Part 5 out of 5
He sprang down, tossed the brush aside, and inserted his fingers between
the side of the stone and the wall of the cave. But he could not move it
alone, and was about to call Benito, who was watering the mustangs at
a spring, when he happened to glance upward. A small white hand was
hanging over the top of the stone. Sturges was not a Californian, but he
sprang to his feet and pressed his lips to that hand. It was cold and
nerveless, and clasping it in his he applied his gaze to the rift above
the stone. In a moment he distinguished two dark eyes and a gleam of
white brow above. Then a faint voice said:--
"Take me out! Take me out, senor, for the love of God!"
"I have come for that. Cheer up," said Sturges, in his best Spanish.
"You'll be out in five minutes."
"And then you'll bring me his head," whispered Pilar. "Ay, Dios, what I
have suffered! I have been years here, senor, and I am nearly mad."
"Well, I won't promise you his head, but I've thrashed the life out of
him, if that will give you any satisfaction. I caught him in the woods,
and I laid on my riding-whip until he bit the grass and yelled for
The eyes in the cave blazed with a light which reminded him
uncomfortably of Dona Erigida.
"That was well! That was well!" said Pilar. "But it is not enough. I
must have his head. I never shall sleep again till then, senor. Ay,
Dios, what I have suffered!"
"Well, we'll see about the head later. To get you out of this is the
first thing on the program. Benito!"
Benito ran forward, and together they managed to drag the stone aside.
But Pilar retreated into the darkness and covered her face with her
"Ay, Dios! Dios! I cannot go out into the sunlight. I am old and
"Make some coffee," said Sturges to Benito. He went within and took her
hands. "Come," he said. "You have been here a week only. Your brain is
a little turned, and no wonder. You've put a lifetime of suffering
into that week. But I'm going to take care of you hereafter, and that
she-devil will have no more to say about it. I'll either take you to
your father, or to my mother in Boston--whichever you like."
Benito brought in the coffee and some fresh bread and dried meat. Pilar
ate and drank ravenously. She had found only stale bread and water in
the cave. When she had finished, she looked at Sturges with a more
intelligent light in her eyes, then thrust her straggling locks behind
her ears. She also resumed something of her old dignified composure.
"You are very kind, senor," she said graciously. "It is true that I
should have been mad in a few more days. At first I did nothing but run,
run, run--the cave is miles in the mountain; but since when I cannot
remember I have huddled against that stone, listening--listening; and at
last you came."
Sturges thought her more beautiful than ever. The light was streaming
upon her now, and although she was white and haggard she looked far less
cold and unapproachable than when he had endeavoured in vain to win a
glance from her in the church. He put his hand on her tangled hair. "You
shall suffer no more," he repeated; "and this will grow again. And that
beautiful mane--it is mine. I begged it from the Alcalde, and it is safe
in my trunk."
"Ah, you love me!" she said softly.
"Yes, I love you!" And then, as her eyes grew softer and she caught his
hand in hers with an exclamation of passionate gratitude for his gallant
rescue, he took her in his arms without more ado and kissed her.
"Yes, I could love you," she said in a moment. "For, though you are not
handsome, like the men of my race, you are true and good and brave: all
I dreamed that a man should be until that creature made all men seem
loathsome. But I will not marry you till you bring me his head--"
"Oh! come. So lovely a woman should not be so blood-thirsty. He has been
punished enough. Besides what I gave him, he's been sent off to spend
the rest of his life in some hole where he'll have neither books nor
"It is not enough! When a man betrays a woman, and causes her to be
beaten and publicly disgraced--it will be written in the books of the
Alcalde, senor!--and shut up in a cave to suffer the tortures of the
damned in hell, he should die."
"Well, I think he should myself, but I'm not the public executioner, and
one can't fight a duel with a priest--"
"Senor! Senor! Quick! Pull, for the love of God!"
It was Benito who spoke, and he was pushing with all his might against
the stone. "She comes--Dona Brigida!" he cried. "I saw her far off just
now. Stay both in there. I will take the mustangs and hide them on the
other side of the mountain and return when she is gone. That is the best
"We can all go--"
"No, no! She would follow; and then--ay, Dios de mi alma! No, it is best
the senorita be there when she comes; then she will go away quietly."
They replaced the stone. Benito piled the brush against it, then made
off with the mustangs.
"Go far," whispered Pilar. "Dios, if she sees you!"
"I shall not leave you again. And even if she enter, she need not see
me. I can stand in that crevice, and I will keep quiet so long as she
does not touch you."
Dona Brigida was a half-hour reaching the cave, and meanwhile Sturges
restored the lost illusions of Pilar. Not only did he make love to her
without any of the rhetorical nonsense of the caballero, but he was big
and strong, and it was evident that he was afraid of nothing, not even
of Dona Brigida. The dreams of her silent girlhood swirled in her
imagination, but looked vague and shapeless before this vigorous
reality. For some moments she forgot everything and was happy. But there
was a black spot in her heart, and when Sturges left her for a moment to
listen, it ached for the head of the priest. She had much bad as well as
much good in her, this innocent Californian maiden; and the last week
had forced an already well-developed brain and temperament close to
maturity. She vowed that she would make herself so dear to this fiery
American that he would deny her nothing. Then, her lust for vengeance
satisfied, she would make him the most delightful of wives.
"She is coming!" whispered Sturges, "and she has the big vaquero with
"Ay, Dios! If she knows all, what can we do?"
"I've told you that I have no love of killing, but I don't hesitate when
there is no alternative. If she sees me and declares war, and I cannot
get you away, I shall shoot them both. I don't know that it would keep
me awake a night. Now, you do the talking for the present."
Dona Brigida rode up to the cave and dismounted. "Pilar!" she shouted,
as if she believed that her daughter was wandering through the heart of
Pilar presented her eyes at the rift.
"Ay, take me out! take me out!" she wailed, with sudden diplomacy.
Her mother gave a short laugh, then broke off and sniffed.
"What is this?" she cried. "Coffee? I smell coffee!"
"Yes, I have had coffee," replied Pilar, calmly. "Benito has brought me
that, and many dulces."
"Dios!" shouted Dona Brigida. "I will tie him to a tree and beat him
till he is as green as my reata--"
"Give me the bread!--quick, quick, for the love of Heaven! It is two
days since he has been, and I have nothing left, not even a drop of
"Then live on the memory of thy dulces and coffee! The bread and water
go back with me. Three days from now I bring them again. Meanwhile, thou
canst enjoy the fangs at thy vitals."
Pilar breathed freely again, but she cried sharply, "Ay, no! no!"
"Ay, yes! yes!"
Dona Brigida stalked up and down, while Pilar twisted her hands
together, and Sturges mused upon his future wife's talent for dramatic
invention. Suddenly Dona Brigida shouted: "Tomaso, come here! The
spring! A horse has watered here to-day--two horses! I see the little
hoof-mark and the big." She ran back to the cave, dragging Tomaso with
her. "Quick! It is well I brought my reata. Ten minutes, and I shall
have the truth. Pull there; I pull here."
"The game is up," whispered Sturges to Pilar. "And I have another plan."
He took a pistol from his hip-pocket and handed it to her. "You have a
cool head," he said; "now is the time to use it. As soon as this stone
gives way do you point that pistol at the vaquero's head, and don't let
your hand tremble or your eye falter as you value your liberty. I'll
take care of her."
Pilar nodded. Sturges threw himself against the rock and pushed with all
his strength. In a moment it gave, and the long brown talons of Pilar's
mother darted in to clasp the curve of the stone. Sturges was tempted
to cut them off; but he was a sportsman, and liked fair play. The stone
gave again, and this time he encountered two small malignant eyes. Dona
Brigida dropped her hands and screamed; but, before she could alter her
plans, Sturges gave a final push and rushed out, closely followed by
It was his intention to throw the woman and bind her, hand and foot; but
he had no mean opponent. Dona Brigida's surprise had not paralyzed her.
She could not prevent his exit, for she went back with the stone,
but she had sprung to the open before he reached it himself, and was
striking at him furiously with her reata. One glance satisfied Sturges
that Pilar had covered the vaquero, and he devoted the next few moments
to dodging the reata. Finally, a well-directed blow knocked it from her
hand, and then he flung himself upon her, intending to bear her to the
ground. But she stood like a rock, and closed with him, and they reeled
about the little plateau in the hard embrace of two fighting grizzlies.
There could be no doubt about the issue, for Sturges was young and wiry
and muscular; but Dona Brigida had the strength of three women, and,
moreover, was not above employing methods which he could not with
dignity resort to and could with difficulty parry. She bit at him. She
clawed at his back and shoulders. She got hold of his hair. And she was
so nimble that he could not trip her. She even roared in his ears, and
once it seemed to him that her bony shoulder was cutting through his
garments and skin. But after a struggle of some twenty minutes, little
by little her embrace relaxed; she ceased to roar, even to hiss, her
breath came in shorter and shorter gasps. Finally, her knees trembled
violently, she gave a hard sob, and her arms fell to her sides. Sturges
dragged her promptly into the cave and laid her down.
"You are a plucky old lady, and I respect you," he said. "But here you
must stay until your daughter is safely out of the country. I shall take
her far beyond your reach, and I shall marry her. When we are well out
at sea, Tomaso will come back and release you. If he attempts to do so
sooner, I shall blow his head off. Meanwhile you can be as comfortable
here as you made your daughter; and as you brought a week's supply of
bread, you will not starve."
The old woman lay and glared at him, but she made no reply. She might be
violent and cruel, but she was indomitable of spirit, and she would sue
to no man.
Sturges placed the bread and water beside her, then, aided by Tomaso,
pushed the stone into place. As he turned about and wiped his brow, he
met the eyes of the vaquero. They were averted hastily, but not before
Sturges had surprised a twinkle of satisfaction in those usually
impassive orbs. He shouted for Benito, then took the pistol from Pilar,
who suddenly looked tired and frightened.
"You are a wonderful woman," he said; "and upon my word, I believe you
get a good deal of it from your mother."
Benito came running, leading the mustangs. Sturges wrapped Pilar in the
long cloak, lifted her upon one of the mustangs, and sprang to his own.
He ordered Tomaso and Benito to precede them by a few paces and to take
the shortest cut for Monterey. It was now close upon noon, and it was
impossible to reach Monterey before dawn next day, for the mustangs were
weary; but the _Joven_ did not sail until ten o'clock.
"These are my plans," said Sturges to Pilar, as they walked their
mustangs for a few moments after a hard gallop. "When we reach the foot
of the mountain, Benito will leave us, go to your rancho, gather as much
of your clothing as he can strap on a horse, and join us at the barque.
He will have a good hour to spare, and can get fresh horses at the
ranch. We will be married at Mazatlan. Thence we will cross Mexico to
the Gulf, and take passage for New Orleans. When we are in the United
States, your new life will have really begun."
"And Tomaso will surely bring my mother from that cave, senor? I am
afraid--I feel sure he was glad to shut her in there."
"I will leave a note for the Governor. Your mother will be free within
three days, and meanwhile a little solitary meditation will do her
When night came Sturges lifted Pilar from her horse to his, and pressed
her head against his shoulder. "Sleep," he said. "You are worn out."
She flung her hand over his shoulder, made herself comfortable, and was
asleep in a moment, oblivious of the dark forest and the echoing cries
of wild beasts. The strong arm of Sturges would have inspired confidence
even had it done less in her rescue. Once only she shook and cried out,
but with rage, not fear, in her tones. Her words were coherent enough:--
"His head! His head! Ay, Dios, what I have suffered!"
An hour before dawn Benito left them, mounted on the rested mustang and
leading his own. The others pushed on, over and around the foothills,
with what speed they could; for even here the trail was narrow, the pine
woods dense. It was just after dawn that Sturges saw Tomaso rein in his
mustang and peer into the shrubbery beside the trail. When he reached
the spot himself, he saw signs of a struggle. The brush was trampled
for some distance into the thicket, and several of the young trees were
wrenched almost from their roots.
"It has been a struggle between a man and a wild beast, senor,"
whispered Tomaso, for Filar still slept. "Shall I go in? The man may
"Go, by all means."
Tomaso dismounted and entered the thicket. He came running back with
"Madre de Dios!" he exclaimed in a loud whisper. "It is the young
priest--Padre Dominguez. It must have been a panther, for they spring at
the breast, and his very heart is torn out, senor. Ay, yi!"
"Ah! You must inform the Church as soon as we have gone. Go on."
They had proceeded a few moments in silence, when Sturges suddenly
reined in his mustang.
"Tomaso," he whispered, "come here."
The vaquero joined him at once.
"Tomaso," said Sturges, "have you any objection to cutting off a dead
"Then go back and cut off that priest's and wrap it in a piece of his
cassock, and carry it the best way you can."
Tomaso disappeared, and Sturges pushed back the gray hood and looked
upon the pure noble face of the girl he had chosen for wife.
"I believe in gratifying a woman's whims whenever it is practicable," he
But she made him a very good wife.
On her fourteenth birthday they had married her to an old man, and at
sixteen she had met and loved a fire-hearted young vaquero. The old
husband had twisted his skinny fingers around her arm and dragged her
before the Alcalde, who had ordered her beautiful black braids cut close
to her neck, and sentenced her to sweep the streets. Carlos, the tempter
of that childish unhappy heart, was flung into prison. Such were law and
justice in California before the Americans came.
The haughty elegant women of Monterey drew their mantillas more closely
about their shocked faces as they passed La Perdida sweeping the dirt
into little heaps. The soft-eyed girls, lovely in their white or
flowered gowns, peered curiously through the gratings of their homes at
the "lost one," whose sin they did not understand, but whose sad face
and sorry plight appealed to their youthful sympathies. The caballeros,
dashing up and down the street, and dazzling in bright silken jackets,
gold embroidered, lace-trimmed, the sun reflected in the silver of their
saddles, shot bold admiring glances from beneath their sombreros. No one
spoke to her, and she asked no one for sympathy.
She slept alone in a little hut on the outskirts of the town. With the
dawn she rose, put on her coarse smock and black skirt, made herself a
tortilla, then went forth and swept the streets. The children mocked her
sometimes, and she looked at them in wonder. Why should she be mocked or
punished? She felt no repentance; neither the Alcalde nor her husband
had convinced her of her sin's enormity; she felt only bitter resentment
that it should have been so brief. Her husband, a blear-eyed crippled
old man, loathsome to all the youth and imagination in her, had beaten
her and made her work. A man, young, strong, and good to look upon, had
come and kissed her with passionate tenderness. Love had meant to her
the glorification of a wretched sordid life; a green spot and a patch of
blue sky in the desert. If punishment followed upon such happiness,
must not the Catholic religion be all wrong in its teachings? Must not
purgatory follow heaven, instead of heaven purgatory?
She watched the graceful girls of the wealthy class flit to and fro on
the long corridors of the houses, or sweep the strings of the guitar
behind their gratings as the caballeros passed. Watchful old women were
always near them, their ears alert for every word. La Perdida thanked
God that she had had no duena.
One night, on her way home, she passed the long low prison where her
lover was confined. The large crystal moon flooded the red-tiled roof
projecting over the deep windows and the shallow cells. The light sweet
music of a guitar floated through iron bars, and a warm voice sang:--
"Adios, adios, de ti al ausentarme,
Para ir en poz de mi fatal estrella,
Yo llevo grabada tu imagen bella,
Aqui en mi palpitante corazon.
"Pero aunque lejos de tu lado me halle
No olvides, no, que por tu amor deliro
Enviame siquiera un suspiro,
Que de consuelo, a mi alma en su dolor.
"Y de tu pecho la emocion sentida
Llegue hasta herir mi lacerado oido,
Y arranque de mi pecho dolorido
Un eco que repita, adios! adios!"
La Perdida's blood leaped through her body. Her aimless hands struck the
spiked surface of a cactus-bush, but she never knew it. When the song
finished, she crept to the grating and looked in.
"Carlos!" she whispered.
A man who lay on the straw at the back of the cell sprang to his feet
and came forward.
"My little one!" he said. "I knew that song would bring thee. I begged
them for a guitar, then to be put into a front cell." He forced his
hands through the bars and gave her life again with his strong warm
"Come out," she said.
"Ay! they have me fast. But when they do let me out, nina, I will take
thee in my arms; and whosoever tries to tear thee away again will have
a dagger in his heart. Dios de mi vida! I could tear their flesh from
their bones for the shame and the pain they have given thee, thou poor
little innocent girl!"
"But thou lovest me, Carlos?"
"There is not an hour I am not mad for thee, not a corner of my heart
that does not ache for thee! Ay, little one, never mind; life is long,
and we are young."
She pressed nearer and laid his hand on her heart.
"Ay!" she said, "life is long."
"Holy Mary!" he cried. "The hills are on fire!"
A shout went up in the town. A flame, midway on the curving hills,
leaped to the sky, narrow as a ribbon, then swept out like a fan. The
moon grew dark behind a rolling pillar of smoke. The upcurved arms of
the pines were burnt into a wall of liquid shifting red. The caballeros
sprang to their horses, and driving the Indians before them, fled to the
hills to save the town. The indolent women of Monterey mingled their
screams with the shrill cries of the populace and the hoarse shouts of
their men. The prison sentries stood to their posts for a few moments;
then the panic claimed them, and they threw down their guns and ran with
the rest to the hills.
Carlos gave a cry of derision and triumph. "My little one, our hour has
come! Run and find the keys."
The big bunch of keys had been flung hastily into a corner. A moment
later Carlos held the shaking form of the girl in his powerful arms.
Slender and delicate as she was, she made no protest against the
fierceness of that embrace.
"But come," he said. "We have only this hour for escape. When we are
safe in the mountains--Come!"
He lifted her in his arms and ran down the crooked street to a corral
where an hidalgo kept his finest horses. Carlos had been the vaquero of
the band. The iron bars of the great doors were down--only one horse was
in the corral; the others had carried the hidalgo and his friends to the
fire. The brute neighed with delight as Carlos flung saddle and aquera
into place, then, with La Perdida in his arms, sprang upon its back. The
vaquero dug his spurs into the shining flanks, the mustang reared, shook
his small head and silver mane, and bounded through the doors.
A lean, bent, and wiry thing darted from the shadows and hung upon the
horse's neck. It was the husband of La Perdida, and his little brown
face looked like an old walnut.
"Take me with thee!" he cried. "I will give thee the old man's
blessing," and, clinging like a crab to the neck of the galloping
mustang, he drove a knife toward the heart of La Perdida. The blade
turned upon itself as lightning sometimes does, and went through stringy
tissues instead of fresh young blood.
Carlos plucked the limp body from the neck of the horse and flung it
upon a cactus-bush, where it sprawled and stiffened among the spikes and
the blood-red flowers. But the mustang never paused; and as the fires
died on the hills, the mountains opened their great arms and sheltered
the happiness of two wayward hearts.
"Ay, senor! So terreeblay thing! It is many years before--1837, I
theenk, is the year; the Americanos no have come to take California; but
I remember like it is yesterday.
"You see, I living with her--Dona Juana Ybarra her name is--ever since
I am little girl, and she too. It is like this: the padres make me
Christian in the mission, and her family take me to work in the house;
I no living on the rancheria like the Indians who work outside. Bime by
Dona Juana marrying and I go live with her. Bime by I marrying too, and
she is comadre--godmother, you call, no?--to my little one, and steel I
living with her, and in few years my husband and little one die and
I love her children like they are my own, and her too; we grow old
"You never see the San Ysidro rancho? It is near to San Diego and have
many, many leagues. Don Carlos Ybarra, the husband de my senora, is very
reech and very brave and proud--too brave and proud, ay, yi! We have a
beeg adobe house with more than twenty rooms, and a corridor for the
front more than one hundred feets. Ou'side are plenty other houses where
make all the things was need for eat and wear: all but the fine closes.
They come from far,--from Boston and Mejico. All stand away from the
hills and trees, right in the middle the valley, so can see the bad
Indians when coming. Far off, a mile I theenk, is the rancheria; no can
see from the house. No so far is the corral, where keeping the fine
"Ay, we have plenty to eat and no much to do in those days. Don Carlos
and Dona Juana are very devot the one to the other, so the family living
very happy, and I am in the house like before and take care the little
ones. Every night I braid my senora's long black hair and tuck her in
bed like she is a baby. She no grow stout when she grow more old, like
others, but always is muy elegante.
"Bime by the childrens grow up; and the two firs boys, Roldan and
Enrique, marrying and living in San Diego. Then are left only the senor
and the senora, one little boy, Carlos, and my two beautiful senoritas,
Beatriz and Ester. Ay! How pretty they are. Dios de mi alma! Where they
"Dona Beatriz is tall like the mother, and sway when she walk, like you
see the tules in the little wind. She have the eyes very black and long,
and look like she feel sleep till she get mad; then, Madre de Dios! they
opa wide and look like she is on fire inside and go to burn you too. She
have the skin very white, but I see it hot like the blood go to burst
out. Once she get furioso cause one the vaqueros hurch her horse, and
she wheep him till he yell like he is in purgatory and no have no one
say mass and get him out. But she have the disposition very sweet, and
after, she is sorry and make him a cake hersel; and we all loving her
like she is a queen, and she can do it all whatte she want.
"Dona Ester have the eyes more brown and soft, and the disposition more
mild, but very feerm, and she having her own way more often than Dona
Beatriz. She no is so tall, but very gracerful too, and walk like she
think she is tall. All the Spanish so dignify, no? She maka very kind
with the Indians when they are seek, and all loving her, but no so much
like Dona Beatriz.
"Both girls very industrioso, sewing and make the broidery; make
beautiful closes to wear at the ball. Ay, the balls! No have balls like
those in California now. Sometimes have one fifty miles away, but they
no care; jump on the horse and go, dance till the sun wake up and no
feel tire at all. Sometimes when is wedding, or rodeo, dance for one
week, then ride home like nothing have happen. In the winter the family
living in San Diego; have big house there and dance every night,
horseback in day when no rain, and have so many races and games. Ay, yi!
All the girls so pretty. No wear hats then; the reboso, no more, or
the mantilla; fix it so gracerful; and the dresses so bright colours,
sometimes with flowers all over; the skirt make very fule, and the waist
have the point. And the closes de mens! Madre de Dios! The beautiful
velvet and silk closes, broider by silver and gold! And the saddles so
fine! But you think I never go to tell you the story.
"One summer we are more gay than ever. So many caballeros love my
senoritas, but I think they never love any one, and never go to marry
at all. For a month we have the house fule; meriendas--peek-neeks, you
call, no? And races every day, dance in the night. Then all go to stay
at another rancho; it is costumbre to visit the one to the other. I feel
very sorry for two so handsome caballeros, who are more devot than any.
They looking very sad when they go, and I am sure they propose and no
"In the evening it is very quiet, and I am sweep the corridor when I
hear two horses gallop down the valley. I fix my hand--so--like the
barrel de gun, and look, and I see, riding very hard, Don Carmelo Pelajo
and Don Rafael Arguello. The firs, he loving Dona Beatriz, the other, he
want Dona Ester. I go queeck and tell the girls, and Beatriz toss her
head and look very scornfule, but Ester blushing and the eyes look very
happy. The young mens come in in few minutes and are well treat by Don
Carlos and Dona Juana, for like them very much and are glad si the girls
marry with them.
"After supper I am turn down the bed in my senora's room when I
hear somebody spik very low ou'side on the corridor. I kneel on the
window-seat and look out, and there I see Don Rafael have his arms roun
Dona Ester and kissing her and she no mine at all. I wonder how they get
out there by themselfs, for the Spanish very streect with the girls and
no 'low that. But the young peoples always very--how you say it?--smart,
no? After while all go to bed, and I braid Dona Juana's hair and she
tell me Ester go to marry Don Rafael, and she feel very happy and I no
say one word. Then I go to Dona Beatriz's bedroom; always I fix her for
the bed, too. Ester have other woman take care her, but Beatriz love me.
She keeck me when she is little, and pull my hair, when I no give her
the dulces; but I no mine, for she have the good heart and so sweet
spression when she no is mad and always maka very kind with me. I comb
her hair and I see she look very cross and I ask her why, and she say
she hate mens, they are fools, and womens too. I ask her why she think
that, and she say she no can be spect have reason for all whatte she
think; and she throw her head aroun so I no can comb at all and keeck
out her little foot.
"'You no go to marry with Don Carlos?' I asking.
"'No!' she say, and youbetcherlife her eyes flash. 'You think I marrying
a singing, sighing, gambling, sleepy caballero? Si no can marry man I no
marry at all. Madre de Dios!' (She spik beautiful; but I no spik good
Eenglish, and you no ondrestan the Spanish.)
"'But all are very much like,' I say; 'and you no want die old maid,
"'I no care!' and then she fling hersel roun on the chair and throw her
arms roun me and cry and sob on my estomac. 'Ay, my Lukari!' she cry
when she can spik,' I hate everybody! I am tire out to exista! I want to
live! I am tire stay all alone! Oh, I want--I no know what I want! Life
is terreeblay thing, macheppa!'
"I no know at all whatte she mean, for have plenty peoples all the time,
and she never walk, so I no can think why she feel tire; but I kissing
her and smoothe her hair, for I jus love her, and tell her no cry. Bime
by she fine it some one she loving, and she is very young yet,--twenty,
"'I no stay here any longer,' she say. 'I go to ask my father take me to
Mejico, where can see something cept hills and trees and missions and
forts, and where perhaps--ay, Dios de mi alma!' Then she jump up and
take me by the shoulders and just throw me out the room and lock the
door; but I no mine, for I am use to her.
"Bueno, I think I go for walk, and bime by I come to the rancheria, and
while I am there I hear terreeblay thing from old Pepe. He say he hear
for sure that the bad Indians--who was no make Christian by the padres
and living very wild in the mountains--come killing all the white
peoples on the ranchos. He say he know sure it is true, and tell me beg
Don Carlos send to San Diego for the soldiers come take care us. I feel
so fright I hardly can walk back to the house, and I no sleep that
night. In the morning firs thing I telling Don Carlos, but he say is
nonsense and no will lissen. He is very brave and no care for nothing;
fight the Indians and killing them plenty times. The two caballeros go
away after breakfas, and when they are gone I can see my senora alone,
and I telling her. She feel very fright and beg Don Carlos send for the
soldiers, but he no will. Ay, yi! Ester is fright too; but Beatriz laugh
and say she like have some excite and killing the Indians hersel. After
while old Pepe come up to the house and tell he hear 'gain, but Don
Carlos no will ask him even where he hear, and tell him to go back to
the rancheria where belong, and make the reatas; he is so old he no can
make anything else.
"Bueno! The nex morning--bout nine o'clock--Don Carlos is at the corral
with two vaqueros and I am in the keetchen with the cook and one Indian
boy, call Franco. Never I like that boy. Something so sneak, and
he steal the dulces plenty times and walk so soffit. I am help the
cook--very good woman, but no have much sense--fry lard, when I hear
terreeblay noise--horses gallop like they jump out the earth near the
house, and many mens yell and scream and shout.
"I run to the window and whatte I see?--Indians, Indians, Indians,
thick like black ants on hill, jus race for the house, yelling like the
horses' backs been fule de pins; and Don Carlos and the two vaqueros run
like they have wings for the kitchen door, so can get in and get the
guns and fight from the windows. I know whatte they want, so I run to
the door to throw wide, and whatte I see but that devil Franco lock it
and stan in front. I jump on him so can scratch his eyes out, but he
keeck me in the estomac and for few minutes I no know it nothing.
"When I opa my eyes, the room is fule de Indians, and in the iron the
house I hear my senora and Dona Ester scream, scream, scream. I crawl up
by the window-seat and look out, and there--ay, Madre de Dios!--see on
the groun my senor dead, stuck fule de arrows; and the vaqueros, too,
of course. That maka me crazy and I run among the Indians, hitting them
with my fists, to my senora and my senoritas. Jus as I run into the sala
they go to killing my senora, but I snatch the knife and fall down on
my knees and beg and cry they no hurcha her, and bime by they say all
right. But--santa Dios!--whatte you think they do it? They tear all the
closes offa her till she is naked like my ban, and drive her out the
house with the reatas. They no letting me follow and I look out the
window and see her reel like she is drunk down the valley and scream,
"Ester, she faint and no know it nothing. Beatriz, she have kill one
Indian with her pistol, but they take way from her, and she stan look
like the dead woman with eyes that have been in hell, in front the
chief, who looka her very hard. He is very fine look, that chief, so
tall and strong, like he can kill by sweep his arm roun, and he have
fierce black eyes and no bad nose for Indian, with nostrils that jump.
His mouth no is cruel like mos the bad Indians, nor the forehead so low.
He wear the crown de feathers, and botas, and scrape de goaskin; the
others no wear much at all. In a minute he pick up Beatriz and fling her
over his shoulder like she is the dead deer, and he tell other do the
same by Ester, and he stalk out and ride away hard. The others set fire
everything, then ride after him. They no care for me and I stand there
shriek after my senoritas and the beautiful housses burn up.
"Then I think de my senora and I run after the way she going. Bime by I
find her in a wheat field, kissing and hugging little Carlos, who go out
early and no meet the Indians; and he no ondrestan what is the matter
and dance up and down he is so fright. I tell him run fas to San Diego
and tell Don Roldan and Don Enrique whatte have happen, and he run like
he is glad to get away. Then I take off my closes and put them on my
senora and drag her along, and, bime by, we coming to a little house,
and a good woman give me some closes and in the night we coming to San
Diego. Ay! but was excite, everybody. Carlos been there two or three
hours before, and Don Roldan and Don Enrique go with the soldiers to the
hills. Everybody do it all whatte they can for my poor senora, but she
no want to speak by anybody, and go shut hersel up in a room in Don
Enrique's house and jus moan and I sit ou'side the door and moan too.
"Of course, I no am with the soldiers, but many times I hear all and I
"The Indians have good start, and the white peoples no even see them,
but they fine the trail and follow hard. Bime by they coming to the
mountains. You ever been in the mountains back de San Diego? No the
hills, but the mountains. Ay! So bare and rofe and sharp, and the canons
so narrow and the trails so steep! No is safe to go in at all, for the
Indians can hide on the rocks, and jus shoot the white peoples down one
at the time, si they like it, when climb the gorges. The soldiers
say they no go in, for it is the duty de them to living and protec
California from the Americanos; but Don Enrique and Don Roldan say they
go, and they ride right in and no one ever spect see them any more. It
is night, so they have good chancacum to look and no be seen si Indians
"Bime by they meet one Indian, who belong to the tribe they want, and
'fore he can shoot they point the pistol and tell him he mus show them
where are the girls. He say he taking them, and on the way he telling
them the chief and nother chief make the girls their wives. This make
them wild, and they tie up the horses so can climb more fast. But it is
no till late the nex morning when they come sudden out of a gorge and
look right into a place, very flat like a plaza, where is the pueblo
de the Indians they want. For moment no one see them, and they see the
girls--Dios de mi alma! Have been big feast, I theenk, and right where
are all the things no been clear away, Ester, she lie on the groun on
the face, and cry and sob and shake. But Beatriz, she stan very straight
in the middle, 'fore the door the big wigwam, and never look more
hansome. She never take her eyes off the chief who taking her away, and
no look discontent at all. Then the Indians see the brothers and yell
and run to get the bows and arrows. Don Enrique and Don Roldan fire the
pistols, but after all they have to run, for no can do it nothing. They
get out live but have arrows in them. And that is the las we ever hear
de my senoritas. Many time plenty white peoples watch the mountains and
sometimes go in, but no can find nothing and always are wound.
"And my poor senora! For whole year she jus sit in one room and cry so
loud all the peoples in San Diego hear her. No can do it nothing with
her. Ay, she love the husband so, and the two beautiful girls! Then
she die, and I am glad. Much better die than suffer like that. And Don
Rafael and Don Carmelo? Oh, they marrying other girls, course."
NATALIE IVANHOFF: A MEMORY OF FORT ROSS
At Fort Ross, on the northern coast of California, it is told that an
astonishing sight may be witnessed in the midnight of the twenty-third
of August. The present settlement vanishes. In its place the Fort
appears as it was when the Russians abandoned it in 1841. The
quadrilateral stockade of redwood beams, pierced with embrasures for
carronades, is compact and formidable once more. The ramparts are paced
by watchful sentries; mounted cannon are behind the iron-barred gates
and in the graceful bastions. Within the enclosure are the low log
buildings occupied by the Governor and his officers, the barracks of the
soldiers, the arsenal, and storehouses. In one corner stands the Greek
chapel, with its cupola and cross-surmounted belfry. The silver chimes
have rung this night. The Governor, his beautiful wife, and their guest,
Natalie Ivanhoff, have knelt at the jewelled altar.
At the right of the Fort is a small "town" of rude huts which
accommodates some eight hundred Indians and Siberian convicts, the
working-men of the company. Above the "town," on a high knoll, is a
large grist-mill. Describing an arc of perfect proportions, its midmost
depression a mile behind the Fort, a great mountain forms a natural
rampart. At either extreme it tapers to the jagged cliffs. On its three
lower tables the mountain is green and bare; then abruptly rises a
forest of redwoods, tall, rigid, tenebrious.
The mountain is visible but a moment. An immense white fog-bank which
has been crouching on the horizon rears suddenly and rushes across the
ocean, whose low mutter rises to a roar. It sweeps like a tidal wave
across cliffs and Fort. It halts abruptly against the face of the
mountain. In the same moment the ocean stills. It would almost seem that
Nature held her breath, awaiting some awful event.
Suddenly, in the very middle of the fog-bank, appears the shadowy figure
of a woman. She is gliding--to the right--rapidly and stealthily. Youth
is in her slender grace, her delicate profile, dimly outlined. Her long
silver-blond hair is unbound and luminously distinct from the white
fog. She walks swiftly across the lower table of the mountain, then
disappears. One sees, vaguely, a dark figure crouching along the lower
fringe of the fog. That, too, disappears.
For a moment the silence seems intensified. Then, suddenly, it is
crossed by a low whir--a strange sound in the midnight. Then a shriek
whose like is never heard save when a soul is wrenched without warning
in frightfullest torture from its body. Then another and another
and another in rapid succession, each fainter and more horrible in
suggestion than the last. With them has mingled the single frenzied cry
of a man. A moment later a confused hubbub arises from the Fort and
town, followed by the flashes of many lights and the report of musketry.
Then the fog presses downward on the scene. All sound but that of the
ocean, which seems to have drawn into its loud dull voice all the angers
of all the dead, ceases as though muffled. The fog lingers a moment,
then drifts back as it came, and Fort Ross is the Fort Ross of to-day.
And this is the story:--
When the Princess Helene de Gagarin married Alexander Rotscheff, she
little anticipated that she would spend her honeymoon in the northern
wilds of the Californias. Nevertheless, when her husband was appointed
Governor of the Fort Ross and Bodega branch of the great Alaskan Fur
Company, she volunteered at once to go with him--being in that stage of
devotion which may be termed the emotionally heroic as distinguished
from the later of non-resistance. As the exile would last but a few
years, and as she was a lady of a somewhat adventurous spirit, to say
nothing of the fact that she was deeply in love, her interpretation of
wifely duty hardly wore the hue of martyrdom even to herself.
Notwithstanding, and although she had caused to be prepared a large case
of books and eight trunks of ravishing raiment, she decided that life in
a fort hidden between the mountains and the sea, miles away from even
the primitive Spanish civilization, might hang burdensomely at such
whiles as her husband's duties claimed him and books ceased to amuse. So
she determined to ask the friend of her twenty-three years, the Countess
Natalie Ivanhoff, to accompany her. She had, also, an unselfish motive
in so doing. Not only did she cherish for the Countess Natalie a real
affection, but her friend was as deeply wretched as she was happy.
Two years before, the Prince Alexis Mikhailof, betrothed of Natalie
Ivanhoff, had been, without explanation or chance of parting word,
banished to Siberia under sentence of perpetual exile. Later had come
rumour of his escape, then of death, then of recapture. Nothing definite
could be learned. When the Princess Helene made her invitation, it was
accepted gratefully, hope suggesting that in the New World might be
found relief from the torture that was relived in every vibration of the
invisible wires that held memory fast to the surroundings in which the
terrible impressions, etchers of memory, had their genesis.
They arrived in summer, and found the long log house, with its low
ceilings and rude finish, admirably comfortable within. By aid of the
great case of things Rotscheff had brought, it quickly became an abode
of luxury. Thick carpets covered every floor; arras hid the rough walls;
books and pictures and handsome ornaments crowded each other; every
chair had been designed for comfort as well as elegance; the dining
table was hidden beneath finest damask, and glittered with silver and
crystal. It was an unwritten law that every one should dress for dinner;
and with the rich curtains hiding the gloomy mountain and the long
sweep of cliffs intersected by gorge and gulch, it was easy for the
gay congenial band of exiles to forget that they were not eating the
delicacies of their French cook and drinking their costly wines in the
In the daytime the women--several of the officers' wives had braved the
wilderness--found much diversion in riding through the dark forests
or along the barren cliffs, attended always by an armed guard. Diego
Estenega, the Spanish magnate of the North, whose ranchos adjoined Fort
Ross, and who was financially interested in the Russian fur trade, soon
became an intimate of the Rotscheff household. A Californian by birth,
he was, nevertheless, a man of modern civilization, travelled, a
student, and a keen lover of masculine sports. Although the most
powerful man in the politics of his conservative country, he was an
American in appearance and dress. His cloth or tweed suggested the
colorous magnificence of the caballeros as little as did his thin
nervous figure and grim pallid intellectual face. Rotscheff liked him
better than any man he had ever met; with the Princess he usually waged
war, that lady being clever, quick, and wedded to her own opinions.
For Natalie he felt a sincere friendship at once. Being a man of keen
sympathies and strong impulses, he divined her trouble before he heard
her story, and desired to help her.
The Countess Natalie, despite the Governor's prohibition, was addicted
to roving over the cliffs by herself, finding kinship in the sterile
crags and futile restlessness of the ocean. She had learned that
although change of scene lightened the burden, only death would release
her from herself.
"She will get over it," said the Princess Helene to Estenega. "I was in
love twice before I met Alex, so I know. Natalie is so beautiful that
some day some man, who will not look in the least like poor Alexis, will
make her forget."
Estenega, being a man of the world and having consequently outgrown the
cynicism of youth, also knowing women better than this fair Minerva
would know them in twenty lifetimes, thought differently, and a battle
Natalie, meanwhile, wandered along the cliffs. She passed the town
hurriedly. Several times when in its vicinity before, the magnetism of
an intense gaze had given her a thrill of alarm, and once or twice she
had met face to face the miller's son--a forbidding youth with the
skull of the Tartar and the coarse black hair and furtive eyes of the
Indian--whose admiration of her beauty had been annoyingly apparent. She
was not conscious of observation to-day, however, and skirted the cliffs
rapidly, drawing her gray mantle about her as the wind howled by, but
did not lift the hood; the massive coils of silver-blond hair kept her
As the Princess Helene, despite her own faultless blondinity, had
pronounced, Natalie Ivanhoff was a beautiful woman. Her profile had the
delicate effect produced by the chisel. Her white skin was transparent
and untinted, but the mouth was scarlet. The large long eyes of a
changeful blue-gray, although limpid of surface, were heavy with the
sadness of a sad spirit. Their natural fire was quenched just as the
slight compression of her lips had lessened the sensuous fulness of
But she had suffered so bitterly and so variously that the points had
been broken off her nerves, she told herself, and, excepting when her
trouble mounted suddenly like a wave within her, her mind was tranquil.
Grief with her had expressed itself in all its forms. She had known what
it was to be crushed into semi-insensibility; she had thrilled as the
tears rushed and the sobs shook her until every nerve ached and her very
fingers cramped; and she had gone wild at other times, burying her head,
that her screams might not be heard: the last, as imagination pictured
her lover's certain physical suffering. But of all agonies, none could
approximate to that induced by Death. When that rumour reached her,
she realized that hope had given her some measure of support, and
how insignificant all other trouble is beside that awful blank, that
mystery, whose single revelation is the houseless soul's unreturning
flight from the only world we are sure of. When the contradicting rumour
came, she clutched at hope and clung to it.
"It is the only reason I do not kill myself," she thought, as she stood
on the jutting brow of the cliff and looked down on the masses of huge
stones which, with the gaunt outlying rocks, had once hung on the face
of the crags. The great breakers boiled over them with the ponderosity
peculiar to the waters of the Pacific. The least of those breakers would
carry her far into the hospitable ocean.
"It is so easy to die and be at peace; the only thing which makes life
supportable is the knowledge of Death's quick obedience. And the tragedy
of life is not that we cannot forget, but that we can. Think of being an
old woman with not so much as a connecting current between the memory
and the heart, the long interval blocked with ten thousand petty events
and trials! It must be worse than this. I shall have gone over the cliff
long before that time comes. I would go to-day, but I cannot leave the
world while he is in it."
She drew a case from her pocket, and opened it. It showed the portrait
of a young man with the sombre eyes and cynical mouth of the northern
European, a face revealing intellect, will, passion, and much
recklessness. Eyes and hair were dark, the face smooth but for a slight
Natalie burst into wild tears, revelling in the solitude that gave her
freedom. She pressed the picture against her face, and cried her agony
aloud to the ocean. Thrilling memories rushed through her, and she lived
again the first ecstasy of grief. She did not fling herself upon the
ground, or otherwise indulge in the acrobatics of woe, but she shook
from head to foot. Between the heavy sobs her breath came in hard gasps,
and tears poured, hiding the gray desolation of the scene.
Suddenly, through it all, she became conscious that some one was
watching her. Instinctively she knew that it was the same gaze which so
often had alarmed her. Fear routed every other passion. She realized
that she was unprotected, a mile from the Fort, out of the line of its
vision. The brutal head of the miller's son seemed to thrust itself
before her face. Overwhelmed with terror, she turned swiftly and ran,
striking blindly among the low bushes, her glance darting from right to
left. No one was to be seen for a moment; then she turned the corner of
a boulder and came upon a man. She shrieked and covered her face with
her hands, now too frightened to move. The man neither stirred nor
spoke; and, despite this alarming circumstance, her disordered brain,
in the course of a moment, conceived the thought that no subject of
Rotscheff would dare to harm her.
Moreover, her brief glance had informed her that this was not the
miller's son; which fact, illogically, somewhat tempered her fear. She
removed her hands and compelled herself to look sternly at the creature
who had dared to raise his eyes to the Countess Natalie Ivanhoff. She
was puzzled to find something familiar about him. His grizzled hair
was long, but not unkempt. The lower part of his face was covered by
a beard. He was almost fleshless; but in his sunken eyes burned
unquenchable fire, and there was a determined vigour in his gaunt
figure. He might have been any age. Assuredly, the outward seeming of
youth was not there, but its suggestion still lingered tenaciously in
the spirit which glowed through the worn husk. And about him, in spite
of the rough garb and blackened skin, was an unmistakable air of
Natalie, as she looked, grew rigid. Then she uttered a cry of rapturous
horror, staggered, and was caught in a fierce embrace. Her stunned
senses awoke in a moment, and she clung to him, crying wildly, holding
him with straining arms, filled with bitter happiness.
In a few moments he pushed her from him and regarded her sadly.
"You are as beautiful as ever," he said; "but I--look at me! Old,
hideous, ragged! I am not fit to touch you; I never meant to. Go! I
shall never blame you."
For answer she sprang to him again.
"What difference is it how you look?" she cried, still sobbing. "Is it
not _you?_ Are not you in here just the same? What matter? What matter?
No matter what you looked through, you would be the same. Listen," she
continued rapidly, after a moment. "We are in a new country; there is
hope for us. If we can reach the Spanish towns of the South, we are
safe. I will ask Don Diego Estenega to help us, and he is not the man to
refuse. He stays with us to-night, and I will speak alone with him. Meet
me to-morrow night--where? At the grist-mill at midnight. We had better
not meet by day again. Perhaps we can go then. You will be there?"
"Will I be there? God! Of course I will be there."
And, the brief details of their flight concluded, they forgot it and all
else for the hour.
Natalie could not obtain speech alone with Estenega that evening; but
the next morning the Princess Helene commanded her household and guest
to accompany her up the hill to the orchard at the foot of the forest;
and there, while the others wandered over the knolls of the shadowy
enclosure, Natalie managed to tell her story. Estenega offered his help
"At twelve to-night," he said, "I will wait for you in the forest with
horses, and will guide you myself to Monterey. I have a house there, and
you can leave on the first barque for Boston."
As soon as the party returned to the Fort, Estenega excused himself and
left for his home. The day passed with maddening slowness to Natalie.
She spent the greater part of it walking up and down the immediate
cliffs, idly watching the men capturing the seals and otters, the
ship-builders across the gulch. As she returned at sunset to the
enclosure, she saw the miller's son standing by the gates, gazing at her
with hungry admiration. He inspired her with sudden fury.
"Never presume to look at me again," she said harshly. "If you do, I
shall report you to the Governor."
And without waiting to note how he accepted the mandate, she swept by
him and entered the Fort, the gates clashing behind her.
The inmates of Fort Ross were always in bed by eleven o'clock. At that
hour not a sound was to be heard but the roar of the ocean, the soft
pacing of the sentry on the ramparts, the cry of the panther in the
forest. On the evening in question, after the others had retired,
Natalie, trembling with excitement, made a hasty toilet, changing her
evening gown for a gray travelling frock. Her heavy hair came unbound,
and her shaking hands refused to adjust the close coils. As it fell over
her gray mantle it looked so lovely, enveloping her with the silver
sheen of mist, that she smiled in sad vanity, remembering happier days,
and decided to let her lover see her so. She could braid her hair at the
A moment or two before twelve she raised the window and swung herself to
the ground. The sentry was on the rampart opposite: she could not make
her exit by that gate. She walked softly around the buildings, keeping
in their shadow, and reached the gates facing the forest. They were not
difficult to unbar, and in a moment she stood without, free. She could
not see the mountain; a heavy bank of white fog lay against it, resting,
after its long flight over the ocean, before it returned, or swept
onward to ingulf the redwoods.
She went with noiseless step up the path, then turned and walked swiftly
toward the mill. She was very nervous; mingling with the low voice of
the ocean she imagined she heard the moans with which beheaded convicts
were said to haunt the night. Once she thought she heard a footstep
behind her, and paused, her heart beating audibly. But the sound ceased
with her own soft footfalls, and the fog was so dense that she could see
nothing. The ground was soft, and she was beyond the sentry's earshot;
she ran at full speed across the field, down the gorge, and up the steep
knoll. As she reached the top, she was taken in Mikhailof's arms. For
a few moments she was too breathless to speak; then she told him her
"Let me braid my hair," she said finally, "and we will go."
He drew her within the mill, then lit a lantern and held it above her
head, his eyes dwelling passionately on her beauty, enhanced by the
colour of excitement and rapid exercise.
"You look like the moon queen," he said. "I missed your hair, apart from
She lifted her chin with a movement of coquetry most graceful in spite
of long disuse, and the answering fire sprang into her eyes. She looked
very piquant and a trifle diabolical. He pressed his lips suddenly
on hers. A moment later something tugged at the long locks his hand
caressed, and at the same time he became conscious that the silence
which had fallen between them was shaken by a loud whir. He glanced
upward. Natalie was standing with her back to one of the band-wheels. It
had begun to revolve; in the moment it increased its speed; and he saw a
glittering web on its surface. With an exclamation of horror, he pulled
her toward him; but he was too late. The wheel, spinning now with the
velocity of midday, caught the whole silver cloud in its spokes, and
Natalie was swept suddenly upward. Her feet hit the low rafters, and she
was whirled round and round, screams of torture torn from her rather
than uttered, her body describing a circular right angle to the shaft,
the bones breaking as they struck the opposite one; then, in swift
finality, she was sucked between belt and wheel. Mikhailof managed to
get into the next room and reverse the lever. The machinery stopped as
abruptly as it had started; but Natalie was out of her agony.
Her lover flung himself over the cliffs, shattering bones and skull
on the stones at their base. They made her a coffin out of the copper
plates used for their ships, and laid her in the straggling unpopulous
cemetery on the knoll across the gulch beyond the chapel.
"When we go, we will take her," said Rotscheff to his distracted wife.
But when they went, a year or two after, in the hurry of departure they
forgot her until too late. They promised to return. But they never came,
and she sleeps there still, on the lonely knoll between the sunless
forest and the desolate ocean.
THE VENGEANCE OF PADRE ARROYO
Pilar, from her little window just above the high wall surrounding the
big adobe house set apart for the women neophytes of the Mission of
Santa Ines, watched, morning and evening, for Andreo, as he came and
went from the rancheria. The old women kept the girls busy, spinning,
weaving, sewing; but age nods and youth is crafty. The tall young Indian
who was renowned as the best huntsman of all the neophytes, and who
supplied Padre Arroyo's table with deer and quail, never failed to keep
his ardent eyes fixed upon the grating so long as it lay within the line
of his vision. One day he went to Padre Arroyo and told him that Pilar
was the prettiest girl behind the wall--the prettiest girl in all the
Californias--and that she should be his wife. But the kind stern old
padre shook his head.
"You are both too young. Wait another year, my son, and if thou art
still in the same mind, thou shalt have her."
Andreo dared to make no protest, but he asked permission to prepare a
home for his bride. The padre gave it willingly, and the young Indian
began to make the big adobes, the bright red tiles. At the end of a
month he had built him a cabin among the willows of the rancheria, a
little apart from the others: he was in love, and association with his
fellows was distasteful. When the cabin was builded his impatience
slipped from its curb, and once more he besought the priest to allow him
Padre Arroyo was sunning himself on the corridor of the mission,
shivering in his heavy brown robes, for the day was cold.
"Orion," he said sternly--he called all his neophytes after the
celebrities of earlier days, regardless of the names given them at the
font--"have I not told thee thou must wait a year? Do not be impatient,
my son. She will keep. Women are like apples: when they are too young,
they set the teeth on edge; when ripe and mellow, they please every
sense; when they wither and turn brown, it is time to fall from the tree
into a hole. Now go and shoot a deer for Sunday: the good padres from
San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara are coming to dine with me."
Andreo, dejected, left the padre. As he passed Pilar's window and saw a
pair of wistful black eyes behind the grating, his heart took fire. No
one was within sight. By a series of signs he made his lady understand
that he would place a note beneath a certain adobe in the wall.
Pilar, as she went to and fro under the fruit trees in the garden,
or sat on the long corridor weaving baskets, watched that adobe with
fascinated eyes. She knew that Andreo was tunnelling it, and one day a
tiny hole proclaimed that his work was accomplished. But how to get the
note? The old women's eyes were very sharp when the girls were in front
of the gratings. Then the civilizing development of Christianity
upon the heathen intellect triumphantly asserted itself. Pilar, too,
conceived a brilliant scheme. That night the padre, who encouraged any
evidence of industry, no matter how eccentric, gave her a little garden
of her own--a patch where she could raise sweet peas and Castilian
"That is well, that is well, my Nausicaa," he said, stroking her smoky
braids. "Go cut the slips and plant them where thou wilt. I will send
thee a package of sweet pea seeds."
Pilar spent every spare hour bending over her "patch"; and the hole, at
first no bigger than a pin's point, was larger at each setting of the
sun behind the mountain. The old women, scolding on the corridor, called
to her not to forget vespers.
On the third evening, kneeling on the damp ground, she drew from the
little tunnel in the adobe a thin slip of wood covered with the labour
of sleepless nights. She hid it in her smock--that first of California's
love-letters--then ran with shaking knees and prostrated herself before
the altar. That night the moon streamed through her grating, and she
deciphered the fact that Andreo had loosened eight adobes above her
garden, and would await her every midnight.
Pilar sat up in bed and glanced about the room with terrified delight.
It took her but a moment to decide the question; love had kept her awake
too many nights. The neophytes were asleep; as they turned now and
again, their narrow beds of hide, suspended from the ceiling, swung too
gently to awaken them. The old women snored loudly. Pilar slipped from
her bed and looked through the grating. Andreo was there, the dignity
and repose of primeval man in his bearing. She waved her hand and
pointed downward to the wall; then, throwing on the long coarse gray
smock that was her only garment, crept from the room and down the stair.
The door was protected against hostile tribes by a heavy iron bar, but
Pilar's small hands were hard and strong, and in a moment she stood over
the adobes which had crushed her roses and sweet peas.
As she crawled through the opening, Andreo took her hand bashfully, for
they never had spoken. "Come," he said; "we must be far away before
They stole past the long mission, crossing themselves as they glanced
askance at the ghostly row of pillars; past the guard-house, where the
sentries slept at their post; past the rancheria; then, springing upon a
waiting mustang, dashed down the valley. Pilar had never been on a horse
before, and she clung in terror to Andreo, who bestrode the unsaddled
beast as easily as a cloud rides the wind. His arm held her closely,
fear vanished, and she enjoyed the novel sensation. Glancing over
Andreo's shoulder she watched the mass of brown and white buildings,
the winding river, fade into the mountain. Then they began to ascend
an almost perpendicular steep. The horse followed a narrow trail; the
crowding trees and shrubs clutched the blankets and smocks of the
riders; after a time trail and scene grew white: the snow lay on the
"Where do we go?" she asked.
"To Zaca Lake, on the very top of the mountain, miles above us. No one
has ever been there but myself. Often I have shot deer and birds beside
it. They never will find us there."
The red sun rose over the mountains of the east. The crystal moon sank
in the west. Andreo sprang from the weary mustang and carried Pilar to
A sheet of water, round as a whirlpool but calm and silver, lay amidst
the sweeping willows and pine-forested peaks. The snow glittered beneath
the trees, but a canoe was on the lake, a hut on the marge.
Padre Arroyo tramped up and down the corridor, smiting his hands
together. The Indians bowed lower than usual, as they passed, and
hastened their steps. The soldiers scoured the country for the bold
violators of mission law. No one asked Padre Arroyo what he would do
with the sinners, but all knew that punishment would be sharp and
summary: the men hoped that Andreo's mustang had carried him beyond its
reach; the girls, horrified as they were, wept and prayed in secret for
A week later, in the early morning, Padre Arroyo sat on the corridor.
The mission stood on a plateau overlooking a long valley forked and
sparkled by the broad river. The valley was planted thick with olive
trees, and their silver leaves glittered in the rising sun. The mountain
peaks about and beyond were white with snow, but the great red poppies
blossomed at their feet. The padre, exiled from the luxury and society
of his dear Spain, never tired of the prospect: he loved his mission
children, but he loved Nature more.
Suddenly he leaned forward on his staff and lifted the heavy brown
hood of his habit from his ear. Down the road winding from the eastern
mountains came the echo of galloping footfalls. He rose expectantly and
waddled out upon the plaza, shading his eyes with his hand. A half-dozen
soldiers, riding closely about a horse bestridden by a stalwart young
Indian supporting a woman, were rapidly approaching the mission. The
padre returned to his seat and awaited their coming.
The soldiers escorted the culprits to the corridor; two held the horse
while they descended, then led it away, and Andreo and Pilar were alone
with the priest. The bridegroom placed his arm about the bride and
looked defiantly at Padre Arroyo, but Pilar drew her long hair about her
face and locked her hands together.
Padre Arroyo folded his arms and regarded them with lowered brows, a
sneer on his mouth.
"I have new names for you both," he said, in his thickest voice.
"Antony, I hope thou hast enjoyed thy honeymoon. Cleopatra, I hope thy
little toes did not get frost-bitten. You both look as if food had been
scarce. And your garments have gone in good part to clothe the brambles,
I infer. It is too bad you could not wait a year and love in your cabin
at the rancheria, by a good fire, and with plenty of frijoles and
tortillas in your stomachs." He dropped his sarcastic tone, and, rising
to his feet, extended his right arm with a gesture of malediction. "Do
you comprehend the enormity of your sin?" he shouted. "Have you not
learned on your knees that the fires of hell are the rewards of unlawful
love? Do you not know that even the year of sackcloth and ashes I shall
impose here on earth will not save you from those flames a million times
hotter than the mountain fire, than the roaring pits in which evil
Indians torture one another? A hundred years of their scorching breath,
of roasting flesh, for a week of love! Oh, God of my soul!"
Andreo looked somewhat staggered, but unrepentant. Pilar burst into loud
sobs of terror.
The padre stared long and gloomily at the flags of the corridor. Then he
raised his head and looked sadly at his lost sheep.
"My children," he said solemnly, "my heart is wrung for you. You
have broken the laws of God and of the Holy Catholic Church, and the
punishments thereof are awful. Can I do anything for you, excepting to
pray? You shall have my prayers, my children. But that is not enough;
I cannot--ay! I cannot endure the thought that you shall be damned.
Perhaps"--again he stared meditatively at the stones, then, after an
impressive silence, raised his eyes. "Heaven vouchsafes me an idea, my
children. I will make your punishment here so bitter that Almighty God
in His mercy will give you but a few years of purgatory after death.
Come with me."
He turned and led the way slowly to the rear of the mission buildings.
Andreo shuddered for the first time, and tightened his arm about Pilar's
shaking body. He knew that they were to be locked in the dungeons.
Pilar, almost fainting, shrank back as they reached the narrow spiral
stair which led downward to the cells. "Ay! I shall die, my Andreo!" she
cried. "Ay! my father, have mercy!"
"I cannot, my children," said the padre, sadly. "It is for the salvation
of your souls."
"Mother of God! When shall I see thee again, my Pilar?" whispered
Andreo. "But, ay! the memory of that week on the mountain will keep us
Padre Arroyo descended the stair and awaited them at its foot.
Separating them, and taking each by the hand, he pushed Andreo ahead and
dragged Pilar down the narrow passage. At its end he took a great bunch
of keys from his pocket, and raising both hands commanded them to kneel.
He said a long prayer in a loud monotonous voice which echoed and
reechoed down the dark hall and made Pilar shriek with terror. Then he
fairly hurled the marriage ceremony at them, and made the couple repeat
after him the responses. When it was over, "Arise," he said.
The poor things stumbled to their feet, and Andreo caught Pilar in a
"Now bear your incarceration with fortitude, my children; and if you do
not beat the air with your groans, I will let you out in a week. Do not
hate your old father, for love alone makes him severe, but pray, pray,
And then he locked them both in the same cell.
THE BELLS OF SAN GABRIEL
The Senor Capitan Don Luis de la Torre walked impatiently up and down
before the grist-mill wherein were quartered the soldiers sent by Mexico
to protect the building of the Mission of San Gabriel. The Indian
workmen were slugs; California, a vast region inhabited only by savages
and a few priests, offered slender attractions to a young officer
craving the gay pleasures of his capital and the presence of the woman
he was to marry. For months he had watched the mission church mount
slowly from foundation to towers, then spread into pillared corridors
and rooms for the clergy. He could have mapped in his mind every acre of
the wide beautiful valley girt by mountains snowed on their crest. He
had thought it all very lovely at first: the yellow atmosphere, the soft
abiding warmth, the blue reflecting lake; but the green on mountain and
flat had waxed to gold, then waned to tan and brown, and he was tired.
Not even a hostile Indian had come to be killed.
He was very good-looking, this tall young Spaniard, with his impatient
eyes and haughty intelligent face, and it is possible that the lady in
Mexico had added to his burden by doleful prayers to return. He took a
letter from his pocket, read it half through, then walked rapidly over
to the mission, seeking interest in the work of the Indians. Under the
keen merciless supervision of the padres,--the cleverest body of men
who ever set foot in America,--they were mixing and laying the adobes,
making nails and tiles, hewing aqueducts, fashioning great stone fonts
and fountains. De la Torre speculated, after his habit, upon the future
of a country so beautiful and so fertile, which a dozen priests had made
their own. Would these Indians, the poorest apologies for human beings
he had ever seen, the laziest and the dirtiest, be Christianized and
terrified into worthy citizens of this fair land? Could the clear white
flame that burned in the brains of the padres strike fire in their
neophytes' narrow skulls, create a soul in those grovelling bodies? He
dismissed the question.
Would men of race, tempted by the loveliness of this great gold-haired
houri sleeping on the Pacific, come from old and new Spain and dream
away a life of pleasure? What grapes would grow out of this rich soil
to be crushed by Indian slaves into red wine! And did gold vein those
velvet hills? How all fruits, all grains, would thrive! what superb
beasts would fatten on the thick spring grass! Ay! it was a magnificent
discovery for the Church, and great would be the power that could wrest
it from her.
There was a new people, somewhere north of Mexico, in the United States
of America. Would they ever covet and strive to rob? The worse for them
if they molested the fire-blooded Spaniard. How he should like to fight
That night the sentinel gave a sudden piercing shout of warning, then
dropped dead with a poisoned arrow in his brain. Another moment, and
the soldiers had leaped from their swinging beds of hide, and headed by
their captain had reached the church they were there to defend. Through
plaza and corridors sped and shrieked the savage tribe, whose invasion
had been made with the swiftness and cunning of their race. The doors
had not been hung in the church, and the naked figures ran in upon the
heels of the soldiers, waving torches and yelling like the soulless
fiends they were. The few neophytes who retained spirit enough to fight
after the bleaching process that had chilled their native fire and
produced a result which was neither man nor beast, but a sort of
barnyard fowl, hopped about under the weight of their blankets and were
The brunt of the battle fell upon the small detachment of troops, and
at the outset they were overwhelmed by numbers, dazzled by the glare of
torches that waved and leaped in the cavern-like darkness of the church.
But they fought like Spaniards, hacking blindly with their swords,
cleaving dusky skulls with furious maledictions, using their fists,
their feet, their teeth--wrenching torches from malignant hands and
hurling them upon distorted faces. Curses and wild yells intermingled.
De la Torre fought at the head of his men until men and savages, dead
and living, were an indivisible mass, then thrust back and front,
himself unhurt. The only silent clear-brained man among them, he could
reason as he assaulted and defended, and he knew that the Spaniards
had little chance of victory--and he less of looking again upon the
treasures of Mexico. The Indians swarmed like ants over the great nave
and transept. Those who were not fighting smashed the altar and slashed
the walls. The callous stars looked through the apertures left for
windows, and shed a pallid light upon the writhing mass. The padres had
defended their altar, behind the chancel rail; they lay trampled, with
arrows vibrating in their hard old muscles.
De la Torre forced his way to the door and stood for a moment, solitary,
against the pale light of the open, then turned his face swiftly to
the night air as he fell over the threshold of the mission he had so
Delfina de Capalleja, after months of deferred hope, stood with the
crowd at the dock, awaiting the return of the troop which had gone to
defend the Mission of San Gabriel in its building. There was no flutter
of colour beneath her white skin, and the heavy lids almost concealed
the impatient depths of her eyes; the proud repose of her head indicated
a profound reserve and self-control. Over her white gown and black dense
hair she wore a black lace mantilla, fastened below the throat with a
large yellow rose.
The ship swung to anchor and answered the salute from the fort. Boats
were lowered, but neither officers nor soldiers descended. The murmur
of disappointment on shore rose to a shout of execration. Then, as the
ship's captain and passengers landed, a whisper ran through the crowd,
a wail, and wild sobbing. They flung themselves to the earth, beating
their heads and breasts,--all but Delfina de Capalleja, who drew her
mantilla about her face and walked away.
The authorities of the city of Mexico yielded to public clamour and
determined to cast a silver bell in honour of the slaughtered captain
and his men. The casting was to take place in the great plaza before the
cathedral, that all might attend: it was long since any episode of war
had caused such excitement and sorrow. The wild character and remoteness
of the scene of the tragedy, the meagreness of detail which stung every
imagination into action, the brilliancy and popularity of De la Torre,
above all, the passionate sympathy felt for Delfina de Capalleja,
served to shake society from peak to base, and no event had ever been
anticipated with more enthusiasm than the casting of that silver bell.
No one had seen Delfina since the arrival of the news had broken so many
hearts, and great was the curiosity regarding her possible presence at
the ceremony. Universal belief was against her ever again appearing in
public; some said that she was dead, others that she had gone into a
convent, but a few maintained that she would be high priestess at the
making of the bell which was to be the symbol and monument of her
lover's gallantry and death.
The hot sun beat upon the white adobe houses of the stately city. At the
upper end of the plaza, bending and swaying, coquetting and languishing,
were women clad in rich and vivid satins, their graceful heads and
shoulders draped with the black or white mantilla; caballeros, gay in
velvet trousers laced with gold, and serape embroidered with silver.
Eyes green and black and blue sparkled above the edge of large black
fans; fiery eyes responded from beneath silver-laden sombreros. The
populace, in gala attire, crowded the rest of the plaza and adjacent
streets, chattering and gesticulating. But all looked in vain for
Delfina de Capalleja.
Much ceremony attended the melting of the bell. Priests in white robes
stiff with gold chanted prayers above the silver bubbling in the
caldron. A full-robed choir sang the Te Deum; the regiment to which De
la Torre had belonged fired salutes at intervals; the crowd sobbed and
Thunder of cannon, passionate swell of voices: the molten silver was
about to be poured into the mould. The crowd hushed and parted. Down the
way made for her came Delfina de Capalleja. Her black hair hung over her
long white gown. Her body bent under the weight of jewels--the jewels of
generations and the jewels of troth. Her arms hung at her sides. In her
eyes was the peace of the dead.
She walked to the caldron, and taking a heavy gold chain from her neck
flung it into the silver. It swirled like a snake, then disappeared. One
by one, amidst quivering silence, the magnificent jewels followed
the chain. Then, as she took the last bracelet from her arm, madness
possessed the breathless crowd. The indifferent self-conscious men,
the lanquid coquetting women, the fat drowsy old dowagers, all rushed,
scrambling and screaming, to the caldron, tore from their heads and
bodies the superb jewels and ropes of gold with which they were
bedecked, and flung them into the molten mass, which rose like a tide.
The electric current sprang to the people; their baubles sped like hail
through the air. So great was the excitement that a sudden convulsing
of the earth was unfelt. When not a jewel was left to sacrifice, the
caldron held enough element for five bells--the five sweet-voiced bells
which rang in the Mission of San Gabriel for more than a century.
Exhausted with shouting, the multitude was silent. Delfina de Capalleja,
who had stood with panting chest and dilating nostrils, turned from
the sacrificial caldron, the crowd parting for her again, the Laudate
Dominum swelling. As she reached the cathedral, a man who loved her,
noting a change in her face, sprang to her side. She raised her
bewildered eyes to his and thrust out her hands blankly, then fell dead
across the threshold.
WHEN THE DEVIL WAS WELL
The Devil locked the copper gates of Hell one night, and sauntered down
a Spacian pathway. The later arrivals from the planet Earth had been of
a distressingly commonplace character to his Majesty--a gentleman
of originality and attainments, whatever his disagreements with the
conventions. He was become seriously disturbed about the moral condition
of the sensational little twinkler.
"What are my own about?" he thought, as he drifted past planets which
yielded up their tributes with monotonous regularity. "What a squeezed
old orange would Earth become did I forsake it! I must not neglect it so
long again; my debt of gratitude is too great. Let me see. Where shall
I begin? It is some years since I have visited America in person,
and unquestionably she has most need of my attention; Europe is in
magnificent running order. This is a section of her, if my geography
does not fail me; but what? I do not recall it."
He poised above a country that looked as if it still hung upon the edge
of chaos: wild, fertile, massive, barren, luxuriant, crouching on the
ragged line of the Pacific. From his point of vantage he saw long ranges
of stupendous mountains, some but masses of scowling crags, some green
with forests of mammoth trees projecting their gaunt rigid arms above
a carpet of violets; indolent valleys and swirling rivers; snow on the
black peaks of the North; the riotous colour of eternal summer in the
South. Suddenly he uttered a sharp exclamation and swept downward,
halting but a mile above the ground. He frowned heavily, then smiled--a
long, placid, sardonic smile. There appeared to be but few inhabitants
in this country, and those few seemed to live either in great white
irregular buildings, surmounted by crosses, in little brown huts near
by, in the caves, or in hollowed trees on the mountains. The large
buildings were situated about sixty miles apart, in chosen valleys; they
were imposing and rambling, built about a plaza. They boasted pillared
corridors and bright red tiles on their roofs. Within the belfries were
massive silver bells, and the crosses could be seen to the furthermost
end of the valley and from the tops of the loftiest mountain.
"California!" exclaimed the Devil. "I know of her. Her scant history
is outlined in the Scarlet Book. I remember the points: Climate, the
finest, theoretically, in the world; satanically, simply magnificent.
I have waited impatiently for the stream of humanity to deflect
thitherward, but priests will answer my present purpose exactly--unless
they are all too tough. To continue, gold under that grass in
chunks--aha! I shall have to throw out an extra wing in Hell! Parched
deserts where men will die cursing; fruitful valleys, more gratifying to
my genius; about as much of one as of the other, but the latter will
get all the advertising, and the former be carefully kept out of sight.
Everything in the way of animal life, from grizzly bears to fleas. A
very remarkable State! Well, I will begin on the priests."
He shot downward, and alighted in a valley whose proportions pleased his
eye. Its shape was oval; the bare hills enclosing it were as yellow and
as bright as hammered gold; the grass was bronze-coloured, baking in the
intense heat; but the placid cows and shining horses nibbled it with the
contentment of those that know not of better things. A river, almost
concealed by bending willows and slender erect cottonwoods, wound
capriciously across the valley. The mission, simpler than some of the
others, was as neatly kept as the farm of older civilizations. Peace,
order, reigned everywhere; all things drowsed under the relentless
outpouring of the midsummer sun.
"It is well I do not mind the heat," thought his Majesty; "but I am
sensible of this. I will go within."
He drew a boot on his cloven foot, thus rendering himself invisible, and
entered a room of the long wing that opened upon the corridor. Here the
temperature was almost wintry, so thick were the adobe walls.
Two priests sat before a table, one reading aloud from a bulky
manuscript, the other staring absently out of the window. The reader
was an old man; his face was pale and spiritual; no fires burned in his
sunken eyes; his mouth was stern with the lines of self-repression. The
Devil lost all interest in him at once, and turned to the younger man.
His face was pale also, but his pallor was that of fasting and the hair
shirt; the mouth expressed the determination of the spirit to conquer
the restless longing of the eyes; his nostrils were spirited; his figure
was lean and nervous; he moved his feet occasionally, and clutched at
the brown Franciscan habit.
"Paulo," said the older priest, reprovingly, as he lifted his eyes and
noted the unbowed head, "thou art not listening to the holy counsel of
our glorious Master, our saint who has so lately ascended into heaven."
"I know Junipero Serra by heart," said Paulo, a little pettishly. "I
wish it were not too hot to go out; I should like to take a walk.
Surely, San Miguel is the hottest spot on earth. The very fleas are
gasping between the bricks."
"The Lord grant that they may die before the night! Not a wink have I
slept for two! But thou shouldest not long for recreation until the hour
comes, my son. Do thy duty and think not of when it will be over, for
it is a blessed privilege to perform it--far more so than any idle
pleasure--just as it is more blessed to give than to receive--"
Here the Devil snorted audibly, and both priests turned with a jump.
"Did you hear that, my father?"
"It is the walls cracking with the intense heat. I will resume my
reading, and do thou pay attention, my son."
"I will, my father."
And for three hours the Devil was obliged to listen to the droning voice
of the old man. He avenged himself by planting wayward and alarming
desires in Paulo's fertile soul.
Suddenly the mission was filled with the sound of clamorous silver:
the bells were ringing for vespers--a vast, rapid, unrhythmical, sweet
volume of sound which made the Devil stamp his hoofs and gnash his
teeth. The priests crossed themselves and hurried to their evening
duties, Satan following, furious, but not daring to let them out of his
The church was crowded with dusky half-clothed forms, prostrate before
the altar. The Devil, during the long service, wandered amongst them,
giving a vicious kick with his cloven foot here, pricking with the sharp
point of his tail there, breeding a fine discord and routing devotion.
When vespers were over he was obliged to follow the priests to the
refectory, but found compensation in noting that Paulo displayed a keen
relish for his meat and wine. The older man put his supper away morsel
by morsel, as if he were stuffing a tobacco-pouch.
The meal finished, Paulo sallied forth for his evening walk. The Devil
had his chance.
He was a wise Devil--a Devil of an experience so vast that the world
would go crashing through space under its weight in print. He wasted
no time with the preliminary temptations--pride, ambition, avarice. He
brought out the woman at once.
The young priest, wandering through a grove of cottonwoods, his hands
clasped listlessly behind him, his chin sunken dejectedly upon his
breast, suddenly raised his eyes and beheld a beautiful woman standing
not ten paces away. She was not a girl like her whom he had renounced
for the Church, but a woman about whose delicate warm face and slender
palpitating bosom hung the vague shadow of maturity. Her hair was the
hot brown of copper, thick and rich; her eyes were like the meeting of
flame and alcohol. The emotion she inspired was not the pure glow which
once had encouraged rather than deprecated renunciation; but at the
moment he thought it sweeter.
He sprang forward with arms outstretched, instinct conquering vows in
a manner highly satisfactory to the Devil; then, with a bitter
imprecation, turned and fled. But he heard light footfalls behind him;
he was conscious of a faint perfume, born of no earthly flower, felt a
soft panting breath. A light hand touched his face. He flung his vows to
anxious Satan, and turned to clasp the woman in his arms. But she coyly
retreated, half-resentfully, half-invitingly, wholly lovely. Satan
closed his iron hand about the vows, and the priest ran toward the
woman, the lines of repression on his face gone, the eyes conquering the
mouth. But again she retreated. He quickened his steps; she accelerated
hers; his legs were long and agile; but she was fleet of foot. Finally
she ran at full speed, her warm bright hair lifted and spreading, her
tender passionate face turned and shining through it.
They left the cottonwoods, and raced down the wide silent valley, the
cows staring with stolid disapproval, the stars pulsing in sympathy. The
priest felt no fatigue; he forgot the Church behind him, the future of
reward or torment. He wanted the woman, and was determined to have her.
He was wholly lost; and the Devil, satisfied, returned to the mission.
"Now," thought he, "for revenge on that old fool for defying me for
He raised his index finger and pointed it straight at the planet Hell.
Instantly the sky darkened, the air vibrated with the rushing sound
of many forms. A moment later he was surrounded by a regiment of
abbreviated demons--a flock as thick as a grasshopper plague, twisted,
grinning, leering, hideous. He raised his finger again and they leaped
to the roofs of the mission, wrenched the tiles from their place and
sent them clattering to the pavement. They danced and wrestled on the
naked roof, yelling with their hoarse unhuman voices, singing awful
The Devil passed within, and found the good old priest on his knees, a
crucifix clasped to his breast, his white face upturned, shouting ave
marias and pater nosters at the top of his aged voice as if fearful they
would not ascend above the saturnalia on the roof. The Devil added to
his distraction by loud bursts of ribald laughter; but the father,
revolving his head as if it were on a pivot, continued to pray. Satan
began to curse like a pirate.
Suddenly, above the crashing of tiles, the hideous voices of Devil and
demon, the prayers of the padre, sounded the silver music of the
bells. Not the irregular clash which was the daily result of Indian
manipulation, but long rhythmic peals, as sweet and clear and true
as the singing of angels. The Devil and his minions, with one long,
baffled, infuriated howl, shot upward into space. Simultaneously a great
wind came roaring down the valley, uprooting trees, shaking the sturdy
mission. Thunder detonated, lightning cut its zigzag way through black
clouds like moving mountains; hail rattled to the earth; water fell
as from an overturned ocean. And through all the bells pealed and the
Morning dawned so calm and clear that but for the swimming ground and
the broken tiles bestrewing it, the priest would have thought he had
dreamed a terrible nightmare. He opened the door and looked anxiously
forth for Paulo. Paulo was not to be seen. He called, but his tired
voice would not carry. Clasping his crucifix to his breast, he tottered
forth in search of his beloved young colleague. He passed the rancheria
of the Indians, and found them all asleep, worn out from a night of
He was too kind to awaken them, and pursued his way alone down the
valley, peering fearfully to right and left. The ground was ploughed,
dented, and strewn with fallen trees; the river roared like a tidal
wave. Shuddering, and crossing himself repeatedly, he passed between
the hills and entered a forest, following a path which the storm had
blasted. After a time he came to an open glade where he and Paulo
had loved to pray whilst the spring and the birds made music. To his
surprise he saw a large stone lying along the open. He wondered if some
meteor had fallen. Mortal hands--Indian hands, at least--were not strong
enough to have brought so heavy a bulk, and he had not seen it in forest
or valley before.
He approached and regarded it; then began mumbling aves and paters,
running them together as he had not done during the visitation and
storm. The stone was outlined with the shape of a man, long, young,
and slender. The face was sharply cut, refined, impassioned, and
intellectual. A smile of cynical contentment dwelt on the strong mouth.
The eyes were fixed on something before him. Involuntarily the priest's
followed them, and lingered. A tree also broke the open--one which never
had been there before--and it bore an intoxicating similitude to the
features and form of a surpassingly beautiful woman.
"Paulo! Paulo!" murmured the old man, with tears in his eyes, "would
that I had been thou!"