Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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REMEMBER THE ALAMO

By Amelia E. Barr




CHAPTER I. THE CITY IN THE WILDERNESS.


"What, are you stepping westward?" "Yea."
* * * * *
Yet who would stop or fear to advance,
Though home or shelter there was none,
With such a sky to lead him on!"
- WORDSWORTH.

"Ah! cool night wind, tremulous stars,
Ah! glimmering water,
Fitful earth murmur,
Dreaming woods!"
- ARNOLD.


In A. D. sixteen hundred and ninety-two, a few Franciscan monks began to
build a city. The site chosen was a lovely wilderness hundreds of miles
away from civilization on every side, and surrounded by savage and
warlike tribes. But the spot was as beautiful as the garden of God. It
was shielded by picturesque mountains, watered by two rivers, carpeted
with flowers innumerable, shaded by noble trees joyful with the notes of
a multitude of singing birds. To breathe the balmy atmosphere was to
be conscious of some rarer and finer life, and the beauty of the sunny
skies - marvellous at dawn and eve with tints of saffron and amethyst and
opal - was like a dream of heaven.

One of the rivers was fed by a hundred springs situated in the midst of
charming bowers. The monks called it the San Antonio; and on its
banks they built three noble Missions. The shining white stone of the
neighborhood rose in graceful domes and spires above the green trees.
Sculptures, basso-relievos, and lines of gorgeous coloring adorned the
exteriors. Within, were splendid altars and the appealing charms of
incense, fine vestures and fine music; while from the belfreys, bells
sweet and resonant called to the savages, who paused spell-bound and
half-afraid to listen.

Certainly these priests had to fight as well as to pray. The Indians did
not suffer them to take possession of their Eden without passionate and
practical protest. But what the monks had taken, they kept; and the
fort and the soldier followed the priest and the Cross. Ere long, the
beautiful Mission became a beautiful city, about which a sort of fame
full of romance and mystery gathered. Throughout the south and west, up
the great highway of the Mississippi, on the busy streets of New York,
and among the silent hills of New England, men spoke of San Antonio,
as in the seventeenth century they spoke of Peru; as in the eighteenth
century they spoke of Delhi, and Agra, and the Great Mogul.

Sanguine French traders carried thither rich ventures in fancy wares
from New Orleans; and Spanish dons from the wealthy cities of Central
Mexico, and from the splendid homes of Chihuahua, came there to buy. And
from the villages of Connecticut, and the woods of Tennessee, and
the lagoons of Mississippi, adventurous Americans entered the Texan
territory at Nacogdoches. They went through the land, buying horses
and lending their ready rifles and stout hearts to every effort of
that constantly increasing body of Texans, who, even in their swaddling
bands, had begun to cry Freedom!

At length this cry became a clamor that shook even the old viceroyal
palace in Mexico; while in San Antonio it gave a certain pitch to all
conversation, and made men wear their cloaks, and set their beavers,
and display their arms, with that demonstrative air of independence they
called los Americano. For, though the Americans were numerically few,
they were like the pinch of salt in a pottage - they gave the snap and
savor to the whole community.

Over this Franciscan-Moorish city the sun set with an incomparable
glory one evening in May, eighteen thirty-five. The white, flat-roofed,
terraced houses - each one in its flowery court - and the domes and spires
of the Missions, with their gilded crosses, had a mirage-like beauty
in the rare, soft atmosphere, as if a dream of Old Spain had been
materialized in a wilderness of the New World.

But human life in all its essentials was in San Antonio, as it was and
has been in all other cities since the world began. Women were in their
homes, dressing and cooking, nursing their children and dreaming of
their lovers. Men were in the market-places, buying and selling, talking
of politics and anticipating war. And yet in spite of these fixed
attributes, San Antonio was a city penetrated with romantic elements,
and constantly picturesque.

On this evening, as the hour of the Angelus approached, the narrow
streets and the great squares were crowded with a humanity that
assaulted and captured the senses at once; so vivid and so various were
its component parts. A tall sinewy American with a rifle across his
shoulder was paying some money to a Mexican in blue velvet and red
silk, whose breast was covered with little silver images of his favorite
saints. A party of Mexican officers were strolling to the Alamo; some in
white linen and scarlet sashes, others glittering with color and golden
ornaments. Side by side with these were monks of various orders: the
Franciscan in his blue gown and large white hat; the Capuchin in his
brown serge; the Brother of Mercy in his white flowing robes. Add to
these diversities, Indian peons in ancient sandals, women dressed as in
the days of Cortez and Pizarro, Mexican vendors of every kind, Jewish
traders, negro servants, rancheros curvetting on their horses, Apache
and Comanche braves on spying expeditions: and, in this various crowd,
yet by no means of it, small groups of Americans; watchful, silent,
armed to the teeth: and the mind may catch a glimpse of what the
streets of San Antonio were in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and
thirty-five.

It was just before sunset that the city was always at its gayest
point. Yet, at the first toll of the Angelus, a silence like that of
enchantment fell upon it. As a mother cries hush to a noisy child, so
the angel of the city seemed in this evening bell to bespeak a minute
for holy thought. It was only a minute, for with the last note there
was even an access of tumult. The doors and windows of the better houses
were thrown open, ladies began to appear on the balconies, there was
a sound of laughter and merry greetings, and the tiny cloud of the
cigarette in every direction.

But amid this sunset glamour of splendid color, of velvet, and silk,
and gold embroidery, the man who would have certainly first attracted a
stranger's eye wore the plain and ugly costume common at that day to all
American gentlemen. Only black cloth and white linen and a row palmetto
hat with a black ribbon around it; but he wore his simple garments
with the air of a man having authority, and he returned the continual
salutations of rich and poor, like one who had been long familiar with
public appreciation.

It was Dr. Robert Worth, a physician whose fame had penetrated to
the utmost boundaries of the territories of New Spain. He had been
twenty-seven years in San Antonio. He was a familiar friend in every
home. In sickness and in death he had come close to the hearts in them.
Protected at first by the powerful Urrea family, he had found it easy to
retain his nationality, and yet live down envy and suspicion. The rich
had shown him their gratitude with gold; the poor he had never sent
unrelieved away, and they had given him their love.

When in the second year of his residence he married Dona Maria Flores,
he gave, even to doubtful officials, security for his political
intentions. And his future conduct had seemed to warrant their fullest
confidence. In those never ceasing American invasions between eighteen
hundred and three and eighteen hundred and thirty-two, he had been the
friend and succourer of his countrymen, but never their confederate;
their adviser, but never their confidant.

He was a tall, muscular man of a distinguished appearance. His hair was
white. His face was handsome and good to see. He was laconic in speech,
but his eyes were closely observant of all within their range, and they
asked searching questions. He had a reverent soul, wisely tolerant as
to creeds, and he loved his country with a passion which absence from
it constantly intensified. He was believed to be a thoroughly practical
man, fond of accumulating land and gold; but his daughter Antonia knew
that he had in reality a noble imagination. When he spoke to her of the
woods, she felt the echoes of the forest ring through the room; when of
the sea, its walls melted away in an horizon of long rolling waves.

He was thinking of Antonia as he walked slowly to his home in the
suburbs of the city. Of all his children she was the nearest to him. She
had his mother's beauty. She had also his mother's upright rectitude
of nature. The Iberian strain had passed her absolutely by. She was a
northern rose in a tropical garden. As he drew near to his own gates,
he involuntarily quickened his steps. He knew that Antonia would be
waiting. He could see among the thick flowering shrubs her tall slim
figure clothed in white. As she came swiftly down the dim aisles to meet
him, he felt a sentiment of worship for her. She concentrated in
herself his memory of home, mother, and country. She embodied, in the
perfectness of their mental companionship, that rarest and sweetest
of ties - a beloved child, who is also a wise friend and a sympathetic
comrade. As he entered the garden she slipped her hand into his. He
clasped it tightly. His smile answered her smile. There was no need for
any words of salutation.

The full moon had risen. The white house stood clearly out in its
radiance. The lattices were wide open and the parlor lighted. They
walked slowly towards it, between hedges of white camelias and scarlet
japonicas. Vanilla, patchuli, verbena, wild wandering honeysuckle - a
hundred other scents - perfumed the light, warm air. As they came near
the house there was a sound of music, soft and tinkling, with a rhythmic
accent as pulsating as a beating heart.

"It is Don Luis, father."

"Ah! He plays well - and he looks well."

They had advanced to where Don Luis was distinctly visible. He was
within the room, but leaning against the open door, playing upon a
mandolin. Robert Worth smiled as he offered his hand to him. It was
impossible not to smile at a youth so handsome, and so charming - a
youth who had all the romance of the past in his name, his home,
his picturesque costume; and all the enchantments of hope and great
enthusiasms in his future.

"Luis, I am glad to see you; and I felt your music as soon as I heard
it."

He was glancing inquiringly around the room as he spoke; and Antonia
answered the look:

"Mother and Isabel are supping with Dona Valdez. There is to be a dance.
I am waiting for you, father. You must put on your velvet vest."

"And you, Luis?"

"I do not go. I asked the judge for the appointment. He refused me. Very
well! I care not to drink chocolate and dance in his house. One hand
washes the other, and one cousin should help another."

"Why did he refuse you?"

"Who can tell?" but Luis shrugged his shoulders expressively, and added,
"He gave the office to Blas-Sangre."

"Ah!"

"Yes, it is so - naturally; - Blas-Sangre is rich, and when the devil
of money condescends to appear, every little devil rises up to do him
homage."

"Let it pass, Luis. Suppose you sing me that last verse again. It had a
taking charm. The music was like a boat rocking on the water."

"So it ought to be. I learned the words in New Orleans. The music came
from the heart of my mandolin. Listen, Senor!

"'Row young oarsman, row, young oarsman,
Into the crypt of the night we float:
Fair, faint moonbeams wash and wander,
Wash and wander about the boat.
Not a fetter is here to bind us,
Love and memory lose their spell;
Friends that we have left behind us,
Prisoners of content, - farewell!'"

"You are a wizard, Luis, and I have had a sail with you. Now, come with
us, and show those dandy soldiers from the Alamo how to dance."

"Pardon! I have not yet ceased to cross myself at the affront of this
morning. And the Senora Valdez is in the same mind as her husband. I
should be received by her like a dog at mass. I am going to-morrow to
the American colony on the Colorado."

"Be careful, Luis. These Austin colonists are giving great
trouble - there have been whispers of very strong measures. I speak as a
friend."

"My heart to yours! But let me tell you this about the Americans - their
drum is in the hands of one who knows how to beat it."

"As a matter of hearsay, are you aware that three detachments of troops
are on their way from Mexico?"

"For Texas?"

"For Texas."

"What are three detachments? Can a few thousand men put Texas under lock
and key? I assure you not, Senor; but now I must say adieu!"

He took the doctor's hand, and, as he held it, turned his luminous face
and splendid eyes upon Antonia. A sympathetic smile brightened her own
face like a flame. Then he went silently away, and Antonia watched him
disappear among the shrubbery.

"Come, Antonia! I am ready. We must not keep the Senora waiting too
long."

"I am ready also, father." Her voice was almost sad, and yet it had a
tone of annoyance in it - "Don Luis is so imprudent," she said. "He is
always in trouble. He is full of enthusiasms; he is as impossible as his
favorite, Don Quixote."

"And I thank God, Antonia, that I can yet feel with him. Woe to the
centuries without Quixotes! Nothing will remain to them but - Sancho
Panzas."




CHAPTER II. ANTONIA AND ISABEL.

"He various changes of the world had known,
And some vicissitudes of human fate,
Still altering, never in a steady state
Good after ill, and after pain delight,
Alternate, like the scenes of day and night."

"Ladies whose bright eyes
Rain influence."

"But who the limits of that power shall trace,
Which a brave people into life can bring,
Or hide at will, for freedom combating
By just revenge inflamed?"


For many years there had never been any doubt in the mind of Robert
Worth as to the ultimate destiny of Texas, though he was by no means
an adventurer, and had come into the beautiful land by a sequence of
natural and business-like events. He was born in New York. In that city
he studied his profession, and in eighteen hundred and three began its
practice in an office near Contoit's Hotel, opposite the City Park. One
day he was summoned there to attend a sick man. His patient proved to
be Don Jaime Urrea, and the rich Mexican grandee conceived a warm
friendship for the young physician.

At that very time, France had just ceded to the United States the
territory of Louisiana, and its western boundary was a subject about
which Americans were then angrily disputing. They asserted that it was
the Rio Grande; but Spain, who naturally did not want Americans so
near her own territory, denied the claim, and made the Sabine River
the dividing line. And as Spain had been the original possessor of
Louisiana, she considered herself authority on the subject.

The question was on every tongue, and it was but natural that it
should be discussed by Urrea and his physician. In fact, they talked
continually of the disputed boundary, and of Mexico. And Mexico was then
a name to conjure by. She was as yet a part of Spain, and a sharer in
all her ancient glories. She was a land of romance, and her very name
tasted on the lips, of gold, and of silver, and of precious stones.
Urrea easily persuaded the young man to return to Mexico with him.

The following year there was a suspicious number of American visitors
and traders in San Antonio, and one of the Urreas was sent with a
considerable number of troops to garrison the city. For Spain was well
aware that, however statesmen might settle the question, the young
and adventurous of the American people considered Texas United States
territory, and would be well inclined to take possession of it by force
of arms, if an opportunity offered.

Robert Worth accompanied General Urrea to San Antonio, and the visit
was decisive as to his future life. The country enchanted him. He was
smitten with love for it, as men are smitten with a beautiful face.
And the white Moorish city had one special charm for him - it was seldom
quite free from Americans, Among the mediaeval loungers in the narrow
streets, it filled his heart with joy to see at intervals two or three
big men in buckskin or homespun. And he did not much wonder that the
Morisco-Hispano-Mexican feared these Anglo-Americans, and suspected them
of an intention to add Texan to their names.

His inclination to remain in San Antonio was settled by his marriage.
Dona Maria Flores, though connected with the great Mexican families of
Yturbide and Landesa, owned much property in San Antonio. She had been
born within its limits, and educated in its convent, and a visit to
Mexico and New Orleans had only strengthened her attachment to her own
city. She was a very pretty woman, with an affectionate nature, but she
was not intellectual. Even in the convent the sisters had not considered
her clever.

But men often live very happily with commonplace wives, and Robert Worth
had never regretted that his Maria did not play on the piano, and paint
on velvet, and work fine embroideries for the altars. They had passed
nearly twenty-six years together in more than ordinary content and
prosperity. Yet no life is without cares and contentions, and Robert
Worth had had to face circumstances several times, which had brought the
real man to the front.

The education of his children had been such a crisis. He had two sons
and two daughters, and for them he anticipated a wider and grander
career than he had chosen for himself. When his eldest child, Thomas,
had reached the age of fourteen, he determined to send him to New York.
He spoke to Dona Maria of this intention. He described Columbia to her
with all the affectionate pride of a student for his alma mater. The
boy's grandmother also still lived in the home wherein, he himself had
grown to manhood. His eyes filled with tears when he remembered the red
brick house in Canal Street, with its white door and dormer windows, and
its one cherry tree in the strip of garden behind.

But Dona Maria's national and religious principles, or rather
prejudices, were very strong. She regarded the college of San Juan de
Lateran in Mexico as the fountainhead of knowledge. Her confessor had
told her so. All the Yturbides and Landesas had graduated at San Juan.

But the resolute father would have none of San Juan. "I know all about
it, Maria," he said. "They will teach Thomas Latin very thoroughly. They
will make him proficient in theology and metaphysics. They will let him
dabble in algebra and Spanish literature; and with great pomp, they will
give him his degree, and 'the power of interpreting Aristotle all over
the world.' What kind of an education is that, for a man who may have to
fight the battles of life in this century?"

And since the father carried his point it is immaterial what precise
methods he used. Men are not fools even in a contest with women. They
usually get their own way, if they take the trouble to go wisely and
kindly about it. Two years afterwards, Antonia followed her brother to
New York, and this time, the mother made less opposition. Perhaps she
divined that opposition would have been still more useless than in the
case of the boy. For Robert Worth had one invincible determination; it
was, that this beautiful child, who so much resembled a mother whom
he idolized, should be, during the most susceptible years of her life,
under that mother's influence.

And he was well repaid for the self-denial her absence entailed,
when Antonia came back to him, alert, self-reliant, industrious, an
intelligent and responsive companion, a neat and capable housekeeper,
who insensibly gave to his home that American air it lacked, and who set
upon his table the well-cooked meats and delicate dishes which he had
often longed for.

John, the youngest boy, was still in New York finishing his course of
study; but regarding Isabel, there seemed to be a tacit relinquishment
of the purpose, so inflexibly carried out with her brothers and sister.
Isabel was entirely different from them. Her father had watched her
carefully, and come to the conviction that it would be impossible to
make her nature take the American mintage. She was as distinctly Iberian
as Antonia was Anglo-American.

In her brothers the admixture of races had been only as alloy to metal.
Thomas Worth was but a darker copy of his father. John had the romance
and sensitive honor of old Spain, mingled with the love of liberty, and
the practical temper, of those Worths who had defied both Charles the
First and George the Third. But Isabel had no soul-kinship with her
father's people. Robert Worth had seen in the Yturbide residencia
in Mexico the family portraits which they had brought with them from
Castile. Isabel was the Yturbide of her day. She had all their physical
traits, and from her large golden-black eyes the same passionate soul
looked forth. He felt that it would be utter cruelty to send her among
people who must always be strangers to her.

So Isabel dreamed away her childhood at her mother's side, or with
the sisters in the convent, learning from them such simple and useless
matters as they considered necessary for a damosel of family and
fortune. On the night of the Senora Valdez's reception, she had
astonished every one by the adorable grace of her dancing, and the
captivating way in which she used her fan. Her fingers touched the
guitar as if they had played it for a thousand years. She sang a Spanish
Romancero of El mio Cid with all the fire and tenderness of a Castilian
maid.

Her father watched her with troubled eyes. He almost felt as if he had
no part in her. And the thought gave him an unusual anxiety, for he
knew this night that the days were fast approaching which would test to
extremity the affection which bound his family together. He contrived to
draw Antonia aside for a few moments.

"Is she not wonderful?" he asked. "When did she learn these things? I
mean the way in which she does them?"

Isabel was dancing La Cachoucha, and Antonia looked at her little sister
with eyes full of loving speculation. Her answer dropped slowly from her
lips, as if a conviction was reluctantly expressed:

"The way must be a gift from the past - her soul has been at school
before she was born here. Father, are you troubled? What is it? Not
Isabel, surely?"

"Not Isabel, primarily. Antonia, I have been expecting something for
twenty years. It is coming."

"And you are sorry?"

"I am anxious, that is all. Go back to the dancers. In the morning we
can talk."

In the morning the doctor was called very early by some one needing his
skill. Antonia heard the swift footsteps and eager voices, and watched
him mount the horse always kept ready saddled for such emergencies, and
ride away with the messenger. The incident in itself was a usual
one, but she was conscious that her soul was moving uneasily and
questioningly in some new and uncertain atmosphere.

She had felt it on her first entrance into Senora Valdez's gran sala - a
something irrepressible in the faces of all the men present. She
remembered that even the servants had been excited, and that they
stood in small groups, talking with suppressed passion and with much
demonstrativeness. And the officers from the Alamo! How conscious they
had been of their own importance! What airs of condescension and of an
almost insufferable protection they had assumed! Now, that she recalled
the faces of Judge Valdez, and other men of years and position, she
understood that there had been in them something out of tone with the
occasion. In the atmosphere of the festa she had only felt it. In the
solitude of her room she could apprehend its nature.

For she had been born during those stormy days when Magee and Bernardo,
with twelve hundred Americans, first flung the banner of Texan
independence to the wind; when the fall of Nacogdoches sent a thrill of
sympathy through the United States, and enabled Cos and Toledo, and the
other revolutionary generals in Mexico, to carry their arms against Old
Spain to the very doors of the vice-royal palace. She had heard from
her father many a time the whole brave, brilliant story - the same story
which has been made in all ages from the beginning of time. Only


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrRemember the Alamo → online text (page 1 of 19)