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Books by Marah Ellis Ryan

trated by Hanson Booth. Crown 8vo. net $1.35


Illustrated by Hanson Booth. Crown 8vo. nei

PAGAN PRAYERS. Boards. Decorated,
net 60 cents

and decorations by Ralph Fletcher Seymour. 16-
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"Distinctive leather" net $1.75.

mance of Old California. Nineteen illus
trations and decorations in tint. Crotvn 8vo. net
$1.35. "Distinctive leather" net $2.50.

A. C. McClurg & Co. Publishers

When Sancha Dared the Trail Alone.

[Page 214]

House of ike Damn



"Irtdietn, Love Letters"
"For iKe Scml of Raf euel"
"The Womaa of the Twilightretc

riktstrated and Decorated


A. c. MCCLURG & co.





Published October, 1914
Copyrighted in Great Britain

I. y. %M Printing Co..

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Chapter Page

I Don Juan Tells It 1

II The Betrothal 7

III The Things Forbidden 19

IV In Mexico 33

V The Lesson of Lispanos to Heretical Souls 47

VI Tristan the Ranger 62

VII The Amusements of Dona Perfecta . . 84

VIII Sancha to Alphard 98

IX The Trial of the Faith 109

X The Coming of Sancha 138

XI The Passing of the Penitents . . .157

XII The Love Trail 169

XIII The New Master of Camp . . . .191

XIV Riding the Trail Alone 211

XV The Finding of Anita 236

XVI In the Painted Desert 260

XVII Among the Serpent People . . . .290

XVIII The Canon of the Divine Ones . . .317

XIX The End of the Trail 349

XX On Santa Fe Hill in New Granada . . 368

XXI The Insurrection of 1680 . . . .384

XXII Under Blessings of Pagan Gods . . 399



When Sancha dared the trail alone . . Frontispiece

The recognition 166

The finding of Anita 256

The excommunicated lovers ... . 400

The House of the Dawn


I, too, Perdida, would venture my soul
If your heart true should love me!
If your lips red should touch me!
I, too, Querida, would venture a soul
If your white hand should lead me!

UNDER my balcony in the Mexican night a singer
sweeps the strings of his guitar until they
thrill and plead to the maid behind the bars
in the house opposite. So much is she of the
shadow there that I only see her when a white bodice
presses forward against the grating or a little hand
lets fall a yellow rose in the starlight.

His eyes and his thoughts are for her, and hers go
to him with the rose. Their own little romance looms
so big with import that to neither comes special
thought of the song itself, or the " Dona Perdida " of
whom the song was made.

Yet it is not so long ago a mere yesterday. Either
of the lovers opposite might have gazed up at her
grandeur as she looked with young, eager, seeking eyes


from the balcony of the viceroy s palace that palace
from which her trail was planned to the northland of
the Indians.

No, it is not so long ago. I am still here waiting
word of her, yet those two children of the yellow rose
and the guitar have their own way of making a man
feel old ; and that song of " Perdida "

It is not to be thought that our Sancha was christened
" Perdida " or the " Lost One " far from it. Her
cousin, the Archbishop and Viceroy, could have told
them how nearly royal was her blood and how weighty
her name. But he, good man, had closed on himself
the doors of a monastery in Spain ere the Brotherhood
blotted out her name from the lists of Christian folk
here in Mexico.

" Perdida," heretic, without the faith, they said when
her name was publicly burned at the auto-da-fe. Yet
the saints knew* she had strong faith a faith so large
that it bridged ocean and desert. By faith alone
her vision of love grew into a living thing so great
that all the needs of smaller souls fell from her as a
garment cast aside. Not once, I know, did she ever
look backward with a sigh to that garment of gilded
magnificence. I cross myself as I write it, lest the devil,
who is always busy, think that I approve her mad sacri
fice, and the angels know my will was good to put a
stop to it in the very beginning, had it been in the power
of a lad, half sick with his own love, of which he was
too young to tell.

But the years change one, and while I wait, or while
I seek, I shall make record of the days in the land of
the barbarians, for not again in one life may a man


come close to so great a love, whether in outlaw or
true son of the church; and beside me there is none
left alive who knew how the bond grew between those
two, and how it strengthened with each hard stroke
of fortune until the courts and palaces of men seemed
but trifling things in exchange for sanctuary in the
" House of the Dawn."

Bernal Diaz, after his campaigns, made written record
of the things he saw and did in the pagan cities and
the wilderness, and it is good and true reading, though
at times terrible, as one must expect a soldier s tale
of conquest to be. For myself, I must set down plainly
that I got not even a smell of conquest such as his,
though I crossed the water with all the faith of Sancho
Panza in winning, at the very least, a governor s staff ;
and like him had more routings than any lad of adven
ture ever sees in his most dismal dreams. Gold there
was, and silver in plenty but the brown people took
their toll.

Added to all this was the fact that I followed a
mistress instead of a master and a mistress whose
beauty was an unbelievable wonder of earth. All boys,
and even men, feel like that concerning the charm
some one maid has given out to the world, but the
charm of our Sancha is a living charm today, here in
this city of Mexico; and the singing of that song
" Perdida " brings it back to me like a sweep of
music in a night of roses.

It was but yesterday I heard a padre chiding a
singer of the song; also he discoursed on the devilish
impiety of it. I stood aside, silent, and listened while
he said plainly that the nameless " Dona Perdida " was


bewitched and enchanted by one of the workers on
earth for the prince of darkness, and that the singer
must do penance by ten Ave Marias before the miracle
picture of Our Lady in the Chapel.

Muttering and admonishing the singer, he shuffled
into the cool dusk of the sanctuary and bent where the
wonderful face smiles from the frame like a living maid
gazing down from a golden window of paradise into the
world. As if on the top of the world she stands there,
with the drifting clouds of white back of her, the silver
white doves above, and the sun s rays touching the
white drapery over her head like a glory crown.
White all white but the rose-leaf flesh, the wide, gray,
seeking eyes, and the dark braids of hair down either
shoulder and near touching the fawn on which her
hand rests.

I had thoughts of my own as to the horror of the
padre if I should tell him that the lost soul of the for
bidden song and the Virgin of the Fawn were one and
the same, and that the radiant glory crown was inspired
by a full white skirt drawn upward over the head of
the maid as a shield from the sun on a far-away hill of
Andalucia. Even the home forest of that fawn I could
have told, and solved a knotty problem ; for the graceful
animal of soft shy eyes had caused much discourse
among the ecclesiastics, by the reason that no record of
the Holy Evangelists held any word of such a com
panion of the forest for Our Lady of Light. A lamb
might have been understood but a wild, care-free
creature of the wilderness! I know Padre Felipe gave
advice that it be painted over, and that lilies be painted,
instead. His reason was that pagan false gods of old


Rome were such wild things of forest or sylvan places ;
among them a piper of devilish music, with the horns
and haunches of a goat. I never dare inquire too
closely as to the relationship between a kid and a fawn,
or betray special interest in the controversy content
that it has quieted down, and that the symbol of the
wilderness is left beside her in her high place against
the sky.

So I kept to myself what I knew of the miracle of
that picture, having no desire to follow the convicted
of sin in line to the next roastings at the quemadora
and if I had but hinted that my own hands had made
the sandals for the slender feet of the virgin on the can
vas, well at the very mildest I would have been
possessed of a devil, and sheltered the rest of my days
in a monastery, and my worldly goods divided between
the King and the Holy Brotherhood.

They have already made some blessed and fanciful
tales about the picture, intended to affect anyone prone
to heretical doubts; for even a Jew must believe when
it is shown that the artist painted it in prison with no
woman to look at, and that Our Lady herself came to
him and showed herself, that his soul might be saved
by faith and the church be made a place of pilgrimage
in her honor, which it is today. Sermons have been
preached on that picture, and I have been sorely puz
zled at some of them, since it would seem that Our
Lady s discernment was at fault in that she elected to
show herself only to a heretic possessed of the devil,
who still continued, in spite of her graciousness, to be
possessed by devils.

But, as I wish to live in comfort if I am to live at



all, I keep a long face and my tongue between my teeth
when these mystical tales are told, and in time I gain
almost the name of being a religioso because of the
many times I kneel at that altar, and dream away the
hours there.

I go to look at the dear little bare feet in the sandals
I made, and it gives me comfort to see the serene joy
of life in her eyes, and know that if she continues to
live the joy is still hers for if it ever left she would
die, and that of course would be best. There are
women, and men too, who live on with a life all patches
and scraps of what they meant it to be, but I know our
Sancha, whose name is forbidden, would go into death
as to a royal audience, gracious and unbroken.


A LITTLE queen, Sancha seemed to me, that
far-away day of her betrothal ! She was twelve,
and Marco nineteen, and he was to sail in a
week with his uncle, Rodrigo de Ordono, to
one of the provinces of Mexico. I was fourteen and
was jealous of him because he was going out into a
world of mysteries, and it was easy to see from the
petting of the women that life was arranged for him
in pleasant places ! His suit of velvet was darkest blue,
with silver buckles on shoes, and silver buttons wher
ever there was space for them, and the emerald ring
of his father on his hand, while cousin Sancha was
laced into a brocade of rose, with the wedding veil of
our grandmother, the Marquesa de Llorente, falling to
her little slippers, even though caught in many loops
through the ancient girdle of golden wires and jeweled
butterflies. I always have had suspicions that the girdle
was come by through that infidel Moresco grandee,
who, it is said, came into the family some generations
ago. However, with conveniences to Christian souls
and it may be by some expense to treasure chests no
mention above a whisper had been made of him for a
lifetime or two. If a family urges itself not into forget-
fulness of heretic blood, the Holy Brotherhood have a



way of smelling the trail to it, if there is a maravedi to
confiscate or a monastery in need of more lands.

Pearls were also about her neck the first time
Sancha had been given the joy of wearing jewels.
They at least did not blazon their early pagan pos
sessors, but lay lustrous as moonlight on the flushed
marble of her shoulders.

So gorgeous a butterfly she was, and she knew it - -
the child coquette glancing sideways at Marco, and
giving look for look at the older men who praised her ;
kissing Don Rodrigo, her guardian, but with her eyes
on Miguel Alrada, the page of Sefior Cura. You never
would have thought she had lived always among the
blessed nuns of St. Dominic, and that when the days of
the betrothal fiesta were over she would go again up
into the gray walls on the gray hills for five years, until
Marco de Ordono, with happiness well arranged for
him, came back from Mexico to claim her.

It is not easy for a shy lad of fourteen to love a tall
gallant of nineteen summers when there is a maid
between them, not even though he be, in a way, a cousin ;
but this lack of love was aggravated that day until in
my jealousy, and with my murderous thoughts of what
I should do to him when I had doubled my height, I
was obliged to make confession to Padre Juan of my
homicidal intentions.

It was not that he had married her to me all that
betrothal formality in the presence of the family was
as a bona fide wedding fiesta but I was furious be
cause he could have eyes and ears for other maids there.
I I could only sit like an owl in my holiday finery, and
blink and wonder at the beauty of her, while he not


only had smiles and honey words for others but danced
with them after the supper!

It never entered my loyal mind to question why she
also was gay as a bird of springtime, and in no way
chary of her hands, or her glances, or her soft laughter,
as she chose to dance with every eager youth. I was
not jealous of them. I have grown to know I was jeal
ous for her in truth I was a little fanatic who resented
that there should be other idols in the world than
my own.

Even now, when I think over those child hours, I
cannot see why, in her brocade, and the pearls, and the
wonderful lace, she was not more inspiring to an artist
than on the hill with bare feet in sandals, and her white
skirt over her head; but poets and artists are curious.
I, perhaps, keep the only picture of her in the betrothal
dress, and that is in my mind, stamped there by the
information that in future she was to belong to Marco
de Ordofio.

It is a mistake to think children do not suffer deeply ;
within their hearts are the seeds of all tragedies. A
strange painter was there from Valencia, and the
portrait he had painted of Marco was framed and in
the sala, for all to see. Don Rodrigo, who had arranged
the betrothal, as I thought later, to get the Llorente y
Rivera treasures in his own family chests lest they come
to me, well, Don Rodrigo was all smiling, and every
body s friend that day. He had great good nature in
the arrangement of the money of other people most
of his own had been lost in various venturings. So he
had made decision that before they set sail for Mexico
he would have the portrait made to comfort admiring



aunts and a grandmother who mourned the departure
of Marco s handsome self.

And it was a picture! All of velvet suit and satin
linings, and the sword of his father, the general, in his
ringed hand. People came in and looked at it, and
praised. Marco took all the prettiest girls and asked
each one to gaze on it sometimes and think of him
when he was risking his life among the red barbarians.
I know, for I heard three of them offer to pray for
him. I think I waited near it to hear if cousin Sancha
would also offer to pray for him, but Sancha was occu
pied with that lank Miguel, and coquetted till I was
sorely tempted to remind her that Sister Teresa would
give her short space for the wearing of brocades, and
back in the convent she would be but a little student
again, of as little importance as myself.

It was there, while looking at the picture, that I
noticed Tristan Rueda, the foster brother of Marco.
I had never known him to come much where the gay
crowds were, and I had heard he was a poor relation,
but whose relation I did not know. He did not look
poor, and was taller than Marco. I knew they had the
same nurse, Luiza, who once lived in the mountains,
and had married a soldier, Mateo Gomez, and gone with
him to Mexico; and it was thought a convenient thing
that Don Rodrigo and Marco would go where a good
housewife would be, as it were, waiting for them, and
glad to be once more under the old family rule.

All those matters were talked over in the preparation
for their journey, and I was wild with impatience at my
lack of years, so eager was I to take ship and cross seas,
and conquer worlds!


I did not know that height or years could not always
win the thing desired. While I sat, glowering at the
fine picture and eating my heart out with a boy s long
ings, Rodrigo stopped to talk to Tristan where he stood
looking at the painting in the gorgeous gilded frame.

" You write a pretty letter, Tristan," he said, " and I
have thought of it much while you were at the school,
but it suits not my arrangements that you should go
with us now. For one more year I need you here ; then
come and welcome. In a year my cousin Carlos will be
back from Austria. In his hands all the properties will
have good care. But until then I must leave some one
in trust, and who knows so well as you all the lands, and
the herds, and the accounts? For five years you have
saved me every coin that was saved in the timber or
the herds Marco has no head that way ! "

" True, Marco has not," agreed Tristan. He looked
sulky, and not a traveling companion to wish for.

" No and softly, Tristan, lad I fancy there are
even moments when he is more than a little jealous that
you are as my right hand. So, for a year, it seems to
me as well that you have a different way of life. One
year will do much with a spoiled boy; he will be so
sick for home that he will welcome you with a warm
heart, and it will be better for both of you to wait until
that time."

" Jealous of me when he has all this ! " Tristan
looked ugly as he said it, but in a moment bowed before
Don Rodrigo as if in apologizing for a rebellious

" I do not forget, senor, that to you and to the General
de Ordono I owe a debt of which we never speak. I


cannot pay it to the general except it be by devotion
to Marco, his son. I made my vow when I was very
little, senor, but each year I repeat it : so long as I live
I owe my life to your house ; and somewhere, somewhere
in the world, another man, perhaps, still lives under the
shelter of a monk s robe, and it may be that for his life,
also, I owe your house allegiance. I will stay, senor,
until Don Pedro comes back from Austria, though my
heart will go ahead of your ship into New Spain."

Don Rodrigo stared at him, and then sat down. His
face had gone pale and red again as he looked at Tristan
Rueda, who spoke so quietly.

" Holy saints ! " he whispered. " Then you do remem
ber? "

Tristan said nothing, and Don Rodrigo wiped his face,
and looked as sick as a fat man sitting upright could
look, and I made myself small in the corner behind a
black carved chair taller than myself. I did not under
stand at all, but Don Rodrigo was the good-natured,
gambling soldier, yet strong in all family councils, and
a thing to frighten him was surely a thing of much
import. I had no desire to listen, yet dared not move
for fear of drawing their attention.

" You are a man," said Don Rodrigo after a silence in
which I wondered my heart thumps did not give warn
ing that I was so few paces from them. " Years do not
always make the man, but you have held the secret of
men since you were the height of my knee, and asked
never a question! Santa Maria, lad, how could you
remember? "

" I remember because I was carried all a long night
ride from the mountains under a man s cloak; the man


kissed me, and we wept together. I did not know why.
It was to this room he brought me, and from the window
I saw the river and the ships ; that was the first time I
had looked on ships, and I could not forget that. Gen
eral de Ordono put his hands on my head, and said I
was not to be afraid; also that Marco would be as my
brother. I do not recall the days after that for a long
time only that one day and that ride in the dark."

" Yet you speak of another life another," Don
Rodrigo almost said the words in a whisper, and caught
the sleeve of Tristan, looking up into his face, for the
lad was still standing as at first, looking at the gorgeous
picture of Marco.

" Yes, sefior, but that was afterwards, long after
wards. General de Ordono was dying, and priests came.
One who came was the man of that night ride. After
the funeral there were ships sailing to Mexico, and you
took Marco and other children and me down to the
shore to see the people. Among them was my man of
the ride. He went away in the boat, and until now I
have been waiting to follow to Mexico. I do not ask
his name. I heard you call him Fernandito, and you
said the robe of a monk was a better garment for him
than a sanbenito. I do not know what he had done to
earn the sanbenito."

" He did no wrong to any one, unless it be the holy
saints, and they are good to forgive," said Don Rodrigo,
crossing himself, and I was well frightened then, for
while the monk s robe is for the service of the saints,
the sanbenito is the yellow, glaring, hideous thing worn
by heretics on the way to the auto-da-fe when there is a
burning of sinners for the purifying of the world.


That was a big day in my boyhood. I had wished for
height and years because I was jealous of Marco de
Ordono, but hidden there in the corner, I was willing
to give up even the inches I had, so eager was I to shrink
and be safe from discovery, for as in a bad dream I was
afraid of the things I was hearing, yet scarcely knew

" You are a man, comrade," said Don Rodrigo, " but,
Santa Maria, you have given me a fright! To think
that the head of a child could hold all that danger for
years, and never speak ! "

Then the fine painter of the picture came in, and other
friends, and Padre Juan, and in the crowd I could slip
from my corner and stand among them unnoticed, and
hear the words of praise, until Padre Juan put his hand
on the shoulder of Tristan Rueda, and said before them

" Here, also, we may have a Velasquez or a Murillo
some fine day! For his own joy he painted on our
chapel of Santa Cecelia for a year, and did more of the
angels in the frieze than the foreigner who got the
pay for it."

This caused much surprise to me, for I had only heard
of Tristan Rueda as the assistant of Don Rodrigo, and
he looked red and sulky, with all eyes turned to him.

" So," said the painter in a sweet and honeyed way,
as if to a child, " so you have ambitions? That is to be
commended; but the labor is great, and only the few

" My ambitions, serior, will seem to you but slender.
I have only made drawings to pass time while herding
sheep," said Tristan, and his shrug and glance at the


canvas in the gold frame were very nearly insulting.
He would not be patronized by any one, and it was easy
to see he did not relish the kind padre s good intent.

" Ah, only pastime for a shepherd ! " and the painter
stroked his beard, and measured the lad with his eyes.
" Then as a shepherd, will you give us your free opinion
of this portrait of Senor Don Marco de Ordono? "

" Since you request it, senor, I would say that Marco
is handsome enough without all that gold; you have
made him grander than the pope. Also, to my eyes, the
sword of his father has no fit place in the lily hand you
have given to Marco. It is not the great general s son
you have painted, senor, but a pretty page; only petti
coats are needed to make him a fine lady in waiting."

And with a really beautiful bow to the painter, and
the padre, and Don Rodrigo, he walked out and left
them staring, and I think I was the only one of them
all to see that Marco himself was at that moment about
to enter from the patio with another maid to view the
picture. They had halted, heard every word, and the
girl, with her head held high in anger, drew Marco away
along the corridor and this time the girl was cousin
Sancha herself! He seemed to be trying as best he
might to loosen her fingers from about his arm, but gave
it up; that child was strong as a young tigress, and
she was tense with the dread of duels and death, and all

Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 1 of 26)