Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Rezanov, by Gertrude Atherton

Part 3 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

ready at three o'clock."

Dalliance with the most alluring girl he had ever
known was all very well, but the day's work was
not yet done. When they returned to the ship he
deliberately engaged all the Spaniards in a game of
cards, ordered cigarettes and a bowl of punch for
their refreshment, and then the Juno steered south.

They sailed swiftly past Nuestra Senorita de los
Angeles and the eastern side of Alcatraz, Rezanov
sweeping every inch with his glass; more slowly
past the peninsula where it came down in a succes-
sion of rough hills almost in a straight line from
the Presidio, ascending to a high outpost of solid
rock, whence it turned abruptly to the south in a
waving line of steep irregular cliffs, harsh, barren,
intersected with gullies. Then the land became sud-
denly as flat as the sea, save for the shifting dunes:
the desert porch of the great fertile valley hidden
from the water by the waves of sand, but indicated
by its rampart of mountains. The shallow water
curved abruptly inward between the rocky mass on
the right and a gentler incline and point two miles
below. At its head was the "Battery of Yerba
Buena," facing the island from which it took its
name. Rezanov scrupulously kept his word and did
not raise his glass, but one contemptuous glance
satisfied his curiosity. His eye rolled over the steep
hills that were designed to bristle with forts, and,
as sometimes happened, when he spoke again to
Concha, whom he kept close to his side, for the other
girls bored him, his words did not express the work-
ings of his mind.

"Athens has no finer site than this," he said. "I
should like to see a white marble city on these hills,
and on that plain, when all the sand dunes are
leveled. Not in our time, perhaps! But, as I told
you, I have surrendered myself to the habit of

Concha shrugged her shoulders and made no re-
ply at the moment. As they sailed toward the east
before turning south again, she pointed across the
great silvery sheet of water melting into the misty
southern horizon, to a high ridge of mountains that
looked to be a continuation of the San Bruno range
behind the Mission, but slanting farther west with
the coast line.

"Those are behind our rancho, senor--Rancho El
Pilar, or Las Pulgas, as some prefer. Perhaps my
father will take you there. I hope so, for we love to
go, and may not too often; my father is very busy
here. He is one of the few that has received a large
grant of land, and it is because the clergy love him
so much they oppose his wish in nothing. Do you
see those sharp points against the sky? They are
the tops of lofty trees, like the masts of giant ships,
and with many rigid arms spiked like the pines.
You saw a few of them in the hollow below Tamal-
pais, but up on those mountains there are miles and
miles of mighty forests. No white man has ever
penetrated them, nor ever will, perhaps. We have
no use for them, and even if you made this your
kingdom, senor, I suppose not many would come
with you. Far, far down where the water stops
are the Mission of Santa Clara and the pueblo of
San Jose; but I have heard you cannot approach
within many miles of the land in a boat."

When they had sailed south for a few moments
the boat came about sharply. Concha laughed. "I
had forgotten the chart. I rather hoped you would
run on a shoal."

But as they approached the cove of Yerba Buena
again she caught his arm suddenly, unconscious of
the act, and the little dancing lights of humor in
her eyes went out. "Your white city, senor! Ay,
Dios! what a city of dreams that can never come

The soft white fog that sometimes, even at this
season, came in from the sea, was rolling over the
hills between the Battery and the Presidio, wreath-
ing about the rocky heights and slopes. It broke
into domes and cupolas, spires and minarets. Great
waves rolled over the sand dunes and beat upon
the cliffs with the phantoms clinging to its sides.
Then the sun struggled with a thousand colors.
The sun conquered, the mist shimmered into sun-
light, and once more the hills were gray and bare.

Rezanov laughed, but his eyes glowed down upon
her. "I am not sure it was there," he said. "I
have an idea your imagination and touch acted as
a sort of enchanter's wand. The others evidently
saw nothing."

"The others saw only fog and shivered. But it
was there, senor! We have had a vision. A Rus-
sian city! Ay, yi!"

But Rezanov had forgotten the city. Her reboso
had fallen and a strand of her hair blew across his
face. His lips caught it and his eyes burned. They
rounded a headland and the world looked green
and young.

"Concha!" he whispered.

Her eyes flashed and melted, she lifted her chin;
then burst into a merry ripple of laughter.

"Senor!" she said, "if you make love to me, I
shall have to compare you with many others, and I
might not like the Russian fashion. You are much
better as you are--very grand seigneur, iron-
handed and absolute, haughty and arrogant, but the
most charming person in the world, with ends to
gain, even from such humble folk as a handful of
stranded Californians. But to sigh! to languish
with the eye! to sing at the grating! I fear that
the lightest headed of the caballeros you despise
could transcend you in all."

"Very likely! I have not the least intention of
sighing or languishing or singing at gratings. But
if we were alone I certainly should kiss you."

But her eyes did not melt again at the vision.
She flushed hotly with annoyance. "I am a child
to you! Were it not that I have read a few books,
you would find me but a year older than Ana
Paula. Well! Regard me as a child and do not
attempt to flirt with me again. Shall it be so?"

"As you wish!" Rezanov looked at her half in
resentment, half wistfully, then shrugged his
shoulders, and called to Davidov to steer for the
anchorage. She was quite right; and on the whole
he was grateful to her.


"Concha," said Sturgis abruptly, "will you marry me?"

Concha, who was sitting in the shade of the rose
vines on the corridor making a dress for Gertrudis
Rudisinda, ran the needle into her finger.

"Madre de Dios!" she cried angrily. "Who
would have expected such foolish words from you?
and now I have pricked my finger and stained my
little frock. It will have to be washed before worn,
and is never so pretty after."

"I am sorry," said Sturgis humbly. "But it seems
to me that if a man wishes to marry a maid he
should ask her in a straightforward manner, with
no preliminary sighs and hints and serenades--and
all sorts of insincere stage play.

"He should at least address her parents first."

"True. I was wholly the American for the mo-
ment. May I speak to Don Jose and Dona Ignacia,

"How can I prevent? No, I will not coquet with
you, Weeliam. But I am angry that you have
thought of such nonsense. Such friends as we
were! We have talked and read together by the
hour, and my parents have thought no more of it
than if it had been Santiago. There! You have a
new book in your pocket. Why did you not read it
to me instead of making love? Let me see it."

"I brought it to read later if you wished, but I
came to ask you to marry me and to receive your
answer. I never expected to ask you--but--lately
--things have changed--life seems, somehow, more
real. The thought of losing you has suddenly be-
come terrible."

"You have been drinking Russian tea," said Con-
cha, stitching quietly but flashing him a glance of
amusement, not wholly without malice.

"It is true," he replied. "I suppose I never really
believed you would marry Raimundo or Ignacio or
any of the caballeros. They think and talk of noth-
ing but horse-racing, gambling, cock-fighting, love
and cigaritos. I thought of you always here, where
at least I could look at you or read with you. But
one must admit that this Russian is no ordinary
man. I hate him, yet like him more than any I have
ever met. Last night I stayed to punch with him,
and we talked English for an hour. That is to say,
he did; I could have listened to him till morning.
Langsdorff says that he has the greatest possible
command of his native tongue, but he speaks Eng-
lish well enough. I wish I could despise him, but
I do not believe I even hate him."

"Well?" demanded Concha. She kept her eyes on
her work (and the delight that rose in her breast
from her voice).


"Why should you hate him?"

"Do you ask me that, Concha, when he makes a
fence of himself about you, and his fine eyes--prac-
tised is nearer the mark--look at no one else?"

"But why should that cause you jealousy? He
is a man of the world, accustomed to make himself
agreeable, and I am the daughter of the Com-

"He is more in love with you than he knows."

"Do you think so, Weeliam?" Still her voice was
innocent and even, although the color rose above
the inner commotion. "But even so, what of it?
Have not many loved me? Am I to be won by the
first stranger?"

"I do not know."

The tumult in Concha turned to wrath, and she
lifted flashing eyes to his moody face. "Do you
presume to say you are jealous because you think
I love him--a stranger I have known but a week--
who looks upon me as a child--who has never--
never thought--" But her dignity, flying to the
rescue, assumed control. Her upper lip curled, her
body stiffened for a moment, and she went on with
her stitching. "You deserve I should rap your silly
little skull with my thimble. You are no better
than Ignacio and Fernando. Such scenes as I have
had with them! They wanted to fight the Russian!
How he would laugh at them! I have threatened
they shall both be sent to San Diego if there is any
more nonsense." Then curiosity overcame her.
"You never had the least, least reason to think I
would marry you, and now, according to your own
words, you think you have less. Then why, pray,
did you address me?"

"Because I am a man, I suppose. I could not
sit tamely down and see you go."

She looked at him with a slight access of interest.
A man? Perhaps he was, after all. And his well-
bred, bony face looked very determined, albeit the
eyes were wistful. Suddenly she felt sorry for
him; and she had never experienced a pang of sym-
pathy for a suitor before. She leaned forward and
patted his hand.

"I cannot marry you, dear Weeliam," she said,
and never had he seen her so sweet and adorable,
although he noted with a pang that her mouth was
already drawn with a firmer line. "But what mat-
ter? I shall never marry at all. For many years--
forty, fifty perhaps--I shall sit here on the veranda,
and you shall read to me."

And then she shivered violently. But she set her
mouth until it was almost straight, and picked up
the little dress. "Not that, perhaps," she said
quietly in a moment. "I sometimes think I should
like to be a nun, that, after all, it is my vocation.
Not a cloistered one, for that is but a selfish life.
But to teach, to do good, to forget myself. There
are no convents in California, but I could join the
Third Order of the Franciscans, and wear the gray
habit, and be set aside by the world as one that only
lived to make it a little better. To forget oneself!
That, after all, may be the secret of happiness. I
envy none of my friends that are married. They
have the dear children, it is true. But the children
grow up and go away, and then one is fat and eats
many dulces and the siesta grows longer and longer
and the face very brown. That is life in California.
I should prefer to work and pray, and"--with a
flash of insight that made her drop her work again
and stare through the rose-vines--"to dream always
of some beautiful thing that youth promised but
never gave, and that given might have ended in dull
routine and a brain so choked with little things that
memory too held nothing else."

"But Concha," cried Sturgis eagerly, "I could
give you far better than that. I could take you
away from here--to Boston, to Europe. You
should see--live your life--in the great cities you
have dreamed of--that you hardly believe in--that
were made to enjoy. I have told you of the theater,
the opera--you should go to the finest in the world.
You should wear the most beautiful gowns and
jewels, go to courts, see the great works of art--I
am not trying to bribe you," he stammered, flushing
miserably. "God forbid that I should stoop to any-
thing as mean as that. But it all rushed upon me
suddenly that I could give you so much that you
were made for, with this worthless money of mine.
And what happiness to be in Europe with you--

His voice trembled and broke, and he dared not
look at her. Again she stared through the vines.
A splendid and thrilling panorama rose beyond
them, her bosom heaved, her lips parted. She saw
herself in it, and not alone. And not, alas, with
the honest youth whose words had inspired it. In
a moment she shook her head and turned her eyes
on the flushed, averted face of her suitor.

"I shall never see Europe," she said gently, "and
I shall never marry."

"Not if this Russian asks you?" cried Sturgis, in
his jealous misery.

But Concha's anger did not rise again. "He has
no intention of asking a little California girl to
share the honors of one of the most brilliant careers
in Europe," she said calmly. "Set your mind at
rest. He has paid me no more attention than is due
my position as the daughter of the Commandante,
and perhaps of La Favorita. If I flirt a little and
he flirts in response, that is nothing. Is he not then
a man? But he will forget me in a month. The
world, his world, is full of pretty girls."

"A week ago you would not have said that," said
Sturgis shrewdly. "There has been nothing in your
life to make you so humble."

"I cannot explain, but he seems to have brought
the great world with him. I know, I understand
so many things that I had not dreamed of a week
ago. A week! Madre de Dios!"

And Sturgis, who after all was a gallant gentle-
man, made no comment.


Governor Arrillaga, Commandante Arguello,
and Chamberlain Rezanov sat in the familiar sala
at the Presidio content in body after a culinary
achievement worthy of Padre Landaeta, but per-
turbed and alert of mind. Upon the arrival of the
two California dignitaries in the morning, Rezanov
had sent Davidov and Langsdorff on shore to assure
them of his gratitude and deep appreciation of the
hospitality shown himself, his officers and men. The
Governor had replied with a fulsome apology for
not repairing at once to the Juno to welcome his dis-
tinguished guest in person, and, pleading his age
and the one hundred and seventy-five English miles
he had ridden from Monterey, begged him as a
younger man to waive informality, and dine at the
house of the Commandante that very day. Rezanov
had complied as a matter of course, and now he was
alone with the men who held his fate in their hands.
The dark worn rugged face of Don Jose, who had
been skilfully prepared by his oldest daughter to
think well of the Russian, beamed with good-will
and interest, in spite of lingering doubts; but the
lank, wiry figure of the Governor, who was as digni-
fied as only a blond Spaniard can be, was fairly
rigid with the severe formality he reserved for occa-
sions of ceremony--being a gentleman who loved
good company and cheer--and his sharp gray eyes
were almost shut in the effort to penetrate the de-
signs of this deputy, this symbol, this index in cipher,
of a dreaded race. Rezanov smoked calmly, made
himself comfortable on the slippery horse-hair chair,
though with no loss of dignity, and beat about the
bush with the others until the Governor betrayed
himself at last by a chance remark:

"What you say of the neighborly instincts of the
Russian colonists for the Spanish on this coast in-
terests me deeply, Excellency, but if Russia is at
war with Spain--"

"Russia is not at war with Spain," said Rezanov,
with a flash of amusement in his half-closed eyes.
"Napoleon Bonaparte is encamped about half way
between the two countries. They could not get at
each other if they wished. While that man is at
large, Europe will be at war with him, no two na-
tions with each other."

"Ah!" exclaimed Arrillaga. "That is a manner
of reasoning that had not occurred to me."

The Commandante had spat at the mention of the
usurper's name and muttered "Chinchosa!" and
Rezanov, recalling his first conversation with Con-
cha, looked into the honest eyes of the monarchist
with a direct and hearty sympathy.

"No better epithet for him," he said. "And the
sooner Europe combines to get rid of him the bet-
ter. But until it does, count upon a common griev-
ance to unite your country and mine."

"Good!" muttered the Governor. "Good! I am
glad that nightmare has lifted its bat's wings from
our poor California. Captain O'Cain's raid two
years ago made me apprehensive, for he took away
some eleven hundred of our otter skins and his
hunters were Aleutians--subjects of the Tsar. A
negro that deserted gave the information that they
were furnished the Bostonian by the chief manager
of your Company--Baranhov--whose reputation we
know well enough!--for the deliberate purpose of
raiding our coast."

Rezanov shrugged his shoulders and replied indif-
ferently: "I will ask Baranhov when I return to
Sitka, and write you the particulars. It is more
likely that the Aleutians were deserters. This
O'Cain would not be the first shrewd Bostonian to
tempt them, for they are admirable hunters and
ready for any change. They make a greater de-
mand upon the Company for variety of diet than
we are always prepared to meet, so many are the
difficulties of transportation across Siberia. When,
therefore, the time arrived that I could continue my
voyage, I determined to come here and see if some
arrangement could not be made for a bi-yearly
exchange of commodities. We need farinaceous
stuffs of every sort. I will not pay so poor a com-
pliment to your knowledge of the northern settle-
ments as to enlarge upon the advantages California
would reap from such a treaty."

The Governor, who had permitted himself to
touch the back of his chair after the dispersal of
the war cloud, stiffened again. "Ah!" he said.
"Ah!" He looked significantly at the Com-
mandante, who nodded. "You come on a semi-
official mission, after all, then?"

"It is entirely my own idea," said Rezanov care-
lessly. "The young Tsar is too much occupied with
Bonaparte to give more than a passing thought to
his colonies. But I have a free hand. Can I arrange
the preliminaries of a treaty, I have only to return
to St. Petersburg to receive his signature and highest
approval. It would be a great feather in my cap I
can assure your excellencies," he added, with a quick
human glance and a sudden curve of his somewhat
cynical mouth.

"Um!" said the Governor. "Um!"

But Arguello's stern face had further relaxed.
After all, he was but eleven years older than the
Russian, and, although early struggles and heavy
responsibilities and many disappointments had de-
prived life of much of its early savor, what was left
of youth in him responded to the ambition he divined
in this interesting stranger. Moreover, the idea of
a friendly bond with another race on the lonely
coast of the Pacific appealed to him irresistibly. He
turned eagerly to the Governor.

"It is a fine idea, Excellency. We need much
that they have, and it pleases me to think we should
be able to supply the wants of others. Fancy any
one wanting aught of California, except hides, to
be sure. I did not think our existence was known
save to an occasional British or Boston skipper. It
is true we are here only to Christianize savages, but
even they have need of much that cannot be manu-
factured in this God-forsaken land. And we our-
selves could be more comfortable--God in heaven,
yes! It is well to think it over, Excellency. Who
knows?--we might have a trip to the north once
in a while. Life is more excellent with something
to look forward to."

"You should have a royal welcome. Baranhov is
the most hospitable man in Russia, and I might have
the happiness to be there myself. I see, by the way,
that you have not engaged in shipbuilding. I need
not say that we should supply the ships of com-
merce, with no diminution of your profits. We build
at Okhotsk, Petropaulovski, Kadiak, and Sitka.
Moreover, as the Bostonians visit us frequently, and
as your laws prohibit you from trading with them,
we would see that you always got such of their com-
modities as you needed. They come to us for furs,
and generally bring much for which we have no
use. Captain D'Wolf, from whom I bought the
Juno, had a cargo I was forced to take over. I
unloaded what was needed at Sitka, but as there
was no boat going for some months to the other
islands, I brought the rest with me, and you are wel-
come to it, if in exchange you will ballast the Juno
with samples of your agricultural products; while
the treaty is pending, I can experiment in our col-
onies and make sure which are the most adaptable
to the market.

"Um!" said the Governor. "Um!"

Rezanov did not remove his cool direct gaze from
the snapping eyes opposite.

"I have not the least objection to making a trade
that would fill my promuschleniki with joy; but that
was by no means the first object of my voyage;
which was partly inspired by a desire to see as much
of this globe as a man may in one short life, partly
to arrange a treaty that would be of incalculable
benefit to both colonies and greatly redound to my
own glory. I make no pretence of being disinter-
ested. I look forward to a career of ever increasing
influence and power in St. Petersburg, and I wish
to take back as many credits as possible."

"I understand, I understand!" The Governor
rested his lame back once more. "Your ambition is
the more laudable, Excellency, since you have
achieved so much already. I am not one to balk the
honest ambition of any man, particularly when he
does me the honor to take me into his confidence. I
like this suggested measure. I like it much. I be-
lieve it would redound to our mutual benefit and
reputation. Is it not so, Jose?"

The Commandante nodded vigorously. "I am
sure of it! I am sure of it! I like it--much,

"I will write at once to the Viceroy of Mexico
and ask that he lay the matter before the Cabinet
and King. Without that high authority we can do
nothing. But I see no reason to doubt the issue when
we, who know the wants and needs of California,
approve and desire. We are doomed to failure in
this unwieldy land of worthless savages, but it is the
business of the wretched servants of a glorious mon-
arch to do the best they can."

Rezanov had an inspiration. "You might remind
the viceroy that Spain and the United States of
America have been on the verge of war for years,
and suggest the benefit of an alliance with Russia
in the case of the new country taking advantage of
the situation in Europe to extend its western

Arrillaga had bounced to his feet, his small eyes
injected and blazing. "Those damned Bostonians!"
he shouted. "I distrusted them years ago. They
have too much calculation in their bluntness. They
cheated us, sold us short, traded under my very
nose, stole our otters, until I ordered them never to
drop an anchor in California waters again. If
their ridiculous upstart government dares to cast its
eyes on California we shall know how to meet them
--the sooner they march on Mexico and lose their
conceit the better. How they do brag! Faugh! It
is sickening. I shall remember all you say, Excel-
lency; and thank you for the hint."

Rezanov rose, and the Commandante solemnly
kissed him on either cheek. "Governor Arrillaga is
my guest, Excellency," he said. "I beg that you will
dine with us daily--unofficially--that you will re-
gard California as your own kingdom, and come
and go at your pleasure. And my daughter begs
me to remind you and your young officers that there
will be informal dancing every night."

"So far so good," thought Rezanov, as he
mounted his horse to return to the Juno. "But
what of my cargo? I fancy there will be more diffi-
culty in that quarter."


The Chamberlain was in a towering bad humor.
As he made his appearance at least two hours earlier
than he was expected, he found the decks of the
Juno covered with the skins of sea-dogs, foxes, and
birds. He had heard Langsdorff go to his cabin
later than usual the night before, and that his pet
aversion was the cause of a fresh grievance, but
hastened the eruption of his smouldering resentment
toward life in general.

"What does this mean?" he roared to the sailor
on watch. "Clear them off--overboard, every one
of them. What are you staring at?"

The sailor, who was a "Bostonian," an inheri-
tance with the ship, opened his mouth in favor of
the unfortunate professor, but like his mates, he
stood in much awe of a master whose indulgence
demanded implicit obedience in return. Without
further ado, he flung the skins into the sea.

Rezanov, to do him justice, would not have acted
otherwise had he risen in the best of tempers. He
had inflicted himself with the society of the learned
doctor that he might always have a physician and
surgeon at hand, as well as an interpreter where
Latin was the one door of communication. He
should pay him handsomely, make him a present in
addition to the sum agreed upon, but he had not the
least intention of giving up any of the Juno's
precious space to the vagaries of a scientist, nor to
submit to the pollution of her atmosphere. Langs-
dorff was his creature, and the sooner he realized
the fact the better.

"Remember," he said to the sailor, "no more of
this, or it will be the worse for you-- What is
this?" He had come upon a pile of ducks, gulls,
pelicans, and other aquatic birds. "Are these the
cook's or the professor's?"

"The professor's, Excellency."

"Overboard." And the birds followed the skins.

Rezanov turned to confront the white and
trembling Langsdorff. The naturalist was enfolded
in a gorgeous Japanese dressing-gown, purple bro-
cade embroidered with gold, that he had surrepti-
tiously bought in the harbor of Nagasaki. To
Rezanov it was like a red rag to a bull; but the pro-
fessor was oblivious at the moment of the tactless
garment. His eyes were glaring and the extended
tip of his nose worked like a knife trying to leap
from its sheath. But although he occasionally ven-
tured upon a retort when goaded too far in conver-
sation, he was able to curb his just indignation when
the Chamberlain was in a bad temper. In that vague
gray under winking stars in their last watch, Rez-
anov seemed to tower six feet above him.

"Excellency," he murmured.


"My--my specimens."

"Your what?"

"The cause of science is very dear to me, Excel-

"So it is to me--in its proper place. Were those
skins yours?" His voice became very suave. "I am
sorry you should have fatigued yourself for noth-
ing, but I am forced to remind you that this is not
an expedition undertaken for the promotion of nat-
ural history. I am not violating my part in the con-
tract, I believe. Upon our arrival at Sitka you are
at liberty to remain as my guest and make use of
the first boat that sails for this colony; but for the
present I beg that you will limit yourself to the re-
quirements of your position on my staff."

He turned his back and ordered a canoe to be
lowered. Since the arrival of the Governor and
Commandante, now three days ago, all restrictions
on his liberty had been removed, and the phrases
of hospitality were a trifle less meaningless. He
had been asked to give his word to keep away from
the fortifications, and as he knew quite as much of
the military resources of the country as he desired,
he had merely suppressed a smile and given his

This morning he wanted nothing but a walk. He
had slept badly, the blood was in his head, his
nerves were on edge. He went rapidly along the
beach and over the steep hills that led to the north-
eastern point of the peninsula. But he had taken
the walk before and did not turn his head to look
at the great natural amphitheater formed by the
inner slopes of those barren heights, so uninterest-
ing of outline from the water. Once when Luis
had left him to go down with an order to the Bat-
tery of Yerba Buena, he had examined it critically
and concluded that never had there been so fine a
site for a great city. Nor a more beautiful, with
the broken line of the San Bruno mountains in the
distance and a glimpse of the Mission valley just
beyond this vast colosseum, whose steep imposing
lines were destined by nature to be set with palaces
and bazaars, minarets and towers and churches,
with a thousand gilded domes and slender crosses
glittering in the crystal air and sunlight. If not
another Moscow, then an Irkutsk in his day, at

But he did not give the chosen site of his city a
glance to-day, although in this gray air before
dawn when mystery and imagination most closely
embrace, he might at another time have forgotten
himself in one of those fits of dreaming that slipped
him out of touch with realities, and sometimes pre-
cipitated action in a manner highly gratifying to
his enemies.

But much as he loved Russia, there were times
when he loved his own way more, and since the
arrival of Governor Arrillaga he was beginning to
feel as he had felt in the harbor of Nagasaki. Not
a word since that first interview had been said of
his cargo; nor even of the treaty, although nothing
could have been more natural than the discussion
of details. Whenever he had delicately broached
either subject, he had been met with a polite indif-
ference, that had little in common with the cor-
diality otherwise shown him. He foresaw that he
might be obliged to reveal the more pressing object
of his visit without further diplomacy, and the
thought irritated him beyond endurance.

Whether Concha were giving him her promised
aid he had no means of discovering, and herein lay
another cause of his general vexation. He had
dined every day at the Commandante's, danced
there every night. Concha had been vivacious,
friendly--impersonal. Not so much as a coquettish
lift of the brow betrayed that the distinguished
stranger eclipsed the caballeros for the moment; nor
a whispered word that he retained the friendship
she had offered him on the day of their meeting.
He had not, indeed, had a word with her alone.
But his interest and admiration had deepened. It
was evident that her father and the Governor adored
her, would deny her little. Her attitude to them
was alternately that of the petted child and the
chosen companion. As her mother was indisposed,
she occupied her place at the table, presiding with
dignity, guiding the conversation, revealing the rare
gift of making everyone appear at his best. In the
evening she had sometimes danced alone for a few
moments, but more often with her Russian guests,
and readily learning the English country dances
they were anxious to teach. Rezanov would have
found the gay informality of these evenings delight-
ful had his mind been at ease about his Sitkans, and
Concha a trifle more personal. He had begun by
suspecting that she was maneuvering for his scalp,
but he was forced to acquit her; for not only did
she show no provocative favor to another, but she
seemed to have gained in dignity and pride since his
arrival, actually to have kissed her hand in farewell
to the childhood he had been so slow in divining;
grown--he felt rather than analyzed--above the
pettiness of coquetry. Once more she had stirred
the dormant ideals of his early manhood; there
were moments when she floated before his inner
vision as the embodiment of the world's beauty.
Nor ever had there been a woman born more elab-
orately equipped for the position of a public man's
mate; nor more ingenerate, perhaps, with the power
to turn earth into heaven.

He had wondered humorously if he were fallen
in love, but, although he retained little faith in the
activities of the heart after youth, he was begin-
ning seriously to consider the expedience of marry-
ing Concha Arguello. He had not intended to
marry again, and it was this old and passionate
love of personal freedom that alone held him back,
for nothing would be so advantageous to the Russian
colonies in their present crisis as a strong individual
alliance with California. Concha Arguello was the
famous daughter of its first subject, and with the
powerful friends she would bring to her husband,
the consummation of ends dearer to his heart than
aught on earth would be a matter of months instead
of years. And he thrilled with pride as he thought
of Concha in St. Petersburg. Two years of court
life and she would be one of the greatest ladies in
Europe. That he could win her he believed, and
without undue vanity. He had much to offer an
ambitious girl conscious of her superiority to the
men of this province of Spain, and chafing at the
prospect of a lifetime in a bountiful desert. His
only hesitation lay in his own doubt if she were
worth the loss of his freedom, and all that word
involved to a man of his position and adventurous

He shrugged his shoulders at this argument; he
had walked off some of his ill-humor, and reverted
willingly to a theme that alone had given him satis-
faction during the past few days. At the same time
he made a motion as if flinging aside an old burden.

"It is time for such nonsense to end," he thought
contemptuously. "And in truth these three years
should have wrought such changes in me I doubt I
should have patience for an hour of the old trifling.
My greatest need from this time on, I fancy, is
work. I could never be idle a month again. And
when a man is in love with work--and power--
and has passed forty--does he want a constant com-
panion? That is the point. At my time of life
power exercises the most irresistible and lasting of
all fascinations. A man that wins it has little left
for a woman."

He had reached the summit of the rocky outpost;
the highest of the hills where the peninsula turned
abruptly to the south, and, scrupulously refraining
from a downward glance at the Battery of Yerba
Buena, stood looking out over the bay to the eastern
mountains: dark, almost formless, wrapped in the
intense and menacing mystery of that last hour be-
fore dawn.

"Senor!" called a low cautious voice.

Rezanov stepped hastily back from the point of
the bluff and glanced about in wonder, his pulses
suddenly astir. But he could see no one.

This time the direction was unmistakable, and
he went to the edge of the plateau facing the south
and looked over. Halfway down a shallow and
almost perpendicular gully, he saw a girl forcing a
mustang up the harsh, loose path. The girl's white
and oval face looked from the folds of a black re-
boso like the moon emerging from clouds, and its
young beauty was out of place in that wild and for-
bidding setting. She reined in her horse as she
caught his eye and beckoned superfluously; then
guided her mustang to a little ledge where he could
plant his feet firmly, permitting her to reassume her
usual pride of carriage and averting the danger of
a sudden scramble or need of assistance.

As Rezanov reached her side, she gave him a
grave and friendly smile, but no opportunity to kiss
her hand.

"I have followed your excellency," she said. "I
saw you leave the Juno, and as I am often up at
this hour, and as no one else ever is, my father
ignores the fact that I sometimes ride alone. I have
never come as far as this before, but there is some-
thing I wish to say to you, and there is no oppor-
tunity at home. I asked Santiago to find me one
last night, but he was in a bad temper and would
not. Men! However--I suppose you have heard
nothing of the cargo?"

"I have not," said Rezanov grimly, although
acutely sensible that the subject suited neither his
mood nor the hour.

"But the Governor has! Madre de Dios! all the
women of the Presidio and the Mission have pes-
tered him. They are sick with jealousy at the
shawls you gave us that day--those that did not go
to the ship. How clever of your excellency to give
us just enough for ourselves and nothing for our
friends! And those that went want more and more.
They have called upon him--one, two, four, and
alone. They have wept and scolded and pleaded. I
did not know until yesterday that your commissary
had also shown the things to the priests from San
Jose--Father Jose Uria and Father Pedro de la
Cueva. They and the priests of San Francisco have
argued with the Governor not once but three times.
Dios! how his poor excellency swore yesterday. He
threatened to return at once to Monterey. I flew
into a great rage and threatened in turn to follow
with all the other girls and all the priests--vowed he
should not have one moment of peace until that
cargo was ours."

"Well?" asked Rezanov sharply, in spite of his

Concha shook her head. "When he does not
swear, he answers only: 'Buy if you have the
money. I have never broken a law of Spain, and
I shall not begin in my old age.' He knows well
that we have no money to send out of New Spain;
but I have conceived a plan, senor. It is for you,
not for me, to suggest it. You will never betray
that I have been your friend, Excellency?"

"I will swear it if you wish," said Rezanov

"Pardon, senor. If I thought you could I should
not be here. One often says such things. This is
the plan: You shall suggest that we buy your wares,
and that you buy again with our money. The dear
Governor only wants to save his conscience an ache,
for we have driven him nearly distracted. I am
sure he will consent, for you will know how to put
it to him very diplomatically."

"But if he refused to understand, or his con-
science remained obdurate? I should then have
neither cargo nor ballast."

"He would never trick a guest, nor would he let
the money go out of the country. And he knows
well how much we need your cargo and longs to be
able to state in his reports that he sold you a hold
full of breadstuffs. Moreover, I think the time has
come to tell him of the distress at Sitka. He is very
soft-hearted and is now in that distracted state of
mind when only one more argument is required. I
hope I have given you good advice, Excellency. It
is the best I can think of. I have given it much
thought, and the terrible state of those miserable
creatures has kept me awake many nights. I must
return now. Will your excellency kindly remain
here until I am well on my way?--and then return
by the beach? I shall go as I came, through the
valley. Neither of us can be seen from the Bat-

"I will obey all your instructions," said Rezanov.
But he did not move, nor could the mustang. Con-
cha smiled and pointed to the other side of the
cleft, which was about as wide as a narrow street.

"Pardon, senor, I cannot turn."

For a moment Rezanov stared at her, through
her. Then his heavy eyes opened and flashed. It
seemed to him that for the first time he saw how
beautiful, how desirable she was, set in that gray
volcanic rock with the heavens gray above her, and
the stars fading out. It was not the bower he would
have imagined for the wooing of a mate, but neither
moonlight nor the romantic glades of La Bellissima
could have awakened in him a passion so sudden
and final. Her face between the black folds turned
whiter and she shrank back against the jagged wall:
and when his eyes flashed again with a wild eager
hope she involuntarily crossed herself. He threw
himself against the horse and snatched her down
and kissed her as he had kissed no woman yet,
recognizing her once for all.

When he finally held her at arm's length for a
moment he laughed confusedly.

"The Russian bear is no longer a figure of
speech," he said. "Forgive me. I forgot that you
are as tender as you are strong."

Her hands were tightly clasped against her
breast and the breath was short in her throat, but
she made no protest. Her eyes were radiant, her
mouth was the only color in that gray dawn. In a
moment she too laughed.

"Dios de mi alma! What will they say? A
heretic! If Tamalpais fell into the sea it would not
make so great a sensation in this California of ours
where civilized man exists but to drive heathen souls
into the one true church."

"Will it matter to you? Are you strong enough?
It will be only a question of time to win them over,
if you are."

She nodded emphatically. "I was born with
strength. Now--Dios!--now I can be stronger than
the King of Spain himself, than the Governor, my
parents and all the priests-- You would not be-
come a Catholic?" she asked abruptly.

He shook his head, although he still smiled at her.
"Not even for you."

"No," she said thoughtfully. "I will confess--
what matters it?--I often dreamed that this would
come just because I believed it would not. But why
should one control the imagination when it alone
can give us happiness for a little while? I gave it
rein, for I thought that one-half of my life was to
be passed in that unreal but by no means niggardly
world. And I thought of everything. To change
your religion would mean the ruin of your career;
moreover, it is not a possibility of your character.
Were it I think I should not love you so much. Nor
could I bear to think of any change in you. Only
it will be harder--longer." Then she stretched out
her hand, and closed and opened it slowly. The
most obtuse could not have failed to read the old
simile of the steel in the velvet. "I shall win be-
cause it is my nature--and my power--to hold what
I grasp."

"But if they persistently refuse--"

"Dios!" she interrupted him. "Do you think that
your love is greater than mine? I was born with a
thousand years of love in me and had you not come
I should have gone alone with my dreams to the
grave. I am all women in one, not merely Concha
Arguello, a girl of sixteen." She clasped her hands
high above her head, lifting her eyes to the ashen
vault so soon to yield to the gay brush of dawn.

"Before all that great mystery," she said solemnly,
"I give myself to you forever, how much or how
little that may mean here on earth. Forever."


The Commandante of the San Francisco Company
sat opposite Rezanov with his mouth open, the lines
of his strong face elongated and relaxed. It was
the hour of siesta, and they were alone in the sala.

"Mother of God!" he exclaimed. "Mother of
God! Are you mad, Excellency?"

"No man was ever saner," said Rezanov cheer-
fully. "What better proof would you have than
this final testimony to Dona Concha's perfections?"

"But it cannot be! Surely, Excellency, you
realize that? The priests! Ay yi! Ay yi!"

"I think I understand the priests. Persuade the
Governor to buy my cargo and they will look upon
me as an amicus humani generis to whom common
rules do not apply. And I have won their sincere

"You have won mine, senor. But, though I say
it, there is no more devout Catholic in the Cali-
fornias than Jose Arguello. Do you know what
they call me? El santo. God knows I am not, but
it is not for want of the wish. Did I give my daugh-
ter to a heretic, not only should I become an outcast,
a pariah, but I should imperil my everlasting soul
and that of my best beloved child. It is impossible,
Excellency--unless, indeed, you embrace our faith."

"That is so impossible that the subject is not
worth the waste of a moment. But surely, Com-
mandante, in your excitement at this perfectly nat-
ural issue you are misrepresenting yourself. I do
not believe, devout Catholic as you are, that your
soul is steeped in fanaticism. You are known far
and wide as the first and most intelligent of His
Catholic Majesty's subjects in New Spain. When
you have my word of honor that your daughter's
faith shall never be disturbed, it is impossible you
should believe that marriage with me would ruin
her chances of happiness in the next world. But I
doubt if your soul and conscience will have the peace
you desire if you ruin her happiness in this. What
pleasure do you find in the thought of an old age
companioned by a heart-broken daughter?"

Don Jose turned pale and hitched his chair.
"Other maids have been balked when young, and
have forgotten. Concha is but sixteen--"

"She is also unique. She will marry me or no
one. Of that I am as certain as that she is the
woman of women for me."

"How can you be so certain?" asked the Com-
mandante sharply. "Surely you have had little talk
alone with her?"

"The heart has a language of its own. Recall
your own youth, senor."

"It is true," said Don Jose, with a heavy sigh, as
he had a fleeting vision of Dona Ignacia, slim and
lovely, at the grating, with a rose in her hair. "But
this tremendous passion of the heart--it passes,
senor, it passes. We love the good wife, but we
sometimes realize that we could have loved another
good wife as well."

"That is a bit of philosophy I should have uttered
myself, Commandante--yesterday. But there are
women and women, and your daughter is one of the
chosen few who take from the years what the years
take from others. I am not rushing into matri-
mony for the sake of a pair of black eyes and a fine
figure. I have outlived the possibility of making a
fool of myself if I would. Before I realized how
deeply I loved your daughter I had deliberately
chosen her out of all the women I have known, as
my friend and companion for the various and diffi-
cult ways of life which I shall be called upon to
follow. Your daughter will have a high place at
the Russian Court, and she will occupy it as nat-
urally as if I had found her in Madrid and you in
the great position to which your attainments and
services entitle you."

Don Jose, despite his consternation, titillated
agreeably. He privately thought no one in New
Spain good enough for his daughter, and his
weather-beaten self was not yet insensible to the
rare visitation of winged darts tipped with honey.
But the situation was one of the most embarrassing
he had ever been called upon to face, and perhaps
for the first time in his direct and honest life his
resolution was shaken in a crisis.

"Believe me, your excellency, I appreciate the
honor you have done my house, and I will add with
all my heart that never have I liked a man more.
But--Mother of God! Mother of God!"

Rezanov took out his cigarette case, a superb bit
of Russian enamel, graven with the Imperial arms,
and a parting gift from his Tsar. He passed it to
his host, who had developed a preference for Rus-
sian cigarettes.

"There are other things to consider besides the
happiness of your daughter and myself," he re-
marked. "This alliance would mean the consolida-
tion of Spanish and Russian interests on the Pacific
coast. It would mean the protection of California
in the almost certain event of 'American' aggres-
sion. And I hear that a courier brought word again
yesterday that the Russian and the Spanish fleets
had sailed for these waters. I do not believe a word
of it; but should it be true, I would remind you of
two things: that I have the powers of the Tsar him-
self in this part of the world, and that the Russian
fleet is likely to arrive first."

Again the Commandante moved uneasily. The
news from Mexico had kept himself and the Gov-
ernor awake the better part of the night. He fully
appreciated the importance of this powerful Rus-
sian's friendship. Nothing would bind and commit
him like taking a Californian to wife. If only he
had fallen in love with Carolina Xime'no or Delfina
Rivera! Don Jose had an uneasy suspicion that his
scruples as a Catholic might have gone down before
his sense of duty to this poor California. But a
heretic in his own family! He was justly renowned
for his piety. Aside from the wrath of the church,
the mere thought of one of his offspring in matri-
monial community beyond its pale made him sick
with repugnance. And yet--California! And he
would have selected Rezanov for his daughter out
of all men had he been of their faith. And he was
deeply conscious of the honor that had descended,
however unfruitfully, upon his house. Madre de
Dios! How would it end? Suddenly he felt him-
self inspired. In blissful ignorance of her subtle
feminine rule, he reminded himself that Concha's
mind was the child of his own. When she saw his
embarrassment, filial duty and woman's wit would
extricate them both with grace and avert the enmity
of the Russian even though the latter's more per-
sonal interest in California must die in his disap-
pointment. He would make her feel the weight of
the stern paternal hand, and then indicate the part
she had to play.

He rang a bell and directed the servant to sum-
mon his daughter, drew himself up to his full height,
and set his rugged face in hard lines. As Concha
entered he looked the Commandante, the stern disci-
plinarian, every inch of him.

There was no trace of the siesta in Concha's
cheeks. They were very white, but her eyes were
steady and her mouth indomitable as she walked
down the sala and took the chair Rezanov placed
for her. Except for her Castilian fairness, she
looked very like the martinet sitting on the other
side of the table. The Commandante regarded her
silently with brows drawn together. Dimly, he felt
apprehension, wondered, in a flash of insight, if girls
held fast to the parental recipe, or recombined with
tongue in cheek. The bare possibility of resistance
almost threw him into panic, but he controlled his
features until the effort injected his eyes and drew
in his nostrils. Concha regarded him calmly, al-
though her heart beat unevenly, for she dreaded the
long strain she foresaw.

"My daughter," said Don Jose finally, his tones
harsh with repressed misgiving, "do you suspect
why I have sent for you?"

"I think that his excellency wishes to marry me,"
replied Concha; and the Commandante was so stag-
gered by the calm assurance of her tone and manner
that his pent-up emotion exploded.

"Dios!" he roared. "What right have you to
know when a man wishes to marry you? What
manner of Spanish girl is this? Truly has his ex-
cellency said that you are not as other women. The
place for you is your room, with bread and water
for a week. Sixteen!"

"Ignacio was born when my mother was sixteen,"
said Concha coolly.

"What of that? She married whom and when
she was told to marry."

"I have heard that you serenaded nightly beneath
her grating--"

"So did others."

"I have heard that when of all her suitors her
father chose one more highly born, a gentleman of
the Viceroy's court, she pined until they gave their
consent to her marriage with you, lest she die."

"But I was a Catholic! The prejudice against my
birth was an unworthy one. I had distinguished
myself. And she had the support of the priests."

"It is my misfortune that M. de Rezanov is not
a Catholic, but it will make no difference. I shall
not fall ill, for I am like you, not like my dear
mother--and the education you have given me is
very different from hers. But I shall marry his
excellency or no one, and whether I marry him or
live alone with the thought of him until the end of
my mortal days, I do not believe that my soul will
be imperilled in the least."

"You do not!" shouted the irate Spaniard. "How
dare you presume to decide such a question for
yourself? What does a woman know of love until
she marries? It is nothing but a sickening imag-
ination before; and if the man goes, the doctor soon

"You may not have intended--but you have
taught me to think for myself. And I have seen
others besides M. de Rezanov--the flower of Cali-
fornia and more than one fine gentleman from
Mexico. I will have none of them. I will marry
the man of my choice or no one. It may be that I
know naught of love. If you wish, you may think
that my choice of a husband is determined by ambi-
tion, that I am dazzled with the thought of court
life in St. Petersburg, of being the consort of a
great and wealthy noble. It matters not. Love or
ambition, I shall marry this Russian or I shall never
marry at all."

"Mother of God! Mother of God!" Don Jose's
face was purple. The veins swelled in his neck. He
was the more wroth because he recognized his own
daughter and his own handiwork, because he saw
that he confronted a Toledo blade, not a woman's
brittle will. Concha regarded him calmly.

"If you refuse your consent you will lose me in
another way. I may not be able to marry as I wish,
but I will have no worldly alternative. I shall join
the Third Order of the Franciscans, and enter a
convent as soon as one is built in California. To
that you cannot withhold your consent, or they no
longer would call you El santo."

Don Jose leaped from his chair. "Go to your
room!" he thundered. "And do not dare to leave it
without my permission--"

But Concha sprang forward and flung herself
upon his neck. She rubbed her warm elastic cheek
against his own in the manner he loved, and softened
her voice. "Papacito mio, papacito mio," she
pleaded. "Thou wilt not refuse thy Concha the only
thing she has ever begged of thee. And I beg! I
beg! Papa mio! I love him! I love him!" And
she broke into wild weeping and kissed him franti-
cally, while Rezanov who had followed her plan of
attack and resistance in silent admiration, did not
know whether he should himself be moved to tears
or further admire.

Don Jose pushed her from him with a heavy sob
and hastily left the room, oblivious in the confusion
of his faculties of the boon he conferred on the
lovers. Concha dried her eyes, but her face was
deathly pale. It had not been all acting, by any
means, and she was beginning to feel the tyranny of
sleepless nights; and the joy and wonder of the
morning had left her with but a remnant of endur-
ance for the domestic battleground.

"Go," she whispered, as he took her in his arms.
"Return for the dance to-night as if nothing had
happened-- I forgot, there is to be a bull-bear
fight in the square. So much the better, for it is in
your honor, and you could not well remain away.
There is much trouble to come, but in the end we
shall win."


The muscles in Dona Ignacia's cheeks fell an inch
as she listened, dumbfounded, to the tale her husband
poured out. To her simple aristocratic soul Rez-
anov had loomed too great a personage to dream of
mating with a Californian; and as her sharp mater-
nal instinct had recognized his personal probity,
even his gallantries had seemed to her no more con-
sequent than the more catholic trifling of his officers.

"Holy Mary!" she whimpered, when her voice
came back. "Holy Mary! A heretic! And he
would take our Concha from us! And she would
go! To St. Petersburg! Ten thousand miles!
To the priests with her--now--this very day!"

Concha had thrown herself on her bed in belated
hope of siesta, when Malia (Rosa had been sent to
the house of Don Mario Sal in the valley) entered
with the message that she was to accompany her
parents to the Mission at once. She rose sullenly,
but in the manifold essentials of a girl's life she
had always yielded the implicit obedience exacted
by the Californian parent. In a few moments she
was riding out of the Presidio beside her father.
Dona Ignacia jolted behind in her carreta, a low and
clumsy vehicle, on solid wheels and springless,
drawn by oxen, and driven by a stable-boy on a
mustang. The journey was made in complete si-
lence save for the maledictions addressed to the oxen
by the boy, and an occasional "Ay yi!" "Madre de
Dios!" "Sainted Mary, but the sun bores a hole in
the head," from Dona Ignacia, whose increasing
discomfort banished wrath and apprehension for
the hour.

Don Jose did not even look at his daughter, but
his face was ten years older than in the morning.
He had begun dimly to appreciate that she was suf-
fering, and in a manner vastly different from the
passionate resentment he had seen her display when
the contents of a box from Mexico disappointed her,
or she was denied a visit to Monterey. That his
best-loved child should suffer tore his own heart,
but he merely cursed Rezanov and resolved to do
his best to persuade the Governor to yield to his
other demands, that California might be rid of him
the sooner.

Father Abella was walking down the long outer
corridor of the Mission reading his breviary, and
praying he might not be diverted from righteousness
by the comforting touch of his new habit, when he
looked up and saw the party from the presidio
floundering over the last of the sand hills. He
shuffled off to order refreshments, and returned in
time to disburden the carreta of Dona Ignacia--no
mean feat--volubly delighted in the visit and the
gossip it portended. But as he offered his arm to
lead her into the sala, she pushed him aside and
pointed to Concha, who had sprung to the ground

"She has come to confess, padre!" she exclaimed,
her mind, under the deep tiled roof of the corridor,
readjusting itself to tragedy. "I beg that you will
take her at once. Padre Landaeta can give us
chocolate and we will tell our terrible news to him
and receive advice and consolation."

Father Abella, not without a glimmering of the
truth, for better than any one he understood the
girl he had confessed many times, besides himself
having succumbed to the Russian, led the way to
the confessional in some perturbation of spirit. He
walked slowly, hoping that the long, cool church,
its narrow high windows admitting so scant a meed
of sunlight that no one of its worshippers had ever
read the legends on the walls, and even the stations
were but deeper bits of shade, would attune her
mind to holy things, and throw a mantle of un-
reality over those of the world.

He covered his face with his hand as she told her
story. This she did in a few words, disjointed, for
she was both tired and seething. For a few mo-
ments afterward there was a silence; the good priest
was increasingly disturbed and by no means certain
of his course. He was astonished to feel a tug at
his sleeve. Before he could reprove this impenitent
child for audacity she had raised herself that she
might approach her lips more closely to his ear.

"Mi padre!" she whispered hoarsely, "you will
take my part! You will not condemn me to a life of
misery! I am too proud to speak openly to others
--but I love this man more than my soul--more
than my immortal soul. Do you hear? I am in
danger of mortal sin. Perhaps I am already in that
state. You cannot save me if he goes. I will not
pray. I will not come to the church. I will be an
outcast. If I marry him, I will be a good Catholic
to the end of my days. If I marry him I can think
of other things besides--of my church, my father,
my mother, my sisters, brothers. If he goes, I shall
pass my life thinking of nothing but him, and if it
be true that heretics are doomed to hell, then I will
live so that I may go to hell with him."

In spite of his horror the priest was thrilled by
the intense passion in the voice so close to his ear.
Moreover, he knew women well, this good padre,
for even in California they differed little from those
that played ball with the world. So he dismissed the
horror and spoke soothingly.

"What you have said would be mortal sin, my
daughter, were it not that you are laboring under
strong and natural excitement; and I shall absolve
you freely when you have done the penance I must
impose. You have always been such a good child
that I am able to forgive you even in this terrible
moment. But, my daughter, surely you know that
this marriage can never take place--"

"It shall! It shall!"

"Control yourself, my daughter. You cannot
bring this man into the true church. His character
is long since formed and cast--it is iron. Even love
will not melt it. Were he younger--"

"I should hate him. All young men are insuffer-
able to me--always have been. I have found my
mate, and have him I will if I have to hide in the
hold of his ship. Ah, padre mio, I know not what
I say. But you will help me. Only you can. My
father thinks you as wise as a saint. And there
are other things--my head turns round--I can
hardly think--but you dare not lose the friendship
of this Russian. And my marriage to him would
be as much for the good of the Missions as for Cali-
fornia herself. Champion our course, point out
that not only would it be a great match for me, but
that many ends would be lost by ruining my life.
The Governor will find himself in a position to grant
your prayers for the cargo, particularly if you first
persuaded my father--so long they have been
friends, the Governor could not resist if he joined
our forces. What is one girl that she should be
held of greater account than the welfare of this
country to which you are devoting your life? The
happier are your converts, the more kindly will
they take to Christianity--which they do not love
as yet!--the more faithful and contented will they
be, in the prospect of the luxuries and the toys and
the trinkets of the Russian north. What is one girl
against the friendship of Russia for Spain? Who
am I that I should weigh a peseta in the scale?"

"You are Concha Arguello, the flower of all the
maidens in California, and the daughter of the best
of our men," replied Father Abella musingly. "And
until to-day there has been no Catholic more de-

"It lies with you, mi padre, whether I continue
to be the best of Catholics or become the most
abandoned of heretics. You know me better than
anyone. You know that I will not weaken and
bend and submit, like a thousand other women. I
could be bad--bad--bad--and I will be! Do you
hear?" And she shook his arm violently, while her
hoarse voice filled the church.

"My child! My child! I have always believed
that you had it in you to become a saint. Yes, yes,
I feel the strength and maturity of your nature, I
know the lengths to which it might lead another;
but you could not be bad, Conchita. I have known
many women. In you alone have I perceived the
capacity for spiritual exaltation. You are the stuff
of which saints and martyrs are made. The vio-
lent will, the transcendent passions--they have
existed in the greatest of our saints, and been con-

"I will not conquer. I-- Oh, padre--for the
love of heaven--"

He left the box hastily and lifted her where she
had fallen and carried her into the room adjoining
the church. He laid her on the floor, and ran for
Dona Ignacia, who, refreshed with wine and
chocolate, came swiftly. But when Concha, under
practical administrations and maternal endearments,
finally opened her eyes, she pushed her mother
coldly aside, rose and steadied herself against the
wall for a moment, then returned to the church,
closing the door behind her.

When a woman has borne thirteen children in the
lost corners of the world, with scarce a thought in
thirty years for aught else save the husband and
his comforts, it is not to be expected that her wits
should be rapiers or her vocabulary distinguished.
But Dona Ignacia's unresting heart had an intelli-
gence of its own, and no inner convulsion could
alter the superb dignity of mien which Nature had
granted her. As she rose and confronted Father
Abella he moved forward with the instinct to kiss
her hand, as he had seen Rezanov do.

"Mi padre," she said, "Concha is the first of my
children to push me aside, and it is like a blow on
the heart; but I have neither anger nor resentment,
for it was not the act of a child to its parent, but
of one woman to another. Alas! this Russian, what
has he done, when her own mother can give her no
comfort? We all love when young, but this is more.
I loved Jose so much I thought I should die when
they would have compelled me to marry another.
But this is more. She will not die, nor even go to
bed and weep for days, but it is more. I should
not have died, I know that now, and in time I should
have married another, and been as happy as a wom-
an can be when the man is kind. Concha will love
but once, and she will suffer--suffer-- She may
be more than I, but I bore her and I know. And
she cannot marry him. A heretic! I no longer
think of the terrible separation. Were he a Cath-
olic I should not think of myself again. But it
cannot be. Oh, padre, what shall we do?"

They talked for a long while, and after further
consultation with Don Jose and Father Landaeta,
it was decided that Concha should remain for the
present in the house of Juan Moraga, where she
could receive the daily counsels of the priests, and
be beyond the reach of Rezanov. Meanwhile, all
influence would be brought to bear upon the Gov-
ernor that the Russian might be placated even while
made to realize that to loiter longer in California
waters would be but a waste of precious time.


There was no performance after all in the Presidio
square that night, for the bear brought in from the
hills to do honor to the Russians died of excitement,
and it rained besides. Rezanov made the storm his
excuse for not dining and dancing as usual at the
house of the Commandante. But the relations be-
tween the Presidio and the Juno during the next
few days were by no means strained. Davidov and
Khostov were always with the Spanish officers,
drinking and card playing, or improving their danc-
ing and Spanish with the girls, whose guitars were
tuned for the waltz day and night. The dignitaries
met as usual and conversed on all topics save those
paramount in the minds of each. Nevertheless,
there were three significant facts as well known to
Rezanov as had they been aired to his liking.

He had sought an interview with Father Abella,
and tactfully ignoring the question of his marriage,
had persuaded that astute and influential priest to
make the proposition regarding his cargo that Con-
cha had suggested. The priest, backed by his three
coadjutors, had made it, and been repulsed with
fury. From another quarter Rezanov learned that
during his absence little else was discussed in the
house of the Commandante save his formidable mat-
rimonial project, and the supposed designs to his
country. Troops had been ordered from the south
to reinforce the San Francisco garrisons, and were
even now massed at Santa Clara, within a day's
march of the bay.

About a mile from the Presidio and almost oppo-
site the Juno's anchorage were six great stone tubs
sunken in the ground and filled by a spring of clear
water. Here, once a week, the linen, fine and
heavy, of Fort and Presidio was washed, the
stoutest serving women of households and barracks
meeting at dawn and scrubbing for half a day.
Rezanov had watched the bright picture they made
--for they wore a bit of every hue they could com-
mand--with a lazy interest, which quickened to
thirst when he heard that they were the most re-
liable newsmongers in the country. In every Pre-
sidial district was a similar institution, and the four
were known as the "Wash Tub Mail." Many of
the women were selected by the tyrants of the tubs
for their comeliness, and each had a lover in the
couriers that went regularly with mail and official
instructions from one end of the Californias to the
other. All important news was known first by these
women, and much was discussed over the tubs that
was long in reaching higher but no less interested
circles; and domestic bulletins were as eagerly
prized. The sailor that brought this information to
Rezanov was a good-looking and susceptible youth,
already the victim of an Indian maiden from the
handsome tribe in the Santa Clara Valley, and sister
of Dona Ignacia's Malia. Rezanov furnished him
with beads and other trinkets and was at no dis-
advantage thereafter.

There was nothing Rezanov would have liked
better than to see a Russian fleet sail through the
straits, but he also knew that nothing was less likely,
and that from such rumors he should only derive
further annoyance and delay. Two of his sailors
deserted at the prospect of war, and his hosts, if
neutral, were manifestly alert. Luis and Santiago
had been obliged to go to Monterey for a few days,
and there was no one at the Presidio in whom Rez-
anov could confide either his impatience to see Con-
cha or at the adjournment of his more prosaic but
no less pressing interests. These two young men
had been with him almost constantly since his
arrival, and demonstrated their friendship and even
affection unfailingly; but there was no love lost be-
tween himself and Gervasio. This young hidalgo
had the hauteur and intense family pride of San-
tiago without his younger brother's frank intelli-
gence and lingering ingenuousness. With all the
superiority and inferiority, he had made himself so
unpopular that his real kindness of heart atoned for
his absurdities only with those that knew him best.
Rezanov was not one of these nor aspired to be.
Like all highly seasoned men of the world, he had
no patience with the small vanities of the provincial,
and although diplomatically courteous to all, in his
present precarious position, he had taken too little
trouble to conciliate Gervasio to find him of use in
the absence of his friends.

At the end of three days Rezanov had forgotten
his cargo, and would have sent the Juno to the bot-
tom for ten minutes alone with Concha. He had
been on fire with love of her since the moment of
his actual surrender, and he was determined to have
her if there were no other recourse but elopement.
All his old and intense love of personal freedom
had melted out of form in the crucible of his lover's
imagination. That he should have doubted for a
moment that Concha was the woman for whom his
soul had held itself aloof and unshackled was a
matter for contemptuous wonder, and the pride he
had taken in his keen and swift perceptive faculties
suffered an eclipse. Mind and soul and body he
was a lover, a union unknown before.

On the fourth morning, his patience at an end,
he was about to leave the Juno to demand a formal
interview with Don Jose when he saw Luis and San-
tiago dismount at the beach and enter the canoe al-
ways in waiting. A few moments later they had
helped themselves to cigarettes from the gift of the
Tsar and were assuring Rezanov of their partisan-
ship and approval.

"We were somewhat taken aback at the first mo-
ment," Luis admitted. "But--well, we are both in
love--Santiago no less than I, although I have had
these six long years of waiting and am likely to
have another. And we love Concha as few men
love their sisters, for there is no one like her--is
it not so, Rezanov? And we quite understand why
she has chosen you, and why she stands firm, for
we know the strength of her character. We would
that you were a Catholic, but even so, we will not sit
by and see her life ruined, and we have called to
assure you that we shall use all our influence, every
adroit argument, to bring our parents to a more
reasonable frame of mind. They have already risen
above the first natural impulse of selfishness, and
would consent to the inevitable separation were you
only a Catholic. I have also talked with the Gov-
ernor--we arrived at midnight--and he flew into a
terrible temper--the poor man is already like a mad
bull at bay--but if my father yielded, he would--
on all points. This morning I shall ride over and
talk with Father Abella, who, I fancy, needs only
a little extra pressure--you may be sure Concha has
not been idle--to yield; and for more reasons than
one. I shall enlist Father Uria and Father de la
Cueva as well. They also have great influence
with my parents, and as they return to San Jose in
two days to prepare for the visit of the most estim-
able Dr. Langsdorff, there is no time to lose. I
shall go this morning. One more cigarito, senor,
and when that treaty is drawn remember the con-
version of your brother to Russian tobacco."

Rezanov thanked him so warmly, assured him
with so convincing an emphasis that with his fate
in such competent hands his mind was at peace, that
the ardent heart of the Californian exulted; Rez-
anov, with his splendid appearance, and typical of
the highest civilizations of Europe, had descended
upon his narrow sphere with the authority of a
demigod, and he not only thirsted to serve him, but
to fasten him to California with the surest of human

As he dropped over the side of the ship, Rezanov's
hand fell lightly on the shoulder of Santiago.

"I can wait no longer to see your sister," he
whispered, mindful of the sterner responsibilities of
the older brother. "Do you think you could--"

Santiago nodded. "While Luis is at the Mission
I shall go to my cousin Juan Moraga's. You will
dine with us at the Presidio, and I shall escort you
back to the ship."


It was ten o'clock when Rezanov, who had supped
on the Juno, met Santiago in a sandy valley half a
mile from the Presidio and mounted the horse his
young friend himself had saddled and brought.
The long ride was a silent one. The youth was not
talkative at any time, and Rezanov was conscious of
little else save an overwhelming desire to see Con-
cha again. One secret of his success in life was his
gift of yielding to one energy at a time, oblivious
at the moment to aught that might distract or en-
feeble the will. To-night, as he rode toward the
Mission on as romantic a quest as ever came the
way of a lover, the diplomat, the anxious director
of a great Company, the representative of one of
the mighty potentates of earth, were submerged,
forgotten, in the thrilling anticipation of his hour
with the woman for whom every fiber of his being

Nor ever was there more appropriate a setting
for one of those inaugural chapters in mating, half
appreciated at the time, that glimmer as a sort of
morning twilight on mountain tops over the mild
undulations of matrimony. The moon rode without
a masking cloud across the ambiguous night blue of
the California sky, a blue that looks like the fire of
strange elements, where the stars glow like silver
coals, and out of whose depths intense shadows of
blue and black fall; shadows in which all the terres-
trial world seems to float and recombine, where
houses are ghosts of ancient selves and men but the
eidola of forgotten dust. To-night the little estate
of Juan Moraga, the most isolated and eastern of
the settlement, surrounded by its high white wall,
looked as unreal and formless as the blue oval of
water and black trees behind it, but Rezanov knew
that it enfolded warm and palpitating womanhood
and was steeped in the sweetness of Castilian roses.

The riders, who had taken a path far to the east
of the Mission dismounted and tied their horses
among the willows, then, in their dark cloaks but a
part of the shadows, stole toward the wall designed
to impress hostile tribes rather than to resist on-
slaught; at the first warning the settlement invari-
ably fled to the church, where walls were massive
and windows high.

In three of Moraga's four walls was a grille, or
wicket of slender iron bars, whence the open could
be swept with glass, or gun at a pinch; and toward
the grille looking eastward went Rezanov as swiftly
as the uneven ground would permit. As Concha
watched him gather form in the moonlight and saw
him jerk his cloak off impatiently, she flung her
soft body against the wall and shook the bars with
her strong little hands. But when he faced her she
was erect and smiling; in a sudden uprush of spirits,
almost indifferent. She wore a white gown and a
rose in her hair. A rosebush as dense as an
arbor spread its prickly arms between herself and
the windows of the house.

"Good-evening," she whispered.

Rezanov gave the grill an angry shake. (San-
tiago had considerately retired.) "Come out," he
said peremptorily, "or let me in."

"There is but one gate, senor, and that is directly
in front of the house door, that stands open--"

"Then I shall get over the wall--"

"Madre de Dios! You would leave your fine
clothes and more on the thorns. My cousin planted
those roses not for ornament, but to let the blood of
defiant lovers. Not one has come twice--"

"Do you think I came here to talk to you through
a grating? I am no serenading Spaniard."

His eyes were blazing. Adobe is not stone.
Rezanov took the light bars in both hands and
wrenched them out; then, as Concha, divided be-
tween laughter and a sudden timidity, would have
retreated, he dexterously clasped her neck and drew
her head through the embrasure. As Santiago,
who had watched Rezanov from a distance with
some curiosity, saw his sister's beautiful face
emerge from the wall to disappear at once behind
another rampart, he turned abruptly on his heel and
could have wept as he thought of Pilar Ortego of
Santa Barbara. But there was a hope that he would
be a cadet of the Southern Company before the year
was out, and his parents and hers were indulgent.
Even as he sighed, his own impending happiness in-
fused him with an almost patronizing sympathy for
the twain with the wall between, and he concealed
himself among the willows that they might feel to
the full the blessed isolation of lovers. His Pilar
presented him with twenty-two hostages, and he
lived to enjoy an honorable and prosperous career,
but he never forgot that night and the part he had
played in one of the poignant and happy hours of
his sister's life.

Day and night a great silence reigned in the Mis-
sion valley, broken only by the hoot of the owl, the
singing of birds, the flight of horses across the
plain. Even the low huddle of Mission buildings
and the few homes beyond looked an anomaly in
that vast quiet valley asleep and unknown for so
many centuries in the wide embrace of the hills. Its
jewel oasis alone made it acceptable to the Spaniard,
but to Rezanov the sandy desert, with its close com-
panionable silences, its cool night air sweet with
the light chaste fragrance of the roses, the simple,
almost primitive, conditions environing the girl,
possessed a power to stir the depths of his emotions
as no artful reinforcement to passion had ever
done. He forgot the wall. His ego melted in a
sense of complete union and happiness. Even when
they returned to earth and discussed the dubious
future, he was conscious of an odd resignation,
very alien in his nature, not only to the barrier but
to all the strange conditions of his wooing. He
had felt something of this before, although less defi-
nitely, and to-night he concluded that she had the
gift of clothing the inevitable with the semblance
and the sweetness of choice; and wondered how
long it would be able to skirt the arid steppes of

She told him that she had talked daily with
Father Abella. "He will say nothing to admit he is
weakening, but I feel sure he has realized not only
that our marriage will be for the best interests of
California, but that to forbid it would wreck my
life; and from this responsibility he shrinks. I can
see it in his kind, shrewd, perplexed eyes, in the
hesitating inflections of his voice, to say nothing of
the poor arguments he advances to mine. What of
my father and mother?"

"They look troubled, almost ill, but nothing could
exceed their kindness to me, although they have
pointedly given me no opportunity to introduce the
subject of our marriage again. The Governor
makes no sign that he knows of any aspiration of
mine above corn, but he informed me to-day that
California is doomed to abandonment, that the In-
dians are hopeless, that Spain will withdraw troops
before she will send others, and that the country
will either revert to savagery or fall a prey to the
first enterprising outsider. As he was in compari-
son cheerful before, I fancy he apprehends the irre-
sistible appeal of your father's surrender."

Concha nodded. "If my father yields he will see
that you have everything else that you wish. He
may have advocated meeting your wishes in other
respects in order to leave you without excuse to lin-
ger, but that argument is not strong enough for the
Governor, whereas if he made up his mind to ac-
cept you as a son he would throw the whole force
of his character and will into the scale; and when
he reaches that pitch he wins--with men. I must,
must bring you good fortune," she added anxiously.
"Marriage with a little California girl--are you
sure it will not ruin your career?"

"I can think of nothing that would advantage it
more. What are you going to call me?"

"I cannot say Petrovich or Nicolai--my Spanish
tongue rebels. I shall call you Pedro. That is a
very pretty name with us."

"My own harsh names suit my battered self
rather better, but the more Californian you are and
remain the happier I shall be. When am I to see
your ears? Are they deformed, pointed and furry
like a fawn's? Do they stand out? Were all the
women of California tattooed in some Indian

Concha glanced about apprehensively, but not
even Santiago was there to see the dreadful deed.
With a defiant sweep of her hands she lifted both
loops of hair, and two little ears, rosy even in the
moonlight, commanded amends and more from
penitent lips.

"No man has ever seen them before--since I
was a baby; not even my father and brothers," said
Concha, trembling between horror and rapture at
the tremendous surrender. "You will never remind
me of it. Ay yi! promise--Pedro mio!"

"On condition that you promise not to confess
it. I should like to be sure that your mind belonged
as much to me and as little to others as possible. I
do not object to confession--we have it in our
church; but remember that there are other things
as sacred as your religion."

She nodded. "I understand--better than you
understand Romanism. I must confess that I met
you to-night, but Father Abella is too discreet to
ask for more. It is such blessed memories that feed
the soul, and they would fly away on a whisper."


The next morning Father Abella rode over to the
Presidio and was closeted for an hour with the
Commandante and the Governor. Then the three
rode down to the beach, entered a canoe, and paddled
out to the Juno. Rezanov met them on deck with a
gravity as significant as their own, but led them
at once to the cabin where wine, and the cigarettes
for which alone they would have counselled the
treaty, awaited them.

The quartette pledged each other in an embar-
rassed silence, disposed of a moment more with ob-
durate matches. Don Jose inhaled audibly, then
lifted his eyes and met the veiled and steady gaze of
the Russian.

"Senor," he said, "I have come to tell you that I

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest