Part 2 out of 5
That night the officers of the United States squadron met the society of
Monterey at the house of Don Jorje Hernandez. After the contradanza, to
which they could be admiring spectators only, much to the delight of the
caballeros, Benicia took the guitar presented by Flujencio, and letting
her head droop a little to one side like a lily bent on its stalk by the
breeze, sang the most coquettish song she knew. Her mahogany brown hair
hung unconfined over her white shoulders and gown of embroidered silk
with its pointed waist and full skirt. Her large brown eyes were
alternately mischievous and tender, now and again lighted by a sudden
flash. Her cheeks were pink; her round babylike arms curved with all the
grace of the Spanish woman. As she finished the song she dropped her
eyelids for a moment, then raised them slowly and looked straight at
"By Jove, Ned, you are a lucky dog!" said a brother officer. "She's the
prettiest girl in the room! Why don't you fling your hat at her feet, as
these ardent Californians do?"
[Illustration: "RUSSELL CROSSED THE ROOM AND SAT BESIDE BENICIA."]
"My cap is in the next room, but I will go over and fling myself there
Russell crossed the room and sat down beside Benicia.
"I should like to hear you sing under those cypresses out on the ocean
about six or eight miles from here," he said to her. "I rode down the
coast yesterday. Jove! what a coast it is!"
"We will have a merienda there on some evening," said Dona Eustaquia,
who sat beside her daughter. "It is very beautiful on the big rocks to
watch the ocean, under the moonlight."
"Good! You will not forget that?"
She smiled at his boyishness. "It will be at the next moon. I promise."
Benicia sang another song, and a half-dozen caballeros stood about
her, regarding her with glances languid, passionate, sentimental,
reproachful, determined, hopeless. Russell, leaning back in his chair,
listened to the innocent thrilling voice of the girl, and watched her
adorers, amused and stimulated. The Californian beauty was like no other
woman he had known, and the victory would be as signal as the capture of
Monterey. "More blood, perhaps," he thought, "but a victory is a poor
affair unless painted in red. It will do these seething caballeros good
to learn that American blood is quite as swift as Californian."
As the song finished, the musicians began a waltz; Russell took the
guitar from Benicia's hand and laid it on the floor.
"This waltz is mine, senorita," he said.
"I no know--"
"Senorita!" said Don Fernando Altimira, passionately, "the first waltz
is always mine. Thou wilt not give it to the American?"
"And the next is mine!"
"And the next contradanza!"
The girl's faithful retinue protested for their rights. Russell could
not understand, but he translated their glances, and bent his lips to
Benicia's ear. That ear was pink and her eyes were bright with roguish
"I want this dance, dear senorita. I may go away any day. Orders may
come to-morrow which will send me where I never can see you again. You
can dance with these men every night of the year--"
"I give to you," said Benicia, rising hurriedly. "We must be hospitable
to the stranger who comes to-day and leaves to-morrow," she said in
Spanish to the other men. "I have plenty more dances for you."
After the dance, salads and cakes, claret and water, were brought to the
women by Indian girls, who glided about the room with borrowed grace,
their heads erect, the silver trays held well out. They wore bright red
skirts and white smocks of fine embroidered linen, open at the throat,
the sleeves very short. Their coarse hair hung in heavy braids; their
bright little eyes twinkled in square faces scrubbed until they shone
"Captain," said Russell to Brotherton, as the men followed the host into
the supper room, "let us buy a ranch, marry two of these stunning
girls, and lie round in hammocks whilst these Western houris bring us
aguardiente and soda. What an improvement on Byron and Tom Moore! It
is all so unhackneyed and unexpected. In spite of Dana and Robinson I
expected mud huts and whooping savages. This is Arcadia, and the women
are the most elegant in America."
"Look here, Ned," said his captain, "you had better do less flirting and
more thinking while you are in this odd country. Your talents will get
rusty, but you can rub them up when you get home. Neither Californian
men nor women are to be trifled with. This is the land of passion, not
of drawing-room sentiment."
"Perhaps I am more serious than you think. What is the matter?" He spoke
to a brother officer who had joined them and was laughing immoderately.
"Do you see those Californians grinning over there?" The speaker
beckoned to a group of officers, who joined him at once. "What job do
you suppose they have put up on us? What do you suppose that mysterious
table in the sala means, with its penknives and wooden sticks? I thought
it was a charity bazaar. Well, it is nothing more nor less than a trick
to keep us from whittling up the furniture. We are all Yankees to them,
you know. Preserve my Spanish!"
The officers shouted with delight. They marched solemnly back into the
sala, and seating themselves in a deep circle about the table,
whittled the slugs all over the floor, much to the satisfaction of the
After the entertainment was over, Russell strolled about the town. The
new moon was on the sky, the stars thick and bright; but dark corners
were everywhere, and he kept his hand on his pistol. He found himself
before the long low house of Dona Eustaquia Ortega. Not a light
glimmered; the shutters were of solid wood. He walked up and down,
trying to guess which was Benicia's room.
"I am growing as romantic as a Californian," he thought; "but this
wonderful country pours its colour all through one's nature. If I
could find her window, I believe I should serenade her in true Spanish
fashion. By Jove, I remember now, she said something about looking
through her window at the pines on the hill. It must be at the back of
the house, and how am I going to get over that great adobe wall? That
gate is probably fastened with an iron bar--ah!"
He had walked to the corner of the wall surrounding the large yard
behind and at both sides of Dona Eustaquia's house, and he saw,
ascending a ladder, a tall figure, draped in a serape, its face
concealed by the shadow of a sombrero. He drew his pistol, then laughed
at himself, although not without annoyance. "A rival; and he has got
ahead of me. He is going to serenade her."
The caballero seated himself uncomfortably on the tiles that roofed the
wall, removed his sombrero, and Russell recognized Fernando Altimira. A
moment later the sweet thin chords of the guitar quivered in the quiet
air, and a tenor, so fine that even Russell stood entranced, sang to
Benicia one of the old songs of Monterey:--
Una mirada un suspiro,
Una lagrima querida,
Es balsamo a la herida
Que abriste en mi corazon.
Por esa lagrima cara
Objeto de mi termina,
Yo te ame bella criatura
Desde que te vi llorar.
Te acuerdas de aquella noche
En que triste y abatida
Una lagrima querida
Vi de tus ojos brotar.
Although Russell was at the base of the high wall he saw that a light
flashed. The light was followed by the clapping of little hands. "Jove!"
he thought, "am I really jealous? But damn that Californian!"
Altimira sang two more songs and was rewarded by the same
demonstrations. As he descended the ladder and reached the open street
he met Russell face to face. The two men regarded each other for a
moment. The Californian's handsome face was distorted by a passionate
scowl; Russell was calmer, but his brows were lowered.
Altimira flung the ladder to the ground, but fire-blooded as he was, the
politeness of his race did not desert him, and his struggle with English
flung oil upon his passion.
"Senor," he said, "I no know what you do it by the house of the Senorita
Benicia so late in the night. I suppose you have the right to walk in
the town si it please yourself."
"Have I not the same right as you--to serenade the Senorita Benicia? If
I had known her room, I should have been on the wall before you."
Altimira's face flushed with triumph. "I think the Senorita Benicia
no care for the English song, senor. She love the sweet words of her
country: she no care for words of ice."
Russell smiled. "Our language may not be as elastic as yours, Don
Fernando, but it is a good deal more sincere. And it can express as much
"You love Benicia?" interrupted Altimira, fiercely.
"I admire the Senorita Ortega tremendously. But I have seen her twice
only, and although we may love longer, we take more time to get there,
perhaps, than you do."
"Ay! Dios de mi vida! You have the heart of rock! You chip it off in
little pieces, one to-day, another to-morrow, and give to the woman. I,
senor, I love Benicia, and I marry her. You understand? Si you take her,
I cut the heart from your body. You understand?"
"I understand. We understand each other." Russell lifted his cap. The
Californian took his sombrero from his head and made a long sweeping
bow; and the two men parted.
On the twenty-third of July, Commodore Sloat transferred his authority
to Commodore Stockton, and the new commander of the Pacific squadron
organized the California Battalion of Mounted Riflemen, appointing
Fremont major and Gillespie captain. He ordered them South at once to
intercept Castro. On the twenty-eighth, Stockton issued a proclamation
in which he asserted that Mexico was the instigator of the present
difficulties, and justified the United States in seizing the
Californias. He denounced Castro in violent terms as an usurper, a
boasting and abusive chief, and accused him of having violated every
principle of national hospitality and good faith toward Captain Fremont
and his surveying party. Stockton sailed for the South the same day
in the _Congress_, leaving a number of officers to Monterey and the
indignation of the people.
"By Jove, I don't dare to go near Dona Eustaquia," said Russell to
Brotherton. "And I'm afraid we won't have our picnic. It seems to me the
Commodore need not have used such strong language about California's
idol. The very people in the streets are ready to unlimb us; and as for
the peppery Dona--"
"Speak more respectfully of Dona Eustaquia, young man," said the older
officer, severely. "She is a very remarkable woman and not to be spoken
slightingly of by young men who are in love with her daughter."
"God forbid that I should slight her, dear Captain. Never have I so
respected a woman. She frightens the life out of me every time she
flashes those eyes of hers. But let us go and face the enemy at once,
like the brave Americans we are."
"Very well." And together they walked along Alvarado Street from the
harbour, then up the hill to the house of Dona Eustaquia.
That formidable lady and her daughter were sitting on the corridor
dressed in full white gowns, slowly wielding large black fans, for the
night was hot. Benicia cast up her eyes expressively as she rose and
courtesied to the officers, but her mother merely bent her head; nor did
she extend her hand. Her face was very dark.
Brotherton went directly to the point.
"Dear Dona Eustaquia, we deeply regret that our Commodore has used such
harsh language in regard to General Castro. But remember that he has
been here a few days only and has had no chance to learn the many noble
and valiant qualities of your General. He doubtless has been prejudiced
against him by some enemy, and he adores Fremont:--there is the trouble.
He resents Castro's treating Fremont as an enemy before the United
States had declared its intentions. But had he been correctly informed,
he undoubtedly would have conceived the same admiration and respect for
your brave General that is felt by every other man among us."
Dona Eustaquia looked somewhat mollified, but shook her head sternly.
"Much better he took the trouble to hear true. He insult all
Californians by those shemful words. All the enemies of our dear General
be glad. And the poor wife! Poor my Modeste! She fold the arms and raise
the head, but the heart is broken."
"Jove! I almost wish they had driven us out! Dear senora--" Russell and
Benicia were walking up and down the corridor--"we have become friends,
true friends, as sometimes happens--not often--between man and woman.
Cease to think of me as an officer of the United States navy, only as a
man devoted to your service. I have already spent many pleasant hours
with you. Let me hope that while I remain here neither Commodore
Stockton nor party feeling will exclude me from many more."
She raised her graceful hand to her chin with a gesture peculiar to her,
and looked upward with a glance half sad, half bitter.
"I much appreciate your friendship, Capitan Brotherton. You give me much
advice that is good for me, and tell me many things. It is like the
ocean wind when you have live long in the hot valley. Yes, dear friend,
I forget you are in the navy of the conqueror."
"Mamacita," broke in Benicia's light voice, "tell us now when we can
have the peek-neek."
"Castro," said Russell, lifting his cap, "peace be with thee."
The great masses of rock on the ocean's coast shone white in the
moonlight. Through the gaunt outlying rocks, lashed apart by furious
storms, boiled the ponderous breakers, tossing aloft the sparkling
clouds of spray, breaking in the pools like a million silver fishes.
High above the waves, growing out of the crevices of the massive rocks
of the shore, were weird old cypresses, their bodies bent from the
ocean as if petrified in flight before the mightier foe. On their gaunt
outstretched arms and gray bodies, seamed with time, knobs like human
muscles jutted; between the broken bark the red blood showed. From
their angry hands, clutching at the air or doubled in imprecation, long
strands of gray-green moss hung, waving and coiling, in the night wind.
Only one old man was on his hands and knees as if to crawl from the
field; but a comrade spurned him with his foot and wound his bony hand
about the coward's neck. Another had turned his head to the enemy,
pointing his index finger in scorn, although he stood alone on high.
All along the cliffs ran the ghostly army, sometimes with straining
arms fighting the air, sometimes thrust blankly outward, all with life
quivering in their arrested bodies, silent and scornful in their defeat.
Who shall say what winter winds first beat them, what great waves first
fought their deathless trunks, what young stars first shone over them?
They have outstood centuries of raging storm and rending earthquake.
Tradition says that until convulsion wrenched the Golden Gate apart the
San Franciscan waters rolled through the long valleys and emptied into
the Bay of Monterey. But the old cypresses were on the ocean just
beyond; the incoming and the outgoing of the inland ocean could not
trouble them; and perhaps they will stand there until the end of time.
Down the long road by the ocean rode a gay cavalcade. The caballeros had
haughtily refused to join the party, and the men wore the blue and gold
of the United States.
But the women wore fluttering mantillas, and their prancing
high-stepping horses were trapped with embossed leather and silver. In a
lumbering "wagon of the country," drawn by oxen, running on solid wheels
cut from the trunks of trees, but padded with silk, rode some of the
older people of the town, disapproving, but overridden by the impatient
enthusiasm of Dona Eustaquia. Through the pine woods with their softly
moving shadows and splendid aisles, out between the cypresses and rocky
beach, wound the stately cavalcade, their voices rising above the
sociable converse of the seals and the screeching of the seagulls
spiking the rocks where the waves fought and foamed. The gold on the
shoulders of the men flashed in the moonlight; the jewels of the women
sparkled and winked. Two by two they came like a conquering army to the
rescue of the cypresses. Brotherton, who rode ahead with Dona Eustaquia,
half expected to see the old trees rise upright with a deep shout of
When they reached a point where the sloping rocks rose high above surf
and spray, they dismounted, leaving the Indian servants to tether the
horses. They climbed down the big smooth rocks and sat about in groups,
although never beyond the range of older eyes, the cypresses lowering
above them, the ocean tearing through the outer rocks to swirl and
grumble in the pools. The moon was so bright, its light so broad and
silver, they almost could imagine they saw the gorgeous mass of colour
in the pools below.
"You no have seaweed like that in Boston," said Benicia, who had a
comprehensive way of symbolizing the world by the city from which she
got many of her clothes and all of her books.
"Indeed, no!" said Russell. "The other day I sat for hours watching
those great bunches and strands that look like richly coloured chenille.
And there were stones that looked like big opals studded with vivid
jewels. God of my soul, as you say, it was magnificent! I never saw such
brilliant colour, such delicate tints! And those great rugged defiant
rocks out there, lashed by the waves! Look at that one; misty with spray
one minute, bare and black the next! They look like an old castle which
has been battered down with cannon. Captain, do you not feel romantic?"
"I feel that I never want to go into an art gallery again. No wonder the
women of California are original."
"Benicia," said Russell, "I have tried in vain to learn a Spanish song.
But teach me a Spanish phrase of endearment. All our 'darlings' and
'dearests' are too flat for California."
"Bueno; I teach you. Say after me: Mi muy querida prima. That is very
"Que--What is it in English?"
"My--very--darling--first. It no sound so pretty in English."
"It does very well. My--very--darling--first--if all these people were
not about us, I should kiss you. You look exactly like a flower."
"Si you did, Senor Impertinencio, you get that for thanks."
Russell jumped to his feet with a shout, and shook from his neck a
little crab with a back like green velvet and legs like carven garnet.
"Did you put that crab on my neck, senorita?"
A sulky silence of ten minutes ensued, during which Benicia sent little
stones skipping down into the silvered pools, and Russell, again
recumbent, stared at the horizon.
"Si you no can talk," she said finally, "I wish you go way and let Don
Henry Tallant come talk to me. He look like he want."
"No doubt he does; but he can stay where he is. Let me kiss your hand,
Benicia, and I will forgive you."
Benicia hit his mouth lightly with the back of her hand, but he captured
it and kissed it several times.
"Your mustache feels like the cat's," said she.
He flung the hand from him, but laughed in a moment. "How sentimental
you are! Making love to you is like dragging a cannon uphill! Will you
not at least sing me a love-song? And please do not make faces in the
Benicia tossed her spirited head, but took her guitar from its case and
called to the other girls to accompany her. They withdrew from their
various flirtations with audible sighs, but it was Benicia's merienda,
and in a moment a dozen white hands were sweeping the long notes from
Russell moved to a lower rock, and lying at Benicia's feet looked
upward. The scene was all above him--the great mass of white rocks,
whiter in the moonlight; the rigid cypresses aloft; the beautiful faces,
dreamy, passionate, stolid, restless, looking from the lace mantillas;
the graceful arms holding the guitars; the sweet rich voices threading
through the roar of the ocean like the melody in a grand recitativo; the
old men and women crouching like buzzards on the stones, their sharp
eyes never closing; enfolding all with an almost palpable touch, the
warm voluptuous air. Now and again a bird sang a few notes, a strange
sound in the night, or the soft wind murmured like the ocean's echo
through the pines.
The song finished. "Benicia, I love you," whispered Russell.
"We will now eat," said Benicia. "Mamma,"--she raised her voice,--"shall
I tell Raphael to bring down the supper?"
The girl sprang lightly up the rocks, followed by Russell. The Indian
servants were some distance off, and as the young people ran through a
pine grove the bold officer of the United States squadron captured the
Californian and kissed her on the mouth. She boxed his ears and escaped
to the light.
Benicia gave her orders, Raphael and the other Indians followed her with
the baskets, and spread the supper of tomales and salads, dulces and
wine, on a large table-like rock, just above the threatening spray; the
girls sang each in turn, whilst the others nibbled the dainties Dona
Eustaquia had provided, and the Americans wondered if it were not a
vision that would disappear into the fog bearing down upon them.
A great white bank, writhing and lifting, rolling and bending, came
across the ocean slowly, with majestic stealth, hiding the swinging
waves on which it rode so lightly, shrouding the rocks, enfolding the
men and women, wreathing the cypresses, rushing onward to the pines.
"We must go," said Dona Eustaquia, rising. "There is danger to stay. The
lungs, the throat, my children. Look at the poor old cypresses."
The fog was puffing through the gaunt arms, festooning the rigid hands.
It hung over the green heads, it coiled about the gray trunks. The stern
defeated trees looked like the phantoms of themselves, a long silent
battalion of petrified ghosts. Even Benicia's gay spirit was oppressed,
and during the long ride homeward through the pine woods she had little
to say to her equally silent companion.
Dona Eustaquia seldom gave balls, but once a week she opened her salas
to the more intellectual people of the town. A few Americans were ever
attendant; General Vallejo often came from Sonoma to hear the latest
American and Mexican news in her house; Castro rarely had been absent;
Alvarado, in the days of his supremacy, could always be found there, and
she was the first woman upon whom Pio Pico called when he deigned to
visit Monterey. A few young people came to sit in a corner with Benicia,
but they had little to say.
The night after the picnic some fifteen or twenty people were gathered
about Dona Eustaquia in the large sala on the right of the hall; a few
others were glancing over the Mexican papers in the little sala on the
left. The room was ablaze with many candles standing, above the heads
of the guests, in twisted silver candelabra, the white walls reflecting
their light. The floor was bare, the furniture of stiff mahogany and
horse-hair, but no visitor to that quaint ugly room ever thought of
looking beyond the brilliant face of Dona Eustaquia, the lovely eyes of
her daughter, the intelligence and animation of the people she gathered
about her. As a rule Dona Modeste Castro's proud head and strange beauty
had been one of the living pictures of that historical sala, but she was
not there to-night.
As Captain Brotherton and Lieutenant Russell entered, Dona Eustaquia was
waging war against Mr. Larkin.
"And what hast thou to say to that proclamation of thy little American
hero, thy Commodore"--she gave the word a satirical roll, impossible to
transcribe--"who is heir to a conquest without blood, who struts into
history as the Commander of the United States Squadron of the Pacific,
holding a few hundred helpless Californians in subjection? O warlike
name of Sloat! O heroic name of Stockton! O immortal Fremont, prince
of strategists and tacticians, your country must be proud of you! Your
newspapers will glorify you! Sometime, perhaps, you will have a little
history bound in red morocco all to yourselves; whilst Castro--" she
sprang to her feet and brought her open palm down violently upon the
table, "Castro, the real hero of this country, the great man ready to
die a thousand deaths for the liberty of the Californians, a man who was
made for great deeds and born for fame, he will be left to rust and rot
because we have no newspapers to glorify him, and the Gringos send what
they wish to their country! Oh, profanation! That a great man should be
covered from sight by an army of red ants!"
"By Jove!" said Russell, "I wish I could understand her! Doesn't she
Captain Brotherton made no reply. He was watching her closely, gathering
the sense of her words, full of passionate admiration for the woman. Her
tall majestic figure was quivering under the lash of her fiery temper,
quick to spring and strike. The red satin of her gown and the diamonds
on her finely moulded neck and in the dense coils of her hair grew dim
before the angry brilliancy of her eyes.
The thin sensitive lips of Mr. Larkin curled with their accustomed
humour, but he replied sincerely, "Yes, Castro is a hero, a great man on
a small canvas--"
"And they are little men on a big canvas!" interrupted Dona Eustaquia.
Mr. Larkin laughed, but his reply was non-committal. "Remember, they
have done all that they have been called upon to do, and they have done
it well. Who can say that they would not be as heroic, if opportunity
offered, as they have been prudent?"
Dona Eustaquia shrugged her shoulders disdainfully, but resumed her
seat. "You will not say, but you know what chance they would have with
Castro in a fair fight. But what chance has even a great man, when at
the head of a few renegades, against the navy of a big nation? But
Fremont! Is he to cast up his eyes and draw down his mouth to the world,
whilst the man who acted for the safety of his country alone, who showed
foresight and wisdom, is denounced as a violator of international
"No," said one of the American residents who stood near, "history will
right all that. Some day the world will know who was the great and who
the little man."
"Some day! When we are under our stones! This swaggering Commodore
Stockton adores Fremont and hates Castro. His lying proclamation will be
read in his own country--"
The door opened suddenly and Don Fernando Altimira entered the room.
"Have you heard?" he cried. "All the South is in arms! The Departmental
Assembly has called the whole country to war, and men are flocking to
the standard! Castro has sworn that he will never give up the country
under his charge. Now, Mother of God! let our men drive the usurper from
Even Mr. Larkin sprang to his feet in excitement. He rapidly translated
the news to Brotherton and Russell.
"Ah! There will be a little blood, then," said the younger officer. "It
was too easy a victory to count."
Every one in the room was talking at once. Dona Eustaquia smote her
hands together, then clasped and raised them aloft.
"Thanks to God!" she cried. "California has come to her senses at last!"
Altimira bent his lips to her ear. "I go to fight the Americans," he
She caught his hand between both her own and pressed it convulsively to
her breast. "Go," she said, "and may God and Mary protect thee. Go, my
son, and when thou returnest I will give thee Benicia. Thou art a son
after my heart, a brave man and a good Catholic."
Benicia, standing near, heard the words. For the first time Russell saw
the expression of careless audacity leave her face, her pink colour
"What is that man saying to your mother?" he demanded.
"She promise me to him when he come back; he go to join General Castro."
"Benicia!" He glanced about. Altimira had left the house. Every one was
too excited to notice them. He drew her across the hall and into the
little sala, deserted since the startling news had come. "Benicia," he
said hurriedly, "there is no time to be lost. You are such a butterfly I
hardly know whether you love me or not."
"I no am such butterfly as you think," said the girl, pathetically. "I
often am very gay, for that is my spirit, senor; but I cry sometimes in
"Well, you are not to cry any more, my very darling first!" He took her
in his arms and kissed her, and she did not box his ears. "I may be
ordered off at any moment, and what may they not do with you while I am
gone? So I have a plan! Marry me to-morrow!"
"To-morrow. At your friend Blandina's house. The Hernandez like the
Americans; in fact, as we all know, Tallant is in love with Blandina and
the old people do not frown. They will let us marry there."
"Ay! Cielo santo! What my mother say? She kill me!"
"She will forgive you, no matter how angry she may be at first. She
loves you--almost as much as I do."
The girl withdrew from his arms and walked up and down the room. Her
face was very pale, and she looked older. On one side of the room hung
a large black cross, heavily mounted with gold. She leaned her face
against it and burst into tears. "Ay, my home! My mother!" she cried
under her breath. "How I can leave you? Ay, triste de mi!" She turned
suddenly to Russell, whose face was as white as her own, and put to him
the question which we have not yet answered. "What is this love?" she
said rapidly. "I no can understand. I never feel before. Always I laugh
when men say they love me; but I never laugh again. In my heart is
something that shake me like a lion shake what it go to kill, and make
me no care for my mother or my God--and you are a Protestant! I have
love my mother like I have love that cross; and now a man come--a
stranger! a conqueror! a Protestant! an American! And he twist my heart
out with his hands! But I no can help. I love you and I go."
The next morning, Dona Eustaquia looked up from her desk as Benicia
entered the room. "I am writing to Alvarado," she said. "I hope to be
the first to tell him the glorious news. Ay! my child, go to thy altar
and pray that the bandoleros may be driven wriggling from the land like
snakes out of a burning field!"
"But, mother, I thought you had learned to like the Gringos."
"I like the Gringos well enough, but I hate their flag! Ay! I will pull
it down with my own hands if Castro and Pico roll Stockton and Fremont
in the dust!"
"I am sorry for that, my mother, for I am going to marry an American
Her mother laughed and glanced over the closely written page.
"I am going to marry the Lieutenant Russell at Blandina's house this
"Ay, run, run. I must finish my letter."
Benicia left the sala and crossing her mother's room entered her own.
From the stout mahogany chest she took white silk stockings and satin
slippers, and sitting down on the floor put them on. Then she opened the
doors of her wardrobe and looked for some moments at the many pretty
frocks hanging there. She selected one of fine white lawn, half covered
with deshalados, and arrayed herself. She took from the drawer of the
wardrobe a mantilla of white Spanish lace, and draped it about her head
and shoulders, fastening it back above one ear with a pink rose. Around
her throat she clasped a string of pearls, then stood quietly in the
middle of the room and looked about her. In one corner was a little
brass bedstead covered with a heavy quilt of satin and lace. The
pillow-cases were almost as fine and elaborate as her gown. In the
opposite corner was an altar with little gold candlesticks and an ivory
crucifix. The walls and floor were bare but spotless. The ugly wardrobe
built into the thick wall never had been empty: Dona Eustaquia's
generosity to the daughter she worshipped was unbounded.
Benicia drew a long hysterical breath and went over to the window. It
looked upon a large yard enclosed by the high adobe wall upon which her
lovers so often had sat and sung to her. No flowers were in the garden,
not even a tree. It was as smooth and clean as the floor of a ballroom.
About the well in the middle were three or four Indian servants
quarrelling good-naturedly. The house stood on the rise of one of the
crescent's horns. Benicia looked up at the dark pine woods on the
hill. What days she had spent there with her mother! She whirled about
suddenly and taking a large fan from the table returned to the sala.
Dona Eustaquia laughed. "Thou silly child, to dress thyself like a
bride. What nonsense is this?"
"I will be a bride in an hour, my mother."
"Go! Go, with thy nonsense! I have spoiled thee! What other girl in
Monterey would dare to dress herself like this at eleven in the morning?
Go! And do not ruin that mantilla, for thou wilt not get another. Thou
art going to Blandina's, no? Be sure thou goest no farther! I would not
let thee go there alone were it not so near. And be sure thou speakest
to no man in the street."
"No, mamacita, I will speak to no man in the street, but one awaits me
in the house. Hasta luego." And she flitted out of the door and up the
A few hours later Dona Eustaquia sat in the large and cooler sala
with Captain Brotherton. He read Shakespeare to her whilst she fanned
herself, her face aglow with intelligent pleasure. She had not broached
to him the uprising in the South lest it should lead to bitter words.
Although an American and a Protestant, few friends had ever stood so
close to her.
He laid down the book as Russell and Benicia entered the room. Dona
Eustaquia's heavy brows met.
"Thou knowest that I do not allow thee to walk with on the street," she
said in Spanish.
"But, mamacita, he is my husband. We were married this morning at
Blandina's," Excitement had tuned Benicia's spirit to its accustomed
pitch, and her eyes danced with mischief. Moreover, although she
expected violent reproaches, she knew the tenacious strength of her
mother's affection, and had faith in speedy forgiveness.
Brotherton opened his eyes, but Dona Eustaquia moved back her head
impatiently. "That silly joke!" Then she smiled at her own impatience.
What was Benicia but a spoiled child, and spoiled children would disobey
at times. "Welcome, my son," she said to Russell, extending her hand.
"We celebrate your marriage at the supper to-night, and the Captain
helps us, no? my friend."
"Let us have chicken with red pepper and tomato sauce," cried Russell.
"And rice with saffron; and that delightful dish with which I
remonstrate all night--olives and cheese and hard-boiled eggs and red
peppers all rolled up in corn-meal cakes."
"Enchiladas? You have them! Now, both you go over to the corner and talk
not loud, for I wish to hear my friend read."
Russell, lifting his shoulders, did as he was bidden. Benicia, with a
gay laugh, kissed her mother and flitted like a butterfly about the
room, singing gay little snatches of song.
"Oh, mamacita, mamacita," she chanted. "Thou wilt not believe thou hast
lost thy little daughter. Thou wilt not believe thou hast a son. Thou
wilt not believe I shall sleep no more in the little brass bed--"
"Benicia, hold thy saucy tongue! Sit down!" And this Benicia finally
consented to do, although smothered laughter came now and again from the
Dona Eustaquia sat easily against the straight back of her chair,
looking very handsome and placid as Brotherton read and expounded "As
You Like It" to her. Her gown of thin black silk threw out the fine
gray tones of her skin; about her neck and chest was a heavy chain of
Californian gold; her dense lustreless hair was held high with a shell
comb banded with gold; superb jewels weighted her little white hands; in
her small ears were large hoops of gold studded with black pearls. She
was perfectly contented in that hour. Her woman's vanity was at peace
and her eager mind expanding.
The party about the supper table in the evening was very gay. The long
room was bare, but heavy silver was beyond the glass doors of the
cupboard; a servant stood behind each chair; the wines were as fine
as any in America, and the favourite dishes of the Americans had been
prepared. Even Brotherton, although more nervous than was usual with
him, caught the contagion of the hour and touched his glass more than
once to that of the woman whose overwhelming personality had more than
half captured a most indifferent heart.
After supper they sat on the corridor, and Benicia sang her mocking
love-songs and danced El Son to the tinkling of her own guitar.
"Is she not a light-hearted child?" asked her mother. "But she has her
serious moments, my friend. We have been like the sisters. Every path of
the pine woods we walk together, arm in arm. We ride miles on the beach
and sit down on the rocks for hours and try to think what the seals
say one to the other. Before you come I have friends, but no other
companion; but it is good for me you come, for she think only of
flirting since the Americans take Monterey. Mira! Look at her flash the
eyes at Senor Russell. It is well he has the light heart like herself."
Brotherton made no reply.
"Give to me the guitar," she continued.
Benicia handed her the instrument and Dona Eustaquia swept the chords
absently for a moment then sang the song of the troubadour. Her rich
voice was like the rush of the wind through the pines after the light
trilling of a bird, and even Russell sat enraptured. As she sang the
colour came into her face, alight with the fire of youth. Her low notes
were voluptuous, her high notes rang with piercing sadness. As she
finished, a storm of applause came from Alvarado Street, which pulsed
with life but a few yards below them.
"No American woman ever sang like that," said Brotherton. He rose and
walked to the end of the corridor. "But it is a part of Monterey."
"Most enchanting of mothers-in-law," said Russell, "you have made it
doubly hard for us to leave you; but it grows late and my wife and I
must go. Good night," and he raised her hand to his lips.
"Good night, my son."
"Mamacita, good night," and Benicia, who had fluttered into the house
and found a reboso, kissed her mother, waved her hand to Brotherton, and
stepped from the corridor to the street.
"Come here, senorita!" cried her mother. "No walk to-night, for I have
not the wish to walk myself."
"But I go with my husband, mamma."
"Oh, no more of that joke without sense! Senor Russell, go home, that
she have reason for one moment."
"But, dear Dona Eustaquia, won't you understand that we are really
Dona Eustaquia's patience was at an end. She turned to Brotherton and
addressed a remark to him. Russell and Benicia conferred a moment, then
the young man walked rapidly down the street.
"Has he gone?" asked Dona Eustaquia. "Then let us go in the house, for
the fog comes from the bay."
They went into the little sala and sat about the table. Dona Eustaquia
picked up a silver dagger she used as a paper cutter and tapped a book
"Ay, this will not last long," she said to Brotherton. "I much am afraid
your Commodore send you to the South to fight with our men."
"I shall return," said Brotherton, absently. His eyes were fixed on the
"But it will not be long that you will be there, my friend. Many people
are not killed in our wars. Once there was a great battle at Point
Rincon, near Santa Barbara, between Castro and Carillo. Carillo have
been appointed governor by Mejico, and Alvarado refuse to resign. They
fight for three days, and Castro manage so well he lose only one man,
and the others run away and not lose any."
Brotherton laughed. "I hope all our battles may be as bloodless," he
said, and then drew a short breath.
Russell, accompanied by Don Jorje and Dona Francesca Hernandez and the
priest of Monterey, entered the room.
Dona Eustaquia rose and greeted her guests with grace and hospitality.
"But I am glad to see you, my father, my friends. And you always are
welcome, Senor Russell; but no more joke. Where is our Blandina? Sit
down--Why, what is it?"
The priest spoke.
"I have that to tell you, Dona Eustaquia, which I fear will give you
great displeasure. I hoped not to be the one to tell it. I was weak to
consent, but these young people importuned me until I was weary. Dona
Eustaquia, I married Benicia to the Senor Russell to-day."
Dona Eustaquia's head had moved forward mechanically, her eyes staring
incredulously from the priest to the other members of the apprehensive
group. Suddenly her apathy left her, her arm curved upward like the neck
of a snake; but as she sprang upon Benicia her ferocity was that of a
"What!" she shrieked, shaking the girl violently by the shoulder. "What!
ingrate! traitor! Thou hast married an American, a Protestant!"
Benicia burst into terrified sobs. Russell swung the girl from her
mother's grasp and placed his arm around her.
"She is mine now," he said. "You must not touch her again."
"Yours! Yours!" screamed Dona Eustaquia, beside herself. "Oh, Mother of
God!" She snatched the dagger from the table and, springing backward,
plunged it into the cross.
"By that sign I curse thee," she cried. "Accursed be the man who has
stolen my child! Accursed be the woman who has betrayed her mother and
her country! God! God!--I implore thee, let her die in her happiest
On August twelfth Commodore Hull arrived on the frigate _Warren_, from
Mazatlan, and brought the first positive intelligence of the declaration
of war between Mexico and the United States. Before the middle of
the month news came that Castro and Pico, after gallant defence, but
overwhelmed by numbers, had fled, the one to Sonora, the other to Baja
California. A few days after, Stockton issued a proclamation to the
effect that the flag of the United States was flying over every town
in the territory of California; and Alcalde Colton announced that the
rancheros were more than satisfied with the change of government.
A month later a mounted courier dashed into Monterey with a note from
the Alcalde of Los Angeles, wrapped about a cigarito and hidden in his
hair. The note contained the information that all the South was in
arms again, and that Los Angeles was in the hands of the Californians.
Russell was ordered to go with Captain Mervine, on the _Savannah_,
to join Gillespie at San Pedro; Brotherton was left at Monterey with
Lieutenant Maddox and a number of men to quell a threatened uprising.
Later came the news of Mervine's defeat and the night of Talbot from
Santa Barbara; and by November California was in a state of general
warfare, each army receiving new recruits every day.
Dona Eustaquia, hard and stern, praying for the triumph of her people,
lived alone in the old house. Benicia, praying for the return of her
husband and the relenting of her mother, lived alone in her little house
on the hill. Friends had interceded, but Dona Eustaquia had closed her
ears. Brotherton went to her one day with the news that Lieutenant
Russell was wounded.
"I must tell Benicia," he said, "but it is you who should do that."
"She betray me, my friend."
"Oh, Eustaquia, make allowance for the lightness of youth. She barely
realized what she did. But she loves him now, and suffers bitterly. She
should be with you."
"Ay! She suffer for another! She love a strange man--an American--better
than her mother! And it is I who would die for her! Ay, you cold
Americans! Never you know how a mother can love her child."
"The Americans know how to love, senora. And Benicia was thoroughly
spoiled by her devoted mother. She was carried away by her wild spirits,
"Then much better she live on them now."
Dona Eustaquia sat with her profile against the light. It looked severe
and a little older, but she was very handsome in her rich black gown and
the gold chain about her strong throat. Her head, as usual, was held a
little back. Brotherton sat down beside her and took her hand.
"Eustaquia," he said, "no friendship between man and woman was ever
deeper and stronger than ours. In spite of the anxiety and excitement of
these last months we have found time to know each other very intimately.
So you will forgive me if I tell you that the more a friend loves you
the more he must be saddened by the terrible iron in your nature. Only
the great strength of your passions has saved you from hardening into an
ugly and repellent woman. You are a mother; forgive your child; remember
that she, too, is about to be a mother--"
She caught his hand between both of hers with a passionate gesture. "Oh,
my friend," she said, "do not too much reproach me! You never have a
child, you cannot know! And remember we all are not make alike. If you
are me, you act like myself. If I am you, I can forgive more easy. But
I am Eustaquia Ortega, and as I am make, so I do feel now. No judge too
hard, my friend, and--_infelez de mi!_ do not forsake me."
"I will never forsake you, Eustaquia." He rose suddenly. "I, too, am a
lonely man, if not a hard one, and I recognize that cry of the soul's
He left her and went up the hill to Benicia's little house, half hidden
by the cypress trees that grew before it.
She was sitting in her sala working an elaborate deshalados on a baby's
gown. Her face was pale, and the sparkle had gone out of it; but she
held herself with all her mother's pride, and her soft eyes were deeper.
She rose as Captain Brotherton entered, and took his hand in both of
hers. "You are so good to come to me, and I love you for your friendship
for my mother. Tell me how she is."
"She is well, Benicia." Then he exclaimed suddenly: "Poor little girl!
What a child you are--not yet seventeen."
"In a few months, senor. Sit down. No? And I no am so young now. When we
suffer we grow more than by the years; and now I go to have the baby,
that make me feel very old."
"But it is very sad to see you alone like this, without your husband or
your mother. She will relent some day, Benicia, but I wish she would do
it now, when you most need her."
"Yes, I wish I am with her in the old house," said the girl,
pathetically, although she winked back the tears. "Never I can be happy
without her, even si _he_ is here, and you know how I love him. But I
have love her so long; she is--how you say it?--like she is part of me,
and when she no spik to me, how I can be happy with all myself when part
is gone. You understand, senor?"
"Yes, Benicia, I understand." He looked through the bending cypresses,
down the hill, upon the fair town. He had no relish for the task which
had brought him to her. She looked up and caught the expression of his
"Senor!" she cried sharply. "What you go to tell me?"
"There is a report that Ned is slightly wounded; but it is not serious.
It was Altimira who did it, I believe."
She shook from head to foot, but was calmer than he had expected. She
laid the gown on a chair and stood up. "Take me to him. Si he is wound,
I go to nurse him."
"My child! You would die before you got there. I have sent a special
courier to find out the truth. If Ned is wounded, I have arranged to
have him sent home immediately."
"I wait for the courier come back, for it no is right I hurt the baby si
I can help. But si he is wound so bad he no can come, then I go to him.
It no is use for you to talk at all, senor, I go."
Brotherton looked at her in wonderment. Whence had the butterfly gone?
Its wings had been struck from it and a soul had flown in.
"Let me send Blandina to you," he said. "You must not be alone."
"I am alone till he or my mother come. I no want other. I love Blandina
before, but now she make me feel tired. She talk so much and no say
anything. I like better be alone."
"Poor child!" said Brotherton, bitterly, "truly do love and suffering
age and isolate." He motioned with his hand to the altar in her bedroom,
seen through the open door. "I have not your faith, I am afraid I have
not much of any; but if I cannot pray for you, I can wish with all the
strength of a man's heart that happiness will come to you yet, Benicia."
She shook her head. "I no know; I no believe much happiness come in
this life. Before, I am like a fairy; but it is only because I no am
_un_happy. But when the heart have wake up, senor, and the knife have
gone in hard, then, after that, always, I think, we are a little sad."
General Kearney and Lieutenant Beale walked rapidly up and down before
the tents of the wretched remnant of United States troops with which the
former had arrived overland in California. It was bitterly cold in spite
of the fine drizzling rain. Lonely buttes studded the desert, whose
palms and cacti seemed to spring from the rocks; high on one of them was
the American camp. On the other side of a river flowing at the foot of
the butte, the white tents of the Californians were scattered among the
dark huts of the little pueblo of San Pasqual.
"Let me implore you, General," said Beale, "not to think of meeting
Andres Pico. Why, your men are half starved; your few horses are
broken-winded; your mules are no match for the fresh trained mustangs of
the enemy. I am afraid you do not appreciate the Californians. They are
numerous, brave, and desperate. If you avoid them now, as Commodore
Stockton wishes, and join him at San Diego, we stand a fair chance
of defeating them. But now Pico's cavalry and foot are fresh and
enthusiastic--in painful contrast to yours. And, moreover, they know
every inch of the ground."
Kearney impatiently knocked the ashes out of his pipe. He had little
regard for Stockton, and no intention of being dictated to by a
truculent young lieutenant who spoke his mind upon all occasions.
"I shall attack them at daybreak," he said curtly. "I have one hundred
and thirty good men; and has not Captain Gillespie joined me with his
battalion? Never shall it be said that I turned aside to avoid a handful
of boasting Californians. Now go and get an hour's sleep before we
The young officer shrugged his shoulders, saluted, and walked down
the line of tents. A man emerged from one of them, and he recognized
"Hello, Ned," he said. "How's the arm?"
"'Twas only a scratch. Is Altimira down there with Pico, do you know? He
is a brave fellow! I respect that man; but we have an account to settle,
and I hope it will be done on the battle-field."
"He is with Pico, and he has done some good fighting. Most of the
Californians have. They know how to fight and they are perfectly
fearless. Kearney will find it out to-morrow. He is mad to attack them.
Why, his men are actually cadaverous. Bueno! as they say here; Stockton
sent me to guide him to San Diego. If he prefers to go through the
enemy's lines, there is nothing for me to do but take him."
"Yes, but we may surprise them. I wish to God this imitation war were
"It will be real enough before you get through. Don't worry. Well, good
night. Luck to your skin."
At daybreak the little army marched down the butte, shivering with cold,
wet to the skin. Those on horseback naturally proceeded more rapidly
than those mounted upon the clumsy stubborn mules; and Captain Johnson,
who led the advance guard of twelve dragoons, found himself, when he
came in sight of the enemy's camp, some distance ahead of the main body
of Kearney's small army. To his surprise he saw that the Californians
were not only awake, but horsed and apparently awaiting him. Whether he
was fired by valour or desperation at the sight is a disputed point;
but he made a sudden dash down the hill and across the river, almost
flinging himself upon the lances of the Californians.
Captain Moore, who was ambling down the hill on an old white horse at
the head of fifty dragoons mounted on mules, spurred his beast as he
witnessed the foolish charge of the advance, and arrived upon the field
in time to see Johnson fall dead and to take his place. Pico, seeing
that reenforcements were coming, began to retreat, followed hotly by
Moore and the horsed dragoons. Suddenly, however, Fernando Altimira
raised himself in his stirrups, looked back, laughed and galloped across
the field to General Pico.
"Look!" he said. "Only a few men on horses are after us. The mules are
stumbling half a mile behind."
Pico wheeled about, gave the word of command, and bore down upon the
Americans. Then followed a hand-to-hand conflict, the Californians
lancing and using their pistols with great dexterity, the Americans
doing the best they could with their rusty sabres and clubbed guns.
They were soon reenforced by Moore's dragoons and Gillespie's battalion,
despite the unwilling mules; but the brutes kicked and bucked at every
pistol shot and fresh cloud of smoke. The poor old horses wheezed and
panted, but stood their ground when not flung out of position by the
frantic mules. The officers and soldiers of the United States army were
a sorry sight, and in pointed contrast to the graceful Californians on
their groomed steeds, handsomely trapped, curvetting and rearing and
prancing as lightly as if on the floor of a circus. Kearney cursed his
own stupidity, and Pico laughed in his face. Beale felt satisfaction and
compunction in saturating the silk and silver of one fine saddle with
the blood of its owner. The point of the dying man's lance pierced his
face, but he noted the bleaching of Kearney's, as one dragoon after
another was flung upon the sharp rocks over which his bewildered brute
stumbled, or was caught and held aloft in the torturing arms of the
On the edge of the battle two men had forgotten the Aztec Eagle and the
Stars and Stripes; they fought for love of a woman. Neither had had time
to draw his pistol; they fought with lance and sabre, thrusting and
parrying. Both were skilful swordsmen, but Altimira's horse was far
superior to Russell's, and he had the advantage of weapons.
"One or the other die on the rocks," said the Californian, "and si I
kill you, I marry Benicia."
Russell made no reply. He struck aside the man's lance and wounded his
wrist. But Altimira was too excited to feel pain. His face was quivering
It is not easy to parry a lance with a sabre, and still more difficult
to get close enough to wound the man who wields it. Russell rose
suddenly in his stirrups, described a rapid half-circle with his weapon,
brought it down midway upon the longer blade, and snapped the latter in
two. Altimira gave a cry of rage, and spurring his horse sought to ride
his opponent down; but Russell wheeled, and the two men simultaneously
snatched their pistols from the holsters. Altimira fired first, but his
hand was unsteady and his ball went through a cactus. Russell raised
his pistol with firm wrist, and discharged it full in the face of the
Then he looked over the field. Moore, fatally lanced, lay under a palm,
and many of his men were about him. Gillespie was wounded, Kearney had
received an ugly thrust. The Californians, upon the arrival of the main
body of the enemy's troops, had retreated unpursued; the mules attached
to one of the American howitzers were scampering over to the opposite
ranks, much to the consternation of Kearney. The sun, looking over the
mountain, dissipated the gray smoke, and cast a theatrical light on the
faces of the dead. Russell bent over Altimira. His head was shattered,
but his death was avenged. Never had an American troop suffered a more
humiliating defeat. Only six Californians lay on the field; and when
the American surgeon, after attending to his own wounded, offered his
services to Pico's, that indomitable general haughtily replied that he
"By Jove!" said Russell to Beale that night, "you know your
Californians! I am prouder than ever of having married one! That army is
of the stuff of which my mother-in-law is made!"
That was a gay Christmas at Monterey, despite the barricades in the
street. News had come of the defeat of Kearney at San Pasqual, and the
Monterenos, inflated with hope and pride, gave little thought to the
fact that his forces were now joined with Stockton's at San Diego.
On Christmas eve light streamed from every window, bonfires flared on
the hills; the streets were illuminated, and every one was abroad. The
clear warm night was ablaze with fireworks; men and women were in their
gala gowns; rockets shot upward amidst shrieks of delight which mingled
oddly with the rolling of drums at muster; even the children caught the
enthusiasm, religious and patriotic.
"I suppose you would be glad to see even your friends driven out," said
Brotherton to Dona Eustaquia, as they walked through the brilliant town
toward the church: bells called them to witness the dramatic play of
"I be glad to see the impertinent flag come down," said she, frankly;
"but you can make resignation from the army, and have a little store on
Alvarado Street. You can have beautiful silks and crepes from America. I
buy of you."
"Thanks," he said grimly. "You would put a dunce cap on poor America,
and stand her in a corner. If I resign, Dona Eustaquia, it will be to
become a ranchero, not a shopkeeper. To tell the truth, I have little
desire to leave California again."
"But you were make for the fight," she said, looking up with some pride
at the tall military figure, the erect head and strong features. "You
not were make to lie in the hammock and horseback all day."
"But I should do a good deal else, senora. I should raise cattle with
some method; and I should have a library--and a wife."
"Ah! you go to marry?"
"Some day, I hope. It would be lonely to be a ranchero without a wife."
"What is the matter with those women?"
A group of old women stood by the roadside. Their forms were bent, their
brown faces gnarled like apples. Some were a shapeless mass of fat,
others were parchment and bone; about the head and shoulders of each was
a thick black shawl. Near them stood a number of young girls clad in
muslin petticoats, flowered with purple and scarlet. Bright satin shoes
were on their feet, cotton rebosas covered their pretty, pert little
heads. All were looking in one direction, whispering and crossing
Dona Eustaquia glanced over her shoulder, then leaned heavily on
"It is Benicia," she said. "It is because she was cursed and is with
child that they cross themselves."
Brotherton held her arm closely and laid his hand on hers, but he spoke
"The curse is not likely to do her any harm. You prayed that she should
die when happiest, and you have done your best to make her wretched."
She did not reply, and they walked slowly onward. Benicia followed,
leaning on the arm of an Indian servant. Her friends avoided her, for
they bitterly resented Altimira's death. But she gave them little
regret. Since her husband could not be with her on this Christmas eve,
she wished only for reconciliation with her mother. In spite of the
crowd she followed close behind Dona Eustaquia and Brotherton, holding
her head proudly, but ready to fall at the feet of the woman she
"My friend," said Dona Eustaquia, after a moment, "perhaps it is best
that I do not forgive her. Were she happy, then might the curse come
"She has enough else to make her unhappy. Besides, who ever heard of
a curse coming true? It has worked its will already for the matter of
that. You kept your child from happiness with her husband during the
brief time she had him. The bitterness of death is a small matter beside
the bitterness of life. You should be satisfied."
"You are hard, my friend."
"I see your other faults only to respect and love them."
"Does she look ill, Captain?"
"She cannot be expected to look like the old Benicia. Of course she
looks ill, and needs care."
"Look over the shoulder. Does she walk heavily?"
"Very. But as haughtily as do you."
"Talk of other things for a little while, my friend."
"Truly there is much to claim the interest to-night. This may be an old
scene to you, but it is novel and fascinating to me. How lovely are
those stately girls, half hidden by their rebosas, telling their beads
as they hurry along. It is the very coquetry of religion. And those--But
here we are."
The church was handsomer without than within, for the clever old
padres that built it had more taste than their successors. About the
whitewashed walls of the interior were poor copies of celebrated
paintings--the Passion of Christ, and an extraordinary group of nude
women and grinning men representing the temptation of St. Anthony. In a
glass case a beautiful figure of the Saviour reclined on a stiff couch
clumsily covered with costly stuffs. The Virgin was dressed much like
the aristocratic ladies of Monterey, and the altar was a rainbow of
But the ceremonies were interesting, and Brotherton forgot Benicia for
the hour. After the mass the priest held out a small waxen image of the
infant Jesus, and all approached and kissed it. Then from without came
the sound of a guitar; the worshippers arose and ranged themselves
against the wall; six girls dressed as shepherdesses; a man representing
Lucifer; two others, a hermit and the lazy vagabond Bartola; a boy, the
archangel Gabriel, entered the church. They bore banners and marched
to the centre of the building, then acted their drama with religious
The play began with the announcement by Gabriel of the birth of the
Saviour, and exhortations to repair to the manger. On the road came
the temptation of Lucifer; the archangel appeared once more; a violent
altercation ensued in which all took part, and finally the prince of
darkness was routed. Songs and fanciful by-play, brief sermons, music,
gay and solemn, diversified the strange performance. When all was over,
the players were followed by an admiring crowd to the entertainment
"Is it not beautiful--our Los Pastores?" demanded Dona Eustaquia,
looking up at Brotherton, her fine face aglow with enthusiasm. "Do not
you feel the desire to be a Catholic, my friend?"
"Rather would I see two good Catholics united, dear senora," and he
turned suddenly to Benicia, who also had remained in the church, almost
at her mother's side.
"Mamacita!" cried Benicia.
Dona Eustaquia opened her arms and caught the girl passionately to her
heart; and Brotherton left the church.
The April flowers were on the hills. Beds of gold-red poppies and
silver-blue baby eyes were set like tiles amidst the dense green
undergrowth beneath the pines, and on the natural lawns about the white
houses. Although hope of driving forth the intruder had gone forever in
January, Monterey had resumed in part her old gayety; despair had bred
philosophy. But Monterey was Monterey no longer. An American alcalde
with a power vested in no judge of the United States ruled over her; to
add injury to insult, he had started a newspaper. The town was full of
Americans; the United States was constructing a fort on the hill; above
all, worse than all, the Californians were learning the value of money.
Their sun was sloping to the west.
A thick India shawl hung over the window of Benicia's old room in her
mother's house, shutting out the perfume of the hills. A carpet had been
thrown on the floor, candles burned in the pretty gold candlesticks that
had stood on the altar since Benicia's childhood. On the little brass
bedstead lay Benicia, very pale and very pretty, her transparent skin
faintly reflecting the pink of the satin coverlet. By the bed sat an old
woman of the people. Her ragged white locks were bound about by a fillet
of black silk; her face, dark as burnt umber, was seamed and lined like
a withered prune; even her long broad nose was wrinkled; her dull eyes
looked like mud-puddles; her big underlip was pursed up as if she had
been speaking mincing words, and her chin was covered with a short white
stubble. Over her coarse smock and gown she wore a black cotton reboso.
In her arms she held an infant, muffled in a white lace mantilla.
Dona Eustaquia came in and bent over the baby, her strong face alight
"Didst thou ever nurse so beautiful a baby?" she demanded.
The old woman grunted; she had heard that question before.
"See how pink and smooth it is--not red and wrinkled like other babies!
How becoming is that mantilla! No, she shall not be wrapped in blankets,
cap, and shawls."
"She catch cold, most likely," grunted the nurse.
"In this weather? No; it is soft as midsummer. I cannot get cool. Ay,
she looks like a rosebud lying in a fog-bank!" She touched the baby's
cheek with her finger, then sat on the bed, beside her daughter.
"And how dost thou feel, my little one? Thou wert a baby thyself but
yesterday, and thou art not much more to-day."
"I feel perfectly well, my mother, and--ay, Dios, so happy! Where is
"Of course! Always the husband! They are all alike! Hast thou not thy
mother and thy baby?"
"I adore you both, mamacita, but I want Edourdo. Where is he?"
Her mother grimaced. "I suppose it is no use to protest. Well, my little
one, I think he is at this moment on the hill with Lieutenant Ord."
"Why did he not come to see me before he went out?"
"He did, my daughter, but thou wert asleep. He kissed thee and stole
"Right there on your cheek, one inch below your eyelashes."
"When will he return?"
"Holy Mary! For dinner, surely, and that will be in an hour."
"When can I get up?"
"In another week. Thou art so well! I would not have thee draw too
heavily on thy little strength. Another month and thou wilt not remember
that thou hast been ill. Then we will go to the rancho, where thou and
thy little one will have sun all day and no fog."
"Have I not a good husband, mamacita?"
"Yes; I love him like my own son. Had he been unkind to thee, I should
have killed him with my own hands; but as he has his lips to thy little
slipper, I forgive him for being an American."
"And you no longer wish for a necklace of American ears! Oh, mamma!"
Dona Eustaquia frowned, then sighed. "I do not know the American head
for which I have not more like than hate, and they are welcome to their
ears; but _the spirit_ of that wish is in my heart yet, my child. Our
country has been taken from us; we are aliens in our own land; it is the
American's. They--holy God!--permit us to live here!"
"But they like us better than their own women."
"Perhaps; they are men and like what they have not had too long."
"Mamacita, I am thirsty."
"What wilt thou have? A glass of water?"
"Water has no taste."
Dona Eustaquia left the room and returned with an orange. "This will be
cool and pleasant on so warm a day. It is just a little sour," she said;
but the nurse raised her bony hand.
"Do not give her that," she said in her harsh voice. "It is too soon."
"Nonsense! The baby is two weeks old. Why, I ate fruit a week after
childing. Look how dry her mouth is! It will do her good."
She pared the orange and gave it to Benicia, who ate it gratefully.
"It is very good, mamita. You will spoil me always, but that is because
you are so good. And one day I hope you will be as happy as your little
daughter; for there are other good Americans in the world. No? mamma. I
She sprang upward with a loud cry, the body curving rigidly; her soft
brown eyes stared horribly; froth gathered about her mouth; she gasped
once or twice, her body writhing from the agonized arms that strove to
hold it, then fell limply down, her features relaxing.
"She is dead," said the nurse.
"Benicia!" whispered Dona Eustaquia. "Benicia!"
"You have killed her," said the old woman, as she drew the mantilla
about the baby's face.
Dona Eustaquia dropped the body and moved backward from the bed. She
put out her hands and went gropingly from the room to her own, and from
thence to the sala. Brotherton came forward to meet her.
"Eustaquia!" he cried. "My friend! _My dear_! What has happened? What--"
She raised her hand and pointed to the cross. The mark of the dagger was
"Benicia!" she uttered. "The curse!" and then she fell at his feet.
THE WASH-TUB MAIL
"Mariquita! Thou good-for-nothing, thou art wringing that smock in
pieces! Thy senora will beat thee! Holy heaven, but it is hot!"
"For that reason I hurry, old Faquita. Were I as slow as thou, I should
cook in my own tallow."
"Aha, thou art very clever! But I have no wish to go back to the rancho
and wash for the cooks. Ay, yi! I wonder will La Tulita ever give me her
bridal clothes to wash. I have no faith that little flirt will marry the
Senor Don Ramon Garcia. He did not well to leave Monterey until after
the wedding. And to think--Ay! yi!"
"Thou hast a big letter for the wash-tub mail, Faquita."
"Aha, my Francesca, thou hast interest! I thought thou wast thinking
only of the bandits."
Francesca, who was holding a plunging child between her knees, actively
inspecting its head, grunted but did not look up, and the oracle of
the wash-tubs, provokingly, with slow movements of her knotted
coffee-coloured arms, flapped a dainty skirt, half-covered with drawn
work, before she condescended to speak further.
Twenty women or more, young and old, dark as pine cones, stooped or sat,
knelt or stood, about deep stone tubs sunken in the ground at the foot
of a hill on the outskirts of Monterey. The pines cast heavy shadows on
the long slope above them, but the sun was overhead. The little white
town looked lifeless under its baking red tiles, at this hour of
siesta. On the blue bay rode a warship flying the American colours. The
atmosphere was so clear, the view so uninterrupted, that the younger
women fancied they could read the name on the prow: the town was on the
right; between the bay and the tubs lay only the meadow, the road, the
lake, and the marsh. A few yards farther down the road rose a hill where
white slabs and crosses gleamed beneath the trees. The roar of the surf
came refreshingly to their hot ears. It leaped angrily, they fancied, to
the old fort on the hill where men in the uniform of the United States
moved about with unsleeping vigilance. It was the year 1847. The
Americans had come and conquered. War was over, but the invaders guarded
their new possessions.
The women about the tubs still bitterly protested against the downfall
of California, still took an absorbing interest in all matters,
domestic, social, and political. For those old women with grizzled locks
escaping from a cotton handkerchief wound bandwise about their heads,
their ample forms untrammelled by the flowing garment of calico, those
girls in bright skirts and white short-sleeved smock and young hair
braided, knew all the news of the country, past and to come, many hours
in advance of the dons and donas whose linen they washed in the great
stone tubs: the Indians, domestic and roving, were their faithful
"Sainted Mary, but thou art more slow than a gentleman that walks!"
cried Mariquita, an impatient-looking girl. "Read us the letter. La
Tulita is the prettiest girl in Monterey now that the Senorita Ysabel
Herrera lies beneath the rocks, and Benicia Ortega has died of her
childing. But she is a flirt--that Tulita! Four of the Gringos are under
her little slipper this year, and she turn over the face and roll in the
dirt. But Don Ramon, so handsome, so rich--surely she will marry him."
Faquita shook her head slowly and wisely. "There--come
paused a moment, then proceeded leisurely, though less provokingly. "He
come over the great American deserts with General Kearney last year and
help our men to eat the dust in San Diego. He come only yesterday to
Monterey, and La Tulita is like a little wild-cat ever since. She box my
ears this morning when I tell her that the Americans are bandoleros, and
say she never marry a Californian. And never Don Ramon Garcia, ay, yi!"
By this time the fine linen was floating at will upon the water, or
lying in great heaps at the bottom of the clear pools. The suffering
child scampered up through the pines with whoops of delight. The
washing-women were pressed close about Faquita, who stood with thumbs on
her broad hips, the fingers contracting and snapping as she spoke, wisps
of hair bobbing back and forth about her shrewd black eyes and scolding
"Who is he? Where she meet him?" cried the audience. "Oh, thou old
carreta! Why canst thou not talk faster?"
"If thou hast not more respect, Senorita Mariquita, thou wilt hear
nothing. But it is this. There is a ball last night at Dona Maria
Ampudia's house for La Tulita. She look handsome, that witch! Holy Mary!
When she walk it was like the tule in the river. You know. Why she have
that name? She wear white, of course, but that frock--it is like the
cobweb, the cloud. She has not the braids like the other girls, but the
hair, soft like black feathers, fall down to the feet. And the eyes like
blue stars! You know the eyes of La Tulita. The lashes so long, and
black like the hair. And the sparkle! No eyes ever sparkle like those.
The eyes of Ysabel Herrera look like they want the world and never
can get it. Benicia's, pobrecita, just dance like the child's. But La
Tulita's! They sparkle like the devil sit behind and strike fire out
"Mother of God!" cried Mariquita, impatiently, "we all know thou art
daft about that witch! And we know how she looks. Tell us the story."
"Hush thy voice or thou wilt hear nothing. It is this way. La Tulita
have the castanets and just float up and down the sala, while all stand
back and no breathe only when they shout. I am in the garden in the
middle the house, and I stand on a box and look through the doors. Ay,
the roses and the nasturtiums smell so sweet in that little garden!
Well! She dance so beautiful, I think the roof go to jump off so she can
float up and live on one the gold stars all by herself. Her little feet
just twinkle! Well! The door open and Lieutenant Ord come in. He have
with him another young man, not so handsome, but so straight, so sharp
eye and tight mouth. He look at La Tulita like he think she belong to
America and is for him. Lieutenant Ord go up to Dona Maria and say, so
polite: 'I take the liberty to bring Lieutenant'--I no can remember that
name, so American! 'He come to-day from San Diego and will stay with us
for a while.' And Dona Maria, she smile and say, very sweet, 'Very glad
when I have met all of our conquerors.' And he turn red and speak very
bad Spanish and look, look, at La Tulita. Then Lieutenant Ord speak to
him in English and he nod the head, and Lieutenant Ord tell Dona Maria
that his friend like be introduced to La Tulita, and she say, 'Very
well,' and take him over to her who is now sit down. He ask her to waltz
right away, and he waltz very well, and then they dance again, and once
more. And then they sit down and talk, talk. God of my soul, but the
caballeros are mad! And Dona Maria! By and by she can stand it no more
and she go up to La Tulita and take away from the American and say, 'Do
you forget--and for a bandolero--that you are engage to my nephew?' And
La Tulita toss the head and say: 'How can I remember Ramon Garcia when
he is in Yerba Buena? I forget he is alive.' And Dona Maria is very
angry. The eyes snap. But just then the little sister of La Tulita run
into the sala, the face red like the American flag. 'Ay, Herminia!' she
just gasp. 'The donas! The donas! It has come!'"
"The donas!" cried the washing-women, old and young. "Didst thou see
it, Faquita? Oh, surely. Tell us, what did he send? Is he a generous
bridegroom? Were there jewels? And satins? Of what was the rosary?"
"Hush the voice or you will hear nothing. The girls all jump and clap
their hands and they cry: 'Come, Herminia. Come quick! Let us go and
see.' Only La Tulita hold the head very high and look like the donas is
nothing to her, and the Lieutenant look very surprise, and she talk to
him very fast like she no want him to know what they mean. But the girls
just take her hands and pull her out the house. I am after. La Tulita
look very mad, but she cannot help, and in five minutes we are at the
Casa Rivera, and the girls scream and clap the hands in the sala for
Dona Carmen she have unpack the donas and the beautiful things are on
the tables and the sofas and the chairs, Mother of God!"
"Go on! Go on!" cried a dozen exasperated voices.
"Well! Such a donas. Ay, he is a generous lover. A yellow crepe shawl
embroidered with red roses. A white one with embroidery so thick it can
stand up. A string of pearls from Baja California. (Ay, poor Ysabel
Herrera!) Hoops of gold for the little ears of La Tulita. A big chain
of California gold. A set of topaz with pearls all round. A rosary of
amethyst--purple like the violets. A big pin painted with the Ascension,
and diamonds all round. Silks and satins for gowns. A white lace
mantilla, Dios de mi alma! A black one for the visits. And the
night-gowns like cobwebs. The petticoats!" She stopped abruptly.
"And the smocks?" cried her listeners, excitedly. "The smocks? They are
more beautiful than Blandina's? They were pack in rose-leaves--"
"Ay! yi! yi! yi!" The old woman dropped her head on her breast and waved
her arms. She was a study for despair. Even she did not suspect how
thoroughly she was enjoying herself.
"What! What! Tell us! Quick, thou old snail. They were not fine? They
had not embroidery?"
"Hush the voices. I tell you when I am ready. The girls are like crazy.
They look like they go to eat the things. Only La Tulita sit on the
chair in the door with her back to all and look at the windows of Dona
Maria. They look like a long row of suns, those windows.
"I am the one. Suddenly I say: 'Where are the smocks?' And they all cry:
'Yes, where are the smocks? Let us see if he will be a good husband.
Dona Carmen, where are the smocks?'
"Dona Carmen turn over everything in a hurry. 'I did not think of the
smocks,' she say. 'But they must be here. Everything was unpack in this
room.' She lift all up, piece by piece. The girls help and so do I.
La Tulita sit still but begin to look more interested. We search
everywhere--everywhere--for twenty minutes. There--are--no--smocks!"
"God of my life! The smocks! He did not forget!"
"He forget the smocks!"
There was an impressive pause. The women were too dumfounded to comment.
Never in the history of Monterey had such a thing happened before.
Faquita continued: "The girls sit down on the floor and cry. Dona Carmen
turn very white and go in the other room. Then La Tulita jump up and
walk across the room. The lashes fall down over the eyes that look like
she is California and have conquer America, not the other way. The
nostrils just jump. She laugh, laugh, laugh. 'So!' she say, 'my rich and
generous and ardent bridegroom, he forget the smocks of the donas. He
proclaim as if by a poster on the streets that he will be a bad husband,
a thoughtless, careless, indifferent husband. He has vow by the stars
that he adore me. He has serenade beneath my window until I have beg for
mercy. He persecute my mother. And now he flings the insult of insults
in my teeth. And he with six married sisters!'
"The girls just sob. They can say nothing. No woman forgive that. Then
she say loud, 'Ana,' and the girl run in. 'Ana,' she say, 'pack this
stuff and tell Jose and Marcos take it up to the house of the Senor Don
Ramon Garcia. I have no use for it.' Then she say to me: 'Faquita, walk
back to Dona Maria's with me, no? I have engagement with the American.'
And I go with her, of course; I think I go jump in the bay if she tell
me; and she dance all night with that American. He no look at another
girl--all have the eyes so red, anyhow. And Dona Maria is crazy that her
nephew do such a thing, and La Tulita no go to marry him now. Ay, that
witch! She have the excuse and she take it."
For a few moments the din was so great that the crows in a neighbouring
grove of willows sped away in fear. The women talked all at once, at
the top of their voices and with no falling inflections. So rich an
assortment of expletives, secular and religious, such individuality yet
sympathy of comment, had not been called upon for duty since the seventh
of July, a year before, when Commodore Sloat had run up the American
flag on the Custom-house. Finally they paused to recover breath.
Mariquita's young lungs being the first to refill, she demanded of
"And Don Ramon--when does he return?"
"In two weeks, no sooner."
Two weeks later they were again gathered about the tubs.
For a time after arrival they forgot La Tulita--now the absorbing topic
of Monterey--in a new sensation. Mariquita had appeared with a basket of
unmistakable American underwear.
"What!" cried Faquita, shrilly. "Thou wilt defile these tubs with the
linen of bandoleros? Hast thou had thy silly head turned with a kiss?
Not one shirt shall go in this water."
Mariquita tossed her head defiantly. "Captain Brotherton say the Indian
women break his clothes in pieces. They know not how to wash anything
but dish-rags. And does he not go to marry our Dona Eustaquia?"
"The Captain is not so bad," admitted Faquita. The indignation of the
others also visibly diminished: the Captain had been very kind the year
before when gloom lay heavy on the town. "But," continued the autocrat,
with an ominous pressing of her lips, "sure he must change three times a
day. Is all that Captain Brotherton's?"
"He wear many shirts," began Mariquita, when Faquita pounced upon the
basket and shook its contents to the grass.
"Aha! It seems that the Captain has sometimes the short legs and
sometimes the long. Sometimes he put the tucks in his arms, I suppose.
What meaning has this? Thou monster of hypocrisy!"
The old women scowled and snorted. The girls looked sympathetic: more
than one midshipman had found favour in the lower quarter.
"Well," said Mariquita, sullenly, "if thou must know, it is the linen of
the Lieutenant of La Tulita. Ana ask me to wash it, and I say I will."
At this announcement Faquita squared her elbows and looked at Mariquita
with snapping eyes.
"Oho, senorita, I suppose thou wilt say next that thou knowest what
means this flirtation! Has La Tulita lost her heart, perhaps? And Don
Ramon--dost thou know why he leaves Monterey one hour after he comes?"
Her tone was sarcastic, but in it was a note of apprehension.
Mariquita tossed her head, and all pressed close about the rivals.
"What dost thou know, this time?" inquired the girl, provokingly. "Hast
thou any letter to read today? Thou dost forget, old Faquita, that Ana
is my friend--"
"Throw the clothes in the tubs," cried Faquita, furiously. "Do we come
here to idle and gossip? Mariquita, thou hussy, go over to that tub by
thyself and wash the impertinent American rags. Quick. No more talk. The
sun goes high."
No one dared to disobey the queen of the tubs, and in a moment the women
were kneeling in irregular rows, tumbling their linen into the water,
the brown faces and bright attire making a picture in the colorous
landscape which some native artist would have done well to preserve. For
a time no sound was heard but the distant roar of the surf, the sighing
of the wind through the pines on the hill, the less romantic grunts of
the women and the swish of the linen in the water. Suddenly Mariquita,
the proscribed, exclaimed from her segregated tub:--
Heads flew up or twisted on their necks. A party of young people,
attended by a duena, was crossing the meadow to the road. At the head of
the procession were a girl and a man, to whom every gaze which should
have been intent upon washing-tubs alone was directed. The girl wore a
pink gown and a reboso. Her extraordinary grace made her look taller
than she was; the slender figure swayed with every step. Her pink lips
were parted, her blue starlike eyes looked upward into the keen cold
eyes of a young man wearing the uniform of a lieutenant of the United
The dominant characteristics of the young man's face, even then, were
ambition and determination, and perhaps the remarkable future was
foreshadowed in the restless scheming mind. But to-day his deep-set eyes
were glowing with a light more peculiar to youth, and whenever bulging
stones afforded excuse he grasped the girl's hand and held it as long
as he dared. The procession wound past the tubs and crossing the road
climbed up the hill to the little wooded cemetery of the early fathers,
the cemetery where so many of those bright heads were to lie forgotten
beneath the wild oats and thistles.
"They go to the grave of Benicia Ortega and her little one," said
Francesca. "Holy Mary! La Tulita never look in a man's eyes like that
"But she have in his," said Mariquita, wisely.
"No more talk!" cried Faquita, and once more silence came to her own.
But fate was stronger than Faquita. An hour later a little girl came
running down, calling to the old woman that her grandchild, the
consolation of her age, had been taken ill. After she had hurried away
the women fairly leaped over one another in their efforts to reach
"Tell us, tell us, chiquita," they cried, fearful lest Faquita's
snubbing should have turned her sulky, "what dost thou know?"
But Mariquita, who had been biting her lips to keep back her story,
opened them and spoke fluently.
"Ay, my friends! Dona Eustaquia and Benicia Ortega are not the only ones
to wed Americans. Listen! La Tulita is mad for this man, who is no more
handsome than the palm of my hand when it has all day been in the water.
Yesterday morning came Don Ramon. I am in the back garden of the Casa
Rivera with Ana, and La Tulita is in the front garden sitting under the
wall. I can look through the doors of the sala and see and hear all.
Such a handsome caballero, my friends! The gold six inches deep on the
serape. Silver eagles on the sombrero. And the botas! Stamp with birds
and leaves, ay, yi! He fling open the gates so bold, and when he see La
Tulita he look like the sun is behind his face. (Such curls, my friends,
tied with a blue ribbon!) But listen!
"'Mi querida!' he cry, 'mi alma!' (Ay, my heart jump in my throat like
he speak to me.) Then he fall on one knee and try to kiss her hand. But
she throw herself back like she hate him. Her eyes are like the bay in
winter. And then she laugh. When she do that, he stand up and say with
the voice that shake:--
"'What is the matter, Herminia? Do you not love me any longer?'
"'I never love you,' she say. 'They give me no peace until I say I marry
you, and as I love no one else--I do not care much. But now that you
have insult me, I have the best excuse to break the engagement, and I do
"'I insult you?' He hardly can speak, my friends, he is so surprised and
"'Yes; did you not forget the smocks?'
"'The--smocks!' he stammer, like that. 'The smocks?'
"'No one can be blame but you,' she say. 'And you know that no bride
forgive that. You know all that it means.'
"'Herminia!' he say. 'Surely you will not put me; away for a little
thing like that!'
"'I have no more to say,' she reply, and then she get up and go in the
house and shut the door so I cannot see how he feel, but I am very sorry
for him if he did forget the smocks. Well! That evening I help Ana water
the flowers in the front garden, and every once in the while we look
through the windows at La Tulita and the Lieutenant. They talk, talk,
talk. He look so earnest and she--she look so beautiful. Not like a
devil, as when she talk to Don Ramon in the morning, but like an angel.
Sure, a woman can be both! It depends upon the man. By and by Ana go
away, but I stay there, for I like look at them. After a while they get
up and come out. It is dark in the garden, the walls so high, and the
trees throw the shadows, so they cannot see me. They walk up and down,
and by and by the Lieutenant take out his knife and cut a shoot from the
rose-bush that climb up the house.
"'These Castilian roses,' he say, very soft, but in very bad Spanish,
'they are very beautiful and a part of Monterey--a part of you. Look, I
am going to plant this here, and long before it grow to be a big bush I
come back and you will wear its buds in your hair when we are married in
that lovely old church. Now help me,' and then they kneel down and he
stick it in the ground, and all their fingers push the earth around it.
Then she give a little sob and say, 'You must go?'
"He lift her up and put his arms around her tight. 'I must go,' he say.
'I am not my own master, you know, and the orders have come. But my
heart is here, in this old garden, and I come back for it.' And then she
put her arms around him and he kiss her, and she love him so I forget to
be sorry for Don Ramon. After all, it is the woman who should be happy.
He hold her a long time, so long I am afraid Dona Carmen come out to
look for her. I lift up on my knees (I am sit down before) and look in
the window and I see she is asleep, and I am glad. Well! After a while
they walk up and down again, and he tell her all about his home far
away, and about some money he go to get when the law get ready, and how
he cannot marry on his pay. Then he say how he go to be a great general
some day and how she will be the more beautiful woman in--how you call
it?--Washington, I think. And she cry and say she does not care, she
only want him. And he tell her water the rose-bush every day and think
of him, and he will come back before it is large, and every time a bud
come out she can know he is thinking of her very hard."
"Ay, pobrecita!" said Francesca, "I wonder will he come back. These
"Surely. Are not all men mad for La Tulita?"
"Yes--yes, but he go far away. To America! Dios de mi alma! And men,
they forget." Francesca heaved a deep sigh. Her youth was far behind
her, but she remembered many things.
"He return," said Mariquita, the young and romantic.
"When does he go?"
Mariquita pointed to the bay. A schooner rode at anchor. "He go to Yerba
Buena on that to-morrow morning. From there to the land of the American.
Ay, yi! Poor La Tulita! But his linen is dry. I must take it to iron for
I have it promised for six in the morning." And she hastily gathered the
articles from the low bushes and hurried away.
That evening as the women returned to town, talking gayly, despite the
great baskets on their heads, they passed the hut of Faquita and paused
at the window to inquire for the child. The little one lay gasping on
the bed. Faquita sat beside her with bowed head. An aged crone brewed
herbs over a stove. The dingy little house faced the hills and was dimly
lighted by the fading rays of the sun struggling through the dark pine
"Holy Mary, Faquita!" said Francesca, in a loud whisper. "Does Liseta
Faquita sprang to her feet. Her cross old face was drawn with misery.
"Go, go!" she said, waving her arms, "I want none of you."
The next evening she sat in the same position, her eyes fixed upon the
shrinking features of the child. The crone had gone. She heard the door
open, and turned with a scowl. But it was La Tulita that entered and
came rapidly to the head of the bed. The girl's eyes were swollen, her
dress and hair disordered.
"I have come to you because you are in trouble," she said. "I, too, am
in trouble. Ay, my Faquita!"
The old woman put up her arms and drew the girl down to her lap. She had
never touched her idol before, but sorrow levels even social barriers.
"Pobrecita!" she said, and the girl cried softly on her shoulder.
"Will he come back, Faquita?"
"Surely, ninita. No man could forget you."
"But it is so far."
"Think of what Don Vicente do for Dona Ysabel, mijita."
"But he is an American. Oh, no, it is not that I doubt him. He loves me!
It is so far, like another world. And the ocean is so big and cruel."
"We ask the priest to say a mass."
"Ah, my Faquita! I will go to the church to-morrow morning. How glad I
am that I came to thee." She kissed the old woman warmly, and for the
moment Faquita forgot her trouble.
But the child threw out its arms and moaned. La Tulita pushed the hair
out of her eyes and brought the medicine from the stove, where it
simmered unsavourily. The child swallowed it painfully, and Faquita
shook her head in despair. At the dawn it died. As La Tulita laid her
white fingers on the gaping eyelids, Faquita rose to her feet. Her ugly
old face was transfigured. Even the grief had gone out of it. For a
moment she was no longer a woman, but one of the most subtle creations
of the Catholic religion conjoined with racial superstitions.
"As the moon dieth and cometh to life again," she repeated with a sort
of chanting cadence, "so man, though he die, will live again. Is it
not better that she will wander forever through forests where crystal
streams roll over golden sands, than grow into wickedness, and go
out into the dark unrepenting, perhaps, to be bitten by serpents and
scorched by lightning and plunged down cataracts?" She turned to La
Tulita. "Will you stay here, senorita, while I go to bid them make
The girl nodded, and the woman went out. La Tulita watched the proud
head and erect carriage for a moment, then bound up the fallen jaw of
the little corpse, crossed its hands and placed weights on the eyelids.
She pushed the few pieces of furniture against the wall, striving to
forget the one trouble that had come into her triumphant young life. But
there was little to do, and after a time she knelt by the window and
looked up at the dark forest upon which long shafts of light were
striking, routing the fog that crouched in the hollows. The town was as
quiet as a necropolis. The white houses, under the black shadows of the
hills, lay like tombs. Suddenly the roar of the surf came to her ears,
and she threw out her arms with a cry, dropping her head upon them and
sobbing convulsively. She heard the ponderous waves of the Pacific
lashing the keel of a ship.
She was aroused by shouting and sounds of merriment. She raised her head
dully, but remembered in a moment what Faquita had left her to await.
The dawn lay rosily on the town. The shimmering light in the pine woods
was crossed and recrossed by the glare of rockets. Down the street came
the sound of singing voices, the words of the song heralding the flight
of a child-spirit to a better world. La Tulita slipped out of the back
door and went to her home without meeting the procession. But before she
shut herself in her room she awakened Ana, and giving her a purse of
gold, bade her buy a little coffin draped with white and garlanded with
"Tell us, tell us, Mariquita, does she water the rose-tree every night?"
"Every night, ay, yi!"
"And is it big yet? Ay, but that wall is high! Not a twig can I see!"
"Yes, it grows!"
"And he comes not?"
"He write. I see the letters."
"But what does he say?"
"How can I know?"
"And she goes to the balls and meriendas no more. Surely, they will
forget her. It is more than a year now. Some one else will be La
"She does not care."