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Rezanov, by Gertrude Atherton

Part 4 out of 5

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consent to your marriage with my daughter."

"Thank you," said Rezanov. And their hands
clasped across the table.

But this was far too simple for the taste of a
Governor. So important an occasion demanded
official dignity and many words.

"Your excellency," he said severely, sitting very
erect, with one white hand on the table and the
other on the hilt of his sword (yet full of courtesy,
and longing to enjoy the cheer and conversation of
his host); "the peaceful monotony of our lives has
been rudely shaken by a demand upon three fallible
human beings to alter the course of history in two
great nations. That is a sufficient excuse for the
suspense to which we have been forced to subject
you. The marriage of a Russian and a Spaniard is
of no great moment in itself, but the marriage of
the Plenipotentiary of the Tsar himself with the
daughter of Jose Mario Arguello, not only one of
the most eminent, respected, and distinguished of
His Most Catholic Majesty's subjects in New Spain,
but a man so beloved and influential that he could
create a revolution were he so minded--indeed,
Jose, no one knows better than I how incapable you
are of treason"--as the Commandante gave a loud
exclamation of horror--"I merely illustrate and
emphasize. My sands are nearly run, Excellency;
it is to the estimable mind and strong paternal hand
of my friend that this miserable colony must look
before long, would she continue even this hand to
mouth existence--a fact well known to our king
and natural lord. When he hears of this projected

"Projected?" exclaimed Rezanov. "I wish to
marry at once."

Father Abella shook his head vigorously, but he
spoke with great kindness. "That, Excellency, alas,
is the one point upon which we are forced to dis-
appoint you. Indeed, our own submission to your
wishes is contingent. This marriage cannot take
place without a dispensation from Rome and the
consent of the King."

Rezanov looked at Don Jose. "You, too?" he
asked curtly.

The Commandante stirred uneasily, heaved a deep
sigh; he thought of the long impatience of his Con-
cha. "It is true," he said. "Not only would it
be impossible for my conscience to resign itself to
the marriage of my daughter with a heretic--par-
don, Excellency--without the blessing of the Pope;
not only would no priest in California perform the
ceremony until it arrived, but it would mean the
degradation of Governor Arrillaga and myself, and
the ruin of all your other hopes. We should be
ordered summarily to Mexico, perhaps worse, and
no Russian would ever be permitted to set foot in
the Californias again. I would it were otherwise.
I know--I know--but it is inevitable. Your excel-
lency must see it. Even were you a Catholic, Gov-
ernor Arrillaga and the President of the Missions,
at least, would not dare to countenance this mar-
riage without the consent of the King."

Rezanov was silent for a few minutes. In spite
of the emotions of the past few days he was aston-
ished at the depth and keenness of his disappoint-
ment. But never yet had he failed to realize when
he was beaten, nor to trim his sails without loss
of precious time.

"Very well," he said. "I will go to St. Peters-
burg at the earliest possible moment, obtain personal
letters from the Tsar and proceed post haste to
Rome and Madrid. At the same time I shall
arrange for the treaty with full authority from the
Tsar. Then I shall sail from Spain to Mexico and
reach here as soon as may be. It will take a long
while, the best part of two years; but I have your

"You have," the three asserted with solemn em-

"Very well. But there is one thing more. I am
not in a diplomatic humor. My Sitkans are starv-
ing. I must leave here with a shipload of bread-

Again the Governor drew up his slim soldierly
figure; deposited his cigarette on the malachite ash
tray. "You may be sure that we have given that
momentous question our deepest consideration.
Father Abella's suggestion that we buy your com-
modities for cash, and that with our Spanish dol-
lars you buy again of us, did not strike me favor-
ably at first, for it savored of sophistry. I may have
failed in every attempt to benefit and advance this
Godforsaken country, but at least I have been the
honest agent of my King. But the circumstances
are extraordinary. You are about to become one of
us, to do our unhappy colony the greatest service
that is in the power of any mortal, and personally
you have inspired us with affection and respect. I
have, therefore, decided that the exchange shall be
made on these terms, but that your cargo shall be
received by Don Jose Arguello, Commandante of
the San Francisco Company, and held in trust until
the formal consent of the King to the purchase shall

Rezanov glowed to his finger tips. Not even the
assurance of his union with the woman of his heart,
which after all had met but the skeleton of his de-
sires, gave him the acute satisfaction of this sud-
den fulfilment of his self-imposed mission. He
dropped his own official demeanor and throwing
himself across the table gripped the Governor's
hand while he poured out his thanks in a voice thick
with feeling, his eyes glittering with more than vic-
tory. He did not lose sight of his ultimate designs
and pledge himself to external friendship, but he un-
wittingly conveyed the impression that Spain had
that day made a friend she ill could afford to lose;
and his three visitors rose well pleased with the cul-
mination of the interview.

"You must stay here no longer, Rezanov," said
Don Jose, as they were taking leave. "My house is
now literally your own. It will be some weeks be-
fore the large quantities of corn and flour and other
stores you wish can be got together--for we must
lay a requisition on the fertile Mission ranchos in
the valleys--and you will exchange these narrow
quarters for such poor comfort as my house affords
--I take no denial. Concha will remain at Juan
Moraga's for the present."


Concha, after her father left her, sat for a long
while in an attitude of such complete repose that
Sturgis, watching her miserably from the veranda,
remembered the consolations of his sketch book;
and he was able to counterfeit the graceful, proud
figure, under the wall and roses, before she stirred.

Concha had sent her father away deeply puzzled.
When, after embracing her with unusual emotion,
he had informed her of his consent to her marriage,
she had received the news as a matter of course,
her hopes and desires having mounted too high to
contemplate a fall. Then the Commandante, after
dwelling at some length upon his discussions with
the Governor and the priests, and admonishing her
against conceiving herself too important a factor in
what might prove to be an alliance of international
moment (she had laughed merrily and called him
the most callous of parents and subtlest of diplo-
mats), had announced with some trepidation and his
most official manner that the consent of the Pope
and the King would be sought by Rezanov in per-
son, involving a delay and separation of not less
than two years. But to his surprise she did not fling
herself upon his neck with blandishments and tears.
She merely became quite still, her light high spirits
retreating as a breeze might before one of Nature's
sudden and portentous calms. Don Jose, after a
fruitless attempt to recapture her interest, mounted
his horse and rode away; and Concha sat down on
a bench under the wall and thought for an hour
without moving a finger.

Her first sensation was one of bitter anger and
disappointment with Rezanov. He had, apparently,
in the first brief interview with their tribunal, given
his consent to this long delay of their nuptials.

Her thoughts since his advent had flown on many
journeys and known little rest. She had been rudely
awakened and stripped of her girlish illusions in
those days and nights of battle between pride and
her dazzled womanhood when, in the new humility
of love, she believed herself to be but one of a hun-
dred pretty girls in the eyes of this accomplished and
fortunate Russian. The interval had been brief,
but not long enough for the grandeur in her nature to
awaken almost concurrently with her passions, and
she had planned a life, in which, guided and uplifted
by the star of fidelity, and delivered from the friv-
olous and commonplace temptations of other wom-
en, she should devote herself to the improvement
and instruction not only of the Indians but of the
youth of her own class. The schools founded by the
estimable and enterprising Borica had practically
disappeared, and she was by far the best educated
woman in California. For such there was a mani-
fest and an inexorable duty. She would live to be
old, she supposed, like all the Arguellos and
Moragas; but hidden in her unspotted soul would
be the flame of eternal youth, fed by an ideal and
a memory that would outlive her weary, insignifi-
cant body. And in it she would find her courage
and her inspiration, as well as an unwasting sym-
pathy for those she taught.

Then had come the sudden and passionate woo-
ing of Rezanov. All other ideals and aspirations
had fled. She had alternated between the tragic
extremes of bliss and despair. So completely did
the ardor of her nature respond to his, so fierce and
primitive was the cry of her ego for its mate, that
she cared nothing for the distress of her parents
nor the fate of California. There is no love com-
plete without this early and absolute selfishness,
which is merely the furious determination of the
race to accomplish its object before the spirit
awakens and the passions cool.

Last night life had seemed serious; she had been
girlishly, romantically happy. It is true that her
heart had thumped against the wall as he kissed her,
and that she had been full of a wild desire to sing,
although she could hardly shape and utter the words
that danced in her throbbing brain. But she had
been conscious through it all of the romantic circum-
stance, of the lonely beauty of the night, of the de-
lightful wickedness of meeting her lover in the si-
lence and the dark, even with a wall ten feet high be-
tween them. For the wall, indeed, she had been
confusedly and deliciously grateful.

And this was what a man's love came to: ardors
by night and expedience by day! Or was it merely
that Rezanov was the man of affairs always, the
lover incidentally? But how could a man who had
seemed the very epitome of all the lovers of all the
world but a few hours before, contemplate, far less
permit, a separation of years? Poor Concha groped
toward the great unacceptable fact of life the whole,
lit by love its chief incident; and had a fleeting
vision of the waste lands in the lives of women oc-
cupied only with matrimony. But she dropped her
lashes upon this unalluring vision, and as she did so,
inevitably she began to excuse the man.

None knew better than she every side of the great
question that was shaking not only her life but Cali-
fornia itself. Appeal from the dictum of state and
clergy would be a mere waste of time. The only
alternative was flight. That would mean the wreck
of Rezanov's avowed purposes in coming to this
quarter of New Spain, and perhaps of others she
dimly suspected. It would mean the very acme of
misery for his Sitkans, and an indefensible blow to
the Company. It might even prove the fatal mistake
in his career, for which his enemies were ever on the
alert. He was not communicative about himself
except when he had an object in view, but he had
told her something of his life, and his officers and
Langsdorff had told more. He was no silly cabal-
lero warbling and thrumming at her grating when
she longed for sleep, but a man in his forties whose
passions were in the leash of a remarkably acute
and ambitious brain. She even thrilled with pride
in his strength, for she knew how he loved her; and
although his part was action, her stimulated in-
stincts taught her that she would rarely be long from
his mind. And what was she to seek to roll
stumbling blocks into the career of a man like that?
In this very garden, for four long days, she had
dreamed exalted dreams of the manifold gifts she
should develop for his solace at home and his
worldly advancement. She had once felt all a
girl's impatience when her mother's tears made her
father's departure on some distant mission more
difficult than need be, and although she knew now
that her capacity for tenderness was as great, she
resolved to mould herself in a larger shape than

But she sighed and drooped a little. The burden
of woman's waiting seemed already to have de-
scended upon her. Two years were long--long.
There might be other delays. He might fall ill; he
had been ill before in that barbarous Russian north.
And in all that time it was doubtful if she received
a line from him, a hint of his welfare. The Boston
and British skippers came no more, and it was cer-
tain that no Russian ship would visit California
again until the treaty was signed and official news
of it had made its slow way to these uttermost
shores. She had resented, in her young ambition
and indocility, the chance that had stranded her,
equipped for civilization, on this rim of the world,
but never so much as in that moment, when she sat
with arrested breath and realized to the full the
primitive conditions of a country thousands of miles
from the very outposts of Europe, and with never
the sight of a letter that did not come from Spain
or one of her colonies.

"Would that we lived a generation later," she
thought with a heavy sigh. Progress is almost
automatic, and to a land as fertile and desirable as
this the stream must turn in due course. But not
in my time. Not in my time."

She rose and leaned her elbows in the embrasure
of the grille, where Santiago had restored the bars,
and looked out over the fields of grain planted by
the padres, the immense sand dunes beyond that
shut the lovely bay from sight; the hills embracing
the primitive scene in a frowning arc. With all her
imagination it was long before she could picture a
great city covering that immense and almost deserted
space. A pueblo in time, perhaps, for Rezanov had
awakened her mind to the importance of the har-
bor as a port of call. Many more adobe homes
where the sand was not hot and shifting, a few
ships in the bay when Spain had been compelled to
relax her jealous vigilance--or--who knew?--per-
haps!--a flourishing colony when the Russian bear
had devoured the Spanish lion. She knew some-
thing and suspected more of the rottenness and in-
efficiency of Spain, and, were Russia a nation of
Rezanovs, what opposition in California against the
tide thundering down from the north? Then, per-
haps, the city that had travelled from the brain of
the Russian to hers when the fog had rolled over
the heights; the towers and palaces and bazaars, the
thousand little golden domes with the slender cross
atop; the forts on the crags and the villas in the
hollows, and on all the island and hills. But when
she and her lover were dust. When she and her
lover were dust.

But she was too young and too ardent to listen
long to the ravens of the spirit. Two years are not
eternity, and in happiness the past rolls together like
a scroll and is naught. She fell to dreaming. Her
lips that had been set with the gravity of stone re-
laxed in warm curves. The color came back to her
cheek, the light to her eyes. She was a girl at her
grating with the roses poignant above her, and the
world, radiant, alluring, and all for her, swimming
in the violet haze beyond.


Rezanov in those days was literally lord and mas-
ter at the Presidio. If he did not burn the house of
his devoted host he ran it to suit himself. He
turned one of its rooms into an office, where he re-
ceived the envoys from the different Missions and
examined the samples of everything submitted to
him, trusting little to his commissary. His leisure
he employed scouring the country or shooting deer
and quail in the company of his younger hosts. The
literal mind of Don Jose accepted him as an actual
son and embryonic California, and, his conscience
at peace, revelled in his society as a sign from
propitiated heaven; rejoicing in the virtue of his
years. The Governor, testily remarking that as
California was so well governed for the present he
would retire to Monterey and take a siesta, rode off
one morning, but not without an affectionate: "God
preserve the life of your excellency many years."

But although Rezanov saw the most sanguine
hopes that had brought him to California fulfilled,
and although he looked from the mountain ridges
of the east over the great low valleys watered by
rivers and shaded by oaks, where enough grain
could be raised to keep the blood red in a thousand
times the colonial population of Russia, although he
felt himself in more and more abundant health, more
and more in love with life, it is not to be supposed
for a moment that he was satisfied. Concha he
barely saw. She remained with the Moragas, and
although she came occasionally to the afternoon
dances at the Presidio, and he had dined once at
her cousin's house, where the formal betrothal had
taken place and the marriage contract had been
signed in the presence of her family and more inti-
mate friends, the priests, his officers, and the Gov-
ernor, he had not spoken with her for a moment
alone. Nor had her eyes met his in a glance of
understanding. At the dances she showed him no
favor; and as the engagement was to be as secret
as might be in that small community, until his re-
turn with consent of Pope and King, he was forced
to concede that her conduct was irreproachable; but
when on the day of the betrothal she was oblivious
to his efforts to draw her into the garden, he
mounted his horse and rode off in a huff.

The truth was that Concha liked the present
arrangement no better than himself, and knowing
that her own appeal against the proprieties would
result in a deeper seclusion, she determined to goad
him into using every resource of address and subtlety
to bring about a more human state of affairs. And
she accomplished her object. Rezanov, at the end
of a week was not only infuriated but alarmed. He
knew the imagination of woman, and guessed that
Concha, in her brooding solitude, distorted all that
was unfortunate in the present and dwelt morbidly
on the future. He knew that she must resent his
part in the long separation, no doubt his lack of im-
pulsiveness in not proposing elopement. There was
a priest in his company who, although he ate below
the salt and found his associates among the sailors,
could have performed the ceremony of marriage
when the Juno, under full sail in the night, was
scudding for the Russian north. It is not to be
denied that this romantic alternative appealed to
Rezanov, and had it not been for the starving
wretches so eagerly awaiting his coming he might
have been tempted to throw commercial relations to
the winds and flee with his bride while San Fran-
cisco, secure in the knowledge of the Juno's empty
hold, was in its first heavy sleep. It is doubtful if
he would have advanced beyond impulse, for Rez-
anov was not the man to lose sight of a purpose to
which he had set the full strength of his talents,
and life had tempered his impetuous nature with
much philosophy. Moreover, while his conscience
might ignore the double dealing necessary to the ac-
complishment of patriotic or political acts, it re-
volted at the idea of outwitting, possibly wrecking,
his trusting and hospitable host. But the mere
fact that his imagination could dwell upon such an
issue as reckless flight, inflamed his impatience, and
his desire to see Concha daily during these last few
weeks of propinquity. Finally, he sought the co-
operation of Father Abella--Santiago was in Mon-
terey--and that wise student of maids and men
gave him cheer.

On Thursday afternoon there was to take place
the long delayed Indian dance and bull-bear fight;
not in the Presidio, but at the Mission, the pride of
the friars inciting them to succeed where the mili-
tary authorities had failed. All the little world of
San Francisco had been invited, and it would be
strange if in the confusion between performance
and supper a lover could not find a moment alone
with his lady.

The elements were kind to the padres. The after-
noon was not too hot, although the sun flooded the
plain and there was not a cloud on the dazzling blue
of the sky. Never had the Mission and the man-
sions looked so white, their tiles so red. The trees
were blossoming pink and white in the orchards, the
lightest breeze rippled the green of the fields; and
into this valley came neither the winds nor the fogs
of the ocean.

The priests and their guests of honor sat on the
long corridor beside the church; the soldiers, sailors,
and Indians of Presidio and Mission forming the
other three sides of a hollow square. The Indian
women were a blaze of color. The ladies on the
corridor wore their mantillas, jewels, and the gay-
est of artificial flowers. There were as many fans
as women. Rezanov sat between Father Abella and
the Commandante, and not being in the best of
tempers had never looked more imposing and re-
mote. Concha, leaning against one of the pillars,
stole a glance at him and wondered miserably if this
haughty European had really sought her hand, if it
were not a girl's foolish dream. But Concha's
humble moments at this period of her life were rare,
and she drew herself up proudly, the blood of the
proudest race in Europe shaking angrily in her
veins. A moment later, in response to a power
greater than any within herself, she turned again.
The attention of the hosts and guests was riveted
upon the preliminary antics of the Indian dancers,
and Rezanov seized the opportunity to lean forward
unobserved and gaze at the girl whom it seemed to
him he saw for the first time in the full splendor of
her beauty. She wore a large mantilla of white
Spanish lace. In the fashion of the day it rose at
the back almost from the hem of her gown to de-
scend in a point over the high comb to her eyes.
The two points of the width were gathered at her
breast, defining the outlines of her superb figure,
and fastened with one large Castilian rose sur-
rounded by its mass of tiny sharp buds and dull
green leaves. As the familiar scent assailed Rez-
anov's nostrils they tingled and expanded. His
lids were lifted and his eyes glowing as he finally
compelled her glance, and her own eyes opened
with an eager flash; her lips parted and her should-
ers lost their haughty poise. For a moment their
gaze lingered in a perfect understanding; his ill-
humor vanished, and he leaned back with a compli-
mentary remark as Father Abella directed his atten-
tion to the most agile of the Indians.

The swart natives of both sexes with their thick
features and long hair were even more hideous than
usual in bandeaux of bright feathers, scant gar-
ments made from the breasts of water-fowls,
rattling strings of shells, and tattooing on arm and
leg no longer concealed by the decorous Mission
smock. Rezanov had that day sent them presents
of glass beads and ribbons, and in these they took
such extravagant pride that for some time their
dancing was almost automatic.

But soon their blood warmed, and after the first
dance, which was merely a series of measured
springs on the part of the men and a beating of time
by the women, a large straw figure symbolizing an
entire hostile tribe was brought in, and about this
pranced the men with savage cries and gestures, ad-
vancing, attacking, retreating, finally piercing it with
their arrows and marching it off with sharp yells
of triumph that reverberated among the hills; the
women never varying from a loud monotonous

There was a peaceful interlude, during which the
men, holding bow and arrow aloft, hopped up and
down on one spot, the women hopping beside them
and snapping thumb and forefinger on the body,
still singing in the same high measured voice. But
while they danced a great bonfire was laid and
kindled. The gyrations lasted a few minutes longer,
then the chief seized a live ember and swallowed it.
His example was immediately followed by his tribe,
and, whether to relieve discomfort or with energies
but quickened, they executed a series of incredible
handsprings and acrobatic capers. When they
finally whirled away on toes and finger tips, another
chief, in the horns and hide of a deer, rushed in,
pursued by a party of hunters. For several mo-
ments he perfectly simulated a hunted animal
lurking and dodging in high grass, behind trees,
venturing to the brink of a stream to drink, search-
ing eagerly for his mate; and when he finally escaped
it was amidst the most enthusiastic plaudits as yet

After an hour of this varied performance, the
square was enlarged by several mounted vaqueros
galloping about with warning cries and much flour-
ishing of lassos. They were the cattle herders of
the Mission ranch just over the hills, and were in
gala attire of black glazed sombrero with silver
cord, white shirt open at the throat, short black vel-
vet trousers laced with silver, red sash and high yel-
low boots. Four, pistol in hand, stationed them-
selves in front of the corridor, while the others rode
out and in again, dragging a bear and a bull, with
hind legs attached by two yards of rope. The cap-
tors left the captives in the middle of the square,
and without more ado the serious sport of the day
began. The bull, with stomach empty and hide in-
flamed, rushed at the bear, furious from captivity,
with such a roar that the Indian women screamed
and even the men shuffled their feet uneasily. But
neither combatant was interested in aught but the
other. The one sought to gore, his enemy to strike
or hug. The vaqueros teased them with arrows
and cries, the dust flew; for a few moments there
was but a heaving, panting, lashing bulk in the
middle of the arena, and then the bull, his tongue
torn out, rolled on his back, and another was driven
in before the victor could wreak his unsated ven-
geance among the spectators. The bear, dragging
the dead bull, rushed at the living, who, unmartial
at first, stiffened to the defensive as he saw a bulk
of wiry fur set with eyes of fire, almost upon him.
He sprang aside, lowered his horn and caught the
bear in the chest. But the victor was a compact
mass of battle and momentum. His onslaught
flung the bear over backward, and quickly disen-
gaging himself he made another leap at his equally
agile enemy. This time the battle was longer and
more various, for the bull was smaller, more active
and dexterous. Twice he almost had the bear on his
horns, but was rolled, only saving his neck and back
from the fury of the mountain beast by such kick-
ing and leaping that both combatants were indis-
tinguishable from the whirlwind of dust. Out of
this they would emerge to stand panting in front
of each other with tongues pendant and red eyes
rolling. Finally the bear, nearly exhausted, made
a sudden charge, the bull leaped aside, backed again
with incredible swiftness, caught the bear in the
belly, tossed him so high that he met the hard earth
with a loud cracking of bone. The vaqueros circled
about the maddened bull, set his hide thick with ar-
rows, tripped him with the lasso. A wiry little
Mexican in yellow, galloping in on his mustang, ad-
ministered the coup de grace amidst the wild
applause of the spectators, whose shouting and
clapping and stamping might have been heard by
the envious guard at the Presidio and Yerba Buena.

As the party on the corridor broke, Rezanov
found no difficulty in reaching Concha's side, for
even Dona Ignacia was chattering wildly with sev-
eral other good dames who renewed their youth
briefly at the bull-fight.

"Did you enjoy that?" he asked curiously.

"I did not look at it. I never do. But I know
that you were not affronted. You never took your
eyes from those dreadful beasts."

"I am exhilarated to know that you watched me.
Yes, at a bull-fight the primitive man in me has its
way, although I have the grace to be ashamed of
myself afterward. In that I am at least one degree
more civilized than your race, which never repents."

The door of one of the smaller rooms stood open,
and as they took advantage of this oversight with
a singular concert of motive, he clasped both her
hands in his. "Are you angry with me?" he asked
softly. He dared not close the door, but his back
was square against it, and the other guests were
moving down to the refectory.

"For liking such horrid sport?"

"We have no time to waste in coquetry."

Her eyes melted, but she could not resist planting
a dart. "Not now--I quite understand: love could
never be first with you. And two years are not so
long. They quickly pass when one is busy. I shall
find occupation, and you will have no time for long-
ings and regrets."

They were not yet alone, women were talking in
their light, high voices not a yard away. The hin-
drance, and her new loveliness in the soft mantilla,
the pink of the roses reflected in her throat, the
provocative curl of her mouth, sent the blood to his

"You have only to say the word," he said
hoarsely, "and the Juno will sail to-night."

Never before had she seen his face so unmasked.
Her voice shook in triumph and response.

"Would you? Would you?"

"Say the word!"

"You would sacrifice all--the Company--your
career--your Sitkans?"

"All--everything." His own voice shook with
more than passion, for even in that moment he
counted the cost, but he did not care.

But Concha detected that second break in his
voice, and turned her head sadly.

"You would not say that to-morrow. I hate my-
self that I made you say it now. I love you enough
to wait forever, but I have not the courage to hand
you over to your enemies."

"You are strangely far-sighted for a young girl."
And between admiration and pique, his ardor suf-
fered a chill.

"I am no longer a young girl. In these last days
it has seemed to me that secrets locked in my brain,
secrets of women long dead, but of whose essence I
am, have come forth to the light. I have suffered
in anticipation. My mind has flown--flown--I
have lived those two years until they are twenty,
thirty, and I have lived on into old age here by the
sea, watching, watching--"

She had dropped all pretence of coquetry and
was speaking with a passionate forlornness. But
before he could interrupt her, take advantage of the
retreating voices that left them alone at last, she
had drawn herself up and moved a step away. "Do
not think, however," she said proudly, "that I am
really as weak and silly as that. It was only a
mood. Should you not return I should grieve, yes;
and should I live as long as is common with my
race, still would my heart remain young with your
image, and with the fidelity that would be no less a
religion than that of my church. But I should not
live a selfish life, or I should be unworthy of my
election to experience a great and eternal passion.
Memory and the life of the imagination would be
my solace, possibly in time my happiness, but my
days I should give to this poor little world of ours;
and all that one mortal, and that a woman, has to
bestow upon a stranded and benighted people. It
may not be much, but I make you that promise,
senor, that you will not think me a foolish, romantic
girl, unworthy of the great responsibilities you have
offered me."

"Concha!" He was deeply moved, and at the
same time her words chilled him with subtle
prophecy, sank into some unexplored depth of his
consciousness, meeting response as subtle, filling
him with impatience at the mortality of man. He
glanced over his shoulder, then took her recklessly
in his arms.

"Is it possible you doubt I will come back?" he
demanded. "My faith?"

"No, not that. But such happiness seems to me
too great for this life."

He remembered how often he had been close to
death; he knew that during the greater part of the
next two years he should see the glimmer of the
scythe oftener yet. For a moment it seemed to
him that he felt the dark waters rise in his soul,
heard the jeers of the gods at the vanity of mortal
will. But the blood ran strong and warm in his
veins. He shook off the obsession, and smiled a
little cynically, even as he kissed her.

"This is the hour for romance, my dear. In the
years to come, when you are very prosaically my
wife with a thousand duties, and grumbling at my
exactions, your consolation will be the memory of
some moment like this, when you were able to feel
romantic and sad. I wish I could arrange for
some such set of memories for myself, but I am
unequal to your divine melancholy. When I can-
not see you I am cross and sulky; and just now--I
am, well--philosophically happy. Some day I shall
be happier, but this is well enough. And I can har-
bor no ugly presentiments. As I entered California
I was elated with a sense of coming happiness, of
future victories; and I prefer to dwell upon that,
the more particularly as in a measure the prophetic
hint has been fulfilled. So make the most of the
present. I shall see you daily during this last
precious fortnight, for I am determined this
arrangement shall cease; and you must exorcise
coquetry and abet me whenever there is a chance
of a word alone."

She nodded, but she noted with a sigh that he
said no more of sudden flight. She would never
have consented to jeopardize the least of his inter-
ests, but she fain would have been besought.
The experience she had had of the vehemence
and fire in Rezanov made her long for his complete
subjugation and the happiness it must bring to her-
self. But as he smiled tenderly above her she saw
that his practical brain had silenced the irresponsible
demands of love, and although she did not with-
draw from his arms she stiffened her head.

"I fancy I shall return home to-morrow," she
said. "My mother tells me that she can live with-
out me no longer, and that Father Abella has re-
minded her that if I stay in the house of Elena Cas-
tro I shall be as free from gossip as here. I infer
that he has rated my two parents for making a
martyr of me unnecessarily, and told them it was
a duty to enliven my life as much as possible before
I enter upon this long period of probation. The grat-
ing of my room at Elena's is above a little strip of
Garden, and faces the blank wall of the next house.
Sometimes--who knows?" She shrugged her
shoulders and gave a gay little laugh, then stood
very erect and moved past him to the door. She
had recognized the shuffling step of Father Abella.

"Is supper ready, padre mio?" she asked sweetly.
"His excellency and I have talked so much that we
are very hungry."

"There is no need to deceive me," said Father
Abella dryly. "You are not the first lovers I have
known, although I will admit you are by far the
most interesting, and for that reason I have had the
wickedness to abet you. But I fancy the good God
will forgive me. Come quickly. They are scat-
tered now, but will go to the refectory in a moment
and miss you. Excellency, will you give your arm
to Dona Ignacia and take the seat at the head of the
table? Concha, my child, I am afraid you must
console our good Don Weeliam. He is having a
wretched quarter of an hour, but has loyally diverted
the attention of your mother."

"That is the vocation of certain men," said Con-
cha lightly.


Life was very gay for a fortnight. An hour after
the Commandante's surrender he had despatched
invitations to all the young folk of the gente de
razon of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles,
and San Diego, and to such of the older as would
brave the long journeys. The Monterenos had
arrived for the Mission entertainment, and during
the next few days the rest poured over the hills:
De la Guerras, Xime'nos, Estudillos, Carrillos,
Este'negas, Morenos, Cotas, Estradas, Picos,
Pachecos, Lugos, Orte'gas, Alvarados, Bandinis,
Peraltas, members of the Luis, Rodriguez, Lopez
families, all of gentle blood, that made up the
society of Old California; as gay, arcadian, irre-
sponsible, yet moral a society as ever fluttered over
this planet. Every house in the Presidio and val-
ley, every spare room at the Mission, opened to
them with the exuberant hospitality of the country.
The caballeros had their finest wardrobes of col-
lored silks and embroidered botas, sombreros laden
with silver, fine lawn and lace, jewel and sash, vel-
vet serape for the chill of the late afternoon. The
matrons brought their stiff robes of red and yellow
satin, the girls as many flowered silks and lawns,
mantillas and rebosos, as the family carretas would
hold. The square of the Presidio was crowded
from morning until midnight with the spirited
horses of the country, prancing impatiently under
the heavy Mexican saddle, heavier with silver, made
a trifle more endurable by the blanket of velvet or
cloth. No Californian walked a dozen rods when
he had a horse to carry him.

But the horses were not always champing in the
square. There was more than one bull-bear fight,
and twice a week at least they carried their owners
to the hills of the Mission ranch, or the rocky cliffs
and gorges above Yerba Buena, the Indian servants
following with great baskets of luncheon, perhaps
roasting an ox whole in a trench. This the Cali-
fornians called barbecue and the picnic merienda.

There was dancing day and night, the tinkling of
guitars, flirting of fans. Rezanov vowed he would
not have believed there were so many fans and
guitars in the world, and suddenly remembered he
had never seen Concha with either. The lady of
his choice reigned supreme. Many had taken the
long blistering journey for no other purpose than
to see the famous beauty and her Russian; the en-
gagement was as well known as if cried from the
Mission top. The girls were surprised and de-
lighted to find Concha sweet rather than proud and
envied her with amiable enthusiasm. The cabal-
leros, fewer in number, for most of the men in
California at that period before a freer distribution
of land were on duty in the army, artfully ignored
the unavowed bond, but liked Rezanov when he took
the trouble to charm them.

Khostov and Davidov watched the loading of the
Juno with a lively regret. Never had they enjoyed
themselves more, nor seen so many pretty girls in
one place. Both had begun by falling in love with
Concha, and although they rebounded swiftly from
the blow to their hopes, it happily saved them from
a more serious dilemma; unwealthed and graceless
as they were, they would have been regarded with
little favor by the practical California father. As
it was, their pleasures were unpoisoned by regrets
or rebuffs. When they were not flirting in the dance
or in front of a lattice, receiving a lesson in Spanish
behind the portly back of a duena, or clasping brown
little fingers under cover of a fan when all eyes
were riveted on the death struggle of a bull and a
bear, they were playing cards and drinking in the
officers' quarters; which they liked almost as well.
It is true they sometimes paid the price in a cutting
rebuke from their chief, but the rebukes were not
as frequent as in less toward circumstances, and were
generally followed by some fresh indulgence. This,
they uneasily guessed, was not only the result of
the equable state of his excellency's temper, but be-
cause he had a signal unpleasantness in store, and
would not hazard their resignation. They had
taken advantage of an imperial ukase to enter the
service of the Russian-American Company tempor-
arily, and they knew that if they evaded any be-
hest of Rezanov's their adventurous life in the Pa-
cific would be over. Therefore, although they re-
sented his implacable will, they pulled with him in
outward amity; and indeed there were few of the
Juno's human freight that did not look back upon
that California springtime as the episode of their
lives, commonly stormy or monotonous, in which
the golden tide flowed with least alloy. Even
Langsdorff, although impervious to female charms
and with scientific thirst unslaked, enjoyed the
Spanish fare and the society of the priests. The
sailors received many privileges, attended bull-fights
and fandangos, loved and pledged; and were only
restrained from emigration to the interior of this
enchanted land of pretty girls and plentiful food
by the knowledge of the sure and merciless venge-
ance of their chief. Had the rumor of war still held
it might have been otherwise, but that raven had
flown off to the limbo of its kind, and the Com-
mandante let it be known that deserters would be
summarily captured and sent in irons to the Juno.

In the mind of Concha Arguello there was never
a lingering doubt of the quality of that fortnight
between the days of torturing doubts and acute emo-
tional upheaval, and the sailing away of Rezanov.
It was true that what he banteringly termed her
romantic sadness possessed her at times, but it
served as a shadow to throw into sharper relief an
almost incredible happiness. If she seldom saw
Rezanov alone there was the less to disturb her, and
at least he was never far from her side. There were
always the delight of unexpected moments unseen,
whispered words in the crowd, the sense of com-
plete understanding, broken now and again by poig-
nant attacks of unreasoning jealousy, not only on
her part but his; quite worth the reconciliation at
the lattice, while Elena Castro, gentle duena, pitched
her voice high and amused her husband so well he
sought no opportunity for response.

Then there was more than one excursion about
the bay on the Juno, dinner on La Bellissima or
Nuestra Senora de los Angeles, a long return after
sundown that the southerners might appreciate the
splendor of the afterglow when the blue of the
water was reflected in the lower sky, to melt into
the pink fire above, and all the land swam in a pearly

Once the Commandante took twenty of his guests,
a gay cavalcade, to his rancho, El Pilar, thirty miles
to the south: a long valley flanked by the bay and
the eastern mountains on the one hand, and a high
range dense with forests of tall thin trees on the
other. But the valley itself was less Californian
than any part of the country Rezanov had seen.
Smooth and flat and free of undergrowth and set
with at least ten thousand oaks, it looked more like
a splendid English park, long preserved, than the
recent haunt of naked savages. There were deer
and quail in abundance, here and there an open field
of grain. Long beards of pale green moss waved
from the white oaks, wild flowers, golden red and
pale blue, burst underfoot. There were hedges of
sweet briar, acres of lupins, purple and yellow. Al-
together the ideal estate of a nobleman; and Reza-
nov, who had liked nothing in California so well,
gave his imagination rein and saw the counterpart
of the castle of his ancestors rise in the deep shade
of the trees.

Don Jose's house was a long rambling adobe, red
tiled, with many bedrooms and one immense hall.
Beyond were a chapel and a dozen outbuildings.
Dinner was served in patriarchal style in the hall,
the Commandante--or El padrone as he was known
here--and his guests at the upper end of the table;
below the salt, the vaqueros, their wives and chil-
dren, and the humble friar who drove them to
prayer night and morning. The friar wore his
brown robes, the vaqueros their black and silver
and red in honor of the company, their women glar-
ing handkerchiefs of green or red or yellow about
their necks, even pinned back and front on their
shapeless garments; and affording a fine vegetable
garden contrast to the delicate flower bed surround-
ing the padrone.

There was a race track on the ranch and many
fine horses. After siesta the company mounted
fresh steeds and rode off to applaud the feats of the
vaqueros, who, not content with climbing the greased
pole, wrenching the head of an unfortunate rooster
from his buried body as they galloped by, submit-
ting the tail of an oiled pig in full flight to the
same indignity, gave when these and other native
diversions were exhausted, such exhibitions of rid-
ing and racing as have never been seen out of Cali-
fornia. As lithe as willow wands, on slender horses
as graceful as themselves, they looked like meteors
springing through space, and there was no trick of
the circus they did not know by instinct, and trans-
late from gymnastics into poetry. Even Rezanov
shared the excitement of the shouting, clapping
Californians, and Concha laughed delightedly when
his cap waved with the sombreros.

"I think you will make a good Californian in
time," she said as they rode homeward.

"Perhaps," said Rezanov musingly. His eyes
roved over the magnificent estate and at the mo-
ment they entered a portion of it that deepened to
woods, so dense was the undergrowth, so thick the
oak trees. Here there was but a glimpse, now and
again, of the mountains swimming in the dark blue
mist of the late afternoon, the moss waved thickly
from the ancient trees; over even the higher branches
of many rolled a cascade of small brittle leaves, with
the tempting opulence of its poisonous sap. The
path was very abrupt, cut where the immense spread-
ing trees permitted, and Rezanov and Concha had
no difficulty in falling away from the chattering,
excited company.

"Tell me your ultimate plans, Pedro mio," said
Concha softly. "You are dreaming of something
this moment beyond corn and treaties."

"Do you want that final proof?" he asked, smil-
ing. "Well, if I could not trust you that would be
the end of everything, and I know that I can. I
have long regarded California as an absolutely
necessary field of supplies, and since I have come
here I will frankly say that could I, as the represen-
tative of the Tsar in all this part of the world, make
it practically my own, I should be content in even
a permanent exile from St. Petersburg. I could at-
tract an immense colony here and in time import
libraries and works of art, laying the foundation of
a great and important city on that fine site about
Yerba Buena. But now that these kind people have
practically adopted me I cannot repay their hospi-
tality by any overt act of hostility. I must be con-
tent either slowly to absorb the country, in which
case I shall see no great result in my lifetime, or--
and for this I hope--what with the mess Bonaparte
is making of Europe, every state may be at the
others' throat before long, including Russia and
Spain. At all events, a cause for rupture would
not be far to seek, and it would need no instigation
of mine to despatch a fleet to these shores. In that
case I should be sent with it to take possession in
the name of the Tsar, and to deal with these simple,
kind--and inefficient people, my dear girl--as no
other Russian could. They cannot hold this coun-
try. Spain could not--would not, at all events, for
she has not troops enough here to protect a territory
half its size--hold it against even the 'Americans,'
should they in time feel strong enough to push their
way across the western wilderness. It is the destiny
of this charming Arcadia to disappear; and did
Russia forego an opportunity to appropriate a do-
main that offers her literally everything except civil-
ization, she would be unworthy of her place among
nations. Moreover--a beneficent triumph impossi-
ble to us otherwise--with a powerful and flourish-
ing colony up and down this coast, and sending
breadstuffs regularly to our other possessions in
these waters until the natives, immigrants, and exiles
were healthy, vitalized beings, it would be but a
question of a few years before we should force open
the doors of China and Japan." He caught Concha
from her horse and strained her to him in the mount-
ing ardor of his plunge down the future. "You
must resent nothing!" he cried. "You must cease
to be a Spanish woman when you become my wife,
and help me as only you can in those inevitable
years I have mapped out; and not so much for
myself as for Russia. My enemies have sought to
persuade three sovereigns that I am a visionary, but
I have already accomplished much that met with
resentment and ridicule when I broached it. And I
know my powers! I tingle with the knowledge of
my ability to carry to a conclusion every plan I
have thought worth the holding when the ardor of
conception was over. I swear to you that death
alone--and I believe that nothing is further aloof--
shall prevent my giving this country to Russia be-
fore five years have passed, and within another brief
span the trade of China and Japan. It is a glorious
destiny for a man--one man!--to pass into history
as the Russian of his century who has done most
to add to the extent and the wealth and the power
of his empire! Does that sound vainglorious, and
do you resent it? You must not, I tell you, you
must not!"

Concha had never seen him in such a mood. Al-
though he held her so closely that the horses were
angrily biting each other, she felt that for once there
was nothing personal in his ardor. His eyes were
blazing, but they stared as if a great and prophetic
panorama had risen in this silent wood, where the
long faded moss hung as motionless as if by those
quiet waters that even the most ardent must cross
in his time. She felt his heart beat as she had felt
it before against her soft breast, but she knew that
if he thought of her at all it was but as a part of
himself, not as the woman he impatiently desired.
But she was sensible of no resentment, either for
herself or her race, which, indeed, she knew to be
but a wayfarer in the wilderness engaged in a brief
chimerical enterprise. For the first time she felt
her individuality melt into, commingle with his: and
when he lowered his gaze, still with that intensity
of vision piercing the future, her own eyes reflected
the impersonalities of his; and in time he saw it.


"We should all wear black for so mournful an oc-
casion," said Rafaella Sal, spreading out her scarlet

"Father Abella is right. The occasion is sad
enough without giving it the air of a funeral."

"Sad! Dios de mi alma! Will he return?"

Elena Castro shook her wise head. She was
nearly twenty, and four years of matrimony had
made her sceptical of man's capacity for romance.
"Two years are long, and he will see many girls,
and become one again of a life that is always more
brilliant than our sun in May. His eyes will be
dazzled, his mind distracted, full to the brim. To
sit at table with the Tsar, to talk with him alone in
his cabinet, to have for the asking audience of the
Pope of Rome and the King of Spain! Ay yi! Ay
yi! Perhaps he will be made a prince when he re-
turns to St. Petersburg and all the beautiful prin-
cesses will want to marry him. Can he remember
this poor little California, and even our lovely Con-
cha? I doubt! Valgame Dios, I doubt!"

"Concha has always been too fortunate," said
Rafaella with a touch of spite, for years of waiting
had tried her temper and the sun always freckled
her nose. The flower of California stood on the
corridor of the Mission and before the church await-
ing the guest of honor and his escort. A mass was
to be said in behalf of the departing guests; the
Juno would sail with the turn of the afternoon tide.
Men and women were in their gayest finery, an ex-
otic mass of color against the rough white-washed
walls, chattering as vivaciously as if the burden of
their conversation were not regret for the Chamber-
lain and his gay young lieutenants. Concha, alone,
wore no color; her frock was white, her mantilla
black. She stood somewhat apart, but although she
was pale she commanded her eyes to dwell absently
on the shifting sand far down the valley, her
haughty Spanish profile betraying nothing of the
despair in her soul.

"Yes, Concha has always been too fortunate," re-
peated Rafaella. "Why should she be chosen for
such a destiny--to go to the Russian court and wear
a train ten yards long of red velvet embroidered
with gold, a white veil spangled with gold, a head-
dress a foot high set so thick with jewels her head
will ache for a week--Madre de Dios! And we
stay here forever with white walls, horsehair fur-
niture, Baja California pearls and three silk dresses
a year!"

"No one in all Russia will look so grand in court
dress as our Conchita," said Elena loyally. "But I
doubt if it is the dress and the state she thinks of
losing to-day. She will not talk even to me of
him-- Ay yi! she grows more reserved every
day, our Concha!--except to say she will wed him
when he returns, and that I know, for did not I
witness the betrothal? She only mocks me when I
beg her to tell me if she loves him, languishes, or
sings a bar of some one of our beautiful songs with
ridiculous words. But she does. She did not sleep
last night. Her room is next to mine. No, it is of
Rezanov she thinks, and always. Those proud,
silent girls, who jest when others would weep and
use many words and must die without sympathy--
they have tragedy in their souls, ay yi! And you
think she is fortunate? True she is beautiful, she
is La Favorita, she receives many boxes from Mex-
ico, and she has won the love of this Russian. But
--I have not dared to remind her--I remembered it
only yesterday--she came into this world on the
thirteenth of a month, and he into her life but one
day before the thirteenth of another--new style!
True some might say that it was an escape, but if
he came on the twelfth, it was on the thirteenth she
began to love him--on the night of the ball; of
that I am sure."

Rafaella shuddered and crossed herself. "Poor
Concha! Perhaps in the end she will always stand
apart like that. Truly she is not as others. I
have always said it. Thanks be to Mary it was
Luis that wooed me, not the Russian, for I might
have been tempted. True his eyes are blue, and
only the black could win my heart. But the court
of St. Petersburg! Dios de mi vida! Did I lie
awake at night and think of Concha Arguello in red
velvet and jewels all over, I should hate her. But
no--to-day--I cannot. Two years! Have I not
waited six? It is eternity when one loves and is

"They come," said Elena.

The cavalcade was descending the sand hills on
the left, Rezanov in full uniform between the Com-
mandante and Luis Arguello and followed by a
picked escort of officers from Presidio and Fort.
The Californians wore full-dress uniform of white
and scarlet, Don Jose a blue velvet serape, embroid-
ered in gold with the arms of Spain.

As they dismounted Rezanov bowed ceremoni-
ously to the party on the corridor, and they returned
his salutation gravely, suddenly silent. He walked
directly over to Concha.

"We will go in together," he said. "It matters
nothing what they think. I kneel beside no one

And Concha, with the air of leading an honored
guest to the banquet, turned and walked with him
into the dark little church.

"Why did you not wear a white mantilla?" he
whispered. "I do not like that black thing."

"I am not a bride. I knew we should kneel to-
gether--it would have been ridiculous. And I could
not wear a colored reboso to-day."

"I should have liked to fancy we were here for
our nuptials. Delusions pass but are none the less
sweet for that."

They knelt before the altar, the Commandante,
Dona Ignacia, Luis, Santiago, Rafaella Sal and
Elena Castro just behind; the rest of the party,
their bright garments shimmering vaguely in the
gloom, as they listened; and enough fervent prayers
went up to insure the health and safety of the de-
parting guests for all their lives.

Rezanov, who had much on his mind, stared
moodily at the altar until Concha, who had bowed
her head almost to her knees, finished her suppli-
cation; then their eyes turned and met simultane-
ously. For a moment their brains did swim in the
delusion that the priest with his uplifted hands pro-
nounced benediction upon their nuptials, that proba-
tion was over and union nigh. But Father Abella
dismissed all with the same blessing, and they shiv-
ered as they rose and walked slowly down the

Dona Ignacia took her husband's arm, and mut-
tering that she feared a chill, hurried the others
before her. The priests had gone to the sacristy.
Before they reached the door Rezanov and Concha
were alone.

His hands fell heavily on her shoulders.

"Concha," he said, "I shall come back if I live. I
make no foolish vows, so idle between us. There
is only one power that can prevent our marriage in
this church not later than two years from to-day.
And although I am in the very fulness of my health
and strength, with my work but begun, and all my
happiness in the future, and even to a less sanguine
man it would seem that his course had many years
to run, still have I seen as much as any man of the
inconsequence of life, of the insignificance of the
individual, his hopes, ambitions, happiness, and even
usefulness, in the complicated machinery of natural
laws. It may be that I shall not come back. But
I wish to take with me your promise that if I have
not returned at the end of two years or you have
received no reason for my detention, you will be-
lieve that I am dead. There would be but one in-
supportable drop in the bitterness of death, the doubt
of your faith in my word and my love. Are you
too much of a woman to curb your imagination in
a long unbroken silence?"

"I have learned so much that one lesson more is
no tax on my faith. And I no longer live in a
world of little things. I promise you that I shall
never falter nor doubt."

He bent his head and kissed her for the first time
without passion, but solemnly, as had their nuptials
indeed been accomplished, and the greater mystery
of spiritual union isolated them for a moment in
that twilight region where the mortal part did not

As they left the church they saw that all the In-
dians of the Mission and neighborhood, in a gala of
color, had gathered to cheer the Russians as they
rode away. Concha was to return as she had come,
beside the carreta of her mother, and as Rezanov
mounted his horse she stood staring with unseeing
eyes on the brilliant, animated scene. Suddenly she
heard a suppressed sob, and felt a touch on her
skirt. She looked round and saw Rosa, kneeling
close to the church. For a moment she continued
to stare, hardly comprehending, in the intense con-
centration of her faculties, that tangible beings,
other than herself and Rezanov, still moved on the
earth. Then her mind relaxed. She was normal
in a normal world once more. She stooped and
patted the hands clasping her skirts.

"Poor Rosa!" she said. "Poor Rosa!"

Over the intense green of islands and hills were
long banners of yellow and purple mist, where the
wild flowers were lifting their heads. The whole
quivering bay was as green as the land, but far
away the mountains of the east were pink. Where
there was a patch of verdure on the sand hills the
warm golden red of the poppy flaunted in the sun-
shine. All nature was in gala attire like the Cali-
fornians themselves, as the Juno under full sail sped
through "The Mouth of the Gulf of the Faral-
lones." Fort San Joaquin saluted with seven guns;
the Juno returned the compliment with nine. The
Commandante, his family and guests, stood on the
hill above the fort, cheering, waving sombreros and
handkerchiefs. Wind and tide carried the ship
rapidly out the straits. Rezanov dropped the
cocked hat he had been waving and raised his field-
glass. Concha, as ever, stood a little apart. As
the ship grew smaller and the company turned
toward the Presidio, she advanced to the edge of
the bluff. The wind lifted her loosened mantilla,
billowing it out on one side, and as she stood with
her hands pressed against her heart, she might, save
for her empty arms, have been the eidolon of the
Madonna di San Sisto. In her eyes was the same
expression of vague arrested horror as she looked
out on that world of menacing imperfections the
blind forces of nature and man had created; her
body was instinct with the same nervous leashed im-
potent energy.


The white rain clouds, rolling as ever like a nervous
intruder over the great snow peaks behind the steep
hills black with forest that rose like a wall back of
the little settlement of Sitka, parted for a moment,
and the sun, a coy disdainful guest, flung a glitter-
ing mist over what Nature had intended to be one
of the most enchanting spots on earth, until, in a
fit of ill-temper--with one of the gods, no doubt--
she gave it to Niobe as a permanent outlet for her
discontent. When it does not rain at Sitka it pours,
and when once in a way she draws a deep breath of
respite and lifts her grand and glorious face to the
sun, in pathetic gratitude for dear infrequent favor,
comes a wild flurry of snow or a close white fog
from the inland waters; and, like a great beauty
condemned to wear a veil through life, she can but
stare in dumb resentment through the folds, consol-
ing herself with the knowledge that could the world
but see it must surely worship. Perhaps, who
knows? she really is a frozen goddess, condemned
to the veil for infidelity to him imprisoned in the
great volcano across the sound--who sends up a
column of light once in a way to dazzle her shrouded
eyes, and failing that batters her with rock and
stone like any lover of the slums. One day he
spat forth a rock like a small hill, and big enough
to dominate the strip of lowland at least, standing
out on the edge of the island like a guard at the
gates, and never a part of the alien surface. Be-
tween this lofty rock and the forest was the walled
settlement of New Archangel, that Baranhov, the
dauntless, had wrested from the bloodthirsty Kolosh
but a short time since and purposed to hold in the
interest of the Russian-American Company. His
log hut, painted like the other buildings with a yel-
low ochre found in the soil, stood on the rock, and
his glass swept the forest as often as the sea.

As Rezanov, on the second of July, thirty-one
days after leaving San Francisco, sailed into the
harbor with its hundred bits of volcanic woodland
weeping as ever, he gave a whimsical sigh in trib-
ute to the gay and ever-changing beauties of the
southern land, but was in no mood for sentimental
reminiscence. Natives, paddling eagerly out to sea
in their bidarkas to be the first to bring in good
news or bad, had given him a report covering the
period of his absence that filled him with dismay.
There had been deaths from scurvy; one of the
largest ships belonging to the Company had been
wrecked and the entire cargo lost; of a hunting
party of three hundred Aleuts in one hundred and
forty bidarkas, which had gone from Sitka to
Kadiak in November of the preceding year, not one
had arrived at its destination, and there was reason
to believe that all had been drowned or massacred;
and the Russians and Aleuts at Behring's Bay settle-
ment had been exterminated by one of the native

But the Juno was received with salvos of artil-
lery from the fort, and cheered by the entire popu-
lation of the settlement, crowded on the beach.
Baranhov, looking like a monkey with a mummy's
head in which only a pair of incomparably shrewd
eyes still lived, his black wig fastened on his bald,
red-fringed pate with a silk handkerchief tied under
his chin, stood, hands on hips, shaking with excite-
ment and delight. The bearded, long-haired priests,
in full canonicals of black and gold, were beside the
Chief-Manager, ready to escort the Chamberlain to
the chapel at the head of the solitary street, where
the bells were pealing and a mass of thanksgiving
was to be said for his safe return.

But it was some time before Rezanov could reach
the chapel or even exchange salutations with Baran-
hov. As he stepped on shore he was surrounded,
almost hustled by the shouting crowd of Russians,
--many of them convicts--Aleuts and Sitkans, who
knelt at his feet, endeavored to kiss his hand, his
garments, in their hysterical gratitude for the food
he had brought them. For the first time he felt
reconciled to his departure from California, and
Concha's image faded as he looked at the tearful
faces of the diseased, ill-nourished wretches who
gave their mite of life that he might live as became
a great noble of the Russian Empire. But although
he tingled with pleasure and was deeply moved, he
by no means swelled with vanity, for he was far
too clear-sighted to doubt he had done more than
his duty, or that his duty was more than begun.
He made them a little speech, giving his word they
should be properly fed hereafter, that he would make
the improvement of their condition as well as that
of all the employees of the Company throughout
this vast chain of settlements on the Pacific, the chief
consideration of his life; and they believed him and
followed him to the chapel rejoicing, reconciled for
once to their lot.

After the service Rezanov went up to the hut of
the Chief-Manager, a habitation that leaked winter
and summer, and was equally deficient in light, ven-
tilation and order. But Baranhov in the sixteen
years of his exile had forgotten the bare lineaments
of comfort, and devoted his days to advancing the
interests of the Company, his nights, save when
sleep overcame him, to potations that would have
buried an ordinary man under Alaskan snows long
since. But Baranhov had fourteen years more of
good service in him, and rescued the Company from
insolvency again and again, nor ever played into
the hands of marauding foreigners; with brain on
fire he was shrewder than the soberest.

He listened with deep satisfaction to the Cham-
berlain's account of his success with the Californi-
ans and his glowing pictures of the country, nod-
ding every few moments with emphatic approval.
But as the story finished his wonderful eyes were
two bubbling springs of humor, and Rezanov, who
knew him well, recrossed his legs nervously.

"What is it?" he asked. "What have I done
now? Remember that you have been in this busi-
ness for sixteen years, and I one--"

"How many measures of corn did you say you
had brought, Excellency?"

"Two hundred and ninety-four," replied Reza-
nov proudly.

"A provision that exceeds my most sanguine
hopes. The only thing that mitigates my satisfac-
tion is that there is not a mill in the settlement to
grind it."

Rezanov sprang to his feet with a violent ex-
clamation, his face very red. There was no one
whose good opinion he valued as he did that of this
brilliant, dissipated, disinterested old genius; and
he felt like a schoolboy. But although he started
for the door, he recovered half-way, and reseating
himself joined in the laughter of the little man who
was rocking back and forth on his bench, his weaz-
ened leg clasped against his shrunken chest.

"How on earth was I to know all your domestic
arrangements?" he said testily. "God knows I
found them limited enough last winter, but it never
occurred to me there was any mysterious process
involved in converting corn into meal. Is it quite
useless, then?"

"Oh, no, we can boil or roast it. It will dispose
of what teeth we have left, but that will serve the
good purpose of reminding us always of your ex-
cellency's interest in our welfare."

Rezanov shrugged his shoulders. "Give the corn
to the natives. It is farinaceous at all events. And
you can have nothing to say against the flour I
have brought, and the peas, beans, tallow, butter,
barley, salt, and salted meats--in all to the value of
twenty-four thousand Spanish dollars."

The Chief-Manager's head nodded with the vigor
and rapidity of a mechanical toy. "It is a God-send,
a God-send. If you did no more than that you would
have earned our everlasting gratitude. It will make
us over, give us renewed courage in this cursed ex-
istence. Are you not going to get me out of it?"

Rezanov shook his head with a smile. "Literally
you are the whole Company. As long as I live
here you stay--although when I reach St. Peters-
burg I shall see that you receive every possible re-
ward and honor."

Baranhov lifted his shoulders to his ears in quiz-
zical resignation. "I suppose it matters little where
the last few years left me are spent, and I can hang
the medals on the walls to console me when I have
rheumatism, and shout my titles from the top of
the fort when the Kolosh are yelling at the barri-

"You must make yourself more comfortable,"
said Rezanov emphatically. "You are wrong to
carry your honesty and enthusiasm to the point of
living like the promuschleniki. Take enough of
their time to build you a comfortable dwelling, and
I will send you, on my own account, far more sub-
stantial rewards than orders and titles. Build a
big house, for that matter. I shall be here more
or less--when I am not in California." And he told
Baranhov of his proposed marriage with the daugh-
ter of Don Jose Arguello.

The Chief-Manager listened to this confidence
with an even livelier satisfaction than to the list
of the Juno's cargo.

"We shall have California yet!" he cried, his eyes
snapping like live coals under the black thatch of
wig. "Absorption or the bayonet. It matters little.
Ten years from now and we shall have a line of
settlements as far south as San Diego. My plan
was to feel my way down the northern coast of
California with a colony, which should buy a tract
of land from the natives and engage immediately
in otter hunting--somewhere between Cape Mendo-
cino and Drake's Bay. The Spanish have no settle-
ments above San Francisco and are too weak to
drive us out. They would rage and bluster and do
nothing. Then quietly push forward, building forts
and ships. But you have taken hold in the grand
manner and will accomplish in ten years what would
have taken me fifty. Marry this girl, use your ad-
vantage over the entire family--whose influence I
well know--and that great personal power with
which the Almighty has been so lavish, and you
will have the whole weakly garrisoned country un-
der your foot before they know where they are, and
the Russian settlers pouring in. Spain cannot
come to the rescue while this devil Bonaparte is
alive, and he is young, and like yourself a favorite
of destiny. Those damned Bostonians inherit the
grabbing instincts of the too paternal race they have
just rejected, but there are thousands of miles of
desert between California and their own western
outposts, hundreds of savage tribes to exterminate.
By the time they are in a position to attempt the
occupation of California we shall be so securely en-
trenched they will either let us alone or send troops
that would be half dead by the time they reach
us. As to ships, we could soon build enough at Ok-
hotsk and Petropaulovsky for our purpose. For
the matter of that, if your gifted tongue impressed
the Tsar with the riches of California there would
always be war ships on her coast." He leaned for-
ward and caught the strong shoulders above him in
hands that looked like a tangle of baked nerves, and
shook them vigorously. "You are a great boy!" he
said with a sort of quizzical solemnity. "A great
boy. This damned, God-forsaken, pestilential, de-
moralizing, brutalizing factory for enriching a few
with the very life blood and vitals of thousands that
will suffer and starve and never be heard of" (all
his language cannot be recorded), "will make two
or three reputations by the way. Mine will be one,
although I'll get nothing else. Shelikov is safe;
but you will have a monument. Well, God bless
you. I grudge you nothing. Not even the happi-
ness you deserve and are bound to have--for when
all is said and done, Rezanov, you are a lucky dog,
a lucky dog! Any man may see that, even when
these infernal snows have left him with but half an
eye. To quarrel with a destiny like yours would be
as great a waste of time as to protest that California
is warm and fertile, while this infernal North is
like living in a refrigerator with the deluge to vary
the monotony. Now let us get drunk!"

But Rezanov laughingly extricated himself, and
sending a message to Davidov and Khostov to come
to him immediately, walked toward the tent he had
ordered erected on the edge of the settlement; only
the worst of weather drove him indoors in these
half-civilized communities.

As he was passing the chapel, followed again by
the employees of the Company, to whom he had
granted a holiday, he suddenly found his hand taken
possession of, and looked up to see himself con-
fronted by a dissipated-looking person in plain
clothes. His hand became so limp that it was
dropped as if it had put forth a sting, and he nar-
rowed his eyes and demanded with a bend of his
mouth that brought the blood to the face of the in-

"And who are you, may I ask?"

The man threw back his head defiantly. "I am
Lieutenant Sookin of the Imperial Navy of Russia,"
he said in a loud, defiant tone.

"And I am Chamberlain of the Russian Court
and Commander of all America," replied Rezanov
coolly. "Now go to your quarters, dress yourself
in your uniform, and present your report to me an
hour hence."

The officer, concentrating in his injected eyes all
the lively hatred and jealousy of his service for the
Russian-American Company in this region where it
reigned supreme and cared no more for the Ad-
miralty than for some native chieftain covered with
shells and warpaint, glared at its plenipotentiary as
if calling upon his deeper resources of insolence;
but the steady, contemptuous gaze of the man who
had dealt with his kind often and successfully over-
came his sodden spirit, and he turned sulkily and
slouched off to his quarters to console himself with
more brandy. Rezanov shrugged his shoulders
and went on to his tent.

There was no furniture in it as yet, and he was
obliged to receive Davidov and Khostov standing,
but this he preferred. They followed him almost
immediately, apprehensive and nervous, and before
speaking he looked at them for a moment with his
strong, penetrating gaze. He well knew the power
of his own personality, and that it was immeasur-
ably enhanced by the fact that of all with whom he
had to do in these benighted regions his will alone
was never weakened by liquor. These young men,
clever, high-bred, with an honorable record not only
in Russia, but in England and America, looked upon
a hilarious night as the just reward of work well
done by day. Brandy was debited to their account
by the "bucket" (a bucket being a trifle less than
two gallons), and they found little fault with life.
But the profligacy gave a commanding spirit like
Rezanov's an advantage which they did not under-
estimate for a moment; and they alternately hated
and worshiped him.

"I think you have an inkling of what I am going
to ask you to do." The Chamberlain brought out
the euphemism with the utmost suavity. "I have
made up my mind not to ignore the indignity to
which Russia was subjected last year by Japan, but
to inflict upon it such punishment as I find it in my
power to compass. It was my intention to build a
flotilla here, but owing to the diseased condition and
reduced numbers of the employees, that was im-
possible, and I shall be obliged to content myself
with the Juno and the Avos, whose keel, as you
know, was laid in November, and is no doubt fin-
ished long since. These I shall fit with armaments
in Okhotsk. I shall place the enterprise I have
spoken of in your charge, sailing with you from
Sitka five days hence. From Okhotsk I desire that
you proceed to the Japanese settlements in the lower
Kurile Islands, take possession of them and bring
all stores and as many of the inhabitants as the
vessels will accommodate, to Sitka, where Baran-
hov will see that they are comfortably established
on that large island in the harbor--which we shall
call Japonsky--and converted into good servants of
the Company. The excuse for this enterprise is
that those islands were formally taken possession
of by Shelikov; and although abandoned later, the
fact remains that the Russian flag was the first to
float over them. The stores captured may not be
worth much and the islands are of no particular use
to us, but it is wise that Japan should have a taste
of Russian power; and the consequences may be
salutary in more ways than one. I hope you will
do me this great favor, for there is no one of your
tried probity and skill to whom I can trust so deli-
cate an enterprise. I am doing it wholly upon my
own responsibility, for although I wrote tentatively
to the Tsar on this subject before I sailed for Cali-
fornia, it is not yet time for a reply. However, I
take the consequences upon my own shoulders. You
shall not suffer in any way, for your orders are to
obey mine while you remain in these waters."

He paused a moment, and then suddenly smiled
into the unresponsive faces before him. He held
out his hand and shook their limp ones warmly.

"Let me thank you here for all your inestimable
services in the past, and particularly during our late
hazardous voyages. Be sure that whether you suc-
ceed in this enterprise or not, your rewards shall be
no less for what you have already done. I shall
make it a personal matter with the Tsar. You shall
have promotion and a substantial increase in pay,
besides the orders and Imperial thanks you so richly
deserve. Lest anything happen to me on my home-
ward journey, I shall write to St. Petersburg before
I leave."

The lieutenants, overcome as ever when he chose
to put forth his full powers, assured him of their
fidelity and, if with misgivings, vowed to mete out
vengeance to the Japanese. And although their
misgivings were not unfounded, and they paid a
high price in suffering and mortification, they ac-
complished their object and in due course received
the rewards the Chamberlain had promised them.

They did not retire, and Rezanov, noting their
sudden hesitation and embarrassment, felt an in-
stant thrill of apprehension.

"What is it?" he demanded. "What has hap-

"Life has moved slowly in Sitka during your
absence, Excellency," replied Davidov. "There has
been little work done on the Avos. It will not be
finished for a month or six weeks."

Then, had the young men been possessed by a
not infrequent mood, they would have glowed with
a sense of just satisfaction. Rezanov felt himself
turn so white that he wheeled about and left the
tent. A month or six weeks! And the speed and
safety of his journey across Siberia depended upon
his making the greater part of it before the heavy
autumn rains swelled the rivers and flooded the
swamps. Winter or summer the journey from Ok-
hotsk to St. Petersburg might be made in four
months; with the wealth and influence at his com-
mand, possibly in less; but in the deluge between
he was liable to detentions lasting nearly as long
again, to say nothing of illness caused by inevitable

He stood staring at the palisades for many min-
utes. The separation must be long enough, the
dangers numerous enough if he started within the
week, but at least he had in a measure accustomed
himself to the idea of not seeing Concha again for
"the best part of two years," and the sanguineness
of his temperament had led him to hope that the
time might be reduced to eighteen months. If he
delayed too long, only by means of an unprece-
dented run of good fortune would he reach St.
Petersburg but a month behind his calculations.
And the chances were in favor of four, or three at
the best! Never since the morning that the real
nature of his feeling for Concha had declared itself
had he yearned toward her as at that moment; never
since the dictum of what she called their "tribunal"
had he so rebelled against the long delay. And yet
he hesitated. To leave Japan unpunished for the
senseless humiliations to which it had subjected
Russia in his person was not to be thought of, and
yet did he leave without seeing the Avos finished,
the two boats supplied with armaments at Okhotsk,
and under way before he started across Siberia, he
knew it was doubtful if the expedition took place
before his return; in that case might never take
place, for these two young men might have drifted
elsewhere, and he knew no one else to whom he
could entrust such a commission. In spite of their
idiosyncrasies he could rely upon them implicitly--
up to a certain point. That point involved keeping
them in sight until exactly the right moment and
leaving nothing to their executive which could be
certainly accomplished by himself alone. Did he
sail five days hence on the Juno one of the officers
would be exposed for an indeterminate time to the
temptations of Okhotsk, the ship, perhaps, at the
mercy of some sudden requirement of the Com-
pany. His authority was absolute when enforced
in person, but it was a proverb west of the Ural:
"God reigns and the Tsar is far away." If the
Juno were wanted the manager of Okhotsk would
argue that two years was a period in which an ar-
dent servant of the Company would find many an
excuse to justify its seizure.

And here in Sitka it was doubtful if the work on
the Avos proceeded at all. Baranhov was not in
sympathy with the enterprise against the Japanese,
fearing the consequences to himself in the event of
the Tsar's disapproval, and resenting the impress-
ment of the promuschleniki into a service that de-
prived him of their legitimate work. Moreover, al-
though he loved Rezanov personally, he had en-
joyed supreme power in the wilderness too long not
to chafe under even the temporary assumption of
authority by his high-handed superior. With the
best of intentions Davidov could make little head-
way against the passive resistance of the Chief-
Manager, and those intentions would be weakened
by the consolidations the Company so generously

The result was hardly open to doubt. If he left
Sitka before the completion of the Avos, Russia
would go unavenged for the present. Or himself?
Rezanov, sanguine and imaginative as he was, even
to the point of creating premises to rhyme with ends,
was very honest fundamentally. He turned abruptly
on his heel, and calling to the officers that he would
announce his decision on the morrow, ordered the
sentry to open the gate and passed out of the en-

He crossed the clearing and entered the forest.
The warlike tribes themselves had trodden paths
through the dense undergrowth of young trees and
ferns. Rezanov, despite Baranhov's warning, had
tramped the forest many times. It was the one
thing that reconciled him to Sitka, for there are
few woods more beautiful. In spite or because of
the incessant rains, it is pervaded by a rich golden
gloom, the result of the constant rotting of the
brown and yellow bark, not only of the prostrate
trees, but of the many killed by crowding and un-
able to seek the earth with the natural instinct of
death. And above, the green of hemlock and spruce
was perennially fresh and young, glistening and fra-
grant. Here and there was a small clearing where
the clans had erected their ingenious and hideous
totem poles, out of place in the ancient beauty of
the wood.

The ferns brushed his waist, the roar of the river
came to his ears, the forest had never looked more
primeval, more wooing to a man burdened with civil-
ization, but Rezanov gave it less heed than usual,
although he had turned to it instinctively. He was
occupied with a question to which nature would
turn an aloof disdainful ear. Was his own wounded
vanity at the root of his desire to humiliate Japan?
Russia was too powerful, too occupied, for the pres-
ent at least, greatly to care that her overtures and
presents had been scorned. Upon her ambassador
had fallen the full brunt of that wearisome and in-
comparably mortifying experience, and unfortu-
nately the ambassador happened to be one of the
proudest and most autocratic men in her empire.
No man of Rezanov's caliber but accommodates that
sort of personal vanity that tenaciously resents a
blow to the pride of which it is a part, to the love of
power it feeds. As well expect a lover without pas-
sion, a state without corruption. Rezanov finally
shrugged his shoulders and admitted the impeach-
ment, but at the same time he recognized that the
desire for vengeance still held, and that the tenacity
of his nature, a tenacity that had been no mean
factor in the remodeling of himself from a voluptu-
ous young sprig of nobility into one of the most
successful business men and subjugator of other
men that the Russian Empire could show, was not
likely to weaken when its very roots had been stiff
with purpose for fifteen months. Power had been
Rezanov's ruling passion for many years before he
met Concha Arguello, and, although it might mate
very comfortably with love, it was not to be expected
that it would remain submerged beyond the first
enthusiasm, nor even assume the position of the
"party of the second part." Rezanov was Rezanov.
He was also in that interval between youth and age
when the brain rules if it is ever to rule at all. That
the ardor of his nature had awakened refreshed
after a long sleep was but just proved, as well as
the revival of his early ideals and capacity for genu-
ine love; but the complexities, the manifold inter-
ests and desires of the ego had been growing and
developing these many years; and no mere mortal
that has given up his life for a considerable period
to the thirst for dominance can ever, save in a brief
exaltation, sacrifice it to anything so normal as the
demands of sex and spirit. For good or ill, the
man who has burned with ambition, exulted in the
exercise of power, bitterly resented the temporary
victories of rivals and enemies, fought with all the
resources of brain and character against failure, is
in a class apart from humanity in the mass. Reza-
nov loved Concha Arguello to the very depths of
his soul, but he had lived beyond the time when
even she could engage successfully with the ruth-
less forces that had molded into immutable shape
the Rezanov she knew. Her place was second, and
it is probable that she would have loved him less
had it been otherwise; she, in spite of her fine intel-
lect and strong will, being all woman, as he, despite
his depth of intuition, was all man. Equality is
possible in no relation or condition of life. When
woman subjugates man the conquered will enjoy a
sense of revenge proportionate to the meanness of
his state.

It is possible that had Concha awaited Rezanov in
St. Petersburg her attraction would have focused
his desires irresistibly; but his mind had resigned
itself to the prospect of separation for a definite
period, and while it had not relegated her image to
the background, her part in his life had been settled
there among many future possibilities, and all the
foreground was crowded with the impatient sym-
bols of the intervening time. Moreover, he well
knew that the savor would be gone from his happi-
ness with the woman were the taste of another fail-
ure acrid in his mouth.

As he realized that the die was cast, the sanguine-
ness of his temperament rushed to do battle against
apprehension and self-accusing. After all, he was
rarely balked of his way, accustomed to ride down
obstacles, to the amiable cooperation of fate. He
could arrive in Okhotsk late in September or early
in October. Captain D'Wolf, who had been de-
tained at Sitka during his absence by the same in-
difference that had operated against the completion
of the Avos, would precede him and order that all
be in readiness at Okhotsk both for the ships and
his journey to Yakutsk. He could proceed at once;
and, no doubt, with twice the number or horses
needed, would make the first and most difficult stage
of the journey in the usual time, and with no great
embarrassment from the rains. From Yakutsk to
Irkutsk the greater part of the travel was by water
in any case, and after that the land was flat for the
most part and bridges were more numerous. The
governor of every town in Siberia would be his
obsequious servant, the entire resources of the

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