Part 1 out of 8
Charles Aldarondo, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading
THE LITTLE LADY OF LAGUNITAS
A FRANCO-CALIFORNIAN ROMANCE
BY Richard Henry Savage
Forty-two years have passed since California's golden star first
glittered in the flag of the United States of America.
Its chequered history virtually begins with the rush for gold in
Acquired for the evident purpose of extending slave-holding
territory, it was occupied for years by a multitude of cosmopolitan
"free lances," who swept away the defenceless Indians, and brutally
robbed the great native families, the old "Dons."
Society slowly made headway against these motley adventurers. Mad
riot, wildest excess, marked these earlier days.
High above the meaner knights of the "revolver and bowie knife,"
greater than card sharper, fugitive bravo, or sly wanton, giant
schemers appeared, who throw, yet, dark shadows over the records
of this State.
These daring conspirators dominated legislature and forum, public
office and society.
They spoiled the Mexican, robbed the Indian, and paved the way for
a "Lone Star Republic," or the delivering of the great treasure
fields of the West to the leaders of Secession.
How their designs on this grand domain failed; what might have been,
had the South been more active in its hour of primary victory and
seized the Golden West, these pages may show.
The golden days of the "stars and bars" were lost by the activity
of the Unionists and the mistaken policy at Richmond.
The utter demoralization of California by the "bonanza era" of
silver discovery, the rise of an invincible plutocracy, and the
second reign of loose luxury are herein set forth.
Scenes never equalled in shamelessness have disgraced the Halls of
State, the Courts, and the mansions of the suddenly enriched.
The poor have been trampled by these tyrants for twenty years.
Characters unknown in the social history of any other land, have
been evolved from this golden eddy of crime and adventure.
Not till all these men and women of incredibly romantic fortunes
have passed away, will a firm social structure rise over their
Throttled by usurers, torn by gigantic bank wars, its resources
drained by colossal swindles, crouching yet under the iron rule
of upstart land-barons, "dashing journalism," and stern railroad
autocrats, the Californian community has gloomily struggled along.
Newer States have made a relative progress which shames California.
Its future is yet uncertain.
The native sons and daughters of the golden West are the hope of
The homemakers may yet win the victory.
Some of the remarkable scenes of the past are herein portrayed by
one who has seen this game of life played in earnest, the shadowed
drama of California.
There is no attempt to refer to individuals, save as members of
well-defined classes, in these pages. This book has absolutely no
NEW YORK CITY, May 15, 1892.
THE LAST OF THE DONS BY THE BLUE PACIFIC.
CHAPTER I.--Under the Mexican Eagle.--Exit the Foreigner.--Monterey,
CHAPTER II.--At the Presidio of San Francisco. Wedding Chimes from
the Mission Dolores.--Lagunitas Rancho
CHAPTER III.--A Missing Sentinel.--Fremont's Camp
CHAPTER IV.--Held by the Enemy.--The Bear Flag
GOLD FOR ALL.--A NEW STAR IN THE FLAG.
CHAPTER V.--The Golden Magnet.--Free or Slave?
CHAPTER VI.--Lighting Freedom's Western Lamp
CHAPTER VII.--The Queen of the El Dorado.--Guilty Bonds
CHAPTER VIII.--Joaquin the Mountain Robber.--The Don's Peril
CHAPTER IX.--The Stranger's Foot at Lagunitas. Valois' Spanish
GOING HOME TO DIXIE.--STARS AND STRIPES, OR STARS AND BARS?
CHAPTER X.--A Little Dinner at Judge Hardin's. The Knights of the
CHAPTER XI.--"I'se gwine back to Dixie."--The Fortunes of War.--Val
CHAPTER XII.--Hood's Day.--Peachtree Creek. Valois' Last Trust.--De
Gress' Battery.--Dead on the Field of Honor
A LOST HEIRESS.--MILLIONS AT STAKE.
CHAPTER XIII.--Mount Davidson's Magic Millions. A California
Plutocracy.--The Price of a Crime
CHAPTER XIV.--A Mariposa Bonanza.--Natalie de Santos born in
Paris.--The Queen of the El Dorado joins the Gallic "Four Hundred"
CHAPTER XV.--An Old Priest and a Young Artist. The Changelings
CHAPTER XVI.-Hearing Each Other.--The Valois Heirs
CHAPTER XVII.--Weaving Spiders.--A Coward Blow.--Marie Berard's
REAPING THE WHIRLWIND.
CHAPTER XVIII.--Joe Woods Surprises a Lady. Love's Golden Nets
CHAPTER XIX.--Lovers Once, Strangers Now. Face to Face
CHAPTER XX.--Judge Hardin Meets his Match. A Senatorial Election.--In
a Mariposa Court Room.--The Trust fulfilled at Lagunitas
THE LAST OF THE DONS BY THE BLUE PACIFIC.
UNDER THE MEXICAN EAGLE.--EXIT THE FOREIGNER.--MONTEREY, 1840.
"Caramba! Adios, Seflores!" cried Captain Miguel Peralta, sitting
on his roan charger on the Monterey bluffs. A white-sailed bark
is heading southward for Acapulco. His vaqueros tossed up their
sombreros, shouting, "Vive Alvarado! Muerte los estrangeros!"
The Pacific binds the hills of California in a sapphire zone,
unflecked by a single sail in sight, save the retreating trader,
which is flitting around "Punta de los Pinos."
It is July, 1840. The Mexican ensign flutters in the plaza of
Monterey, the capital of Alta California.
Miguel Peralta dismounts and crosses himself, murmuring, "Sea por
Dios y la Santissima Virgen."
His duty is done. He has verified the departure of the Yankee ship.
It is crowded with a hundred aliens. They are now exiles.
Gathered in by General Vallejo, the "pernicious foreigners" have
been held at Monterey, until a "hide drogher" comes into the port.
Alvarado permits her to anchor under the guns of the hill battery.
He then seizes the ship for his use.
Captain Peralta is given the honor of casting out these Ishmaels
of fortune. He views calmly their exit. It is a land which welcomes
not the "Gringo." The ship-master receives a draft on Acapulco
for his impressed service. These pioneer argonauts are warned (on
pain of death) not to return. It is a day of "fiesta" in Monterey.
"Vive Alvarado!" is the toast.
So, when Captain Miguel dashes into the Plaza, surrounded with his
dare-devil retainers, reporting that the vessel is off shore, the
rejoicing is unbounded.
Cannons roar: the yells of the green jacket and yellow scrape brigade
rise on the silent reaches of the Punta de los Pinos. A procession
winds up to the Carmel Mission. Governor Alvarado, his staff, the
leading citizens, the highest families, and the sefioritas attend
a mass of thanksgiving. Attired in light muslins, with here and there
a bright-colored shawl giving a fleck of color, and silk kerchiefs
--fleecy--the ladies' only other ornaments are the native flowers
which glitter on the slopes of Monterey Bay. Bevies of dark-eyed
girls steal glances at Andres, Ramon, or Jose, while music lends a
hallowing charm to the holy father's voice as he bends before the
decorated altar. Crowds of mission Indians fill the picturesque
church. Every heart is proud. Below their feet sleeps serenely
good Fray "Junipero Serra." He blessed this spot in 1770;--a man of
peace, he hung the bells on the green oaks in a peaceful wilderness.
High in air, to-day they joyously peal out a "Laus Deo." When the
mystery of the mass rehearses the awful sacrifice of Him who died
for us all, a silence broods over the worshippers. The notes of
the choristers' voices slowly die away. The population leaves the
church in gay disorder.
The Bells of the Past throw their spells over the mossy church--at
once triumph, tomb, and monument of Padre Junipero. Scattered
over the coast of California, the padres now sleep in the Lethe of
death. Fathers Kino, Salvatierra, Ugarte, and sainted Serra left
their beautiful works of mercy from San Diego to Sonoma. With
their companions, neither unknown tribes, lonely coasts, dangers
by land and sea, the burning deserts of the Colorado, nor Indian
menaces, prevented the linking together of these outposts of
peaceful Christianity. The chain of missions across New Mexico and
Texas and the Mexican religious houses stretches through bloody
Arizona. A golden circlet!
Happy California! The cross here preceded the sword. No blood stains
the Easter lilies of the sacrifice. The Dons and Donnas greet each
other in stately fashion, as the gathering disperses. Governor
Alvarado gives a feast to the notables. The old families are
all represented at the board. Picos, Peraltas, Sanchez, Pachecos,
Guerreros, Estudillos, Vallejos, Alvarados, De la Guerras, Castros,
Micheltorrenas, the descendants of "Conquistadores," drink to
Mexico. High rises the jovial chatter. Good aguadiente and mission
wine warm the hearts of the fiery Californian orators. A proud day
for Monterey, the capital of a future Empire of Gold. The stranger
is cast out. Gay caballeros are wending to the bear-baiting, the
bull-fights, the "baile," and the rural feasts. Splendid riders
prance along, artfully forcing their wild steeds into bounds and
curvets with the rowels of their huge silver-mounted spurs.
Dark lissome girls raise their velvety eyes and applaud this daring
horsemanship. Se¤ioritas Luisa, Isabel, and Panchita lose no point
of the display. In a land without carriages or roads, the appearance
of the cavalier, his mount, his trappings, most do make the man
shine before these fair slips of Mexican blue blood.
Down on the beach, the boys race their half-broken broncos. These
lads are as lithe and lean as the ponies they bestride. Across the
bay, the Sierras of Santa Cruz lift their virgin crests (plumed with
giant redwoods) to the brightest skies on earth. Flashing brooks
wander to the sea unvexed by mill, unbridged in Nature's unviolated
freedom. Far to north and south the foot-hills stand shining with
their golden coats of wild oats, a memorial of the seeds cast over
these fruitful mesas by Governor Caspar de Portala. He left San
Diego Mission in July, 1769, with sixty-five retainers, and first
reached the Golden Gate.
Beyond the Coast Range lies a "terra incognita." A few soldiers
only have traversed the Sacramento and San Joaquin. They wandered
into the vales of Napa and Sonoma, fancying them a fairyland.
The sparkling waters of the American, the Sacramento, the Yuba,
Feather, and Bear rivers are dancing silently over rift and ripple.
There precious nuggets await the frenzied seekers for wealth. There
are no gold-hunters yet in the gorges of these crystal streams.
Down in Nature's laboratory, radiated golden veins creep along
between feathery rifts of virgin quartz. They are the treasures
of the careless gnomes.
Not till years later will Marshall pick up the first nugget of
gleaming gold in Sutter's mill-race at Coloma. The "auri sacra
fames" will bring thousands from the four quarters of the earth to
sweep away "the last of the Dons."
A lovely land to-day. No axe rings in its forests. No steamboat
threads the rivers. Not an engine is harnessed to man's use in this
silent, lazy realm. The heart of the Sierras is inviolate. The word
"Gold" must be whispered to break the charm.
The sun climbs to noon, then slowly sinks to the west. It dips into
the silent sea, mirroring sparkling evening stars.
Stretching to Japan, the Pacific is the mysterious World's End.
Along the brown coast, the sea otter, clad in kingly robes, sports
shyly in the kelp fields. The fur seals stream by unchased to their
misty home in the Pribyloffs. Barking sea-lions clamber around the
jutting rocks. Lazy whales roll on the quiet waters of the bay,
their track an oily wake.
It is the land of siesta, of undreamed dreams, of brooding slumber.
The barbaric diversions of the day are done. The firing squad
leave the guns. The twang of guitar and screech of violin open the
The young cavaliers desert the streets. Bibulous dignitaries sit
in council around Governor Alvarado's table. Mexican cigars, wine
in old silver flagons (fashioned by the deft workers of Chihuahua
and Durango), and carafes of aguadiente, garnish the board.
The mahogany table (a mark of official grandeur), transported
from Acapulco, is occupied (below the salt) by the young officers.
Horse-racing, cock-fighting, and gambling on the combat of bear
and bull, have not exhausted their passions. Public monte and faro
leave them a few "doubloons" yet. Seated with piles of Mexican
dollars before them, the young heroes enjoy a "lay-out." All their
coin comes from Mexico. Hundreds of millions, in unminted gold and
silver, lie under their careless feet, yet their "pieces of eight"
date back to Robinson Crusoe! This is the land of "manana!" Had
Hernando Cortez not found the treasures of Mexico, he might have
fought his way north, over the Gila Desert, to the golden hoards
of the sprites of the Sierras.
At the banquet fiery Alvarado counselled with General Vallejo.
Flushed with victory, Captain Miguel was the lion of this feast.
He chatted with his compadres.
The seniors talked over the expulsion of the strangers.
Cool advisers feared trouble from France, England, or the United
States. Alvarado's instinct told him that foreigners would gain
a mastery over the Dons, if permitted to enter in numbers. Texas
was an irresistible warning. "Senores," said Alvarado, "the Russians
came in 1812. Only a few, with their Kodiak Indians, settled at
Bodega. Look at them now! They control beautiful Bodega! They
are 800 souls! True, they say they are going, but only our posts at
San Rafael and Sonoma checked them. A fear of your sword, General!"
Alvarado drank to Vallejo.
Vallejo bowed to his Governor. "Senor," said he, "you are right.
I have seen Mexico. I have been a scholar, as well as a soldier. I
knew Von Resanoff's Russian slyness. My father was at the Presidio
in 1807, when he obtained rights for a few fur hunters. Poor fellow!
he never lived to claim his bride, but he was a diplomat."
"Foreigners will finally outroot us. Here is Sutter, building his
fort on the Sacramento! He's a good fellow, yet I'll have to burn
New Helvetia about his ears some day. Russian or Swiss, French or
Yankee, it's all the same. The 'Gringo' is the worst of all. Poor
Conception de Arguello. She waited long for her dead Russian lover."
"General, do you think the Yankees can ever attack us by land?"
"Madre de Dios! No!" cried Vallejo, "we will drag them at our
"Then, I have no fear of them," said Alvarado. "We occupy San
Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco, the missions of
San Juan Capistrano, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Clara,
and help to control the Indians, but these home troubles have
stopped their useful growth."
Governor Alvarado sighed. Governor Hijar in 1834 had desecularized
the Catholic missions. Their cattle were stolen, their harvests
and vineyards destroyed. The converts were driven off to seek new
homes among the Utes, Yubas, Feather River, Napa, and Mohave tribes.
Pious Alvarado crossed himself. He glanced uneasily at Padre
Castillo,--at the board. Only one or two priests were left at the
beautiful settlements clustering around the old mission churches.
To-day these are the only architectural ornaments of Alta California.
"I doubt the wisdom of breaking up the missions," said Alvarado,
with gloomy brow. A skeleton was at this feast. The troubled Governor
could not see the handwriting on the wall. He felt California was
a priceless jewel to Mexico. He feared imprudent measures. Lying
dormant, California slept since Cabrillo saw Cape Mendocino in
1542. After he turned his shattered prows back to Acapulco on June
27, 1543, it was only on November 10, 1602, that ambitious Viscaino
raised the Spanish ensign at San Diego. He boldly claimed this
golden land for Spain. Since that furtive visit, the lonely coast
lay unsettled. It was only used as a haunt by wild pirates, lurking
to attack the precious Philippine galleons sailing to Acapulco. For
one hundred and sixty-eight years the land was unvisited. Spanish
greed and iron rule satisfied itself with grinding the Mexicans
and turning southward in the steps of Balboa and Pizarro.
Viscaino's neglected maps rotted in Madrid for two centuries.
Fifty-five years of Spanish rule left California undeveloped, save
by the gentle padres who, aided by their escort, brought in the
domestic animals. They planted fruit-trees, grains, and the grape.
They taught the peaceful Indians agriculture. Flax, hemp, and
cotton supplanted the skins of animals.
Alvarado and Vallejo remembered the Spanish war in 1822. At this
banquet of victory, neither thought that, a few years later, the
rule of the Dons would be over; that their familiar places would
know them no more. Just retribution of fate! The Dons drove out
the friars, and recked not their own day was close at hand.
As the exultant victors stood drinking the toast of the day,
"Muerte los estrangeros," neither crafty statesman, sly priest,
fiery general, wise old Don, nor reckless caballero, could predict
that the foreigners would return in two years. That they would come
under protection of the conquering British flag.
Alvarado was excited by his feuds with Micheltorrena. The people
were divided into clericals and anti-clericals. A time of "storm
and stress" hung over all.
Wise in victory was Captain Miguel Peralta. His campaign against
the foreigners marked the close of his service. Born in 1798, his
family were lords of broad lands on the Alamedas of San Francisco
Bay. He was sent to the city of Mexico and educated, serving in
the army of the young republic. Returning to Alta California, he
became a soldier.
Often had he sallied out to drive the warlike Indian toward the
Sacramento. In watching his mustangs and cattle, he rode far to
the slopes of the Sierra Nevadas. Their summits glittered under the
blue skies, crowned with silvery snows, unprofaned by the foot of
A sturdy caballero, courtly and sagacious. His forty-two years
admonished him now to settle in life. When Alvarado was in cheeriest
mood, at the feast, the Captain reminded him of his promise to release
him. This would allow Peralta to locate a new ten-league-square
grant of lands, given him for past services to the State.
Graciously the Governor accorded the request. Noblesse oblige!
"Don Miguel, is there any reason for leaving us besides your new
rancho?" said Alvarado. The Captain's cheek reddened a little.
"Senor Gobernador, I have served the State long," said he. "Juanita
Castro waits for me at San Francisco. I will lay off my rancho on
the San Joaquin. I move there in the spring."
Alvarado was delighted. The health of Senorita Juanita Castro was
honored by the whole table. They drank an extra bumper for gallant
Don Miguel, the bridegroom.
The Governor was pleased. Powerful Castros and Peraltas stretched
from the Salinas, by San Jose and Santa Clara, to Martinez; and
San Rafael as well as Sonoma. By this clan, both Sutter's Fort and
the Russians could be watched.
This suitable marriage would bring a thousand daring horsemen to
serve under the cool leadership of Don Miguel in case of war.
Peralta told the Governor he would explore the San Joaquin. He
wished to locate his ranch where he could have timber, wood, water,
game, and mountain air.
Don Miguel did not inform the chief of the state that in riding from
San Diego to Cape Mendocino he had found one particular garden of
Paradise. He had marked this for his home when his sword would be
sheathed in honor.
"I will say, your Excellency," said the Captain, "I fear for the
future. The Yankees are growing in power and are grasping. They
have robbed us of lovely Texas. Now, it is still a long way for
their ships to come around dreary Cape Horn. We had till late years
only two vessels from Boston; I saw their sails shining in the bay
of San Francisco when I was five years old. I have looked in the
Presidio records for the names. The Alexander and the Aser, August
1st, 1803. Then, they begged only for wood and water and a little
provision. Now, their hide-traders swarm along our coast. They will
by and by come with their huge war-ships. These trading-boats have
no cannon, but they are full of bad rum. Our coast people will be
cleared out. Why, Catalina Islands," continued the Captain, "were
peopled once densely. There are yet old native temples there. All
these coast tribes have perished. It is even worse since the holy
fathers were robbed of their possessions."
The good soldier crossed himself in memory of the wise padres. They
owned the thousands of cattle, sheep, and horses once thronging the
oat-covered hills. Theirs were the fruits, grains, and comforts
of these smiling valleys, untrodden yet by a foreign foe.
"Your Excellency, when the Yankee war-ships have come, we cannot
resist them. Our batteries are old and poor, we have little
ammunition. Our arms are out of repair. The machete and lasso are
no match for their well-supplied men-of-war. I shall locate myself
so far in the interior that the accursed Gringos cannot reach me
with their ships or their boats. The trappers who straggle over the
deserts from Texas our horsemen will lasso. They will bring them
in bound as prisoners."
"Miguel, mi compadre," said the Governor, "do you think they
can cross the deserts?" He was startled by Peralta's views of the
"Senor," said the Captain, "I saw the first American who came
overland. The wanderer appeared in 1826. It was the 20th of December.
He was found half starved by our vaqueros. I have his name here on
a piece of paper. I have long carried it, for I was a guard over
Miguel slowly spelled off the detested Yankee name, Jedediah S.
Smith, from a slip of cartridge paper in his bolsa. Glory be to
the name of Smith!
"Where THAT one Yankee found a way, more will come, but we will
meet and fight them. This is our OWN land by the right of discovery.
The good King Philip II. of Spain rightfully claimed this (from his
orders to Viceroy Monterey in 1596). We get our town name here in
his honor. We will fight the English, and these accursed Yankees.
They have no right to be here. This is our home," cried fiery
Miguel, as he pledged the hospitable Governor. He passed out into
the dreaming, starry night. As he listened to the waves softly
breaking on the sandy beach, he thought fondly of Juanita Castro.
He fumbled over the countersign as the sentinel presented his old
Both Governor and Captain sought the repose of their Spartan pillows.
The Captain forgot, in his zeal for Spanish dominion, that daring
Sir Francis Drake, in days even then out of the memory of man,
piloted the "Golden Hind" into Drake's Bay. He landed near San
Francisco in 1578, and remained till the early months of 1579. Under
the warrant of "good Queen Bess" he landed, and set up a pillar
bearing a "fair metal plate" with a picture of that antiquated
but regal coquette. He nailed on the pillar a "fair struck silver
five-pence," saluting the same with discharge of culverins, much
hearty English cheer and nautical jollity. The land was English--by
Sir Francis, gallant and courtly, was, like many travellers, as
skilful at drawing the long bow as in wielding the rapier. He was
not believed at home.
Notwithstanding, he tarried months and visited the inland Indians,
bringing home many objects of interest, announcing "much gold and
silver," his voyage was vain. His real discovery was deemed of no
practical value. The robust Indians swarmed in thousands, living
by the watersides in huts, wearing deerskin cloaks and garments
of rushes. Hunters and fishers were they. They entertained the
freebooter, and like him have long since mouldered to ashes. Along
the Pacific Coast great mounds of shells, marking their tribal
seaside feasts, are now frequently unearthed. Their humble history
is shadowed by the passing centuries. They are only a memory,
a shadow on Time's stream. Good Queen Bess sleeps in the stately
fane of Westminster. Sir Francis's sword is rusted. The "brazen
plate" recording that date and year is of a legendary existence only.
"Drake's Bay" alone keeps green the memory of the daring cruiser.
Even in one century the Spanish, Russian, Mexican, and American
flags successively floated over the unfrequented cliffs of California.
Two hundred years before, the English ensign kissed the air in
pride, unchallenged by the haughty Spaniard.
Miguel Peralta was happy. He had invited all the officials to attend
the nuptials by the Golden Gate. Venus was in the ascendant. The
red planet of Mars had set, he hoped, forever. The officers and
gentry contemplated a frolicsome ride around the Salinas bend, over
the beautiful passes to Santa Clara valley and the town of Yerba
Peralta's marriage was an excuse for general love making. A display
of all the bravery of attire and personal graces of man and maid
was in order.
The soldier drifted into the land of dreams haunted by Juanita
Castro's love-lit eyes and rare, shy smile. No vision disturbed
him of the foothold gained in Oregon by the Yankees. They sailed
past the entrance of San Francisco Bay, on the Columbia, in 1797,
but they found the great river of the northwest. They named it after
their gallant bark, said to be the legal property of one General
Washington of America.
The echoes of Revolutionary cannon hardly died away before the
eagle-guided Republic began to follow the star of empire to the
Had the listless mariners seen that obscured inlet of the Golden
Gate, they had never braved the icy gales of the Oregon coast.
Miguel Peralta's broad acres might have had another lord. Bishop
Berkeley's prophecy was infallible. A fatal remissness seemed to
characterize all early foreign adventure on Californian coasts.
Admiral Vancouver in 1793 visited Monterey harbor, and failed to
raise the Union Jack, as supinely as the later British commanders
in 1846. French commanders, technically skilful and energetic, also
ignored the value of the western coast. As a result of occasional
maritime visits, the slender knowledge gained by these great
navigators appears a remarkable omission.
The night passed on. Breezes sweeping through the pines of Monterey
brought no murmur from the south and east of the thunder crash of
cannon on the unfought fields of Mexico.
No drowsy vaquero sentinel, watching the outposts of Monterey,
could catch a sound of the rumbling wheels and tramping feet of
that vast western immigration soon to tread wearily the old overland
and the great southern route.
The soldier, nodding over his flint-lock as the white stars dropped
into the western blue, saw no glitter of the sails of hostile Yankee
frigates. Soon they would toss in pride at anchor here, and salute
the starry flag of a new sovereignty. The little twinkling star
to be added for California was yet veiled behind the blue field of
our country's banner.
Bright sun flashes dancing over the hills awoke the drowsy sacristan.
The hallowed "Bells of Carmel" called the faithful to mass.
Monterey, in reverse order of its social grades, rose yawning from
the feast. Fandangos and bailes of the day of victory tired all.
Lazy "mozos" lolled about the streets. A few revellers idly compared
notes of the day's doings.
In front of the government offices, squads of agile horses awaited
haughty riders. A merry cavalcade watched for Captain Miguel
Peralta. He was to be escorted out of the Pueblo by the "jeunesse
doree" of Alta California.
Clad in green jackets buttoned with Mexican dollars, riding leggings
of tiger-cat skin seamed with bullion and fringed with dollars,
their brown faces were surmounted by rich sombreros, huge of rim.
They were decorated in knightly fashion with silver lace. The young
caballeros awaited their preux chevalier. Saddle and bridle shone
with heavy silver mountings. Embossed housings and "tapadero," hid
the symmetry of their deer-like coursers.
Pliant rawhide lassos coiled on saddle horns, gay serapes tied
behind each rider, and vicious machetes girded on thigh, these sons
of the West were the pride of the Pacific.
Not one of them would be dismayed at a seven days' ride to Los
Angeles. A day's jaunt to a fandango, a night spent in dancing, a
gallop home on the morrow, was child's play to these young Scythians.
Pleasure-loving, brave, and courteous; hospitable, and fond of
their lovely land--they bore all fatigue in the saddle, yet despised
any manual exertion; patricians all, in blood.
So it has been since man conquered the noblest inferior animal.
The man on the horse always rides down and tramples his brother
on foot. Life is simply a struggle for the saddle, and a choice of
the rarest mount in the race. To-day these gay riders are shadows
of a forgotten past.
Before noon Captain Peralta receives the order of the Governor. It
authorizes him to locate his military grant. General Vallejo, with
regret, hands Miguel an order relieving him from duty. He is named
Commandante of the San Joaquin valley, under the slopes of the
Laden with messages, despatches, and precious letters for the ranches
on the road to the Golden Gate, he departs. These are entrusted to
the veteran sergeant, major-domo and shadow of his beloved master.
Miguel bounds into the saddle. He gayly salutes the Governor
and General with a graceful sweep of his sombrero. He threads the
crowded plaza with adroitness, swaying easily from side to side as
he greets sober friend or demure Donna. He smiles kindly on all the
tender-eyed senoritas who admire the brave soldier, and in their
heart of hearts envy Juanita Castro, the Rose of Alameda.
Alert and courteous, the future bright before him, Peralta gazes
on the Mexican flag fluttering in the breeze. A lump rises in his
throat. His long service is over at last. He doffs his sombrero
when the guard "turns out" for him. It is the last honor.
He cannot foresee that a French frigate will soon lie in the very
bay smiling at his feet, and cover the returning foreigner with
In two short years, sturdy old Commodore Jones will blunder along
with the American liners, CYANE and UNITED STATES, and haul down
that proud Mexican ensign. He will hoist for the first time, on
October, 19, 1842, the stars and stripes over the town. Even though
he apologizes, the foreigners will troop back there like wolves
around the dying bison of the west. The pines on Santa Cruz whisper
of a coming day of change. The daybreak of the age of gold draws
Steadily through the live-oaks and fragrant cypress the bridegroom
rides to the wedding. A few days' social rejoicings, then away to
the beautiful forests of his new ranch. It lies far in the hills
of Mariposa. There, fair as a garden of the Lord, the grassy knolls
of the foothills melt into the golden wild-oat fields of the San
Behind him, to the east, the virgin forest rises to the serrated
peaks of the Nevada. He drops his bridle on his horse's neck. He
dreams of a day when he can visit the unknown ca¤ons beyond his
Several Ute chiefs have described giant forests of big trees.
They tell of a great gorge of awful majesty; that far toward the
headwaters of the American are sparkling lakes fed by winter snows.
His escort of young bloods rides behind him. They have had their
morning gymnastics, "a cheval," to edify the laughing beauties
of the baile of last night. The imprisoned rooster, buried to the
neck in soft earth, has been charged on and captured gaily. Races
whiled away their waiting moments.
Then, "adios, se¤oritas," with heart-pangs in chorus. After a
toss of aguardiente, the cigarito is lit. The beaux ride out for
a glimpse of the white cliffs of the Golden Gate. The sleeping
Monterey belles dream yet of yester-even. Nature smiles, a fearless
virgin, with open arms. Each rancho offers hospitality. Money
payments are unknown here yet, in such matters.
Down the Santa Clara avenue of great willows these friends ride
in the hush of a starry evening. As the mission shows its lights,
musical bells proclaim the vesper service. Their soft echoes are
wafted to the ears of these devotees.
Devoutly the caballeros dismount. They kneel on the tiled floor
till the evening service ends.
Miguel's heart sinks while he thinks of the missions. He bows in
prayer. Neglected vineyards and general decay reign over the deserted
It is years since Hijar scattered the missions, He paralyzed
the work of the Padres. Already Santa Clara's gardens are wasted.
Snarling coyotes prowl to the very walls of the enclosures left to
Priest and acolytes quit the altar. Miguel sadly leaves the church.
Over a white stone on the sward his foot pauses. There rests one
of his best friends--Padre Pacheco--passed beyond these earthly
troubles to eternal rest and peace. The mandate of persecution
can never drive away that dead shepherd. He rests with his flock
Hijar seized upon the acres of the Church. He came down like the
feudal barons in England. Ghostly memories cling yet around these
"When the lord of the hill, Amundeville,
Made Norman church his prey,
And expelled the friars, one friar still
Would not be driven away."
So here the sacred glebe was held by a faithful sentinel. His
gravestone flashed a white protest against violence. In the struggle
between sword and cowl, the first victory is with the sword; not
always the last. Time has its revenges.
Padre Hinojosa, the incumbent, welcomes the Captain. There is cheer
for the travellers. Well-crusted bottles of mission claret await
them. The tired riders seek the early repose of primitive communities.
Beside the fire (for the fog sweeps coldly over the Coast Range)
the priest and his guest exchange confidences. Captain Peralta is
an official bulletin. The other priest is summoned away to a dying
penitent. The halls of the once crowded residence of the clergy
re-echo strangely the footsteps of the few servants.
By the embers the man of the sword and he of the gown lament these
days. They are pregnant with trouble. The directing influence of
the Padres is now absent. Peralta confides to Hinojosa that jealousy
and intrigue will soon breed civil warfare. Micheltorrena is now
conspiring against Alvarado. Peralta seeks a secluded home in the
forests of Mariposa. He desires to gain a stronghold where he can
elude both domestic and foreign foes.
"Don Miguel," the padre begins, "in our records we have notes of
a Philippine galleon, the SAN AUGUSTIN, laden with the spoils of the
East. She was washed ashore in 1579, tempest tossed at the Golden
Gate. Viscaino found this wreck in 1602. Now I have studied much.
I feel that the Americans will gradually work west, overland,
and will rule us. Our brothers destroyed the missions. They would
have Christianized the patient Indians, teaching them industries.
Books tell me even the Apaches were peaceful till the Spanish
soldiers attacked them. Now from their hills they defy the whole
Mexican army." The good priest sighed. "Our work is ruined. I shall
lay my bones here, but I see the trade of the East following that
lonely wrecked galleon, and a young people growing up. The Dons
will go." Bestowing a blessing on his guest, the padre sought his
breviary. Priest and soldier slept in quiet. To-day the old padre's
vision is realized. The treasures of the East pour into the Golden
Gate. His simple heart would have been happy to know that thousands
of Catholics pause reverently at his tomb covered with the roses
of Santa Clara.
AT THE PRESIDIO OF SAN FRANCISCO.---WEDDING CHIMES FROM THE MISSION
Golden lances pierced the haze over the hills, waking the padre
betimes next morning. Already the sacristan was ringing his call.
The caballeros were kneeling when the Indian choir raised the
chants. When mass ended, the "mozos" scoured the potrero, driving
in the chargers. Commandante Peralta lingered a half hour at the
priest's house. There, the flowers bloom in a natural tangle.
The quadrangle is deserted; while the soldier lingers, the priest
runs over the broken chain of missions. He recounts the losses of
Mother Church---seventeen missions in Lower California, twenty-one
all told in Alta California, with all their riches confiscated.
The "pious fund"--monument of the faithful dead--swept into the
Mexican coffers. The struggle of intellect against political greed
The friends sadly exchange fears. The bridegroom reminds the priest
that shelter will be always his at the new rancho.
Peralta's plunging roan frets now in the "paseo." After a blessing,
the Commandante briskly pushes over the oak openings, toward the
marshes of the bay. His shadow, the old sergeant, ambles alongside.
Pearly mists rise from the bay. Far to the northeast Mount Diablo
uplifts its peaked summit. From the western ridges balsamic odors
of redwoods float lightly.
Down by the marshes countless snipe, duck, geese, and curlew tempt
the absent sportsman.
The traveller easily overtakes his escort. They have been trying
all the arts of the vaquero. Past hills where startled buck and
doe gaze until they gracefully bound into the covert, the riders
pursue the lonely trail. Devoid of talk, they follow the shore,
sweeping for six hours over the hills, toward the Mission Dolores.
Another hour brings them to the Presidio.
This fort is the only safeguard of the State; a battery of ship
guns is a mere symbol of power.
In the quadrangle two companies of native soldiers and a detachment
of artillery constitute the feeble garrison. Don Miguel Peralta
canters up to the Commandante's residence.
Evening parade is over. Listless sentinels drag over their posts
with the true military laziness.
Peralta is intent upon affairs both of head and heart. His comrade,
the Commandante, sits late with him in sage counsel. A train follows
from Monterey, with stores for the settlement. Sundry cargoes
of gifts for the fair Juanita, which the one Pacific emporium of
Monterey alone could furnish, are moving. Miguel bears an order
for a detail of a sergeant and ten men, a nucleus of a force in the
San Joaquin. Barges and a shallop are needed to transport supplies
up the river. By couriers, invitations are to be sent to all the
clans not represented at the Monterey gathering.
The priests of the mission must also be visited and prepared for
the wedding. Miguel's heart softens. He thinks of his bright-eyed
Californian bride waiting in her home, soon to be Seftora Peralta.
In twenty days Don Miguel arranges his inland voyage. While his
assistants speed abroad, he pays visits of ceremony to the clergy
and his lovely bride.
The great day of his life arrives. Clad in rich uniform, he crosses
to the eastern shore. A breeze of morning moves. The planet of
love is on high. It is only the sun tinting the bay with golden
gleams. Never a, steamer yet has ploughed these silent waters.
Morning's purple folds Tamalpais in a magic mantle. Rolling surges
break on the bar outside the Golden Gate. Don Miguel, attended by
friends, receives his bride, the Rose of Alameda. Shallops wait.
The merry party sails for the western shore. Fluttering flags
decorate this little navy of San Francisco.
Merry laughter floats from boat to boat. The tinkle of the guitar
sounds gaily. Two hours end this first voyage of a new life.
At the embarcadero of Yerba Buena the party descends. They are met
by a procession of all the notables of the mission and Presidio.
Hardy riders and ladies, staid matrons and blooming senoritas, have
gathered also from Santa Clara, Napa, and Sonoma. The one government
brig is crowded with a merry party from Monterey.
The broad "camino real" sweeps three miles over sand dunes to the
mission. Past willow-shaded lakes, through stunted live-oak groves,
the wedding cavalcade advances. The poverty of the "mozo" admits
of a horse. Even the humblest admirer of Don Miguel to-day is in
the saddle. No one in California walks.
With courtly grace the warrior rides by his bride. Juanita Castro
is a true Spanish senorita. Blest with the beauty of youth and the
modesty of the Castilian, the Rose of Alameda has the blush of her
garden blossoms on her virgin cheek. She walks a queen. She rides
as only the maids of Alta California can.
The shining white walls of the mission are near. Eager eyes watch
in the belfry whence the chimes proclaim the great event. To the
west the Coast Range hides the blue Pacific. Rolling sand hills
mask the Presidio. East and south the panorama of shore and mountain
frames the jewel of the West, fair San Francisco bay.
Soldiers, traders, dull-eyed Indians, and joyous retainers crowd
The cortege halts at the official residence. Soon the dark-eyed
bride is arrayed in her simple white robes. Attended by her friends,
Juanita enters the house of the Lord. Don Luis Castro supports the
bride, who meets at the altar her spouse. Priests and their trains
file in. The fateful words are said.
Then the girl-wife on her liege lord's arm enters the residence of
the Padres; a sumptuous California breakfast awaits the "gente de
Clangor of bells, firing of guns, vivas and popular clamor follow
The humbler people are all regaled at neighboring "casas."
In the home of the Padres, the nuptial feast makes glad the gathered
notables. The clergy are the life of this occasion. They know when
to lay by the austerity of official robes. From old to young, all
hearts are merry.
Alcaldes, officials, and baronial rancheros--all have gathered for
this popular wedding.
Carrillos, Del Valles, Sepulvedas, Arguellos, Avilas, Ortegas,
Estradas, Martinez, Aguirres and Dominguez are represented by chiefs
Beakers of mission vintages are drained in honor of the brave and
fair. When the sun slopes toward the hills, the leaders escort the
happy couple to the Presidio. The Commandante and his bride begin
their path in life. It leads toward that yet unbuilt home in the
wild hills of Mariposa. With quaint garb, rich trappings, and its
bright color, the train lends an air of middle-age romance to the
Knightly blood, customs, and manners linger yet in the "dolce far
niente" of this unwaked paradise of the Occident. Sweetly sound the
notes of the famous sacred mission bell. It was cast and blessed at
far Mendoza in Spain, in 1192. Generations and tens of generations
have faded into shadowy myths of the past since it waked first
the Spanish echoes. Kings and crowns, even countries, have passed
into history's shadowy night since it first rang out. The cunning
artificer, D. Monterei, piously inscribed it with the name of
"San Franisco." Mingled gold and silver alone were melted for its
making. Its sacred use saved the precious treasure many times from
robbers. Six hundred and fifty years that mellow voice has warned
the faithful to prayer. Pride and treasure of the Franciscans, it
followed the "conquistadores" to Mexico. It rang its peal solemnly
at San Diego, when, on July 1, 1769, the cross of the blessed Redeemer
was raised. The shores of California were claimed for God by the
apostolic representative, sainted Friar Junipero Serra. In that
year two babes were born far over the wild Atlantic, one destined
to wrap the world in flame, and the other to break down the mightiest
modern empire of the sword. It was the natal year of Napoleon
Bonaparte, the child imperially crowned by nature, and that iron
chief, Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington.
The old bell sounded its first call to the faithful on San Francisco
Bay, in 1776. It was but a few months after the American colonists
gave to wondering humanity their impassioned plea for a world's
liberty--the immortal Declaration of the Fourth of July.
No merrier peal ever sounded from its vibrant throat than the rich
notes following Miguel Peralta and his lovely Rose of Alameda.
Revelry reigns at the Presidio; Commandante Peralta's quarters are
open. Music and brightest eyes mark the closing of this day. In
late watches the sentinels remember the feast as they pace their
rounds, for none are forgotten in largesse.
Fair Juanita learns to love the dainty title of Senora. Light is
her heart as she leaves for the Hills.
Don Miguel's barges already are on the San Joaquin. The cattle
have reached their potreros on the Mariposa. Artificer and "peon"
are preparing a shelter for the lord of the grant.
Donna Juanita waves her hand in fond adieu as the schooner glides
across to Alameda. Here Commandante Miguel has a report of the
arrival of his trains.
From the Castros' home, Juanita rides out toward the San Joaquin.
Great commotion enlivens the hacienda. Pack-trains are laden with
every requisite--tents, hammocks, attendants, waiting-women and
retainers are provided.
Winding out of the meadows of the Alameda, eastwardly over the
Coast Range defiles, the train advances. Even here "los ladrones"
(thieves of animals) are the forerunners of foreign robbers. Guards
watch the bride's slumbers.
Star-lit nights make the journey easy. It is the rainless summer
time; no sound save the congress of the coyotes, or the notes of
the mountain owl, disturbs the dreams of the campers.
Don Miguel, in happiest mood, canters beside his wife. The party
has its scouts far in advance. Resting places in fragrant woods,
with pure brooks and tender grass, mark the care of the outriders.
Over the Coast Range Juanita finds a land of delightful promise.
Far away the rich valley of the San Joaquin sweeps. Rolling hills
lie on either side, golden tinted with the ripening wild oats.
Messengers join the party with auspicious reports.
Down the San Joaquin plains the train winds. Here Senora Peralta
is in merry mood; hundreds of stately elk swing tossing antlers,
dashing away to the willows. Gray deer spring over brook and fallen
tree, led by some giant leader. Pigeons, grouse, doves, and quail
cleave the air with sudden alarm. Gorgeous in his painted plumage,
the wood duck whirrs away over the slow gliding San Joaquin. Swan
and wild geese cover the little islands.
There are morning vocal concerts of a feathered orchestra. They
wake the slumbering bride long before Don Miguel calls his swarthy
retainers to the day's march.
By night, in the valley, the sentinels watch for the yellow California
lions, who delight to prey on the animals of the train. Wild-cats,
lynx, the beaver and raccoon scuttle away surprised by this invasion
of Nature's own game preserves.
It is with some terror that the young wife sees a display of native
horsemanship. Lumbering across the pathway of the train a huge
grizzly bear attracts the dare-devils. Bruin rises on his haunches;
he snorts in disdain. A quickly cast lariat encircles one paw. He
throws himself down. Another lasso catches his leg. As he rolls
and tugs, other fatal loops drop, as skilfully aimed as if he were
only a helpless bullock. Growling, rolling, biting, and tearing,
he cannot break or loosen the rawhide ropes. When he madly tries to
pull in one, the agile horses strain upon the others. He is firmly
entangled. The giant bear is tightly bound.
Donna Juanita, her lord by her side, laughs at the dreaded "oso."
She enjoys the antics of the horsemen. They sport with their
enemy. After the fun ends, Bruin receives a gunshot. Choice cuts
are added to the camp menu.
The bear, panther, and rattlesnake are the only dangers of the
Days of travel bring the hills of Mariposa into view. Here the
monarchs of the forest rise in air; their wild harps are swept by
the cool breezes of the Sierras. Tall, stately redwoods, swathed
in rich, soft, fibrous bark, tower to the skies. Brave oaks spread
their arms to shelter the doe and her fawns. The madrona, with
greenest leaf and pungent berry, stands here. Hazels, willows,
and cottonwoods follow the water. Bald knolls are studded with
manzanita, its red berry in harvest now. Sturdy groves of wild
plum adorn the hillsides. Grouse and squirrel enjoy their annual
The journey is over. When the train winds around a sweeping range,
Don Miguel nears his wife. The San Joaquin is studded with graceful
clumps of evergreen. In its bosom a lake shines like a diamond.
The Don uncovers smilingly. "Mi querida, there lies your home,
Lagunitas," he murmurs.
Sweet Juanita's eyes beam on her husband. She says softly, "How
It is truly a royal domain. From the lake the ten leagues square
of the Commandante's land are a panorama of varying beauties.
Stretching back into the pathless forests, game, timber, wood,
and building stones are at hand; a never-failing water supply for
thousands of cattle is here. To the front, right, and left, hill
pastures and broad fields give every variety of acreage.
Blithely the young wife spurs her favorite steed over the turf.
She nears the quarters. The old sergeant is the seneschal of this
domain. He greets the new arrivals.
With stately courtesy the Commandante lifts his bride from her
charger. The hegira is over. The occupation of arranging abodes
for all is the first task. Already the cattle, sheep, and horses
are fattening on the prairie grasses. Peons are sawing lumber. A
detachment is making bricks for the houses. These are one-storied
mansions with wide porches, beloved by the Californians; to-day
the most comfortable homes in the West. Quaintly superstitious,
the natives build so for fear of earthquakes. Corrals, pens, and
sheds have been first labors of the advance guard. The stores and
supplies are all housed.
Don Miguel left the choice of the mansion site to his Juanita.
Together they visit the different points of vantage. Soon the
hacienda rises in solid, fort-like simplicity.
The bride at Lagunitas strives to aid her companion. She shyly
expresses her preferences. All is at her bidding.
Don Miguel erects his ranch establishment in a military style. It
is at once a square stronghold and mansion shaded with ample porches.
Corrals for horses, pens for sheep, make up his constructions for
the first year. Already the herds are increasing under the eyes
of his retainers.
The Commandante has learned that no manual work can be expected of
his Californian followers, except equestrian duties of guarding
A flash of mother-wit leads him to bring a hundred mission Indians
from the bay. They bear the brunt of mechanical toil.
Autumn finds Lagunitas Rancho in bloom. Mild weather favors all.
Stores and supplies are brought from San Francisco Bay.
Don Miguel establishes picket stations reaching to the Castro
Save that Juanita Peralta sees no more the glories of the Golden
Gate, her life is changed only by her new, married relation. A few
treasures of her girlhood are the sole reminders of her uneventful
Rides through the forests, and canters over the grassy meadows
with her beloved Miguel, are her chiefest pleasures. Some little
trading brings in the Indians of the Sierras. It amuses the young
Donna to see the bartering of game, furs, forest nuts, wild fruits
and fish for the simple stores of the rancho. No warlike cavaliers
of the plains are these, with Tartar blood in their veins, from
Alaskan migration or old colonization. They have not the skill and
mysterious arts of the Aztecs.
These Piute Indians are the lowest order of indigenous tree dwellers.
They live by the chase. Without manufactures, with no language,
no arts, no agriculture, no flocks or herds, these wretches, clad
in the skins of the minor animals, are God's meanest creatures.
They live on manzanita berry meal, pine-nuts, and grasshoppers.
Bows and flint-headed arrows are their only weapons. They snare
the smaller animals. The defenceless deer yield to their stealthy
tracking. The giant grizzly and panther affright them. They cannot
battle with "Ursus ferox."
Unable to cope with the Mexican intruders, these degraded tribes
are also an easy prey to disease. They live without general
intercourse, and lurk in the foothills, or hide in the ca¤ons.
Juanita finds the Indian women peaceable, absolutely ignorant,
and yet tender to their offspring. The babes are carried in wicker
baskets on their backs. A little weaving and basket-making comprise
all their feminine arts. Rudest skin clothing covers their stunted
Don Miguel encourages the visits of these wild tribes. He intends
to use them as a fringe of faithful retainers between him and the
Americans. They will warn him of any approach through the Sierras
of the accursed Yankee.
The Commandante, reared in a land without manufactures or artisans,
regarding only his flocks and herds, cherishes his military pride
in firmly holding the San Joaquin for the authorities. He never
turns aside to examine the resources of his domain. The degraded
character of the Indians near him prevents any knowledge of the
great interior. They do not speak the language of his semi-civilized
mission laborers from the Coast Range. They cannot communicate
with the superior tribes of the North and East. All their dialects
Vaguely float in his memory old stories of the giant trees and the
great gorge of the Yosemite. He will visit yet the glistening and
secret summits of the Sierras.
Weeks run into months. Comfort and plenty reign at Lagunitas. With
his wife by his side, Miguel cons his occasional despatches. He
promises the Seflora that the spring shall see a chapel erected.
When he makes the official visit to the Annual Council, he will
bring a padre, at once friend, spiritual father, and physician. It
is the first sign of a higher life--the little chapel of Mariposa.
Winter winds sway the giant pines of the forests. Rains of heaven
swell the San Joaquin. The summer golden brown gives way to the
velvety green of early spring.
Juanita meekly tells her beads. With her women she waits the day
when the bell shall call to prayer in Mariposa.
Wandering by Lagunitas, the wife strays in fancy to far lands
beyond the ocean. The books of her girlhood have given her only a
misty idea of Europe. The awe with which she has listened to the
Padres throws a glamour of magic around these recitals of that
fairy world beyond the seas.
Her life is bounded by the social horizon of her family circle; she
is only the chatelaine. Her domain is princely, but no hope clings
in her breast of aught beside a faded middle age. Her beauty hides
itself under the simple robe of the Californian matron. Visitors
are rare in this lovely wilderness. The annual rodeo will bring
the vaqueros together. Some travelling officials may reach the
San Joaquin. The one bright possibility of her life is a future
visit to the seashore.
Spring casts its mantle of wild flowers again over the hillocks.
The rich grass waves high in the potreros; the linnets sing blithely
in the rose-bushes. Loyal Don Miguel, who always keeps his word,
girds himself for a journey to the distant Presidio. The chapel is
finished. He will return with the looked-for padre.
Leaving the sergeant in command, Don Miguel, with a few followers,
speeds to the seashore. Five days' swinging ride suffices the soldier
to reach tide-water. He is overjoyed to find that his relatives
have determined to plant a family stronghold on the San Joaquin.
This will give society to the dark-eyed beauty by the Lagunitas
who waits eagerly for her Miguel's return.
At the Presidio the Commandante is feasted. In a few days his
business is over. Riding over to the Mission Dolores, he finds
a missionary priest from Acapulco. He is self-devoted to labor.
Father Francisco Ribaut is only twenty-five years of age. Born in
New Orleans, he has taken holy orders. After a stay in Mexico, the
young enthusiast reaches the shores of the distant Pacific.
Commandante Miguel is delighted. Francisco Ribaut is of French
blood, graceful and kindly. The Fathers of the mission hasten to
provide the needs of Lagunitas chapel.
The barges are loaded with supplies, councils and business despatched.
Padre Francisco and Don Miguel reach the glens of Mariposa in the
lovely days when bird, bud, and blossom make Lagunitas a fairyland. In
the mind of the veteran but one care lingers--future war. Already
the feuds of Alvarado and Micheltorrena presage a series of domestic
broils. Don Miguel hears that foreigners are plotting to return
to the coast; they will come back under the protection of foreign
war-ships. As his horse bounds over the turf, the soldier resolves
to keep out of this coming conflict; he will guard his hard-won
heritage. By their camp fire, Padre Francisco has told him of the
Americans wrenching Texas away from Mexico. The news of the world
is imparted to him. He asks the padre if the Gringos can ever reach
"As sure as those stars slope to the west," says the priest,
pointing to Orion, gleaming jewel-like in the clear skies of the
The don muses. This prophecy rankles in his heart. He fears to ask
further. He fears these Yankees.
Joy reigns at Lagunitas! A heartfelt welcome awaits the priest, a
rapturous greeting for Don Miguel. The grassy Alamedas are starred
with golden poppies. Roses adorn the garden walks of the young wife.
Her pensive eyes have watched the valley anxiously for her lord.
Padre Francisco hastens to consecrate the chapel. The Virgin
Mother spreads her sainted arms on high. A school for the Indians
soon occupies the priest.
Months roll around. The peace and prosperity of the rancho are
emulated by the new station in the valley.
Don Miguel rides over the mountains often in the duties of his
position. Up and down the inland basin bronzed horsemen sweep over
the untenanted regions, locating new settlements. San Joaquin valley
slowly comes under man's dominion.
Patriot, pioneer, and leader, the Commandante travels from Sutter's
Fort to Los Angeles. He goes away light-hearted. The young wife
has a bright-eyed girl to fondle when the chief is in the saddle.
Happiness fills the parents' hearts. The baptism occasions the
greatest feast of Lagunitas. But, from the coast, as fall draws
near, rumors of trouble disturb the San Joaquin.
Though the Russians are about to leave the seacoast, still
Swiss Sutter has taken foothold on the Sacramento. The adherents
of Micheltorrena and Alvarado arc preparing for war in the early
spring. To leave Lagunitas is impossible. The Indian tribes are
untrustworthy. They show signs of aggressiveness. Father Ribaut
finds the Indians of the Sierras a century behind those of the
coast. They are devoid of spiritual ideas. Contact with traders,
and association with wild sea rovers, have given the Indians of
the shore much of the groundwork of practical civilization.
To his alarm, Don Miguel sees the Indians becoming treacherous.
He discovers they make voyages to the distant posts, where they
obtain guns and ammunition.
In view of danger, the Commandante trains his men. The old soldier
sighs to think that the struggle may break out between divided
factions of native Californians. The foreigners may gain foothold
in California while its real owners quarrel.
The second winter at Lagunitas gives way to spring. Rapidly
increasing herds need for their care all the force of the ranch.
From the coast plentiful supplies provided by the Commandante
arrive. With them comes the news of the return of the foreigners.
They are convoyed by a French frigate, and on the demand of the
British consul at Acapulco they are admitted. This is grave news.
Donna Juanita and the padre try to smooth the gloomy brow of Don
Miguel. All in vain. The "pernicious foreigner" is once more on the
shores of Alta California. The Mexican eagle flutters listlessly
over the sea gates of the great West. The serpent coils of foreign
conspiracy are twining around it.
A MISSING SENTINEL.---FREMONT'S CAMP.
"Quien Vive!" A sentinel's challenge rings out. The sounds are
borne away on the night wind sweeping Gavilan Peak. No response.
March breezes drive the salty fog from Monterey Bay into the eyes
of the soldier shivering in the silent hours before dawn.
"Only a coyote or a mountain wolf," mutters Maxime Valois.
He resumes his tramp along the rocky ramparts of the Californian
Coast Range. His eyes are strained to pierce the night. He waits,
his finger on the trigger of his Kentucky rifle.
Surely something was creeping toward him from the chaparral. No:
another illusion. Pride keeps him from calling for help. Three-score
dauntless "pathfinders" are sleeping here around intrepid Fremont.
It is early March in 1846. Over in the valley the herd-guard watch
the animals. "No, not an Indian," mutters the sentinel. "They would
stampede the horses at once. No Mexican would brave death here,"
Only a boy of twenty, he is a veteran already. He feels for his
revolver and knife. He knows he can defy any sneaking Californian.
"It must be some beast," he concludes, as he stumbles along the
wind-swept path. Maxime Valois dreams of his far-away home on the
"Lower Coast," near New Orleans. He wanders along, half asleep.
This hillside is no magnolia grove.
It is but a year since he joined the great "Pathfinder's" third
voyage over the lonely American Desert. He has toiled across to
the Great Salt Lake, down the dreary Humboldt, and over the snowy
Down by Walker's Lake the "pathfinders" have crept into the valley
of California. As he shields his face from biting winds, he can see
again the panorama of the great plains, billowy hills, and broad
vistas, tantalizing in their deceptive nearness. Thundering herds
of buffalo and all the wild chivalry of the Sioux and Cheyennes
sweep before him. The majestic forests of the West have darkened
his way. The Great Salt Lake, a lonely inland sea; Lake Tahoe, a
beautiful jewel set in snowy mountains; and its fairy sisters near
Truckee--all these pass before his mental vision.
But the youth is tired. Onward ever, like the "Wandering Jew,"
still to the West with Fremont.
Pride and hot southern blood nerve him in conflicts with the fierce
savages. Dashing among the buffalo, he has ridden in many a wild
chase where a single stumble meant death. His rifle has rung the
knell of elk and bear, of wolf and panther.
These varied excitements repaid the long days of march, but the
Louisianian is mercurial. Homeward wander his thoughts.
Hemmed in, with starvation near, in the Sierras, he welcomes this
forlorn-hope march to the sea. Fremont with a picked squad has swept
down to Sutter's Fort to send succor to the remaining "voyageurs."
But the exploring march to Oregon, and back East by the southern
road, appalls him. He is tired now. He would be free. As a mere
volunteer, he can depart as soon as the frigate PORTSMOUTH arrives
at Monterey. He is tired of Western adventures. Kit Carson, Aleck
Godey, and Dick Owens have taught him their border lore. They all
love the young Southerner.
The party are now on the defensive. Maxime Valois knows that General
Jose Castro has forbidden them to march toward Los Angeles. Governor
Pio Pico is gathering his army to overawe "los Americanos."
Little does Valois think that the guns of Palo Alto and Resaca
de la Palma will soon usher in the Mexican war. The "pathfinders"
are cut off from home news. He will join the American fleet, soon
He will land at Acapulco, and ride over to the city of Mexico. From
Vera Cruz he can reach New Orleans and the old Valois plantation,
"Belle Etoile." The magnolias' fragrance call him back to-night.
Another rustle of the bushes. Clinging to his rifle, he peers into
the gloom. How long these waiting hours! The gleaming stars have
dipped into the far Pacific. The weird hours of the night watch
are ending. Ha! Surely that was a crouching form in the arroyo.
Shall he fire? No. Another deception of night. How often the trees
have seemed to move toward him! Dark beings fancifully seemed to
creep upon him. Nameless terrors always haunt these night hours.
To be laughed at on rousing the camp? Never! But his inner nature
tingles now with the mysterious thrill of danger. Eagerly he scans
his post. The bleak blasts have benumbed his senses.
Far away to the graceful groves and Gallic beauties of Belle
Etoile his truant thoughts will fly once more. He wonders why he
threw up his law studies under his uncle, Judge Valois, to rove in
Reading the exploits of Fremont fascinated the gallant lad.
As his foot falls wearily, the flame of his enthusiasm flickers
Turning at the end of his post he starts in alarm. Whizz! around
his neck settles a pliant coil, cast twenty yards, like lightning.
His cry for help is only a gurgle. The lasso draws tight. Dark
forms dart from the chaparral. A rough hand stifles him. His arms
are bound. A gag is forced in his mouth. Dragged into the bushes,
his unknown captors have him under cover.
The boy feels with rage and shame his arms taken from his belt.
His rifle is gone. A knife presses his throat. He understands the
savage hiss, "Vamos adelante, Gringo!" The party dash through the
Valois, bruised and helpless, reflects that his immediate death
seems not to be his captors' will. Will the camp be attacked? Who
are these? The bitter words show them to be Jose Castro's scouts.
Is there a force near? Will they attack? All is silent.
In a few minutes an opening is reached. Horses are there. Forced to
mount, Maxime Valois rides away, a dozen guards around him. Grim
riders in scrapes and broad sombreros are his escort. The guns
on their shoulders and their jingling machetes prove them native
For half an hour Valois is busy keeping his seat in the saddle.
These are no amiable captors. The lad's heart is sad. He speaks
Spanish as fluently as his native French. Every word is familiar.
A camp-fire flickers in the live-oaks. He is bidden to dismount.
The lair of the guerillas is safe from view of the "pathfinders."
The east shows glimmers of dawn. The prisoner warms his chilled
bones at the fire. He sees a score of bronzed faces scowling
at him. Preparations for a meal are hastened. A swarthy soldier,
half-bandit, half-Cossack in bearing, tells him roughly to eat.
They must be off.
Maxime already realizes he has been designedly kidnapped. His
capture may provide information for Castro's flying columns. These
have paralleled their movements, from a distance, for several weeks.
Aware of the ferocity of these rancheros, he obeys instantly each
order. He feigns ignorance of the language. Tortillas, beans, some
venison, with water, make up the meal. It is now day. Valois eats.
He knows his ordeal. He throws himself down for a rest. He divines
the journey will be hurried. A score of horses are here tied to the
trees. In a half hour half of these are lazily saddled. Squatted
around, the soldiers keep a morose silence, puffing the corn-husk
cigarette. The leader gives rapid directions. Valois now recalls
his locality as best he can. Fremont's camp on Gavilan Peak commands
the Pajaro, Salinas, and Santa Clara. A bright sun peeps over the
hills. If taken west, his destination must be Monterey; if south,
probably Los Angeles; and if north, either San Francisco Bay or
the Sacramento, the headquarters of the forces of Alta California.
Dragged like a beast from his post, leaving the lines unguarded!
What a disgrace! Bitterly does he remember his reveries of the home
he may never again see.
The party mounts. Two men lead up a tame horse without bridle. The
leader approaches and searches him. All his belongings fill the
saddle-pouches of the chief. A rough gesture bids him mount the
horse, whose lariat is tied to a guard's saddle. Valois rages in
despair as the guard taps his own revolver. Death on the slightest
suspicious movement, is the meaning of that sign.
With rough adieus the party strike out eastwardly toward the
San Joaquin. Steadily following the lope of the taciturn leader,
they wind down Pacheco Pass. Valois' eyes rove over the beautiful
hills of the Californian coast. Squirrels chatter on the live-oak
branches, and the drumming grouse noisily burst out of their
manzanita feeding bushes.
Onward, guided by distant peak and pass, they thread the trail.
No word is spoken save some gruff order. Maxime's captors have the
hang-dog manner of the Californian. They loll on their mustangs,
lazily worrying out the long hours. A rest is taken for food at
noon. The horses are herded an hour or so and the advance resumed.
Nightfall finds Valois in a squalid adobe house, thirty miles from
Gavilan Peak. An old scrape is thrown him. His couch is the mud
The youth sleeps heavily. His last remembrance is the surly wish
of a guard that Commandante Miguel Peralta will hang the accursed
At daybreak he is roused by a carelessly applied foot. The dejected
"pathfinder" begins his second day of captivity. He fears to
converse. He is warned with curses to keep silent. In the long day
Maxime concludes that the Mexicans suspect treachery by Captain
Fremont's "armed exploration in the name of science."
These officials hate new-comers. Valois had been, like other
gilded youth of New Orleans, sent to Paris by his opulent family.
He knows the absorbing interest of the South in Western matters.
Stern old Tom Benton indicated truly the onward march of the
resistless American. In his famous speech, while the senatorial
finger pointed toward California, he said with true inspiration:
"There is the East; there is the road to India."
All the adventurers of the South are ready to stream to the West.
Maxime knows the jealous Californian officials. The particulars
of Fremont's voyage of 1842 to the Rockies, and his crossing
to California in 1843, are now history. His return on the quest,
each time with stronger parties and a more formidable armament, is
ominous. It warns the local hidalgos that the closed doors of the
West must yield to the daring touch of the American---manifest
The enemy are hovering around the "pathfinders" entrenched on the
hills; they will try to frighten them into return, and drive them
out of the regions of Alta California. Some sly Californian may
even contrive an Indian attack to obliterate them.
Valois fears not the ultimate fate of the friends he has been torn
away from. The adventurous boy knows he will be missed at daybreak.
The camp will be on the alert to meet the enemy. Their keen-eyed
scouts can read the story of his being lassoed and carried away
from the traces of the deed.
The young rover concludes he is to be taken before some superior
officer, some soldier charged with defending Upper California.
This view is confirmed. Down into the valley of the San Joaquin
the feet of the agile mustangs bear the jaded travellers.
They cross the San Joaquin on a raft, swimming their horses. Valois
sees nothing yet to hint his impending fate. Far away the rich
green billows of spring grass wave in the warm sun. Thousands of
elk wander in antlered armies over the meadows. Gay dancing yellow
antelope bound over the elastic turf. Clouds of wild fowl, from the
stately swan to the little flighty snipe, crowd the tule marshes
of this silent river. It is the hunter's paradise. Wild cattle, in
sleek condition, toss their heads and point their long, polished
horns. Mustangs, fleet as the winds, bound along, disdaining
their meaner brethren, bowing under man's yoke. At the occasional
mud-walled ranches, vast flocks of fat sheep whiten the hills.
Maxime mentally maps the route he travels. Alas! no chance of
escape exists. At the first open attempt a rifle-ball, or a blow
from a razor-edged machete, would end his earthly wanderings.
Despised, shunned by even the wretched women at the squalid ranchos,
he feels utterly alone. The half-naked children timidly flee from
him. The wicked eyes of his guards never leave him. He knows a
feeling animates the squad, that he would be well off their hands
by a use of the first handy limb and a knotted lariat. The taciturn
chief watches over him. He guards an ominous silence.
The cavalcade, after seven days, are in sight of the purpled outlines
of the sculptured Sierras. They rise heavenward to the sparkling
crested pinnacles where Bret Harte's poet fancy sees in long years
after the "minarets of snow." Valley oaks give way to the stately
pines. Olive masses of enormous redwoods wrap the rising foot-hills.
Groves of laurel, acorn oak, and madrona shelter the clinging
panther and the grim warden of the Sierras, the ferocious grizzly
Over flashing, bounding mountain brooks, cut up with great ledges
of blue bed rock, they splash. Here the silvery salmon and patrician
trout leap out from the ripples to glide into the great hollowed
pools, yet the weary cavalcade presses on. Will they never stop?
Maxime Valois' haggard face looks back at him from the mirrored
waters of the Cottonwood, the Merced, and the Mariposa. The prisoner
sees there only the worn features of his strangely altered self.
He catches no gleam of the unreaped golden harvest lying under the
feet of the wild mustangs. These are the treasure channels of the
The mountain gnomes of this mystic wilderness are already in terror
lest some fortunate fool may utter the one magic word, "Gold." It
will call greedy thousands from the uttermost parts of the earth
to break the seals of ages, and burrow far below these mountain
bases. Through stubborn granite wall, tough porphyry, ringing quartz,
and bedded gnarled gneiss, men will grope for the feathery, fairy
veins of the yellow metal.
A feverish quest for gold alone can wake the dreamy "dolce far
niente" of the Pacific. God's fairest realm invites the foot of
man in vain. Here the yellow grains will be harvested, which buy
the smiles of beauty, blunt the sword of justice, and tempt the
wavering conscience of young and old. It will bring the human herd
to one grovelling level--human swine rooting after the concrete
token of power. Here, in later years, the wicked arm of power will
be given golden hammers to beat down all before it. Here will that
generation arise wherein the golden helmet can dignify the idle
and empty pate.
Maxime, now desperate, is ready for any fate. Only let this long
ride cease. Sweeping around the hills, for the first time he sees
the square courtyard, the walled casas of the rancho of Lagunitas.
By the shores of the flashing mountain lake, with the rich valley
sweeping out before it, it lies in peace. The fragrant forest throws
out gallant flanking wings of embattled trees. It is the residence
of the lord of ten leagues square. This is the great Peralta Rancho.
In wintering in the San Joaquin, Maxime has often heard of the
fabulous wealth and power of this inland chieftain. Don Miguel
Peralta is Commandante of the San Joaquin. By a fortunate marriage
he is related to Jose Castro, the warlike Commandante general of
Pio Pico--a man of mark now. Thousands of cattle and horses, with
great armies of sheep, are herded by his semi-military vaqueros.
The young explorer easily divines now the reason of his abduction.
The party dismounts. While the sergeant seeks the major-domo, Valois'
wondering eye gazes on the beauties of lake and forest. Field and
garden, bower and rose-laden trellises lie before him. The rich
autumn sun will ripen here deep-dyed clusters of the sweet mission
grapes. It is a lordly heritage, and yet his prison. Broad porches
surround the plaza. There swinging hammocks, saddled steeds, and
waiting retainers indicate the headquarters of the Californian Don.
Maxime looks with ill-restrained hatred at his fierce guards. They
squat on the steps and eye him viciously. He is under the muzzle
of his own pistol. It is their day of triumph.
Dragging across the plaza, with jingling spur, trailing leggings,
and sombrero pushed back on his head, the sergeant comes. He points
out Maxime to a companion. The new-comer conducts the American
prisoner to a roughly furnished room. A rawhide bed and a few
benches constitute its equipment. A heavy door is locked on him.
The prisoner throws himself on the hard couch and sleeps. He is
wakened by an Indian girl bringing food and water. Some blankets
are carelessly tossed in by a "mozo." The wanderer sleeps till the
birds are carolling loudly in the trees.
Hark! a bell! He springs to the window. Valois sees a little
chapel, with its wooden cross planted in front. Is there a priest
here? The boy is of the old faith. He looks for a possible friend
in the padre. Blessed bell of peace and hope!
Sturdy and serious is the major-domo who briskly enters Valois'
"Do you speak Spanish?" he flatly demands in that musical tongue.
"Yes," says Maxime, without hesitation. He knows no subterfuge will
avail. His wits must guard his head.
"Give me your name, rank, and story," demands the steward.
Valois briefs his life history.
"You will be taken to the Commandante. I advise you not to forget
yourself; you may find a lariat around your neck." With which
admonition the major-domo leaves. He tosses Maxime a bunch of
cigaritos, and offers him a light ere going, with some show of
Valois builds no fallacious hopes on this slender concession. He
knows the strange Mexicans. They would postpone a military execution
if the condemned asked for a smoke.
Facing his fate, Maxime decides, while crossing the plaza, to
conceal nothing. He can honorably tell his story. Foreigners have
been gathering in California for years. The Commandante can easily
test his disclosures, so lying would be useless. He believes either
a British or American fleet will soon occupy California. The signs
of the times have been unmistakable since the last return of the
foreigners. Will he live to see the day? "Quien sabe?"
Maxime sees a stern man of fifty seated in his official presence
room. Commandante Miguel Peralta is clad in his undress cavalry
uniform. The sergeant captor is in attendance, while at the door
an armed sentinel hovers. This is the wolf's den. Maxime is wary
"You are a Yankee, young man," begins the soldier. Maxime Valois'
Creole blood stirs in his veins.
"I am an American, Senor Commandante, "from New Orleans. No Yankee!"
he hotly answers, forgetting prudence. Peralta opens his eyes in
vague wonder. No Yankee? He questions the rash prisoner. Valois
tells the facts of Fremont's situation, but he firmly says he
knows nothing of his future plans.
"Why so?" demands Peralta. "Are you a common soldier?" Maxime
explains his position as a volunteer.
A pressing inquest follows. Maxime's frankness touches the Commandante
favorably. "I will see you in a day or so. I shall hold you as a
prisoner till I know if your chief means war. I may want you as
an interpreter if I take the field."
"Sergeant," he commands.
The captor salutes his chief.
"Has this young man told me the truth?"
"As far as I know, Senior Don Miguel," is the reply.
"See that he has all he wants. Keep him watched. If he behaves
himself, let him move around. He is not to talk to any one. If he
tries to escape, shoot him. If he wants to see me, let me know."
The Commandante lights a Mexican cigar, and signs to the sergeant
to remove his prisoner. Maxime sees a score of soldiers wandering
around the sunny plaza, where a dozen fleet horses stand saddled.
He feels escape is hopeless. As he moves to the door, the chapel
bell rings out again, and with a sudden inspiration he halts.
"Senior Commandante, can I see the priest?" he asks.
"What for?" sharply demands the officer.
"I am a Catholic, and would like to talk to him."
Don Miguel Peralta gazes in wonder. "A Gringo and a Catholic! I
will tell him to see you."
Valois is reconducted to his abode. He leaves a puzzled Commandante,
who cannot believe that any despised "Gringo" can be of the true
faith. He has only seen the down-east hide traders, who are regarded
as heathen by the orthodox Dons of the Pacific.
Don Miguel knows not that the mariners from Salem and the whalers
of New England hold different religious views from the impassioned
Creoles of the Crescent City.
The prisoner's eye catches the black robe of the priest fluttering
among the rose walks of the garden. Walking with him is a lady,
while a pretty girl of seven or eight years plays in the shady
The sergeant gruffly fulfils the orders of his chief. Maxime is
given the articles needed for his immediate use. He fears now, at
least, a long captivity, but a war may bring his doom suddenly on
There is an air of authority in Miguel Peralta's eye, which is
a guarantee of honor, as well as a personal menace. His detention
will depend on the actions of the besieged Fremont.
Valois prays that bloodshed may not occur. His slender chances hang
now on a peaceable solution of the question of this Yankee visit.
There have been days in the dreary winter, when Maxime Valois has
tried to divine the future of the magnificent realm he traverses.
His education and birth gave him the companionship of the scientific
subordinates of the party. His services claimed friendly treatment
of the three engineer officers in command. That the American flag
will finally reach the western ocean he doubts not. Born in the
South, waited upon by patrimonial slaves, he is attached to the
"peculiar institution" which throws its dark shadow on the flag of
this country. Already statesmen of the party have discussed the
question of the extension of slavery. Maxime Valois knows that
the line of the Missouri Compromise will here give a splendid new
southern star to the flag south of 36 deg 30 min. In the long,
idle hours of camp chat, he has laughingly pledged he would bring
a band of sable retainers to this western terra incognita. He
dreamed of establishing a great plantation, but the prison cell
shatters these foolish notions.
He marvels at his romantic year's experience. Was it to languish
in a lonely prison life on the far Pacific, that he left the gay
circle at far-off Belle Etoile? Worn with fatigue, harassed with
loneliness, a prisoner among strangers, Maxime Valois' heart fails
him. Sinking on the couch, he buries his head in his hands.
No present ray of hope cheers the solitary American. He raises
his eyes to see the thoughtful face of a young priest at the door
of his prison room.
HELD BY THE ENEMY.--"THE BEAR FLAG."
The padre bends searching eyes on the youth as the door opens. The
priest's serious face heightens his thirty-five years. He is worn
by toil as a missionary among the tribes of the Gila--the Apaches
and the wild and brutal Mojaves. Here, among the Piute hill
dwellers, his task is hopeless. This spiritual soil is indeed stony.
Called from the society of Donna Juanita and his laughing pupil,
merry Dolores, he comes to test the religious faith of the young
freebooter--Yankee and Catholic at once.
Maxime's downcast appearance disarms the padre. Not such a terrible
fire-eater! He savors not of infidel Cape Cod.
"My son, you are in trouble," softly says the padre. It is the
first kind word Maxime has heard. The boy's heart is full, so he
speaks freely to the mild-mannered visitor. Padre Francisco listens
to the recital. His eyes sparkle strangely when Valois speaks of
"Then you understand French?" cries the padre joyously.
"It is my native tongue," rejoins Valois proudly.
"My name before I took orders was Fran‡ois Ribaut," says the
overjoyed father. "Hold! I must see Don Miguel. I am a Frenchman
myself." He flies over the plaza, his long robe fluttering behind
him. His quickened steps prove a friendly interest. Maxima's heart
swells within him. The beloved language has unlocked the priestly
In five minutes the curate is back. "Come with me, 'mon fils,'" he
says. Guided by the priest, Maxime leaves his prison, its unlocked
door swinging open. They reach the head of the square.
By the chapel is Padre Francisco's house, school-room, and office.
A sacristy chamber connects chapel and dwelling.
The missionary leads the way to the chancel, and points to the
"I will leave you," he whispers.
There, on his knees, where the wondering Indians gaze in awe of
the face on the Most Blessed Virgin, Maxime thanks God for this
friend raised up to him in adversity.
He rejoins the missionary on the rose-shaded porch. In friendly
commune he answers every eager query of the padre. The priest finds
Maxime familiar with Paris. It is manna in the wilderness to this
lonely man of God to speak of the beloved scenes of his youth.
After the Angelus, Maxime rests in the swinging hammock. The priest
confers with the Commandante. His face is hopeful on returning.
"My poor boy," he says, "I gained one favor. Don Miguel allows me
to keep you here. He loves not the American. Promise me, my son,
on the blessed crucifix, that you will not escape. You must not
aid the American troops in any way; on this hangs your life."
These words show that under the priest's frock beats yet the gallant
heart of the French gentleman. Maxima solemnly promises. The good
father sits under the vines, a happy man.
Day by day the new friends stroll by the lake. Seated where below
them the valley shines in all its bravery of spring, surrounded with
the sighing pines, Padre Francisco tells of the resentment of the
Californians toward all Americans. They are all "Gringos," "thieving
"Be careful, my son, even here. Our wild vaqueros have waylaid
and tortured to death some foreigners. The Diggers, Utes, and Hill
Indians butcher any wanderer. Keep closely under my protection.
Don Miguel adores Donna Juanita, sweet Christian lady! She will
lend me aid; you are thus safe. If your people leave the Hawk's Peak
without a battle, our cavalry will not take the field; we expect
couriers momentarily. Should fighting begin, Don Miguel will lead
his troops. He will then take you as guide or interpreter; God
alone must guard you." The man of peace crosses himself in sadness.
"Meanwhile, I will soften the heart of Don Miguel."
Maxime learns of the padre's youth. Educated for the Church after
a boyhood spent in Paris, he sailed for Vera Cruz. He has been for
years among the Pacific Indians. He familiarized himself with the
Spanish language and this western life in Mexico. Stout-hearted
Padre Francisco worked from mission to mission till he found his
self-chosen field in California.
The "pathfinder" sees the decadence of priestly influence. Twenty-one
flourishing missions have been secularized by Governor Hijar since
1834. Now the superior coast tribes are scattered, and the civilizing
work since 1769 is all lost to human progress. In glowing words
Padre Francisco tells of idle farms, confiscated flocks, and ruined
works of utility. Beautiful San Luis Rey is crumbling to decay.
Its bells hang silent. The olive and vine scatter their neglected
fruits. The Padres are driven off to Mexico. The pious fund is in
profane coffers. San Juan Capistrano shines out a lonely ruin in
the southern moonlight. The oranges of San Gabriel now feed only
the fox and coyote. Civil dissension and wars of ambitious leaders
follow the seizure of the missions. Strangers have pillaged the
religious settlements. All is relapsing into savagery. In a few
stations, like Monterey, Santa Clara, Santa Barbara, and Yerba
Buena, a lonely shepherd watches a diminished flock; but the grand
mission system is ruined.
"Does not the Government need the missions?" queries Maxime.
"Ah! my son, Sonoma and San Rafael are kept up to watch the Russians
at Fort Ross. Sutter menaces us at New Helvetia. I can see the
little cloud of the future, which will break one day in storm."
"Whence comes it, father?" queries the prisoner.
"From the United States," replies the padre. "Our whole political
system is paralyzed. The Americans have supported the Texans in
battle. That splendid land is dropping away from Mexico. We will
lose this glorious land, and our beloved flag will go down forever.
The Government sleeps, and the people will be ruined. There are
two thousand scattered foreigners here to-day. They gain daily: we
weaken hourly. When your people in numbers follow such leaders as
your gallant captain over the plains, we will lose this land also."
The padre sighed. His years of hard endeavor are wasted, the fruits
are wanting, his labor is vain.
"Why is not your Government more vigorous?" says the stranger.
"My son, our pastoral life builds up no resources of this great
land. The young men will not work; they only ride around. Flocks
and herds alone will not develop this paradise. The distance from
Mexico has broken the force of the laws. In fifty-five years of
Spanish rule and twenty-three more of Mexican, we have had twenty-two
different rulers. The old families have lost their loyalty, and
they now fight each other for supremacy. All is discord and confusion
in Alta California."
"And the result?" questions Maxime.
"Either England or the United States will sweep us off forever,"
mourns the padre. He addresses himself to his beads. Bright sunlight
wakes Maxime with the birds. The matin bell rings out. He rises
refreshed by the father's hospitality.
During the day Valois measures the generosity of Padre Francisco.
A few treasured books enable Maxime to amuse himself. As yet he
dares not venture out of the garden.
The sound of clattering hoofs causes the prisoner to drop his
volume. He sits enjoying a flask of ripe claret, for he is broken
down and needs recruiting.
A courier spurs his foam-covered horse up to the Commandante's
porch. Panting and staggering, the poor beast shows the abuse of a
merciless rider. The messenger's heels are adorned with two inch
spiked wheels, bloody with spurring the jaded beast.
Peace or war? Maxime's heart beats violently. He prudently withdraws.
The wild soldiery gather on the plaza. His guards are there with
his own weapons, proudly displayed.
The Southerner chafes in helplessness. Could he but have his
own horse and those weapons, he would meet any two of them in the
open. They are now clamoring against the Gringos. Soon the courier
reappears. All is bustle and shouting. Far away, on the rich knolls,
Maxime sees fleet riders gathering up the horses nearest the ranch.
When Padre Francisco arrives from his morning lessons, a troop of
vaqueros are arrayed on the plaza.
"The news?" eagerly queries Maxime.
"Thanks be to God!" says the padre, "Fremont has broken camp after
five days' stay at the Hawk's Peak. He is moving north. There has
been skirmishing, but no battle. Don Miguel is sending a company
to watch their march, and will attack if they menace any of our
sentinels. The Americans may, however, go into Oregon, or back
over the mountains. The Commandante will keep his main force in
the valley. If they turn back, he will dispute their passage. You
will be kept here."
Valois gazes on the departure. He takes an informal adieu of those
trusty weapons which have been with him in so many scenes of danger.
The last files sweep down the trail. Lagunitas Lake smiles peacefully
from its bowers. The war clouds have rolled north.
As days glide by, the priest and his youthful charge grow into each
other's hearts. Padre Francisco is young enough still to have some
flowers of memory blossoming over the stone walls of his indomitable
heart. Maxime learns the story of his early life. He listens to the
padre's romantic recitals of the different lands he has strayed
over. Couriers arrive daily with news of Fremont's whirling march
northward. The explorer travels like a Cossack in simplicity. He
rides with the sweep of the old Tartars. Cool, wary and resolute,