
quirto; and El Rayo is more lightly built. We shall beat by a dozen
The two vaqueros who were to ride the horses had stripped to their soft
linen shirts and black velvet trousers, cast aside their sombreros, and
bound their heads with tightly knotted handkerchiefs. Their spurs were
fastened to bare brown heels; the cruel quirto was in the hand of each;
they rode barebacked, winding their wiry legs in and out of a horse-hair
rope encircling the body of the animal. As they slowly passed the crowd
on their way to the starting-point at the lower end of the field, and
listened to the rattling fire of wagers and comments, they looked
defiant, and alive to the importance of the coming event.
El Rayo shone like burnished copper, his silver mane and tail glittering
as if powdered with diamond-dust. He was long and graceful of body, thin
of flank, slender of leg. With arched neck and flashing eyes, he walked
with the pride of one who was aware of the admiration he excited.
Vitriolo was black and powerful. His long neck fitted into well-placed
shoulders. He had great depth of girth, immense length from
shoulder-points to hips, big cannon-bones, and elastic pasterns. There
was neither amiability nor pride in his mien; rather a sullen sense of
brute power, such as may have belonged to the knights of the Middle
Ages. Now and again he curled his lips away from the bit and laid his
ears back as if he intended to eat of the elegant Beau Brummel stepping
so daintily beside him. Of the antagonistic crowd he took not the
"The race begins! Holy heaven!" The murmur rose to a shout—a deep
hoarse shout strangely crossed and recrossed by long silver notes; a
thrilling volume of sound rising above a sea of flashing eyes and parted
lips and a vivid moving mass of colour.
Twice the horses scored, and were sent back. The third time they bounded
by the starting-post neck and neck, nose to nose. José Abrigo, treasurer
of Monterey, dashed his sombrero, heavy with silver eagles, to the
ground, and the race was begun.
Almost at once the black began to gain. Inch by inch he fought his way
to the front, and the roar with which the crowd had greeted the start
dropped into the silence of apprehension.
El Rayo was not easily to be shaken off. A third of the distance had
been covered, and his nose was abreast of Vitriolo's flank. The vaqueros
sat as if carved from sun-baked clay, as lightly as if hollowed,
watching each other warily out of the corners of their eyes.
The black continued to gain. Halfway from home light was visible between
the two horses. The pace became terrific, the excitement so intense that
not a sound was heard but that of racing hoofs. The horses swept onward
like projectiles, the same smoothness, the same suggestion of eternal
flight. The bodies were extended until the tense muscles rose under the
satin coats. Vitriolo's eyes flashed viciously; El Rayo's strained with
determination. Vitriolo's nostrils were as red as angry craters; El
Rayo's fluttered like paper in the wind.
Three-quarters of the race was run, and the rider of Vitriolo could tell
by the sound of the hoof-beats behind him that he had a good lead of at
least two lengths over the Northern champion. A smile curled the corners
of his heavy lips; the race was his already.
Suddenly El Rayo's vaquero raised his hand, and down came the maddening
quirto, first on one side, then on the other. The spurs dug; the blood
spurted. The crowd burst into a howl of delight as their favourite
responded. Startled by the sound, Vitriolo's rider darted a glance over
his shoulder, and saw El Rayo bearing down upon him like a thunder-bolt,
regaining the ground that he had lost, not by inches, but by feet. Two
hundred paces from the finish he was at the black's flanks; one hundred
and fifty, he was at his girth; one hundred, and the horses were neck
and neck; and still the quirto whirred down on El Rayo's heaving flanks,
the spurs dug deeper into his quivering flesh.
The vaquero of Vitriolo sat like an image, using neither whip nor spur,
his teeth set, his eyes rolling from the goal ahead to the rider at his
The breathless intensity of the spectators had burst. They had begun to
click their teeth, to mutter hoarsely, then to shout, to gesticulate,
to shake their fists in each other's face, to push and scramble for a
"Holy God!" cried Pio Pico, carried out of himself, "the South is lost!
Vitriolo the magnificent! Ah, who would have thought? The black by the
gold! Ay! What! No! Holy Mary! Holy God!—"
Six strides more and the race is over. With the bark of a coyote the
vaquero of the South leans forward over Vitriolo's neck. The big black
responds like a creature of reason. Down comes the quirto once—only
once. He fairly lifts his horse ahead and shoots into victory, winner by
a neck. The South has vanquished the North.
The crowd yelled and shouted until it was exhausted. But even Cabañares
made no further demonstration toward De la Vega. Not only was he weary
and depressed, but the victory had been nobly won.
It grew late, and they rode to the town, caballeros pushing as close to
doñas as they dared, dueñas in close attendance, one theme on the lips
of all. Anger gave place to respect; moreover, De la Vega was the guest
of General Castro, the best-beloved man in California. They were willing
to extend the hand of friendship; but he rode last, between the General
and Doña Modeste, and seemed to care as little for their good will as
for their ill.
Pio Pico rode ahead, and as the cavalcade entered the town he broke from
it and ascended the hill to carry the news to Ysabel Herrera.
Monterey, rising to her pine-spiked hills, swept like a crescent moon
about the sapphire bay. The surf roared and fought the white sand hills
of the distant horn; on that nearest the town stood the fort, grim
and rude, but pulsating with military life, and alert for American
onslaught. In the valley the red-tiled white adobe houses studded a
little city which was a series of corners radiating from a central
irregular street. A few mansions were on the hillside to the right,
brush-crowded sand banks on the left; the perfect curve of hills, thick
with pine woods and dense green undergrowth, rose high above and around
all, a rampart of splendid symmetry.
"Ay! Ysabel! Ysabel!" cried the young people, as they swept down the
broad street. "Bring her to us, Excellency. Tell her she shall not know
until she comes down. We will tell her. Ay! poor Guido!"
The Governor turned and waved his hand, then continued the ascent of the
hill, toward a long low house which showed no sign of life.
He alighted and glanced into a room opening upon the corridor which
traversed the front. The room was large and dimly lighted by deeply set
windows. The floor was bare, the furniture of horse-hair; saints and
family portraits adorned the white walls; on a chair lay a guitar;
it was a typical Californian sala of that day. The ships brought few
luxuries, beyond raiment and jewels, to even the wealthy of that
"Ysabel," called the Governor, "where art thou? Come down to the town
and hear the fortune of the races. Alvarado Street streams like a comet.
Why should the Star of Monterey withhold her light?"
A girl rose from a sofa and came slowly forward to the corridor.
Discontent marred her face as she gave her hand to the Governor to
kiss, and looked down upon the brilliant town. The Señorita Doña Ysabel
Herrera was poor. Were it not for her uncle she would not have where to
lay her stately head—and she was La Favorita of Monterey, the proudest
beauty in California! Her father had gambled away his last acre, his
horse, his saddle, the serape off his back; then sent his motherless
girl to his brother, and buried himself in Mexico. Don Antonio took the
child to his heart, and sent for a widowed cousin to be her dueña. He
bought her beautiful garments from the ships that touched the port, but
had no inclination to gratify her famous longing to hang ropes of pearls
in her soft black hair, to wind them about her white neck, and band them
above her green resplendent eyes.
"Unbend thy brows," said Pio Pico. "Wrinkles were not made for youth."
Ysabel moved her brows apart, but the clouds still lay in her eyes.
"Thou dost not ask of the races, O thou indifferent one! What is the
trouble, my Ysabel? Will no one bring the pearls? The loveliest girl in
all the Californias has said, 'I will wed no man who does not bring me
a lapful of pearls,' and no one has filled the front of that pretty
flowered gown. But have reason, niña. Remember that our Alta California
has no pearls on its shores, and that even the pearl fisheries of the
terrible lower country are almost worn out. Will nothing less content
"Dios de mi alma! Thou hast ambition. No woman has had more offered her
than thou. But thou art worthy of the most that man could give. Had I
not a wife myself, I believe I should throw my jewels and my ugly old
head at thy little feet."
Ysabel glanced with some envy at the magnificent jewels with which the
Governor of the Californias was hung, but did not covet the owner. An
uglier man than Pio Pico rarely had entered this world. The upper lip of
his enormous mouth dipped at the middle; the broad thick underlip hung
down with its own weight. The nose was big and coarse, although
there was a certain spirited suggestion in the cavernous nostrils.
Intelligence and reflectiveness were also in his little eyes, and they
were far apart. A small white mustache grew above his mouth; about his
chin, from ear to ear, was a short stubby beard, whiter by contrast with
his copper-coloured skin. He looked much like an intellectual bear.
And Ysabel? In truth, she had reason for her pride. Her black hair,
unblemished by gloss or tinge of blue, fell waving to her feet.
California, haughty, passionate, restless, pleasure-loving, looked from
her dark green eyes; the soft black lashes dropped quickly when they
became too expressive. Her full mouth was deeply red, but only a faint
pink lay in her white cheeks; the nose curved at bridge and nostrils.
About her low shoulders she held a blue reboso, the finger-tips of each
slim hand resting on the opposite elbow. She held her head a little
back, and Pio Pico laughed as he looked at her.
"Dios!" he said, "but thou might be an Estenega or an Iturbi y Moncada.
Surely that lofty head better suits old Spain than the republic of
Mexico. Draw the reboso about thy head now, and let us go down. They
She lifted the scarf above her hair, and walked down the steep rutted
hill with the Governor, her flowered gown floating with a silken rustle
about her. In a few moments she was listening to the tale of the races.
"Ay, Ysabel! Dios de mi alma! What a day! A young señor from Los Angeles
won the race—almost all the races—the Señor Don Vicente de la Vega y
Arillaga. He has never been here, before. His horses! Madre de Dios!
They ran like hares. Poor Guido! Válgame Dios! Even thou wouldst have
been moved to pity. But he is so handsome! Look! Look! He comes now,
side by side with General Castro. Dios! his serape is as stiff with gold
as the vestments of the padre."
Ysabel looked up as a man rode past. His bold profile and thin face were
passionate and severe; his dark blue eyes were full of power. Such a
face was rare among the languid shallow men of her race.
"He rides with General Castro," whispered Benicia Ortega. "He stays with
him. We shall see him at the ball to-night."
As Don Vicente passed Ysabel their eyes met for a moment. His opened
suddenly with a bold eager flash, his arched nostrils twitching. The
colour left her face, and her eyes dropped heavily.
Love needed no kindling in the heart of the Californian.
The people of Monterey danced every night of their lives, and went
nowhere so promptly as to the great sala of Doña Modeste Castro, their
leader of fashion, whose gowns were made for her in the city of Mexico.
Ysabel envied her bitterly. Not because the Doña Modeste's skin was
whiter than her own, for it could not be, nor her eyes greener, for they
were not; but because her jewels were richer than Pio Pico's, and
upon all grand occasions a string of wonderful pearls gleamed in her
storm-black hair. But one feminine compensation had Ysabel: she was
taller; Doña Modeste's slight elegant figure lacked Ysabel's graceful
inches, and perhaps she too felt a pang sometimes as the girl undulated
above her like a snake about to strike.
At the fashionable hour of ten Monterey was gathered for the dance. All
the men except the officers wore black velvet or broadcloth coats and
white trousers. All the women wore white, the waist long and pointed,
the skirt full. Ysabel's gown was of embroidered crêpe. Her hair was
coiled about her head, and held by a tortoise comb framed with a narrow
band of gold. Pio Pico, splendid with stars and crescents and rings and
pins, led her in, and with his unique ugliness enhanced her beauty.
She glanced eagerly about the room whilst replying absently to the
caballeros who surrounded her. Don Vicente de la Vega was not there. The
thick circle about her parted, and General Castro bent over her hand,
begging the honour of the contradanza. She sighed, and for the moment
forgot the Southerner who had flashed and gone like the beginning of a
dream. Here was a man—the only man of her knowledge whom she could have
loved, and who would have found her those pearls. Californians had so
little ambition! Then she gave a light audacious laugh. Governor Pico
was shaking hands cordially with General Castro, the man he hated best
No two men could have contrasted more sharply than José Castro and
Pio Pico—with the exception of Alvarado the most famous men of their
country. The gold trimmings of the general's uniform were his only
jewels. His hair and beard—the latter worn à la Basca, a narrow strip
curving from upper lip to ear—were as black as Pio Pico's once had
been. The handsomest man in California, he had less consciousness than
the least of the caballeros. His deep gray eyes were luminous with
enthusiasm; his nose was sharp and bold; his firm sensitive mouth was
cut above a resolute chin. He looked what he was, the ardent patriot of
a doomed cause.
"Señorita," he said, as he led Ysabel out to the sweet monotonous music
of the contradanza, "did you see the caballero who rode with me to-day?"
A red light rose to Ysabel's cheek. "Which one, commandante? Many rode
"I mean him who rode at my right, the winner of the races, Vicente, son
of my old friend Juan Bautista de la Vega y Arillaga, of Los Angeles."
"It may be. I think I saw a strange face."
"He saw yours, Doña Ysabel, and is looking upon you now from the
corridor without, although the fog is heavy about him. Cannot you see
him—that dark shadow by the pillar?"
Ysabel never went through the graceful evolutions of the contradanza
as she did that night. Her supple slender body curved and swayed and
glided; her round arms were like lazy snakes uncoiling; her exquisitely
poised head moved in perfect concord with her undulating hips. Her eyes
grew brighter, her lips redder. The young men who stood near gave as
loud a vent to their admiration as if she had been dancing El Son alone
on the floor. But the man without made no sign.
After the dance was over, General Castro led her to her dueña, and
handing her a guitar, begged a song.
She began a light love-ballad, singing with the grace and style of her
Spanish blood; a little mocking thing, but with a wild break now and
again. As she sang, she fixed her eyes coquettishly on the adoring face
of Guido Cabañares, who stood beside her, but saw every movement of the
form beyond the window. Don Guido kept his ardent eyes riveted upon
her but detected no wandering in her glances. His lips trembled as he
listened, and once he brushed the tears from his eyes. She gave him
a little cynical smile, then broke her song in two. The man on the
corridor had vaulted through the window.
Ysabel, clinching her hands the better to control her jumping nerves,
turned quickly to Cabañares, who had pressed behind her, and was pouring
words into her ear.
"Ysabel! Ysabel! hast thou no pity? Dost thou not see that I am fit to
set the world on fire for love of thee? The very water boils as I drink
She interrupted him with a scornful laugh, the sharper that her voice
might not tremble. "Bring me my pearls. What is love worth when it will
not grant one little desire?"
He groaned. "I have found a vein of gold on my rancho. I can pick the
little shining pieces out with my fingers. I will have them beaten into
a saddle for thee—"
But she had turned her back flat upon him, and was making a deep
courtesy to the man whom General Castro presented.
"I appreciate the honour of your acquaintance," she murmured
"At your feet, señorita," said Don Vicente.
The art of making conversation had not been cultivated among the
Californians, and Ysabel plied her large fan with slow grace, at a loss
for further remark, and wondering if her heart would suffocate her. But
Don Vicente had the gift of words.
"Señorita," he said, "I have stood in the chilling fog and felt the
warmth of your lovely voice at my heart. The emotions I felt my poor
tongue cannot translate. They swarm in my head like a hive of puzzled
bees; but perhaps they look through my eyes," and he fixed his powerful
and penetrating gaze on Ysabel's green depths.
A waltz began, and he took her in his arms without asking her
indulgence, and regardless of the indignation of the mob of men about
her. Ysabel, whose being was filled with tumult, lay passive as he held
her closer than man had ever dared before.
"I love you," he said, in his harsh voice. "I wish you for my wife. At
once. When I saw you to-day standing with a hundred other beautiful
women, I said: 'She is the fairest of them all. I shall have her.' And
I read the future in"—he suddenly dropped the formal "you"—"in thine
eyes, cariña. Thy soul sprang to mine. Thy heart is locked in my heart
closer, closer than my arms are holding thee now."
The strength of his embrace was violent for a moment; but Ysabel might
have been cut from marble. Her body had lost its swaying grace; it
was almost rigid. She did not lift her eyes. But De la Vega was not
The music finished, and Ysabel was at once surrounded by a determined
retinue. This intruding Southerner was welcome to the honours of the
race-field, but the Star of Monterey was not for him. He smiled as he
saw the menace of their eyes.
"I would have her," he thought, "if they were a regiment of
Castros—which they are not." But he had not armed himself against
"Señor Don Vicente de la Vega y Arillaga," said Don Guido Cabañares, who
had been selected as spokesman, "perhaps you have not learned during
your brief visit to our capital that the Señorita Doña Ysabel Herrera,
La Favorita of Alta California, has sworn by the Holy Virgin, by the
blessed Junipero Serra, that she will wed no man who does not bring her
a lapful of pearls. Can you find those pearls on the sands of the South,
Don Vicente? For, by the holy cross of God, you cannot have her without
For a moment De la Vega was disconcerted.
"Is this true?" he demanded, turning to Ysabel.
"What, señor?" she asked vaguely. She had not listened to the words of
her protesting admirer.
A sneer bent his mouth. "That you have put a price upon yourself? That
the man who ardently wishes to be your husband, who has even won your
love, must first hang you with pearls like—" He stopped suddenly, the
blood burning his dark face, his eyes opening with an expression of
horrified hope. "Tell me! Tell me!" he exclaimed. "Is this true?"
For the first time since she had spoken with him Ysabel was herself. She
crossed her arms and tapped her elbows with her pointed fingers.
"Yes," she said, "it is true." She raised her eyes to his and regarded
him steadily. They looked like green pools frozen in a marble wall.
The harp, the flute, the guitar, combined again, and once more he swung
her from a furious circle. But he was safe; General Castro had joined
it. He waltzed her down the long room, through one adjoining, then into
another, and, indifferent to the iron conventions of his race, closed
the door behind them. They were in the sleeping-room of Doña Modeste.
The bed with its rich satin coverlet, the bare floor, the simple
furniture, were in semi-darkness; only on the altar in the corner were
candles burning. Above it hung paintings of saints, finely executed by
Mexican hands; an ebony cross spread its black arms against the white
wall; the candles flared to a golden Christ. He caught her hands and led
her over to the altar.
"Listen to me," he said. "I will bring you those pearls. You shall have
such pearls as no queen in Europe possesses. Swear to me here, with your
hands on this altar, that you will wed me when I return, no matter how
or where I find those pearls."
He was holding her hands between the candelabra. She looked at him with
eyes of passionate surrender; the man had conquered worldly ambitions.
But he answered her before she had time to speak.
"You love me, and would withdraw the conditions. But I am ready to do a
daring and a terrible act. Furthermore, I wish to show you that I can
succeed where all other men have failed. I ask only two things now.
First, make me the vow I wish."
"I swear it," she said.
"Now," he said, his voice sinking to a harsh but caressing whisper,
"give me one kiss for courage and hope."
She leaned slowly forward, the blood pulsing in her lips; but she had
been brought up behind grated windows, and she drew back. "No," she
said, "not now."
For a moment he looked rebellious; then he laid his hands on her
shoulders and pressed her to her knees. He knelt behind her, and
together they told a rosary for his safe return.
He left her there and went to his room. From his saddle-bag he took
a long letter from an intimate friend, one of the younger Franciscan
priests of the Mission of Santa Barbara, where he had been educated. He
sought this paragraph:—
"Thou knowest, of course, my Vicente, of the pearl fisheries of Baja
California. It is whispered—between ourselves, indeed, it is
quite true—that a short while ago the Indian divers discovered an
extravagantly rich bed of pearls. Instead of reporting to any of the
companies, they have hung them all upon our Most Sacred Lady of Loreto,
in the Mission of Loreto; and there, by the grace of God, they will
remain. They are worth the ransom of a king, my Vicente, and the Church
has come to her own again."
The fog lay thick on the bay at dawn next morning. The white waves hid
the blue, muffled the roar of the surf. Now and again a whale threw a
volume of spray high in the air, a geyser from a phantom sea. Above the
white sands straggled the white town, ghostly, prophetic.
De la Vega, a dark sombrero pulled over his eyes, a dark serape
enveloping his tall figure, rode, unattended and watchful, out of the
town. Not until he reached the narrow road through the brush forest
beyond did he give his horse rein. The indolence of the Californian was
no longer in his carriage; it looked alert and muscular; recklessness
accentuated the sternness of his face.
As he rode, the fog receded slowly. He left the chaparral and rode by
green marshes cut with sloughs and stained with vivid patches of
orange. The frogs in the tules chanted their hoarse matins. Through
brush-covered plains once more, with sparsely wooded hills in the
distance, and again the tules, the marsh, the patches of orange. He rode
through a field of mustard; the pale yellow petals brushed his dark
face, the delicate green leaves won his eyes from the hot glare of the
ascending sun, the slender stalks, rebounding, smote his horse's flanks.
He climbed hills to avoid the wide marshes, and descended into willow
groves and fields of daisies. Before noon he was in the San Juan
Mountains, thick with sturdy oaks, bending their heads before the
madroño, that belle of the forest, with her robes of scarlet and her
crown of bronze. The yellow lilies clung to her skirts, and the buckeye
flung his flowers at her feet. The last redwoods were there, piercing
the blue air with their thin inflexible arms, gray as a dusty band of
friars. Out by the willows, whereunder crept the sluggish river, then
between the hills curving about the valley of San Juan Bautista.
At no time is California so beautiful as in the month of June. De la
Vega's wild spirit and savage purpose were dormant for the moment as he
rode down the valley toward the mission. The hills were like gold, like
mammoth fawns veiled with violet mist, like rich tan velvet. Afar, bare
blue steeps were pink in their chasms, brown on their spurs. The dark
yellow fields were as if thick with gold-dust; the pale mustard was a
waving yellow sea. Not a tree marred the smooth hills. The earth sent
forth a perfume of its own. Below the plateau from which rose the white
walls of the mission was a wide field of bright green corn rising
against the blue sky.
The padres in their brown hooded robes came out upon the long corridor
of the mission and welcomed the traveller. Their lands had gone from
them, their mission was crumbling, but the spirit of hospitality
lingered there still. They laid meat and fruit and drink on a table
beneath the arches, then sat about him and asked him eagerly for news of
the day. Was it true that the United States of America were at war with
Mexico, or about to be? True that their beloved flag might fall, and
the stars and stripes of an insolent invader rise above the fort of
De la Vega recounted the meagre and conflicting rumours which had
reached California, but, not being a prophet, could not tell them that
they would be the first to see the red-white-and-blue fluttering on the
mountain before them. He refused to rest more than an hour, but mounted
the fresh horse the padres gave him and went his way, riding hard and
relentlessly, like all Californians.
He sped onward, through the long hot day, leaving the hills for the
marshes and a long stretch of ugly country, traversing the beautiful San
Antonio Valley in the night, reaching the Mission of San Miguel at dawn,
resting there for a few hours. That night he slept at a hospitable
ranch-house in the park-like valley of Paso des Robles, a grim silent
figure amongst gay-hearted people who delighted to welcome him. The
early morning found him among the chrome hills; and at the Mission of
San Luis Obispo the good padres gave him breakfast. The little valley,
round as a well, its bare hills red and brown, gray and pink, violet and
black, from fire, sloping steeply from a dizzy height, impressed him
with a sense of being prisoned in an enchanted vale where no message of
the outer world could come, and he hastened on his way.
Absorbed as he was, he felt the beauty he fled past. A line of golden
hills lay against sharp blue peaks. A towering mass of gray rocks had
been cut and lashed by wind and water, earthquake and fire, into the
semblance of a massive castle, still warlike in its ruin. He slept for a
few hours that night in the Mission of Santa Ynes, and was high in the
Santa Barbara Mountains at the next noon. For brief whiles he forgot
his journey's purpose as his horse climbed slowly up the steep trails,
knocking the loose stones down a thousand feet and more upon a roof of
tree-tops which looked like stunted brush. Those gigantic masses of
immense stones, each wearing a semblance to the face of man or beast;
those awful chasms and stupendous heights, densely wooded, bare, and
many-hued, rising above, beyond, peak upon peak, cutting through the
visible atmosphere—was there no end? He turned in his saddle and looked
over low peaks and cañons, rivers and abysms, black peaks smiting the
fiery blue, far, far, to the dim azure mountains on the horizon.
"Mother of God!" he thought. "No wonder California still shakes! I would
I could have stood upon a star and beheld the awful throes of this
country's birth." And then his horse reared between the sharp spurs and
He avoided the Mission of Santa Barbara, resting at a rancho outside
the town. In the morning, supplied as usual with a fresh horse, he fled
onward, with the ocean at his right, its splendid roar in his ears. The
cliffs towered high above him; he saw no man's face for hours together;
but his thoughts companioned him, savage and sinister shapes whirling
about the figure of a woman. On, on, sleeping at ranchos or missions,
meeting hospitality everywhere, avoiding Los Angeles, keeping close to
the ponderous ocean, he left civilization behind him at last, and
with an Indian guide entered upon that desert of mountain-tops, Baja
Rapid travelling was not possible here. There were no valleys worthy the
name. The sharp peaks, multiplying mile after mile, were like teeth of
gigantic rakes, black and bare. A wilderness of mountain-tops, desolate
as eternity, arid, parched, baked by the awful heat, the silence never
broken by the cry of a bird, a hut rarely breaking the barren monotony,
only an infrequent spring to save from death. It was almost impossible
to get food or fresh horses. Many a night De la Vega and his stoical
guide slept beneath a cactus, or in the mocking bed of a creek. The
mustangs he managed to lasso were almost unridable, and would have
bucked to death any but a Californian. Sometimes he lived on cactus
fruit and the dried meat he had brought with him; occasionally he shot
a rabbit. Again he had but the flesh of the rattlesnake roasted over
coals. But honey-dew was on the leaves.
He avoided the beaten trail, and cut his way through naked bushes spiked
with thorns, and through groves of cacti miles in length. When the thick
fog rolled up from the ocean he had to sit inactive on the rocks, or
lose his way. A furious storm dashed him against a boulder, breaking his
mustang's leg; then a torrent, rising like a tidal wave, thundered down
the gulch, and catching him on its crest, flung him upon a tree of
thorns. When dawn came he found his guide dead. He cursed his luck, and
Lassoing another mustang, he pushed on, having a general idea of the
direction he should take. It was a week before he reached Loreto, a week
of loneliness, hunger, thirst, and torrid monotony. A week, too, of
thought and bitterness of spirit. In spite of his love, which never
cooled, and his courage, which never quailed, Nature, in her guise of
foul and crooked hag, mocked at earthly happiness, at human hope, at
youth and passion.
If he had not spent his life in the saddle, he would have been worn out
when he finally reached Loreto, late one night. As it was, he slept in a
hut until the following afternoon. Then he took a long swim in the bay,
and, later, sauntered through the town.
The forlorn little city was hardly more than a collection of Indians'
huts about a church in a sandy waste. No longer the capital, even the
barracks were toppling. When De la Vega entered the mission, not a white
man but the padre and his assistant was in it; the building was thronged
with Indian worshippers. The mission, although the first built in
California, was in a fair state of preservation. The Stations in their
battered frames were mellow and distinct. The gold still gleamed in the
vestments of the padre.
For a few moments De la Vega dared not raise his eyes to the Lady of
Loreto, standing aloft in the dull blaze of adamantine candles. When he
did, he rose suddenly from his knees and left the mission. The pearls
It took him but a short time to gain the confidence of the priest and
the little population. He offered no explanation for his coming, beyond
the curiosity of the traveller. The padre gave him a room in the
mission, and spent every hour he could spare with the brilliant
stranger. At night he thanked God for the sudden oasis in his life's
desolation. The Indians soon grew accustomed to the lonely figure
wandering about the sand plains, or kneeling for hours together before
the altar in the church. And whom their padre trusted was to them as
sacred and impersonal as the wooden saints of their religion.
The midnight stars watched over the mission. Framed by the cross-shaped
window sunk deep in the adobe wall above the entrance, a mass of them
assumed the form of the crucifix, throwing a golden trail full upon the
Lady of Loreto, proud in her shining pearls. The long narrow body of the
church seemed to have swallowed the shadows of the ages, and to yawn for
De la Vega, booted and spurred, his serape folded about him, his
sombrero on his head, opened the sacristy door and entered the church.
In one hand he held a sack; in the other, a candle sputtering in a
bottle. He walked deliberately to the foot of the altar. In spite of
his intrepid spirit, he stood appalled for a moment as he saw the dim
radiance enveloping the Lady of Loreto. He scowled over his shoulder at
the menacing emblem of redemption and crossed himself. But had it been
the finger of God, the face of Ysabel would have shone between. He
extinguished his candle, and swinging himself to the top of the altar
plucked the pearls from the Virgin's gown and dropped them into the
sack. His hand trembled a little, but he held his will between his
How quiet it was! The waves flung themselves upon the shore with
the sullen wrath of impotence. A seagull screamed now and again, an
exclamation-point in the silence above the waters. Suddenly De la Vega
shook from head to foot, and snatched the knife from his belt. A faint
creaking echoed through the hollow church. He strained his ears, holding
his breath until his chest collapsed with the shock of outrushing air.
But the sound was not repeated, and he concluded that it had been but a
vibration of his nerves. He glanced to the window above the doors. The
stars in it were no longer visible; they had melted into bars of flame.
The sweat stood cold on his face, but he went on with his work.
A rope of pearls, cunningly strung together with strands of sea-weed,
was wound about the Virgin's right arm. De la Vega was too nervous to
uncoil it; he held the sack beneath, and severed the strands with his
knife. As he finished, and was about to stoop and cut loose the pearls
from the hem of the Virgin's gown, he uttered a hoarse cry and stood
rigid. A cowled head, with thin lips drawn over yellow teeth, furious
eyes burning deep in withered sockets, projected on its long neck from
the Virgin's right and confronted him. The body was unseen.
"Thief!" hissed the priest. "Dog! Thou wouldst rob the Church? Accursed!
There was not one moment for hesitation, one alternative. Before the
priest could complete his malediction, De la Vega's knife had flashed
through the fire of the cross. The priest leaped, screeching, then
rolled over and down, and rebounded from the railing of the sanctuary.
Ysabel sat in the low window-seat of her bedroom, pretending to draw the
threads of a cambric handkerchief. But her fingers twitched, and her
eyes looked oftener down the hill than upon the delicate work which
required such attention. She wore a black gown flowered with yellow
roses, and a slender ivory cross at her throat. Her hair hung in two
loose braids, sweeping the floor. She was very pale, and her pallor was
not due to the nightly entertainments of Monterey.
Her dueña sat beside her. The old woman was the colour of strong coffee;
but she, too, looked as if she had not slept, and her straight old lips
curved tenderly whenever she raised her eyes to the girl's face.
There was no carpet on the floor of the bedroom of La Favorita of
Monterey, the heiress of Don Antonio Herrera, and the little bedstead
in the corner was of iron, although a heavy satin coverlet trimmed with
lace was on it. A few saints looked down from the walls; the furniture
was of native wood, square and ugly; but it was almost hidden under fine
linen elaborately worked with the deshalados of Spain.
The supper hour was over, and the light grew dim. Ysabel tossed the
handkerchief into Doña Juana's lap, and stared through the grating.
Against the faded sky a huge cloud, shaped like a fire-breathing dragon,
was heavily outlined. The smoky shadows gathered in the woods. The
hoarse boom of the surf came from the beach; the bay was uneasy, and the
tide was high: the earth had quaked in the morning, and a wind-storm
fought the ocean. The gay bright laughter of women floated up from the
town. Monterey had taken her siesta, enjoyed her supper, and was ready
to dance through the night once more.
"He is dead," said Ysabel.
"True," said the old woman.
"He would have come back to me before this."
"He was so strong and so different, mamita."
"I never forget his eyes. Very bold eyes."
"They could be soft, macheppa."
"True. It is time thou dressed for the ball at the Custom-house,
Ysabel leaned forward, her lips parting. A man was coming up the hill.
He was gaunt; he was burnt almost black. Something bulged beneath his
Doña Juana found herself suddenly in the middle of the room. Ysabel
darted through the only door, locking it behind her. The indignant dueña
also recognized the man, and her position. She trotted to the door and
thumped angrily on the panel; sympathetic she was, but she never could
so far forget herself as to permit a young girl to talk with a man
"Thou shalt not go to the ball to-night," she cried shrilly. "Thou shalt
be locked in the dark room. Thou shalt be sent to the rancho. Open!
open! thou wicked one. Madre de Dios! I will beat thee with my own
But she was a prisoner, and Ysabel paid no attention to her threats. The
girl was in the sala, and the doors were open. As De la Vega crossed the
corridor and entered the room she sank upon a chair, covering her face
with her hands.
He strode over to her, and flinging his serape from his shoulder opened
the mouth of a sack and poured its contents into her lap. Pearls of all
sizes and shapes—pearls black and pearls white, pearls pink and pearls
faintly blue, pearls like globes and pearls like pears, pearls as big
as the lobe of Pio Pico's ear, pearls as dainty as bubbles of frost—a
lapful of gleaming luminous pearls, the like of which caballero had
never brought to doña before.
For a moment Ysabel forgot her love and her lover. The dream of a
lifetime was reality. She was the child who had cried for the moon and
seen it tossed into her lap.
She ran her slim white fingers through the jewels. She took up handfuls
and let them run slowly back to her lap. She pressed them to her face;
she kissed them with little rapturous cries. She laid them against her
breast and watched them chase each other down her black gown. Then at
last she raised her head and met the fierce sneering eyes of De la Vega.
"So it is as I might have known. It was only the pearls you wanted. It
might have been an Indian slave who brought them to you."
She took the sack from his hand and poured back the pearls. Then she
laid the sack on the floor and stood up. She was no longer pale, and her
eyes shone brilliantly in the darkening room.
"Yes," she said; "I forgot for a moment. But during many terrible weeks,
señor, my tears have not been for the pearls."
The sudden light that was De la Vega's chiefest charm sprang to his
eyes. He took her hands and kissed them passionately.
"That sack of pearls would be a poor reward for one tear. But thou hast
shed them for me? Say that again. Mi alma! mi alma!"
"I never thought of the pearls—at least not often. At last, not at all.
I have been very unhappy, señor. Ay!"
The maiden reserve which had been knit like steel about her plastic
years burst wide. "Thou art ill! What has happened to thee? Ay, Dios!
what it is to be a woman and to suffer! Thou wilt die! Oh, Mother of
"I shall not die. Kiss me, Ysabel. Surely it is time now."
But she drew back and shook her head.
He exclaimed impatiently, but would not release her hand. "Thou meanest
"We shall be married soon—wait."
"I had hoped you would grant me that. For when I tell you where I got
those pearls you may drive me from you in spite of your promise—drive
me from you with the curse of the devout woman on your lips. I might
invent some excuse to persuade you to fly with me from California
to-night, and you would never know. But I am a man—a Spaniard—and a De
la Vega. I shall not lie to you."
She looked at him with wide eyes, not understanding, and he went on, his
face savage again, his voice harsh. He told her the whole story of
that night in the mission. He omitted nothing—the menacing cross, the
sacrilegious theft, the deliberate murder; the pictures were painted
with blood and fire. She did not interrupt him with cry or gasp, but her
expression changed many times. Horror held her eyes for a time, then
slowly retreated, and his own fierce pride looked back at him. She
lifted her head when he had finished, her throat throbbing, her nostrils
"Thou hast done that—for me?"
"Thou hast murdered thy immortal soul—for me?"
"Thou lovest me like that! O God, in what likeness hast thou made me? In
whatsoever image it may have been, I thank Thee—and repudiate Thee!"
She took the cross from her throat and broke it in two pieces with her
strong white fingers.
"Thou art lost, eternally damned: but I will go down to hell with thee."
And she threw herself upon him and kissed him on the mouth.
For a moment he forgot the lesson thrust into his brain by the hideous
fingers of the desert. He was almost happy. He put his hands about her
warm face after a time. "We must go to-night," he said. "I went to
General Castro's to change my clothes, and learned that a ship sails
for the United States to-night. We will go on that. I dare not delay
twenty-four hours. It may be that they are upon my heels now. How can we
Her thoughts had travelled faster than his words, and she answered at
once: "There is a ball at the Custom-house to-night. I will go. You will
have a boat below the rocks. You know that the Custom-house is on the
rocks at the end of the town, near the fort. No? It will be easier for
me to slip from the ball-room than from this house. Only tell me where
you will meet me."
"The ship sails at midnight. I too will go to the ball; for with me you
can escape more easily. Have you a maid you can trust?"
"My Luisa is faithful."
"Then tell her to be on the beach between the rocks of the Custom-house
and the Fort with what you must take with you."
Again he kissed her many times, but softly. "Wear thy pearls to-night. I
wish to see thy triumphant hour in Monterey."
"Yes," she said, "I shall wear the pearls."
The corridor of the Custom-house had been enclosed to protect the
musicians and supper table from the wind and fog. The store-room had
been cleared, the floor scrubbed, the walls hung with the colours of
Mexico. All in honour of Pio Pico, again in brief exile from his beloved
Los Angeles. The Governor, blazing with diamonds, stood at the upper end
of the room by Doña Modeste Castro's side. About them were Castro and
other prominent men of Monterey, all talking of the rumoured war between
the United States and Mexico and prophesying various results. Neither
Pico nor Castro looked amiable. The Governor had arrived in the morning
to find that the General had allowed pasquinades representing his
Excellency in no complimentary light to disfigure the streets of
Monterey. Castro, when taken to task, had replied haughtily that it
was the Governor's place to look after his own dignity; he, the
Commandante-General of the army of the Californias, had more important
matters to attend to. The result had been a furious war of words, ending
in a lame peace.
"Tell us, Excellency," said José Abrigo, "what will be the outcome?"
"The Americans can have us if they wish," said Pio Pico, bitterly. "We
"Never!" cried Castro. "What? We cannot protect ourselves against the
invasion of bandoleros? Do you forget what blood stings the veins of
the Californian? A Spaniard stand with folded arms and see his country
plucked from him! Oh, sacrilege! They will never have our Californias
while a Californian lives to cut them down!"
"Bravo! bravo!" cried many voices.
"I tell you—" began Pio Pico, but Doña Modeste interrupted him. "No
more talk of war to-night," she said peremptorily. "Where is Ysabel?"
"She sent me word by Doña Juana that she could not make herself ready in
time to come with me, but would follow with my good friend, Don Antonio,
who of course had to wait for her. Her gown was not finished, I believe.
I think she had done something naughty, and Doña Juana had tried to
punish her, but had not succeeded. The old lady looked very sad.
Ah, here is Doña Ysabel now!"
"How lovely she is!" said Doña Modeste. "I think—What! what!—"
"Dios de mi Alma!" exclaimed Pio Pico, "where did she get those pearls?"
The crowd near the door had parted, and Ysabel entered on the arm of her
uncle. Don Antonio's form was bent, and she looked taller by contrast.
His thin sharp profile was outlined against her white neck, bared for
the first time to the eyes of Monterey. Her shawl had just been laid
aside, and he was near-sighted and did not notice the pearls.
She had sewn them all over the front of her white silk gown. She had
wound them in the black coils of her hair. They wreathed her neck and
roped her arms. Never had she looked so beautiful. Her great green eyes
were as radiant as spring. Her lips were redder than blood. A pink flame
burned in her oval cheeks. Her head moved like a Californian lily on its
stalk. No Montereño would ever forget her.
"El Son!" cried the young men, with one accord. Her magnificent beauty
extinguished every other woman in the room. She must not hide her light
in the contradanza. She must madden all eyes at once.
Ysabel bent her head and glided to the middle of the room. The other
women moved back, their white gowns like a snowbank against the garish
walls. The thin sweet music of the instruments rose above the boom of
the tide. Ysabel lifted her dress with curving arms, displaying arched
feet clad in flesh-coloured stockings and white slippers, and danced El
Her little feet tapped time to the music; she whirled her body with
utmost grace, holding her head so motionless that she could have
balanced a glass of water upon it. She was inspired that night; and
when, in the midst of the dance, De la Vega entered the room, a sort of
madness possessed her. She invented new figures. She glided back and
forth, bending and swaying and doubling until to the eyes of her
bewildered admirers the outlines of her lovely body were gone. Even the
women shouted their approval, and the men went wild. They pulled their
pockets inside out and flung handfuls of gold at her feet. Those who
had only silver cursed their fate, but snatched the watches from their
pockets, the rings from their fingers, and hurled them at her with
shouts and cheers. They tore the lace ruffles from their shirts; they
rushed to the next room and ripped the silver eagles from their hats.
Even Pio Pico flung one of his golden ropes at her feet, a hot blaze in
his old ugly face, as he cried:—
"Brava! brava! thou Star of Monterey!"
Guido Cabañares, desperate at having nothing more to sacrifice to his
idol, sprang upon a chair, and was about to tear down the Mexican flag,
when the music stopped with a crash, as if musicians and instruments had
been overturned, and a figure leaped into the room.
The women uttered a loud cry and crossed themselves. Even the men fell
back. Ysabel's swaying body trembled and became rigid. De la Vega, who
had watched her with folded arms, too entranced to offer her anything
but the love that shook him, turned livid to his throat. A friar, his
hood fallen back from his stubbled head, his brown habit stiff with
dirt, smelling, reeling with fatigue, stood amongst them. His eyes were
deep in his ashen face. They rolled about the room until they met De la
General Castro came hastily forward. "What does this mean?" he asked.
"What do you wish?"
The friar raised his arm, and pointed his shaking finger at De la Vega.
"Kill him!" he said, in a loud hoarse whisper. "He has desecrated the
Mother of God!"
Every caballero in the room turned upon De la Vega with furious
satisfaction. Ysabel had quickened their blood, and they were willing
to cool it in vengeance on the man of whom they still were jealous, and
whom they suspected of having brought the wondrous pearls which covered
their Favorita to-night.
"What? What?" they cried eagerly. "Has he done this thing?"
"He has robbed the Church. He has stripped the Blessed Virgin of her
jewels. He—has—murdered—a—priest of the Holy Catholic Church."
Horror stayed them for a moment, and then they rushed at De la Vega. "He
does not deny it!" they cried. "Is it true? Is it true?" and they surged
about him hot with menace.
"It is quite true," said De la Vega, coldly. "I plundered the shrine of
Loreto and murdered its priest."
The women panted and gasped; for a moment even the men were stunned,
and in that moment an ominous sound mingled with the roar of the surf.
Before the respite was over Ysabel had reached his side.
"He did it for me!" she cried, in her clear triumphant voice. "For
me! And although you kill us both, I am the proudest woman in all the
Californias, and I love him."
"Good!" cried Castro, and he placed himself before them. "Stand back,
every one of you. What? are you barbarians, Indians, that you would do
violence to a guest in your town? What if he has committed a crime? Is
he not one of you, then, that you offer him blood instead of protection?
Where is your pride of caste? your hospitality? Oh, perfidy! Fall
back, and leave the guest of your capital to those who are compelled to
The caballeros shrank back, sullen but abashed. He had touched the quick
of their pride.
"Never mind!" cried the friar. "You cannot protect him from that.
Had the bay risen about the Custom-house?
"What is that?" demanded Castro, sharply.
"The poor of Monterey; those who love their Cross better than the
aristocrats love their caste. They know."
De la Vega caught Ysabel in his arms and dashed across the room and
corridor. His knife cut a long rift in the canvas, and in a moment they
stood upon the rocks. The shrieking crowd was on the other side of the
"Marcos!" he called to his boatman, "Marcos!"
No answer came but the waves tugging at the rocks not two feet below
them. He could see nothing. The fog was thick as night.
"He is not here, Ysabel. We must swim. Anything but to be torn to pieces
by those wild-cats. Are you afraid?"
"No," she said.
He folded her closely with one arm, and felt with his foot for the edge
of the rocks. A wild roar came from behind. A dozen pistols were fired
into the air. De la Vega reeled suddenly. "I am shot, Ysabel," he said,
his knees bending. "Not in this world, my love!"
She wound her arms about him, and dragging him to the brow of the rocks,
hurled herself outward, carrying him with her. The waves tossed them on
high, flung them against the rocks and ground them there, playing with
them like a lion with its victim, then buried them.
THE EARS OF TWENTY AMERICANS
"God of my soul! Do not speak of hope to me. Hope? For what are those
three frigates, swarming with a horde of foreign bandits, creeping about
our bay? For what have the persons of General Vallejo and Judge Leese
been seized and imprisoned? Why does a strip of cotton, painted with a
gaping bear, flaunt itself above Sonoma? Oh, abomination! Oh, execrable
profanation! Mother of God, open thine ocean and suck them down! Smite
them with pestilence if they put foot in our capital! Shrivel their
fingers to the bone if they dethrone our Aztec Eagle and flourish their
stars and stripes above our fort! O California! That thy sons and thy
daughters should live to see thee plucked like a rose by the usurper!
And why? Why? Not because these piratical Americans have the right to
one league of our land; but because, Holy Evangelists! they want it! Our
lands are rich, our harbours are fine, gold veins our valleys, therefore
we must be plucked. The United States of America are mightier than
Mexico, therefore they sweep down upon us with mouths wide open. Holy
God! That I could choke but one with my own strong fingers. Oh!" Doña
Eustaquia paused abruptly and smote her hands together,—"O that I were
a man! That the women of California were men!"
On this pregnant morning of July seventh, eighteen hundred and
forty-six, all aristocratic Monterey was gathered in the sala of Doña
Modeste Castro. The hostess smiled sadly. "That is the wish of my
husband," she said, "for the men of our country want the Americans."
"And why?" asked one of the young men, flicking a particle of dust from
his silken riding jacket. "We shall then have freedom from the constant
war of opposing factions. If General Castro and Governor Pico are not
calling Juntas in which to denounce each other, a Carillo is pitting his
ambition against an Alvarado. The Gringos will rule us lightly and bring
us peace. They will not disturb our grants, and will give us rich prices
for our lands—"
"Oh, fool!" interrupted Doña Eustaquia. "Thrice fool! A hundred years
from now, Fernando Altimira, and our names will be forgotten in
California. Fifty years from now and our walls will tumble upon us
whilst we cook our beans in the rags that charity—American charity—has
flung us! I tell you that the hour the American flag waves above the
fort of Monterey is the hour of the Californians' doom. We have lived in
Arcadia—ingrates that you are to complain—they will run over us like
ants and sting us to death!"
"That is the prediction of my husband," said Doña Modeste. "Liberty,
Independence, Decency, Honour, how long will they be his watch-words?"
"Not a day longer!" cried Doña Eustaquia, "for the men of California are
"Cowards! We? No man should say that to us!" The caballeros were on
their feet, their eyes flashing, as if they faced in uniform the navy of
the United States, rather than confronted, in lace ruffles and silken
smallclothes, an angry scornful woman.
"Cowards!" continued Fernando Altimira. "Are not men flocking about
General Castro at San Juan Bautista, willing to die in a cause already
lost? If our towns were sacked or our women outraged would not the
weakest of us fight until we died in our blood? But what is coming is
for the best, Doña Eustaquia, despite your prophecy; and as we cannot
help it—we, a few thousand men against a great nation—we resign
ourselves because we are governed by reason instead of by passion. No
one reverences our General more than Fernando Altimira. No grander man
ever wore a uniform! But he is fighting in a hopeless cause, and the
fewer who uphold him the less blood will flow, the sooner the struggle
Doña Modeste covered her beautiful face and wept. Many of the women
sobbed in sympathy. Bright eyes, from beneath gay rebosas or delicate
mantillas, glanced approvingly at the speaker. Brown old men and women
stared gloomily at the floor. But the greater number followed every
motion of their master-spirit, Doña Eustaquia Ortega.
She walked rapidly up and down the long room, too excited to sit down,
flinging the mantilla back as it brushed her hot cheek. She was a woman
not yet forty, and very handsome, although the peachness of youth had
left her face. Her features were small but sharply cut; the square
chin and firm mouth had the lines of courage and violent emotions, her
piercing intelligent eyes interpreted a terrible power of love and hate.
But if her face was so strong as to be almost unfeminine, it was frank
Doña Eustaquia might watch with joy her bay open and engulf the hated
Americans, but she would nurse back to life the undrowned bodies flung
upon the shore. If she had been born a queen she would have slain in
anger, but she would not have tortured. General Castro had flung his hat
at her feet many times, and told her that she was born to command. Even
the nervous irregularity of her step to-day could not affect the extreme
elegance of her carriage, and she carried her small head with the
imperious pride of a sovereign. She did not speak again for a moment,
but as she passed the group of young men at the end of the room her eyes
flashed from one languid face to another. She hated their rich breeches
and embroidered jackets buttoned with silver and gold, the lace
handkerchiefs knotted about their shapely throats. No man was a man who
did not wear a uniform.
Don Fernando regarded her with a mischievous smile as she approached him
a second time.
"I predict, also," he said, "I predict that our charming Doña Eustaquia
will yet wed an American—"
"What!" she turned upon him with the fury of a lioness. "Hold thy
prating tongue! I marry an American? God! I would give every league of
my ranchos for a necklace made from the ears of twenty Americans. I
would throw my jewels to the pigs, if I could feel here upon my neck
the proof that twenty American heads looked ready to be fired from the
cannon on the hill!"
Everybody in the room laughed, and the atmosphere felt lighter. Muslin
gowns began to flutter, and the seal of disquiet sat less heavily upon
careworn or beautiful faces. But before the respite was a moment old a
young man entered hastily from the street, and throwing his hat on the
floor burst into tears.
"What is it?" The words came mechanically from every one in the room.
The herald put his hand to his throat to control the swelling muscles.
"Two hours ago," he said, "Commander Sloat sent one Captain William
Mervine on shore to demand of our Commandante the surrender of the town.
Don Mariano walked the floor, wringing his hands, until a quarter of an
hour ago, when he sent word to the insolent servant of a pirate-republic
that he had no authority to deliver up the capital, and bade him go to
San Juan Bautista and confer with General Castro. Whereupon the American
thief ordered two hundred and fifty of his men to embark in boats—do
not you hear?"
A mighty cheer shook the air amidst the thunder of cannon; then another,
Every lip in the room was white.
"What is that?" asked Doña Eustaquia. Her voice was hardly audible.
"They have raised the American flag upon the Custom-house," said the
For a moment no one moved; then as by one impulse, and without a word,
Doña Modeste Castro and her guests rose and ran through the streets to
the Custom-house on the edge of the town.
In the bay were three frigates of twenty guns each. On the rocks, in the
street by the Custom-house and on its corridors, was a small army of men
in the naval uniform of the United States, respectful but determined.
About them and the little man who read aloud from a long roll of paper,
the aristocrats joined the rabble of the town. Men with sunken eyes who
had gambled all night, leaving even serape and sombrero on the gaming
table; girls with painted faces staring above cheap and gaudy satins,
who had danced at fandangos in the booths until dawn, then wandered
about the beach, too curious over the movements of the American squadron
to go to bed; shopkeepers, black and rusty of face, smoking big pipes
with the air of philosophers; Indians clad in a single garment of
calico, falling in a straight line from the neck; eagle-beaked old
crones with black shawls over their heads; children wearing only a smock
twisted about their little waists and tied in a knot behind; a few
American residents, glancing triumphantly at each other; caballeros,
gay in the silken attire of summer, sitting in angry disdain upon their
plunging, superbly trapped horses; last of all, the elegant women in
their lace mantillas and flowered rebosas, weeping and clinging to each
other. Few gave ear to the reading of Sloat's proclamation.
Benicia, the daughter of Doña Eustaquia, raised her clasped hands, the
tears streaming from her eyes. "Oh, these Americans! How I hate them!"
she cried, a reflection of her mother's violent spirit on her sweet
Doña Eustaquia caught the girl's hands and flung herself upon her neck.
"Ay! California! California!" she cried wildly. "My country is flung to
its knees in the dirt."
A rose from the upper corridor of the Custom-house struck her daughter
full in the face.
The same afternoon Benicia ran into the sala where her mother was lying
on a sofa, and exclaimed excitedly: "My mother! My mother! It is not
so bad. The Americans are not so wicked as we have thought. The
proclamation of the Commodore Sloat has been pasted on all the walls of
the town and promises that our grants shall be secured to us under the
new government, that we shall elect our own alcaldes, that we shall
continue to worship God in our own religion, that our priests shall
be protected, that we shall have all the rights and advantages of the
"Stop!" cried Doña Eustaquia, springing to her feet. Her face still
burned with the bitter experience of the morning. "Tell me of no more
lying promises! They will keep their word! Ay, I do not doubt but they
will take advantage of our ignorance, with their Yankee sharpness! I
know them! Do not speak of them to me again. If it must be, it must; and
at least I have thee." She caught the girl in her arms, and covered the
flower-like face with passionate kisses. "My little one! My darling!
Thou lovest thy mother—better than all the world? Tell me!"
The girl pressed her soft, red lips to the dark face which could express
such fierceness of love and hate.
"My mother! Of course I love thee. It is because I have thee that I do
not take the fate of my country deeper heart. So long as they do not put
their ugly bayonets between us, what difference whether the eagle or the
stars wave above the fort?"
"Ah, my child, thou hast not that love of country which is part of my
soul! But perhaps it is as well, for thou lovest thy mother the more. Is
it not so, my little one?"
"Surely, my mother; I love no one in the world but you."
Doña Eustaquia leaned back and tapped the girl's fair cheek with her
"Not even Don Fernando Altimira?"
"No, my mother."
"Nor Flujencio Hernandez? Nor Juan Perez? Nor any of the caballeros who
serenade beneath thy window?"
"I love their music, but it comes as sweetly from one throat as from
Her mother gave a long sigh of relief. "And yet I would have thee marry
some day, my little one. I was happy with thy father—thanks to God he
did not live to see this day—I was as happy, for two little years, as
this poor nature of ours can be, and I would have thee be the same. But
do not hasten to leave me alone. Thou art so young! Thine eyes have yet
the roguishness of youth; I would not see love flash it aside. Thy mouth
is like a child's; I shall shed the saddest tears of my life the day
it trembles with passion. Dear little one! Thou hast been more than a
daughter to me; thou hast been my only companion. I have striven to
impart to thee the ambition of thy mother and the intellect of thy
father. And I am proud of thee, very, very proud of thee!"
Benicia pinched her mother's chin, her mischievous eyes softening. "Ay,
my mother, I have done my little best, but I never shall be you. I am
afraid I love to dance through the night and flirt my breath away better
than I love the intellectual conversation of the few people you think
worthy to sit about you in the evenings. I am like a little butterfly
sitting on the mane of a mountain lion—"
"Tush! Tush! Thou knowest more than any girl in Monterey, and I am
satisfied with thee. Think of the books thou hast read, the languages
thou hast learned from the Señor Hartnell. Ay, my little one, nobody
but thou wouldst dare to say thou cared for nothing but dancing and
flirting, although I will admit that even Ysabel Herrera could scarce
rival thee at either."
"Ay, my poor Ysabel! My heart breaks every night when I say a prayer for
her." She tightened the clasp of her arms and pressed her face close to
her mother's. "Mamacita, darling," she said coaxingly, "I have a big
favour to beg. Ay, an enormous one! How dare I ask it?"
"Aha! What is it? I should like to know. I thought thy tenderness was a
"Ay, mamacita! Do not refuse me or it will break my heart. On Wednesday
night Don Thomas Larkin gives a ball at his house to the officers of the
American squadron. Oh, mamacita! mamacita! darling! do, do let me go!"
"Benicia! Thou wouldst meet those men? Válgame Dios! And thou art a
child of mine!"
She flung the girl from her, and walked rapidly up and down the room,
Benicia following with her little white hands outstretched. "Dearest
one, I know just how you feel about it! But think a moment. They have
come to stay. They will never go. We shall meet them everywhere—every
night—every day. And my new gown, mamacita! The beautiful silver
spangles! There is not such a gown in Monterey! Ay, I must go. And they
say the Americans hop like puppies when they dance. How I shall laugh
at them! And it is not once in the year that I have a chance to speak
English, and none of the other girls can. And all the girls, all the
girls, all the girls, will go to this ball. Oh, mamacita!"
Her mother was obliged to laugh. "Well, well, I cannot refuse you
anything; you know that! Go to the ball! Ay, yi, do not smother me! As
you have said—that little head can think—we must meet these insolent
braggarts sooner or later. So I would not—" her cheeks blanched
suddenly, she caught her daughter's face between her hands, and bent her
piercing eyes above the girl's soft depths. "Mother of God! That could
not be. My child! Thou couldst never love an American! A Gringo! A
Protestant! Holy Mary!"
Benicia threw back her head and gave a long laugh—the light rippling
laugh of a girl who has scarcely dreamed of lovers. "I love an American?
Oh, my mother! A great, big, yellow-haired bear! When I want only to
laugh at their dancing! No, mamacita, when I love an American thou shalt
have his ears for thy necklace."
Thomas O. Larkin, United States Consul to California until the
occupation left him without duties, had invited Monterey to meet the
officers of the Savannah, Cyane, and Levant, and only Doña Modeste
Castro had declined. At ten o'clock the sala of his large house on the
rise of the hill was thronged with robed girls in every shade and device
of white, sitting demurely behind the wide shoulders of coffee-coloured
dowagers, also in white, and blazing with jewels. The young matrons were
there, too, although they left the sala at intervals to visit the room
set apart for the nurses and children; no Montereña ever left her little
ones at home. The old men and the caballeros wore the black coats and
white trousers which Monterey fashion dictated for evening wear; the
hair of the younger men was braided with gay ribbons, and diamonds
flashed in the lace of their ruffles.
The sala was on the second floor; the musicians sat on the corridor
beyond the open windows and scraped their fiddles and twanged their
guitars, awaiting the coming of the American officers. Before long the
regular tramp of many feet turning from Alvarado Street up the little
Primera del Este, facing Mr. Larkin's house, made dark eyes flash, lace
and silken gowns flutter. Benicia and a group of girls were standing by
Doña Eustaquia. They opened their large black fans as if to wave back
the pink that had sprung to their cheeks. Only Benicia held her head
saucily high, and her large brown eyes were full of defiant sparkles.
"Why art thou so excited, Blandina?" she asked of a girl who had grasped
her arm. "I feel as if the war between the United States and Mexico
"Ay, Benicia, thou hast so gay a spirit that nothing ever frightens
thee! But, Mary! How many they are! They tramp as if they would go
through the stair. Ay, the poor flag! No wonder—"
"Now, do not cry over the flag any more. Ah! there is not one to compare
with General Castro!"
The character of the Californian sala had changed for ever; the blue and
gold of the United States had invaded it.
The officers, young and old, looked with much interest at the faces,
soft, piquant, tropical, which made the effect of pansies looking
inquisitively over a snowdrift. The girls returned their glances with
approval, for they were as fine and manly a set of men as ever had faced
death or woman. Ten minutes later California and the United States were
Mr. Larkin presented a tall officer to Benicia. That the young man was
very well-looking even Benicia admitted. True, his hair was golden, but
it was cut short, and bore no resemblance to the coat of a bear; his
mustache and brows were brown; his gray eyes were as laughing as her
"I suppose you do not speak any English, señorita," he said helplessly.
"No? I spik Eenglish like the Spanish. The Spanish people no have
difficult at all to learn the other langues. But Señor Hartnell he
say it no is easy at all for the Eenglish to spik the French and the
Spanish, so I suppose you no spik one word our langue, no?"
He gallantly repressed a smile. "Thankfully I may say that I do not,
else would I not have the pleasure of hearing you speak English. Never
have I heard it so charmingly spoken before."
Benicia took her skirt between the tips of her fingers and swayed her
graceful body forward, as a tule bends in the wind.
"You like dip the flag of the conqueror in honey, señor. Ay! We need
have one compliment for every tear that fall since your eagle stab his
beak in the neck de ours."
"Ah, the loyal women of Monterey! I have no words to express my
admiration for them, señorita. A thousand compliments are not worth one
Benicia turned swiftly to her mother, her eyes glittering with pleasure.
"Mother, you hear! You hear!" she cried in Spanish. "These Americans are
not so bad, after all."
Doña Eustaquia gave the young man one of her rare smiles; it flashed
over her strong dark face, until the light of youth was there once more.
"Very pretty speech," she said, with slow precision. "I thank you, Señor
Russell, in the name of the women of Monterey."
"By Jove! Madam—señora—I assure you I never felt so cut up in my
life as when I saw all those beautiful women crying down there by the
Custom-house. I am a good American, but I would rather have thrown the
flag under your feet than have seen you cry like that. And I assure you,
dear señora, every man among us felt the same. As you have been good
enough to thank me in the name of the women of Monterey, I, in behalf of
the officers of the United States squadron, beg that you will forgive
Doña Eustaquia's cheek paled again, and she set her lips for a moment;
then she held out her hand.
"Señor," she said, "we are conquered, but we are Californians; and
although we do not bend the head, neither do we turn the back. We have
invite you to our houses, and we cannot treat you like enemies. I will
say with—how you say it—truth?—we did hate the thought that you
come and take the country that was ours. But all is over and cannot
be changed. So, it is better we are good friends than poor ones;
and—and—my house is open to you, señor."
Russell was a young man of acute perceptions; moreover, he had heard
of Doña Eustaquia; he divined in part the mighty effort by which good
breeding and philosophy had conquered bitter resentment. He raised the
little white hand to his lips.
"I would that I were twenty men, señora. Each would be your devoted
"And then she have her necklace!" cried Benicia, delightedly.
"What is that?" asked Russell; but Doña Eustaquia shook her fan
threateningly and turned away.
"I no tell you everything," said Benicia, "so no be too curiosa. You no
dance the contradanza, no?"
"I regret to say that I do not. But this is a plain waltz; will you not
give it to me?"
Benicia, disregarding the angry glances of approaching caballeros, laid
her hand on the officer's shoulder, and he spun her down the room.
"Why, you no dance so bad!" she said with surprise. "I think always the
Americanos dance so terreeblay."
"Who could not dance with a fairy in his arms?"
"What funny things you say. I never been called fairy before."
"You have never been interpreted." And then, in the whirl-waltz of that
day, both lost their breath.
When the dance was over and they stood near Doña Eustaquia, he took the
fan from Benicia's hand and waved it slowly before her. She laughed
"You think I am so tired I no can fan myself?" she demanded. "How queer
are these Americanos! Why, I have dance for three days and three nights
and never estop."
"Si, señor. Oh, we estop sometimes, but no for long. It was at Sonoma
two months ago. At the house de General Vallejo."
"You certainly are able to fan yourself; but it is no reflection upon
your muscle. It is only a custom we have."
"Then I think much better you no have the custom. You no look like a man
at all when you fan like a girl."
He handed her back the fan with some choler.
"Really, señorita, you are very frank. I suppose you would have a man
lie in a hammock all day and roll cigaritos."
"Much better do that than take what no is yours."
"Which no American ever did!"
"Excep' when he pulled California out the pocket de Mexico."
"And what did Mexico do first? Did she not threaten the United States
with hostilities for a year, and attack a small detachment of our troops
with a force of seven thousand men—"
"No make any difference what she do. Si she do wrong, that no is excuse
for you do wrong."
Two angry young people faced each other.
"You steal our country and insult our men. But they can fight, Madre de
Dios! I like see General Castro take your little Commodore Sloat by the
neck. He look like a little gray rat."
"Commodore Sloat is a brave and able man, Miss Ortega, and no officer in
the United States navy will hear him insulted."
"Then much better you lock up the ears."
"My dear Captain Russell! Benicia! what is the matter?"
Mr. Larkin stood before them, an amused smile on his thin intellectual
face. "Come, come, have we not met to-night to dance the waltz of peace?
Benicia, your most humble admirer has a favour to crave of you. I would
have my countrymen learn at once the utmost grace of the Californian.
Dance El Jarabe, please, and with Don Fernando Altimira."
Benicia lifted her dainty white shoulders. She was not unwilling to
avenge herself upon the American by dazzling him with her grace and
beauty. Her eye's swift invitation brought Don Fernando, scowling, to
her side. He led her to the middle of the room, and the musicians played
the stately jig.
Benicia swept one glance of defiant coquetry at Russell from beneath
her curling lashes, then fixed her eyes upon the floor, nor raised them
again. She held her reed-like body very erect and took either side of
her spangled skirt in the tips of her fingers, lifting it just enough
to show the arched little feet in their embroidered stockings and satin
slippers. Don Fernando crossed his hands behind him, and together they
rattled their feet on the floor with dexterity and precision, whilst the
girls sang the words of the dance. The officers gave genuine applause,
delighted with this picturesque fragment of life on the edge of the
Pacific. Don Fernando listened to their demonstrations with sombre
contempt on his dark handsome face; Benicia indicated her pleasure by
sundry archings of her narrow brows, or coquettish curves of her red
lips. Suddenly she made a deep courtesy and ran to her mother, with a
long sweeping movement, like the bending and lifting of grain in the
wind. As she approached Russell he took a rose from his coat and threw
it at her. She caught it, thrust it carelessly in one of her thick
braids, and the next moment he was at her side again.
Doña Eustaquia slipped from the crowd and out of the house. Drawing a
reboso about her head she walked swiftly down the street and across the
plaza. Sounds of ribaldry came from the lower end of the town, but the
aristocratic quarter was very quiet, and she walked unmolested to the
house of General Castro. The door was open, and she went down the long
hall to the sleeping room of Doña Modeste. There was no response to her
knock, and she pushed open the door and entered. The room was dimly lit
by the candles on the altar. Doña Modeste was not in the big mahogany
bed, for the heavy satin coverlet was still over it. Doña Eustaquia
crossed the room to the altar and lifted in her arms the small figure
"Pray no more, my friend," she said. "Our prayers have been unheard, and
thou art better in bed or with thy friends."
Doña Modeste threw herself wearily into a chair, but took Doña
Eustaquia's hand in a tight clasp. Her white skin shone in the dim
light, and with her black hair and green tragic eyes made her look like
a little witch queen, for neither suffering nor humiliation could bend
that stately head.
"Religion is my solace," she said, "my only one; for I have not a brain
of iron nor a soul of fire like thine. And, Eustaquia, I have more cause
to pray to-night."
"It is true, then, that José is in retreat? Ay, Mary!"
"My husband, deserted by all but one hundred men, is flying southward
from San Juan Bautista. I have it from the wash-tub mail. That never is
"Ingrates! Traitors! But it is true, Modeste—surely, no?—that our
general will not surrender? That he will stand against the Americans?"
"He will not yield. He would have marched upon Monterey and forced them
to give him battle here but for this base desertion. Now he will go to
Los Angeles and command the men of the South to rally about him."
"I knew that he would not kiss the boots of the Americans like the rest
of our men! Oh, the cowards! I could almost say to-night that I like
better the Americans than the men of my own race. They are Castros! I
shall hate their flag so long as life is in me; but I cannot hate the
brave men who fight for it. But my pain is light to thine. Thy heart is
wrung, and I am sorry for thee."
"My day is over. Misfortune is upon us. Even if my husband's life is
spared—ay! shall I ever see him again?—his position will be taken
from him, for the Americans will conquer in the end. He will be
Commandante-General of the army of the Californias no longer, but—holy
God!—a ranchero, a caballero! He at whose back all California has
galloped! Thou knowest his restless aspiring soul, Eustaquia, his
ambition, his passionate love of California. Can there be happiness for
such a man humbled to the dust—no future! no hope? Ay!"—she sprang to
her feet with arms uplifted, her small slender form looking twice its
height as it palpitated against the shadows, "I feel the bitterness of
that spirit! I know how that great heart is torn. And he is alone!"
She flung herself across Doña Eustaquia's knees and burst into violent
Doña Eustaquia laid her strong arm about her friend, but her eyes were
more angry than soft. "Weep no more, Modeste," she said. "Rather, arise
and curse those who have flung a great man into the dust. But comfort
thyself. Who can know? Thy husband, weary with fighting, disgusted with
men, may cling the closer to thee, and with thee and thy children forget
the world in thy redwood forests or between the golden hills of thy
Doña Modeste shook her head. "Thou speakest the words of kindness, but
thou knowest José. Thou knowest that he would not be content to be as
other men. And, ay! Eustaquia, to think that it was opposite our own
dear home, our favourite home, that the American flag should first have
been raised! Opposite the home of José Castro!"
"To perdition with Frémont! Why did he, of all places, select San Juan
Bautista in which to hang up his American rag?"
"We never can live there again. The Gabilan Mountains would shut out the
very face of the sun from my husband."
"Do not weep, my Modeste; remember thy other beautiful ranchos. Dios de
mi alma!" she added with a flash of humour, "I revere San Juan Bautista
for your husband's sake, but I weep not that I shall visit you there no
more. Every day I think to hear that the shaking earth of that beautiful
valley has opened its jaws and swallowed every hill and adobe. God grant
that Frémont's hair stood up more than once. But go to bed, my friend.
Look, I will put you there." As if Doña Modeste were an infant, she
undressed and laid her between the linen sheets with their elaborate
drawn work, then made her drink a glass of angelica, folded and laid
away the satin coverlet, and left the house.
She walked up the plaza slowly, holding her head high. Monterey at that
time was infested by dogs, some of them very savage. Doña Eustaquia's
strong soul had little acquaintance with fear, and on her way to General
Castro's house she had paid no attention to the snarling muzzles thrust
against her gown. But suddenly a cadaverous creature sprang upon her
with a savage yelp and would have caught her by the throat had not a
heavy stick cracked its skull. A tall officer in the uniform of the
United States navy raised his cap from iron-gray hair and looked at her
with blue eyes as piercing as her own.
"You will pardon me, madam," he said, "if I insist upon attending you to
your door. It is not safe for a woman to walk alone in the streets of
Monterey at night."
Doña Eustaquia bent her head somewhat haughtily. "I thank you much,
señor, for your kind rescue. I would not like, at all, to be eaten by
the dogs. But I not like to trouble you to walk with me. I go only to
the house of the Señor Larkin. It is there, at the end of the little
street beyond the plaza."
"My dear madam, you must not deprive the United States of the pleasure
of protecting California. Pray grant my humble request to walk behind
you and keep off the dogs."
Her lips pressed each other, but pride put down the bitter retort.
"Walk by me, if you wish," she said graciously. "Why are you not at the
house of Don Thomas Larkin?"
"I am on my way there now. Circumstances prevented my going earlier."
His companion did not seem disposed to pilot the conversation, and he
continued lamely, "Have you noticed, madam, that the English frigate
Collingwood is anchored in the bay?"
"I saw it in the morning." She turned to him with sudden hope. "Have
they—the English—come to help California?"
"I am afraid, dear madam, that they came to capture California at the
first whisper of war between Mexico and the United States; you know that
England has always cast a covetous eye upon your fair land. It is said
that the English admiral stormed about the deck in a mighty rage to-day
when he saw the American flag flying on the fort."
"All are alike!" she exclaimed bitterly, then controlled herself.
"You—do you admeer our country, señor? Have you in America something
more beautiful than Monterey?"
The officer looked about him enthusiastically, glad of a change of
topic, for he suspected to whom he was talking. "Madam, I have never
seen anything more perfect than this beautiful town of Monterey. What
a situation! What exquisite proportions! That wide curve of snow-white
sand about the dark blue bay is as exact a crescent as if cut with a
knife. And that semicircle of hills behind the town, with its pine and
brush forest tapering down to the crescent's points! Nor could anything
be more picturesque than this scattered little town with its bright red
tiles above the white walls of the houses and the gray walls of the
yards; its quaint church surrounded by the ruins of the old presidio;
its beautiful, strangely dressed women and men who make this corner of
the earth resemble the pages of some romantic old picture-book—"
"Ay!" she interrupted him. "Much better you feel proud that you conquer
us; for surely, señor, California shall shine like a diamond in the very
centre of America's crown." Then she held out her hand impulsively.
"Mucho gracias, señor—pardon—thank you very much. If you love my
country, señor, you must be my friend and the friend of my daughter. I
am the Señora Doña Eustaquia Carillo de Ortega, and my house is there
on the hill—you can see the light, no? Always we shall be glad to see
He doffed his cap again and bent over her hand.
"And I, John Brotherton, a humble captain in the United States navy,
do sincerely thank the most famous woman of Monterey for her gracious
hospitality. And if I abuse it, lay it to the enthusiasm of the American
who is not the conqueror but the conquered."
"That was very pretty—speech. When you abuse me I put you out the door.
This is the house of Don Thomas Larkin, where is the ball. You come in,
no? You like I take your arm? Very well"
And so the articles of peace were signed.
"Yes, yes, indeed, Blandina," exclaimed Benicia, "they had no chance at
all last night, for we danced until dawn, and perhaps they were afraid
of Don Thomas Larkin. But we shall talk and have music to-night, and
those fine new tables that came on the last ship from Boston must not be
"Well, if you really think—" said Blandina, who always thought exactly
as Benicia did. She opened a door and called:—
"Well, my sister?"
A dreamy-looking young man in short jacket and trousers of red silk
entered the room, sombrero in one hand, a cigarito in the other.
"Flujencio, you know it is said that these 'Yankees' always 'whittle'
everything. We are afraid they will spoil the furniture to-night; so
tell one of the servants to cut a hundred pine slugs, and you go down
to the store and buy a box of penknives. Then they will have plenty to
amuse themselves with and will not cut the furniture."
"True! True! What a good idea! Was it Benicia's?" He gave her a glance
of languid adoration. "I will buy those knives at once, before I forget
it," and he tossed the sombrero on his curls and strode out of the
"How dost thou like the Señor Lieutenant Russell, Benicia?"
Benicia lifted her chin, but her cheeks became very pink.
"Well enough. But he is like all the Americans, very proud, and thinks
too well of his hateful country. But I shall teach him how to flirt. He
thinks he can, but he cannot."
"Thou canst do it, Benicia—look! look!"
Lieutenant Russell and a brother officer were sauntering slowly by and
looking straight through the grated window at the beautiful girls in
their gayly flowered gowns. They saluted, and the girls bent their
slender necks, but dared not speak, for Doña Francesca Hernandez was in
the next room and the door was open. Immediately following the American
officers came Don Fernando Altimira on horseback. He scowled as he saw
the erect swinging figures of the conquerors, but Benicia kissed the
tips of her fingers as he flung his sombrero to the ground, and he
galloped, smiling, on his way.
That night the officers of the United States squadron met the society of
Monterey at the house of Don Jorje Hernandez. After the contradanza, to
which they could be admiring spectators only, much to the delight of the
caballeros, Benicia took the guitar presented by Flujencio, and letting
her head droop a little to one side like a lily bent on its stalk by the
breeze, sang the most coquettish song she knew. Her mahogany brown hair
hung unconfined over her white shoulders and gown of embroidered silk
with its pointed waist and full skirt. Her large brown eyes were
alternately mischievous and tender, now and again lighted by a sudden
flash. Her cheeks were pink; her round babylike arms curved with all the
grace of the Spanish woman. As she finished the song she dropped her
eyelids for a moment, then raised them slowly and looked straight at
"By Jove, Ned, you are a lucky dog!" said a brother officer. "She's the
prettiest girl in the room! Why don't you fling your hat at her feet, as
these ardent Californians do?"
[Illustration: "RUSSELL CROSSED THE ROOM AND SAT BESIDE BENICIA."]
"My cap is in the next room, but I will go over and fling myself there
Russell crossed the room and sat down beside Benicia.
"I should like to hear you sing under those cypresses out on the ocean
about six or eight miles from here," he said to her. "I rode down the
coast yesterday. Jove! what a coast it is!"
"We will have a merienda there on some evening," said Doña Eustaquia,
who sat beside her daughter. "It is very beautiful on the big rocks to
watch the ocean, under the moonlight."
"Good! You will not forget that?"
She smiled at his boyishness. "It will be at the next moon. I promise."
Benicia sang another song, and a half-dozen caballeros stood about
her, regarding her with glances languid, passionate, sentimental,
reproachful, determined, hopeless. Russell, leaning back in his chair,
listened to the innocent thrilling voice of the girl, and watched her
adorers, amused and stimulated. The Californian beauty was like no other
woman he had known, and the victory would be as signal as the capture of
Monterey. "More blood, perhaps," he thought, "but a victory is a poor
affair unless painted in red. It will do these seething caballeros good
to learn that American blood is quite as swift as Californian."
As the song finished, the musicians began a waltz; Russell took the
guitar from Benicia's hand and laid it on the floor.
"This waltz is mine, señorita," he said.
"I no know—"
"Señorita!" said Don Fernando Altimira, passionately, "the first waltz
is always mine. Thou wilt not give it to the American?"
"And the next is mine!"
"And the next contradanza!"
The girl's faithful retinue protested for their rights. Russell could
not understand, but he translated their glances, and bent his lips to
Benicia's ear. That ear was pink and her eyes were bright with roguish
"I want this dance, dear señorita. I may go away any day. Orders may
come to-morrow which will send me where I never can see you again. You
can dance with these men every night of the year—"
"I give to you," said Benicia, rising hurriedly. "We must be hospitable
to the stranger who comes to-day and leaves to-morrow," she said in
Spanish to the other men. "I have plenty more dances for you."
After the dance, salads and cakes, claret and water, were brought to the
women by Indian girls, who glided about the room with borrowed grace,
their heads erect, the silver trays held well out. They wore bright red
skirts and white smocks of fine embroidered linen, open at the throat,
the sleeves very short. Their coarse hair hung in heavy braids; their
bright little eyes twinkled in square faces scrubbed until they shone
"Captain," said Russell to Brotherton, as the men followed the host into
the supper room, "let us buy a ranch, marry two of these stunning
girls, and lie round in hammocks whilst these Western houris bring us
aguardiente and soda. What an improvement on Byron and Tom Moore! It
is all so unhackneyed and unexpected. In spite of Dana and Robinson I
expected mud huts and whooping savages. This is Arcadia, and the women
are the most elegant in America."
"Look here, Ned," said his captain, "you had better do less flirting and
more thinking while you are in this odd country. Your talents will get
rusty, but you can rub them up when you get home. Neither Californian
men nor women are to be trifled with. This is the land of passion, not
of drawing-room sentiment."
"Perhaps I am more serious than you think. What is the matter?" He spoke
to a brother officer who had joined them and was laughing immoderately.
"Do you see those Californians grinning over there?" The speaker
beckoned to a group of officers, who joined him at once. "What job do
you suppose they have put up on us? What do you suppose that mysterious
table in the sala means, with its penknives and wooden sticks? I thought
it was a charity bazaar. Well, it is nothing more nor less than a trick
to keep us from whittling up the furniture. We are all Yankees to them,
you know. Preserve my Spanish!"
The officers shouted with delight. They marched solemnly back into the
sala, and seating themselves in a deep circle about the table,
whittled the slugs all over the floor, much to the satisfaction of the
After the entertainment was over, Russell strolled about the town. The
new moon was on the sky, the stars thick and bright; but dark corners
were everywhere, and he kept his hand on his pistol. He found himself
before the long low house of Doña Eustaquia Ortega. Not a light
glimmered; the shutters were of solid wood. He walked up and down,
trying to guess which was Benicia's room.
"I am growing as romantic as a Californian," he thought; "but this
wonderful country pours its colour all through one's nature. If I
could find her window, I believe I should serenade her in true Spanish
fashion. By Jove, I remember now, she said something about looking
through her window at the pines on the hill. It must be at the back of
the house, and how am I going to get over that great adobe wall? That
gate is probably fastened with an iron bar—ah!"
He had walked to the corner of the wall surrounding the large yard
behind and at both sides of Doña Eustaquia's house, and he saw,
ascending a ladder, a tall figure, draped in a serape, its face
concealed by the shadow of a sombrero. He drew his pistol, then laughed
at himself, although not without annoyance. "A rival; and he has got
ahead of me. He is going to serenade her."
The caballero seated himself uncomfortably on the tiles that roofed the
wall, removed his sombrero, and Russell recognized Fernando Altimira. A
moment later the sweet thin chords of the guitar quivered in the quiet
air, and a tenor, so fine that even Russell stood entranced, sang to
Benicia one of the old songs of Monterey:—
Una mirada un suspiro,
Una lagrima querida,
Es balsamo à la herida
Que abriste en mi corazón.
Por esa lagrima cara
Objeto de mi termina,
Yo te amé bella criatura
Desde que te vi llorar.
Te acuerdas de aquella noche
En que triste y abatida
Una lagrima querida
Vi de tus ojos brotar.
Although Russell was at the base of the high wall he saw that a light
flashed. The light was followed by the clapping of little hands. "Jove!"
he thought, "am I really jealous? But damn that Californian!"
Altimira sang two more songs and was rewarded by the same
demonstrations. As he descended the ladder and reached the open street
he met Russell face to face. The two men regarded each other for a
moment. The Californian's handsome face was distorted by a passionate
scowl; Russell was calmer, but his brows were lowered.
Altimira flung the ladder to the ground, but fire-blooded as he was, the
politeness of his race did not desert him, and his struggle with English
flung oil upon his passion.
"Señor," he said, "I no know what you do it by the house of the Señorita
Benicia so late in the night. I suppose you have the right to walk in
the town si it please yourself."
"Have I not the same right as you—to serenade the Señorita Benicia? If
I had known her room, I should have been on the wall before you."
Altimira's face flushed with triumph. "I think the Señorita Benicia
no care for the English song, señor. She love the sweet words of her
country: she no care for words of ice."
Russell smiled. "Our language may not be as elastic as yours, Don
Fernando, but it is a good deal more sincere. And it can express as much
"You love Benicia?" interrupted Altimira, fiercely.
"I admire the Señorita Ortega tremendously. But I have seen her twice
only, and although we may love longer, we take more time to get there,
perhaps, than you do."
"Ay! Dios de mi vida! You have the heart of rock! You chip it off in
little pieces, one to-day, another to-morrow, and give to the woman. I,
señor, I love Benicia, and I marry her. You understand? Si you take her,
I cut the heart from your body. You understand?"
"I understand. We understand each other." Russell lifted his cap. The
Californian took his sombrero from his head and made a long sweeping
bow; and the two men parted.
On the twenty-third of July, Commodore Sloat transferred his authority
to Commodore Stockton, and the new commander of the Pacific squadron
organized the California Battalion of Mounted Riflemen, appointing
Frémont major and Gillespie captain. He ordered them South at once to
intercept Castro. On the twenty-eighth, Stockton issued a proclamation
in which he asserted that Mexico was the instigator of the present
difficulties, and justified the United States in seizing the
Californias. He denounced Castro in violent terms as an usurper, a
boasting and abusive chief, and accused him of having violated every
principle of national hospitality and good faith toward Captain Frémont
and his surveying party. Stockton sailed for the South the same day
in the Congress, leaving a number of officers to Monterey and the
indignation of the people.
"By Jove, I don't dare to go near Doña Eustaquia," said Russell to
Brotherton. "And I'm afraid we won't have our picnic. It seems to me the
Commodore need not have used such strong language about California's
idol. The very people in the streets are ready to unlimb us; and as for
the peppery Doña—"
"Speak more respectfully of Doña Eustaquia, young man," said the older
officer, severely. "She is a very remarkable woman and not to be spoken
slightingly of by young men who are in love with her daughter."
"God forbid that I should slight her, dear Captain. Never have I so
respected a woman. She frightens the life out of me every time she
flashes those eyes of hers. But let us go and face the enemy at once,
like the brave Americans we are."
"Very well." And together they walked along Alvarado Street from the
harbour, then up the hill to the house of Doña Eustaquia.
That formidable lady and her daughter were sitting on the corridor
dressed in full white gowns, slowly wielding large black fans, for the
night was hot. Benicia cast up her eyes expressively as she rose and
courtesied to the officers, but her mother merely bent her head; nor did
she extend her hand. Her face was very dark.
Brotherton went directly to the point.
"Dear Doña Eustaquia, we deeply regret that our Commodore has used such
harsh language in regard to General Castro. But remember that he has
been here a few days only and has had no chance to learn the many noble
and valiant qualities of your General. He doubtless has been prejudiced
against him by some enemy, and he adores Frémont:—there is the trouble.
He resents Castro's treating Frémont as an enemy before the United
States had declared its intentions. But had he been correctly informed,
he undoubtedly would have conceived the same admiration and respect for
your brave General that is felt by every other man among us."
Doña Eustaquia looked somewhat mollified, but shook her head sternly.
"Much better he took the trouble to hear true. He insult all
Californians by those shemful words. All the enemies of our dear General
be glad. And the poor wife! Poor my Modeste! She fold the arms and raise
the head, but the heart is broken."
"Jove! I almost wish they had driven us out! Dear señora—" Russell and
Benicia were walking up and down the corridor—"we have become friends,
true friends, as sometimes happens—not often—between man and woman.
Cease to think of me as an officer of the United States navy, only as a
man devoted to your service. I have already spent many pleasant hours
with you. Let me hope that while I remain here neither Commodore
Stockton nor party feeling will exclude me from many more."
She raised her graceful hand to her chin with a gesture peculiar to her,
and looked upward with a glance half sad, half bitter.
"I much appreciate your friendship, Capitan Brotherton. You give me much
advice that is good for me, and tell me many things. It is like the
ocean wind when you have live long in the hot valley. Yes, dear friend,
I forget you are in the navy of the conqueror."
"Mamacita," broke in Benicia's light voice, "tell us now when we can
have the peek-neek."
"Castro," said Russell, lifting his cap, "peace be with thee."
The great masses of rock on the ocean's coast shone white in the
moonlight. Through the gaunt outlying rocks, lashed apart by furious
storms, boiled the ponderous breakers, tossing aloft the sparkling
clouds of spray, breaking in the pools like a million silver fishes.
High above the waves, growing out of the crevices of the massive rocks
of the shore, were weird old cypresses, their bodies bent from the
ocean as if petrified in flight before the mightier foe. On their gaunt
outstretched arms and gray bodies, seamed with time, knobs like human
muscles jutted; between the broken bark the red blood showed. From
their angry hands, clutching at the air or doubled in imprecation, long
strands of gray-green moss hung, waving and coiling, in the night wind.
Only one old man was on his hands and knees as if to crawl from the
field; but a comrade spurned him with his foot and wound his bony hand
about the coward's neck. Another had turned his head to the enemy,
pointing his index finger in scorn, although he stood alone on high.
All along the cliffs ran the ghostly army, sometimes with straining
arms fighting the air, sometimes thrust blankly outward, all with life
quivering in their arrested bodies, silent and scornful in their defeat.
Who shall say what winter winds first beat them, what great waves first
fought their deathless trunks, what young stars first shone over them?
They have outstood centuries of raging storm and rending earthquake.
Tradition says that until convulsion wrenched the Golden Gate apart the
San Franciscan waters rolled through the long valleys and emptied into
the Bay of Monterey. But the old cypresses were on the ocean just
beyond; the incoming and the outgoing of the inland ocean could not
trouble them; and perhaps they will stand there until the end of time.
Down the long road by the ocean rode a gay cavalcade. The caballeros had
haughtily refused to join the party, and the men wore the blue and gold
of the United States.
But the women wore fluttering mantillas, and their prancing
high-stepping horses were trapped with embossed leather and silver. In a
lumbering "wagon of the country," drawn by oxen, running on solid wheels
cut from the trunks of trees, but padded with silk, rode some of the
older people of the town, disapproving, but overridden by the impatient
enthusiasm of Doña Eustaquia. Through the pine woods with their softly
moving shadows and splendid aisles, out between the cypresses and rocky
beach, wound the stately cavalcade, their voices rising above the
sociable converse of the seals and the screeching of the seagulls
spiking the rocks where the waves fought and foamed. The gold on the
shoulders of the men flashed in the moonlight; the jewels of the women
sparkled and winked. Two by two they came like a conquering army to the
rescue of the cypresses. Brotherton, who rode ahead with Doña Eustaquia,
half expected to see the old trees rise upright with a deep shout of
When they reached a point where the sloping rocks rose high above surf
and spray, they dismounted, leaving the Indian servants to tether the
horses. They climbed down the big smooth rocks and sat about in groups,
although never beyond the range of older eyes, the cypresses lowering
above them, the ocean tearing through the outer rocks to swirl and
grumble in the pools. The moon was so bright, its light so broad and
silver, they almost could imagine they saw the gorgeous mass of colour
in the pools below.
"You no have seaweed like that in Boston," said Benicia, who had a
comprehensive way of symbolizing the world by the city from which she
got many of her clothes and all of her books.
"Indeed, no!" said Russell. "The other day I sat for hours watching
those great bunches and strands that look like richly coloured chenille.
And there were stones that looked like big opals studded with vivid
jewels. God of my soul, as you say, it was magnificent! I never saw such
brilliant colour, such delicate tints! And those great rugged defiant
rocks out there, lashed by the waves! Look at that one; misty with spray
one minute, bare and black the next! They look like an old castle which
has been battered down with cannon. Captain, do you not feel romantic?"
"I feel that I never want to go into an art gallery again. No wonder the
women of California are original."
"Benicia," said Russell, "I have tried in vain to learn a Spanish song.
But teach me a Spanish phrase of endearment. All our 'darlings' and
'dearests' are too flat for California."
"Bueno; I teach you. Say after me: Mi muy querida prima. That is very
"Que—What is it in English?"
"My—very—darling—first. It no sound so pretty in English."
"It does very well. My—very—darling—first—if all these people were
not about us, I should kiss you. You look exactly like a flower."
"Si you did, Señor Impertinencio, you get that for thanks."
Russell jumped to his feet with a shout, and shook from his neck a
little crab with a back like green velvet and legs like carven garnet.
"Did you put that crab on my neck, señorita?"
A sulky silence of ten minutes ensued, during which Benicia sent little
stones skipping down into the silvered pools, and Russell, again
recumbent, stared at the horizon.
"Si you no can talk," she said finally, "I wish you go way and let Don
Henry Tallant come talk to me. He look like he want."
"No doubt he does; but he can stay where he is. Let me kiss your hand,
Benicia, and I will forgive you."
Benicia hit his mouth lightly with the back of her hand, but he captured
it and kissed it several times.
"Your mustache feels like the cat's," said she.
He flung the hand from him, but laughed in a moment. "How sentimental
you are! Making love to you is like dragging a cannon uphill! Will you
not at least sing me a love-song? And please do not make faces in the
Benicia tossed her spirited head, but took her guitar from its case and
called to the other girls to accompany her. They withdrew from their
various flirtations with audible sighs, but it was Benicia's merienda,
and in a moment a dozen white hands were sweeping the long notes from
Russell moved to a lower rock, and lying at Benicia's feet looked
upward. The scene was all above him—the great mass of white rocks,
whiter in the moonlight; the rigid cypresses aloft; the beautiful faces,
dreamy, passionate, stolid, restless, looking from the lace mantillas;
the graceful arms holding the guitars; the sweet rich voices threading
through the roar of the ocean like the melody in a grand recitativo; the
old men and women crouching like buzzards on the stones, their sharp
eyes never closing; enfolding all with an almost palpable touch, the
warm voluptuous air. Now and again a bird sang a few notes, a strange
sound in the night, or the soft wind murmured like the ocean's echo
through the pines.
The song finished. "Benicia, I love you," whispered Russell.
"We will now eat," said Benicia. "Mamma,"—she raised her voice,—"shall
I tell Raphael to bring down the supper?"
The girl sprang lightly up the rocks, followed by Russell. The Indian
servants were some distance off, and as the young people ran through a
pine grove the bold officer of the United States squadron captured the
Californian and kissed her on the mouth. She boxed his ears and escaped
to the light.
Benicia gave her orders, Raphael and the other Indians followed her with
the baskets, and spread the supper of tomales and salads, dulces and
wine, on a large table-like rock, just above the threatening spray; the
girls sang each in turn, whilst the others nibbled the dainties Doña
Eustaquia had provided, and the Americans wondered if it were not a
vision that would disappear into the fog bearing down upon them.
A great white bank, writhing and lifting, rolling and bending, came
across the ocean slowly, with majestic stealth, hiding the swinging
waves on which it rode so lightly, shrouding the rocks, enfolding the
men and women, wreathing the cypresses, rushing onward to the pines.
"We must go," said Doña Eustaquia, rising. "There is danger to stay. The
lungs, the throat, my children. Look at the poor old cypresses."
The fog was puffing through the gaunt arms, festooning the rigid hands.
It hung over the green heads, it coiled about the gray trunks. The stern
defeated trees looked like the phantoms of themselves, a long silent
battalion of petrified ghosts. Even Benicia's gay spirit was oppressed,
and during the long ride homeward through the pine woods she had little
to say to her equally silent companion.
Doña Eustaquia seldom gave balls, but once a week she opened her salas
to the more intellectual people of the town. A few Americans were ever
attendant; General Vallejo often came from Sonoma to hear the latest
American and Mexican news in her house; Castro rarely had been absent;
Alvarado, in the days of his supremacy, could always be found there, and
she was the first woman upon whom Pio Pico called when he deigned to
visit Monterey. A few young people came to sit in a corner with Benicia,
but they had little to say.
The night after the picnic some fifteen or twenty people were gathered
about Doña Eustaquia in the large sala on the right of the hall; a few
others were glancing over the Mexican papers in the little sala on the
left. The room was ablaze with many candles standing, above the heads
of the guests, in twisted silver candelabra, the white walls reflecting
their light. The floor was bare, the furniture of stiff mahogany and
horse-hair, but no visitor to that quaint ugly room ever thought of
looking beyond the brilliant face of Doña Eustaquia, the lovely eyes of
her daughter, the intelligence and animation of the people she gathered
about her. As a rule Doña Modeste Castro's proud head and strange beauty
had been one of the living pictures of that historical sala, but she was
not there to-night.
As Captain Brotherton and Lieutenant Russell entered, Doña Eustaquia was
waging war against Mr. Larkin.
"And what hast thou to say to that proclamation of thy little American
hero, thy Commodore"—she gave the word a satirical roll, impossible to
transcribe—"who is heir to a conquest without blood, who struts into
history as the Commander of the United States Squadron of the Pacific,
holding a few hundred helpless Californians in subjection? O warlike
name of Sloat! O heroic name of Stockton! O immortal Frémont, prince
of strategists and tacticians, your country must be proud of you! Your
newspapers will glorify you! Sometime, perhaps, you will have a little
history bound in red morocco all to yourselves; whilst Castro—" she
sprang to her feet and brought her open palm down violently upon the
table, "Castro, the real hero of this country, the great man ready to
die a thousand deaths for the liberty of the Californians, a man who was
made for great deeds and born for fame, he will be left to rust and rot
because we have no newspapers to glorify him, and the Gringos send what
they wish to their country! Oh, profanation! That a great man should be
covered from sight by an army of red ants!"
"By Jove!" said Russell, "I wish I could understand her! Doesn't she
Captain Brotherton made no reply. He was watching her closely, gathering
the sense of her words, full of passionate admiration for the woman. Her
tall majestic figure was quivering under the lash of her fiery temper,
quick to spring and strike. The red satin of her gown and the diamonds
on her finely moulded neck and in the dense coils of her hair grew dim
before the angry brilliancy of her eyes.
The thin sensitive lips of Mr. Larkin curled with their accustomed
humour, but he replied sincerely, "Yes, Castro is a hero, a great man on
a small canvas—"
"And they are little men on a big canvas!" interrupted Doña Eustaquia.
Mr. Larkin laughed, but his reply was non-committal. "Remember, they
have done all that they have been called upon to do, and they have done
it well. Who can say that they would not be as heroic, if opportunity
offered, as they have been prudent?"
Doña Eustaquia shrugged her shoulders disdainfully, but resumed her
seat. "You will not say, but you know what chance they would have with
Castro in a fair fight. But what chance has even a great man, when at
the head of a few renegades, against the navy of a big nation? But
Frémont! Is he to cast up his eyes and draw down his mouth to the world,
whilst the man who acted for the safety of his country alone, who showed
foresight and wisdom, is denounced as a violator of international
"No," said one of the American residents who stood near, "history will
right all that. Some day the world will know who was the great and who
the little man."
"Some day! When we are under our stones! This swaggering Commodore
Stockton adores Frémont and hates Castro. His lying proclamation will be
read in his own country—"
The door opened suddenly and Don Fernando Altimira entered the room.
"Have you heard?" he cried. "All the South is in arms! The Departmental
Assembly has called the whole country to war, and men are flocking to
the standard! Castro has sworn that he will never give up the country
under his charge. Now, Mother of God! let our men drive the usurper from
Even Mr. Larkin sprang to his feet in excitement. He rapidly translated
the news to Brotherton and Russell.
"Ah! There will be a little blood, then," said the younger officer. "It
was too easy a victory to count."
Every one in the room was talking at once. Doña Eustaquia smote her
hands together, then clasped and raised them aloft.
"Thanks to God!" she cried. "California has come to her senses at last!"
Altimira bent his lips to her ear. "I go to fight the Americans," he
She caught his hand between both her own and pressed it convulsively to
her breast. "Go," she said, "and may God and Mary protect thee. Go, my
son, and when thou returnest I will give thee Benicia. Thou art a son
after my heart, a brave man and a good Catholic."
Benicia, standing near, heard the words. For the first time Russell saw
the expression of careless audacity leave her face, her pink colour
"What is that man saying to your mother?" he demanded.
"She promise me to him when he come back; he go to join General Castro."
"Benicia!" He glanced about. Altimira had left the house. Every one was
too excited to notice them. He drew her across the hall and into the
little sala, deserted since the startling news had come. "Benicia," he
said hurriedly, "there is no time to be lost. You are such a butterfly I
hardly know whether you love me or not."
"I no am such butterfly as you think," said the girl, pathetically. "I
often am very gay, for that is my spirit, señor; but I cry sometimes in
"Well, you are not to cry any more, my very darling first!" He took her
in his arms and kissed her, and she did not box his ears. "I may be
ordered off at any moment, and what may they not do with you while I am
gone? So I have a plan! Marry me to-morrow!"
"To-morrow. At your friend Blandina's house. The Hernandez like the
Americans; in fact, as we all know, Tallant is in love with Blandina and
the old people do not frown. They will let us marry there."
"Ay! Cielo santo! What my mother say? She kill me!"
"She will forgive you, no matter how angry she may be at first. She
loves you—almost as much as I do."
The girl withdrew from his arms and walked up and down the room. Her
face was very pale, and she looked older. On one side of the room hung
a large black cross, heavily mounted with gold. She leaned her face
against it and burst into tears. "Ay, my home! My mother!" she cried
under her breath. "How I can leave you? Ay, triste de mi!" She turned
suddenly to Russell, whose face was as white as her own, and put to him
the question which we have not yet answered. "What is this love?" she
said rapidly. "I no can understand. I never feel before. Always I laugh
when men say they love me; but I never laugh again. In my heart is
something that shake me like a lion shake what it go to kill, and make
me no care for my mother or my God—and you are a Protestant! I have
love my mother like I have love that cross; and now a man come—a
stranger! a conqueror! a Protestant! an American! And he twist my heart
out with his hands! But I no can help. I love you and I go."
The next morning, Doña Eustaquia looked up from her desk as Benicia
entered the room. "I am writing to Alvarado," she said. "I hope to be
the first to tell him the glorious news. Ay! my child, go to thy altar
and pray that the bandoleros may be driven wriggling from the land like
snakes out of a burning field!"
"But, mother, I thought you had learned to like the Gringos."
"I like the Gringos well enough, but I hate their flag! Ay! I will pull
it down with my own hands if Castro and Pico roll Stockton and Frémont
in the dust!"
"I am sorry for that, my mother, for I am going to marry an American
Her mother laughed and glanced over the closely written page.
"I am going to marry the Lieutenant Russell at Blandina's house this
"Ay, run, run. I must finish my letter."
Benicia left the sala and crossing her mother's room entered her own.
From the stout mahogany chest she took white silk stockings and satin
slippers, and sitting down on the floor put them on. Then she opened the
doors of her wardrobe and looked for some moments at the many pretty
frocks hanging there. She selected one of fine white lawn, half covered
with deshalados, and arrayed herself. She took from the drawer of the
wardrobe a mantilla of white Spanish lace, and draped it about her head
and shoulders, fastening it back above one ear with a pink rose. Around
her throat she clasped a string of pearls, then stood quietly in the
middle of the room and looked about her. In one corner was a little
brass bedstead covered with a heavy quilt of satin and lace. The
pillow-cases were almost as fine and elaborate as her gown. In the
opposite corner was an altar with little gold candlesticks and an ivory
crucifix. The walls and floor were bare but spotless. The ugly wardrobe
built into the thick wall never had been empty: Doña Eustaquia's
generosity to the daughter she worshipped was unbounded.
Benicia drew a long hysterical breath and went over to the window. It
looked upon a large yard enclosed by the high adobe wall upon which her
lovers so often had sat and sung to her. No flowers were in the garden,
not even a tree. It was as smooth and clean as the floor of a ballroom.
About the well in the middle were three or four Indian servants
quarrelling good-naturedly. The house stood on the rise of one of the
crescent's horns. Benicia looked up at the dark pine woods on the
hill. What days she had spent there with her mother! She whirled about
suddenly and taking a large fan from the table returned to the sala.
Doña Eustaquia laughed. "Thou silly child, to dress thyself like a
bride. What nonsense is this?"
"I will be a bride in an hour, my mother."
"Go! Go, with thy nonsense! I have spoiled thee! What other girl in
Monterey would dare to dress herself like this at eleven in the morning?
Go! And do not ruin that mantilla, for thou wilt not get another. Thou
art going to Blandina's, no? Be sure thou goest no farther! I would not
let thee go there alone were it not so near. And be sure thou speakest
to no man in the street."
"No, mamacita, I will speak to no man in the street, but one awaits me
in the house. Hasta luego." And she flitted out of the door and up the
A few hours later Doña Eustaquia sat in the large and cooler sala
with Captain Brotherton. He read Shakespeare to her whilst she fanned
herself, her face aglow with intelligent pleasure. She had not broached
to him the uprising in the South lest it should lead to bitter words.
Although an American and a Protestant, few friends had ever stood so
close to her.
He laid down the book as Russell and Benicia entered the room. Doña
Eustaquia's heavy brows met.
"Thou knowest that I do not allow thee to walk with on the street," she
said in Spanish.
"But, mamacita, he is my husband. We were married this morning at
Blandina's," Excitement had tuned Benicia's spirit to its accustomed
pitch, and her eyes danced with mischief. Moreover, although she
expected violent reproaches, she knew the tenacious strength of her
mother's affection, and had faith in speedy forgiveness.
Brotherton opened his eyes, but Doña Eustaquia moved back her head
impatiently. "That silly joke!" Then she smiled at her own impatience.
What was Benicia but a spoiled child, and spoiled children would disobey
at times. "Welcome, my son," she said to Russell, extending her hand.
"We celebrate your marriage at the supper to-night, and the Captain
helps us, no? my friend."
"Let us have chicken with red pepper and tomato sauce," cried Russell.
"And rice with saffron; and that delightful dish with which I
remonstrate all night—olives and cheese and hard-boiled eggs and red
peppers all rolled up in corn-meal cakes."
"Enchiladas? You have them! Now, both you go over to the corner and talk
not loud, for I wish to hear my friend read."
Russell, lifting his shoulders, did as he was bidden. Benicia, with a
gay laugh, kissed her mother and flitted like a butterfly about the
room, singing gay little snatches of song.
"Oh, mamacita, mamacita," she chanted. "Thou wilt not believe thou hast
lost thy little daughter. Thou wilt not believe thou hast a son. Thou
wilt not believe I shall sleep no more in the little brass bed—"
"Benicia, hold thy saucy tongue! Sit down!" And this Benicia finally
consented to do, although smothered laughter came now and again from the
Dona Eustaquia sat easily against the straight back of her chair,
looking very handsome and placid as Brotherton read and expounded "As
You Like It" to her. Her gown of thin black silk threw out the fine
gray tones of her skin; about her neck and chest was a heavy chain of
Californian gold; her dense lustreless hair was held high with a shell
comb banded with gold; superb jewels weighted her little white hands; in
her small ears were large hoops of gold studded with black pearls. She
was perfectly contented in that hour. Her woman's vanity was at peace
and her eager mind expanding.
The party about the supper table in the evening was very gay. The long
room was bare, but heavy silver was beyond the glass doors of the
cupboard; a servant stood behind each chair; the wines were as fine
as any in America, and the favourite dishes of the Americans had been
prepared. Even Brotherton, although more nervous than was usual with
him, caught the contagion of the hour and touched his glass more than
once to that of the woman whose overwhelming personality had more than
half captured a most indifferent heart.
After supper they sat on the corridor, and Benicia sang her mocking
love-songs and danced El Son to the tinkling of her own guitar.
"Is she not a light-hearted child?" asked her mother. "But she has her
serious moments, my friend. We have been like the sisters. Every path of
the pine woods we walk together, arm in arm. We ride miles on the beach
and sit down on the rocks for hours and try to think what the seals
say one to the other. Before you come I have friends, but no other
companion; but it is good for me you come, for she think only of
flirting since the Americans take Monterey. Mira! Look at her flash the
eyes at Señor Russell. It is well he has the light heart like herself."
Brotherton made no reply.
"Give to me the guitar," she continued.
Benicia handed her the instrument and Doña Eustaquia swept the chords
absently for a moment then sang the song of the troubadour. Her rich
voice was like the rush of the wind through the pines after the light
trilling of a bird, and even Russell sat enraptured. As she sang the
colour came into her face, alight with the fire of youth. Her low notes
were voluptuous, her high notes rang with piercing sadness. As she
finished, a storm of applause came from Alvarado Street, which pulsed
with life but a few yards below them.
"No American woman ever sang like that," said Brotherton. He rose and
walked to the end of the corridor. "But it is a part of Monterey."
"Most enchanting of mothers-in-law," said Russell, "you have made it
doubly hard for us to leave you; but it grows late and my wife and I
must go. Good night," and he raised her hand to his lips.
"Good night, my son."
"Mamacita, good night," and Benicia, who had fluttered into the house
and found a reboso, kissed her mother, waved her hand to Brotherton, and
stepped from the corridor to the street.
"Come here, señorita!" cried her mother. "No walk to-night, for I have
not the wish to walk myself."
"But I go with my husband, mamma."
"Oh, no more of that joke without sense! Señor Russell, go home, that
she have reason for one moment."
"But, dear Doña Eustaquia, won't you understand that we are really
Doña Eustaquia's patience was at an end. She turned to Brotherton and
addressed a remark to him. Russell and Benicia conferred a moment, then
the young man walked rapidly down the street.
"Has he gone?" asked Doña Eustaquia. "Then let us go in the house, for
the fog comes from the bay."
They went into the little sala and sat about the table. Doña Eustaquia
picked up a silver dagger she used as a paper cutter and tapped a book
"Ay, this will not last long," she said to Brotherton. "I much am afraid
your Commodore send you to the South to fight with our men."
"I shall return," said Brotherton, absently. His eyes were fixed on the
"But it will not be long that you will be there, my friend. Many people
are not killed in our wars. Once there was a great battle at Point
Rincon, near Santa Barbara, between Castro and Carillo. Carillo have
been appointed governor by Mejico, and Alvarado refuse to resign. They
fight for three days, and Castro manage so well he lose only one man,
and the others run away and not lose any."
Brotherton laughed. "I hope all our battles may be as bloodless," he
said, and then drew a short breath.
Russell, accompanied by Don Jorje and Doña Francesca Hernandez and the
priest of Monterey, entered the room.
Doña Eustaquia rose and greeted her guests with grace and hospitality.
"But I am glad to see you, my father, my friends. And you always are
welcome, Señor Russell; but no more joke. Where is our Blandina? Sit
down—Why, what is it?"
The priest spoke.
"I have that to tell you, Doña Eustaquia, which I fear will give you
great displeasure. I hoped not to be the one to tell it. I was weak to
consent, but these young people importuned me until I was weary. Doña
Eustaquia, I married Benicia to the Señor Russell to-day."
Doña Eustaquia's head had moved forward mechanically, her eyes staring
incredulously from the priest to the other members of the apprehensive
group. Suddenly her apathy left her, her arm curved upward like the neck
of a snake; but as she sprang upon Benicia her ferocity was that of a
"What!" she shrieked, shaking the girl violently by the shoulder. "What!
ingrate! traitor! Thou hast married an American, a Protestant!"
Benicia burst into terrified sobs. Russell swung the girl from her
mother's grasp and placed his arm around her.
"She is mine now," he said. "You must not touch her again."
"Yours! Yours!" screamed Doña Eustaquia, beside herself. "Oh, Mother of
God!" She snatched the dagger from the table and, springing backward,
plunged it into the cross.
"By that sign I curse thee," she cried. "Accursed be the man who has
stolen my child! Accursed be the woman who has betrayed her mother and
her country! God! God!—I implore thee, let her die in her happiest
On August twelfth Commodore Hull arrived on the frigate Warren, from
Mazatlan, and brought the first positive intelligence of the declaration
of war between Mexico and the United States. Before the middle of
the month news came that Castro and Pico, after gallant defence, but
overwhelmed by numbers, had fled, the one to Sonora, the other to Baja
California. A few days after, Stockton issued a proclamation to the
effect that the flag of the United States was flying over every town
in the territory of California; and Alcalde Colton announced that the
rancheros were more than satisfied with the change of government.
A month later a mounted courier dashed into Monterey with a note from
the Alcalde of Los Angeles, wrapped about a cigarito and hidden in his
hair. The note contained the information that all the South was in
arms again, and that Los Angeles was in the hands of the Californians.
Russell was ordered to go with Captain Mervine, on the Savannah,
to join Gillespie at San Pedro; Brotherton was left at Monterey with
Lieutenant Maddox and a number of men to quell a threatened uprising.
Later came the news of Mervine's defeat and the night of Talbot from
Santa Barbara; and by November California was in a state of general
warfare, each army receiving new recruits every day.
Doña Eustaquia, hard and stern, praying for the triumph of her people,
lived alone in the old house. Benicia, praying for the return of her
husband and the relenting of her mother, lived alone in her little house
on the hill. Friends had interceded, but Doña Eustaquia had closed her
ears. Brotherton went to her one day with the news that Lieutenant
Russell was wounded.
"I must tell Benicia," he said, "but it is you who should do that."
"She betray me, my friend."
"Oh, Eustaquia, make allowance for the lightness of youth. She barely
realized what she did. But she loves him now, and suffers bitterly. She
should be with you."
"Ay! She suffer for another! She love a strange man—an American—better
than her mother! And it is I who would die for her! Ay, you cold
Americans! Never you know how a mother can love her child."
"The Americans know how to love, señora. And Benicia was thoroughly
spoiled by her devoted mother. She was carried away by her wild spirits,
"Then much better she live on them now."
Doña Eustaquia sat with her profile against the light. It looked severe
and a little older, but she was very handsome in her rich black gown and
the gold chain about her strong throat. Her head, as usual, was held a
little back. Brotherton sat down beside her and took her hand.
"Eustaquia," he said, "no friendship between man and woman was ever
deeper and stronger than ours. In spite of the anxiety and excitement of
these last months we have found time to know each other very intimately.
So you will forgive me if I tell you that the more a friend loves you
the more he must be saddened by the terrible iron in your nature. Only
the great strength of your passions has saved you from hardening into an
ugly and repellent woman. You are a mother; forgive your child; remember
that she, too, is about to be a mother—"
She caught his hand between both of hers with a passionate gesture. "Oh,
my friend," she said, "do not too much reproach me! You never have a
child, you cannot know! And remember we all are not make alike. If you
are me, you act like myself. If I am you, I can forgive more easy. But
I am Eustaquia Ortega, and as I am make, so I do feel now. No judge too
hard, my friend, and—infelez de mi! do not forsake me."
"I will never forsake you, Eustaquia." He rose suddenly. "I, too, am a
lonely man, if not a hard one, and I recognize that cry of the soul's
He left her and went up the hill to Benicia's little house, half hidden
by the cypress trees that grew before it.
She was sitting in her sala working an elaborate deshalados on a baby's
gown. Her face was pale, and the sparkle had gone out of it; but she
held herself with all her mother's pride, and her soft eyes were deeper.
She rose as Captain Brotherton entered, and took his hand in both of
hers. "You are so good to come to me, and I love you for your friendship
for my mother. Tell me how she is."
"She is well, Benicia." Then he exclaimed suddenly: "Poor little girl!
What a child you are—not yet seventeen."
"In a few months, señor. Sit down. No? And I no am so young now. When we
suffer we grow more than by the years; and now I go to have the baby,
that make me feel very old."
"But it is very sad to see you alone like this, without your husband or
your mother. She will relent some day, Benicia, but I wish she would do
it now, when you most need her."
"Yes, I wish I am with her in the old house," said the girl,
pathetically, although she winked back the tears. "Never I can be happy
without her, even si he is here, and you know how I love him. But I
have love her so long; she is—how you say it?—like she is part of me,
and when she no spik to me, how I can be happy with all myself when part
is gone. You understand, señor?"
"Yes, Benicia, I understand." He looked through the bending cypresses,
down the hill, upon the fair town. He had no relish for the task which
had brought him to her. She looked up and caught the expression of his
"Señor!" she cried sharply. "What you go to tell me?"
"There is a report that Ned is slightly wounded; but it is not serious.
It was Altimira who did it, I believe."
She shook from head to foot, but was calmer than he had expected. She
laid the gown on a chair and stood up. "Take me to him. Si he is wound,
I go to nurse him."
"My child! You would die before you got there. I have sent a special
courier to find out the truth. If Ned is wounded, I have arranged to
have him sent home immediately."
"I wait for the courier come back, for it no is right I hurt the baby si
I can help. But si he is wound so bad he no can come, then I go to him.
It no is use for you to talk at all, señor, I go."
Brotherton looked at her in wonderment. Whence had the butterfly gone?
Its wings had been struck from it and a soul had flown in.
"Let me send Blandina to you," he said. "You must not be alone."
"I am alone till he or my mother come. I no want other. I love Blandina
before, but now she make me feel tired. She talk so much and no say
anything. I like better be alone."
"Poor child!" said Brotherton, bitterly, "truly do love and suffering
age and isolate." He motioned with his hand to the altar in her bedroom,
seen through the open door. "I have not your faith, I am afraid I have
not much of any; but if I cannot pray for you, I can wish with all the
strength of a man's heart that happiness will come to you yet, Benicia."
She shook her head. "I no know; I no believe much happiness come in
this life. Before, I am like a fairy; but it is only because I no am
_un_happy. But when the heart have wake up, señor, and the knife have
gone in hard, then, after that, always, I think, we are a little sad."
General Kearney and Lieutenant Beale walked rapidly up and down before
the tents of the wretched remnant of United States troops with which the
former had arrived overland in California. It was bitterly cold in spite
of the fine drizzling rain. Lonely buttes studded the desert, whose
palms and cacti seemed to spring from the rocks; high on one of them was
the American camp. On the other side of a river flowing at the foot of
the butte, the white tents of the Californians were scattered among the
dark huts of the little pueblo of San Pasqual.
"Let me implore you, General," said Beale, "not to think of meeting
Andres Pico. Why, your men are half starved; your few horses are
broken-winded; your mules are no match for the fresh trained mustangs of
the enemy. I am afraid you do not appreciate the Californians. They are
numerous, brave, and desperate. If you avoid them now, as Commodore
Stockton wishes, and join him at San Diego, we stand a fair chance
of defeating them. But now Pico's cavalry and foot are fresh and
enthusiastic—in painful contrast to yours. And, moreover, they know
every inch of the ground."
Kearney impatiently knocked the ashes out of his pipe. He had little
regard for Stockton, and no intention of being dictated to by a
truculent young lieutenant who spoke his mind upon all occasions.
"I shall attack them at daybreak," he said curtly. "I have one hundred
and thirty good men; and has not Captain Gillespie joined me with his
battalion? Never shall it be said that I turned aside to avoid a handful
of boasting Californians. Now go and get an hour's sleep before we
The young officer shrugged his shoulders, saluted, and walked down
the line of tents. A man emerged from one of them, and he recognized
"Hello, Ned," he said. "How's the arm?"
"'Twas only a scratch. Is Altimira down there with Pico, do you know? He
is a brave fellow! I respect that man; but we have an account to settle,
and I hope it will be done on the battle-field."
"He is with Pico, and he has done some good fighting. Most of the
Californians have. They know how to fight and they are perfectly
fearless. Kearney will find it out to-morrow. He is mad to attack them.
Why, his men are actually cadaverous. Bueno! as they say here; Stockton
sent me to guide him to San Diego. If he prefers to go through the
enemy's lines, there is nothing for me to do but take him."
"Yes, but we may surprise them. I wish to God this imitation war were
"It will be real enough before you get through. Don't worry. Well, good
night. Luck to your skin."
At daybreak the little army marched down the butte, shivering with cold,
wet to the skin. Those on horseback naturally proceeded more rapidly
than those mounted upon the clumsy stubborn mules; and Captain Johnson,
who led the advance guard of twelve dragoons, found himself, when he
came in sight of the enemy's camp, some distance ahead of the main body
of Kearney's small army. To his surprise he saw that the Californians
were not only awake, but horsed and apparently awaiting him. Whether he
was fired by valour or desperation at the sight is a disputed point;
but he made a sudden dash down the hill and across the river, almost
flinging himself upon the lances of the Californians.
Captain Moore, who was ambling down the hill on an old white horse at
the head of fifty dragoons mounted on mules, spurred his beast as he
witnessed the foolish charge of the advance, and arrived upon the field
in time to see Johnson fall dead and to take his place. Pico, seeing
that reënforcements were coming, began to retreat, followed hotly by
Moore and the horsed dragoons. Suddenly, however, Fernando Altimira
raised himself in his stirrups, looked back, laughed and galloped across
the field to General Pico.
"Look!" he said. "Only a few men on horses are after us. The mules are
stumbling half a mile behind."
Pico wheeled about, gave the word of command, and bore down upon the
Americans. Then followed a hand-to-hand conflict, the Californians
lancing and using their pistols with great dexterity, the Americans
doing the best they could with their rusty sabres and clubbed guns.
They were soon reënforced by Moore's dragoons and Gillespie's battalion,
despite the unwilling mules; but the brutes kicked and bucked at every
pistol shot and fresh cloud of smoke. The poor old horses wheezed and
panted, but stood their ground when not flung out of position by the
frantic mules. The officers and soldiers of the United States army were
a sorry sight, and in pointed contrast to the graceful Californians on
their groomed steeds, handsomely trapped, curvetting and rearing and
prancing as lightly as if on the floor of a circus. Kearney cursed his
own stupidity, and Pico laughed in his face. Beale felt satisfaction and
compunction in saturating the silk and silver of one fine saddle with
the blood of its owner. The point of the dying man's lance pierced his
face, but he noted the bleaching of Kearney's, as one dragoon after
another was flung upon the sharp rocks over which his bewildered brute
stumbled, or was caught and held aloft in the torturing arms of the
On the edge of the battle two men had forgotten the Aztec Eagle and the
Stars and Stripes; they fought for love of a woman. Neither had had time
to draw his pistol; they fought with lance and sabre, thrusting and
parrying. Both were skilful swordsmen, but Altimira's horse was far
superior to Russell's, and he had the advantage of weapons.
"One or the other die on the rocks," said the Californian, "and si I
kill you, I marry Benicia."
Russell made no reply. He struck aside the man's lance and wounded his
wrist. But Altimira was too excited to feel pain. His face was quivering
It is not easy to parry a lance with a sabre, and still more difficult
to get close enough to wound the man who wields it. Russell rose
suddenly in his stirrups, described a rapid half-circle with his weapon,
brought it down midway upon the longer blade, and snapped the latter in
two. Altimira gave a cry of rage, and spurring his horse sought to ride
his opponent down; but Russell wheeled, and the two men simultaneously
snatched their pistols from the holsters. Altimira fired first, but his
hand was unsteady and his ball went through a cactus. Russell raised
his pistol with firm wrist, and discharged it full in the face of the
Then he looked over the field. Moore, fatally lanced, lay under a palm,
and many of his men were about him. Gillespie was wounded, Kearney had
received an ugly thrust. The Californians, upon the arrival of the main
body of the enemy's troops, had retreated unpursued; the mules attached
to one of the American howitzers were scampering over to the opposite
ranks, much to the consternation of Kearney. The sun, looking over the
mountain, dissipated the gray smoke, and cast a theatrical light on the
faces of the dead. Russell bent over Altimira. His head was shattered,
but his death was avenged. Never had an American troop suffered a more
humiliating defeat. Only six Californians lay on the field; and when
the American surgeon, after attending to his own wounded, offered his
services to Pico's, that indomitable general haughtily replied that he
"By Jove!" said Russell to Beale that night, "you know your
Californians! I am prouder than ever of having married one! That army is
of the stuff of which my mother-in-law is made!"
That was a gay Christmas at Monterey, despite the barricades in the
street. News had come of the defeat of Kearney at San Pasqual, and the
Montereños, inflated with hope and pride, gave little thought to the
fact that his forces were now joined with Stockton's at San Diego.
On Christmas eve light streamed from every window, bonfires flared on
the hills; the streets were illuminated, and every one was abroad. The
clear warm night was ablaze with fireworks; men and women were in their
gala gowns; rockets shot upward amidst shrieks of delight which mingled
oddly with the rolling of drums at muster; even the children caught the
enthusiasm, religious and patriotic.
"I suppose you would be glad to see even your friends driven out," said
Brotherton to Doña Eustaquia, as they walked through the brilliant town
toward the church: bells called them to witness the dramatic play of
"I be glad to see the impertinent flag come down," said she, frankly;
"but you can make resignation from the army, and have a little store on
Alvarado Street. You can have beautiful silks and crêpes from America. I
buy of you."
"Thanks," he said grimly. "You would put a dunce cap on poor America,
and stand her in a corner. If I resign, Doña Eustaquia, it will be to
become a ranchero, not a shopkeeper. To tell the truth, I have little
desire to leave California again."
"But you were make for the fight," she said, looking up with some pride
at the tall military figure, the erect head and strong features. "You
not were make to lie in the hammock and horseback all day."
"But I should do a good deal else, señora. I should raise cattle with
some method; and I should have a library—and a wife."
"Ah! you go to marry?"
"Some day, I hope. It would be lonely to be a ranchero without a wife."
"What is the matter with those women?"
A group of old women stood by the roadside. Their forms were bent, their
brown faces gnarled like apples. Some were a shapeless mass of fat,
others were parchment and bone; about the head and shoulders of each was
a thick black shawl. Near them stood a number of young girls clad in
muslin petticoats, flowered with purple and scarlet. Bright satin shoes
were on their feet, cotton rebosas covered their pretty, pert little
heads. All were looking in one direction, whispering and crossing
Doña Eustaquia glanced over her shoulder, then leaned heavily on
"It is Benicia," she said. "It is because she was cursed and is with
child that they cross themselves."
Brotherton held her arm closely and laid his hand on hers, but he spoke
"The curse is not likely to do her any harm. You prayed that she should
die when happiest, and you have done your best to make her wretched."
She did not reply, and they walked slowly onward. Benicia followed,
leaning on the arm of an Indian servant. Her friends avoided her, for
they bitterly resented Altimira's death. But she gave them little
regret. Since her husband could not be with her on this Christmas eve,
she wished only for reconciliation with her mother. In spite of the
crowd she followed close behind Doña Eustaquia and Brotherton, holding
her head proudly, but ready to fall at the feet of the woman she
"My friend," said Doña Eustaquia, after a moment, "perhaps it is best
that I do not forgive her. Were she happy, then might the curse come
"She has enough else to make her unhappy. Besides, who ever heard of
a curse coming true? It has worked its will already for the matter of
that. You kept your child from happiness with her husband during the
brief time she had him. The bitterness of death is a small matter beside
the bitterness of life. You should be satisfied."
"You are hard, my friend."
"I see your other faults only to respect and love them."
"Does she look ill, Captain?"
"She cannot be expected to look like the old Benicia. Of course she
looks ill, and needs care."
"Look over the shoulder. Does she walk heavily?"
"Very. But as haughtily as do you."
"Talk of other things for a little while, my friend."
"Truly there is much to claim the interest to-night. This may be an old
scene to you, but it is novel and fascinating to me. How lovely are
those stately girls, half hidden by their rebosas, telling their beads
as they hurry along. It is the very coquetry of religion. And those—But
here we are."
The church was handsomer without than within, for the clever old
padres that built it had more taste than their successors. About the
whitewashed walls of the interior were poor copies of celebrated
paintings—the Passion of Christ, and an extraordinary group of nude
women and grinning men representing the temptation of St. Anthony. In a
glass case a beautiful figure of the Saviour reclined on a stiff couch
clumsily covered with costly stuffs. The Virgin was dressed much like
the aristocratic ladies of Monterey, and the altar was a rainbow of
But the ceremonies were interesting, and Brotherton forgot Benicia for
the hour. After the mass the priest held out a small waxen image of the
infant Jesus, and all approached and kissed it. Then from without came
the sound of a guitar; the worshippers arose and ranged themselves
against the wall; six girls dressed as shepherdesses; a man representing
Lucifer; two others, a hermit and the lazy vagabond Bartola; a boy, the
archangel Gabriel, entered the church. They bore banners and marched
to the centre of the building, then acted their drama with religious
The play began with the announcement by Gabriel of the birth of the
Saviour, and exhortations to repair to the manger. On the road came
the temptation of Lucifer; the archangel appeared once more; a violent
altercation ensued in which all took part, and finally the prince of
darkness was routed. Songs and fanciful by-play, brief sermons, music,
gay and solemn, diversified the strange performance. When all was over,
the players were followed by an admiring crowd to the entertainment
"Is it not beautiful—our Los Pastores?" demanded Doña Eustaquia,
looking up at Brotherton, her fine face aglow with enthusiasm. "Do not
you feel the desire to be a Catholic, my friend?"
"Rather would I see two good Catholics united, dear señora," and he
turned suddenly to Benicia, who also had remained in the church, almost
at her mother's side.
"Mamacita!" cried Benicia.
Doña Eustaquia opened her arms and caught the girl passionately to her
heart; and Brotherton left the church.
The April flowers were on the hills. Beds of gold-red poppies and
silver-blue baby eyes were set like tiles amidst the dense green
undergrowth beneath the pines, and on the natural lawns about the white
houses. Although hope of driving forth the intruder had gone forever in
January, Monterey had resumed in part her old gayety; despair had bred
philosophy. But Monterey was Monterey no longer. An American alcalde
with a power vested in no judge of the United States ruled over her; to
add injury to insult, he had started a newspaper. The town was full of
Americans; the United States was constructing a fort on the hill; above
all, worse than all, the Californians were learning the value of money.
Their sun was sloping to the west.
A thick India shawl hung over the window of Benicia's old room in her
mother's house, shutting out the perfume of the hills. A carpet had been
thrown on the floor, candles burned in the pretty gold candlesticks that
had stood on the altar since Benicia's childhood. On the little brass
bedstead lay Benicia, very pale and very pretty, her transparent skin
faintly reflecting the pink of the satin coverlet. By the bed sat an old
woman of the people. Her ragged white locks were bound about by a fillet
of black silk; her face, dark as burnt umber, was seamed and lined like
a withered prune; even her long broad nose was wrinkled; her dull eyes
looked like mud-puddles; her big underlip was pursed up as if she had
been speaking mincing words, and her chin was covered with a short white
stubble. Over her coarse smock and gown she wore a black cotton reboso.
In her arms she held an infant, muffled in a white lace mantilla.
Doña Eustaquia came in and bent over the baby, her strong face alight
"Didst thou ever nurse so beautiful a baby?" she demanded.
The old woman grunted; she had heard that question before.
"See how pink and smooth it is—not red and wrinkled like other babies!
How becoming is that mantilla! No, she shall not be wrapped in blankets,
cap, and shawls."
"She catch cold, most likely," grunted the nurse.
"In this weather? No; it is soft as midsummer. I cannot get cool. Ay,
she looks like a rosebud lying in a fog-bank!" She touched the baby's
cheek with her finger, then sat on the bed, beside her daughter.
"And how dost thou feel, my little one? Thou wert a baby thyself but
yesterday, and thou art not much more to-day."
"I feel perfectly well, my mother, and—ay, Dios, so happy! Where is
"Of course! Always the husband! They are all alike! Hast thou not thy
mother and thy baby?"
"I adore you both, mamacita, but I want Edourdo. Where is he?"
Her mother grimaced. "I suppose it is no use to protest. Well, my little
one, I think he is at this moment on the hill with Lieutenant Ord."
"Why did he not come to see me before he went out?"
"He did, my daughter, but thou wert asleep. He kissed thee and stole
"Right there on your cheek, one inch below your eyelashes."
"When will he return?"
"Holy Mary! For dinner, surely, and that will be in an hour."
"When can I get up?"
"In another week. Thou art so well! I would not have thee draw too
heavily on thy little strength. Another month and thou wilt not remember
that thou hast been ill. Then we will go to the rancho, where thou and
thy little one will have sun all day and no fog."
"Have I not a good husband, mamacita?"
"Yes; I love him like my own son. Had he been unkind to thee, I should
have killed him with my own hands; but as he has his lips to thy little
slipper, I forgive him for being an American."
"And you no longer wish for a necklace of American ears! Oh, mamma!"
Doña Eustaquia frowned, then sighed. "I do not know the American head
for which I have not more like than hate, and they are welcome to their
ears; but the spirit of that wish is in my heart yet, my child. Our
country has been taken from us; we are aliens in our own land; it is the
American's. They—holy God!—permit us to live here!"
"But they like us better than their own women."
"Perhaps; they are men and like what they have not had too long."
"Mamacita, I am thirsty."
"What wilt thou have? A glass of water?"
"Water has no taste."
Doña Eustaquia left the room and returned with an orange. "This will be
cool and pleasant on so warm a day. It is just a little sour," she said;
but the nurse raised her bony hand.
"Do not give her that," she said in her harsh voice. "It is too soon."
"Nonsense! The baby is two weeks old. Why, I ate fruit a week after
childing. Look how dry her mouth is! It will do her good."
She pared the orange and gave it to Benicia, who ate it gratefully.
"It is very good, mamita. You will spoil me always, but that is because
you are so good. And one day I hope you will be as happy as your little
daughter; for there are other good Americans in the world. No? mamma. I
She sprang upward with a loud cry, the body curving rigidly; her soft
brown eyes stared horribly; froth gathered about her mouth; she gasped
once or twice, her body writhing from the agonized arms that strove to
hold it, then fell limply down, her features relaxing.
"She is dead," said the nurse.
"Benicia!" whispered Doña Eustaquia. "Benicia!"
"You have killed her," said the old woman, as she drew the mantilla
about the baby's face.
Doña Eustaquia dropped the body and moved backward from the bed. She
put out her hands and went gropingly from the room to her own, and from
thence to the sala. Brotherton came forward to meet her.
"Eustaquia!" he cried. "My friend! My dear! What has happened? What—"
She raised her hand and pointed to the cross. The mark of the dagger was
"Benicia!" she uttered. "The curse!" and then she fell at his feet.
THE WASH-TUB MAIL
"Mariquita! Thou good-for-nothing, thou art wringing that smock in
pieces! Thy señora will beat thee! Holy heaven, but it is hot!"
"For that reason I hurry, old Faquita. Were I as slow as thou, I should
cook in my own tallow."
"Aha, thou art very clever! But I have no wish to go back to the rancho
and wash for the cooks. Ay, yi! I wonder will La Tulita ever give me her
bridal clothes to wash. I have no faith that little flirt will marry the
Señor Don Ramon Garcia. He did not well to leave Monterey until after
the wedding. And to think—Ay! yi!"
"Thou hast a big letter for the wash-tub mail, Faquita."
"Aha, my Francesca, thou hast interest! I thought thou wast thinking
only of the bandits."
Francesca, who was holding a plunging child between her knees, actively
inspecting its head, grunted but did not look up, and the oracle of
the wash-tubs, provokingly, with slow movements of her knotted
coffee-coloured arms, flapped a dainty skirt, half-covered with drawn
work, before she condescended to speak further.
Twenty women or more, young and old, dark as pine cones, stooped or sat,
knelt or stood, about deep stone tubs sunken in the ground at the foot
of a hill on the outskirts of Monterey. The pines cast heavy shadows on
the long slope above them, but the sun was overhead. The little white
town looked lifeless under its baking red tiles, at this hour of
siesta. On the blue bay rode a warship flying the American colours. The
atmosphere was so clear, the view so uninterrupted, that the younger
women fancied they could read the name on the prow: the town was on the
right; between the bay and the tubs lay only the meadow, the road, the
lake, and the marsh. A few yards farther down the road rose a hill where
white slabs and crosses gleamed beneath the trees. The roar of the surf
came refreshingly to their hot ears. It leaped angrily, they fancied, to
the old fort on the hill where men in the uniform of the United States
moved about with unsleeping vigilance. It was the year 1847. The
Americans had come and conquered. War was over, but the invaders guarded
their new possessions.
The women about the tubs still bitterly protested against the downfall
of California, still took an absorbing interest in all matters,
domestic, social, and political. For those old women with grizzled locks
escaping from a cotton handkerchief wound bandwise about their heads,
their ample forms untrammelled by the flowing garment of calico, those
girls in bright skirts and white short-sleeved smock and young hair
braided, knew all the news of the country, past and to come, many hours
in advance of the dons and doñas whose linen they washed in the great
stone tubs: the Indians, domestic and roving, were their faithful
"Sainted Mary, but thou art more slow than a gentleman that walks!"
cried Mariquita, an impatient-looking girl. "Read us the letter. La
Tulita is the prettiest girl in Monterey now that the Señorita Ysabel
Herrera lies beneath the rocks, and Benicia Ortega has died of her
childing. But she is a flirt—that Tulita! Four of the Gringos are under
her little slipper this year, and she turn over the face and roll in the
dirt. But Don Ramon, so handsome, so rich—surely she will marry him."
Faquita shook her head slowly and wisely. "There—come
paused a moment, then proceeded leisurely, though less provokingly. "He
come over the great American deserts with General Kearney last year and
help our men to eat the dust in San Diego. He come only yesterday to
Monterey, and La Tulita is like a little wild-cat ever since. She box my
ears this morning when I tell her that the Americans are bandoleros, and
say she never marry a Californian. And never Don Ramon Garcia, ay, yi!"
By this time the fine linen was floating at will upon the water, or
lying in great heaps at the bottom of the clear pools. The suffering
child scampered up through the pines with whoops of delight. The
washing-women were pressed close about Faquita, who stood with thumbs on
her broad hips, the fingers contracting and snapping as she spoke, wisps
of hair bobbing back and forth about her shrewd black eyes and scolding
"Who is he? Where she meet him?" cried the audience. "Oh, thou old
carreta! Why canst thou not talk faster?"
"If thou hast not more respect, Señorita Mariquita, thou wilt hear
nothing. But it is this. There is a ball last night at Doña Maria
Ampudia's house for La Tulita. She look handsome, that witch! Holy Mary!
When she walk it was like the tule in the river. You know. Why she have
that name? She wear white, of course, but that frock—it is like the
cobweb, the cloud. She has not the braids like the other girls, but the
hair, soft like black feathers, fall down to the feet. And the eyes like
blue stars! You know the eyes of La Tulita. The lashes so long, and
black like the hair. And the sparkle! No eyes ever sparkle like those.
The eyes of Ysabel Herrera look like they want the world and never
can get it. Benicia's, pobrecita, just dance like the child's. But La
Tulita's! They sparkle like the devil sit behind and strike fire out
"Mother of God!" cried Mariquita, impatiently, "we all know thou art
daft about that witch! And we know how she looks. Tell us the story."
"Hush thy voice or thou wilt hear nothing. It is this way. La Tulita
have the castanets and just float up and down the sala, while all stand
back and no breathe only when they shout. I am in the garden in the
middle the house, and I stand on a box and look through the doors. Ay,
the roses and the nasturtiums smell so sweet in that little garden!
Well! She dance so beautiful, I think the roof go to jump off so she can
float up and live on one the gold stars all by herself. Her little feet
just twinkle! Well! The door open and Lieutenant Ord come in. He have
with him another young man, not so handsome, but so straight, so sharp
eye and tight mouth. He look at La Tulita like he think she belong to
America and is for him. Lieutenant Ord go up to Doña Maria and say, so
polite: 'I take the liberty to bring Lieutenant'—I no can remember that
name, so American! 'He come to-day from San Diego and will stay with us
for a while.' And Doña Maria, she smile and say, very sweet, 'Very glad
when I have met all of our conquerors.' And he turn red and speak very
bad Spanish and look, look, at La Tulita. Then Lieutenant Ord speak to
him in English and he nod the head, and Lieutenant Ord tell Doña Maria
that his friend like be introduced to La Tulita, and she say, 'Very
well,' and take him over to her who is now sit down. He ask her to waltz
right away, and he waltz very well, and then they dance again, and once
more. And then they sit down and talk, talk. God of my soul, but the
caballeros are mad! And Doña Maria! By and by she can stand it no more
and she go up to La Tulita and take away from the American and say, 'Do
you forget—and for a bandolero—that you are engage to my nephew?' And
La Tulita toss the head and say: 'How can I remember Ramon Garcia when
he is in Yerba Buena? I forget he is alive.' And Doña Maria is very
angry. The eyes snap. But just then the little sister of La Tulita run
into the sala, the face red like the American flag. 'Ay, Herminia!' she
just gasp. 'The donas! The donas! It has come!'"
"The donas!" cried the washing-women, old and young. "Didst thou see
it, Faquita? Oh, surely. Tell us, what did he send? Is he a generous
bridegroom? Were there jewels? And satins? Of what was the rosary?"
"Hush the voice or you will hear nothing. The girls all jump and clap
their hands and they cry: 'Come, Herminia. Come quick! Let us go and
see.' Only La Tulita hold the head very high and look like the donas is
nothing to her, and the Lieutenant look very surprise, and she talk to
him very fast like she no want him to know what they mean. But the girls
just take her hands and pull her out the house. I am after. La Tulita
look very mad, but she cannot help, and in five minutes we are at the
Casa Rivera, and the girls scream and clap the hands in the sala for
Doña Carmen she have unpack the donas and the beautiful things are on
the tables and the sofas and the chairs, Mother of God!"
"Go on! Go on!" cried a dozen exasperated voices.
"Well! Such a donas. Ay, he is a generous lover. A yellow crepe shawl
embroidered with red roses. A white one with embroidery so thick it can
stand up. A string of pearls from Baja California. (Ay, poor Ysabel
Herrera!) Hoops of gold for the little ears of La Tulita. A big chain
of California gold. A set of topaz with pearls all round. A rosary of
amethyst—purple like the violets. A big pin painted with the Ascension,
and diamonds all round. Silks and satins for gowns. A white lace
mantilla, Dios de mi alma! A black one for the visits. And the
night-gowns like cobwebs. The petticoats!" She stopped abruptly.
"And the smocks?" cried her listeners, excitedly. "The smocks? They are
more beautiful than Blandina's? They were pack in rose-leaves—"
"Ay! yi! yi! yi!" The old woman dropped her head on her breast and waved
her arms. She was a study for despair. Even she did not suspect how
thoroughly she was enjoying herself.
"What! What! Tell us! Quick, thou old snail. They were not fine? They
had not embroidery?"
"Hush the voices. I tell you when I am ready. The girls are like crazy.
They look like they go to eat the things. Only La Tulita sit on the
chair in the door with her back to all and look at the windows of Doña
Maria. They look like a long row of suns, those windows.
"I am the one. Suddenly I say: 'Where are the smocks?' And they all cry:
'Yes, where are the smocks? Let us see if he will be a good husband.
Doña Carmen, where are the smocks?'
"Doña Carmen turn over everything in a hurry. 'I did not think of the
smocks,' she say. 'But they must be here. Everything was unpack in this
room.' She lift all up, piece by piece. The girls help and so do I.
La Tulita sit still but begin to look more interested. We search
everywhere—everywhere—for twenty minutes. There—are—no—smocks!"
"God of my life! The smocks! He did not forget!"
"He forget the smocks!"
There was an impressive pause. The women were too dumfounded to comment.
Never in the history of Monterey had such a thing happened before.
Faquita continued: "The girls sit down on the floor and cry. Doña Carmen
turn very white and go in the other room. Then La Tulita jump up and
walk across the room. The lashes fall down over the eyes that look like
she is California and have conquer America, not the other way. The
nostrils just jump. She laugh, laugh, laugh. 'So!' she say, 'my rich and
generous and ardent bridegroom, he forget the smocks of the donas. He
proclaim as if by a poster on the streets that he will be a bad husband,
a thoughtless, careless, indifferent husband. He has vow by the stars
that he adore me. He has serenade beneath my window until I have beg for
mercy. He persecute my mother. And now he flings the insult of insults
in my teeth. And he with six married sisters!'
"The girls just sob. They can say nothing. No woman forgive that. Then
she say loud, 'Ana,' and the girl run in. 'Ana,' she say, 'pack this
stuff and tell José and Marcos take it up to the house of the Señor Don
Ramon Garcia. I have no use for it.' Then she say to me: 'Faquita, walk
back to Doña Maria's with me, no? I have engagement with the American.'
And I go with her, of course; I think I go jump in the bay if she tell
me; and she dance all night with that American. He no look at another
girl—all have the eyes so red, anyhow. And Doña Maria is crazy that her
nephew do such a thing, and La Tulita no go to marry him now. Ay, that
witch! She have the excuse and she take it."
For a few moments the din was so great that the crows in a neighbouring
grove of willows sped away in fear. The women talked all at once, at
the top of their voices and with no falling inflections. So rich an
assortment of expletives, secular and religious, such individuality yet
sympathy of comment, had not been called upon for duty since the seventh
of July, a year before, when Commodore Sloat had run up the American
flag on the Custom-house. Finally they paused to recover breath.
Mariquita's young lungs being the first to refill, she demanded of
"And Don Ramon—when does he return?"
"In two weeks, no sooner."
Two weeks later they were again gathered about the tubs.
For a time after arrival they forgot La Tulita—now the absorbing topic
of Monterey—in a new sensation. Mariquita had appeared with a basket of
unmistakable American underwear.
"What!" cried Faquita, shrilly. "Thou wilt defile these tubs with the
linen of bandoleros? Hast thou had thy silly head turned with a kiss?
Not one shirt shall go in this water."
Mariquita tossed her head defiantly. "Captain Brotherton say the Indian
women break his clothes in pieces. They know not how to wash anything
but dish-rags. And does he not go to marry our Doña Eustaquia?"
"The Captain is not so bad," admitted Faquita. The indignation of the
others also visibly diminished: the Captain had been very kind the year
before when gloom lay heavy on the town. "But," continued the autocrat,
with an ominous pressing of her lips, "sure he must change three times a
day. Is all that Captain Brotherton's?"
"He wear many shirts," began Mariquita, when Faquita pounced upon the
basket and shook its contents to the grass.
"Aha! It seems that the Captain has sometimes the short legs and
sometimes the long. Sometimes he put the tucks in his arms, I suppose.
What meaning has this? Thou monster of hypocrisy!"
The old women scowled and snorted. The girls looked sympathetic: more
than one midshipman had found favour in the lower quarter.
"Well," said Mariquita, sullenly, "if thou must know, it is the linen of
the Lieutenant of La Tulita. Ana ask me to wash it, and I say I will."
At this announcement Faquita squared her elbows and looked at Mariquita
with snapping eyes.
"Oho, señorita, I suppose thou wilt say next that thou knowest what
means this flirtation! Has La Tulita lost her heart, perhaps? And Don
Ramon—dost thou know why he leaves Monterey one hour after he comes?"
Her tone was sarcastic, but in it was a note of apprehension.
Mariquita tossed her head, and all pressed close about the rivals.
"What dost thou know, this time?" inquired the girl, provokingly. "Hast
thou any letter to read today? Thou dost forget, old Faquita, that Ana
is my friend—"
"Throw the clothes in the tubs," cried Faquita, furiously. "Do we come
here to idle and gossip? Mariquita, thou hussy, go over to that tub by
thyself and wash the impertinent American rags. Quick. No more talk. The
sun goes high."
No one dared to disobey the queen of the tubs, and in a moment the women
were kneeling in irregular rows, tumbling their linen into the water,
the brown faces and bright attire making a picture in the colorous
landscape which some native artist would have done well to preserve. For
a time no sound was heard but the distant roar of the surf, the sighing
of the wind through the pines on the hill, the less romantic grunts of
the women and the swish of the linen in the water. Suddenly Mariquita,
the proscribed, exclaimed from her segregated tub:—
Heads flew up or twisted on their necks. A party of young people,
attended by a dueña, was crossing the meadow to the road. At the head of
the procession were a girl and a man, to whom every gaze which should
have been intent upon washing-tubs alone was directed. The girl wore a
pink gown and a reboso. Her extraordinary grace made her look taller
than she was; the slender figure swayed with every step. Her pink lips
were parted, her blue starlike eyes looked upward into the keen cold
eyes of a young man wearing the uniform of a lieutenant of the United
The dominant characteristics of the young man's face, even then, were
ambition and determination, and perhaps the remarkable future was
foreshadowed in the restless scheming mind. But to-day his deep-set eyes
were glowing with a light more peculiar to youth, and whenever bulging
stones afforded excuse he grasped the girl's hand and held it as long
as he dared. The procession wound past the tubs and crossing the road
climbed up the hill to the little wooded cemetery of the early fathers,
the cemetery where so many of those bright heads were to lie forgotten
beneath the wild oats and thistles.
"They go to the grave of Benicia Ortega and her little one," said
Francesca. "Holy Mary! La Tulita never look in a man's eyes like that
"But she have in his," said Mariquita, wisely.
"No more talk!" cried Faquita, and once more silence came to her own.
But fate was stronger than Faquita. An hour later a little girl came
running down, calling to the old woman that her grandchild, the
consolation of her age, had been taken ill. After she had hurried away
the women fairly leaped over one another in their efforts to reach
"Tell us, tell us, chiquita," they cried, fearful lest Faquita's
snubbing should have turned her sulky, "what dost thou know?"
But Mariquita, who had been biting her lips to keep back her story,
opened them and spoke fluently.
"Ay, my friends! Doña Eustaquia and Benicia Ortega are not the only ones
to wed Americans. Listen! La Tulita is mad for this man, who is no more
handsome than the palm of my hand when it has all day been in the water.
Yesterday morning came Don Ramon. I am in the back garden of the Casa
Rivera with Ana, and La Tulita is in the front garden sitting under the
wall. I can look through the doors of the sala and see and hear all.
Such a handsome caballero, my friends! The gold six inches deep on the
serape. Silver eagles on the sombrero. And the botas! Stamp with birds
and leaves, ay, yi! He fling open the gates so bold, and when he see La
Tulita he look like the sun is behind his face. (Such curls, my friends,
tied with a blue ribbon!) But listen!
"'Mi querida!' he cry, 'mi alma!' (Ay, my heart jump in my throat like
he speak to me.) Then he fall on one knee and try to kiss her hand. But
she throw herself back like she hate him. Her eyes are like the bay in
winter. And then she laugh. When she do that, he stand up and say with
the voice that shake:—
"'What is the matter, Herminia? Do you not love me any longer?'
"'I never love you,' she say. 'They give me no peace until I say I marry
you, and as I love no one else—I do not care much. But now that you
have insult me, I have the best excuse to break the engagement, and I do
"'I insult you?' He hardly can speak, my friends, he is so surprised and
"'Yes; did you not forget the smocks?'
"'The—smocks!' he stammer, like that. 'The smocks?'
"'No one can be blame but you,' she say. 'And you know that no bride
forgive that. You know all that it means.'
"'Herminia!' he say. 'Surely you will not put me; away for a little
thing like that!'
"'I have no more to say,' she reply, and then she get up and go in the
house and shut the door so I cannot see how he feel, but I am very sorry
for him if he did forget the smocks. Well! That evening I help Ana water
the flowers in the front garden, and every once in the while we look
through the windows at La Tulita and the Lieutenant. They talk, talk,
talk. He look so earnest and she—she look so beautiful. Not like a
devil, as when she talk to Don Ramon in the morning, but like an angel.
Sure, a woman can be both! It depends upon the man. By and by Ana go
away, but I stay there, for I like look at them. After a while they get
up and come out. It is dark in the garden, the walls so high, and the
trees throw the shadows, so they cannot see me. They walk up and down,
and by and by the Lieutenant take out his knife and cut a shoot from the
rose-bush that climb up the house.
"'These Castilian roses,' he say, very soft, but in very bad Spanish,
'they are very beautiful and a part of Monterey—a part of you. Look, I
am going to plant this here, and long before it grow to be a big bush I
come back and you will wear its buds in your hair when we are married in
that lovely old church. Now help me,' and then they kneel down and he
stick it in the ground, and all their fingers push the earth around it.
Then she give a little sob and say, 'You must go?'
"He lift her up and put his arms around her tight. 'I must go,' he say.
'I am not my own master, you know, and the orders have come. But my
heart is here, in this old garden, and I come back for it.' And then she
put her arms around him and he kiss her, and she love him so I forget to
be sorry for Don Ramon. After all, it is the woman who should be happy.
He hold her a long time, so long I am afraid Doña Carmen come out to
look for her. I lift up on my knees (I am sit down before) and look in
the window and I see she is asleep, and I am glad. Well! After a while
they walk up and down again, and he tell her all about his home far
away, and about some money he go to get when the law get ready, and how
he cannot marry on his pay. Then he say how he go to be a great general
some day and how she will be the more beautiful woman in—how you call
it?—Washington, I think. And she cry and say she does not care, she
only want him. And he tell her water the rose-bush every day and think
of him, and he will come back before it is large, and every time a bud
come out she can know he is thinking of her very hard."
"Ay, pobrecita!" said Francesca, "I wonder will he come back. These
"Surely. Are not all men mad for La Tulita?"
"Yes—yes, but he go far away. To America! Dios de mi alma! And men,
they forget." Francesca heaved a deep sigh. Her youth was far behind
her, but she remembered many things.
"He return," said Mariquita, the young and romantic.
"When does he go?"
Mariquita pointed to the bay. A schooner rode at anchor. "He go to Yerba
Buena on that to-morrow morning. From there to the land of the American.
Ay, yi! Poor La Tulita! But his linen is dry. I must take it to iron for
I have it promised for six in the morning." And she hastily gathered the
articles from the low bushes and hurried away.
That evening as the women returned to town, talking gayly, despite the
great baskets on their heads, they passed the hut of Faquita and paused
at the window to inquire for the child. The little one lay gasping on
the bed. Faquita sat beside her with bowed head. An aged crone brewed
herbs over a stove. The dingy little house faced the hills and was dimly
lighted by the fading rays of the sun struggling through the dark pine
"Holy Mary, Faquita!" said Francesca, in a loud whisper. "Does Liseta
Faquita sprang to her feet. Her cross old face was drawn with misery.
"Go, go!" she said, waving her arms, "I want none of you."
The next evening she sat in the same position, her eyes fixed upon the
shrinking features of the child. The crone had gone. She heard the door
open, and turned with a scowl. But it was La Tulita that entered and
came rapidly to the head of the bed. The girl's eyes were swollen, her
dress and hair disordered.
"I have come to you because you are in trouble," she said. "I, too, am
in trouble. Ay, my Faquita!"
The old woman put up her arms and drew the girl down to her lap. She had
never touched her idol before, but sorrow levels even social barriers.
"Pobrecita!" she said, and the girl cried softly on her shoulder.
"Will he come back, Faquita?"
"Surely, niñita. No man could forget you."
"But it is so far."
"Think of what Don Vicente do for Doña Ysabel, mijita."
"But he is an American. Oh, no, it is not that I doubt him. He loves me!
It is so far, like another world. And the ocean is so big and cruel."
"We ask the priest to say a mass."
"Ah, my Faquita! I will go to the church to-morrow morning. How glad I
am that I came to thee." She kissed the old woman warmly, and for the
moment Faquita forgot her trouble.
But the child threw out its arms and moaned. La Tulita pushed the hair
out of her eyes and brought the medicine from the stove, where it
simmered unsavourily. The child swallowed it painfully, and Faquita
shook her head in despair. At the dawn it died. As La Tulita laid her
white fingers on the gaping eyelids, Faquita rose to her feet. Her ugly
old face was transfigured. Even the grief had gone out of it. For a
moment she was no longer a woman, but one of the most subtle creations
of the Catholic religion conjoined with racial superstitions.
"As the moon dieth and cometh to life again," she repeated with a sort
of chanting cadence, "so man, though he die, will live again. Is it
not better that she will wander forever through forests where crystal
streams roll over golden sands, than grow into wickedness, and go
out into the dark unrepenting, perhaps, to be bitten by serpents and
scorched by lightning and plunged down cataracts?" She turned to La
Tulita. "Will you stay here, señorita, while I go to bid them make
The girl nodded, and the woman went out. La Tulita watched the proud
head and erect carriage for a moment, then bound up the fallen jaw of
the little corpse, crossed its hands and placed weights on the eyelids.
She pushed the few pieces of furniture against the wall, striving to
forget the one trouble that had come into her triumphant young life. But
there was little to do, and after a time she knelt by the window and
looked up at the dark forest upon which long shafts of light were
striking, routing the fog that crouched in the hollows. The town was as
quiet as a necropolis. The white houses, under the black shadows of the
hills, lay like tombs. Suddenly the roar of the surf came to her ears,
and she threw out her arms with a cry, dropping her head upon them and
sobbing convulsively. She heard the ponderous waves of the Pacific
lashing the keel of a ship.
She was aroused by shouting and sounds of merriment. She raised her head
dully, but remembered in a moment what Faquita had left her to await.
The dawn lay rosily on the town. The shimmering light in the pine woods
was crossed and recrossed by the glare of rockets. Down the street came
the sound of singing voices, the words of the song heralding the flight
of a child-spirit to a better world. La Tulita slipped out of the back
door and went to her home without meeting the procession. But before she
shut herself in her room she awakened Ana, and giving her a purse of
gold, bade her buy a little coffin draped with white and garlanded with
"Tell us, tell us, Mariquita, does she water the rose-tree every night?"
"Every night, ay, yi!"
"And is it big yet? Ay, but that wall is high! Not a twig can I see!"
"Yes, it grows!"
"And he comes not?"
"He write. I see the letters."
"But what does he say?"
"How can I know?"
"And she goes to the balls and meriendas no more. Surely, they will
forget her. It is more than a year now. Some one else will be La
"She does not care."
"Hush the voices," cried Faquita, scrubbing diligently. "It is well that
she stay at home and does not dance away her beauty before he come. She
is like a lily."
"But lilies turn brown, old Faquita, when the wind blow on them too
long. Dost thou think he will return?"
"Surely," said Faquita, stoutly. "Could any one forget that angel?"
"Ay, these men, these men!" said Francesca, with a sigh.
"Oh, thou old raven!" cried Mariquita. "But truly—truly—she has had no
letter for three months."
"Aha, señorita, thou didst not tell us that just now."
"Nor did I intend to. The words just fell from my teeth."
"He is ill," cried Faquita, angrily. "Ay, my probrecita! Sometimes I
think Ysabel is more happy under the rocks."
"How dost thou know he is ill? Will he die?" The wash-tub mail had made
too few mistakes in its history to admit of doubt being cast upon the
assertion of one of its officials.
"I hear Captain Brotherton read from a letter to Doña Eustaquia. Ay,
they are happy!"
"Two hours ago."
"Then we know before the town—like always."
"Surely. Do we not know all things first? Hist!"
The women dropped their heads and fumbled at the linen in the water. La
Tulita was approaching.
She came across the meadow with all her old swinging grace, the blue
gown waving about her like the leaves of a California lily when the wind
rustled the forest. But the reboso framed a face thin and pale, and the
sparkle was gone from her eyes. She passed the tubs and greeted the old
women pleasantly, walked a few steps up the hill, then turned as if in
obedience to an afterthought, and sat down on a stone in the shade of a
"It is cool here," she said.
"Yes, señorita." They were not deceived, but they dared not stare at
her, with Faquita's scowl upon them.
"What news has the wash-tub mail to-day?" asked the girl, with an
attempt at lightness. "Did an enemy invade the South this morning, and
have you heard it already, as when General Kearney came? Is General
Castro still in Baja California, or has he fled to Mexico? Has Doña
Prudencia Iturbi y Moncada given a ball this week at Santa Barbara? Have
Don Diego and Doña Chonita—?"
"The young Lieutenant is ill," blurted out one of the old women, then
cowered until she almost fell into her tub. Faquita sprang forward and
caught the girl in her arms.
"Thou old fool!" she cried furiously. "Thou devil! Mayst thou find a
tarantula in thy bed to-night. Mayst thou dream thou art roasting in
hell." She carried La Tulita rapidly across the meadow.
"Ah, I thought I should hear there," said the girl, with a laugh. "Thank
heaven for the wash-tub mail."
Faquita nursed her through a long illness. She recovered both health
and reason, and one day the old woman brought her word that the young
Lieutenant was well again—and that his illness had been brief and
"Ay, but the years go quick!" said Mariquita, as she flapped a piece of
linen after taking it from the water. "I wonder do all towns sleep like
this. Who can believe that once it is so gay? The balls! The grand
caballeros! The serenades! The meriendas! No more! No more! Almost I
forget the excitement when the Americanos coming. I no am young any
more. Ay, yi!"
"Poor Faquita, she just died of old age," said a woman who had been
young with Mariquita, spreading an article of underwear on a bush. "Her
life just drop out like her teeth. No one of the old women that taught
us to wash is here now, Mariquita. We are the old ones now, and we teach
the young, ay, yi!"
"Well, it is a comfort that the great grow old like the low people. High
birth cannot keep the skin white and the body slim. Ay, look! Who can
think she is so beautiful before?"
A woman was coming down the road from the town. A woman, whom
passing years had browned, although leaving the fine strong features
uncoarsened. She was dressed simply in black, and wore a small American
bonnet. The figure had not lost the slimness of its youth, but the walk
was stiff and precise. The carriage evinced a determined will.
"Ay, who can think that once she sway like the tule!" said Mariquita,
with a sigh. "Well, when she come to-day I have some news. A letter, we
used to call it, dost thou remember, Brígida? Who care for the wash-tub
mail now? These Americanos never hear of it, and our people—triste de
mi—have no more the interest in anything."
"Tell us thy news," cried many voices. The older women had never lost
their interest in La Tulita. The younger ones had heard her story many
times, and rarely passed the wall before her house without looking at
the tall rose-bush which had all the pride of a young tree.
"No, you can hear when she come. She will come to-day. Six months ago
to-day she come. Ay, yi, to think she come once in six months all these
years! And never until to-day has the wash-tub mail a letter for her."
"Very strange she did not forget a Gringo and marry with a caballero,"
said one of the girls, scornfully. "They say the caballeros were so
beautiful, so magnificent. The Americans have all the money now, but she
been rich for a little while."
"All women are not alike. Sometimes I think she is more happy with the
memory." And Mariquita, who had a fat lazy husband and a swarm of brown
children, sighed heavily. "She live happy in the old house and is not so
poor. And always she have the rose-bush. She smile, now, sometimes, when
she water it."
"Well, it is many years," said the girl, philosophically. "Here she
La Tulita, or Doña Herminia, as she now was called, walked briskly
across the meadow and sat down on the stone which had come to be called
for her. She spoke to each in turn, but did not ask for news. She had
ceased long since to do that. She still came because the habit held her,
and because she liked the women.
"Ah, Mariquita," she said, "the linen is not as fine as when we were
young. And thou art glad to get the shirts of the Americans now. My poor
"Coarse things," said Mariquita, disdainfully. Then a silence fell,
so sudden and so suggestive that Doña Herminia felt it and turned
instinctively to Mariquita.
"What is it?" she asked rapidly. "Is there news to-day? Of what?"
Mariquita's honest face was grave and important.
"There is news, señorita," she said.
"What is it?"
The washing-women had dropped back from the tubs and were listening
"Ay!" The oracle drew a long breath. "There is war over there, you know,
señorita," she said, making a vague gesture toward the Atlantic states.
"Yes, I know. Is it decided? Is the North or the South victorious? I am
glad that the wash-tub mail has not—"
"It is not that, señorita."
"The Lieutenant—he is a great general now."
"He has won a great battle—And—they speak of his wife, señorita."
Doña Herminia closed her eyes for a moment. Then she opened them and
glanced slowly about her. The blue bay, the solemn pines, the golden
atmosphere, the cemetery on the hill, the women washing at the stone
tubs—all was unchanged. Only the flimsy wooden houses of the Americans
scattered among the adobes of the town and the aging faces of the women
who had been young in her brief girlhood marked the lapse of years.
There was a smile on her lips. Her monotonous life must have given her
insanity or infinite peace, and peace had been her portion. In a few
minutes she said good-by to the women and went home. She never went to
the tubs again.
THE CONQUEST OF DOÑA JACOBA
A forest of willows cut by a forking creek, and held apart here and
there by fields of yellow mustard blossoms fluttering in their pale
green nests, or meadows carpeted with the tiny white and yellow flowers
of early summer. Wide patches of blue where the willows ended, and
immense banks of daisies bordering fields of golden grain, bending and
shimmering in the wind with the deep even sweep of rising tide. Then the
lake, long, irregular, half choked with tules, closed by a marsh. The
valley framed by mountains of purplish gray, dull brown, with patches of
vivid green and yellow; a solitary gray peak, barren and rocky, in
sharp contrast to the rich Californian hills; on one side fawn-coloured
slopes, and slopes with groves of crouching oaks in their hollows;
opposite and beyond the cold peak, a golden hill rising to a mount of
earthy green; still lower, another peak, red and green, mulberry and
mould; between and afar, closing the valley, a line of pink-brown
mountains splashed with blue.
Such was a fragment of Don Roberto Duncan's vast rancho, Los Quervos,
and on a plateau above the willows stood the adobe house, white and
red-tiled, shaped like a solid letter H. On the deep veranda, sunken
between the short forearms of the H, Doña Jacoba could stand and issue
commands in her harsh imperious voice to the Indians in the rancheria
among the willows, whilst the long sala behind overflowed with the gay
company her famous hospitality had summoned, the bare floor and ugly
velvet furniture swept out of thought by beautiful faces and flowered
Behind the sala was an open court, the grass growing close to the great
stone fountain. On either side was a long line of rooms, and above the
sala was a library opening into the sleeping room of Doña Jacoba on one
side, and into that of Elena, her youngest and loveliest daughter, on
the other. Beyond the house were a dozen or more buildings: the kitchen;
a room in which steers and bullocks, sheep and pigs, were hanging;
a storehouse containing provisions enough for a hotel; and the
manufactories of the Indians. Somewhat apart was a large building with
a billiard-room in its upper story and sleeping rooms below. From her
window Elena could look down upon the high-walled corral with its
prancing horses always in readiness for the pleasure-loving guests, and
upon the broad road curving through the willows and down the valley.
The great house almost shook with life on this brilliant day of the
month of June, 1852. Don Roberto Duncan, into whose shrewd Scotch hands
California had poured her wealth for forty years, had long ago taken
to himself a wife of Castilian blood; to-morrow their eldest remaining
daughter was to be married to a young Englishman, whose father had been
a merchant in California when San Francisco was Yerba Buena. Not a room
was vacant in the house. Young people had come from Monterey and San
Francisco, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Beds had been put up in the
library and billiard-room, in the store-rooms and attics. The corral was
full of strange horses, and the huts in the willows had their humbler
Francisca sat in her room surrounded by a dozen chattering girls. The
floor beneath the feet of the Californian heiress was bare, and the
heavy furniture was of uncarved mahogany. But a satin quilt covered the
bed, lavish Spanish needlework draped chest and tables, and through
the open window came the June sunshine and the sound of the splashing
Francisca was putting the last stitches in her wedding-gown, and the
girls were helping, advising, and commenting.
"Art thou not frightened, Panchita," demanded one of the girls, "to go
away and live with a strange man? Just think, thou hast seen him but ten
"What of that?" asked Francisca, serenely, holding the rich corded silk
at arm's length, and half closing her eyes as she readjusted the deep
flounce of Spanish lace. "Remember, we shall ride and dance and play
games together for a week with all of you, dear friends, before I go
away with him. I shall know him quite well by that time. And did not my
father know him when he was a little boy? Surely, he cannot be a cruel
man, or my father would not have chosen him for my husband."
"I like the Americans and the Germans and the Russians," said the girl
who had spoken, "particularly the Americans. But these English are so
stern, so harsh sometimes."
"What of that?" asked Francisca again. "Am I not used to my father?"
She was a singular-looking girl, this compound of Scotch and Spanish.
Her face was cast in her father's hard mould, and her frame was large
and sturdy, but she had the black luxuriant hair of Spain, and much
grace of gesture and expression.
"I would not marry an Englishman," said a soft voice.
Francisca raised her eyebrows and glanced coldly at the speaker, a girl
of perfect loveliness, who sat behind a table, her chin resting on her
"Thou wouldst marry whom our father told thee to marry, Elena," said her
sister, severely. "What hast thou to say about it?"
"I will marry a Spaniard," said Elena, rebelliously. "A Spaniard, and no
"Thou wilt do what?" asked a cold voice from the door. The girls gave a
little scream. Elena turned pale, even Francisca's hands twitched.
Doña Jacoba was an impressive figure as she stood in the doorway; a tall
unbowed woman with a large face and powerful penetrating eyes. A thin
mouth covering white teeth separated the prominent nose and square chin.
A braid of thick black hair lay over her fine bust, and a black silk
handkerchief made a turban for her lofty head. She wore a skirt of heavy
black silk and a shawl of Chinese crêpe, one end thrown gracefully over
"What didst thou say?" she demanded again, a sneer on her lips.
Elena made no answer. She stared through the window at the servants
laying the table in the dining room on the other side of the court, her
breath shortening as if the room had been exhausted of air.
"Let me hear no more of that nonsense," continued her mother. "A strange
remark, truly, to come from the lips of a Californian! Thy father has
said that his daughters shall marry men of his race—men who belong to
that island of the North; and I have agreed, and thy sisters are well
married. No women are more virtuous, more industrious, more religious,
than ours; but our men—our young men—are a set of drinking gambling
vagabonds. Go to thy room and pray there until supper."
Elena ran out of an opposite door, and Doña Jacoba sat down on a
high-backed chair and held out her hand for the wedding-gown. She
examined it, then smiled brilliantly.
"The lace is beautiful," she said. "There is no richer in California,
and I have seen Doña Trinidad Iturbi y Moncada's and Doña Modeste
Castro's. Let me see thy mantilla once more."
Francisca opened a chest nearly as large as her bed, and shook out a
long square of superb Spanish lace. It had arrived from the city of
Mexico but a few days before. The girls clapped their admiring hands, as
if they had not looked at it twenty times, and Doña Jacoba smoothed it
tenderly with her strong hands. Then she went over to the chest and
lifted the beautiful silk and crêpe gowns, one by one, her sharp eyes
detecting no flaw. She opened another chest and examined the piles of
underclothing and bed linen, all of finest woof, and deeply bordered
with the drawn work of Spain.
"All is well," she said, returning to her chair. "I see nothing more to
be done. Thy brother will bring the emeralds, and the English plate will
come before the week is over."
"Is it sure that Santiago will come in time for the wedding?" asked
a half-English granddaughter, whose voice broke suddenly at her own
But Doña Jacoba was in a gracious mood.
"Surely. Has not Don Roberto gone to meet him? He will be here at four
"How glad I shall be to see him!" said Francisca. "Just think, my
friends, I have not seen him for seven years. Not since he was eleven
years old. He has been on that cold dreadful island in the North all
this time. I wonder has he changed!"
"Why should he change?" asked Doña Jacoba. "Is he not a Cortez and a
Duncan? Is he not a Californian and a Catholic? Can a few years in an
English school make him of another race? He is seven years older, that
"True," assented Francisca, threading her needle; "of course he could
Doña Jacoba opened a large fan and wielded it with slow curves of her
strong wrist. She had never been cold in her life, and even a June day
"We have another guest," she said in a moment—"a young man, Don Dario
Castañares of Los Robles Rancho. He comes to buy cattle of my husband,
and must remain with us until the bargain is over."
Several of the girls raised their large black eyes with interest. "Don
Dario Castañares," said one; "I have heard of him. He is very rich and
very handsome, they say."
"Yes," said Doña Jacoba, indifferently. "He is not ugly, but much too
dark. His mother was an Indian. He is no husband, with all his leagues,
for any Californian of pure Castilian blood."
Elena had gone up to her room, and would have locked the door had she
possessed a key. As it was, she indulged in a burst of tears at the
prospect of marrying an Englishman, then consoled herself with the
thought that her best-beloved brother would be with her in a few hours.
She bathed her face and wound the long black coils about her shapely
head. The flush faded out of her white cheeks, and her eyelids were less
heavy. But the sadness did not leave her eyes nor the delicate curves of
her mouth. She had the face of the Madonna, stamped with the heritage of
suffering; a nature so keenly capable of joy and pain that she drew both
like a magnet, and would so long as life stayed in her.
She curled herself in the window-seat, looking down the road for the
gray cloud of dust that would herald her brother. But only black flocks
of crows mounted screaming from the willows, to dive and rise again.
Suddenly she became conscious that she was watched, and her gaze swept
downward to the corral. A stranger stood by the gates, giving orders to
a vaquero but looking hard at her from beneath his low-dropped sombrero.
He was tall, this stranger, and very slight. His face was nearly as dark
as an Indian's, but set with features so perfect that no one but Doña
Jacoba had ever found fault with his skin. Below his dreaming ardent
eyes was a straight delicate nose; the sensuous mouth was half parted
over glistening teeth and but lightly shaded by a silken mustache. About
his graceful figure hung a dark red serape embroidered and fringed
with gold, and his red velvet trousers were laced, and his yellow
riding-boots gartered, with silver.
Elena rose quickly and pulled the curtain across the window; the blood
had flown to her hair, and a smile chased the sadness from her mouth.
Then she raised her hands and pressed the palms against the slope of the
ceiling, her dark upturned eyes full of terror. For many moments she
stood so, hardly conscious of what she was doing, seeing only the
implacable eyes of her mother. Then down the road came the loud regular
hoof-falls of galloping horses, and with an eager cry she flung aside
the curtain, forgetting the stranger.
Down the road, half hidden by the willows, came two men. When they
reached the rancheria, Elena saw the faces: a sandy-haired hard-faced
old Scotsman, with cold blue eyes beneath shaggy red brows, and a dark
slim lad, every inch a Californian. Elena waved her handkerchief and the
lad his hat. Then the girl ran down the stairs and over to the willows.
Santiago sprang from his horse, and the brother and sister clung
together kissing and crying, hugging each other until her hair fell down
and his hat was in the dust.
"Thou hast come!" cried Elena at last, holding him at arm's length
that she might see him better, then clinging to him again with all her
strength. "Thou never wilt leave me again—promise me! Promise me, my
Santiago! Ay, I have been so lonely."
"Never, my little one. Have I not longed to come home that I might be
with you? O my Elena! I know so much. I will teach you everything."
"Ay, I am proud of thee, my Santiago! Thou knowest more than any boy in
"Perhaps that would not be much," with fine scorn. "But come, Elena mia,
I must go to my mother; she is waiting. She looks as stern as ever; but
how I have longed to see her!"
They ran to the house, passing the stranger, who had watched them with
folded arms and scowling brows. Santiago rushed impetuously at his
mother; but she put out her arm, stiff and straight, and held him back.
Then she laid her hand, with its vice-like grip, on his shoulder, and
led him down the sala to the chapel at the end. It was arranged for the
wedding, with all the pomp of velvet altar-cloth and golden candelabra.
He looked at it wonderingly. Why had she brought him to look upon this
before giving him a mother's greeting?
"Kneel down," she said, "and repeat the prayers of thy Church—prayers
of gratitude for thy safe return."
The boy folded his hands deprecatingly.
"But, mother, remember it is seven long years since I have said the
Catholic prayers. Remember I have been educated in an English college,
in a Protestant country."
Her tall form curved slowly toward him, the blood blazed in her dark
"What!" she screamed incredulously. "Thou hast forgotten the prayers of
thy Church—the prayers thou learned at my knee?"
"Yes, mother, I have," he said desperately. "I cannot—"
"God! God! Mother of God! My son says this to me!" She caught him by the
shoulder again and almost hurled him from the room. Then she locked her
hand about his arm and dragged him down the sala to his father's room.
She took a greenhide reata from the table and brought it down upon his
back with long sweeps of her powerful arm, but not another word came
from her rigid lips. The boy quivered with the shame and pain, but made
no resistance—for he was a Californian, and she was his mother.
Joaquin, the eldest son, who had been hunting bear with a number of his
guests, returned shortly after his brother's arrival and was met at the
door by his mother.
"Where is Santiago?" he asked. "I hear he has come."
"Santiago has been sent to bed, where he will remain for the present. We
have an unexpected guest, Joaquin. He leans there against the tree—Don
Dario Castañares. Thou knowest who he is. He comes to buy cattle of thy
father, and will remain some days. Thou must share thy room with him,
for there is no other place—even on the billiard-table."
Joaquin liked the privacy of his room, but he had all the hospitality of
his race. He went at once to the stranger, walking a little heavily,
for he was no longer young and slender, but with a cordial smile on his
shrewd warmly coloured face.
"The house is at your service, Don Dario," he said, shaking the
newcomer's hand. "We are honoured that you come in time for my sister's
wedding. It distresses me that I cannot offer you the best room in the
house, but, Dios! we have a company here. I have only the half of my
poor bed to offer you, but if you will deign to accept that—"
"I am miserable, wretched, to put you to such inconvenience—"
"Never think of such a thing, my friend. Nothing could give me greater
happiness than to try to make you comfortable in my poor room. Will you
come now and take a siesta before supper?"
Dario followed him to the house, protesting at every step, and Joaquin
threw open the door of one of the porch rooms.
"At your service, señor—everything at your service."
He went to one corner of the room and kicked aside a pile of saddles,
displaying a small hillock of gold in ten-and fifty-dollar slugs. "You
will find about thirty thousand dollars there. We sold some cattle a
days ago. I beg that you will help yourself. It is all at your service.
I will now go and send you some aguardiente, for you must be thirsty."
And he went out and left his guest alone.
Dario threw himself face downward on the bed. He was in love, and the
lady had kissed another man as if she had no love to spare. True, it was
but her brother she had kissed, but would she have eyes for any one else
during a stranger's brief visit? And how, in this crowded house, could
he speak a word with her alone? And that terrible dragon of a mother!
He sprang to his feet as an Indian servant entered with a glass of
aguardiente. When he had burnt his throat, he felt better. "I will stay
until I have won her, if I remain a month," he vowed. "It will be some
time before Don Roberto will care to talk business."
But Don Roberto was never too occupied to talk business. After he had
taken his bath and siesta, he sent a servant to request Don Dario
Castañares to come up to the library, where he spent most of his time,
received all his visitors, reprimanded his children, and took his
after-dinner naps. It was a luxurious room for the Californian of that
day. A thick red English carpet covered the floor; one side of the room
was concealed by a crowded bookcase, and the heavy mahogany furniture
was handsomely carved, although upholstered with horse-hair.
In an hour every detail of the transaction had been disposed of, and
Dario had traded a small rancho for a herd of cattle. The young man's
face was very long when the last detail had been arranged, but he had
forgotten that his host was as Californian as himself. Don Roberto
poured him a brimming glass of angelica and gave him a hearty slap on
"The cattle will keep for a few days, Don Dario," he said, "and you
shall not leave this house until the festivities are over. Not until
a week from to-morrow—do you hear? I knew your father. We had many a
transaction together, and I take pleasure in welcoming his son under my
roof. Now get off to the young people, and do not make any excuses."
Dario made none.
The next morning at eight, Francisca stood before the altar in the
chapel, looking very handsome in her rich gown and soft mantilla. The
bridegroom, a sensible-looking young Englishman, was somewhat nervous,
but Francisca might have been married every morning at eight o'clock.
Behind them stood Don Roberto in a new suit of English broadcloth, and
Doña Jacoba in heavy lilac silk, half covered with priceless lace. The
six bridesmaids looked like a huge bouquet, in their wide delicately
coloured skirts. Their dark eyes, mischievous, curious, thoughtful,
flashed more brilliantly than the jewels they wore.
The sala and Don Roberto's room beyond were so crowded that some of the
guests stood in the windows, and many could not enter the doors; every
family within a hundred leagues had come to the wedding. The veranda was
crowded with girls, the sparkling faces draped in black mantillas or
bright rebosos, the full gay gowns fluttering in the breeze. Men in
jingling spurs and all the bravery of gold-laced trousers and short
embroidered jackets respectfully elbowed their way past brown and stout
old women that they might whisper a word into some pretty alert little
ear. They had all ridden many leagues that morning, but there was not
a trace of fatigue on any face. The court behind the sala was full of
Indian servants striving to catch a glimpse of the ceremony.
Dario stood just within the front door, his eyes eagerly fixed upon
Elena. She looked like a California lily in her white gown; even her
head drooped a little as if a storm had passed. Her eyes were absent and
heavy; they mirrored nothing of the solemn gayety of the morning; they
saw only the welts on her brother's back.
Dario had not seen her since Santiago's arrival. She had not appeared at
supper, and he had slept little in consequence; in fact, he had spent
most of the night playing monte with Joaquin and a dozen other young
men in the billiard-room.
During the bridal mass the padre gave communion to the young couple, and
to those that had made confession the night before. Elena was not of the
number, and during the intense silence she drew back and stood and knelt
near Dario. They were not close enough to speak, had they dared; but the
Californian had other speech than words, and Dario and Elena made their
confession that morning.
During breakfast they were at opposite ends of the long table in the
dining room, but neither took part in the songs and speeches, the toasts
and laughter. Both had done some manoeuvring to get out of sight of the
old people, and sit at one of the many other tables in the sala, on the
corridor, in the court; but Elena had to go with the bridesmaids, and
Joaquin insisted upon doing honour to the uninvited guest. The Indian
servants passed the rich and delicate, the plain and peppered, dishes,
the wines and the beautiful cakes for which Doña Jacoba and her
daughters were famous. The massive plate that had done duty for
generations in Spain was on the table; the crystal had been cut in
England. It was the banquet of a grandee, and no one noticed the silent
After breakfast the girls flitted to their rooms and changed their
gowns, and wound rebosos or mantillas about their heads; the men put off
their jackets for lighter ones of flowered calico, and the whole party,
in buggies or on horseback, started for a bull-fight which was to take
place in a field about a mile behind the house. Elena went in a buggy
with Santiago, who was almost as pale as she. Dario, on horseback, rode
as near her as he dared; but when they reached the fence about the field
careless riders crowded between, and he could only watch her from afar.
The vaqueros in their broad black hats shining with varnish, their black
velvet jackets, their crimson sashes, and short, black velvet trousers
laced with silver cord over spotless linen, looked very picturesque as
they dashed about the field jingling their spurs and shouting at each
other. When the bulls trotted in and greeted each other pleasantly,
the vaqueros swung their hissing reatas and yelled until the maddened
animals wreaked their vengeance on each other, and the serious work of
the day began.
Elena leaned back with her fan before her eyes, but Santiago looked on
eagerly in spite of his English training.
"Caramba!" he cried, "but that old bull is tough. Look, Elena! The
little one is down. No, no! He has the big one. Ay! yi, yi! By Jove! he
is gone—no, he has run off—he is on him again! He has ripped him up!
A cheer as from one throat made the mountains echo, but Elena still held
her fan before the field.
"How canst thou like such bloody sport?" she asked disgustedly. "The
poor animals! What pleasure canst thou take to see a fine brute kicking
in his death-agony, his bowels trailing on the ground?"
"Fie, Elena! Art thou not a Californian? Dost thou not love the sport of
thy country? Why, look at the other girls! They are mad with excitement.
By Jove! I never saw so many bright eyes. I wonder if I shall be too
stiff to dance to-night. Elena, she gave me a beating! But tell me,
little one, why dost thou not like the bull-fight? I feel like another
man since I have seen it."
"I cannot be pleased with cruelty. I shall never get used to see beasts
killed for amusement. And Don Dario Castañares does not like it either.
He never smiled once, nor said 'Brava!'"
"Aha! And how dost thou know whether he did or not? I thought thy face
was behind that big black fan."
"I saw him through the sticks. What does 'By Jove' mean, my Santiago?"
He enlightened her, then stood up eagerly. Another bull had been brought
in, and one of the vaqueros was to fight him. During the next two hours
Santiago gave little thought to his sister, and sometimes her long
black lashes swept above the top of her fan. When five or six bulls had
stamped and roared and gored and died, the guests of Los Quervos went
home to chocolate and siesta, the others returned to their various
But Dario took no nap that day. Twice he had seen an Indian girl at
Elena's window, and as the house settled down to temporary calm, he saw
the girl go to the rancheria among the willows. He wrote a note, and
followed her as soon as he dared. She wore a calico frock, exactly like
a hundred others, and her stiff black hair cut close to her neck in the
style enforced by Doña Jacoba; but Dario recognized her imitation of
Elena's walk and carriage. He was very nervous, but he managed to stroll
about and make his visit appear one of curiosity. As he passed the girl
he told her to follow him, and in a few moments they were alone in
a thicket. He had hard work to persuade her to take the note to her
mistress, for she stood in abject awe of Doña Jacoba; but love of Elena
and sympathy for the handsome stranger prevailed, and the girl went off
with the missive.
The staircase led from Don Roberto's room to Doña Jacoba's; but the
lady's all-seeing eyes were closed, and the master was snoring in his
library. Malia tiptoed by both, and Elena, who had been half asleep, sat
up, trembling with excitement, and read the impassioned request for an
interview. She lifted her head and listened, panting a little. Then
she ran to the door and looked into the library. Her father was sound
asleep; there could he no doubt of that. She dared not write an answer,
but she closed the door and put her lips to the girl's ear.
"Tell him," she murmured, horrified at her own boldness—"tell him to
take me out for the contradanza tonight. There is no other chance." And
the girl went back and delivered the message.
The guests and family met again at supper; but yards of linen and mounds
of plate, spirited, quickly turning heads, flowered muslin gowns and
silken jackets, again separated Dario and Elena. He caught a glimpse now
and again of her graceful head turning on its white throat, or of her
sad pure profile shining before her mother's stern old face.
Immediately after supper the bride and groom led the way to the sala,
the musicians tuned their violins and guitars, and after an hour's
excited comment upon the events of the day the dancing began. Doña
Jacoba could be very gracious when she chose, and she moved among her
guests like a queen to-night, begging them to be happy, and electrifying
them with her brilliant smile. She dispelled their awe of her with
magical tact, and when she laid her hand on one young beauty's shoulder,
and told her that her eyes put out the poor candles of Los Quervos, the
girl was ready to fling herself on the floor and kiss the tyrant's feet.
Elena watched her anxiously. Her father petted her in his harsh abrupt
way. If she had ever received a kiss from her mother, she did not
remember it; but she worshipped the blinding personality of the woman,
although she shook before the relentless will. But that her mother was
pleased to be gracious tonight was beyond question, and she gave Dario a
glance of timid encouragement, which brought him to her side at once.
"At your feet, señorita," he said; "may I dare to beg the honour of the
She bent her slender body in a pretty courtesy. "It is a small favour to
grant a guest who deigns to honour us with his presence."
He led her out, and when he was not gazing enraptured at the graceful
swaying and gliding of her body, he managed to make a few conventional
"You did not like bull-fighting, señorita?"
"He watched me," she thought. "No, señor. I like nothing that is cruel."
"Those soft eyes could never be cruel. Ay, you are so beautiful,
"I am but a little country girl, señor. You must have seen far more
beautiful women in the cities. Have you ever been in Monterey?"
"Yes, señorita, many times. I have seen all the beauties, even Doña
Modeste Castro. Once, too—that was before the Americans came—I saw the
Señorita Ysabel Herrera, a woman so beautiful that a man robbed a church
and murdered a priest for her sake. But she was not so beautiful as you,
The blood throbbed in the girl's fair cheeks. "He must love me," she
told herself, "to think me more beautiful than Ysabel Herrera. Joaquin
says she was the handsomest woman that ever was seen."
"You compliment me, señor," she answered vaguely. "She had wonderful
green eyes. So has the Señora Castro. Mine are only brown, like so many
"They are the most beautiful eyes in California. They are like the
Madonna's. I do not care for green eyes." His black ones flashed their
language to hers, and Elena wondered if she had ever been unhappy. She
barely remembered where she was, forgot that she was a helpless bird in
a golden cage. Her mate had flown through the open door.
The contradanza ends with a waltz, and as Dario held her in his arms his
last remnant of prudence gave way.
"Elena, Elena," he murmured passionately, "I love thee. Dost thou not
know it? Dost thou not love me a little? Ay, Elena! I have not slept one
hour since I saw thee."
She raised her eyes to his face. The sadness still dwelt in their
depths, but above floated the soft flame of love and trust. She had no
coquetry in her straightforward and simple nature.
"Yes," she whispered, "I love thee."
"And thou art happy, querida mia? Thou art happy here in my arms?"
She let her cheek rest for a moment against his shoulder. "Yes, I am
"And thou wilt marry me?"
The words brought her back to reality, and the light left her face.
"Ay," she said, "why did you say that? It cannot ever be."
"But it shall be! Why not? I will speak with Don Roberto in the
The hand that lay on his shoulder clutched him suddenly. "No, no," she
said hurriedly; "promise me that you will not speak to him for two or
three days at least. My father wants us all to marry Englishmen. He is
kind, and he loves me, but he is mad for Englishmen. And we can be happy
The music stopped, and he could only murmur his promises before leading
her back to her mother.
He dared not take her out again, but he danced with no one else in spite
of many inviting eyes, and spent the rest of the night on the corridor,
where he could watch her unobserved. The walls were so thick at Los
Quervos that each window had a deep seat within and without. Dario
ensconced himself, and was comfortable, if tumultuous.
With dawn the dancing ended, and quiet fell upon Los Quervos. But at
twelve gay voices and laughter came through every window. The family and
guests were taking their cold bath, ready for another eighteen hours of
Shortly after the long dinner, the iron-barred gates of the corral were
thrown open and a band of horses, golden bronze in colour, with silvern
mane and tail, silken embroidered saddles on their slender backs,
trotted up to the door. The beautiful creatures shone in the sun like
burnished armour; they arched their haughty necks and lifted their small
feet as if they were Californian beauties about to dance El Son.
The girls wore short riding-skirts, gay sashes, and little round
hats. The men wore thin jackets of brightly coloured silk, gold-laced
knee-breeches, and silver spurs. They tossed the girls upon their
saddles, vaulted into their own, and all started on a wild gallop for
Dario, with much manoeuvring, managed to ride by Elena's side. It was
impossible to exchange a word with her, for keen and mischievous ears
were about them; but they were close together, and a kind of ecstasy
possessed them both. The sunshine was so golden, the quivering visible
air so full of soft intoxication! They were filled with a reckless
animal joy of living—the divine right of youth to exist and be happy.
The bars of Elena's cage sank into the warm resounding earth; she wanted
to cry aloud her joy to the birds, to hold and kiss the air as it
passed. Her face sparkled, her mouth grew full. She looked at Dario, and
he dug his spurs into his horse's flanks.
The representatives of many ranchos, their wives and daughters, awaited
the party from Los Quervos. But none pushed his way between Dario and
Elena that day. And they both enjoyed the races; they were in a mood to
enjoy anything. They became excited and shouted with the rest as the
vaqueros flew down the field. Dario bet and lost a ranchita, then bet
and won another. He won a herd of cattle, a band of horses, a saddle-bag
of golden slugs. Surely, fortune smiled on him from the eyes of Elena.
When the races were over they galloped down to the ocean and over the
cliffs and sands, watching the ponderous waves fling themselves on the
rocks, then retreat and rear their crests, to thunder on again.
"The fog!" cried some one. "The fog!" And with shrieks of mock terror
they turned their horses' heads and raced down the valley, the fog after
them like a phantom tidal wave; but they outstripped it, and sprang from
their horses at the corridor of Los Quervos with shouts of triumph and
lightly blown kisses to the enemy.
After supper they found eggs piled upon silver dishes in the sala, and
with cries of "Cascaron! Cascaron!" they flung them at each other, the
cologne and flour and tinsel with which the shells were filled deluging
and decorating them.
Doña Jacoba again was in a most gracious mood, and leaned against the
wall, an amused smile on her strong serene face. Her husband stood by
her, and she indicated Elena by a motion of her fan.
"Is she not beautiful to-night, our little one?" she asked proudly.
"See how pink her cheeks are! Her eyes shine like stars. She is the
handsomest of all our children, viejo."
"Yes," he said, something like tenderness in his cold blue eyes, "there
is no prettier girl on twenty ranchos. She shall marry the finest
Englishman of them all."
Elena threw a cascaron directly into Dario's mouth, and although the
cologne scalded his throat, he heroically swallowed it, and revenged
himself by covering her black locks with flour. The guests, like the
children they were, chased each other all over the house, up and down
the stairs; the men hid under tables, only to have a sly hand break a
cascaron on the back of their heads, and to receive a deluge down the
spinal column. The bride chased her dignified groom out into the yard,
and a dozen followed. Then Dario found his chance.
Elena was after him, and as they passed beneath a tree he turned like a
flash and caught her in his arms and kissed her. For a second she tried
to free herself, mindful that her sisters had not kissed their lovers
until they stood with them in the chapel; but she was made for love, and
in a moment her white arms were clinging about his neck. People were
shouting around them; there was time for but few of the words Dario
wished to say.
"Thou must write me a little note every day," he commanded. "Thy
brother's coat, one that he does not wear, hangs behind the door in my
room. To-morrow morning thou wilt find a letter from me in the pocket.
Let me find one there, too. Kiss me again, consuelo de mi alma!" and
they separated suddenly, to speak no more that night.
The next morning, when Elena went to Joaquin's room to make the bed,
she found Dario's note in the pocket of the coat, but she had had no
opportunity to write one herself. Nor did she have time to read his
until after dinner, although it burned her neck and took away her
appetite. When the meal was over, she ran down to the willows and read
it there, then went straight to the favourite lounging-place of an old
vaquero who had adored her from the days when she used to trot about the
rancho holding his forefinger, or perch herself upon his shoulder and
command him to gallop.
He was smoking his pipe, and he looked up in some wonder as she stood
before him, flushed and panting, her eyes-darting apprehensive glances.
"Pedro," she said imperiously, "get down on thy hands and knees."
Pedro was the colour of tanned leather and very hairy, but his face
beamed with good-nature. He put his pipe between his teeth and did as
he was bidden. Elena produced the pencil and paper she had managed
to purloin from her father's table, and kneeling beside her faithful
vaquero, wrote a note on his back. It took her a long time to coin that
simple epistle, for she never had written a love-letter before. But
Pedro knelt like a rock, although his old knees ached. When the note was
finished she thrust it into her gown, and patted Pedro on the head.
"I love thee, my old man. I will make thee a new salve for thy
rheumatism, and a big cake."
As she approached the house her mother stood on the corridor watching
the young people mount, and Elena shivered as she met a fiery and
watchful eye. Yesterday had been a perfect day, but the chill of fear
touched this. She sprang on her horse and went with the rest to the
games. Her brother Joaquin kept persistently by her side, and Dario
thought it best not to approach her. She took little interest in the
games. The young men climbed the greased pole amidst soft derisive
laughter. The greased pig was captured by his tail in a tumult of
excitement, which rivalled the death of the bull, but Elena paid no
attention. It was not until Dario, restive with inaction, entered the
lists for the buried rooster, and by its head twisted it from the ground
as his horse flew by, that she was roused to interest; and as many had
failed, and as his was the signal victory of the day, he rode home
That night, as Dario and Elena danced the contradanza together, they
felt the eyes of Dona Jacoba upon them, but he dared to whisper:—
"To-morrow morning I speak with thy father. Our wedding-day must be set
before another sun goes down."
"No, no!" gasped Elena; but for once Dario would not listen.
As soon as Elena had left his room next morning, Dario returned and read
the note she had put in her brother's pocket. It gave him courage, his
dreamy eyes flashed, his sensitive mouth curved proudly. As soon as
dinner was over he followed Don Roberto up to the library. The old man
stretched himself out in the long brass and leather chair which had been
imported from England for his comfort, and did not look overjoyed when
his guest begged a few moments' indulgence.
"I am half asleep," he said. "Is it about those cattle? Joaquin knows as
much about them as I do."
Dario had not been asked to sit down, and he stood before Don Roberto
feeling a little nervous, and pressing his hand against the mantelpiece.
"I do not wish to speak of cattle, señor."
"No? What then?" The old man's face was flushed with wine, and his
shaggy brows were drooping heavily.
"It is—it is about Elena."
The brows lifted a little.
"Yes, señor. We love each other very much. I wish to ask your permission
that we may be married."
The brows went up with a rush; the stiff hairs stood out like a roof
above the cold angry eyes. For a moment Don Roberto stared at the
speaker as if he had not heard; then he sprang to his feet, his red face
"Get out of my house, you damned vagabond!" he shouted. "Go as fast as
God Almighty'll let you. You marry my daughter,—you damned Indian! I
wouldn't give her to you if you were pure-blooded Castilian, much less
to a half-breed whelp. And you have dared to make love to her. Go! Do
you hear? Or I'll kick you down the stairs!"
Dario drew himself up and looked back at his furious host with a pride
that matched his own. The blood was smarting in his veins, but he made
no sign and walked down the stair.
Don Roberto went at once in search of his wife. Failing to find her, he
walked straight into the sala, and taking Elena by the arm before the
assembled guests, marched her upstairs and into her room, and locked the
door with his key.
Elena fell upon the floor and sobbed with rebellious mortification and
terror. Her father had not uttered a word, but she knew the meaning of
his summary act, and other feelings soon gave way to despair. That she
should never see Dario Castañares again was certain, and she wept and
prayed with all the abandon of her Spanish nature. A picture of the
Virgin hung over the bed, and she raised herself on her knees and lifted
her clasped hands to it beseechingly. With her tumbled hair and white
face, her streaming upturned eyes and drawn mouth, she looked more like
the Mater Dolorosa than the expressionless print she prayed to.
"Mary! Mother!" she whispered, "have mercy on thy poor little daughter.
Give him to me. I ask for nothing else in this world. I do not care for
gold or ranchos, only to be his wife. I am so lonely, my mother, for
even Santiago thinks of so many other things than of me. I only want to
be loved, and no one else will ever love me who can make me love him.
Ay! give him to me! give him to me!" And she threw herself on her face
once more, and sobbed until her tears were exhausted. Then she dragged
herself to the window and leaned over the deep seat. Perhaps she might
have one glimpse of him as he rode away.
She gave a little cry of agony and pleasure. He was standing by the
gates of the corral whilst the vaqueros rounded up the cattle he had
bought. His arms were folded, his head hung forward. As he heard her
cry, he lifted his face, and Elena saw the tears in his eyes. For the
moment they gazed at each other, those lovers of California's long-ago,
while the very atmosphere quivering between them seemed a palpable
barrier. Elena flung out her arms with a sudden passionate gesture; he
gave a hoarse cry, and paced up and down like a race-horse curbed with a
Spanish bit. How to have one last word with her? If she were behind the
walls of the fort of Monterey it would be as easy. He dared not speak
from where he was. Already the horses were at the door to carry the
eager company to a fight between a bull and a bear. But he could write a
note if only he had the materials. It was useless to return to his room,
for Joaquin was there; and he hoped never to see that library again. But
was there ever a lover in whom necessity did not develop the genius of
invention? Dario flashed upward a glance of hope, then took from his
pocket a slip of the rice-paper used for making cigaritos. He burnt a
match, and with the charred stump scrawled a few lines.
"Elena! Mine! Star of my life! My sweet! Beautiful and idolized.
Farewell! Farewell, my darling! My heart is sad. God be with thee.
He wrapped the paper about a stone, and tied it with a wisp of grass.
With a sudden flexile turn of a wrist that had thrown many a reata, he
flung it straight through the open window. Elena read the meaningless
phrases, then fell insensible to the floor.
It was the custom of Doña Jacoba personally to oversee her entire
establishment every day, and she always went at a different hour, that
laziness might never feel sure of her back. To-day she visited the
rancheria immediately after dinner, and looked through every hut with
her piercing eyes. If the children were dirty, she peremptorily ordered
their stout mammas to put them into the clean clothes which her bounty
had provided. If a bed was unmade, she boxed the ears of the owner and
sent her spinning across the room to her task. But she found little to
scold about; her discipline was too rigid. When she was satisfied that
the huts were in order, she went down to the great stone tubs sunken
in the ground, where the women were washing in the heavy shade of the
willows. In their calico gowns they made bright bits of colour against
the drooping green of the trees.
"Maria," she cried sharply, "thou art wringing that fine linen too
harshly. Dost thou wish to break in pieces the bridal clothes of thy
señorita? Be careful, or I will lay the whip across thy shoulders."
She walked slowly through the willows, enjoying the shade. Her fine old
head was held sternly back, and her shoulders were as square as her
youngest son's; but she sighed a little, and pressed a willow branch
to her face with a caressing motion. She looked up to the gray
peak standing above its fellows, bare, ugly, gaunt. She was not an
imaginative woman, but she always had felt in closer kinship with that
solitary peak than with her own blood. As she left the wood and saw
the gay cavalcade about to start—the burnished horses, the dashing
caballeros, the girls with their radiant faces and jaunty habits—she
sighed again. Long ago she had been the bride of a brilliant young
Mexican officer for a few brief years; her youth had gone with his life.
She avoided the company and went round to the buildings at the back
of the house. Approving here, reproaching there, she walked leisurely
through the various rooms where the Indians were making lard, shoes,
flour, candles. She was in the chocolate manufactory when her husband
"Come—come at once," he said. "I have good news for thee."
She followed him to his room, knowing by his face that tragedy had
visited them. But she was not prepared for the tale he poured forth with
violent interjections of English and Spanish oaths. She had detected
a flirtation between her daughter and the uninvited guest, and not
approving of flirtations, had told Joaquin to keep his eyes upon them
when hers were absent; but that the man should dare and the girl should
stoop to think of marriage wrought in her a passion to which her
husband's seemed the calm flame of a sperm-candle.
"What!" she cried, her hoarse voice breaking. "What! A half-breed
aspire to a Cortez!" She forgot her husband's separateness with true
Californian pride. "My daughter and the son of an Indian! Holy God! And
she has dared!—she has dared! The little imbecile! The little—But,"
and she gave a furious laugh, "she will not forget again."
She caught the greenhide reata from the nail and went up the stair.
Crossing the library with heavy tread, as if she would stamp her rage
through the floor, she turned the key in the door of her daughter's room
and strode in. The girl still lay on the floor, although consciousness
had returned. As Elena saw her mother's face she cowered pitifully.
That terrible temper seldom dominated the iron will of the woman, but
Santiago had shaken it a few days ago, and Elena knew that her turn had
Doña Jacoba shut the door and towered above her daughter, red spots on
her face, her small eyes blazing, an icy sneer on her mouth. She did not
speak a word. She caught the girl by her delicate shoulder, jerked her
to her feet, and lashed her with the heavy whip until screams mingled
with the gay laughter of the parting guests. When she had beaten her
until her own arm ached, she flung her on the bed and went out and
locked the door.
Elena was insensible again for a while, then lay dull and inert for
hours. She had a passive longing for death. After the suffering and the
hideous mortification of that day there seemed no other climax. The
cavalcade rode beneath her windows once more, with their untired
laughter, their splendid vitality. They scattered to their rooms to don
their bright evening gowns, then went to the dining room and feasted.
After supper Francisca unlocked Elena's door and entered with a little
tray on her hand. Elena refused to eat, but her sister's presence roused
her, and she turned her face to the wall and burst into tears.
"Nonsense!" said Francisca, kindly. "Do not cry, my sister. What is
a lover? The end of a little flirtation? My father will find thee a
husband—a strong fair English husband like mine. Dost thou not prefer
blondes to brunettes, my sister? I am sorry my mother beat thee, but she
has such a sense of her duty. She did it for thy good, my Elena. Let me
dress thee in thy new gown, the white silk with the pale blue flowers.
It is high in the neck and long in the sleeves, and will hide the marks
of the whip. Come down and play cascarones and dance until dawn and
forget all about it."
But Elena only wept on, and Francisca left her for more imperative
The next day the girl still refused to eat, although Doña Jacoba opened
her mouth and poured a cup of chocolate down her throat. Late in the
afternoon Santiago slipped into the room and bent over her.
"Elena," he whispered hurriedly. "Look! I have a note for thee."
Elena sat upright on the bed, and he thrust a piece of folded paper into
her hand. "Here it is. He is in San Luis Obispo and says he will stay
there. Remember it is but a few miles away. My—"
Elena sank back with a cry, and Santiago blasphemed in English. Doña
Jacoba unlocked her daughter's hand, took the note, and led Santiago
from the room. When she reached her own, she opened a drawer and handed
him a canvas bag full of gold.
"Go to San Francisco and enjoy yourself," she said. "Interfere no
farther between your sister and your parents, unless you prefer that
reata to gold. Your craft cannot outwit mine, and she will read no
notes. You are a foolish boy to set your sense against your mother's. I
may seem harsh to my children, but I strive on my knees for their good.
And when I have made up my mind that a thing is right to do, you know
that my nature is of iron. No child of mine shall marry a lazy vagabond
who can do nothing but lie in a hammock and bet and gamble and make
love. And a half-breed! Mother of God! Now go to San Francisco, and send
for more money when this is gone."
Santiago obeyed. There was nothing else for him to do.
Elena lay in her bed, scarcely touching food. Poor child! her nature
demanded nothing of life but love, and that denied her, she could
find no reason for living. She was not sport-loving like Joaquín, nor
practical like Francisca, nor learned like Santiago, nor ambitious
to dance through life like her many nieces. She was but a clinging
unreasoning creature, with warm blood and a great heart. But she no
longer prayed to have Dario given her. It seemed to her that after such
suffering her saddened and broken spirit would cast its shadows over her
happiest moments, and she longed only for death.
Her mother, becoming alarmed at her increasing weakness, called in an
old woman who had been midwife and doctor of the county for half a
century. She came, a bent and bony woman who must have been majestic in
her youth. Her front teeth were gone, her face was stained with dark
splashes like the imprint of a pre-natal hand. Over her head she wore a
black shawl; and she looked enough like a witch to frighten her patients
into eternity had they not been so well used to her. She prodded Elena
all over as if the girl were a loaf of bread and her knotted fingers
sought a lump of flour in the dough.
"The heart," she said to Doña Jacoba with sharp emphasis, her back teeth
meeting with a click, as if to proclaim their existence. "I have no
herbs for that," and she went back to her cabin by the ocean.
That night Elena lifted her head suddenly. From the hill opposite her
window came the sweet reverberation of a guitar: then a voice, which,
though never heard by her in song before, was as unmistakable as if it
had serenaded beneath her window every night since she had known Darío
EL ULTIMO ADIÓS
"Si dos con el alma
Se amaron en vida,
Y al fin se separan
En vida las dos;
Sabeis que es tan grande
Le pena sentida
Que con esa palabra
Se dicen adios.
Y en esa palabra
Que breve murmura,
Ni verse prometen
Niamarse se juran;
Que en esa palabra
Se dicen adios.
No hay queja mas honda,
Suspiro mas largo;
Que aquellas palabras
Que dicen adios.
Al fin ha llegado,
La muerte en la vida;
Al fin para entrambos
Muramos los dos:
Al fin ha llegado
La hora cumplida,
Del ultimo adios.
Ya nunca en la vida,
Ya nunca volveremos
A vernos los dos:
Por eso es tan triste
Mi acento postrere,
Por eso es tan triste
El ultimo adios."—
They were dancing downstairs; laughter floated through the open windows.
Francisca sang a song of the bull-fight, in her strong high voice; the
frogs chanted their midnight mass by the creek in the willows; the
coyotes wailed; the owls hooted. But nothing could drown that message of
love. Elena lit a candle and held it at arm's length before the window.
She knew that its ray went straight through the curtains to the singer
on the hill, for his voice broke suddenly, then swelled forth in
passionate answer. He sat there until dawn singing to her; but the next
night he did not come, and Elena knew that she had not been his only
The week of festivity was over; the bridal pair, the relatives, the
friends went away. Quiet would have taken temporary possession of Los
Quervos had it not been for the many passing guests lavishly entertained
by Don Roberto.
And still Elena lay in her little iron bed, refusing to get out of it,
barely eating, growing weaker and thinner every day. At the end of three
weeks Doña Jacoba was thoroughly alarmed, and Don Roberto sent Joaquin
to San Francisco for a physician.
The man of science came at the end of a week. He asked many questions,
and had a long talk with his patient. When he left the sick-room, he
found Don Roberto and Doña Jacoba awaiting him in the library. They were
ready to accept his word as law, for he was an Englishman, and had won
high reputation during his short stay in the new country.
He spoke with curt directness. "My dear sir, your child is dying because
she does not wish to live. People who write novels call it dying of a
broken heart; but it does not make much difference about the name.
Your child is acutely sensitive, and has an extremely delicate
constitution—predisposition to consumption. Separation from the young
man she desires to marry has prostrated her to such an extent that she
is practically dying. Under existing circumstances she will not live
two months, and, to be brutally frank, you will have killed her. I
understand that the young man is well-born on his father's side, and
possessed of great wealth. I see no reason why she should not marry him.
I shall leave her a tonic, but you can throw it out of the window unless
you send for the young man," and he walked down the stair and made ready
for his departure.
Don Roberto translated the verdict to his wife. She turned very gray,
and her thin lips pressed each other. But she bent her head. "So be it,"
she said; "I cannot do murder. Send for Dario Castañares."
"And tell him to take her to perdition," roared the old man. "Never let
me see her again."
He went down the stair, filled a small bag with gold, and gave it to the
doctor. He found Joaquin and bade him go for Dario, then shut himself in
a remote room, and did not emerge until late that day.
Doña Jacoba sent for the maid, Malia.
"Bring me one of your frocks," she said, "a set of your undergarments, a
pair of your shoes and stockings." She walked about the room until
the girl's return, her face terrible in its repressed wrath, its gray
consciousness of defeat. When Malia came with the garments she told her
to follow, and went into Elena's room and stood beside the bed.
"Get up," she said. "Dress thyself in thy bridal clothes. Thou art going
to marry Dario Castañares to-day."
The girl looked up incredulously, then closed her eyes wearily.
"Get up," said her mother. "The doctor has said that we must let our
daughter marry the half-breed or answer to God for her murder." She
turned to the maid: "Malia, go downstairs and make a cup of chocolate
and bring it up. Bring, too, a glass of angelica."
But Elena needed neither. She forgot her desire for death, her
misgivings of the future; she slipped out of bed, and would have taken a
pair of silk stockings from the chest, but her mother stopped her with
an imperious gesture, and handed her the coarse shoes and stockings the
maid had brought. Elena raised her eyes wonderingly, but drew them
on her tender feet without complaint. Then her mother gave her the
shapeless undergarments, the gaudy calico frock, and she put them on.
When the maid returned with the chocolate and wine, she drank both. They
gave her colour and strength; and as she stood up and faced her mother,
she had never looked more beautiful nor more stately in the silken gowns
that were hers no longer.
[Illustration: "HE BENT DOWN AND CAUGHT HER IN HIS ARMS."]
"There are horses' hoofs," said Doña Jacoba. "Leave thy father's house
and go to thy lover."
Elena followed her from the room, walking steadily, although she was
beginning to tremble a little. As she passed the table in the library,
she picked up an old silk handkerchief of her father's and tied it about
her head and face. A smile was on her lips, but no joy could crowd the
sadness from her eyes again. Her spirit was shadowed; her nature had
come to its own.
They walked through the silent house, and to Elena's memory came the
picture of that other bridal, when the very air shook with pleasure and
the rooms were jewelled with beautiful faces; but she would not have
exchanged her own nuptials for her sister's calm acceptance.
When she reached the veranda she drew herself up and turned to her
mother with all that strange old woman's implacable bearing.
"I demand one wedding present," she said. "The greenhide reata. I wish
it as a memento of my mother."
Doña Jacoba, without the quiver of a muscle, walked into her husband's
room and returned with the reata and handed it to her. Then Elena turned
her back upon her father's house and walked down the road through the
willows. Darío did not notice the calico frock or the old handkerchief
about her head. He bent down and caught her in his arms and kissed her,
then lifting her to his saddle, galloped down the road to San Luis
Obispo. Doña Jacoba turned her hard old face to the wall.
A RAMBLE WITH EULOGIA
[Footnote 1: Pronounced a-oo-lo-hia.]
Dona Pomposa crossed her hands on her stomach and twirled her thumbs. A
red spot was in each coffee-coloured cheek, and the mole in her scanty
eyebrow jerked ominously. Her lips were set in a taut line, and her
angry little eyes were fixed upon a girl who sat by the window strumming
a guitar, her chin raised with an air of placid impertinence.
"Thou wilt stop this nonsense and cast no more glances at Juan Tornel!"
commanded Doña Pomposa. "Thou little brat! Dost thou think that I am
one to let my daughter marry before she can hem? Thank God we have more
sense than our mothers! No child of mine shall marry at fifteen. Now
listen—thou shalt be locked in a dark room if I am kept awake again
by that hobo serenading at thy window. To-morrow, when thou goest to
church, take care that thou throwest him no glance. Dios de mi alma!
I am worn out! Three nights have I been awakened by that tw-a-n-g,
"You need not be afraid," said her daughter, digging her little heel
into the floor. "I shall not fall in love. I have no faith in men."
Her mother laughed outright in spite of her anger.
"Indeed, my Eulogia! Thou art very wise. And why, pray, hast thou no
faith in men?"
Eulogia tossed the soft black braid from her shoulder, and fixed her
keen roguish eyes on the old lady's face.
"Because I have read all the novels of the Señor Dumas, and I well know
all those men he makes. And they never speak the truth to women; always
they are selfish, and think only of their own pleasure. If the women
suffer, they do not care; they do not love the women—only themselves.
So I am not going to be fooled by the men. I shall enjoy life, but I
shall think of myself, not of the men."
Her mother gazed at her in speechless amazement. She never had read a
book in her life, and had not thought of locking from her daughter
the few volumes her dead husband had collected. Then she gasped with
"Por Dios, señorita, a fine woman thou wilt make of thyself with such
ideas! a nice wife and mother—when the time comes. What does Padro
Flores say to that, I should like to know? It is very strange that he
has let you read those books."
"I have never told him," said Eulogia, indifferently.
"What!" screamed her mother. "You never told at confession?"
"No, I never did. It was none of his business what I read. Reading is no
sin. I confessed all—"
"Mother of God!" cried Doña Pomposa, and she rushed at Eulogia with
uplifted hand; but her nimble daughter dived under her arm with a
provoking laugh, and ran out of the room.
That night Eulogia pushed aside the white curtain of her window and
looked out. The beautiful bare hills encircling San Luis Obispo were
black in the silvered night, but the moon made the town light as day.
The owls were hooting on the roof of the mission; Eulogia could see them
flap their wings. A few Indians were still moving among the dark huts
outside the walls, and within, the padre walked among his olive trees.
Beyond the walls the town was still awake. Once a horseman dashed
down the street, and Eulogia wondered if murder had been done in the
mountains; the bandits were thick in their fastnesses. She did wish
she could see one. Then she glanced eagerly down the road beneath
her window. In spite of the wisdom she had accepted from the French
romanticist, her fancy was just a little touched by Juan Tornel. His
black flashing eyes could look so tender, and he rode so beautifully.
She twitched the curtain into place and ran across the room, her feet
pattering on the bare floor, jumped into her little iron bed, and drew
the dainty sheet to her throat. A ladder had fallen heavily against the
side of the house.
She heard an agile form ascend and seat itself on the deep window-sill.
Then the guitar vibrated under the touch of master fingers, and a rich
sweet tenor sang to her:—
"El corazon del amor palpita,
Al oir de tu dulce voz,
Cuando mi sangre
Se pone en agitación,
Tu eres la mas hermosa,
Tu eres la luz del dia,
Tu eres la gloria mia,
Tu eres mi dulce bien.
"Negro tienes el cabello,
Talle lineas hermosas,
Mano blanca, pie precioso,
No hay que decir en ti:—Tu
eres la mas hermosa,
Tu eres la luz del dia,
Tu eres la prenda mía,
Tu me harás morir.
"Que importa que noche y dia,
En ti sola estoy pensando,
El corazón palpitante
No cesa de repetir:—
Tu eres la mas hermosa,
Tu eres la luz del dia,
Tu eres la prenda mía,
Tu me harás morir—Eulogia!"
Eulogia lay as quiet as a mouse in the daytime, not daring to applaud,
hoping fatigue had sent her mother to sleep. Her lover tuned his guitar
and began another song, but she did not hear it; she was listening to
footfalls in the garret above. With a presentiment of what was about
to happen she sprang out of bed with a warning cry; but she was too
late. There was a splash and rattle on the window-seat, a smothered
curse, a quick descent, a triumphant laugh from above. Eulogia stamped
her foot with rage. She cautiously raised the window and passed her hand
along the outer sill. This time she beat the casement with both hands:
they were covered with warm ashes.
"Well, my daughter, have I not won the battle?" said a voice behind her,
and Eulogia sat down on the window-seat and swung her feet in silent
Doña Pomposa wore a rather short night-gown, and her feet were encased
in a pair of her husband's old boots. Her hair was twisted under a red
silk kerchief, and again she crossed her hands on her stomach, but the
thumbs upheld a candle. Eulogia giggled suddenly.
"What dost thou laugh at, señorita? At the way I have served thy lover?
Dost thou think he will come soon again?"
"No, mamma, you have proved the famous hospitality of the Californians
which the Americans are always talking about. You need have no more
envy of the magnificence of Los Quervos." And then she kicked her heels
against the wall.
"Oh, thou canst make sharp speeches, thou impertinent little brat; but
Juan Tornel will serenade under thy window no more. Dios! the ashes must
look well on his pretty mustachios. Go to bed. I will put thee to board
in the convent to-morrow." And she shuffled out of the room, her ample
figure swinging from side to side like a large pendulum.
The next day Eulogia was sitting on her window-seat, her chin resting on
her knees, a volume of Dumas beside her, when the door was cautiously
opened and her Aunt Anastacia entered the room. Aunt Anastacia was
very large; in fact she nearly filled the doorway; she also disdained
whalebones and walked with a slight roll. Her ankles hung over her feet,
and her red cheeks and chin were covered with a short black down. Her
hair was twisted into a tight knot and protected by a thick net, and she
wore a loose gown of brown calico, patterned with large red roses. But
good-nature beamed all over her indefinite features, and her little eyes
dwelt adoringly upon Eulogia, who gave her an absent smile.
"Poor little one," she said in her indulgent voice. "But it was cruel in
my sister to throw ashes on thy lover. Not but what thou art too young
for lovers, my darling,—although I had one at twelve. But times have
changed. My little one—I have a note for thee. Thy mother is out, and
he has gone away, so there can be no harm in reading it—"
"Give it to me at once"—and Eulogia dived into her aunt's pocket and
found the note.
"Beautiful and idolized Eulogia.—Adios! Adios! I came a stranger to
thy town. I fell blinded at thy feet. I fly forever from the scornful
laughter in thine eyes. Ay, Eulogia, how couldst thou? But no! I will
not believe it was thou! The dimples that play in thy cheeks, the sparks
that fly in thine eyes—Dios de mi vida! I cannot believe that they come
from a malicious soul. No, enchanting Eulogia! Consolation of my soul!
It was thy mother who so cruelly humiliated me, who drives me from thy
town lest I be mocked in the streets. Ay, Eulogia! Ay, misericordia!
Eulogia shrugged her shoulders. "Well, my mother is satisfied, perhaps.
She has driven him away. At least, I shall not have to go to the
"Thou art so cold, my little one," said Aunt Anastacia, disapprovingly.
"Thou art but fifteen years, and yet thou throwest aside a lover as if
he were an old reboso. Madre de Dios! In your place I should have wept
and beaten the air. But perhaps that is the reason all the young men are
wild for thee. Not but that I had many lovers—"
"It is too bad thou didst not marry one," interrupted Eulogia,
maliciously. "Perhaps thou wouldst"—and she picked up her book—"if
thou hadst read the Señor Dumas."
"Thou heartless baby!" cried her indignant aunt, "when I love thee so,
and bring thy notes at the risk of my life, for thou knowest that thy
mother would pull the hair from my head. Thou little brat! to say I
could not marry, when I had twenty—"
Eulogia jumped up and pecked her on the chin like a bird. "Twenty-five,
my old mountain. I only joked with thee. Thou didst not marry because
thou hadst more sense than to trot about after a man. Is it not so, my
old sack of flour? I was but angry because I thought thou hadst helped
my mother last night."
"Never! I was sound asleep."
"I know, I know. Now trot away. I hear my mother coming," and Aunt
Anastacia obediently left her niece to the more congenial company of the
The steep hills of San Luis Obispo shot upward like the sloping sides of
a well, so round was the town. Scarlet patches lay on the slopes—the
wide blossoms of the low cacti. A gray-green peak and a mulberry peak
towered, kithless and gaunt, in the circle of tan-coloured hills brushed
with purple. The garden of the mission was green with fruit trees and
silver with olive groves. On the white church and long wing lay the red
tiles; beyond the wall the dull earth huts of the Indians. Then the
straggling town with its white adobe houses crouching on the grass.
Eulogia was sixteen. A year had passed since Juan Tornel serenaded
beneath her window, and, if the truth must be told, she had almost
forgotten him. Many a glance had she shot over her prayer-book in the
mission church; many a pair of eyes, dreamy or fiery, had responded. But
she had spoken with no man. After a tempestuous scene with her mother,
during which Aunt Anastacia had wept profusely, a compromise had been
made: Eulogia had agreed to have no more flirtations until she was
sixteen, but at that age she should go to balls and have as many lovers
as she pleased.
She walked through the olive groves with Padre Moraga on the morning of
her sixteenth birthday. The new padre and she were the best of friends.
"Well," said the good old man, pushing the long white hair from his dark
face—it fell forward whenever he stooped—"well, my little one, thou
goest to thy first ball to-night. Art thou happy?"
Eulogia lifted her shoulder. Her small nose also tilted.
"Happy? There is no such thing as happiness, my father. I shall dance,
and flirt, and make all the young men fall in love with me. I shall
enjoy myself, that is enough."
The padre smiled; he was used to her.
"Thou little wise one!" He collected himself suddenly. "But thou art
right to build thy hopes of happiness on the next world alone." Then
he continued, as if he merely had broken the conversation to say the
Angelus: "And thou art sure that thou wilt be La Favorita? Truly, thou
hast confidence in thyself—an inexperienced chit who has not half the
beauty of many other girls."
"Perhaps not; but the men shall love me better, all the same. Beauty is
not everything, my father. I have a greater attraction than soft eyes
and a pretty mouth."
"Indeed! Thou baby! Why, thou art no bigger than a well-grown child, and
thy mouth was made for a woman twice thy size. Where dost thou keep that
extraordinary charm?" Not but that he knew, for he liked her better
than any girl in the town, but he felt it his duty to act the part of
curb-bit now and again.
"You know, my father," said Eulogia, coolly; "and if you have any doubt,
wait until to-morrow."
The ball was given in the long sala of Doña Antonia Ampudia, on the edge
of the rambling town. As the night was warm, the young people danced
through the low windows on to the wide corridor; and, if watchful eyes
relaxed their vigilance, stepped off to the grass and wandered among
the trees. The brown old women in dark silks sat against the wall, as
dowagers do to-day. Most of the girls wore bright red or yellow gowns,
although softer tints blossomed here and there. Silken black hair was
braided close to the neck, the coiffure finished with a fringe of
chenille. As they whirled in the dance, their full bright gowns looked
like an agitated flower-bed suddenly possessed by a wandering tribe of
Eulogia came rather late. At the last moment her mother had wavered in
her part of the contract, and it was not until Eulogia had sworn by
every saint in the calendar that she would not leave the sala, even
though she stifled, that Doña Pomposa had reluctantly consented to take
her. Eulogia's perfect little figure was clad in a prim white silk gown,
but her cold brilliant eyes were like living jewels, her large mouth was
as red as the cactus patches on the hills, and a flame burned in either
cheek. In a moment she was surrounded by the young men who had been
waiting for her. It might be true that twenty girls in the room were
more beautiful than she, but she had a quiet manner more effective than
animation, a vigorous magnetism of which she was fully aware, and a cool
coquetry which piqued and fired the young men, who were used to more
She danced as airily as a flower on the wind, but with untiring
"Señorita!" exclaimed Don Carmelo Peña, "thou takest away my breath.
Dost thou never weary?"
"Never. I am not a man."
"Ay, señorita, thou meanest—"
"That women were made to make the world go round, and men to play the
"Ay, I can play the guitar. I will serenade thee to-morrow night."
"Thou wilt get a shower of ashes for thy pains. Better stay at home, and
prepare thy soul with three-card monte"
"Ay, señorita, but thou art cruel! Does no man please thee?"
"Men please me. How tiresome to dance with a woman!"
"And that is all the use thou hast for us? For us who would die for
"In a barrel of aguardiente? I prefer thee to dance with. To tell the
truth, thy step suits mine."
"Ay, señorita mia! thou canst put honey on thy tongue. God of my life,
señorita—I fling my heart at thy feet!"
"I fear to break it, señor, for I have faith that it is made of thin
glass. It would cut my feet. I like better this smooth floor. Who is
that standing by the window? He has not danced to-night?"
"Don Pablo Ignestria of Monterey. He says the women of San Luis are not
half so beautiful nor so elegant as the women of Monterey; he says they
are too dark and too small. He does not wish to dance with any one; nor
do any of the girls wish to dance with him. They are very angry."
"I wish to dance with him. Bring him to me."
"But, señorita, I tell thee thou wouldst not like him. Holy heaven! Why
do those eyes flash so? Thou lookest as if thou wouldst fight with thy
"Bring him to me."
Don Carmelo walked obediently over to Don Pablo, although burning with
"Señor, at your service," he said. "I wish to introduce you to the most
charming señorita in the room."
"Which?" asked Ignestria, incuriously.
Don Carmelo indicated Eulogia with a grand sweep of his hand.
"That little thing? Why, there are a dozen prettier girls in the room
than she, and I have not cared to meet any of them!"
"But she has commanded me to take you to her, señor, and—look at the
men crowding about her—do you think I dare to disobey?"
The stranger's dark gray eyes became less insensible. He was a handsome
man, with a tall figure, and a smooth strong face; but about him hung
the indolence of the Californian.
"Very well," he said, "take me to her."
He asked her to dance, and after a waltz Eulogia said she was tired, and
they sat down within a proper distance of Doña Pomposa's eagle eye.
"What do you think of the women of San Luis Obispo?" asked Eulogia,
innocently. "Are not they handsome?"
"They are not to be compared with the women of Monterey—since you ask
"Because they find the men of San Luis more gallant than the Señor Don
"Do they? One, I believe, asked to have me introduced to her!"
"True, señor. I wished to meet you that you might fall in love with me,
and that the ladies of San Luis might have their vengeance."
He stared at her.
"Truly, señorita, but you do not hide your cards. And why, then, should
I fall in love with you?"
"Because I am different from the women of Monterey."
"A good reason why I should not. I have been in every town in
California, and I admire no women but those of my city."
"And because you will hate me first."
"And if I hate you, how can I love you?"
"It is the same. You hate one woman and love another. Each is the same
passion, only to a different person out goes a different side. Let the
person loved or hated change his nature, and the passion will change."
He looked at her with more interest.
"In truth I think I shall begin with love and end with hate, señorita.
But that wisdom was not born in your little head; for sixteen years, I
think, have not sped over it, no? It went in, if I mistake not, through
those bright eyes."
"Yes, señor, that is true. I am not content to be just like other girls
of sixteen. I want to know—to know. Have you ever read any books,
"Many." He looked at her with a lively interest now. "What ones have you
"Only the beautiful romances of the Señor Dumas. I have seen no others,
for there are not many books in San Luis. Have you read others?"
"A great many others. Two wonderful Spanish books—'Don Quixote de la
Mancha' and 'Gil Blas,' and the romances of Sir Waltere Scote—a man of
England, and some lives of famous men, señorita. A great man lent them
to me—the greatest of our Governors—Alvarado."
"And you will lend them to me?" cried Eulogia, forgetting her coquetry,
"I want to read them."
"Aha! Those cool eyes can flash. That even little voice can break in
two. By the holy Evangelists, señorita, thou shalt have every book I
"Will the Señorita Doña Eulogia favour us with a song?"
Don Carmelo was bowing before her, a guitar in his hand, his wrathful
eyes fixed upon Don Pablo.
"Yes," said Eulogia.
She took the guitar and sang a love-song in a manner which can best be
described as no manner at all; her expression never changed, her voice
never warmed. At first the effect was flat, then the subtle fascination
of it grew until the very memory of impassioned tones was florid and
surfeiting. When she finished, Ignestria's heart was hammering upon the
steel in which he fancied he had prisoned it.
"Well," said Eulogia to Padre Moraga two weeks later, "am I not La
"Thou art, thou little coquette. Thou hast a power over men which thou
must use with discretion, my Eulogia. Tell thy beads three times a day
and pray that thou mayest do no harm."
"I wish to do harm, my father, for men have broken the hearts of women
"Chut, chut, thou baby! Men are not so black as they are painted. Harm
no one, and the world will be better that thou hast lived in it."
"If I scratch, fewer women will be scratched," and she raised her
shoulders beneath the flowered muslin of her gown, swung her guitar
under her arm, and walked down the grove, the silver leaves shining
above her smoky hair.
The padre had bidden all the young people of the upper class to a picnic
in the old mission garden. Girls in gay muslins and silk rebosos were
sitting beneath the arches of the corridor or flitting under the trees
where the yellow apricots hung among the green leaves. Languid and
sparkling faces coquetted with caballeros in bright calico jackets and
knee-breeches laced with silken cord, their slender waists girt with
long sashes hanging gracefully over the left hip. The water rilled in
the winding creek, the birds carolled in the trees; but above all rose
the sound of light laughter and sweet strong voices.
They took their dinner behind the arches, at a table the length of the
corridor, and two of the young men played the guitar and sang, whilst
the others delighted their keen palates with the goods the padre had
Don Pablo sat by Eulogia, a place he very often managed to fill; but he
never had seen her for a moment alone.
"I must go soon, Eulogia," he murmured, as the voices waxed louder.
"Duty calls me back to Monterey."
"I am glad to know thou hast a sense of thy duty."
"Nothing but that would take me away from San Luis Obispo. But both my
mother and—and—a dear friend are ill, and wish to see me."
"Thou must go to-night. How canst thou eat and be gay when thy mother
and—and—a dear friend are ill?"
"Ay, Eulogia! wouldst thou scoff over my grave? I go, but it is for thee
to say if I return."
"Do not tell me that thou adorest me here at the table. I shall blush,
and all will be about my smarting ears like the bees down in the padre's
"I shall not tell thee that before all the world, Eulogia. All I ask
is this little favour: I shall send thee a letter the night I leave.
Promise me that thou wilt answer it—to Monterey."
"No, sir! Long ago, when I was twelve, I made a vow I would never write
to a man. I never break that vow."
"Thou wilt break it for me, Eulogia."
"And why for you, señor? Half the trouble in the world has been made on
"Oh, thou wise one! What trouble can a piece of paper make when it lies
on a man's heart?"
"It can crackle when another head lies on it."
"No head will ever lie here but—"
"To thee, Señorita Doña Eulogia," cried a deep voice. "May the jewels in
thine eyes shine by the stars when thou art above them. May the tears
never dim them while they shine for us below," and a caballero pushed
back his chair, leaned forward, and touched her glass with his, then
went down on one knee and drank the red wine.
Eulogia threw him a little absent smile, sipped her wine, and went on
talking to Ignestria in her soft monotonous voice.
"My friend—Graciosa La Cruz—went a few weeks ago to Monterey for a
visit. You will tell her I think of her, no?"
"I will dance with her often because she is your friend—until I return
to San Luis Obispo."
"Will that be soon, señor?"
"I told thee that would be as soon as thou wished. Thou wilt answer my
letter—promise me, Eulogia."
"I will not, señor. I intend to be wiser than other women. At the very
least, my follies shall not burn paper. If you want an answer, you will
"I will not return without that answer. I never can see thee alone,
and if I could, thy coquetry would not give me a plain answer. I must
see it on paper before I will believe."
"Thou canst wait for the day of resurrection for thy knowledge, then!"
Once more Aunt Anastacia rolled her large figure through Eulogia's
doorway and handed her a letter.
"From Don Pablo Ignestria, my baby," she said. "Oh, what a man! what a
caballero! And so smart. He waited an hour by the creek in the mission
gardens until he saw thy mother go out, and then he brought the note to
me. He begged to see thee, but I dared not grant that, niñita, for thy
mother will be back in ten minutes."
"Go downstairs and keep my mother there," commanded Eulogia, and Aunt
Anastacia rolled off, whilst her niece with unwonted nervousness opened
"Sweet of my soul! Day-star of my life! I dare not speak to thee of love
because, strong man as I am, still am I a coward before those mocking
eyes. Therefore if thou laugh the first time thou readest that I love
thee, I shall not see it, and the second time thou mayest be more kind.
Beautiful and idolized Eulogia, men have loved thee, but never will be
cast at thy little feet a heart stronger or truer than mine. Ay, dueño
adorada, I love thee! Without hope? No! I believe that thou lovest me,
thou cold little one, although thou dost not like to think that the
heart thou hast sealed can open to let love in. But, Eulogia! Star of my
eyes! I love thee so I will break that heart in pieces, and give thee
another so soft and warm that it will beat all through the old house to
which I will take thee. For thou wilt come to me, thou little coquette?
Thou wilt write to me to come back and stand with thee in the mission
while the good padre asks the saints to bless us? Eulogia, thou hast
sworn thou wilt write to no man, but thou wilt write to me, my little
one. Thou wilt not break the heart that lives in thine.
"I kiss thy little feet. I kiss thy tiny hands. I kiss—ay, Eulogia!
Eulogia could not resist that letter. Her scruples vanished, and, after
an entire day of agonized composition, she sent these lines:—
"You can come back to San Luis Obispo.
"EULOGIA AMATA FRANCISCA GUADALUPE CARILLO."
Another year had passed. No answer had come from Pablo Ignestria. Nor
had he returned to San Luis Obispo. Two months after Eulogia had sent
her letter, she received one from Graciosa La Cruz, containing the
information that Ignestria had married the invalid girl whose love for
him had been the talk of Monterey for many years. And Eulogia? Her
flirtations had earned her far and wide the title of Doña Coquetta, and
she was cooler, calmer, and more audacious than ever.
"Dost thou never intend to marry?" demanded Doña Pomposa one day, as she
stood over the kitchen stove stirring red peppers into a saucepan full
Eulogia was sitting on the table swinging her small feet. "Why do you
wish me to marry? I am well enough as I am. Was Elena Castañares so
happy with the man who was mad for her that I should hasten to be a
neglected wife? Poor my Elena! Four years, and then consumption and
death. Three children and an indifferent husband, who was dying of love
when he could not get her."
"Thou thinkest of unhappy marriages because thou hast just heard of
Elena's death. But there are many others."
"Did you hear of the present she left her mother?"
"No." Doña Pomposa dropped her spoon; she dearly loved a bit of gossip.
"What was it?"
"You know that a year ago Elena went home to Los Quervos and begged Don
Roberto and Doña Jacoba on her knees to forgive her, and they did, and
were glad to do it. Doña Jacoba was with her when she was so ill at the
last, and just before she died Elena said: 'Mother, in that chest you
will find a legacy from me. It is all of my own that I have in the
world, and I leave it to you. Do not take it until I am dead.' And what
do you think it was? The greenhide reata."
"Mother of God! But Jacoba must have felt as if she were already in
"It is said that she grew ten years older in the night."
"May the saints be praised, my child can leave me no such gift. But all
men are not like Dario Castañares. I would have thee marry an American.
They are smart and know how to keep the gold. Remember, I have little
now, and thou canst not be young forever."
"I have seen no American I would marry."
"There is Don Abel Hudson."
"I do not trust that man. His tongue is sweet and his face is handsome,
but always when I meet him I feel a little afraid, although it goes away
in a minute. The Señor Dumas says that a woman's instincts—"
"To perdition with Señor Dumas! Does he say that a chit's instincts are
better than her mother's? Don Abel throws about the money like rocks.
He has the best horses at the races. He tells me that he has a house in
"San Francisco. And I would not live in that bleak and sandy waste. Did
you notice how he limped at the ball last night?"
"No. What of that? But I am not in love with Don Abel Hudson if thou art
so set against him. It is true that no one knows just who he is, now I
think of it. I had not made up my mind that he was the husband for thee.
But let it be an American, my Eulogia. Even when they have no money they
will work for it, and that is what no Californian will do—"
But Eulogia had run out of the room: she rarely listened to the end of
her mother's harangues. She draped a reboso about her head, and went
over to the house of Graciosa La Cruz. Her friend was sitting by her
bedroom window, trimming a yellow satin bed-spread with lace, and
Eulogia took up a half-finished sheet and began fastening the drawn
threads into an intricate pattern.
"Only ten days more, my Graciosa," she said mischievously. "Art thou
going to run back to thy mother in thy night-gown, like Josefita
"Never will I be such a fool! Eulogia, I have a husband for thee."
"To the tunnel of the mission with husbands! I shall be an old maid like
Aunt Anastacia, fat, with black whiskers."
Graciosa laughed. "Thou wilt marry and have ten children."
"By every station in the mission I will not. Why bring more women into
the world to suffer?"
"Ay, Eulogia! thou art always saying things I cannot understand and that
thou shouldst not think about. But I have a husband for thee. He came
from Los Angeles this morning, and is a friend of my Carlos. His name is
not so pretty—Tomas Garfias. There he rides now."
Eulogia looked out of the window with little curiosity. A small young
man was riding down the street on a superb horse coloured like golden
bronze, with silver mane and tail. His saddle of embossed leather was
heavily mounted with silver; the spurs were inlaid with gold and silver,
and the straps of the latter were worked with gleaming metal threads. He
wore a light red serape, heavily embroidered and fringed. His botas of
soft deerskin, dyed a rich green and stamped with Aztec Eagles, were
tied at the knee by a white silk cord wound about the leg and finished
with heavy silver tassels. His short breeches were trimmed with gold
lace. As he caught Graciosa's eye he raised his sombrero, then rode
through the open door of a neighbouring saloon and tossed off an
American drink without dismounting from his horse.
Eulogia lifted her shoulders. "I like his saddle and his horse, but he
is too small. Still, a new man is not disagreeable. When shall I meet
"To-night, my Eulogia. He goes with us to Miramar."
A party of young people started that night for a ball at Miramar, the
home of Don Polycarpo Quijas. Many a caballero had asked the lady of
his choice to ride on his saddle while he rode on the less comfortable
aquera behind and guided his horse with arm as near her waist as he
dared. Doña Pomposa, with a small brood under her wing, started last of
all in an American wagon. The night was calm, the moon was high, the
party very gay.
Abel Hudson and the newcomer, Don Tomas Garfias, sat on either side of
Eulogia, and she amused herself at the expense of both.
"Don Tomas says that he is handsomer than the men of San Luis," she said
to Hudson. "Do not you think he is right? See what a beautiful curl his
mustachios have, and what a droop his eyelids. Holy Mary!—how that
yellow ribbon becomes his hair! Ay, señor! Why have you come to dazzle
the eyes of the poor girls of San Luis Obispo?"
"Ah, señorita," said the little dandy, "it will do their eyes good to
see an elegant young man from the city. And they should see my sister.
She would teach them how to dress and arrange their hair."
"Bring her to teach us, señor, and for reward we will find her a tall
and modest husband such as the girls of San Luis Obispo admire. Don
Abel, why do you not boast of your sisters? Have you none, nor mother,
nor father, nor brother? I never hear you speak of them. Maybe you grow
alone out of the earth."
Hudson's gaze wandered to the canon they were approaching. "I am alone,
señorita; a lonely man in a strange land."
"Is that the reason why you are such a traveller, señor? Are you never
afraid, in your long lonely rides over the mountains, of that dreadful
bandit, John Power, who murders whole families for the sack of gold they
have under the floor? I hope you always carry plenty of pistols, señor."
"True, dear señorita. It is kind of you to put me on my guard. I never
had thought of this man."
"This devil, you mean. When last night I saw you come limping into the
"Ay, yi, yi, Dios!" "Maria!" "Dios de mi alma!" "Dios de mi vida!"
A wheel had given way, and the party was scattered about the road.
No one was hurt, but loud were the lamentations. No Californian had ever
walked six miles, and the wheel was past repair. But Abel Hudson came to
"Leave it to me," he said. "I pledge myself to get you there," and he
went off in the direction of a ranch-house.
"Ay! the good American! The good American!" cried the girls. "Eulogia!
how canst thou be so cold to him? The handsome stranger with the kind
"His heart is like the Sacramento Valley, veined with gold instead of
blood." "Holy Mary!" she cried some moments later, "what is he bringing?
The wagon of the country!"
Abel Hudson was standing erect on the low floor of a wagon drawn by two
strong black mules. The wagon was a clumsy affair,—a large wooden frame
covered with rawhide, and set upon a heavy axle. The wheels were made of
solid sections of trees, and the harness was of greenhide. An Indian boy
sat astride one of the mules. On either side rode a vaquero, with his
reata fastened to the axle-tree.
"This is the best I can do," said Hudson. "There is probably not another
American wagon between San Luis and Miramar. Do you think you can stand
The girls shrugged their pretty shoulders. The men swore into their
mustachios. Doña Pomposa groaned at the prospect of a long ride in a
springless wagon. But no one was willing to return, and when Eulogia
jumped lightly in, all followed, and Hudson placed them as comfortably
as possible, although they were obliged to sit on the floor.
The wagon jolted down the cañon, the mules plunging, the vaqueros
shouting; but the moon glittered like a silvered snow peak, the wild
green forest was about them, and even Eulogia grew a little sentimental
as Abel Hudson's blue eyes bent over hers and his curly head cut off
Doña Pomposa's view.
"Dear señorita," he said, "thy tongue is very sharp, but thou hast a
kind heart. Hast thou no place in it for Abel Hudson?"
"In the sala, señor—where many others are received—with mamma and Aunt
Anastacia sitting in the corner."
He laughed. "Thou wilt always jest! But I would take all the rooms, and
turn every one out, even to Doña Pomposa and Doña Anastacia!"
"And leave me alone with you! God of my soul! How I should yawn!"
"Oh, yes, Doña Coquetta, I am used to such pretty little speeches. When
you began to yawn I should ride away, and you would be glad to see me
when I returned."
"What would you bring me from the mountains, señor?"
He looked at her steadily. "Gold, señorita. I know of many rich veins.
I have a little cañon suspected by no one else, where I pick out a sack
full of gold in a day. Gold makes the life of a beloved wife very sweet,
"In truth I should like the gold better than yourself, señor," said
Eulogia, frankly. "For if you will have the truth—Ay! Holy heaven! This
is worse than the other!"
A lurch, splash, and the party with shrill cries sprang to their feet;
the low cart was filling with water. They had left the cañon and were
crossing a slough; no one had remembered that it would be high tide. The
girls, without an instant's hesitation, whipped their gowns up round
their necks; but their feet were wet and their skirts draggled. They
made light of it, however, as they did of everything, and drove up to
Miramar amidst high laughter and rattling jests.
Doña Luisa Quijas, a handsome shrewd-looking woman, magnificently
dressed in yellow satin, the glare and sparkle of jewels on her neck,
came out upon the corridor to meet them.
"What is this? In a wagon of the country! An accident? Ay, Dios de mi
vida, the slough! Come in—quick! quick! I will give you dry clothes.
Trust these girls to take care of their gowns. Mary! What wet feet!
Quick! quick! This way, or you will have red noses to-morrow," and she
led them down the corridor, past the windows through which they could
see the dancers in the sala, and opened the door of her bedroom.
"There, my children, help yourselves," and she pulled out the capacious
drawers of her chest. "All is at your service." She lifted out an armful
of dry underclothing, then went to the door of an adjoining room and
listened, her hand uplifted.
"Didst thou have to lock him up?" asked Doña Pomposa, as she drew on a
pair of Doña Luisa's silk stockings.
"Yes! yes! And such a time, my friend! Thou knowest that after I fooled
him the last time he swore I never should have another ball. But, Dios
de mi alma! I never was meant to be bothered with a husband, and have I
not given him three children twenty times handsomer than himself? Is not
that enough? By the soul of Saint Luis the Bishop, I will continue to
promise, and then get absolution at the mission, but I will not perform!
Well, he was furious, my friend; he had spent a sack of gold on that
ball, and he swore I never should have another. So this time I invited
my guests, and told him nothing. At seven to-night I persuaded him into
his room, and locked the door. But, madre de Dios! Diego had forgotten
to screw down the window, and he got out. I could not get him back,
Pomposa, and his big nose was purple with rage. He swore that he would
turn every guest away from the door; he swore that he would be taking
a bath on the corridor when they came up, and throw insults in their
faces. Ay, Pomposa! I went down on my knees. I thought I should not have
my ball—such cakes as I had made, and such salads! But Diego saved me.
He went into Don Polycarpo's room and cried 'Fire!' Of course the old
man ran there, and then we locked him in. Diego had screwed down the
window first. Dios de mi vida! but he is terrible, that man! What have I
done to be punished with him?"
"Thou art too handsome and too cruel, my Luisa. But, in truth, he is an
old wild-cat. The saints be praised that he is safe for the night. Did
"Swear! He has cursed the skin off his throat and is quiet now. Come, my
little ones, are you ready? The caballeros are dry in Diego's clothes by
this time, and waiting for their waltzes;" and she drove them through
the door into the sala with a triumphant smile on her dark sparkling
The rest of the party had been dancing for an hour, and all gathered
about the girls to hear the story of the accident, which was told
with many variations. Eulogia as usual was craved for dances, but she
capriciously divided her favours between Abel Hudson and Don Tomas
Garfias. During the intervals, when the musicians were silent and the
girls played the guitar or threw cascarones at their admirers, she sat
in the deep window-seat watching the ponderous waves of the Pacific hurl
themselves against the cliffs, whilst Hudson pressed close to her side,
disregarding the insistence of Garfias. Finally, the little Don from the
City of the Angels went into the dining room to get a glass of angelica,
and Hudson caught at his chance.
"Señorita," he exclaimed, interrupting one of her desultory remarks,
"for a year I have loved you, and, for many reasons, I have not dared to
tell you. I must tell you now. I have no reason to think you care more
for me than for a dozen other men, but if you will marry me, señorita,
I will build you a beautiful American house in San Luis Obispo, and you
can then be with your friends when business calls me away."
"And where will you live when you are away from me?" asked Eulogia,
carelessly. "In a cave in the mountains? Be careful of the bandits."
"Señorita," he replied calmly, "I do not know what you mean by the
things you say sometimes. Perhaps you have the idea that I am another
person—John Power, or Pio Lenares, for instance. Do you wish me to
bring you a certificate to the effect that I am Abel Hudson? I can do
so, although I thought that Californians disdained the written form
and trusted to each other's honour, even to the selling of cattle and
"You are not a Californian."
"Ah, señorita—God! what is that?"
A tremendous knocking at the outer door sounded above the clear soprano
of Graciosa La Cruz.
"A late guest, no doubt. You are white like the wall. I think the low
ceilings are not so good for your health, señor, as the sharp air of the
mountains. Ay, Dios!" The last words came beneath her breath, and
she forgot Abel Hudson. The front doors had been thrown open, and a
caballero in riding-boots and a dark scrape wound about his tall figure
had entered the room and flung his sombrero and saddle-bags into a
corner. It was Pablo Ignestria.
"At your feet, señora," he said to Doña Luisa, who held out both hands,
welcome on her charming face. "I am an uninvited guest, but when I
arrived at San Luis and found that all the town had come to one of Doña
Luisa's famous balls, I rode on, hoping that for friendship's sake she
would open her hospitable doors to a wanderer, and let him dance off the
stiffness of a long ride."
"You are welcome, welcome, Pablo," said Doña Luisa. "Go to the dining
room and get a glass of aguardiente; then come back and dance until
Ignestria left the room with Diego Quijas, but returned in a few moments
and walked directly over to Eulogia, ignoring the men who stood about
"Give me this dance," he whispered eagerly. "I have something to say to
thee. I have purposely come from Monterey to say it."
Eulogia was looking at him with angry eyes, her brain on fire. But
curiosity triumphed, and she put her hand on his shoulder as the
musicians swept their guitars with lithe fingers, scraped their violins,
and began the waltz.
"Eulogia!" exclaimed Ignestria; "dost thou suspect why I have returned?"
"Why should I suspect what I have not thought about?"
"Ay, Eulogia! Art thou as saucy as ever? But I will tell thee, beloved
one. The poor girl who bore my name is dead, and I have come to beg an
answer to my letter. Ay, little one, I feel thy love. Why couldst thou
not have sent me one word? I was so angry when passed week after week
and no answer came, that in a fit of spleen I married the poor sick
girl. And what I suffered, Eulogia, after that mad act! Long ago I told
myself that I should have come back for my answer, that you had sworn
you would write no letter; I should have let you have your little
caprices, but I did not reason until—"
"I answered your letter!" exclaimed Eulogia, furiously. "You know that
I answered it! You only wished to humble me because I had sworn I would
write to no man. Traitor! I hate you! You were engaged to the girl all
the time you were here."
"Eulogia! Believe! Believe!"
"I would not believe you if you kissed the cross! You said to yourself,
'That little coquette, I will teach her a lesson. To think the little
chit should fancy an elegant Montereño could fall in love with her!' Ah!
ha! Oh, Dios! I hate thee, thou false man-of-the-world! Thou art the
very picture of the men I have read about in the books of the Señor
Dumas; and yet I was fooled by thy first love-word! But I never loved
you. Never, never! It was only a fancy—because you were from Monterey.
I am glad you did not get my letter, for I hate you! Mother of Christ! I
He whirled her into the dining room. No one else was there. He kissed
her full on the mouth.
"Dost thou believe me now?" he asked.
She raised her little hand and struck him on the face, but the sting was
not hotter than her lips had been.
"May the saints roll you in perdition!" she cried hoarsely. "May they
thrust burning coals into the eyes that lied to me! May the devils bite
off the fingers that made me shame myself! God! God! I hate you! I—I,
who have fooled so many men, to have been rolled in the dust by you!"
He drew back and regarded her sadly.
"I see that it is no use to try to convince you," he said; "and I have
no proof to show that I never received your letter. But while the stars
jewel the heavens, Eulogia, I shall love thee and believe that thou
He opened the door, and she swept past him into the sala. Abel Hudson
stepped forward to offer his arm, and for the moment Pablo forgot
"John Power!" he cried.
Hudson, with an oath, leaped backward, sprang upon the window-seat, and
smashing the pane with his powerful hand disappeared before the startled
men thought of stopping him.
"Catch him! Catch him!" cried Ignestria, excitedly. "It is John Power.
He stood me up a year ago."
He whipped his pistol from the saddle-bags in the corner, and opening
the door ran down the road, followed by the other men, shouting and
firing their pistols into the air. But they were too late. Power had
sprung upon Ignestria's horse, and was far on his way.
The next day Eulogia went with her mother and Aunt Anastacia to pay a
visit of sympathy to Doña Jacoba at Los Quervos. Eulogia's eyes were not
so bright nor her lips so red as they had been the night before, and
she had little to say as the wagon jolted over the rough road, past the
cypress fences, then down between the beautiful tinted hills of Los
Quervos. Doña Pomposa sat forward on the high seat, her feet dangling
just above the floor, her hands crossed as usual over her stomach, a
sudden twirl of thumbs punctuating her remarks. She wore a loose black
gown trimmed with ruffles, and a black reboso about her head. Aunt
Anastacia was attired in a like manner, but clutched the side of the
wagon with one hand and an American sunshade with the other.
"Poor Jacoba!" exclaimed Doña Pomposa; "her stern heart is heavy this
day. But she has such a sense of her duty, Anastacia. Only that makes
her so stern."
"O-h-h-h, y-e-e-s." When Aunt Anastacia was preoccupied or excited,
these words came from her with a prolonged outgoing and indrawing.
"I must ask her for the recipe for those cakes—the lard ones,
Anastacia. I have lost it."
"O-h-h, y-e-e-s. I love those cakes. Madre de Dios! It is hot!"
"I wonder will she give Eulogia a mantilla when the chit marries. She
has a chest full."
"Surely. Jacoba is generous."
"Poor my friend! Ay, her heart—Holy Mary! What is that?"
She and Aunt Anastacia stumbled to their feet. The sound of pistol shots
was echoing between the hills. Smoke was rising from the willow forest
that covered the centre of the valley.
The Indian whipped up his horses with an excited grunt, the two old
women reeling and clutching wildly at each other. At the same time they
noticed a crowd of horsemen galloping along the hill which a sudden turn
in the road had opened to view.
"It is the Vigilantes," said Eulogia, calmly, from the front seat. "They
are after John Power and Pio Lenares and their lieutenants. After that
awful murder in the mountains the other day, the men of San Luis and the
ranchos swore they would hunt them out, and this morning they traced
them to Los Quervos. I suppose they have made a barricade in the
willows, and the Vigilantes are trying to fire them out."
"Heart of Saint Peter! Thou little brat! Why didst thou not tell us of
this before, and not let us come here to be shot by flying bullets?"
"I forgot," said Eulogia, indifferently.
They could see nothing; but curiosity, in spite of fear, held them to
the spot. Smoke and cries, shouts and curses, came from the willows;
flocks of agitated crows circled screaming through the smoke. The men
on the hill, their polished horses and brilliant attire flashing in the
sun, kept up a ceaseless galloping, hallooing, and waving of sombreros.
The beautiful earth-green and golden hills looked upon a far different
scene from the gay cavalcades to which they were accustomed. Even Don
Roberto Duncan, a black silk handkerchief knotted about his head, was
dashing, on his gray horse, up and down the valley between the hills and
the willows, regardless of chance bullets. And over all shone the same
old sun, indifferent alike to slaughter and pleasure.
"Surely, Anastacia, all those bullets must shoot some one."
"O—h—h, y—e—e—s." Her sister was grasping the sunshade with both
hands, her eyes starting from her head, although she never removed their
gaze from the central volume of smoke.
"Ay, we can sleep in peace if those murdering bandits are killed!"
exclaimed Doña Pomposa. "I have said a rosary every night for five years
that they might be taken. And, holy heaven! To think that we have been
petting the worst of them as if he were General Castro or Juan Alvarado.
To think, my Eulogia!—that thirsty wild-cat has had his arm about thy
waist more times than I can count."
"He danced very well—aha!"
Aunt Anastacia gurgled like an idiot. Doña Pomposa gave a terrific
shriek, which Eulogia cut in two with her hand. A man had crawled out of
the brush near them. His face was black with powder, one arm hung limp
at his side. Doña Pomposa half raised her arm to signal the men on the
hill, but her daughter gave it such a pinch that she fell back on the
seat, faint for a moment.
"Let him go," said Eulogia. "Do you want to see a man cut in pieces
before your eyes? You would have to say rosaries for the rest of your
life." She leaned over the side of the wagon and spoke to the dazed man,
whose courage seemed to have deserted him.
"Don Abel Hudson, you do not look so gallant as at the ball last night,
but you helped us to get there, and I will save you now. Get into the
wagon, and take care you crawl in like a snake that you may not be
"No—no!" cried the two older women, but in truth they were too
terrified not to submit. Power swung himself mechanically over the
wheel, and lay on the floor of the wagon. Eulogia, in spite of a
protesting whimper from Aunt Anastacia, loosened that good dame's ample
outer skirt and threw it over the fallen bandit. Then the faithful
Benito turned his horse and drove as rapidly toward the town as the
rough roads would permit. They barely had started when they heard a
great shouting behind them, and turned in apprehension, whilst the man
on the floor groaned aloud in his fear. But the Vigilantes rode by
them unsuspecting. Across their saddles they carried the blackened and
dripping bodies of Lenares and his lieutenants; through the willows
galloped the caballeros in search of John Power. But they did not
find him, then nor after. Doña Pomposa hid him in her woodhouse until
midnight, when he stole away and was never seen near San Luis again. A
few years later came the word that he had been assassinated by one of
his lieutenants in Lower California, and his body eaten by wild hogs.
"Al contado plasentero
Del primer beso de amor,
Un fuego devorador
Que en mi pecho siento ardor.
"Y no me vuelvas a besar
Por que me quema tu aliento,
Ya desfayeserme siento,
Mas enbriagada de amor.
"Si a cuantas estimas, das
Beso en pruebas de amor;
Si me amas hasme el favor
De no besarme jamas."
A caballero on a prancing horse sang beneath Eulogia's window, his
jingling spurs keeping time to the tinkling of his guitar. Eulogia
turned over in bed, pulling the sheet above her ears, and went to sleep.
The next day, when Don Tomas Garfias asked her hand of her mother, Doña
Coquetta accepted him with a shrug of her shoulders.
"And thou lovest me, Eulogia?" murmured the enraptured little dandy as
Doña Pomposa and Aunt Anastacia good-naturedly discussed the composition
of American pies.
"Ay! señorita! Why, then, dost thou marry me? No one compels thee."
"It pleases me. What affair of thine are my reasons if I consent to
"Oh, Eulogia, I believe thou lovest me! Why not? Many pretty girls have
done so before thee. Thou wishest only to tease me a little."
"Well, do not let me see too much of you before the wedding-day, or I
may send you back to those who admire you more than I do."
"Perhaps it is well that I go to San Francisco to remain three months,"
said the young man, sulkily; he had too much vanity to be enraged. "Wilt
thou marry me as soon as I return?"
"As well then as any other time."
Garfias left San Luis a few days later to attend to important business
in San Francisco, and although Doña Pomposa and Aunt Anastacia began at
once to make the wedding outfit, Eulogia appeared to forget that she
ever had given a promise of marriage. She was as great a belle as ever,
for no one believed that she would keep faith with any man, much less
with such a ridiculous scrap as Garfias. Her flirtations were more
calmly audacious than ever, her dancing more spirited; in every frolic
she was the leader.
Suddenly Doña Pomposa was smitten with rheumatism. She groaned by night
and shouted by day. Eulogia, whose patience was not great, organized
a camping party to the sulphur springs of the great rancho, Paso des
Robles. The young people went on horseback; Doña Pomposa and Aunt
Anastacia in the wagon with the tents and other camping necessities.
Groans and shrieks mingled with the careless laughter of girls and
caballeros, who looked upon rheumatism as the inevitable sister of old
age; but when they entered the park-like valley after the ride over the
beautiful chrome mountains, Doña Pomposa declared that the keen dry air
had already benefited her.
That evening, when the girls left their tents, hearts fluttered, and
gay muslin frocks waved like agitated banners. Several Americans were
pitching their tents by the spring. They proved to be a party of mining
engineers from San Francisco, and although there was only one young
man among them, the greater was the excitement. Many of the girls were
beautiful, with their long braids and soft eyes, but Eulogia, in
her yellow gown, flashed about like a succession of meteors, as the
Americans drew near and proffered their services to Doña Pomposa.
The young man introduced himself as Charles Rogers. He was a
good-looking little fellow, in the lighter American style. His
well-attired figure was slim and active, his mouse-coloured hair short
and very straight, his shrewd eyes were blue. After a few moments'
critical survey of the charming faces behind Doña Pomposa, he went off
among the trees, and returning with a bunch of wild flowers walked
straight over to Eulogia and handed them to her.
She gave him a roguish little courtesy. "Much thanks, señor. You must
scuse my English; I no spik often. The Americanos no care for the
"I like them well enough, but I hope you will accept these."
"Si, señor." She put them in her belt. "You like California?"
"Very much. It is full of gold, and, I should say, excellent for
"But it no is beautiful country?"
"Oh, yes, it does very well, and the climate is pretty fair in some
"You living in San Francisco?"
"I am a mining engineer, and we have got hold of a good thing near
"The mine—it is yours?"
"Only a part of it."
"The Americanos make all the money now."
"The gold was put here for some one to take out. You Californians had
things all your own way for a hundred years, but you let it stay there."
"Tell me how you take it out."
He entered into a detailed and somewhat technical description, but her
quick mind grasped the meaning of unfamiliar words.
"You like make the money?" she asked, after he had finished.
"Of course. What else is a man made for? Life is a pretty small affair
"We no have much now, but we live very happy. The Americanos love the
money, though. Alway I see that."
"Americans have sense."
He devoted himself to her during the ten days of their stay, and his
business shrewdness and matter-of-fact conversation attracted the
keen-witted girl, satiated with sighs and serenades. Always eager for
knowledge, she learned much from him of the Eastern world. She did not
waste a glance on her reproachful caballeros, but held long practical
conversations with Rogers under the mending wing of Doña Pomposa, who
approved of the stranger, having ascertained his abilities and prospects
from the older men of his party.
On the morning of their return to San Luis Obispo, Rogers and Eulogia
were standing somewhat apart, whilst the vaqueros rounded up the horses
that had strayed at will through the valley. Rogers plucked one of the
purple autumn lilies and handed it to her.
"Señorita," he said, "suppose you marry me. It is a good thing for a man
to be married in a wild country like this; he is not so apt to gamble
and drink. And although I've seen a good many pretty girls, I've seen no
one so likely to keep me at home in the evening as yourself. What do you
Eulogia laughed. His wooing interested her.
"I promise marry another man; not I think much I ever go to do it."
"Well, let him go, and marry me."
"I no think I like you much better. But I spose I must get marry some
day. Here my mother come. Ask her. I do what she want."
Doña Pomposa was trotting toward them, and while she struggled for her
lost breath Eulogia repeated the proposal of the American, twanging her
guitar the while.
The old lady took but one moment to make up her mind. "The American,"
she said rapidly in Spanish. "Garfias is rich now, but in a few years
the Americans will have everything. Garfias will be poor; this man will
be rich. Marry the American," and she beamed upon Rogers.
Eulogia shrugged her shoulders and turned to her practical wooer.
"My mother she say she like you the best."
"Then I may look upon that little transaction as settled?"
"Si you like it."
"Which art thou going to marry, Eulogia?" asked one of the girls that
night, as they rode down the mountain.
"Neither," said Eulogia, serenely.
Eulogia had just passed through an animated interview with her mother.
Doña Pomposa had stormed and Eulogia had made an occasional reply in her
cool monotonous voice, her gaze absently fixed on the gardens of the
"Thou wicked little coquette!" cried Doña Pomposa, her voice almost
worn out. "Thou darest repeat to me that thou wilt not marry the Señor
"I will not. It was amusing to be engaged to him for a time, but now I
am tired. You can give him what excuse you like, but tell him to go."
"And the clothes I have made—the chests of linen with the beautiful
deshalados that nearly put out Aunt Anastacia's eyes! The new silk
gowns! Dias de mi vida! The magnificent bed-spread with the lace as deep
as my hand!"
"They will keep until I do marry. Besides, I need some new clothes."
"Dost thou indeed, thou little brat! Thou shalt not put on a smock or
a gown in that chest if thou goest naked! But thou shalt marry him, I
"Oh, thou ice-hearted little devil!" Even Doña Pomposa's stomach was
trembling with rage, and her fingers were jumping. "Whom then wilt thou
"Thou wilt be an old maid like Aunt Anastacia."
"O—h—h—Who is this?"
A stranger in travelling scrape and riding-boots had dashed up to the
house, and flung himself from his horse. He knocked loudly on the open
door, then entered without waiting for an invitation, and made a deep
reverence to Doña Pomposa.
"At your service, señora. At your service, señorita. I come from the
Señor Don Tomas Garfias. Word has reached him that the Señorita Eulogia
is about to marry an American. I humbly ask you to tell me if this be
true or not. I have been told in town that the wedding is set for the
day after to-morrow."
"Ask her!" cried Doña Pomposa, tragically, and she swung herself to the
other end of the room.
"Señorita, at your feet."
"You can tell your friend that I have no more intention of marrying the
American than I have of marrying him."
"Señorita! But he expected to return next week and marry you."
"We expect many things in this world that we do not get."
"But—a thousand apologies for my presumption, señorita—why did you not
write and tell him?"
"I never write letters."
"But you could have sent word by some friend travelling to San
"He would find it out in good time. Why hurry?"
"Ay, señorita, well are you named Doña Coquetta. You are famous even to
San Francisco. I will return to my poor friend. At your service, señora.
At your service, señorita," and he bowed himself out, and galloped away.
Doña Pomposa threw herself into her chair, and wept aloud.
"Mother of God! I had thought to see her married to a thrifty American!
What have I done to be punished with so heartless a child? And the
Americans will have all the money! The little I have will go, too! We
shall be left sitting in the street. And we might have a wooden house in
San Francisco, and go to the theatre! Oh, Mother of God, why dost thou
not soften the heart of the wicked—"
Eulogia slipped out of the window, and went into the mission gardens.
She walked slowly through the olive groves, lifting her arms to part
the branches where the little purple spheres lay in their silver nests.
Suddenly she came face to face with Pablo Ignestria.
Her cynical brain informed her stormy heart that any woman must succumb
finally to the one man who had never bored her.
THE ISLE OF SKULLS
The good priests of Santa Barbara sat in grave conference on the long
corridor of their mission. It was a winter's day, and they basked in
the sun. The hoods of their brown habits peaked above faces lean and
ascetic, fat and good-tempered, stern, intelligent, weak, commanding.
One face alone was young.
But for the subject under discussion they would have been at peace with
themselves and with Nature. In the great square of the mission the
Indians they had Christianized worked at many trades. The great aqueduct
along the brow of one of the lower hills, the wheat and corn fields on
the slopes, the trim orchards and vegetable gardens in the cañons of the
great bare mountains curving about the valley, were eloquent evidence of
their cleverness and industry. From the open door of the church came the
sound of lively and solemn tunes: the choir was practising for mass. The
day was as peaceful as only those long drowsy shimmering days before the
Americans came could be. And yet there was dissent among the padres.
Several had been speaking together, when one of the older men raised his
hand with cold impatience.
"There is only one argument," he said. "We came here, came to the
wilderness out of civilization, for one object only—to lead the heathen
to God. We have met with a fair success. Shall we leave these miserable
islanders to perish, when we have it in our power to save?"
"But no one knows exactly where this island is, Father Jiméno," replied
the young priest. "And we know little of navigation, and may perish
before we find it. Our lives are more precious than those of savages."
"In the sight of God one soul is of precisely the same value as another,
The young priest scowled. "We can save. They cannot."
"If we refuse to save when the power is ours, then the savage in his
extremest beastiality has more hope of heaven than we have."
Father Carillo looked up at the golden sun riding high in the dark blue
sky, down over the stately oaks and massive boulders of the valley where
quail flocked like tame geese. He had no wish to leave his paradise, and
as the youngest and hardiest of the priests, he knew that he would be
ordered to take charge of the expedition.
"It is said also," continued the older man, "that once a ship from the
Continent of Europe was wrecked among those islands—"
"No? No?" interrupted several of the priests.
"It is more than probable that there were survivors, and that their
descendants live on this very island to-day. Think of it, my brother!
Men and women of our own blood, perhaps, living like beasts of the
field! Worshipping idols! Destitute of morality! Can we sit here in hope
of everlasting life while our brethren perish?"
"No!" The possibility of rescuing men of European blood had quenched
dissent. Even Carillo spoke as spontaneously as the others.
As he had anticipated, the expedition was put in his charge. Don
Guillermo Iturbi y Moncada, the magnate of the South, owned a small
schooner, and placed it at the disposal of the priests.
Through the wide portals of the mission church, two weeks later, rolled
the solemn music of high mass. The church was decorated as for a
festival. The aristocrats of the town knelt near the altar, the people
and Indians behind.
Father Carillo knelt and took communion, the music hushing suddenly to
rise in more sonorous volume. Then Father Jiméno, bearing a cross and
chanting the rosary, descended the altar steps and walked toward the
doors. On either side of him a page swung a censer. Four women neophytes
rose from among the worshippers, and shouldering a litter on which
rested a square box containing an upright figure of the Holy Virgin
followed with bent heads. The Virgin's gown was of yellow satin, covered
with costly Spanish lace; strands of Baja Californian pearls bedecked
the front of her gown. Behind this resplendent image came the other
priests, two and two, wearing their white satin embroidered robes,
chanting the sacred mysteries. Father Carillo walked last and alone. His
thin clever face wore an expression of nervous exaltation.
As the procession descended the steps of the church, the bells rang
out a wild inspiring peal. The worshippers rose, and forming in line
followed the priests down the valley.
When they reached the water's edge, Father Jiméno raised the cross above
his head, stepped with the other priests into a boat, and was rowed to
the schooner. He sprinkled holy water upon the little craft; then Father
Carillo knelt and received the blessing of each of his brethren. When
he rose all kissed him solemnly, then returned to the shore, where the
whole town knelt. The boat brought back the six Indians who were to give
greeting and confidence to their kinsmen on the island, and the schooner
was ready to sail. As she weighed anchor, the priests knelt in a row
before the people, Father Jiméno alone standing and holding the cross
aloft with rigid arms.
Father Carillo stood on deck and watched the white mission under the
mountain narrow to a thread, the kneeling priests become dots of
reflected light. His exaltation vanished. He was no longer the chief
figure in a picturesque panorama. He set his lips and his teeth behind
them. He was a very ambitious man. His dreams leapt beyond California
to the capital of Spain. If he returned with his savages, he might make
success serve as half the ladder. But would he return?
Wind and weather favoured him. Three days after leaving Santa Barbara
he sighted a long narrow mountainous island. He had passed another of
different proportions in the morning, and before night sighted still
another, small and oval. But the lofty irregular mass, some ten miles
long and four miles wide, which he approached at sundown, was the one he
sought. The night world was alight under the white blaze of the moon;
the captain rode into a small harbour at the extreme end of the island
and cast anchor, avoiding reefs and shoals as facilely as by midday.
Father Carillo gave his Indians orders to be ready to march at dawn.
The next morning the priest arrayed himself in his white satin garments,
embroidered about the skirt with gold and on the chest with a purple
cross pointed with gold. The brown woollen habit of his voyage was left
behind. None knew better than he the value of theatric effect upon the
benighted mind. His Indians wore gayly striped blankets of their own
manufacture, and carried baskets containing presents and civilized food.
Bearing a large gilt cross, Father Carillo stepped on shore, waved
farewell to the captain, and directed his Indians to keep faithfully in
the line of march: they might come upon the savages at any moment. They
toiled painfully through a long stretch of white sand, then passed into
a grove of banana trees, dark, cold, noiseless, but for the rumble of
the ocean. When they reached the edge of the grove, Father Carillo
raised his cross and commanded the men to kneel. Rumour had told him
what to expect, and he feared the effect on his simple and superstitious
companions. He recited a chaplet, then, before giving them permission to
rise, made a short address.
"My children, be not afraid at what meets your eyes. The ways of all
men are not our ways. These people have seen fit to leave their dead
unburied on the surface of the earth. But these poor bones can do you
no more harm than do those you have placed beneath the ground in Santa
Barbara. Now rise and follow me, nor turn back as you fear the wrath of
He turned and strode forward, with the air of one to whom fear had no
meaning; but even he closed his eyes for a moment in horror. The poor
creatures behind mumbled and crossed themselves and clung to each other.
The plain was a vast charnel-house. The sun, looking over the brow of an
eastern hill, threw its pale rays upon thousands of crumbling skeletons,
bleached by unnumbered suns, picked bare by dead and gone generations of
carrion, white, rigid, sinister. Detached skulls lay in heaps, grinning
derisively. Stark digits pointed threateningly, as if the old warriors
still guarded their domain. Other frames lay face downward, as though
the broken teeth had bitten the dust in battle. Slender forms lay prone,
their arms encircling cooking utensils, beautiful in form and colour.
Great bowls and urns, toy canoes, mortars and pestles, of serpentine,
sandstone, and steatite, wrought with a lost art,—if, indeed, the art
had ever been known beyond this island,—and baked to richest dyes, were
placed at the head and feet of skeletons more lofty in stature than
Father Carillo sprinkled holy water right and left, bidding his Indians
chant a rosary for the souls which once had inhabited these appalling
tenements. The Indians obeyed with clattering teeth, keeping their eyes
fixed stonily upon the ground lest they stumble and fall amid yawning
The ghastly tramp lasted two hours. The sun spurned the hill-top and
cast a flood of light upon the ugly scene. The white bones grew whiter,
dazzling the eyes of the living. They reached the foot of a mountain and
began a toilsome ascent through a dark forest. Here new terrors awaited
them. Skeletons sat propped against trees, grinning out of the dusk,
gleaming in horrid relief against the mass of shadow. Father Carillo,
with one eye over his shoulder, managed by dint of command, threats, and
soothing words to get his little band to the top of the hill. Once,
when revolt seemed imminent, he asked them scathingly if they wished to
retrace their steps over the plain unprotected by the cross, and they
clung to his skirts thereafter. When they reached the summit, they lay
down to rest and eat their luncheon, Father Carillo reclining carefully
on a large mat: his fine raiment was a source of no little anxiety. No
skeletons kept them company here. They had left the last many yards
"Anacleto," commanded the priest, at the end of an hour, "crawl forward
on thy hands and knees and peer over the brow of the mountain. Then come
back and tell me if men like thyself are below."
Anacleto obeyed, and returned in a few moments with bulging eyes and a
broad smile of satisfaction. People were in the valley—a small band.
They wore feathers like birds, and came and went from the base of the
hill. There were no wigwams, no huts.
Father Carillo rose at once. Bidding his Indians keep in the background,
he walked to the jutting brow of the hill, and throwing a rapid glance
downward came to a sudden halt. With one hand he held the cross well
away from him and high above his head. The sun blazed down on the
burnished cross; on the white shining robes of the priest; on his calm
benignant face thrown into fine relief by the white of the falling
In a moment a low murmur arose from the valley, then a sudden silence.
Father Carillo, glancing downward, saw that the people had prostrated
He began the descent, holding the cross aloft, chanting solemnly; his
Indians, to whom he had given a swift signal, following and lifting up
their voices likewise. The mountain on this side was bare, as if from
fire, the incline shorter and steeper. The priest noted all things,
although he never forgot his lines.
Below was a little band of men and women. A broad plain swept from the
mountain's foot, a forest broke its sweep, and the ocean thundered near.
The people were clad in garments made from the feathered skins of birds,
and were all past middle age. The foot of the mountain was perforated
When he stood before the trembling awe-struck savages, he spoke to them
kindly and bade them rise. They did not understand, but lifted their
heads and stared appealingly. He raised each in turn. As they once
more looked upon his full magnificence, they were about to prostrate
themselves again when they caught sight of the Indians. Those dark
stolid faces, even that gay attire, they could understand. Glancing
askance at the priest, they drew near to their fellow-beings, touched
their hands to the strangers' breasts, and finally kissed them.
Father Carillo was a man of tact.
"My children," he said to his flock, "do you explain as best you-can to
these our new friends what it is we have come to do. I will go into the
forest and rest."
He walked swiftly across the plain, and parting the clinging branches
of two gigantic ferns, entered the dim wood. He laid the heavy cross
beneath a tree, and strolled idly. It was a forest of fronds. Lofty fern
trees waved above wide-leaved palms. Here and there a little marsh with
crowding plant life held the riotous groves apart. Down the mountain up
which the forest spread tumbled a creek over coloured rocks, then wound
its way through avenues, dark in the shadows, sparkling where the
sunlight glinted through the tall tree-tops. Red lilies were everywhere.
The aisles were vocal with whispering sound.
The priest threw himself down on a bed of dry leaves by the creek. After
a time his eyes closed. He was weary, and slept.
He awoke suddenly, the power of a steadfast gaze dragging his brain from
its rest. A girl sat on a log in the middle of the creek. Father Carillo
stared incredulously, believing himself to be dreaming. The girl's
appearance was unlike anything he had ever seen. Like the other members
of her tribe, she wore a garment of feathers, and her dark face was cast
in the same careless and gentle mould; but her black eyes had a certain
intelligence, unusual to the Indians of California, and the hair that
fell to her knees was the colour of flame. Apparently she was not more
than eighteen years old.
Father Carillo, belonging to a period when bleached brunettes were
unknown, hastily crossed himself.
"Who are you?" he asked.
His voice was deep and musical. It had charmed many a woman's heart,
despite the fact that he had led a life of austerity and sought no
woman's smiles. But this girl at the sound of it gave a loud cry and
bounded up the mountain, leaping through the brush like a deer.
[Illustration: "HE AWOKE SUDDENLY, THE POWER OF A STEADFAST GAZE
DRAGGING HIS BRAIN FROM ITS REST."]
The priest rose, drank of the bubbles in the stream, and retraced his
steps. He took up the burden of the cross again and returned to the
village. There he found the savage and the Christianized sitting
together in brotherly love. The islanders were decked with the rosaries
presented to them, and the women in their blankets were swollen with
pride. All had eaten of bread and roast fowl, and made the strangers
offerings of strange concoctions in magnificent earthen dishes. As the
priest appeared the heathen bowed low, then gathered about him. Their
awe had been dispelled, and they responded to the magnetism of his voice
and smile. He knew many varieties of the Indian language, and succeeded
in making them understand that he wished them to return with him, and
that he would make them comfortable and happy. They nodded their heads
vigorously as he spoke, but pointed to their venerable chief, who sat at
the entrance of his cave eating of a turkey's drumstick. Father Carillo
went over to the old man and saluted him respectfully. The chief nodded,
waved his hand at a large flat stone, and continued his repast, his
strong white teeth crunching bone as well as flesh. The priest spread
his handkerchief on the stone, seated himself, and stated the purpose
of his visit. He dwelt at length upon the glories of civilization. The
chief dropped his bone after a time and listened attentively. When the
priest finished, he uttered a volley of short sentences.
"Good. We go. Great sickness come. All die but us. Many, many, many. We
are strong no more. No children come. We are old—all. One young girl
not die. The young men die. The young women die. The children die. No
more will come. Yes, we go."
"And this young girl with the hair—" The priest looked upward. The sun
had gone. He touched the gold of the cross, then his own hair.
"Dorthe," grunted the old man, regarding his bare drumstick regretfully.
"Who is she? Where did she get such a name? Why has she that hair?"
Out of another set of expletives Father Carillo gathered that Dorthe was
the granddaughter of a man who had been washed ashore after a storm, and
who had dwelt on the island until he died. He had married a woman of
the tribe, and to his daughter had given the name of Dorthe—or so the
Indians had interpreted it—and his hair, which was like the yellow
fire. This girl had inherited both. He had been very brave and much
beloved, but had died while still young. Their ways were not his ways,
Father Carillo inferred, and barbarism had killed him.
The priest did not see Dorthe again that day. When night came, he was
given a cave to himself. He hung up his robes on a jutting point of
rock, and slept the sleep of the weary. At the first shaft of dawn he
rose, intending to stroll down to the beach in search of a bay where he
could bathe; but as he stepped across the prostrate Californians, asleep
at the entrance of his cave, he paused abruptly, and changed his plans.
On the far edge of the ocean the rising diadem of the sun sent great
bubbles of colour up through a low bank of pale green cloud to the gray
night sky and the sulky stars. And, under the shadow of the cacti and
palms, in rapt mute worship, knelt the men and women the priest had come
to save, their faces and clasped hands uplifted to the waking sun.
Father Carillo awoke his Indians summarily.
"Gather a dozen large stones and build an altar—quick!" he commanded.
The sleepy Indians stumbled to their feet, obeyed orders, and in a few
moments a rude altar was erected. The priest propped the cross on the
apex, and, kneeling with his Indians, slowly chanted a mass. The savages
gathered about curiously; then, impressed by the solemnity of the
priest's voice and manner, sank to their knees once more, although
directing to the sun an occasional glance of anxiety. When the priest
rose, he gave them to understand that he was deeply gratified by their
response to the religion of civilization, and pointed to the sun, now
full-orbed, amiably swimming in a jewelled mist. Again they prostrated
themselves, first to him, then to their deity, and he knew that the
conquest was begun.
After breakfast they were ready to follow him. They had cast their
feathered robes into a heap, and wore the blankets, one and all. Still
Dorthe had not appeared. The chief sent a man in search of her, and
when, after some delay, she entered his presence, commanded her to make
herself ready to go with the tribe. For a time she protested angrily.
But when she found that she must go or remain alone, she reluctantly
joined the forming procession, although refusing to doff her bird
garment, and keeping well in the rear that she might not again look upon
that terrible presence in white and gold, that face with its strange
pallor and piercing eyes. Father Carillo, who was very much bored, would
have been glad to talk to her, but recognized that he must keep his
distance if he wished to include her among his trophies.
The natives knew of a shorter trail to the harbour, and one of them led
the way, Father Carillo urging his footsteps, for the green cloud of
dawn was now high and black and full. A swift wind was rustling the
tree-tops and tossing the ocean white. As they skirted the plain of the
dead, the priest saw a strange sight. The wind had become a gale. It
caught up great armfuls of sand from the low dunes, and hurled them upon
the skeletons, covering them from sight. Sometimes a gust would snatch
the blanket from one to bury another more deeply; and for a moment the
old bones would gleam again, to be enveloped in the on-rushing pillar of
whirling sand. Through the storm leaped the wild dogs, yelping dismally.
When the party reached the stretch beyond the banana grove, they saw the
schooner tossing and pulling at her anchor. The captain shouted to them
to hurry. The boat awaiting them at the beach was obliged to make three
trips. Father Carillo went in the first boat; Dorthe remained for the
last. She was the last, also, to ascend the ladder at the ship's side.
As she put her foot on deck, and confronted again the pale face and
shining robes of the young priest, she screamed, and leapt from the
vessel into the waves. The chief and his tribe shouted their entreaties
to return. But she had disappeared, and the sky was black. The captain
refused to lower the boat again. He had already weighed anchor, and he
hurriedly represented that to remain longer in the little bay, with its
reefs and rocks, its chopping waves, would mean death to all. The priest
was obliged to sacrifice the girl to the many lives in his keep.
Dorthe darted through the hissing waves, undismayed by the darkness or
the screaming wind; she and the ocean had been friends since her baby
days. When a breaker finally tossed her on the shore, she scrambled to
the bank, then stood long endeavouring to pierce the rain for sight of
the vessel. But it was far out in the dark. Dorthe was alone on the
island. For a time she howled in dismal fashion. She was wholly without
fear, but she had human needs and was lonesome. Then reason told her
that when the storm was over the ship would return to seek her; and she
fled and hid in the banana grove. The next morning the storm had passed;
but the ship was nowhere to be seen, and she started for home.
The wind still blew, but it had veered. This time it caught the sand
from the skeletons, and bore it rapidly back to the dunes. Dorthe
watched the old bones start into view. Sometimes a skull would thrust
itself suddenly forth, sometimes a pair of polished knees; and once a
long finger seemed to beckon. But it was an old story to Dorthe, and she
pursued her journey undisturbed.
She climbed the mountain, and went down into the valley and lived alone.
Her people had left their cooking utensils. She caught fish in the
creek, and shot birds with her bow and arrow. Wild fruits and nuts were
abundant. Of creature comforts she lacked nothing. But the days were
long and the island was very still. For a while she talked aloud in
the limited vocabulary of her tribe. After a time she entered into
companionship with the frogs and birds, imitating their speech.
Restlessness vanished, and she existed contentedly enough.
Two years passed. The moon flooded the valley one midnight. Dorthe lay
on the bank of the creek in the fern forest. She and the frogs had held
long converse, and she was staring up through the feathery branches,
waving in the night wind, at the calm silver face which had ignored her
overtures. Upon this scene entered a man. He was attenuated and ragged.
Hair and beard fell nearly to his waist. He leaned on a staff, and
tottered like an old man.
He stared about him sullenly. "Curse them!" he said aloud. "Why could
they not have died and rotted before we heard of them?"
Dorthe, at the sound of a human voice, sprang to her feet with a cry.
The man, too, gave a cry—the ecstatic cry of the unwilling hermit who
looks again upon the human face.
"Dorthe! Thou? I thought thou wast dead—drowned in the sea."
Dorthe had forgotten the meaning of words, but her name came to her
familiarly. Then something stirred within her, filling her eyes with
tears. She went forward and touched the stranger, drawing her hand over
his trembling arms.
"Do you not remember me, Dorthe?" asked the man, softly. "I am the
priest—was, for I am not fit for the priesthood now. I have forgotten
how to pray."
She shook her head, but smiling, the instinct of gregariousness
He remembered his needs, and made a gesture which she understood. She
took his hand, and led him from the forest to her cave. She struck fire
from flint into a heap of fagots beneath a swinging pot. In a little
time she set before him a savoury mess of birds. He ate of it
ravenously. Dorthe watched him with deep curiosity. She had never seen
hunger before. She offered him a gourd of water, and he drank thirstily.
When he raised his face his cheeks were flushed, his eyes brighter.
He took her hand and drew her down beside him.
"I must talk," he said. "Even if you cannot understand, I must talk to
a human being. I must tell some one the story of these awful years. The
very thought intoxicates me. We were shipwrecked, Dorthe. The wind drove
us out of our course, and we went to pieces on the rocks at the foot of
this island. Until to-night I did not know that it was this island. I
alone was washed on shore. In the days that came I grew to wish that I,
too, had perished. You know nothing of what solitude and savagery mean
to the man of civilization—and to the man of ambition. Oh, my God! I
dared not leave the shore lest I miss the chance to signal a passing
vessel. There was scarcely anything to maintain life on that rocky
coast. Now and again I caught a seagull or a fish. Sometimes I ventured
inland and found fruit, running back lest a ship should pass. There I
stayed through God knows how many months and years. I fell ill many
times. My limbs are cramped and twisted with rheumatism. Finally, I grew
to hate the place beyond endurance. I determined to walk to the other
end of the island. It was only when I passed, now and again, the
unburied dead and the pottery that I suspected I might be on your
island. Oh, that ghastly company! When night came, they seemed to rise
and walk before me. I cried aloud and cursed them. My manhood has gone,
I fear. I cannot tell how long that terrible journey lasted,—months and
months, for my feet are bare and my legs twisted. What kind fate guided
me to you?"
He gazed upon her, not as man looks at woman, but as mortal looks
adoringly upon the face of mortal long withheld.
Dorthe smiled sympathetically. His speech and general appearance struck
a long-dormant chord; but in her mind was no recognition of him.
He fell asleep suddenly and profoundly. As Dorthe watched, she gradually
recalled the appearance of the old who had lain screaming on the ground
drawing up their cramped limbs. She also recalled the remedy. Not far
from the edge of the forest was a line of temascals, excavations covered
with mud huts, into which her people had gone for every ill. She ran to
one, and made a large fire within; the smoke escaped through an aperture
in the roof. Then she returned, and, taking the emaciated figure in her
arms, bore him to the hut and placed him in the corner farthest from the
fire. She went out and closed the door, but thrust her head in from time
to time. He did not awaken for an hour. When he did, he thought he had
entered upon the fiery sequel of unfaith. The sweat was pouring from
his body. The atmosphere could only be that of the nether world. As his
brain cleared he understood, and made no effort to escape: he knew
the virtues of the temascal. As the intense heat sapped his remaining
vitality he sank into lethargy. He was aroused by the shock of cold
water, and opened his eyes to find himself struggling in the creek,
Dorthe holding him down with firm arms. After a moment she carried him
back to the plain and laid him in the sun to dry. His rags still clung
to him. She regarded them with disfavour, and fetched the Chief's
discarded plumage. As soon as he could summon strength he tottered into
the forest and made his toilet. As he was a foot and a half taller than
the Chief had been, he determined to add a flounce as soon as his health
would permit. Dorthe, however, looked approval when he emerged, and set
a bowl of steaming soup before him.
He took the temascal twice again, and at the end of a week the drastic
cure had routed his rheumatism. Although far from strong, he felt twenty
years younger. His manhood returned, and with it his man's vanity. He
did not like the appearance of his reflected image in the still pools of
the wood. The long beard and head locks smote him sorely. He disliked
the idea of being a fright, even though Dorthe had no standards of
comparison; but his razors were at the bottom of the sea.
After much excogitation he arrived at a solution. One day, when Dorthe
was on the other side of the mountain shooting birds,—she would kill
none of her friends in the fern forest,—he tore dried palm leaves into
strips, and setting fire to them singed his hair and beard to the roots.
It was a long and tedious task. When it was finished the pool told him
that his chin and head were like unto a stubbled field. But he was young
and well-looking once more.
He went out and confronted Dorthe. She dropped her birds, her bow and
arrow, and stared at him. Then he saw recognition leap to her eyes; but
this time no fear. He was far from being the gorgeous apparition of many
moons ago. And, so quickly does solitude forge its links, she smiled
brightly, approvingly, and he experienced a glow of content.
The next day he taught her the verbal synonym of many things, and she
spoke the words after him with rapt attention. When he finished the
lesson, she pounded, in a wondrous mortar, the dried flour of the banana
with the eggs of wild fowl, then fried the paste over the fire he had
built. She brought a dish of nuts and showed him gravely how to crack
them with a stone, smiling patronizingly at his ready skill. When the
dinner was cooked, she offered him one end of the dish as usual, but he
thought it was time for another lesson. He laid a flat stone with palm
leaves, and set two smaller dishes at opposite ends. Then with a flat
stick he lifted the cakes from the fry-pan, and placed an equal number
on each plate. Dorthe watched these proceedings with expanded eyes, but
many gestures of impatience. She was hungry. He took her hand and led
her ceremoniously to the head of the table, motioning to her to be
seated. She promptly went down on her knees, and dived at the cakes with
both hands. But again he restrained her. He had employed a part of his
large leisure fashioning rude wood forks with his ragged pocket-knife.
There were plenty of bone knives on the island. He sat himself opposite,
and gave her a practical illustration of the use of the knife and fork.
She watched attentively, surreptitiously whisking morsels of cake into
her mouth. Finally, she seized the implements of civilization beside her
plate, and made an awkward attempt to use them. The priest tactfully
devoted himself to his own dinner. Suddenly he heard a cry of rage, and
simultaneously the knife and fork flew in different directions. Dorthe
seized a cake in each hand, and stuffed them into her mouth, her eyes
flashing defiance. The priest looked at her reproachfully, then lowered
his eyes. Presently she got up, found the knife and fork, and made a
patient effort to guide the food to its proper place by the new and
trying method This time the attempt resulted in tears—a wild thunder
shower. The priest went over, knelt beside her, and guided the knife
through the cake, the fork to her mouth. Dorthe finished the meal, then
put her head on his shoulder and wept bitterly. The priest soothed her,
and made her understand that she had acquitted herself with credit; and
the sun shone once more.
An hour later she took his hand, and led him to the creek in the forest.
"C—c—ruck! C—c—ruck!" she cried.
"C—c—ruck! C—c—ruck!" came promptly from the rushes. She looked at
"Curruck," he said, acknowledging the introduction.
She laughed outright at his poor attempt, startling even him with the
discordant sound. She sprang to his side, her eyes rolling with terror.
But he laughed himself, and in a few moments she was attempting to
imitate him. Awhile later she introduced him to the birds; but he
forbore to trill, having a saving sense of humour.
The comrades of her solitude were deserted. She made rapid progress in
human speech. Gradually her voice lost its cross between a croak and a
trill and acquired a feminine resemblance to her instructor's. At the
end of a month they could speak together after a fashion. When she made
her first sentence, haltingly but surely, she leaped to her feet and
executed a wild war dance. They were on the plain of the dead. She flung
her supple legs among the skeletons, sending the bones flying, her
bright hair tossing about her like waves of fire. The priest watched her
with bated breath, half expecting to see the outraged warriors arise in
wrath. The gaunt dogs that were always prowling about the plain fled in
The month had passed very agreeably to the priest. After the horrors of
his earlier experience it seemed for a time that he had little more to
ask of life. Dorthe knew nothing of love; but he knew that if no ship
came, she would learn, and he would teach her. He had loved no woman,
but he felt that in this vast solitude he could love Dorthe and be happy
with her. In the languor of convalescence he dreamed of the hour when he
should take her in his arms and see the frank regard in her eyes for the
last time. The tranquil air was heavy with the perfumes of spring. The
palms were rigid. The blue butterflies sat with folded wings. The birds
hung their drowsy heads.
But with returning strength came the desire for civilization, the
awakening of his ambitions, the desire for intellectual activity. He
stood on the beach for hours at a time, straining his eyes for passing
ships. He kept a fire on the cliffs constantly burning. Dorthe's
instincts were awakening, and she was vaguely troubled. The common
inheritance was close upon her.
The priest now put all thoughts of love sternly from him. Love meant a
lifetime on the island, for he would not desert her, and to take her to
Santa Barbara would mean the death of all his hopes. And yet in his way
he loved her, and there were nights when he sat by the watch-fire and
shed bitter tears. He had read the story of Juan and Haidée, by no means
without sympathy, and he wished more than once that he had the mind and
nature of the poet; but to violate his own would be productive of misery
to both. He was no amorous youth, but a man with a purpose, and that,
for him, was the end of it. But he spent many hours with her, talking to
her of life beyond the island, a story to which she listened with eager
One night as he was about to leave her, she dropped her face into her
hands and cried heavily. Instinctively he put his arms about her, and
she as instinctively clung to him, terrified and appealing. He kissed
her, not once, but many times, intoxicated and happy. She broke from him
suddenly and ran to her cave; and he, chilled and angry, went to his
It was a very brilliant night. An hour later he saw something skim the
horizon. Later still he saw that the object was closer, and that it was
steering for the harbour. He ran to meet it.
Twice he stopped. The magnetism of the only woman that had ever awakened
his love drew him back. He thought of her despair, her utter and, this
time, unsupportable loneliness; the careless girl with the risen sun
would be a broken-hearted woman.
But he ran on.
Spain beckoned. The highest dignities of the Church were his. He saw his
political influence a byword in Europe. He felt Dorthe's arms about him,
her soft breath on his cheek, and uttered a short savage scream; but he
When he reached the harbour three men had already landed. They
recognized him, and fell at his feet. And when he told them that he was
alone on the island, they reëmbarked without question. And he lived, and
forgot, and realized his great ambitions.
Thirty years later a sloop put into the harbour of the island for
repairs. Several of the men went on shore. They discovered footprints in
the sand. Wondering, for they had sailed the length of the island and
seen no sign of habitation, they followed the steps. They came upon a
curious creature which was scraping with a bone knife the blubber from
a seal. At first they thought it was a bird of some unknown species, so
sharp was its beak, so brilliant its plumage. But when they spoke to it
and it sprang aside and confronted them, they saw that the creature was
an aged woman. Her face was like an old black apple, within whose skin
the pulp had shrunk and withered as it lay forgotten on the ground. Her
tawny hair hung along her back like a ragged mat. There was no light in
the dim vacuous eyes. She wore a garment made of the unplucked skins of
birds. They spoke to her. She uttered a gibberish unknown to them with a
voice that croaked like a frog's, then went down on her creaking knees
and lifted her hands to the sun.
THE HEAD OF A PRIEST
"Doña Concepción had the greatest romance of us all; so she should not
chide too bitterly."
"But she has such a sense of her duty! Such a sense of her duty! Ay,
Dios de mi alma! Shall we ever grow like that?"
"If we have a Russian lover who is killed in the far North, and we have
a convent built for us, and teach troublesome girls. Surely, if one goes
through fire, one can become anything—"
"Ay, yi! Look! Look!"
Six dark heads were set in a row along the edge of a secluded corner of
the high adobe wall surrounding the Convent of Monterey. They looked
for all the world like a row of charming gargoyles—every mouth was
open—although there was no blankness in those active mischief-hunting
eyes. Their bodies, propped on boxes, were concealed by the wall from
the passer-by, and from the sharp eyes of dueñas by a group of trees
just behind them. Their section of the wall faced the Presidio, which in
the early days of the eighteenth century had not lost an adobe, and was
full of active life. At one end was the house of the Governor of all the
Californias, at another the church, which is all that stands to-day.
Under other walls of the square were barracks, quarters for officers and
their families, store-rooms for ammunition and general supplies in case
of a raid by hostile tribes (when all the town must be accommodated
within the security of those four great walls), and a large hall in
which many a ball was given. The aristocratic pioneers of California
loved play as well as work. Beyond were great green plains alive with
cattle, and above all curved the hills dark with pines. Three soldiers
had left the Presidio and were sauntering toward the convent.
"It is Enrico Ortega!" whispered Eustaquia Carillo, excitedly.
"And Ramon de Castro!" scarcely breathed Elena Estudillo.
"And José Yorba!"
"Not Pepe Gomez? Ay, yi!"
"Nor Manuel Ameste!"
The only girl who did not speak stood at the end of the row. Her eyes
were fixed on the church, whose windows were dazzling with the reflected
sunlight of the late afternoon.
The officers, who apparently had been absorbed in conversation and their
fragrant cigaritos, suddenly looked up and saw the row of handsome and
mischievous faces. They ran forward, and dashed their sombreros into the
dust before the wall.
"At your feet, señoritas! At your feet!" they cried.
"Have they any?" whispered one. "How unreal they look! How symbolical!"
"The rose in your hair, Señorita Eustaquia, for the love of Heaven!"
cried Ortega, in a loud whisper.
She detached the rose, touched it with her lips, and cast it to the
officer. He almost swallowed it in the ardour of his caresses.
None of the girls spoke. That would have seemed to them the height of
impropriety. But Elena extended her arm over the wall so that her little
hand hung just above young Castro's head. He leaped three times in
the air, and finally succeeded in brushing his mustache against those
coveted finger-tips: rewarded with an approving but tantalizing laugh.
Meanwhile, José Yorba had torn a silver eagle from his sombrero, and
flung it to Lola de Castro, who caught and thrust it in her hair.
"Ay, Dios! Dios! that the cruel wall divides us," cried Yorba.
"We will mount each upon the other's shoulder—"
"We will make a ladder from the limbs of the pines on the mountain—"
The six heads dropped from the wall like so many Humpty-Dumpties. As
they flashed about the officers caught a glimpse of horror in twelve
expanded eyes. A tall woman, serenely beautiful, clad in a long gray
gown fastened at her throat with a cross, stood just within the trees.
The six culprits thought of the tragic romance which had given them the
honour of being educated by Concepción de Arguello, and hoped for some
small measure of mercy. The girl who had looked over the heads of the
officers, letting her gaze rest on the holy walls of the church, alone
looked coldly unconcerned, and encountered steadily the sombre eyes of
the convent's mistress.
"Was thy lover in the road below, Pilar?" asked Doña Concepción,
with what meaning five of the girls could not divine. For Pilar, the
prettiest and most studious girl in the convent, cared for no man.
Pilar's bosom rose once, but she made no reply.
"Come," said Doña Concepción, and the six followed meekly in her wake.
She led them to her private sala, a bare cold room, even in summer. It
was uncarpeted; a few religious prints were on the whitewashed walls;
there were eight chairs, and a table covered with books and papers. The
six shivered. To be invited to this room meant the greatest of honours
or a lecture precursory to the severest punishment in the system of the
convent. Doña Concepción seated herself in a large chair, but her guests
were not invited to relieve their weakened knees.
"Did you speak—any of you?" she asked in a moment.
Five heads shook emphatically.
Eustaquia, Elena, and Lola drew a long breath, then confessed their
misdoings glibly enough.
"And the others?"
"They had no chance," said Eustaquia, with some sarcasm.
"Thou wouldst have found a chance," replied the Lady Superior, coldly.
"Thou art the first in all naughtiness, and thy path in life will be
stormy if thou dost not curb thy love of adventure and insubordination."
She covered her face with her hand and regarded the floor for some
moments in silence. It was the first performance of the kind that had
come to her knowledge, and she was at a loss what to do. Finally she
said severely: "Go each to your bed and remain there on bread and water
for twenty-four hours. Your punishment shall be known at the Presidio.
And if it ever happens again, I shall send you home in disgrace. Now
The luckless six slunk out of the room. Only Pilar stole a hasty glance
at the Lady Superior. Doña Concepción half rose from her chair, and
opened her lips as if to speak again; then sank back with a heavy sigh.
The girls were serenaded that night; but the second song broke abruptly,
and a heavy gate clanged just afterward. Concepción de Arguëllo was
still young, but suffering had matured her character, and she knew how
to deal sternly with those who infringed her few but inflexible rules.
It was by no means the first serenade she had interrupted, for she
educated the flower of California, and it was no simple matter to
prevent communication between the girls in her charge and the ardent
caballeros. She herself had been serenaded more than once since the
sudden death of her Russian lover; for she who had been the belle of
California for three years before the coming of Rezánof was not lightly
relinquished by the impassioned men of her own race; but both at Casa
Grande, in Santa Barbara, where she found seclusion until her convent
was built, and after her immolation in Monterey, she turned so cold an
ear to all men's ardours that she soon came to be regarded as a part of
four gray walls. How long it took her to find actual serenity none but
herself and the dead priests know, but the old women who are dying off
to-day remember her as consistently placid as she was firm. She was
deeply troubled by the escapade of the little wretches on the wall,
although she had dealt with it summarily and feared no further outbreak
of the sort. But she was haunted by a suspicion that there was more
behind, and to come. Pilar de la Torre and Eustaquia Carillo were the
two most notable girls in the convent, for they easily took precedence
of their more indolent mates and were constantly racing for honours.
There the resemblance ended. Eustaquia, with her small brilliant eyes,
irregular features, and brilliant colour, was handsome rather than
beautiful, but full of fire, fascination, and spirit. Half the Presidio
was in love with her, and that she was a shameless coquette she would
have been the last to deny. Pilar was beautiful, and although the close
long lashes of her eyes hid dreams, rather than fire, and her profile
and poise of head expressed all the pride of the purest aristocracy
California has had, nothing could divert attention from the beauty of
her contours of cheek and figure, and of her rich soft colouring.
The officers in church stood up to look at her; and at the balls and
meriendas she attended in vacations the homage she received stifled and
annoyed her. She was as cold and unresponsive as Concepción de Arguello.
People shrugged their shoulders and said it was as well. Her mother,
Doña Brígida de la Torre of the great Rancho Diablo, twenty miles from
Monterey, was the sternest old lady in California. It was whispered that
she had literally ruled her husband with a greenhide reata, and certain
it was that two years after the birth of Pilar (the thirteenth, and only
living child) he had taken a trip to Mexico and never returned. It was
known that he had sent his wife a deed of the rancho; and that was the
last she ever heard of him. Her daughter, according to her imperious
decree, was to marry Ygnacio Piña, the heir of the neighbouring rancho.
Doña Brígida anticipated no resistance, not only because her will had
never been crossed, but because Pilar was the most docile of daughters.
Pilar was Doña Concepción's favourite pupil, and when at home spent
her time reading, embroidering, or riding about the rancho, closely
attended. She rarely talked, even to her mother. She paid not the
slightest attention to Ygnacio's serenades, and greeted him with scant
courtesy when he dashed up to the ranch-house in all the bravery of silk
and fine lawn, silver and lace. But he knew the value of Doña Brígida as
an ally, and was content to amuse himself elsewhere.
The girls passed their twenty-four hours of repressed energy as
patiently as necessity compelled. Pilar, alone, lay impassive in her
bed, rarely opening her eyes. The others groaned and sighed and rolled
and bounced about; but they dared not speak, for stern Sister Augusta
was in close attendance. When the last lagging minute had gone and they
were bidden to rise, they sprang from the beds, flung on their clothes,
and ran noisily down the long corridors to the refectory. Doña
Concepción stood at the door and greeted them with a forgiving smile.
Pilar followed some moments later. There was something more than
coldness in her eyes as she bent her head to the Lady Superior, who drew
a quick breath.
"She feels that she has been humiliated, and she will not forgive,"
thought Doña Concepción. "Ay de mi! And she may need my advice and
protection. I should have known better than to have treated her like the
After supper the girls went at once to the great sala of the convent,
and sat in silence, with bent heads and folded hands and every
appearance of prayerful revery.
It was Saturday evening, and the good priest of the Presidio church
would come to confess them, that they might commune on the early morrow.
They heard the loud bell of the convent gate, then the opening and
shutting of several doors; and many a glance flashed up to the ceiling
as the brain behind scurried the sins of the week together. It had been
arranged that the six leading misdemeanants were to go first and receive
much sound advice, before the old priest had begun to feel the fatigue
of the confessional. The door opened, and Doña Concepción stood on
the threshold. Her face was whiter than usual, and her manner almost
"It is Padre Domínguez," she said. "Padre Estudillo is ill. If—-if—any
of you are tired, or do not wish to confess to the strange priest, you
may go to bed."
Not a girl moved. Padre Domínguez was twenty-five and as handsome as
the marble head of the young Augustus which stood on a shelf in the
Governor's sala. During the year of his work in Monterey more than
one of the older girls had met and talked with him; for he went into
society, as became a priest, and holidays were not unfrequent. But,
although he talked agreeably, it was a matter for comment that he loved
books and illuminated manuscripts more than the world, and that he was
as ambitious as his superior abilities justified.
"Very well," said Doña Concepción, impatiently. "Eustaquia, go in."
Eustaquia made short work of her confession. She was followed by Elena,
Lola, Mariana, and Amanda. When the last appeared for a moment at the
door, then courtesied a good night and vanished, Doña Concepción did not
call the expected name, and several of the girls glanced up in surprise.
Pilar raised her eyes at last and looked steadily at the Lady
Superior. The blood rose slowly up the nun's white face, but she said
"Thou art tired, mijita, no? Wilt thou not go to bed?"
"Not without making my confession, if you will permit me."
"Very well; go."
Pilar left the room and closed the door behind her. Alone in the hall,
she shook suddenly and twisted her hands together. But, although she
could not conquer her agitation, she opened the door of the chapel
resolutely and entered. The little arched whitewashed room was almost
dark. A few candles burned on the altar, shadowing the gorgeous images
of Virgin and saints. Pilar walked slowly down the narrow body of the
chapel until she stood behind a priest who knelt beside a table with his
back to the door. He wore the brown robes of the Franciscan, but his
lean finely proportioned figure manifested itself through the shapeless
garment. He looked less like a priest than a masquerading athlete. His
face was hidden in his hands.
Pilar did not kneel. She stood immovable and silent, and in a moment
it was evident that she had made her presence felt. The priest stirred
uneasily. "Kneel, my daughter," he said. But he did not look up. Pilar
caught his hands in hers and forced them down upon the table. The
priest, throwing back his head in surprise, met the flaming glance of
eyes that dreamed no longer. He sprang to his feet, snatching back his
hands. "Doña Pilar!" he exclaimed.
"I choose to make my confession standing," she said. "I love you!"
The priest stared at her in consternation.
"You knew it—unless you never think at all. You are the only man I have
ever thought it worth while to talk to. You have seen how I have treated
others with contempt, and that I have been happy with you—and we have
had more than one long talk together. You, too, have been happy—"
"I am a priest!"
"You are a Man and I am a Woman."
"What is it you would have me do?"
"Fling off that hideous garment which becomes you not at all, and fly
with me to my father in the City of Mexico. I hear from him constantly,
and he is wealthy and will protect us. The barque, Joven Guipuzcoanoa,
leaves Monterey within a week after the convent closes for vacation."
The priest raised his clasped hands to heaven. "She is mad! She is mad!"
he said. Then he turned on her fiercely. "Go! Go!" he cried. "I hate
"Ay, you love me! you love me!"
The priest slowly set his face. There was no gleam of expression to
indicate whether the words that issued through his lips came from his
soul or from that section of his brain instinct with self-protection. He
"I am a priest, and a priest I shall die. What is more, I shall denounce
you to Doña Concepción, the clergy, and—to your mother. The words that
have just violated this chapel were not said under the seal of the
confessional, and I shall deal with them as I have said. You shall be
punished, that no other man's soul may be imperilled."
Pilar threw out her hands wildly. It was her turn to stare; and her eyes
were full of horror and disgust.
"What?" she cried. "You are a coward? A traitor? You not only dare not
acknowledge that you love me, but you would betray me—and to my mother?
Ah, Madre de Dios!"
"I do not love you. How dare you use such a word to me,—to me, an
anointed priest! I shall denounce—and to-night."
"And I loved you!"
He shrank a little under the furious contempt of her eyes. Her whole
body quivered with passion. Then, suddenly, she sprang forward and
struck him so violent a blow on his cheek that he reeled and clutched
the table. But his foot slipped, and he went down with the table on top
of him. She laughed into his red unmasked face. "You look what you are
down there," she said,—"less than a man, and only fit to be a priest. I
hate you! Do your worst."
She rushed out of the chapel and across the hall, flinging open the door
of the sala. As she stood there with blazing eyes and cheeks, shaking
from head to foot, the girls gave little cries of amazement, and Doña
Concepción, shaking, came forward hastily; but she reached the door too
"Go to the priest," cried Pilar. "You will find him on his back
squirming under a table, with the mark of my hand on his cheek. He has a
tale to tell you." And she flung off the hand of the nun and ran through
the halls, striking herself against the walls.
Doña Concepción did not leave her sala that night. The indignant young
aspirant for honours in Mexico had vowed that he would tell Doña Brígida
and the clergy before dawn, and all her arguments had entered smarting
ears. She had finally ordered him to leave the convent and never darken
its doors again. "And the self-righteous shall not enter the Kingdom of
Heaven," she had exclaimed in conclusion. "Who are you that you should
judge and punish this helpless girl and ruin a brilliant future? And
why? Because she was so inexperienced in men as to trust you."
"She has committed a deadly sin, and shall suffer," cried the young man,
violently. It was evident that his outraged virtue as well as his face
was in flames. "Women were born to be good and meek and virtuous, to
teach and to rear children. Such creatures as Pilar de la Torre should
be kept under lock and key until they are old and hideous."
"And men were made strong, that they might protect women. But I have
said enough. Go."
Pilar appeared at the refectory table in the morning, but she exchanged
a glance with no one, and ate little. She looked haggard, and it was
plain that she had not slept; but her manner was as composed as ever.
When Doña Concepción sent for her to come to the little sala, she went
"Sit down, my child," said the nun. "I said all I could to dissuade him,
but he would not listen. I will protect thee if I can. Thou hast made a
terrible mistake; but it is too late for reproaches. We must think of
"I have no desire to escape the consequences. I staked all and lost.
And nothing can affect me now. He has proved a dog, a cur, a coward, a
brute. I can suffer no more than when I made that discovery; and if my
mother chooses to kill me, I shall make no resistance."
"Thou art young and clever and will forget him. He is not worth
remembering. He shall not go unpunished. I shall use my influence to
have him sent to the poorest hamlet in California. He is worthy to do
only the meanest work of the Church, and my influence with the clergy is
stronger than his. But thou? I shall receive your mother when she comes,
and beg her to leave you with me during the vacation. Then, later, when
her wrath is appeased, I will suggest that she send you to live for two
years with your relatives at Santa Barbara."
Pilar lifted her shoulders and stared out of the window. Suddenly
she gave a start and trembled. The bell of the gate was pealing
vociferously. Doña Concepción sprang to her feet.
"Stay here," she said; "I will receive her in the grand sala."
But her interview with Doña Brígida lasted two minutes.
"Give her to me!" cried the terrible old woman, her furious tones
ringing through the convent. "Give her to me! I came not here to talk
with nuns. Stand aside!"
Doña Concepción was forced to lead her to the little sala. She strode
into the room, big and brown and bony, looking like an avenging Amazon,
this mother of thirteen children. Her small eyes were blazing, and the
thick wrinkles about them quivered. Her lips twitched, her cheeks burned
with a dull dark red. In one hand she carried a greenhide reata. With
the other she caught her daughter's long unbound hair, twisted it about
her arm like a rope, then brought the reata down on the unprotected
shoulders with all her great strength Doña Concepción fled from the
room. Pilar made no sound. She had expected this, and had vowed that it
should not unseal her lips. The beating stopped abruptly. Doña Brígida,
still with the rope of hair about her arm, pushed Pilar through the
door, out of the convent and its gates, then straight down the hill. For
the first time the girl faltered.
"Not to the Presidio!" she gasped.
Her mother struck her shoulder with a fist as hard as iron, and Pilar
stumbled on. She knew that if she refused to walk, her mother would
carry her. They entered the Presidio. Pilar, raising her eyes for one
brief terrible moment, saw that Tomaso, her mother's head vaquero, stood
in the middle of the square holding two horses, and that every man,
woman, and child of the Presidio was outside the buildings. The
Commandante and the Alcalde were with the Governor and his staff, and
Padre Estudillo. They had the air of being present at an important
Amidst a silence so profound that Pilar heard the mingled music of the
pines on the hills above the Presidio and of the distant ocean, Doña
Brígida marched her to the very middle of the square, then by a
dexterous turn of her wrist forced her to her knees. With both hands she
shook her daughter's splendid silken hair from the tight rope into
which she had coiled it, then stepped back for a moment that all might
appreciate the penalty a woman must pay who disgraced her sex. The
breeze from the hills lifted the hair of Pilar, and it floated and
wreathed upward for a moment—a warm dusky cloud.
Suddenly the intense silence was broken by a loud universal hiss. Pilar,
thinking that it was part of her punishment, cowered lower, then,
obeying some impulse, looked up, and saw the back of the young priest.
He was running. As her dull gaze was about to fall again, it encountered
for a moment the indignant blue eyes of a red-haired, hard-featured, but
distinguished-looking young man, clad in sober gray. She knew him to be
the American, Malcolm Sturges, the guest of the Governor. But her mind
rapidly shed all impressions but the wretched horror of her own plight.
In another moment she felt the shears at her neck, and knew that her
disgrace was passing into the annals of Monterey, and that half her
beauty was falling from her. Then she found herself seated on the horse
in front of her mother, who encircled her waist with an arm that
pressed her vitals like iron. After that there was an interval of
When she awoke, her first impulse was to raise her head from her
mother's bony shoulder, where it bumped uncomfortably. Her listless
brain slowly appreciated the fact that she was not on her way to the
Rancho Diablo. The mustang was slowly ascending a steep mountain trail.
But her head ached, and she dropped her face into her hands. What
mattered where she was going? She was shorn, and disgraced, and
disillusioned, and unspeakably weary of body and soul.
They travelled through dense forests of redwoods and pine, only the
soft footfalls of the unshod mustang or the sudden cry of the wild-cat
breaking the primeval silence. It was night when Doña Brígida abruptly
dismounted, dragging Pilar with her. They were halfway up a rocky
height, surrounded by towering peaks black with rigid trees. Just in
front of them was an opening in the ascending wall. Beside it, with his
hand on a huge stone, stood the vaquero. Pilar knew that she had nothing
to hope from him: her mother had beaten him into submission long since.
Doña Brígida, without a word, drove Pilar into the cave, and she and the
vaquero, exerting their great strength to the full, pushed the stone
into the entrance. There was a narrow rift at the top. The cave was as
black as a starless midnight.
Then Doña Brígida spoke for the first time:—
"Once a week I shall come with food and drink. There thou wilt stay
until thy teeth fall, the skin bags from thy bones, and thou art so
hideous that all men will run from thee. Then thou canst come forth and
go and live on the charity of the father to whom thou wouldst have taken
a polluted priest."
Pilar heard the retreating footfalls of the mustangs. She was too
stunned to think, to realize the horrible fate that had befallen her.
She crouched down against the wall of the cave nearest the light, her
ear alert for the growl of a panther or the whir of a rattler's tail.
The night after the close of school the Governor gave a grand ball,
which was attended by the older of the convent girls who lived in
Monterey or were guests in the capital. The dowagers sat against the
wall, a coffee-coloured dado; the girls in white, the caballeros in
black silk small-clothes, the officers in their uniforms, danced to the
music of the flute and the guitar. When Elena Estudillo was alone in the
middle of the room dancing El Son and the young men were clapping and
shouting and flinging gold and silver at her feet, Sturges and Eustaquia
slipped out into the corridor. It was a dark night, the dueñas were
thinking of naught but the dance and the days of their youth, and the
violators of a stringent social law were safe for the moment. A
chance word, dropped by Sturges in the dance, and Eustaquia's eager
interrogations, had revealed the American's indignation at the barbarous
treatment of Pilar, and his deep interest in the beautiful victim.
"Señor," whispered Eustaquia, excitedly, as soon as they reached the
end of the corridor, "if you feel pity and perhaps love for my unhappy
friend, go to her rescue for the love of Mary. I have heard to-day that
her punishment is far worse than what you saw. It is so terrible that I
hardly have dared—"
"Surely, that old fiend could think of nothing else," said Sturges.
"What is she made of, anyhow?"
"Ay, yi! Her heart is black like the redwood tree that has been burnt
out by fire. Before Don Enrique ran away, she beat him many times; but,
after, she was a thousand times worse, for it is said that she loved
him in her terrible way, and that her heart burnt up when she was left
"But Doña Pilar, señorita?"
"Ay, yi! Benito, one of the vaqueros of Doña Erigida, was in town
to-day, and he told me (I bribed him with whiskey and cigaritos—the
Commandante's, whose guest I am, ay, yi!)—he told me that Doña Erigida
did not take my unhappy friend home, but—"
"Well?" exclaimed Sturges, who was a man of few words.
Eustaquia jerked down his ear and whispered, "She took her to a cave in
the mountains and pushed her in, and rolled a huge stone as big as a
house before the entrance, and there she will leave her till she is
"Good God! Does your civilization, such as you've got, permit such
"The mother may discipline the child as she will. It is not the business
of the Alcalde. And no one would dare interfere for poor Pilar, for she
has committed a mortal sin against the Church—"
"I'll interfere. Where is the cave?"
"Ay, señor, I knew you would. For that I told you all. I know not where
the cave is; but the vaquero—he is in town till to-morrow. But he fears
Doña Erigida, señor, as he fears the devil. You must tell him that not
only will you give him plenty of whiskey and cigars, but that you will
send him to Mexico. Doña Brígida would kill him."
"I'll look out for him."
"Do not falter, señor, for the love of God; for no Californian will go
to her rescue. She has been disgraced and none will marry her. But you
can take her far away where no one knows—"
"Where is this vaquero to be found?"
"In a little house on the beach, under the fort, where his sweetheart
"Good night!" And he sprang from the corridor and ran toward the nearest
He found the vaquero, and after an hour's argument got his way. The man,
who had wormed the secret out of Tomaso, had only a general idea of the
situation of the cave; but he confessed to a certain familiarity with
the mountains. He was not persuaded to go until Sturges had promised to
send not only himself but his sweetheart to Mexico. Doña Brígida was
violently opposed to matrimony, and would have none of it on her rancho.
Sturges promised to ship them both off on the Joven Guipuzcoanoa, and
to keep them comfortably for a year in Mexico. It was not an offer to be
They started at dawn. Sturges, following Benito's advice, bought a long
gray cloak with a hood, and filled his saddle-bags with nourishing food.
The vaquero sent word to Doña Brígida that the horses he had brought in
to sell to the officers had escaped and that he was hastening down the
coast in pursuit. In spite of his knowledge of the mountains, it was
only after two days of weary search in almost trackless forests, and
more than one encounter with wild beasts, that they came upon the cave.
They would have passed it then but for the sharp eyes of Sturges, who
detected the glint of stone behind the branches which Doña Brígida had
piled against it.
He sprang down, tossed the brush aside, and inserted his fingers between
the side of the stone and the wall of the cave. But he could not move it
alone, and was about to call Benito, who was watering the mustangs at
a spring, when he happened to glance upward. A small white hand was
hanging over the top of the stone. Sturges was not a Californian, but he
sprang to his feet and pressed his lips to that hand. It was cold and
nerveless, and clasping it in his he applied his gaze to the rift above
the stone. In a moment he distinguished two dark eyes and a gleam of
white brow above. Then a faint voice said:—
"Take me out! Take me out, señor, for the love of God!"
"I have come for that. Cheer up," said Sturges, in his best Spanish.
"You'll be out in five minutes."
"And then you'll bring me his head," whispered Pilar. "Ay, Dios, what I
have suffered! I have been years here, señor, and I am nearly mad."
"Well, I won't promise you his head, but I've thrashed the life out of
him, if that will give you any satisfaction. I caught him in the woods,
and I laid on my riding-whip until he bit the grass and yelled for
The eyes in the cave blazed with a light which reminded him
uncomfortably of Doña Erigida.
"That was well! That was well!" said Pilar. "But it is not enough. I
must have his head. I never shall sleep again till then, señor. Ay,
Dios, what I have suffered!"
"Well, we'll see about the head later. To get you out of this is the
first thing on the program. Benito!"
Benito ran forward, and together they managed to drag the stone aside.
But Pilar retreated into the darkness and covered her face with her
"Ay, Dios! Dios! I cannot go out into the sunlight. I am old and
"Make some coffee," said Sturges to Benito. He went within and took her
hands. "Come," he said. "You have been here a week only. Your brain is
a little turned, and no wonder. You've put a lifetime of suffering
into that week. But I'm going to take care of you hereafter, and that
she-devil will have no more to say about it. I'll either take you to
your father, or to my mother in Boston—whichever you like."
Benito brought in the coffee and some fresh bread and dried meat. Pilar
ate and drank ravenously. She had found only stale bread and water in
the cave. When she had finished, she looked at Sturges with a more
intelligent light in her eyes, then thrust her straggling locks behind
her ears. She also resumed something of her old dignified composure.
"You are very kind, señor," she said graciously. "It is true that I
should have been mad in a few more days. At first I did nothing but run,
run, run—the cave is miles in the mountain; but since when I cannot
remember I have huddled against that stone, listening—listening; and at
last you came."
Sturges thought her more beautiful than ever. The light was streaming
upon her now, and although she was white and haggard she looked far less
cold and unapproachable than when he had endeavoured in vain to win a
glance from her in the church. He put his hand on her tangled hair. "You
shall suffer no more," he repeated; "and this will grow again. And that
beautiful mane—it is mine. I begged it from the Alcalde, and it is safe
in my trunk."
"Ah, you love me!" she said softly.
"Yes, I love you!" And then, as her eyes grew softer and she caught his
hand in hers with an exclamation of passionate gratitude for his gallant
rescue, he took her in his arms without more ado and kissed her.
"Yes, I could love you," she said in a moment. "For, though you are not
handsome, like the men of my race, you are true and good and brave: all
I dreamed that a man should be until that creature made all men seem
loathsome. But I will not marry you till you bring me his head—"
"Oh! come. So lovely a woman should not be so blood-thirsty. He has been
punished enough. Besides what I gave him, he's been sent off to spend
the rest of his life in some hole where he'll have neither books nor
"It is not enough! When a man betrays a woman, and causes her to be
beaten and publicly disgraced—it will be written in the books of the
Alcalde, señor!—and shut up in a cave to suffer the tortures of the
damned in hell, he should die."
"Well, I think he should myself, but I'm not the public executioner, and
one can't fight a duel with a priest—"
"Señor! Señor! Quick! Pull, for the love of God!"
It was Benito who spoke, and he was pushing with all his might against
the stone. "She comes—Doña Brígida!" he cried. "I saw her far off just
now. Stay both in there. I will take the mustangs and hide them on the
other side of the mountain and return when she is gone. That is the best
"We can all go—"
"No, no! She would follow; and then—ay, Dios de mi alma! No, it is best
the señorita be there when she comes; then she will go away quietly."
They replaced the stone. Benito piled the brush against it, then made
off with the mustangs.
"Go far," whispered Pilar. "Dios, if she sees you!"
"I shall not leave you again. And even if she enter, she need not see
me. I can stand in that crevice, and I will keep quiet so long as she
does not touch you."
Doña Brígida was a half-hour reaching the cave, and meanwhile Sturges
restored the lost illusions of Pilar. Not only did he make love to her
without any of the rhetorical nonsense of the caballero, but he was big
and strong, and it was evident that he was afraid of nothing, not even
of Doña Brígida. The dreams of her silent girlhood swirled in her
imagination, but looked vague and shapeless before this vigorous
reality. For some moments she forgot everything and was happy. But there
was a black spot in her heart, and when Sturges left her for a moment to
listen, it ached for the head of the priest. She had much bad as well as
much good in her, this innocent Californian maiden; and the last week
had forced an already well-developed brain and temperament close to
maturity. She vowed that she would make herself so dear to this fiery
American that he would deny her nothing. Then, her lust for vengeance
satisfied, she would make him the most delightful of wives.
"She is coming!" whispered Sturges, "and she has the big vaquero with
"Ay, Dios! If she knows all, what can we do?"
"I've told you that I have no love of killing, but I don't hesitate when
there is no alternative. If she sees me and declares war, and I cannot
get you away, I shall shoot them both. I don't know that it would keep
me awake a night. Now, you do the talking for the present."
Doña Brígida rode up to the cave and dismounted. "Pilar!" she shouted,
as if she believed that her daughter was wandering through the heart of
Pilar presented her eyes at the rift.
"Ay, take me out! take me out!" she wailed, with sudden diplomacy.
Her mother gave a short laugh, then broke off and sniffed.
"What is this?" she cried. "Coffee? I smell coffee!"
"Yes, I have had coffee," replied Pilar, calmly. "Benito has brought me
that, and many dulces."
"Dios!" shouted Doña Brígida. "I will tie him to a tree and beat him
till he is as green as my reata—"
"Give me the bread!—quick, quick, for the love of Heaven! It is two
days since he has been, and I have nothing left, not even a drop of
"Then live on the memory of thy dulces and coffee! The bread and water
go back with me. Three days from now I bring them again. Meanwhile, thou
canst enjoy the fangs at thy vitals."
Pilar breathed freely again, but she cried sharply, "Ay, no! no!"
"Ay, yes! yes!"
Doña Brígida stalked up and down, while Pilar twisted her hands
together, and Sturges mused upon his future wife's talent for dramatic
invention. Suddenly Doña Brígida shouted: "Tomaso, come here! The
spring! A horse has watered here to-day—two horses! I see the little
hoof-mark and the big." She ran back to the cave, dragging Tomaso with
her. "Quick! It is well I brought my reata. Ten minutes, and I shall
have the truth. Pull there; I pull here."
"The game is up," whispered Sturges to Pilar. "And I have another plan."
He took a pistol from his hip-pocket and handed it to her. "You have a
cool head," he said; "now is the time to use it. As soon as this stone
gives way do you point that pistol at the vaquero's head, and don't let
your hand tremble or your eye falter as you value your liberty. I'll
take care of her."
Pilar nodded. Sturges threw himself against the rock and pushed with all
his strength. In a moment it gave, and the long brown talons of Pilar's
mother darted in to clasp the curve of the stone. Sturges was tempted
to cut them off; but he was a sportsman, and liked fair play. The stone
gave again, and this time he encountered two small malignant eyes. Doña
Brígida dropped her hands and screamed; but, before she could alter her
plans, Sturges gave a final push and rushed out, closely followed by
It was his intention to throw the woman and bind her, hand and foot; but
he had no mean opponent. Doña Brígida's surprise had not paralyzed her.
She could not prevent his exit, for she went back with the stone,
but she had sprung to the open before he reached it himself, and was
striking at him furiously with her reata. One glance satisfied Sturges
that Pilar had covered the vaquero, and he devoted the next few moments
to dodging the reata. Finally, a well-directed blow knocked it from her
hand, and then he flung himself upon her, intending to bear her to the
ground. But she stood like a rock, and closed with him, and they reeled
about the little plateau in the hard embrace of two fighting grizzlies.
There could be no doubt about the issue, for Sturges was young and wiry
and muscular; but Doña Brígida had the strength of three women, and,
moreover, was not above employing methods which he could not with
dignity resort to and could with difficulty parry. She bit at him. She
clawed at his back and shoulders. She got hold of his hair. And she was
so nimble that he could not trip her. She even roared in his ears, and
once it seemed to him that her bony shoulder was cutting through his
garments and skin. But after a struggle of some twenty minutes, little
by little her embrace relaxed; she ceased to roar, even to hiss, her
breath came in shorter and shorter gasps. Finally, her knees trembled
violently, she gave a hard sob, and her arms fell to her sides. Sturges
dragged her promptly into the cave and laid her down.
"You are a plucky old lady, and I respect you," he said. "But here you
must stay until your daughter is safely out of the country. I shall take
her far beyond your reach, and I shall marry her. When we are well out
at sea, Tomaso will come back and release you. If he attempts to do so
sooner, I shall blow his head off. Meanwhile you can be as comfortable
here as you made your daughter; and as you brought a week's supply of
bread, you will not starve."
The old woman lay and glared at him, but she made no reply. She might be
violent and cruel, but she was indomitable of spirit, and she would sue
to no man.
Sturges placed the bread and water beside her, then, aided by Tomaso,
pushed the stone into place. As he turned about and wiped his brow, he
met the eyes of the vaquero. They were averted hastily, but not before
Sturges had surprised a twinkle of satisfaction in those usually
impassive orbs. He shouted for Benito, then took the pistol from Pilar,
who suddenly looked tired and frightened.
"You are a wonderful woman," he said; "and upon my word, I believe you
get a good deal of it from your mother."
Benito came running, leading the mustangs. Sturges wrapped Pilar in the
long cloak, lifted her upon one of the mustangs, and sprang to his own.
He ordered Tomaso and Benito to precede them by a few paces and to take
the shortest cut for Monterey. It was now close upon noon, and it was
impossible to reach Monterey before dawn next day, for the mustangs were
weary; but the Joven did not sail until ten o'clock.
"These are my plans," said Sturges to Pilar, as they walked their
mustangs for a few moments after a hard gallop. "When we reach the foot
of the mountain, Benito will leave us, go to your rancho, gather as much
of your clothing as he can strap on a horse, and join us at the barque.
He will have a good hour to spare, and can get fresh horses at the
ranch. We will be married at Mazatlan. Thence we will cross Mexico to
the Gulf, and take passage for New Orleans. When we are in the United
States, your new life will have really begun."
"And Tomaso will surely bring my mother from that cave, señor? I am
afraid—I feel sure he was glad to shut her in there."
"I will leave a note for the Governor. Your mother will be free within
three days, and meanwhile a little solitary meditation will do her
When night came Sturges lifted Pilar from her horse to his, and pressed
her head against his shoulder. "Sleep," he said. "You are worn out."
She flung her hand over his shoulder, made herself comfortable, and was
asleep in a moment, oblivious of the dark forest and the echoing cries
of wild beasts. The strong arm of Sturges would have inspired confidence
even had it done less in her rescue. Once only she shook and cried out,
but with rage, not fear, in her tones. Her words were coherent enough:—
"His head! His head! Ay, Dios, what I have suffered!"
An hour before dawn Benito left them, mounted on the rested mustang and
leading his own. The others pushed on, over and around the foothills,
with what speed they could; for even here the trail was narrow, the pine
woods dense. It was just after dawn that Sturges saw Tomaso rein in his
mustang and peer into the shrubbery beside the trail. When he reached
the spot himself, he saw signs of a struggle. The brush was trampled
for some distance into the thicket, and several of the young trees were
wrenched almost from their roots.
"It has been a struggle between a man and a wild beast, señor,"
whispered Tomaso, for Filar still slept. "Shall I go in? The man may
"Go, by all means."
Tomaso dismounted and entered the thicket. He came running back with
"Madre de Dios!" he exclaimed in a loud whisper. "It is the young
priest—Padre Domínguez. It must have been a panther, for they spring at
the breast, and his very heart is torn out, señor. Ay, yi!"
"Ah! You must inform the Church as soon as we have gone. Go on."
They had proceeded a few moments in silence, when Sturges suddenly
reined in his mustang.
"Tomaso," he whispered, "come here."
The vaquero joined him at once.
"Tomaso," said Sturges, "have you any objection to cutting off a dead
"Then go back and cut off that priest's and wrap it in a piece of his
cassock, and carry it the best way you can."
Tomaso disappeared, and Sturges pushed back the gray hood and looked
upon the pure noble face of the girl he had chosen for wife.
"I believe in gratifying a woman's whims whenever it is practicable," he
But she made him a very good wife.
On her fourteenth birthday they had married her to an old man, and at
sixteen she had met and loved a fire-hearted young vaquero. The old
husband had twisted his skinny fingers around her arm and dragged her
before the Alcalde, who had ordered her beautiful black braids cut close
to her neck, and sentenced her to sweep the streets. Carlos, the tempter
of that childish unhappy heart, was flung into prison. Such were law and
justice in California before the Americans came.
The haughty elegant women of Monterey drew their mantillas more closely
about their shocked faces as they passed La Pérdida sweeping the dirt
into little heaps. The soft-eyed girls, lovely in their white or
flowered gowns, peered curiously through the gratings of their homes at
the "lost one," whose sin they did not understand, but whose sad face
and sorry plight appealed to their youthful sympathies. The caballeros,
dashing up and down the street, and dazzling in bright silken jackets,
gold embroidered, lace-trimmed, the sun reflected in the silver of their
saddles, shot bold admiring glances from beneath their sombreros. No one
spoke to her, and she asked no one for sympathy.
She slept alone in a little hut on the outskirts of the town. With the
dawn she rose, put on her coarse smock and black skirt, made herself a
tortilla, then went forth and swept the streets. The children mocked her
sometimes, and she looked at them in wonder. Why should she be mocked or
punished? She felt no repentance; neither the Alcalde nor her husband
had convinced her of her sin's enormity; she felt only bitter resentment
that it should have been so brief. Her husband, a blear-eyed crippled
old man, loathsome to all the youth and imagination in her, had beaten
her and made her work. A man, young, strong, and good to look upon, had
come and kissed her with passionate tenderness. Love had meant to her
the glorification of a wretched sordid life; a green spot and a patch of
blue sky in the desert. If punishment followed upon such happiness,
must not the Catholic religion be all wrong in its teachings? Must not
purgatory follow heaven, instead of heaven purgatory?
She watched the graceful girls of the wealthy class flit to and fro on
the long corridors of the houses, or sweep the strings of the guitar
behind their gratings as the caballeros passed. Watchful old women were
always near them, their ears alert for every word. La Pérdida thanked
God that she had had no dueña.
One night, on her way home, she passed the long low prison where her
lover was confined. The large crystal moon flooded the red-tiled roof
projecting over the deep windows and the shallow cells. The light sweet
music of a guitar floated through iron bars, and a warm voice sang:—
"Adios, adios, de ti al ausentarme,
Para ir en poz de mi fatal estrella,
Yo llevo grabada tu imagen bella,
Aqui en mi palpitante corazon.
"Pero aunque lejos de tu lado me halle
No olvides, no, que por tu amor deliro
Enviáme siquiera un suspiro,
Que dé consuelo, a mi alma en su dolor.
"Y de tu pecho la emoción sentida
Llegue hasta herir mi lacerado oido,
Y arranque de mi pecho dolorido
Un eco que repita, adios! adios!"
La Pérdida's blood leaped through her body. Her aimless hands struck the
spiked surface of a cactus-bush, but she never knew it. When the song
finished, she crept to the grating and looked in.
"Carlos!" she whispered.
A man who lay on the straw at the back of the cell sprang to his feet
and came forward.
"My little one!" he said. "I knew that song would bring thee. I begged
them for a guitar, then to be put into a front cell." He forced his
hands through the bars and gave her life again with his strong warm
"Come out," she said.
"Ay! they have me fast. But when they do let me out, niña, I will take
thee in my arms; and whosoever tries to tear thee away again will have
a dagger in his heart. Dios de mi vida! I could tear their flesh from
their bones for the shame and the pain they have given thee, thou poor
little innocent girl!"
"But thou lovest me, Carlos?"
"There is not an hour I am not mad for thee, not a corner of my heart
that does not ache for thee! Ay, little one, never mind; life is long,
and we are young."
She pressed nearer and laid his hand on her heart.
"Ay!" she said, "life is long."
"Holy Mary!" he cried. "The hills are on fire!"
A shout went up in the town. A flame, midway on the curving hills,
leaped to the sky, narrow as a ribbon, then swept out like a fan. The
moon grew dark behind a rolling pillar of smoke. The upcurved arms of
the pines were burnt into a wall of liquid shifting red. The caballeros
sprang to their horses, and driving the Indians before them, fled to the
hills to save the town. The indolent women of Monterey mingled their
screams with the shrill cries of the populace and the hoarse shouts of
their men. The prison sentries stood to their posts for a few moments;
then the panic claimed them, and they threw down their guns and ran with
the rest to the hills.
Carlos gave a cry of derision and triumph. "My little one, our hour has
come! Run and find the keys."
The big bunch of keys had been flung hastily into a corner. A moment
later Carlos held the shaking form of the girl in his powerful arms.
Slender and delicate as she was, she made no protest against the
fierceness of that embrace.
"But come," he said. "We have only this hour for escape. When we are
safe in the mountains—Come!"
He lifted her in his arms and ran down the crooked street to a corral
where an hidalgo kept his finest horses. Carlos had been the vaquero of
the band. The iron bars of the great doors were down—only one horse was
in the corral; the others had carried the hidalgo and his friends to the
fire. The brute neighed with delight as Carlos flung saddle and aquera
into place, then, with La Pérdida in his arms, sprang upon its back. The
vaquero dug his spurs into the shining flanks, the mustang reared, shook
his small head and silver mane, and bounded through the doors.
A lean, bent, and wiry thing darted from the shadows and hung upon the
horse's neck. It was the husband of La Pérdida, and his little brown
face looked like an old walnut.
"Take me with thee!" he cried. "I will give thee the old man's
blessing," and, clinging like a crab to the neck of the galloping
mustang, he drove a knife toward the heart of La Pérdida. The blade
turned upon itself as lightning sometimes does, and went through stringy
tissues instead of fresh young blood.
Carlos plucked the limp body from the neck of the horse and flung it
upon a cactus-bush, where it sprawled and stiffened among the spikes and
the blood-red flowers. But the mustang never paused; and as the fires
died on the hills, the mountains opened their great arms and sheltered
the happiness of two wayward hearts.
"Ay, señor! So terreeblay thing! It is many years before—1837, I
theenk, is the year; the Americanos no have come to take California; but
I remember like it is yesterday.
"You see, I living with her—Doña Juana Ybarra her name is—ever since
I am little girl, and she too. It is like this: the padres make me
Christian in the mission, and her family take me to work ¡n the house;
I no living on the rancheria like the Indians who work outside. Bime by
Doña Juana marrying and I go live with her. Bime by I marrying too, and
she is comadre—godmother, you call, no?—to my little one, and steel I
living with her, and in few years my husband and little one die and
I love her children like they are my own, and her too; we grow old
"You never see the San Ysidro rancho? It is near to San Diego and have
many, many leagues. Don Carlos Ybarra, the husband de my señora, is very
reech and very brave and proud—too brave and proud, ay, yi! We have a
beeg adobe house with more than twenty rooms, and a corridor for the
front more than one hundred feets. Ou'side are plenty other houses where
make all the things was need for eat and wear: all but the fine closes.
They come from far,—from Boston and Mejico. All stand away from the
hills and trees, right in the middle the valley, so can see the bad
Indians when coming. Far off, a mile I theenk, is the rancheria; no can
see from the house. No so far is the corral, where keeping the fine
"Ay, we have plenty to eat and no much to do in those days. Don Carlos
and Doña Juana are very devot the one to the other, so the family living
very happy, and I am in the house like before and take care the little
ones. Every night I braid my señora's long black hair and tuck her in
bed like she is a baby. She no grow stout when she grow more old, like
others, but always is muy elegante.
"Bime by the childrens grow up; and the two firs boys, Roldan and
Enrique, marrying and living in San Diego. Then are left only the señor
and the señora, one little boy, Carlos, and my two beautiful señoritas,
Beatriz and Ester. Ay! How pretty they are. Dios de mi alma! Where they
"Doña Beatriz is tall like the mother, and sway when she walk, like you
see the tules in the little wind. She have the eyes very black and long,
and look like she feel sleep till she get mad; then, Madre de Dios! they
opa wide and look like she is on fire inside and go to burn you too. She
have the skin very white, but I see it hot like the blood go to burst
out. Once she get furioso cause one the vaqueros hurch her horse, and
she wheep him till he yell like he is in purgatory and no have no one
say mass and get him out. But she have the disposition very sweet, and
after, she is sorry and make him a cake hersel; and we all loving her
like she is a queen, and she can do it all whatte she want.
"Doña Ester have the eyes more brown and soft, and the disposition more
mild, but very feerm, and she having her own way more often than Doña
Beatriz. She no is so tall, but very gracerful too, and walk like she
think she is tall. All the Spanish so dignify, no? She maka very kind
with the Indians when they are seek, and all loving her, but no so much
like Doña Beatriz.
"Both girls very industrioso, sewing and make the broidery; make
beautiful closes to wear at the ball. Ay, the balls! No have balls like
those in California now. Sometimes have one fifty miles away, but they
no care; jump on the horse and go, dance till the sun wake up and no
feel tire at all. Sometimes when is wedding, or rodeo, dance for one
week, then ride home like nothing have happen. In the winter the family
living in San Diego; have big house there and dance every night,
horseback in day when no rain, and have so many races and games. Ay, yi!
All the girls so pretty. No wear hats then; the reboso, no more, or
the mantilla; fix it so gracerful; and the dresses so bright colours,
sometimes with flowers all over; the skirt make very fule, and the waist
have the point. And the closes de mens! Madre de Dios! The beautiful
velvet and silk closes, broider by silver and gold! And the saddles so
fine! But you think I never go to tell you the story.
"One summer we are more gay than ever. So many caballeros love my
señoritas, but I think they never love any one, and never go to marry
at all. For a month we have the house fule; meriendas—peek-neeks, you
call, no? And races every day, dance in the night. Then all go to stay
at another rancho; it is costumbre to visit the one to the other. I feel
very sorry for two so handsome caballeros, who are more devot than any.
They looking very sad when they go, and I am sure they propose and no
"In the evening it is very quiet, and I am sweep the corridor when I
hear two horses gallop down the valley. I fix my hand—so—like the
barrel de gun, and look, and I see, riding very hard, Don Carmelo Pelajo
and Don Rafael Arguello. The firs, he loving Doña Beatriz, the other, he
want Doña Ester. I go queeck and tell the girls, and Beatriz toss her
head and look very scornfule, but Ester blushing and the eyes look very
happy. The young mens come in in few minutes and are well treat by Don
Carlos and Doña Juana, for like them very much and are glad si the girls
marry with them.
"After supper I am turn down the bed in my señora's room when I
hear somebody spik very low ou'side on the corridor. I kneel on the
window-seat and look out, and there I see Don Rafael have his arms roun
Doña Ester and kissing her and she no mine at all. I wonder how they get
out there by themselfs, for the Spanish very streect with the girls and
no 'low that. But the young peoples always very—how you say it?—smart,
no? After while all go to bed, and I braid Doña Juana's hair and she
tell me Ester go to marry Don Rafael, and she feel very happy and I no
say one word. Then I go to Doña Beatriz's bedroom; always I fix her for
the bed, too. Ester have other woman take care her, but Beatriz love me.
She keeck me when she is little, and pull my hair, when I no give her
the dulces; but I no mine, for she have the good heart and so sweet
spression when she no is mad and always maka very kind with me. I comb
her hair and I see she look very cross and I ask her why, and she say
she hate mens, they are fools, and womens too. I ask her why she think
that, and she say she no can be spect have reason for all whatte she
think; and she throw her head aroun so I no can comb at all and keeck
out her little foot.
"'You no go to marry with Don Carlos?' I asking.
"'No!' she say, and youbetcherlife her eyes flash. 'You think I marrying
a singing, sighing, gambling, sleepy caballero? Si no can marry man I no
marry at all. Madre de Dios!' (She spik beautiful; but I no spik good
Eenglish, and you no ondrestan the Spanish.)
"'But all are very much like,' I say; 'and you no want die old maid,
"'I no care!' and then she fling hersel roun on the chair and throw her
arms roun me and cry and sob on my estomac. 'Ay, my Lukari!' she cry
when she can spik,' I hate everybody! I am tire out to exista! I want to
live! I am tire stay all alone! Oh, I want—I no know what I want! Life
is terreeblay thing, macheppa!'
"I no know at all whatte she mean, for have plenty peoples all the time,
and she never walk, so I no can think why she feel tire; but I kissing
her and smoothe her hair, for I jus love her, and tell her no cry. Bime
by she fine it some one she loving, and she is very young yet,—twenty,
"'I no stay here any longer,' she say. 'I go to ask my father take me to
Mejico, where can see something cept hills and trees and missions and
forts, and where perhaps—ay, Dios de mi alma!' Then she jump up and
take me by the shoulders and just throw me out the room and lock the
door; but I no mine, for I am use to her.
"Bueno, I think I go for walk, and bime by I come to the ranchería, and
while I am there I hear terreeblay thing from old Pepe. He say he hear
for sure that the bad Indians—who was no make Christian by the padres
and living very wild in the mountains—come killing all the white
peoples on the ranchos. He say he know sure it is true, and tell me beg
Don Carlos send to San Diego for the soldiers come take care us. I feel
so fright I hardly can walk back to the house, and I no sleep that
night. In the morning firs thing I telling Don Carlos, but he say is
nonsense and no will lissen. He is very brave and no care for nothing;
fight the Indians and killing them plenty times. The two caballeros go
away after breakfas, and when they are gone I can see my señora alone,
and I telling her. She feel very fright and beg Don Carlos send for the
soldiers, but he no will. Ay, yi! Ester is fright too; but Beatriz laugh
and say she like have some excite and killing the Indians hersel. After
while old Pepe come up to the house and tell he hear 'gain, but Don
Carlos no will ask him even where he hear, and tell him to go back to
the rancheria where belong, and make the reatas; he is so old he no can
make anything else.
"Bueno! The nex morning—bout nine o'clock—Don Carlos is at the corral
with two vaqueros and I am in the keetchen with the cook and one Indian
boy, call Franco. Never I like that boy. Something so sneak, and
he steal the dulces plenty times and walk so soffit. I am help the
cook—very good woman, but no have much sense—fry lard, when I hear
terreeblay noise—horses gallop like they jump out the earth near the
house, and many mens yell and scream and shout.
"I run to the window and whatte I see?—Indians, Indians, Indians,
thick like black ants on hill, jus race for the house, yelling like the
horses' backs been fule de pins; and Don Carlos and the two vaqueros run
like they have wings for the kitchen door, so can get in and get the
guns and fight from the windows. I know whatte they want, so I run to
the door to throw wide, and whatte I see but that devil Franco lock it
and stan in front. I jump on him so can scratch his eyes out, but he
keeck me in the estomac and for few minutes I no know it nothing.
"When I opa my eyes, the room is fule de Indians, and in the iron the
house I hear my señora and Doña Ester scream, scream, scream. I crawl up
by the window-seat and look out, and there—ay, Madre de Dios!—see on
the groun my señor dead, stuck fule de arrows; and the vaqueros, too,
of course. That maka me crazy and I run among the Indians, hitting them
with my fists, to my señora and my señoritas. Jus as I run into the sala
they go to killing my señora, but I snatch the knife and fall down on
my knees and beg and cry they no hurcha her, and bime by they say all
right. But—santa Dios!—whatte you think they do it? They tear all the
closes offa her till she is naked like my ban, and drive her out the
house with the reatas. They no letting me follow and I look out the
window and see her reel like she is drunk down the valley and scream,
"Ester, she faint and no know it nothing. Beatriz, she have kill one
Indian with her pistol, but they take way from her, and she stan look
like the dead woman with eyes that have been in hell, in front the
chief, who looka her very hard. He is very fine look, that chief, so
tall and strong, like he can kill by sweep his arm roun, and he have
fierce black eyes and no bad nose for Indian, with nostrils that jump.
His mouth no is cruel like mos the bad Indians, nor the forehead so low.
He wear the crown de feathers, and botas, and scrape de goaskin; the
others no wear much at all. In a minute he pick up Beatriz and fling her
over his shoulder like she is the dead deer, and he tell other do the
same by Ester, and he stalk out and ride away hard. The others set fire
everything, then ride after him. They no care for me and I stand there
shriek after my señoritas and the beautiful housses burn up.
"Then I think de my señora and I run after the way she going. Bime by I
find her in a wheat field, kissing and hugging little Carlos, who go out
early and no meet the Indians; and he no ondrestan what is the matter
and dance up and down he is so fright. I tell him run fas to San Diego
and tell Don Roldan and Don Enrique whatte have happen, and he run like
he is glad to get away. Then I take off my closes and put them on my
señora and drag her along, and, bime by, we coming to a little house,
and a good woman give me some closes and in the night we coming to San
Diego. Ay! but was excite, everybody. Carlos been there two or three
hours before, and Don Roldan and Don Enrique go with the soldiers to the
hills. Everybody do it all whatte they can for my poor señora, but she
no want to speak by anybody, and go shut hersel up in a room in Don
Enrique's house and jus moan and I sit ou'side the door and moan too.
"Of course, I no am with the soldiers, but many times I hear all and I
"The Indians have good start, and the white peoples no even see them,
but they fine the trail and follow hard. Bime by they coming to the
mountains. You ever been in the mountains back de San Diego? No the
hills, but the mountains. Ay! So bare and rofe and sharp, and the canons
so narrow and the trails so steep! No is safe to go in at all, for the
Indians can hide on the rocks, and jus shoot the white peoples down one
at the time, si they like it, when climb the gorges. The soldiers
say they no go in, for it is the duty de them to living and protec
California from the Americanos; but Don Enrique and Don Roldan say they
go, and they ride right in and no one ever spect see them any more. It
is night, so they have good chancacum to look and no be seen si Indians
"Bime by they meet one Indian, who belong to the tribe they want, and
'fore he can shoot they point the pistol and tell him he mus show them
where are the girls. He say he taking them, and on the way he telling
them the chief and nother chief make the girls their wives. This make
them wild, and they tie up the horses so can climb more fast. But it is
no till late the nex morning when they come sudden out of a gorge and
look right into a place, very flat like a plaza, where is the pueblo
de the Indians they want. For moment no one see them, and they see the
girls—Dios de mi alma! Have been big feast, I theenk, and right where
are all the things no been clear away, Ester, she lie on the groun on
the face, and cry and sob and shake. But Beatriz, she stan very straight
in the middle, 'fore the door the big wigwam, and never look more
hansome. She never take her eyes off the chief who taking her away, and
no look discontent at all. Then the Indians see the brothers and yell
and run to get the bows and arrows. Don Enrique and Don Roldan fire the
pistols, but after all they have to run, for no can do it nothing. They
get out live but have arrows in them. And that is the las we ever hear
de my señoritas. Many time plenty white peoples watch the mountains and
sometimes go in, but no can find nothing and always are wound.
"And my poor señora! For whole year she jus sit in one room and cry so
loud all the peoples in San Diego hear her. No can do it nothing with
her. Ay, she love the husband so, and the two beautiful girls! Then
she die, and I am glad. Much better die than suffer like that. And Don
Rafael and Don Carmelo? Oh, they marrying other girls, course."
NATALIE IVANHOFF: A MEMORY OF FORT ROSS
At Fort Ross, on the northern coast of California, it is told that an
astonishing sight may be witnessed in the midnight of the twenty-third
of August. The present settlement vanishes. In its place the Fort
appears as it was when the Russians abandoned it in 1841. The
quadrilateral stockade of redwood beams, pierced with embrasures for
carronades, is compact and formidable once more. The ramparts are paced
by watchful sentries; mounted cannon are behind the iron-barred gates
and in the graceful bastions. Within the enclosure are the low log
buildings occupied by the Governor and his officers, the barracks of the
soldiers, the arsenal, and storehouses. In one corner stands the Greek
chapel, with its cupola and cross-surmounted belfry. The silver chimes
have rung this night. The Governor, his beautiful wife, and their guest,
Natalie Ivanhoff, have knelt at the jewelled altar.
At the right of the Fort is a small "town" of rude huts which
accommodates some eight hundred Indians and Siberian convicts, the
working-men of the company. Above the "town," on a high knoll, is a
large grist-mill. Describing an arc of perfect proportions, its midmost
depression a mile behind the Fort, a great mountain forms a natural
rampart. At either extreme it tapers to the jagged cliffs. On its three
lower tables the mountain is green and bare; then abruptly rises a
forest of redwoods, tall, rigid, tenebrious.
The mountain is visible but a moment. An immense white fog-bank which
has been crouching on the horizon rears suddenly and rushes across the
ocean, whose low mutter rises to a roar. It sweeps like a tidal wave
across cliffs and Fort. It halts abruptly against the face of the
mountain. In the same moment the ocean stills. It would almost seem that
Nature held her breath, awaiting some awful event.
Suddenly, in the very middle of the fog-bank, appears the shadowy figure
of a woman. She is gliding—to the right—rapidly and stealthily. Youth
is in her slender grace, her delicate profile, dimly outlined. Her long
silver-blond hair is unbound and luminously distinct from the white
fog. She walks swiftly across the lower table of the mountain, then
disappears. One sees, vaguely, a dark figure crouching along the lower
fringe of the fog. That, too, disappears.
For a moment the silence seems intensified. Then, suddenly, it is
crossed by a low whir—a strange sound in the midnight. Then a shriek
whose like is never heard save when a soul is wrenched without warning
in frightfullest torture from its body. Then another and another
and another in rapid succession, each fainter and more horrible in
suggestion than the last. With them has mingled the single frenzied cry
of a man. A moment later a confused hubbub arises from the Fort and
town, followed by the flashes of many lights and the report of musketry.
Then the fog presses downward on the scene. All sound but that of the
ocean, which seems to have drawn into its loud dull voice all the angers
of all the dead, ceases as though muffled. The fog lingers a moment,
then drifts back as it came, and Fort Ross is the Fort Ross of to-day.
And this is the story:—
When the Princess Hélène de Gagarin married Alexander Rotscheff, she
little anticipated that she would spend her honeymoon in the northern
wilds of the Californias. Nevertheless, when her husband was appointed
Governor of the Fort Ross and Bodega branch of the great Alaskan Fur
Company, she volunteered at once to go with him—being in that stage of
devotion which may be termed the emotionally heroic as distinguished
from the later of non-resistance. As the exile would last but a few
years, and as she was a lady of a somewhat adventurous spirit, to say
nothing of the fact that she was deeply in love, her interpretation of
wifely duty hardly wore the hue of martyrdom even to herself.
Notwithstanding, and although she had caused to be prepared a large case
of books and eight trunks of ravishing raiment, she decided that life in
a fort hidden between the mountains and the sea, miles away from even
the primitive Spanish civilization, might hang burdensomely at such
whiles as her husband's duties claimed him and books ceased to amuse. So
she determined to ask the friend of her twenty-three years, the Countess
Natalie Ivanhoff, to accompany her. She had, also, an unselfish motive
in so doing. Not only did she cherish for the Countess Natalie a real
affection, but her friend was as deeply wretched as she was happy.
Two years before, the Prince Alexis Mikhaïlof, betrothed of Natalie
Ivanhoff, had been, without explanation or chance of parting word,
banished to Siberia under sentence of perpetual exile. Later had come
rumour of his escape, then of death, then of recapture. Nothing definite
could be learned. When the Princess Hélène made her invitation, it was
accepted gratefully, hope suggesting that in the New World might be
found relief from the torture that was relived in every vibration of the
invisible wires that held memory fast to the surroundings in which the
terrible impressions, etchers of memory, had their genesis.
They arrived in summer, and found the long log house, with its low
ceilings and rude finish, admirably comfortable within. By aid of the
great case of things Rotscheff had brought, it quickly became an abode
of luxury. Thick carpets covered every floor; arras hid the rough walls;
books and pictures and handsome ornaments crowded each other; every
chair had been designed for comfort as well as elegance; the dining
table was hidden beneath finest damask, and glittered with silver and
crystal. It was an unwritten law that every one should dress for dinner;
and with the rich curtains hiding the gloomy mountain and the long
sweep of cliffs intersected by gorge and gulch, it was easy for the
gay congenial band of exiles to forget that they were not eating the
delicacies of their French cook and drinking their costly wines in the
In the daytime the women—several of the officers' wives had braved the
wilderness—found much diversion in riding through the dark forests
or along the barren cliffs, attended always by an armed guard. Diego
Estenega, the Spanish magnate of the North, whose ranchos adjoined Fort
Ross, and who was financially interested in the Russian fur trade, soon
became an intimate of the Rotscheff household. A Californian by birth,
he was, nevertheless, a man of modern civilization, travelled, a
student, and a keen lover of masculine sports. Although the most
powerful man in the politics of his conservative country, he was an
American in appearance and dress. His cloth or tweed suggested the
colorous magnificence of the caballeros as little as did his thin
nervous figure and grim pallid intellectual face. Rotscheff liked him
better than any man he had ever met; with the Princess he usually waged
war, that lady being clever, quick, and wedded to her own opinions.
For Natalie he felt a sincere friendship at once. Being a man of keen
sympathies and strong impulses, he divined her trouble before he heard
her story, and desired to help her.
The Countess Natalie, despite the Governor's prohibition, was addicted
to roving over the cliffs by herself, finding kinship in the sterile
crags and futile restlessness of the ocean. She had learned that
although change of scene lightened the burden, only death would release
her from herself.
"She will get over it," said the Princess Hélène to Estenega. "I was in
love twice before I met Alex, so I know. Natalie is so beautiful that
some day some man, who will not look in the least like poor Alexis, will
make her forget."
Estenega, being a man of the world and having consequently outgrown the
cynicism of youth, also knowing women better than this fair Minerva
would know them in twenty lifetimes, thought differently, and a battle
Natalie, meanwhile, wandered along the cliffs. She passed the town
hurriedly. Several times when in its vicinity before, the magnetism of
an intense gaze had given her a thrill of alarm, and once or twice she
had met face to face the miller's son—a forbidding youth with the
skull of the Tartar and the coarse black hair and furtive eyes of the
Indian—whose admiration of her beauty had been annoyingly apparent. She
was not conscious of observation to-day, however, and skirted the cliffs
rapidly, drawing her gray mantle about her as the wind howled by, but
did not lift the hood; the massive coils of silver-blond hair kept her
As the Princess Hélène, despite her own faultless blondinity, had
pronounced, Natalie Ivanhoff was a beautiful woman. Her profile had the
delicate effect produced by the chisel. Her white skin was transparent
and untinted, but the mouth was scarlet. The large long eyes of a
changeful blue-gray, although limpid of surface, were heavy with the
sadness of a sad spirit. Their natural fire was quenched just as the
slight compression of her lips had lessened the sensuous fulness of
But she had suffered so bitterly and so variously that the points had
been broken off her nerves, she told herself, and, excepting when her
trouble mounted suddenly like a wave within her, her mind was tranquil.
Grief with her had expressed itself in all its forms. She had known what
it was to be crushed into semi-insensibility; she had thrilled as the
tears rushed and the sobs shook her until every nerve ached and her very
fingers cramped; and she had gone wild at other times, burying her head,
that her screams might not be heard: the last, as imagination pictured
her lover's certain physical suffering. But of all agonies, none could
approximate to that induced by Death. When that rumour reached her,
she realized that hope had given her some measure of support, and
how insignificant all other trouble is beside that awful blank, that
mystery, whose single revelation is the houseless soul's unreturning
flight from the only world we are sure of. When the contradicting rumour
came, she clutched at hope and clung to it.
"It is the only reason I do not kill myself," she thought, as she stood
on the jutting brow of the cliff and looked down on the masses of huge
stones which, with the gaunt outlying rocks, had once hung on the face
of the crags. The great breakers boiled over them with the ponderosity
peculiar to the waters of the Pacific. The least of those breakers would
carry her far into the hospitable ocean.
"It is so easy to die and be at peace; the only thing which makes life
supportable is the knowledge of Death's quick obedience. And the tragedy
of life is not that we cannot forget, but that we can. Think of being an
old woman with not so much as a connecting current between the memory
and the heart, the long interval blocked with ten thousand petty events
and trials! It must be worse than this. I shall have gone over the cliff
long before that time comes. I would go to-day, but I cannot leave the
world while he is in it."
She drew a case from her pocket, and opened it. It showed the portrait
of a young man with the sombre eyes and cynical mouth of the northern
European, a face revealing intellect, will, passion, and much
recklessness. Eyes and hair were dark, the face smooth but for a slight
Natalie burst into wild tears, revelling in the solitude that gave her
freedom. She pressed the picture against her face, and cried her agony
aloud to the ocean. Thrilling memories rushed through her, and she lived
again the first ecstasy of grief. She did not fling herself upon the
ground, or otherwise indulge in the acrobatics of woe, but she shook
from head to foot. Between the heavy sobs her breath came in hard gasps,
and tears poured, hiding the gray desolation of the scene.
Suddenly, through it all, she became conscious that some one was
watching her. Instinctively she knew that it was the same gaze which so
often had alarmed her. Fear routed every other passion. She realized
that she was unprotected, a mile from the Fort, out of the line of its
vision. The brutal head of the miller's son seemed to thrust itself
before her face. Overwhelmed with terror, she turned swiftly and ran,
striking blindly among the low bushes, her glance darting from right to
left. No one was to be seen for a moment; then she turned the corner of
a boulder and came upon a man. She shrieked and covered her face with
her hands, now too frightened to move. The man neither stirred nor
spoke; and, despite this alarming circumstance, her disordered brain,
in the course of a moment, conceived the thought that no subject of
Rotscheff would dare to harm her.
Moreover, her brief glance had informed her that this was not the
miller's son; which fact, illogically, somewhat tempered her fear. She
removed her hands and compelled herself to look sternly at the creature
who had dared to raise his eyes to the Countess Natalie Ivanhoff. She
was puzzled to find something familiar about him. His grizzled hair
was long, but not unkempt. The lower part of his face was covered by
a beard. He was almost fleshless; but in his sunken eyes burned
unquenchable fire, and there was a determined vigour in his gaunt
figure. He might have been any age. Assuredly, the outward seeming of
youth was not there, but its suggestion still lingered tenaciously in
the spirit which glowed through the worn husk. And about him, in spite
of the rough garb and blackened skin, was an unmistakable air of
Natalie, as she looked, grew rigid. Then she uttered a cry of rapturous
horror, staggered, and was caught in a fierce embrace. Her stunned
senses awoke in a moment, and she clung to him, crying wildly, holding
him with straining arms, filled with bitter happiness.
In a few moments he pushed her from him and regarded her sadly.
"You are as beautiful as ever," he said; "but I—look at me! Old,
hideous, ragged! I am not fit to touch you; I never meant to. Go! I
shall never blame you."
For answer she sprang to him again.
"What difference is it how you look?" she cried, still sobbing. "Is it
not you? Are not you in here just the same? What matter? What matter?
No matter what you looked through, you would be the same. Listen," she
continued rapidly, after a moment. "We are in a new country; there is
hope for us. If we can reach the Spanish towns of the South, we are
safe. I will ask Don Diego Estenega to help us, and he is not the man to
refuse. He stays with us to-night, and I will speak alone with him. Meet
me to-morrow night—where? At the grist-mill at midnight. We had better
not meet by day again. Perhaps we can go then. You will be there?"
"Will I be there? God! Of course I will be there."
And, the brief details of their flight concluded, they forgot it and all
else for the hour.
Natalie could not obtain speech alone with Estenega that evening; but
the next morning the Princess Hélène commanded her household and guest
to accompany her up the hill to the orchard at the foot of the forest;
and there, while the others wandered over the knolls of the shadowy
enclosure, Natalie managed to tell her story. Estenega offered his help
"At twelve to-night," he said, "I will wait for you in the forest with
horses, and will guide you myself to Monterey. I have a house there, and
you can leave on the first barque for Boston."
As soon as the party returned to the Fort, Estenega excused himself and
left for his home. The day passed with maddening slowness to Natalie.
She spent the greater part of it walking up and down the immediate
cliffs, idly watching the men capturing the seals and otters, the
ship-builders across the gulch. As she returned at sunset to the
enclosure, she saw the miller's son standing by the gates, gazing at her
with hungry admiration. He inspired her with sudden fury.
"Never presume to look at me again," she said harshly. "If you do, I
shall report you to the Governor."
And without waiting to note how he accepted the mandate, she swept by
him and entered the Fort, the gates clashing behind her.
The inmates of Fort Ross were always in bed by eleven o'clock. At that
hour not a sound was to be heard but the roar of the ocean, the soft
pacing of the sentry on the ramparts, the cry of the panther in the
forest. On the evening in question, after the others had retired,
Natalie, trembling with excitement, made a hasty toilet, changing her
evening gown for a gray travelling frock. Her heavy hair came unbound,
and her shaking hands refused to adjust the close coils. As it fell over
her gray mantle it looked so lovely, enveloping her with the silver
sheen of mist, that she smiled in sad vanity, remembering happier days,
and decided to let her lover see her so. She could braid her hair at the
A moment or two before twelve she raised the window and swung herself to
the ground. The sentry was on the rampart opposite: she could not make
her exit by that gate. She walked softly around the buildings, keeping
in their shadow, and reached the gates facing the forest. They were not
difficult to unbar, and in a moment she stood without, free. She could
not see the mountain; a heavy bank of white fog lay against it, resting,
after its long flight over the ocean, before it returned, or swept
onward to ingulf the redwoods.
She went with noiseless step up the path, then turned and walked swiftly
toward the mill. She was very nervous; mingling with the low voice of
the ocean she imagined she heard the moans with which beheaded convicts
were said to haunt the night. Once she thought she heard a footstep
behind her, and paused, her heart beating audibly. But the sound ceased
with her own soft footfalls, and the fog was so dense that she could see
nothing. The ground was soft, and she was beyond the sentry's earshot;
she ran at full speed across the field, down the gorge, and up the steep
knoll. As she reached the top, she was taken in Mikhaïlof's arms. For
a few moments she was too breathless to speak; then she told him her
"Let me braid my hair," she said finally, "and we will go."
He drew her within the mill, then lit a lantern and held it above her
head, his eyes dwelling passionately on her beauty, enhanced by the
colour of excitement and rapid exercise.
"You look like the moon queen," he said. "I missed your hair, apart from
She lifted her chin with a movement of coquetry most graceful in spite
of long disuse, and the answering fire sprang into her eyes. She looked
very piquant and a trifle diabolical. He pressed his lips suddenly
on hers. A moment later something tugged at the long locks his hand
caressed, and at the same time he became conscious that the silence
which had fallen between them was shaken by a loud whir. He glanced
upward. Natalie was standing with her back to one of the band-wheels. It
had begun to revolve; in the moment it increased its speed; and he saw a
glittering web on its surface. With an exclamation of horror, he pulled
her toward him; but he was too late. The wheel, spinning now with the
velocity of midday, caught the whole silver cloud in its spokes, and
Natalie was swept suddenly upward. Her feet hit the low rafters, and she
was whirled round and round, screams of torture torn from her rather
than uttered, her body describing a circular right angle to the shaft,
the bones breaking as they struck the opposite one; then, in swift
finality, she was sucked between belt and wheel. Mikhaïlof managed to
get into the next room and reverse the lever. The machinery stopped as
abruptly as it had started; but Natalie was out of her agony.
Her lover flung himself over the cliffs, shattering bones and skull
on the stones at their base. They made her a coffin out of the copper
plates used for their ships, and laid her in the straggling unpopulous
cemetery on the knoll across the gulch beyond the chapel.
"When we go, we will take her," said Rotscheff to his distracted wife.
But when they went, a year or two after, in the hurry of departure they
forgot her until too late. They promised to return. But they never came,
and she sleeps there still, on the lonely knoll between the sunless
forest and the desolate ocean.
THE VENGEANCE OF PADRE ARROYO
Pilar, from her little window just above the high wall surrounding the
big adobe house set apart for the women neophytes of the Mission of
Santa Ines, watched, morning and evening, for Andreo, as he came and
went from the rancheria. The old women kept the girls busy, spinning,
weaving, sewing; but age nods and youth is crafty. The tall young Indian
who was renowned as the best huntsman of all the neophytes, and who
supplied Padre Arroyo's table with deer and quail, never failed to keep
his ardent eyes fixed upon the grating so long as it lay within the line
of his vision. One day he went to Padre Arroyo and told him that Pilar
was the prettiest girl behind the wall—the prettiest girl in all the
Californias—and that she should be his wife. But the kind stern old
padre shook his head.
"You are both too young. Wait another year, my son, and if thou art
still in the same mind, thou shalt have her."
Andreo dared to make no protest, but he asked permission to prepare a
home for his bride. The padre gave it willingly, and the young Indian
began to make the big adobes, the bright red tiles. At the end of a
month he had built him a cabin among the willows of the rancheria, a
little apart from the others: he was in love, and association with his
fellows was distasteful. When the cabin was builded his impatience
slipped from its curb, and once more he besought the priest to allow him
Padre Arroyo was sunning himself on the corridor of the mission,
shivering in his heavy brown robes, for the day was cold.
"Orion," he said sternly—he called all his neophytes after the
celebrities of earlier days, regardless of the names given them at the
font—"have I not told thee thou must wait a year? Do not be impatient,
my son. She will keep. Women are like apples: when they are too young,
they set the teeth on edge; when ripe and mellow, they please every
sense; when they wither and turn brown, it is time to fall from the tree
into a hole. Now go and shoot a deer for Sunday: the good padres from
San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara are coming to dine with me."
Andreo, dejected, left the padre. As he passed Pilar's window and saw a
pair of wistful black eyes behind the grating, his heart took fire. No
one was within sight. By a series of signs he made his lady understand
that he would place a note beneath a certain adobe in the wall.
Pilar, as she went to and fro under the fruit trees in the garden,
or sat on the long corridor weaving baskets, watched that adobe with
fascinated eyes. She knew that Andreo was tunnelling it, and one day a
tiny hole proclaimed that his work was accomplished. But how to get the
note? The old women's eyes were very sharp when the girls were in front
of the gratings. Then the civilizing development of Christianity
upon the heathen intellect triumphantly asserted itself. Pilar, too,
conceived a brilliant scheme. That night the padre, who encouraged any
evidence of industry, no matter how eccentric, gave her a little garden
of her own—a patch where she could raise sweet peas and Castilian
"That is well, that is well, my Nausicaa," he said, stroking her smoky
braids. "Go cut the slips and plant them where thou wilt. I will send
thee a package of sweet pea seeds."
Pilar spent every spare hour bending over her "patch"; and the hole, at
first no bigger than a pin's point, was larger at each setting of the
sun behind the mountain. The old women, scolding on the corridor, called
to her not to forget vespers.
On the third evening, kneeling on the damp ground, she drew from the
little tunnel in the adobe a thin slip of wood covered with the labour
of sleepless nights. She hid it in her smock—that first of California's
love-letters—then ran with shaking knees and prostrated herself before
the altar. That night the moon streamed through her grating, and she
deciphered the fact that Andreo had loosened eight adobes above her
garden, and would await her every midnight.
Pilar sat up in bed and glanced about the room with terrified delight.
It took her but a moment to decide the question; love had kept her awake
too many nights. The neophytes were asleep; as they turned now and
again, their narrow beds of hide, suspended from the ceiling, swung too
gently to awaken them. The old women snored loudly. Pilar slipped from
her bed and looked through the grating. Andreo was there, the dignity
and repose of primeval man in his bearing. She waved her hand and
pointed downward to the wall; then, throwing on the long coarse gray
smock that was her only garment, crept from the room and down the stair.
The door was protected against hostile tribes by a heavy iron bar, but
Pilar's small hands were hard and strong, and in a moment she stood over
the adobes which had crushed her roses and sweet peas.
As she crawled through the opening, Andreo took her hand bashfully, for
they never had spoken. "Come," he said; "we must be far away before
They stole past the long mission, crossing themselves as they glanced
askance at the ghostly row of pillars; past the guard-house, where the
sentries slept at their post; past the rancheria; then, springing upon a
waiting mustang, dashed down the valley. Pilar had never been on a horse
before, and she clung in terror to Andreo, who bestrode the unsaddled
beast as easily as a cloud rides the wind. His arm held her closely,
fear vanished, and she enjoyed the novel sensation. Glancing over
Andreo's shoulder she watched the mass of brown and white buildings,
the winding river, fade into the mountain. Then they began to ascend
an almost perpendicular steep. The horse followed a narrow trail; the
crowding trees and shrubs clutched the blankets and smocks of the
riders; after a time trail and scene grew white: the snow lay on the
"Where do we go?" she asked.
"To Zaca Lake, on the very top of the mountain, miles above us. No one
has ever been there but myself. Often I have shot deer and birds beside
it. They never will find us there."
The red sun rose over the mountains of the east. The crystal moon sank
in the west. Andreo sprang from the weary mustang and carried Pilar to
A sheet of water, round as a whirlpool but calm and silver, lay amidst
the sweeping willows and pine-forested peaks. The snow glittered beneath
the trees, but a canoe was on the lake, a hut on the marge.
Padre Arroyo tramped up and down the corridor, smiting his hands
together. The Indians bowed lower than usual, as they passed, and
hastened their steps. The soldiers scoured the country for the bold
violators of mission law. No one asked Padre Arroyo what he would do
with the sinners, but all knew that punishment would be sharp and
summary: the men hoped that Andreo's mustang had carried him beyond its
reach; the girls, horrified as they were, wept and prayed in secret for
A week later, in the early morning, Padre Arroyo sat on the corridor.
The mission stood on a plateau overlooking a long valley forked and
sparkled by the broad river. The valley was planted thick with olive
trees, and their silver leaves glittered in the rising sun. The mountain
peaks about and beyond were white with snow, but the great red poppies
blossomed at their feet. The padre, exiled from the luxury and society
of his dear Spain, never tired of the prospect: he loved his mission
children, but he loved Nature more.
Suddenly he leaned forward on his staff and lifted the heavy brown
hood of his habit from his ear. Down the road winding from the eastern
mountains came the echo of galloping footfalls. He rose expectantly and
waddled out upon the plaza, shading his eyes with his hand. A half-dozen
soldiers, riding closely about a horse bestridden by a stalwart young
Indian supporting a woman, were rapidly approaching the mission. The
padre returned to his seat and awaited their coming.
The soldiers escorted the culprits to the corridor; two held the horse
while they descended, then led it away, and Andreo and Pilar were alone
with the priest. The bridegroom placed his arm about the bride and
looked defiantly at Padre Arroyo, but Pilar drew her long hair about her
face and locked her hands together.
Padre Arroyo folded his arms and regarded them with lowered brows, a
sneer on his mouth.
"I have new names for you both," he said, in his thickest voice.
"Antony, I hope thou hast enjoyed thy honeymoon. Cleopatra, I hope thy
little toes did not get frost-bitten. You both look as if food had been
scarce. And your garments have gone in good part to clothe the brambles,
I infer. It is too bad you could not wait a year and love in your cabin
at the ranchería, by a good fire, and with plenty of frijoles and
tortillas in your stomachs." He dropped his sarcastic tone, and, rising
to his feet, extended his right arm with a gesture of malediction. "Do
you comprehend the enormity of your sin?" he shouted. "Have you not
learned on your knees that the fires of hell are the rewards of unlawful
love? Do you not know that even the year of sackcloth and ashes I shall
impose here on earth will not save you from those flames a million times
hotter than the mountain fire, than the roaring pits in which evil
Indians torture one another? A hundred years of their scorching breath,
of roasting flesh, for a week of love! Oh, God of my soul!"
Andreo looked somewhat staggered, but unrepentant. Pilar burst into loud
sobs of terror.
The padre stared long and gloomily at the flags of the corridor. Then he
raised his head and looked sadly at his lost sheep.
"My children," he said solemnly, "my heart is wrung for you. You
have broken the laws of God and of the Holy Catholic Church, and the
punishments thereof are awful. Can I do anything for you, excepting to
pray? You shall have my prayers, my children. But that is not enough;
I cannot—ay! I cannot endure the thought that you shall be damned.
Perhaps"—again he stared meditatively at the stones, then, after an
impressive silence, raised his eyes. "Heaven vouchsafes me an idea, my
children. I will make your punishment here so bitter that Almighty God
in His mercy will give you but a few years of purgatory after death.
Come with me."
He turned and led the way slowly to the rear of the mission buildings.
Andreo shuddered for the first time, and tightened his arm about Pilar's
shaking body. He knew that they were to be locked in the dungeons.
Pilar, almost fainting, shrank back as they reached the narrow spiral
stair which led downward to the cells. "Ay! I shall die, my Andreo!" she
cried. "Ay! my father, have mercy!"
"I cannot, my children," said the padre, sadly. "It is for the salvation
of your souls."
"Mother of God! When shall I see thee again, my Pilar?" whispered
Andreo. "But, ay! the memory of that week on the mountain will keep us
Padre Arroyo descended the stair and awaited them at its foot.
Separating them, and taking each by the hand, he pushed Andreo ahead and
dragged Pilar down the narrow passage. At its end he took a great bunch
of keys from his pocket, and raising both hands commanded them to kneel.
He said a long prayer in a loud monotonous voice which echoed and
reëchoed down the dark hall and made Pilar shriek with terror. Then he
fairly hurled the marriage ceremony at them, and made the couple repeat
after him the responses. When it was over, "Arise," he said.
The poor things stumbled to their feet, and Andreo caught Pilar in a
"Now bear your incarceration with fortitude, my children; and if you do
not beat the air with your groans, I will let you out in a week. Do not
hate your old father, for love alone makes him severe, but pray, pray,
And then he locked them both in the same cell.
THE BELLS OF SAN GABRIEL
The Señor Capitan Don Luis de la Torre walked impatiently up and down
before the grist-mill wherein were quartered the soldiers sent by Mexico
to protect the building of the Mission of San Gabriel. The Indian
workmen were slugs; California, a vast region inhabited only by savages
and a few priests, offered slender attractions to a young officer
craving the gay pleasures of his capital and the presence of the woman
he was to marry. For months he had watched the mission church mount
slowly from foundation to towers, then spread into pillared corridors
and rooms for the clergy. He could have mapped in his mind every acre of
the wide beautiful valley girt by mountains snowed on their crest. He
had thought it all very lovely at first: the yellow atmosphere, the soft
abiding warmth, the blue reflecting lake; but the green on mountain and
flat had waxed to gold, then waned to tan and brown, and he was tired.
Not even a hostile Indian had come to be killed.
He was very good-looking, this tall young Spaniard, with his impatient
eyes and haughty intelligent face, and it is possible that the lady in
Mexico had added to his burden by doleful prayers to return. He took a
letter from his pocket, read it half through, then walked rapidly over
to the mission, seeking interest in the work of the Indians. Under the
keen merciless supervision of the padres,—the cleverest body of men
who ever set foot in America,—they were mixing and laying the adobes,
making nails and tiles, hewing aqueducts, fashioning great stone fonts
and fountains. De la Torre speculated, after his habit, upon the future
of a country so beautiful and so fertile, which a dozen priests had made
their own. Would these Indians, the poorest apologies for human beings
he had ever seen, the laziest and the dirtiest, be Christianized and
terrified into worthy citizens of this fair land? Could the clear white
flame that burned in the brains of the padres strike fire in their
neophytes' narrow skulls, create a soul in those grovelling bodies? He
dismissed the question.
Would men of race, tempted by the loveliness of this great gold-haired
houri sleeping on the Pacific, come from old and new Spain and dream
away a life of pleasure? What grapes would grow out of this rich soil
to be crushed by Indian slaves into red wine! And did gold vein those
velvet hills? How all fruits, all grains, would thrive! what superb
beasts would fatten on the thick spring grass! Ay! it was a magnificent
discovery for the Church, and great would be the power that could wrest
it from her.
There was a new people, somewhere north of Mexico, in the United States
of America. Would they ever covet and strive to rob? The worse for them
if they molested the fire-blooded Spaniard. How he should like to fight
That night the sentinel gave a sudden piercing shout of warning, then
dropped dead with a poisoned arrow in his brain. Another moment, and
the soldiers had leaped from their swinging beds of hide, and headed by
their captain had reached the church they were there to defend. Through
plaza and corridors sped and shrieked the savage tribe, whose invasion
had been made with the swiftness and cunning of their race. The doors
had not been hung in the church, and the naked figures ran in upon the
heels of the soldiers, waving torches and yelling like the soulless
fiends they were. The few neophytes who retained spirit enough to fight
after the bleaching process that had chilled their native fire and
produced a result which was neither man nor beast, but a sort of
barnyard fowl, hopped about under the weight of their blankets and were
The brunt of the battle fell upon the small detachment of troops, and
at the outset they were overwhelmed by numbers, dazzled by the glare of
torches that waved and leaped in the cavern-like darkness of the church.
But they fought like Spaniards, hacking blindly with their swords,
cleaving dusky skulls with furious maledictions, using their fists,
their feet, their teeth—wrenching torches from malignant hands and
hurling them upon distorted faces. Curses and wild yells intermingled.
De la Torre fought at the head of his men until men and savages, dead
and living, were an indivisible mass, then thrust back and front,
himself unhurt. The only silent clear-brained man among them, he could
reason as he assaulted and defended, and he knew that the Spaniards
had little chance of victory—and he less of looking again upon the
treasures of Mexico. The Indians swarmed like ants over the great nave
and transept. Those who were not fighting smashed the altar and slashed
the walls. The callous stars looked through the apertures left for
windows, and shed a pallid light upon the writhing mass. The padres had
defended their altar, behind the chancel rail; they lay trampled, with
arrows vibrating in their hard old muscles.
De la Torre forced his way to the door and stood for a moment, solitary,
against the pale light of the open, then turned his face swiftly to
the night air as he fell over the threshold of the mission he had so
Delfina de Capalleja, after months of deferred hope, stood with the
crowd at the dock, awaiting the return of the troop which had gone to
defend the Mission of San Gabriel in its building. There was no flutter
of colour beneath her white skin, and the heavy lids almost concealed
the impatient depths of her eyes; the proud repose of her head indicated
a profound reserve and self-control. Over her white gown and black dense
hair she wore a black lace mantilla, fastened below the throat with a
large yellow rose.
The ship swung to anchor and answered the salute from the fort. Boats
were lowered, but neither officers nor soldiers descended. The murmur
of disappointment on shore rose to a shout of execration. Then, as the
ship's captain and passengers landed, a whisper ran through the crowd,
a wail, and wild sobbing. They flung themselves to the earth, beating
their heads and breasts,—all but Delfina de Capalleja, who drew her
mantilla about her face and walked away.
The authorities of the city of Mexico yielded to public clamour and
determined to cast a silver bell in honour of the slaughtered captain
and his men. The casting was to take place in the great plaza before the
cathedral, that all might attend: it was long since any episode of war
had caused such excitement and sorrow. The wild character and remoteness
of the scene of the tragedy, the meagreness of detail which stung every
imagination into action, the brilliancy and popularity of De la Torre,
above all, the passionate sympathy felt for Delfina de Capalleja,
served to shake society from peak to base, and no event had ever been
anticipated with more enthusiasm than the casting of that silver bell.
No one had seen Delfina since the arrival of the news had broken so many
hearts, and great was the curiosity regarding her possible presence at
the ceremony. Universal belief was against her ever again appearing in
public; some said that she was dead, others that she had gone into a
convent, but a few maintained that she would be high priestess at the
making of the bell which was to be the symbol and monument of her
lover's gallantry and death.
The hot sun beat upon the white adobe houses of the stately city. At the
upper end of the plaza, bending and swaying, coquetting and languishing,
were women clad in rich and vivid satins, their graceful heads and
shoulders draped with the black or white mantilla; caballeros, gay in
velvet trousers laced with gold, and serape embroidered with silver.
Eyes green and black and blue sparkled above the edge of large black
fans; fiery eyes responded from beneath silver-laden sombreros. The
populace, in gala attire, crowded the rest of the plaza and adjacent
streets, chattering and gesticulating. But all looked in vain for
Delfina de Capalleja.
Much ceremony attended the melting of the bell. Priests in white robes
stiff with gold chanted prayers above the silver bubbling in the
caldron. A full-robed choir sang the Te Deum; the regiment to which De
la Torre had belonged fired salutes at intervals; the crowd sobbed and
Thunder of cannon, passionate swell of voices: the molten silver was
about to be poured into the mould. The crowd hushed and parted. Down the
way made for her came Delfina de Capalleja. Her black hair hung over her
long white gown. Her body bent under the weight of jewels—the jewels of
generations and the jewels of troth. Her arms hung at her sides. In her
eyes was the peace of the dead.
She walked to the caldron, and taking a heavy gold chain from her neck
flung it into the silver. It swirled like a snake, then disappeared. One
by one, amidst quivering silence, the magnificent jewels followed
the chain. Then, as she took the last bracelet from her arm, madness
possessed the breathless crowd. The indifferent self-conscious men,
the lanquid coquetting women, the fat drowsy old dowagers, all rushed,
scrambling and screaming, to the caldron, tore from their heads and
bodies the superb jewels and ropes of gold with which they were
bedecked, and flung them into the molten mass, which rose like a tide.
The electric current sprang to the people; their baubles sped like hail
through the air. So great was the excitement that a sudden convulsing
of the earth was unfelt. When not a jewel was left to sacrifice, the
caldron held enough element for five bells—the five sweet-voiced bells
which rang in the Mission of San Gabriel for more than a century.
Exhausted with shouting, the multitude was silent. Delfina de Capalleja,
who had stood with panting chest and dilating nostrils, turned from
the sacrificial caldron, the crowd parting for her again, the Laudate
Dominum swelling. As she reached the cathedral, a man who loved her,
noting a change in her face, sprang to her side. She raised her
bewildered eyes to his and thrust out her hands blankly, then fell dead
across the threshold.
WHEN THE DEVIL WAS WELL
The Devil locked the copper gates of Hell one night, and sauntered down
a Spacian pathway. The later arrivals from the planet Earth had been of
a distressingly commonplace character to his Majesty—a gentleman
of originality and attainments, whatever his disagreements with the
conventions. He was become seriously disturbed about the moral condition
of the sensational little twinkler.
"What are my own about?" he thought, as he drifted past planets which
yielded up their tributes with monotonous regularity. "What a squeezed
old orange would Earth become did I forsake it! I must not neglect it so
long again; my debt of gratitude is too great. Let me see. Where shall
I begin? It is some years since I have visited America in person,
and unquestionably she has most need of my attention; Europe is in
magnificent running order. This is a section of her, if my geography
does not fail me; but what? I do not recall it."
He poised above a country that looked as if it still hung upon the edge
of chaos: wild, fertile, massive, barren, luxuriant, crouching on the
ragged line of the Pacific. From his point of vantage he saw long ranges
of stupendous mountains, some but masses of scowling crags, some green
with forests of mammoth trees projecting their gaunt rigid arms above
a carpet of violets; indolent valleys and swirling rivers; snow on the
black peaks of the North; the riotous colour of eternal summer in the
South. Suddenly he uttered a sharp exclamation and swept downward,
halting but a mile above the ground. He frowned heavily, then smiled—a
long, placid, sardonic smile. There appeared to be but few inhabitants
in this country, and those few seemed to live either in great white
irregular buildings, surmounted by crosses, in little brown huts near
by, in the caves, or in hollowed trees on the mountains. The large
buildings were situated about sixty miles apart, in chosen valleys; they
were imposing and rambling, built about a plaza. They boasted pillared
corridors and bright red tiles on their roofs. Within the belfries were
massive silver bells, and the crosses could be seen to the furthermost
end of the valley and from the tops of the loftiest mountain.
"California!" exclaimed the Devil. "I know of her. Her scant history
is outlined in the Scarlet Book. I remember the points: Climate, the
finest, theoretically, in the world; satanically, simply magnificent.
I have waited impatiently for the stream of humanity to deflect
thitherward, but priests will answer my present purpose exactly—unless
they are all too tough. To continue, gold under that grass in
chunks—aha! I shall have to throw out an extra wing in Hell! Parched
deserts where men will die cursing; fruitful valleys, more gratifying to
my genius; about as much of one as of the other, but the latter will
get all the advertising, and the former be carefully kept out of sight.
Everything in the way of animal life, from grizzly bears to fleas. A
very remarkable State! Well, I will begin on the priests."
He shot downward, and alighted in a valley whose proportions pleased his
eye. Its shape was oval; the bare hills enclosing it were as yellow and
as bright as hammered gold; the grass was bronze-coloured, baking in the
intense heat; but the placid cows and shining horses nibbled it with the
contentment of those that know not of better things. A river, almost
concealed by bending willows and slender erect cottonwoods, wound
capriciously across the valley. The mission, simpler than some of the
others, was as neatly kept as the farm of older civilizations. Peace,
order, reigned everywhere; all things drowsed under the relentless
outpouring of the midsummer sun.
"It is well I do not mind the heat," thought his Majesty; "but I am
sensible of this. I will go within."
He drew a boot on his cloven foot, thus rendering himself invisible, and
entered a room of the long wing that opened upon the corridor. Here the
temperature was almost wintry, so thick were the adobe walls.
Two priests sat before a table, one reading aloud from a bulky
manuscript, the other staring absently out of the window. The reader
was an old man; his face was pale and spiritual; no fires burned in his
sunken eyes; his mouth was stern with the lines of self-repression. The
Devil lost all interest in him at once, and turned to the younger man.
His face was pale also, but his pallor was that of fasting and the hair
shirt; the mouth expressed the determination of the spirit to conquer
the restless longing of the eyes; his nostrils were spirited; his figure
was lean and nervous; he moved his feet occasionally, and clutched at
the brown Franciscan habit.
"Paulo," said the older priest, reprovingly, as he lifted his eyes and
noted the unbowed head, "thou art not listening to the holy counsel of
our glorious Master, our saint who has so lately ascended into heaven."
"I know Junipero Serra by heart," said Paulo, a little pettishly. "I
wish it were not too hot to go out; I should like to take a walk.
Surely, San Miguel is the hottest spot on earth. The very fleas are
gasping between the bricks."
"The Lord grant that they may die before the night! Not a wink have I
slept for two! But thou shouldest not long for recreation until the hour
comes, my son. Do thy duty and think not of when it will be over, for
it is a blessed privilege to perform it—far more so than any idle
pleasure—just as it is more blessed to give than to receive—"
Here the Devil snorted audibly, and both priests turned with a jump.
"Did you hear that, my father?"
"It is the walls cracking with the intense heat. I will resume my
reading, and do thou pay attention, my son."
"I will, my father."
And for three hours the Devil was obliged to listen to the droning voice
of the old man. He avenged himself by planting wayward and alarming
desires in Paulo's fertile soul.
Suddenly the mission was filled with the sound of clamorous silver:
the bells were ringing for vespers—a vast, rapid, unrhythmical, sweet
volume of sound which made the Devil stamp his hoofs and gnash his
teeth. The priests crossed themselves and hurried to their evening
duties, Satan following, furious, but not daring to let them out of his
The church was crowded with dusky half-clothed forms, prostrate before
the altar. The Devil, during the long service, wandered amongst them,
giving a vicious kick with his cloven foot here, pricking with the sharp
point of his tail there, breeding a fine discord and routing devotion.
When vespers were over he was obliged to follow the priests to the
refectory, but found compensation in noting that Paulo displayed a keen
relish for his meat and wine. The older man put his supper away morsel
by morsel, as if he were stuffing a tobacco-pouch.
The meal finished, Paulo sallied forth for his evening walk. The Devil
had his chance.
He was a wise Devil—a Devil of an experience so vast that the world
would go crashing through space under its weight in print. He wasted
no time with the preliminary temptations—pride, ambition, avarice. He
brought out the woman at once.
The young priest, wandering through a grove of cottonwoods, his hands
clasped listlessly behind him, his chin sunken dejectedly upon his
breast, suddenly raised his eyes and beheld a beautiful woman standing
not ten paces away. She was not a girl like her whom he had renounced
for the Church, but a woman about whose delicate warm face and slender
palpitating bosom hung the vague shadow of maturity. Her hair was the
hot brown of copper, thick and rich; her eyes were like the meeting of
flame and alcohol. The emotion she inspired was not the pure glow which
once had encouraged rather than deprecated renunciation; but at the
moment he thought it sweeter.
He sprang forward with arms outstretched, instinct conquering vows in
a manner highly satisfactory to the Devil; then, with a bitter
imprecation, turned and fled. But he heard light footfalls behind him;
he was conscious of a faint perfume, born of no earthly flower, felt a
soft panting breath. A light hand touched his face. He flung his vows to
anxious Satan, and turned to clasp the woman in his arms. But she coyly
retreated, half-resentfully, half-invitingly, wholly lovely. Satan
closed his iron hand about the vows, and the priest ran toward the
woman, the lines of repression on his face gone, the eyes conquering the
mouth. But again she retreated. He quickened his steps; she accelerated
hers; his legs were long and agile; but she was fleet of foot. Finally
she ran at full speed, her warm bright hair lifted and spreading, her
tender passionate face turned and shining through it.
They left the cottonwoods, and raced down the wide silent valley, the
cows staring with stolid disapproval, the stars pulsing in sympathy. The
priest felt no fatigue; he forgot the Church behind him, the future of
reward or torment. He wanted the woman, and was determined to have her.
He was wholly lost; and the Devil, satisfied, returned to the mission.
"Now," thought he, "for revenge on that old fool for defying me for
He raised his index finger and pointed it straight at the planet Hell.
Instantly the sky darkened, the air vibrated with the rushing sound
of many forms. A moment later he was surrounded by a regiment of
abbreviated demons—a flock as thick as a grasshopper plague, twisted,
grinning, leering, hideous. He raised his finger again and they leaped
to the roofs of the mission, wrenched the tiles from their place and
sent them clattering to the pavement. They danced and wrestled on the
naked roof, yelling with their hoarse unhuman voices, singing awful
The Devil passed within, and found the good old priest on his knees, a
crucifix clasped to his breast, his white face upturned, shouting ave
marias and pater nosters at the top of his aged voice as if fearful they
would not ascend above the saturnalia on the roof. The Devil added to
his distraction by loud bursts of ribald laughter; but the father,
revolving his head as if it were on a pivot, continued to pray. Satan
began to curse like a pirate.
Suddenly, above the crashing of tiles, the hideous voices of Devil and
demon, the prayers of the padre, sounded the silver music of the
bells. Not the irregular clash which was the daily result of Indian
manipulation, but long rhythmic peals, as sweet and clear and true
as the singing of angels. The Devil and his minions, with one long,
baffled, infuriated howl, shot upward into space. Simultaneously a great
wind came roaring down the valley, uprooting trees, shaking the sturdy
mission. Thunder detonated, lightning cut its zigzag way through black
clouds like moving mountains; hail rattled to the earth; water fell
as from an overturned ocean. And through all the bells pealed and the
Morning dawned so calm and clear that but for the swimming ground and
the broken tiles bestrewing it, the priest would have thought he had
dreamed a terrible nightmare. He opened the door and looked anxiously
forth for Paulo. Paulo was not to be seen. He called, but his tired
voice would not carry. Clasping his crucifix to his breast, he tottered
forth in search of his beloved young colleague. He passed the rancheria
of the Indians, and found them all asleep, worn out from a night of
He was too kind to awaken them, and pursued his way alone down the
valley, peering fearfully to right and left. The ground was ploughed,
dented, and strewn with fallen trees; the river roared like a tidal
wave. Shuddering, and crossing himself repeatedly, he passed between
the hills and entered a forest, following a path which the storm had
blasted. After a time he came to an open glade where he and Paulo
had loved to pray whilst the spring and the birds made music. To his
surprise he saw a large stone lying along the open. He wondered if some
meteor had fallen. Mortal hands—Indian hands, at least—were not strong
enough to have brought so heavy a bulk, and he had not seen it in forest
or valley before.
He approached and regarded it; then began mumbling aves and paters,
running them together as he had not done during the visitation and
storm. The stone was outlined with the shape of a man, long, young,
and slender. The face was sharply cut, refined, impassioned, and
intellectual. A smile of cynical contentment dwelt on the strong mouth.
The eyes were fixed on something before him. Involuntarily the priest's
followed them, and lingered. A tree also broke the open—one which never
had been there before—and it bore an intoxicating similitude to the
features and form of a surpassingly beautiful woman.
"Paulo! Paulo!" murmured the old man, with tears in his eyes, "would
that I had been thou!"