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brigand 1 he has been among the Americanos I
Look, my uncle!"

Don Pedro took the weapon quietly firom
the brown hands of Manuela and examined
it coolly.

"It is new, my niece," he responded,
with a slight shrug of his shoulders. " The
gloss is still upon its blade. We will take
him to bed,"

CHAPTER XVII.
THE CHARMING MRS. SEPULVIDA.

If there was a spot on earth of which tiie
usual dead monotony of the California seasons
seemed a perfectly consistent and natural
expression, that spot was the ancient and
time-honored/f^^and Mission of the blessed
St. Anthony. The changeless, cloudless,
expressionless skies of summer seemed to
symbolize that aristocratic conservatism
which repelled all innovation, and was its
distinguishing mark. The stranger who rode
into ^tpuedloy in his own conveyance, — for
the instincts of San Antonio refiised to sanc-
tion the introduction of a stage-coach or
diligence that might bring into the town
irresponsible and vagabond travelers, — ^read
in the faces of the idle, loimging/^^^ir the
fact that the great mneheros who occupied
the outlying grants had refiised to sell their
lands, long l^fore he entered the one short
walled street and open plaza, and found
that he was in a town where there was no
hotel or tavern, and that he was dependent
entirely upon die hospitality of some courte-
ous resident for a meal or a night's lodging.

As he drew rein in the court-yard of the
first large adohe dwelling, and received the
grave welcome of a strange but kindly face,
he saw around him everywhere the past
unchanged. The sim shone as bnghdy and



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382



GABRIEL CON ROY.



fiercely on the long red tiles of the low roofs,
that looked as if they had been thatched
with longitudinal slips of cinnamon, even as
it had shone for the last hundred yeare; the
gaunt wolf-like dogs ran out and barked at
him as their fathers and mothers had barked
at the preceding stranger of twenty years
before. There were the few wild half-broken
mustangs tethered by strong riatas before
the veranda of the long low Fonda, with the
sunlight glittering on their silver trappings ;
there were the broad, blank expanses of
whitewashed adobe wall, as barren and guilt-
less of record as the imeventful days, as
monotonous and expressionless as the star-
ing sky above ; there were the white, dome-
shaped towers of the Mission rising above
the green of olives and pear-trees, twisted,
gnarled and knotted with the rheumatism
of age; there was the unchanged strip of
narrow white beach, and beyond, the sea —
vast, illimitable, and always the same. The
steamers that crept slowly up the darkening
coast line were something remote, unreal,
and phantasmal ; since the Philippine galleon
had left its bleached and broken ribs in the
sand in 1640, no vessel had, in the memory
of man, dropped anchor in the open road-
stead below the curving Point of Pines, and
the white walls, and dismounted bronze
cannon of the Presidio, that looked blankly
and hopelessly seaward.

For all this, iht pueblo oi^n Antonio was
the c)mosure of the covetous American eye.
Its vast leagues of fertile soil, its countless
herds of cattle, the semi-tropical luxuriance
of its vegetation, the salubrity of its climate,
and the existence of miraculous mineral
springs, were at once a temptation and an
exasperation to greedy speculators of San
Francisco. Happily for San Antonio, its
square leagues were held by only a few of
the wealthiest native gentry. The ranchos
of "the Bear," of the "Holy Fisherman,"
of "The Blessed Trinity," comprised all of
"Is, and their tides were
ired to their native owners
5 of the American occupa-
mparative remoteness fit)m
rs had protected them from
oreign cupidity. But one
sr entered upon the posses-
nt of this Califomian Arca-
s the widow of Don Jose
een months ago the excel-
i died at the age of eighty-
charming young American
stress of his vast estate,
^asant, social temperament,



that the Donna Maria should eventually
bestow her hand and the estate upon some
losel Americano, who would bring ruin in
the hollow disguise of " improvements " to
the established and conservative life of San
Antonio, was an event to be expected,
feared, and, if possible, estopped by fasting
and prayer.

When the Donna Maria returned from a,
month's visit to San Francisco after her
year's widowhood, alone, and to all appear-
ances as yet unattached, it is said that a Te
Deum was sung at the Mission church. The
possible defection of the widow became still
more important to San Antonio, when it
was remembered that the largest estate in
the valley, the "Rancho of the Holy
Trinity," was held by another member
of this deceitftil sex — ^the alleged natural
half-breed daughter of a deceased Governor
— ^but happily preserved fix)m the possible
fate of the widow by religious pre-occupation
and the habits of a reclase. That the irony
of Providence should leave the fate and
futiure of San Antonio so largely dependent
upon the results of levity, and the caprice
of a susceptible sex, gave a somber tinge to
the gossip of the little /«<f^i5? — if the grave,
decorous discussion of Senores and Senoras
could deserve that name. Nevertheless it
was believed by the more devout that a
miraculous interposition would eventually
save San Antonio from the Americanos and
destruction, and it was alleged that the
patron saint, himself accomplished in the
art of resisting a peculiar form of temptation,
would not scruple to oppose personally any
undue weakness of vanity or the flesh in
helpless widowhood. Yet, even the most
devout and trustftd believers, as they slyly
slipp>ed aside vail or manta, to peep fiirtively
at die Donna Maria entering chapel, in the
heathenish abominations of a Parisian dress
and bonnet, and a fece rosy with self-
consciousness and innocent satisfaction, felt
their hearts sink within them, and turned
their eyes in mute supplication to the gaunt,
austere patron saint pictured on the chancel
wall above them, who, clutching a skull and
crucifix as if for support, seemed to glare
upon the pretty stranger with some trepida-
tion and a possible doubt of his being able
. to resist the newer temptation.

As far as was consistent with Spanish
courtesy, the Donna Maria was subject to a
certain mild espionage. It was even hinted
by some of the more conservative that a
duenna Was absolutely essential to the proper
decorum of a lady representing such large



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GABRIEL CONROY.



383



social interests as the widow Sepulvida,
although certain husbands, who had already
suffered from the imperfect protection of
this safeguard, offered some objection. But
the pretty widow, when this proposition
was gravely offered by her ghosdy con-
fessor, only shook her head and laughed.
"A husbaiid is the best duennay Father
Felipe," she said archly, and the conversa-
tion ended.

Perhaps it was as well that the gossips of
San Antonio did not know how imminent
was their danger, or how closely imperiled
were the vast social interests of the pueblo
on the 3d day of June, 1854.

It was a bright, clear morning — so clear
that the distinct peaks of the San Bruno
mountains seemed to have encroached upon
the San Antonio valley overnight — so clear
that the horizon line of the vast Pacific
seemed to take in half the globe beyond.
It was a morning, cold, hard, and material
as granite, yet with a certain mica sparkle
in its quali^ — a morning full of practical
animal life, in which bodily exercise was
absolutely essential to its perfect understand-
ing and enjoyment It was scarcely to be
wondered that the Donna Maria Sepulvida,
who was returning from a visit to her stew-
ard and major domo, attended by a single
vaqueroy should have thrown the reins for-
ward on the neck of her yellow mare, "Tita,"
and dashed at a wild gallop down tfie white
strip of beach that curved from the garden
wall of the Mission to the Point of Pines, a
league beyond. "Concho," the venerable
vaqueroy after vainly endeavoring to keep
pace with his mistress's fiery steed, and still
more capricious fancy, shrugged his shoul-
ders, and subsided into a trot, and was soon
lost among the shifting sand dunes. Com-
pletely carried away by the exhilarating air
and intoxication of the exercise, the Donna
Maria — with her brown hair shaken loose
from the confinement of her little velvet hat,
the whole of a pretty foot, and at times, I
fear, part of a symmetrical ankle visible below
the flying folds of her gray riding-skirt,
flecked here and there with the racing spume
of those Homeric seas — at last reached the
" Point of Pines " which defined the limits
of the peninsula.

But when the gentle Mistress Sepulvida
was within a himdred yards of the Point she
expected to roimd, she saw, with some cha-
grin, that the tide was up, and that each
dash of the breaking seas sent a thin, reach-
ing film of shining water up to the very roots
of the pines. To her still further discomfi-



ture, she saw also that a smart-looking cava-
lier had likewise reined in his horse on the
other side of the Point, and was evidently
watching her movements with great interest,
and, as she feared, with some amusement. To
go back would be to be followed by this
stranger, and to meet the cynical but respect-
ful observation of Concho; to go forward,
at the worst, could be only a slight wetting,
and a canter beyond the reach of observa-
tion and the stranger, who could not in
decency turn back aftier her. All this Donna
Maria saw with the swiftness of feminine
intuition, and, without apparentiy any hesi-
tation in her face or her intent, dashed into
the surf below the Point.

Alas for feminine logic ! Mistress Sepul-
vida's reasoning was perfect, but her prem-
ises were wrong. Tita's first dash was a
brave one, and carried her half round the
Point, the next was a simple flounder ; the
next struggle sunk her to her knees, the
next to her haunches. She was in a quick-
sand!

" Let the horse go. Don't struggle !
Take the end of your riata. Throw yourself
flat on the next wave, and let it take you out
to sea!"

Donna Maria mechanically loosed the coil
of hair rope which hung over the pommel of
her saddle. Then she looked around in the
direction of the voice. But she saw only
a riderless horse, moving slowly along the
Point

"Quick! Now then!" The voice was
seaward now ; where, to her fiightened fancy,
some one appeared to be swimming. Donna
Maria hesitated no longer; with the recoil
of the next wave, she threw herself forward,
and was carried floating a few yards, and
dropped again on the treacherous sand.

" Don't move, but keep your grip on the
riata!"

The next wave would have carried her
back, but she began to comprehend, and,
assisted by the yielding sand, held her own
and her breath until the imder-tow sucked
her a few yards seaward; the sand was
firmer now ; she floated a few yards further
when her arm was seized ; she was conscious
of being impelled swiftiy through the water,
of being dragged out of the surge, of all her
back hair coming down, that she had left
her boots behind her in tiie quicksand, that
her rescuer was a stranger and a young man
— and then she fainted.

When she opened her brown eyes again
she was lying on the dry sand beyond the
Point, and the young man was on the beach



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3^4



ONLY THE SUNNY HOURS,



below her, holding both the horses — ^his own
andTita!

" I took the opportunity of getting your
horse out. Relieved of your weight, and
loosened by the tide, he got his foot over
the riata, and Charley and I pulled him out
If I am not mistaken, this is Mrs. Sepulvida ? "

Donna Maria assented in surprise.

'' And I imagine this is your man coming
to look for you." He pointed .to Concho,
who was slowly making his way among the
sand dunes toward the Point. "Let me
assist you on your horse again. He need
not know — ^nobody need know — the extent
of your disaster."

Donna Maria, still bewildered, permitted
herself to be assisted to her saddle again,
despite the consequent terrible revelation of
her shoeless feet Then she became con-
scious that she had not thanked her deliverer,
and proceeded to do so with such embarrass-
ment that the stranger's laughing interruption
was a positive relidl

" You would thank me better if you were
to set off in a stinging gallop over those sun-



baked, oven-like sand-hills, and so stave off
a chill ! For the rest, I am Mr. Poinsett,
one of your late husband's legal advisers,
here on business that will most likely bring
us together — I trust much more pleasantly
to you than this. Good morning I "

He had ah-eady mounted his horse, and
was lifting his hat Donna Maria was not
a very clever woman, but she was bright
enough to see that his business ^na^»^fir
was either the concealment of a man shy
of women, or the impertinence of one too
familiar with them. In either case it was to
be resented.

How did she do it ? Ah me ! She took
the most favorable h3rpothesis. She pouted,
I regret to say. Then she said ;

" It was all your fault !"

"How?"

" Why, if you hadn't stood there, looking
at me and criticising, I shouldn't have tried
to go roimd."

With this Parthian anew she dashed ofl^
leaving her rescuer halting between a bow
and a smile.



<To be continued.)



ONLY THE SUNNY HOURS.^

Only the sunny hours

Are numbered here, —
No winter-time that lowers,

No twilight drear.
But from a golden sky

When sunbeams fall,
Though the bright moments fly,—

They're counted all.

My heart its transient woe

Remembers not!
The ills of long-ago

Are half forgot ;
But Childhood's round of bliss.

Youth's tender thrill,
Hope's whisper. Love's first kiss,-

They haunt me still!

Sorrows are everywhere,

Joys— all too few!
Have \tre not had our share

Of pleasure too ?
No Past the glad heart cowers.

No memories dark;
Only the sunny hours

The dial mark.



'Suggested by the inscription on a Sun-pial : Moras mm numero nisi serenas.



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THE KING'S CHRISTMAS,



Z^l



THE KING'S CHRISTMAS.

A LEGEND OF NORWAY.



Berserks chanted runes and rhymes,
Sagas of the elder times —

Deeds of force and might,
Mixed with hymns to martyrs glorious
And the white Christ, the victorious,

Bom a babe to-night.
Vol. XI.— 25.



Midnight came, and like a spell
On the hall a silence fell —

Hushed the Berserk's tale;
Only the deep ocean thunder.
And the pine groves rent asunder

By the Norland gale.



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386



THE KING'S CHRISTMAS,



In that silence of the feast

Rose a white-haired Christian priest,

Spoke with accents mild:
"Will not each some offering proffer —
Each some birthnight present offer

To the new-bom Child?"

Up there started Svend the bold,
Red his shaggy locks as gold.

Black as night his eye;
" Lands of Nordenfields twice twenty
Miles, where firs grow tall and plenty,

To the Church give I."

Runald next; where sailed his crew
Sea-wolves swam and eagles flew

Watching for the slain.
"Gold I give — doubloons an hundred,
Last year in Sevilla plundered.

When we ravaged Spain."

Thus they shouted, each and all,
Through the long low-raftered hall;

Each his gift proclaimed,
Then again the hush unbroken.
For the King had not yet spoken.

Nor his offering named.



In a sweet and gentle tone

Brave King Orm spoke from his throne :

"What befits the King?
Christian priest, I pray thee, tell me,
That none other may excel me

In the gift I bring."

In the silence of the feast

Spoke again the white-haired priest

'Mid the listening throng:
" Pardon grant, O King, and pity,
To all men in field or city

Who have done thee wrong.

"Whoso pardoneth his foes.
On his Lord a gift bestows

More than lands and sea.
Such a gift — ^it cometh solely
From a heart that's royal wholly

With heaven's royalty."

"Be it so," the King replied,
"All men from this Christmas-tide

Brothers do I call."
Through the hall all heads bowed loyal:
" King, thy gift has proved thee royal ;

Thou surpassest all!"



That sweet Yule-tide gift went forth,
Bearing through the rugged North

Blessings far and wide;
Men grew gentler to each other,
And each called his neighbor brother

From that Christmas-tide.



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PICTURES OF THE FRENCH RENAISSANCE.



387



PICTURES OF THE FRENCH RENAISSANCE.*



Good Louis went to heaven soon after
the wicked fifteenth century had sent its last
sinner in the other direction. He had loved
the comfort of his people, had put justice
within their easier reach, had spared their
purses by thinning his own, had deliberately
limited some of his own powers to secure
their rights, had done much to consolidate
the kingdom, and hence the social weal;
and at last, when preparing to leave it all,
he said one day : " We are laboring in vain.
That big boy is going to spoil everything
for us."

The big boy was Francis of Valois.
Louis had given him his daughter Claude
and through her the future throne of France.
He enters history as Francis the First

Perhaps you remember the mighty coat
of mail which stood in the Louvre, the
last but one in the gallery, some twenty
years ago. It made you think of Goliath
of Gath ; of Polyphemus, with the one big
eye under its visor; of one of Don Quixote's
knights of enchantment. That belonged to
the Francis of the Field of the Cloth of
Gold — ^the first Francis of France.

He was six feet in height; tall for a
Frenchman.

" Every inch a king" ?

No ; not even with Titian's testimony to a
heroic turn and harmony of limb. But the
very function of the artist and the poet is
the flattering lie. Besides, in Titian's por-
trait (also in the Louvre), the lower half of
the figure is elegandy omitted. The homely
Enghsh chronicler, whom Henry brought
with him on his visit, pictures Francis with
big feet, short legs like Napoleon le Petit's,
and broad shoulders, — ^points that tell in a
wrestling-match more than they impose in
court or levee. And they served their
owner once royally well — at the close of the
brilliant jousts and tournaments of the Cloth
of Gold. He and bluff Harry went away
under a tent to drink together. Quoth
Harry, "Brother, I should like to wresde
with you," and took him by the collar, and
swayed him once or twice to right and left.

• For the illnstrations of this article we are
indebted to the courtesy of Messrs. Estes & Lauriat
of Boston, publishers of " Guizot's Popular History
of France. With 300 illustrations by A. De Neu-
villc, and 40 fine steel engravings" — ^the work
from which these cuts are taken.



" But Francis," says the scribe, " who is a
mighty good wrestler, gave him a turn and
threw him on the ground." Francis had,
moreover, thick lips, a long nose and large
eyes.

Lips, nose and eyes were prophetic of
their owner's future. The philosophical
historian might spare himself a headache
and his readers immeasurable yawns, by
closing research and fixing the prime
motive of Francis's career on that nasal
organ of such noticeable linear dimensions.
The theory commends itself by the beauti-
ful simplicity of truth. Francis did, from
first to last, just what every man of us must
do — ^follow his nose. It led him into situa-
tions of peril and of splendor, of honor and
of shame.

The Renaissance — that is, the regenera-
tion, the new birth — seemed to thousands
then, and, indeed, seems to thousands now,
rather the throes of a violent death than the
leapings of a nascent Hfe. It was both at
once. Perhaps the highest and the lowest
in man's nature found vent just then, and in
outbursts more intense and explosive. Life —
a man's, a nation's — was condensed and
vivified as in a drama. The most starding
contrasts of situation, such as usually stand
apart by decades, made the story of a month,
a week. The survival of one community,
not always the fittest, seemed to involve, in
its own view at least, the destruction of all
the rest.

Francis had been twenty-one years old
and King only six months gone, when he
marched his army across the Alps, to cleave
his way through the valleys and plains of
all the long peninsula of Italy, and to regain
the Neapolitan crown. A tremendous obsta-
cle confronted him at the second step. He
must make his Alpine passage along ravines,
over chasms, under toppling crags, where
never man had trodden before, except the
few chamois-hunters of the spot. It would
make a grand picture — Francis on a charger
in the brilliant costume of his time — ^the
broad, shading hat ; winding, waving plume ;
velvet cloak drooping fi-om one shoulder —
all bright with the favorite colors which
inspired the hand of Titian to paint ; beside
him, the slender sinewy form of the hunter-
guide, who is pointing to his King the airy
path which only himself and the lammer-
geyer know ; the young monarch gazing up



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388



PICTURES OF THE FRENCH RENAISSANCE,



and away along crest and crest of gloomy
woods, death-white masses of snows quietly
preparing for their plunge, and causeways
that seem to bear one only to the skies.

A singular scene was that of Francis at
the bedside of Henry the Eighth. It shines
at once with one of the most interesting
traits of the man, and with the dawning
light of the moral Renaissance. It could
not have occurred a generation earlier, or
its sequel would have been as widely differ-
ent as semi-barbarism and treachery differ
from civilization and magnanimity.

It was one early morning of the f(&te-days
of the Cloth of Gold when Francis rode,
almost alone, across the clanking bridge of
Henry's strong castle. The English knights
looked down from battiement and loop-hole
upon him in astonishment.

" Where is the King, my brother ? " he
gayly asks of those that crowd around his
horse, half ready to seize him, and lead him
prisoner to Henry. Tableau ist.

" Sir, he hath not yet awoke."

But he rides up the casde court to the
door which had been pointed out to him,
knocks at it with his hilt, and strides to the
bedside of the King.

Henry, in bed, rose on his elbow, and stared
at him, as at a ghost — ^Tableau No. 2 — but
rallied handsomely by exclaiming :

" Brother, you show me the great trust I
should have in you. I am your prisoner;"
and giving him, from his own neck, a jew-
eled collar worth fifteen thousand angels.
Francis unhooked a thirty-thousand-angel
bracelet and gave it to Henry. Tableau
No. 3.

Tableau No. 4. England getting out of
bed ; France, meanwhile, holding England's
shirt to warm before the blazing, smoking
fire of logs. Autres temps^ autres mcturs.

Several artists have taken pleasure in
picturing the interview between Francis and
Robert Esrienne, quite as well known now,
and much better then, as Stephanus. The
combination may well strike us of the nine-
teenth century as one of the grimmest
humors of history.

It is glorified as a proof of the monarch's
magnanimity toward the scholar artisan, and
as a proud moment for the " art preserva-
tive of arts " in France. It is, indeed, an
honor to the warrior King, the ambitious,
irrepressible will that snatched at the Em-
perorship of Germany and withstood a
whole Continental coalition, that he found
wish and time to sanction and aid literature.
Francis, in this work, was indeed an agent



in producing that historic phase which is
emphatically and peculiarly the Renaissance.
His feeling toward those quiet men who sat
in cloister or study, conjuring up the spirits
of the classic dead, and makmg them a liv-
ing, inspiring voice to the noisy, convulsed
age ; his foundation of the Royal College,
which then, as ever since, represented pro-
test against the arrogance of the Church ; his
expressed admiration of Erasmus, and desire
to make him President of the institution ;
his establishment of the Library of France ;
his generous patronage of Marot, — all shed
a more genuine luster on his name and his
position than many, or perhaps all, of his
exploits in the field.

In visiting Robert Estienne, Francis
recognized both letters and industry — high
letters, and an industry then honored more
highly than at present. He went often to
Estienne's printmg-house in the Rue St.
Jean de Beauvais. Sometimes he and his
sister Marguerite dropped in together upon
the learned man and watched, with long-
continued interest, the slow process of the
press, the composing, the inking and impres-



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 66 of 163)