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Dona Perfecta, she passed out the sala, and went to join
Sancha and Ernesto in the garden.

" I am glad, my angel, that you inherit none of the
waspish tongue of your relative," said Don Eduardo,
and Dona Perfecta slipped her hand in his, and looked
up in his face with the smile of an angel.

" Dear Mercedes, I am sure, will grow to have more
charity," she said hopefully. " I will say a prayer for


Then they also passed out, and I followed after with
out turning my head. Yet I knew the viceroy still stood
there by the window, and that he had heard the heart
less suggestion as to the choice of a courier. Why had
he not betrayed it, or as usual, joined the little group?
Was some one member of it in ill favor at court? Since
the coming of Sancha, he had been even more gracious
than was his wont in regard to plans and pleasures for
the ladies of the household. I walked away thinking
of this, and of a remark of Gilberto that a new beauty
at court took five years from the age of Don Tomas.


IN those two days of joy and dismay at her coming,
I had seen naught of Tristan, and the wish of Sancha
that I ride up into Sonora with her filled me with
dread of what might chance while I was away. I
dared not try to see him more often than was discreet,
yet it was a comfort, so long as they let him live, that
I might remain near enough for slight service.

On the third morning I strove to see him but was
reminded by Fray Bernardino that it was the day of
an execution of a witch, and all the accused were led
to mass and to witness. That day, as I knew, no vis
itors were permitted. I returned to the palace little
comforted at his respite, for I felt it a duty to tell him
she was here yet how could I? And I felt also the
duty to keep her from the quemadora many pious souls
regularly witnessed the horrors there as a matter of
discipline to their own souls.

But Sancha had made plans equally troublous. She
was waiting for me in the garden, bent on being taken
to San Carlos, where her letters had been addressed. I
told her all I could to convince her that San Carlos was
nothing remarkable, merely an old monastery, and an
old chapel, and a century-old inn beside it, where the
names of many notables were written on the plastered



walls. But she had heard of the giant rose tree by the
monastery, and that there was some picture of a late
miracle there all the nuns were talking of it, so, for
pious reasons, it was a good place to go for prayer
Mother Maria Ynez was going.

Sick with dread, I walked beside her. The rose tree
was in bloom by the monastery wall, and shed its petals
over the stone benches and over the age-weathered table
where the dice of the letters had been tossed. The inn
across the little arcade was in holiday dress, and its
patron saint, with the crown of feathers and dyed cot
ton, was placed in the niche outside the door, in honor
of the visit of the reverend mother and her flock.

It was a morning with the smile of God on it in
beauty, and the chatter of Sancha made music bitter
sweet to me the odor of roses to this day brings it
all back.

Fray Felipe walked with Mother Maria Ynez, and
Don Eduardo on the other side, and Sancha and I
behind all the visiting nuns, and their convent guides.
Like a flock of doves in white robes they crossed the
plaza, placid in their pious intent.

They entered the chapel, while I grew suddenly alive
to the historic importance of the ancient inn where Don
Rodrigo had lived, and been loved by the keeper, and
had eaten his breakfasts under the rose tree, also I
showed Sancha the names of famous soldiers and a vice
roy or two whose rubricas made the old inn of San
Carlos well known as the monastery itself.

"And he also came here Marco?" she asked, for
all her knowledge of Mexico began and ended with the
thought of him.


" Yes, of course he came here, everyone does," I said ;
" the cook and the wine are good."

" And perhaps sat here at this same table? " she said,
and slipped into the stone carven bench under the rose

" Yes he did," I agreed, and felt she should be told
that it was there, where her blue silks rustled, that he
had sat to toss the dice by which the other man was
given the way to her heart. I wanted to say it, but was
dumb before the radiance of her face.

" I am glad glad that you brought me here," she
murmured, and sighed as she touched a drooping rose
over her head. " I feel closer to him here than in the
palace closer to the thoughts in the letters he sent.
And he sat here in this same place perhaps read
here the letters I wrote! It is sweet of you, Juanito,
to bring me, for I feel close to him in this place."

Then Dona Mercedes appeared from the chapel door,
as if looking for laggards from prayer, and Sancha arose,
and smoothed her gown, and plucked white roses, as
she said, to remember the first place where she had
found him in Mexico.

I was dumb as a fish while I listened, and walked
beside her. At the chapel door I doffed my hat, but
kept beside her instead of following, and as we entered
the shadows of the portal, I slipped my hand into hers.

Without lifting my eyes from the tiles, I yet saw her
face turn to me in inquiry, convulsively my hand closed
on hers as I drew her to kneel beside me. I sank down
because my legs had all they could do to bear me, and
her silks rustled beside me, and then

I heard the quick gasp, the choke in her throat, and


I coughed to hide it. But the cough could not hide also
the fact that only one person in all the chapel was not
kneeling in prayer, and it was Sancha.

The time seemed endless while she stood there, star
ing over the bent heads of the others. Then, almost by
force, I drew her down beside me, where she half
crouched, looking at me.

Heaven knows what of accusation was in her eyes
it might have been my own hand painted it, so hard
was her gaze. She said no prayer there, only stared
first at the picture, and then at me.

The nuns arose, and passed out into the sunshine, and
the others followed, yet still she crouched there.

" Come," I said, " they will wonder, and you are say
ing no prayer."

" Why should I pray to an image of earth? " she
asked, and rose to her feet. " Who did it, Juanito

" It is the miracle picture done by the hand of a man
accused of heresy," I answered ; " some say it was done
by influence of demons and others that a devout monk
did the work. No one knows."

" They should know," she said coldly. " Has Mexico
so many men who can paint like Murillo? That
vaporoso feeling is his very own and and Juanito,
if that is the miracle picture, how can I go out into the
light facing all the people? "

She was trembling, and clung to me, half frightened
as she faced that wondrous serene figure on the very
top of the world.

" And Nanita, too ! " she whispered, " I loved her so !
Did I ever look like that? It is a saint who is also a


child I was never a saint, Juanito. Take me out and
away from the others. I feel as if I am under some
enchantment. I am frightened take me away ! "

I did so, walking with her out the side door and
around again to the table under the rose tree.

"Is it enchantment?" she demanded. "What have
I done that this should frighten me here? It is like
raising the dead for that girl is not I, yet once was.
What have I done?"

She sat trembling, and tears were in her eyes.

" You have done nothing but let someone look on
you some fair past day, and he did not forget none of
us forget, Sancha," I said.

" Juanito, do you know who it was? "

" No one saw the work or the worker it is a mys
tery. The picture was painted behind locked doors.
Only the officers of the Inquisition could tell what you
want to know, and that, Sancha, is what we dare not
strive to learn. It is better that we forget that the
girl ever stood there as we once saw her nothing is
left of that memory but the Virgin of the Fawn."

" The picture is a glorified thing it is more beauti
ful than any human maid could be but even the
sandals on the bare feet, Juanito the sandals were
of your making ! "

" I know," I said, " but we must forget."

She sat a long time, her elbows on the table, and her
face hidden by her hands.

" The Virgin," she said at last in a whisper
" Virgo ! "

Then she slipped from her bodice the letters and
read them one by one.


" Virgo," she repeated " against the sky ! Juanito
you do know it is Marco ! "

" Marco ! " and at this last mad bestowal of love on
him, I was near to losing my last trace of wit. " How
could it be Marco? When did Marco ever learn to paint
holy things?"

" O Juanito, he is wonderful, and you never have seen
it ! " she breathed softly. " When did he learn the
wonderful things of his letters to me? The painting
is no more wonderful to me than that! And here he
tells me, I saw you once on the convent hill above the
olive trees, standing clear against the sky with the white
doves about you. You were Virgo to me white and
serene. Juanito, that is what he painted! I did stand
there with the fawn and the doves did circle above
us and in his heart he glorified it all until that picture
is on the altar, and his words are here for my heart!
That is why there is mystery over the painting he has
done it in secret, and had the help of the priests to hide
it. That is the work of a heretic? O cousin mine: only
a true believer could have painted the soul of the Virgin
into a little barefoot maid on the hill ! "

Her eager words fell over each other in her great joy
of discovery, and I, who could have laughed aloud, or
cursed at the way all things worked together to exalt
him I could see only one gleam of safety in her

" Since you think this, you must see that if he did
the picture, he has striven to hide it in secrecy for reasons
of his own. Ours is the task to help him keep the secret.
The man who painted it did not dream that your eyes
would ever look on it here in Mexico."


" That is true," she said, " it is his secret but, O
Juan! He has a genius greater than we could dream;
all those silent years he has been painting secretly, and
we never knew! Do you wonder that I followed him?
No, I followed my heart that followed him! I did not
know how he was great, yet he made me feel he was
great." Then after a silence she added, " His last letter
the dear, sad, last letter told me I was enshrined
on an altar here but how could I ever think how
wonderfully ? "

Tears were in her eyes, but when I made attempt to
comfort her, she smiled.

" My weeping is for very joy, Juanito, yet it is also
in humbleness. What am I, that he should place me
so high in his heart? "

I dared not try to answer that, and she continued to
discourse on the greatness of Marco until I all but lost
control of my tongue, and arose to follow the nuns.
She, however, slipped her hand into my arm.

" I can go in and pray now," she said, " I could not
before I was too frightened. But now we will pray
together for his safety, and not again must you urge
me to remain here in waiting. I must follow."

I knelt, but my prayers that day were far from clear.
I did, however, thank my patron saint fervently for
any excuse to prevent further question of the painting.

Sancha stood before it, her hands clasped over her
breast where the letters lay. " O Love most wonder
ful," she whispered, " my Saint of the Impossible will
find the way to you ! "

Temptations came to me there yet I held my
tongue. My promise to Tristan overshadowed me my


promise to keep the secret until he himself should tell
her. How wild and far away that chance seemed at
that time, yet here she was before his work, worshiping
the thought of it. And, scarce the flight of an arrow
away, he waited beyond stone walls the sentence of
death waited the torture which all predicted would
be needed to subdue his spirit ere it was sent to God.

" Come away," I said and took her hand. " You are
right, Sancha; it may be that even the wilderness is a
better place. No mysteries are there to overcome a
soul. I will go with you when you go."

She sighed happily, and pressed my hand.

" It is the most wonderful day I have lived," she said.
" His letters cleared my path to it. And some day
some happy day when we are together we will build
a shrine to Santa Rita, who has made the impossible
come to be."

I went back with her, thinking hard as to how I could
get away alone, and see Tristan in the morning. Sancha
walked as on air and said little, her face illuminated
by the revelation of the day.

There was much discourse among the nuns concern
ing the Virgin on the altar. Mother Maria Ynez spoke
of the marvel of the picture, and compared it to certain
work of Murillo, wondering much as to the training of
the man who did it. From Don Eduardo she heard the
opinion of many that it was the work of a pious monk
whose identity was hidden.

I drew Sancha away lest the name of Tristan be men
tioned not yet had it chanced to fall on her ears.
" The heretic " or " the apostate painter " had served
Don Eduardo with the nuns.


Dona Mercedes slipped down beside me in the window
of the sala, and her friendly eyes were keen.

" It is not so easy to make hourly a hero of Marco for
the pleasure of a lady is it, Don Juan?" she asked.
" You look dead with the weariness of the task."

" Which is ingratitude in any man," I observed. " One
should be willing to make a hero of the devil, if by that
he could win so sweet a maid for company."

" You are too gallant for a cousin ! " she said. " But
I warn you, take a leaf out of Don Eduardo s book when
your heretic friends are in question. Did you mark how
little he knows now of that painter? not even the
name! Who would think that so short a time is gone
since Tristan had the open door here as had almost no
other? And one would think that painting of Perfecta
had been done ages ago and forgotten so little are
they inclined to mention his name in connection."

" They are very fickle for he is no different as a

" It is the way with courts, and you are out of fashion,"
she retorted. " But truly, Don Juan, it would be better
if you did go north, and let people here forget that you
are ever at the call of Tristan."

"Who says it?"

" No one, in words. But take a leaf from Don
Eduardo he is preparing wisely for a storm if one
breaks when a ship comes back from Spain. Go north
in good company, since you can do him no good by a
stay outside his prison walls."

" At least I can know he eats good food."

" He shall have the food even when you are gone,"
she said kindly. " I do not speak in idleness when I


urge you. The child is alone in Mexico, with her head
full of false dreams of that pretty gallant. Who knows
how she may meet him in the wilderness, and learn the

" That meeting is the thing I fear," I confessed, " and
I am already of a mind to go and hasten the going."

While we talked there, others entered the sala, and
there was gaiety and soft laughter. Don Tomas was
making a jest of Sancha s determination to wear a nun s
robe on the journey, and he gave names of gentlemen
who had suddenly grown devout and desired above all
things to do guard service for the nuns into the northern

Then, through the laughter and raillery, we in the
window heard voices intoning a dolorous chant coming
nearer and nearer along the street. Dona Mercedes
looked at me and sighed.

" God find peace for their souls ! " she said, and crossed
herself, and then I knew it was the return to prison of
the heretics who had been led to prayers and to witness
an execution at the quemadora.

In the plaza below, people moved silently in groups
to the place where the penitents would pass; some fell
on their knees, and others took up the hymn as the flare
of the candles of the " reconciled " came nearer, while
the unreconciled carried green candles without light.
That saddest music came up to us, and the gay jests
were silenced by the shuffling of the many feet and the
tramp of the guard.

" How terrible ! " said Mother Maria Ynez, as she
looked down upon them. " To this new land one could
have hoped that no heretics would be allowed to take

The Recognition.


ship. The native pagans are in darkness until we come
to them and that is natural. But those unregenerate
are against nature, and against God."

I could have wished to draw Sancha back from the
doleful sight, but Dona Perfecta made place for her on
the balcony, and together they looked down, in their
shimmering silks and their glitter of jewels, upon the
men and women who wore for their faith the robes of

" God enlighten them ! " said Sancha, and made the
sign of the cross. In doing so she let fall a white rose
as she leaned over the balcony. It fell, touching the
bent shoulders of an old man, who saw it not, but it
caused the penitent with unlit candle who followed him
to lift his eyes to the window above.

Then there was a gasp as of fear from Dona Perfecta
as she shrank back, for the candle of the penitent was let
fall, and he stared, with a strange look in his eyes,
directly up at her balcony.

It lasted but an instant, and his face, as he passed on,
was not so clearly outlined as the others with candles lit.
The guards closed up a space at the mishap, but the
procession did not halt and the twinkling lights went
on down the plaza, and the sorrowful chant came back
to us long after all the people of the street had risen
from their knees, crossed themselves, and gone their

"How terrible were his eyes he looked murder!"
breathed Dona Perfecta nervously. " God send their
ropes are strong to bind."

" Why should he do so ? " asked Sancha, marveling
at her terror, " who is he ? "


" He is the son of a priest, and accused of heresy," I
said before others could speak. " It is not a matter for
the telling of maids."

The reverend mother nodded her approval to me ; she
plainly decided I was discreet and careful for my years.
Sancha, at that hint, asked no more of the matter. She
had scarcely seen the man who had startled Dona Per-
fecta with his stare. Except to add a prayer for them,
Sancha thought little of those who had put themselves
outside the grace of God. All her thoughts were for the
wonderful lover for whom she had crossed the seas.



THAT night was the night Tristan escaped to
the hills !
There was to me a curious mystery about it
for the reason that little outcry was made and
there was little to be learned of it. Don Eduardo was
plainly distressed, but the viceroy put it by as a slight

" When the state or the Inquisition have need of him,
he will not be hard to trace," he remarked. " Who
knows that it is not another trap of the Holy Brother
hood to learn the friends who would shelter him? "

This was a natural thought. Yet if it were the true
one, would he voice it in my presence, when, out of all
the town, I was the one who had asked privilege of pro
viding for his needs?

However placid the viceroy or the Brotherhood, it was
far different with Dona Perfecta. The eyes of Tristan
had frightened her as they glared up at the balcony;
Tristan should either be pardoned and exiled that he
have no animosity or revenges else he should be
guarded so close that none should get sight of him.

" That is a new thought the thought of a pardon
for him," said his excellency, the viceroy " and you,
Dona Perfecta, are the first to speak of it. One instant



you are frightened of him and the next you speak of
pardon. Will you explain, Dona Perfecta?"

She saw she was trapped by her own fears, and said
she dreaded what might chance if he crossed the trail
of Marco and pretty Anita, and no one wanted a scandal
now that the Marquesa de Llorente y Rivera was a
guest at the palace. No one could guess what Tristan
would attempt if free and desperate; his stare up at
the balcony had been strange, and, she thought, threat
ening. It might be that even the highest could be in
danger and some plot against the viceroy

But she blundered, and floundered, as the viceroy
smiled at her.

" I am not doubling my guard," he said. " I can recall
no grievance he has against me; yet if you know of
aught "

" I know his grievance against Marco de Ordofio and
I fear a scandal for your guests," she said. "The rever
end mother might not approve some of the deceptions
we have all tried to make. If that heretic escapes your
soldiery and finds De Ordono far in some wilderness,
it would be a simple matter, but if their meeting should
be here under your windows Your Excellency would
have difficult problems to face."

" Yes," he said.

Something in the way he said it made her turn sharply
and look at him in silence, then her eyes narrowed in a
strange smile.

" I see," she said "I see ! The game does grow."

Then she laughed shortly and walked to the window
looking down into the court.

" The Marquesa de Llorente y Rivera goes with the


nuns and is very much in love, Your Excellency," she
observed. " It is not worth risking too much in making
plans for her, she is very capable of making her own
plans ask Don Juan here. Also, Tristan is a danger
ous tool for any one to use even to give so lovely a
lady fair freedom from a ranging lover."

I did not understand this, but I could see that for
some reason she was angry, and that the viceroy was
half amused and yet watchful.

" Then it is not for a reason personal that you advo
cate stronger walls of exile?"

"Personal?" and she seemed to take on an inch of
height in her disdain " if it was another than Your
Excellency who asked that "

" Let me show you something," he said, still smiling,
and they walked into the other apartment where the
portrait of Dona Perfecta hung. I could not hear what
they said, but he pointed to the little figurine of the
Mexican princess. I could see her puzzled amaze, then
heard a sharp cry.

" No ! He could not dare."

" Is there anything you can think of that he does not
dare? " asked Don Tomas, as they walked back together.
" Do you still ask pardon and exile for him? "

" No," she said very coldly. " I have asked nothing
for him. I only asked you to be cautious for your own
sake. Turn loose the dogs or the Indian trailers on his
track and hunt him as you would hunt a brute in the

" The Indians would only trail him to warn him,"
said Don Tomas; " he has a certain friendship with the
tribes, but every port will be watched, and there will


be only one trail open to him we know what that
trail is, and if ever we want him, we can find him there."

" Then kill him there," she said bitterly ; " never again
let him walk the streets, or look on me."

Their quarrel seemed half a jealous one on either
side, and a final adjustment through her sudden concen
trated hate of Tristan. I did not understand it, but
I saw Dona Perfecta hold her head high in pride until
she passed from the range of Don Tomas, and later I
learned from Dona Mercedes that Perfecta had a strange
attack of rage by which she was made ill and was
locked in her room, weeping, and refusing to see any
one but Fray Bernardino, and she had sent for him.

For the first time I gave careful note to the portrait
of Dona Perfecta, and on the base of the little statue,
I spelled out the letters " Hija de Axiakatzin." The
daughter of Axiakatzin did not look a matter of im
portance, and the letters were so small that few eyes
would see it was not an Indian attempt at decoration
yet I knew that no other thing but that statue had
caused the fit of sick rage.

I sought out Ernesto Galvez who had been long in
Mexico, and had ranged with Tristan.

" Who was Axiakatzin? " I asked.

" A king in Mexico."

" And who was his daughter? "

He smiled at that, for the daughters of kings are

" But a daughter of his famous enough to have her
statue preserved to this day?" I persisted.

" I only heard of one she was not famous she
was infamous the princess of a hundred lovers."



" That is the one the princess for whom men died."

" They did indeed and quickly," he said. " Her

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Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 11 of 26)