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old favorites were secretly murdered to make way for
new lovers. She was wife to a king, but she was put
to death on the shrine of adulterers, and her family was
disgraced. She was a very remarkable lady."

" Fortunately we have none like that today," I

" None of them have the same power today else
who knows ? " he said, and laughed. " Why are you
searching for word of her? Do you take up records
of these pagan kings and gods where Tristan laid them

" God forbid ! " I prayed. " They are not of healthy
flavor to my mind."

I could see plainly now what had happened. By some
chance, the name of that Mexican king had come to the
ears of Don Tomas, and his sharp eyes told him the rest.
If he had ever, for a moment, felt a jealous mistrust of
Tristan, it was cleared away by that statue, and he had
used it now to check her remarks as to his interest in
the latest favorite at the viceregal court Sancha,
Marquesa de Llorente y Rivera.

I saw that in wisdom the one thing for peace was to
urge that northern journey soon as might be. The
jealousy of a younger face might prove Dona Perfecta
a maker of troubles for all of us.

I saw Fray Bernardino that day go into the sala where
the portrait was hung and bolt the door, and in the
morning I was not surprised to find red roses in the
hand there, and no trace of the pagan statue left to
cause comment.



" I like it better thus," said Dona Perfecta in my hear
ing. " Pagan and infidel things should not be put in
the portrait of a true believer. Fray Felipe is also of
a mind to have the fawn painted out of that Virgin of
the altar."

" But the pretty fawn is not a pagan," I ventured.

" Animals have ere this been brought to trial by the
church," she said coldly, " devils are known to possess
them at times. Fray Felipe is making search to learn
if such thing as a forest creature should be at the feet
of Our Lady."

" The doves are over her head they also are wild,"
I said.

" That is a different matter," she stated, " doves are
permitted by the church."

I perceived that my opinions were not in high favor,
and sought the reverend mother and Sancha to say that
the arrangements for the pilgrimage north were well
under way, and that the guard who had come with them
from La Puebla de los Angeles was yet in the town and
begged to continue as servants on the trail.

Mother Maria Ynez approved of this, for the reason
that so many offers came from the town men that it
was a task to make choice ; but by holding the old guard
it would be simple; also, Sister Maria Clemente, who
was to be superior, already had confidence in the Pueblo
men and they were not as strangers.

My own decision would have been different, for the
men could know well the road to Mexico, yet were men
of the lowlands, and might know little the life to the

But in this, and other matters, my opinion was not



asked. I was but the boy at court who chanced to be
Sancha s cousin, and that most headstrong maid must
have me ride beside her.

In plain truth I had to be content to ride behind her
for the first few leagues, since His Excellency, Don
Tomas, who chose to make a holiday of it, rode, as he
often did, with his guard into the plantations of the
valley, and this time Sister Maria Clemente and Sancha
were taken in his own carriage while their horses were
led by a guard. Mother Maria Ynez gave them her
blessing, and Dona Perfecta smiled them her farewells,
and asked many questions as to provisions for their
comfort, while Dona Mercedes came forward with sweet
blossoms for Sancha.

" That you may ride to peace, Excellencia ! " she said
kindly. But Sancha kissed her cheek, and smelled the
fragrance of the blossoms, and laughed.

" I will find more than peace ! " she said frankly, " for
my heart is ahead of me on the road, and I ride to hap

Thus smiling, radiant-eyed, and sure of joy waiting
for her at some turn in the love trail, she rode north,
and the eyes of Mexico, either jealous or friendly, never
looked upon her face again.

At the far boundary of a valley plantation, Don Tomas
himself lifted her to the saddle with some remarks of
gallantry, and assurances of service which Sancha
acknowledged as lightly as a child. She rode into
Mexico and out of it with no knowledge that the middle
aged dignitary was caught in the snare of her smile,
and that Dona Perfecta had her own content at the


But to Sancha the adventure had not rightly begun
until the viceroy s carriage had disappeared in the fringe
of a palm avenue. Then she laughed, clapped her hands,
and petted the horse that was to be her companion on
the long trail.

I rode beside her into the new life, and we- repeated
tales of the crusaders, and dreamed that our pilgrimage
was of equal importance, and in the pure high air of
Mexico felt that we were above the world of mundane

For many days we rested at some plantation or
hacienda or mission church on the way. Then, after a
breakfast at early dawn, a call to prayer by Fray Jose
Moreno, the loading of the beasts, we took the trail
with good wishes of our hosts, who often accompanied
us a full day on a journey, and more than one addition
was made to our cavalcade by persons of degree who
wished to journey to Guadalajara under our guard.

Thus the days were never dull for Sancha, who, in
the freedom of the mountains and the forests, echoed
the bird songs, and learned strange things from the new
land where the atmosphere, pure and luminous, had its
own charm, and each day was a golden promise taking
her nearer to Marco.

At Guadalajara there was a week of rest and enter
tainment ere we went into the wilder lands of the north.

These were adventurous days to me, and I strove to
read the brown faces of the Indians who brought out
great baskets of corn for us from their little rancherias.
They were courteous in many ways, but a sad people,
and I wondered by what manner Tristan and Don Fer
nando had found the way to their dark minds.


Sancha at times gathered the little naked children
about her and to their delight gave them beads of glass,
and they would follow after her to the great distress of
Mother Maria Clemente, who could by no means come
by cloth to clothe them all, and lamented that the smaller
ones had seldom any cover other than the shade of their
vine covered ramadas, or at best a coat of mud when
near an arroyo.

But Sancha had joy in them in her own way, and de
clared that their brown skin was a thing of beauty, and
their nakedness not a thing to offend, as could easily be
with a people of white race. Thus our Indian guide who
heard this found way to have the freshest and ripest
melons brought to the maid who laughed.

Padre Jose had a good word to say for her to Mother
Clemente, for of such souls so he said came the
good workers in the Lord s vineyard. The primitive
mind responds always to the happy heart and the
heart of Sancha was full of a joy not to be overshad
owed by trials and mishaps of the journey.

For we had mishaps of many sorts, also word discour
aging to Mother Maria Clemente in regard to that far
northland of pagans eager for divine grace. By reports
of a lay brother who was on the way south with mes
sages to the Franciscan convent at Queretaro, they were
vastly more eager for new arms of the Castilian in order
to fight each other. The horses had been all stolen from
a mission north of the Haqui. No maize had been
planted in the low lands of the rivers, and word had
come south for stronger guard at the few presidios of

All this made no proper impression on the mind of


Sancha except anxiety for Marco. She asked all the re
ports of the cavalcade going into New Granada, and
had joy to know that it was after their passing in safety
that the tribal outbreak had come between Indians of
the hunting grounds of the eastern highlands and the
lowland people of the rancherias.

The grave black eyes of the Indies looked at us with
inquiry as these tales were repeated in various forms
through the weary weeks of the journey. Some of the
packers understood Castilian, and in many of the towns
were the descendants of red slaves captured at the north
in earlier days. The deserts of their land and poisoned
arrows and foul wells had taken rich toll for the cap
tured slaves, and to my mind their eyes had the silent
question as to whether we might not add to that toll
claimed by the wide ranges.

At Culiacan came the final outfitting ere we left be
hind all the life of cities. Beyond that we could only
hope to find Indian ranches, an occasional mission with
its many visilas, and the rare presidio with its handful
of men as guard over a land half the size of Portugal.

Sancha bought strings of beads many colored, in
thought for the brown children and their pagan mothers,
also bright ribbands and scarlet cloth, but as it fell out,
she might as well have saved herself the costly

It is ill remembering occurrences and incidents of a
long trail when each day carries us over a changing land.
The Indian names of the wells, and the hills, the rivers,
the arroyos, were such as no Christian soul could re
member or repeat a day after passing over. The early
mission fathers gave to nearly all of them a good saint s


name as they passed, but the next one who came did
the same thing according to his likings, and no two
maps yet made have much likeness to each other away
from the coast, but only by keeping inland could be
found the wells and pastures for the cattle. Of wild
life our hunters sometimes sighted deer on the mesas,
and there were birds strange to us and of wondrous col
oring. Natives were sometimes waiting on our trail
with quills of fine gold to exchange for anything we
might offer, but when asked from whence it came, they
evaded reply, or in one case, a man made statement that
it came to the earth by the hand of Elder Brother.
Mother Clemente was startled to discover that they
called their god by this familiar title also by another
which I do not recall. To her pious mind each was to
be reprimanded, which proved difficult because of the
lack of a common speech.

But Sancha, riding beside me, smiled in kindness on
the poor pagan, and gave him some white beads.

" For the Mother Moon, " she said, and the inter
preter looked at her in a way curious, for he was a
Christian and the son of a Castilian father.

But for all that, he put it into the language of the
Indio, who breathed on her hand, and went away, and
at a bend of the trail far ahead he was waiting and with
him was his wife with honey of the hills in a painted
bowl. To Sancha it was offered, and she held such dis
course with them as might be with gestures of the hand,
and smiles, and looks of the eye. Thus were the long
hot days broken by things pleasant to help us forget the
otherwise unfriendly land.

" You see how wonderful it would be on this journey


of adventure if Marco was here rather than ahead of us
from him I learned that they pray to the Mother
Moon, and see you what a friend it has made for me ! "

" Mother Maria Clemente is saying a prayer for you,"
I cautioned, " and surely the interpreter has his wonder
ment. How should a pious lady of degree in Spain learn
of pagan gods in Mexico?"

But all the words of the letters were sacred to her
because of the lover who wrote them, and, to my incon
venience, she expected me to be wise because I had
lived in the radiance of his countenance. It was even
a worse thing when she called me in the night, or at
early dawn, to tell her things of the stars as they came
over the mountains of the east, and in my hearing she
more than once said good-night to King Polaris! We
watched together the stars in which she saw the Indian
serpent and eagle, and took note of other things of the
night and the wilds such as was no part of the natural
education of a maid of her family.

Thus, while every soul who goes into the pagan lands,
has his own troubles, I had more than my own. Mexico
City had seemed a good place to get away from, yet
there were hours when I would have had joy to change
the northern trail for any safe, sheltered abode there
even though it bristled with iron bars. The good nuns
had their recompense in thought of the souls they might
save for God, but I had only the devilish certainty that
I was helping take her nearer to Marco and her false

At the fording of the Del Fuerte an accident brought
us ill luck in that Padre Jose had a fall by his horse
going into a sink hole. He was dragged out with some


bruises and a broken leg, and there was no other thing
to do than bind it with split wood, and make a litter on
which he was started back to the presidio in Sinaloa.
This took two men and two burros from our cavalcade,
and we could ill spare them.

We had reached the land of the Haquis who were
at war with their neighbors on the east, and a double
guard was kept each night. Thus the loss of Padre
Jose was important. The nuns had been aided by his
advice in all things, and the camp felt the lack of spir
itual guidance until such time as the unfortunate priest
could reach a mission and send a substitute to follow

We were aware that we were watched by Indies in
the wilderness, and from the mesas, but they showed
no ill will, and we were put to inconvenience by not
finding the families at the temporales or summer ranch-
erias where their farms were. We had counted on
their local guidance as to water for the beasts, and more
than once went far either east or west of the trail for
lack of that aid upon which we had been assured all
travelers could depend.

All of one morning we had been journeying along a
dry arroyo bed because of tracks of horses and burros
there. With the hope that they were heading for water
and knew where to find it, we could think of no better
way than to follow after.

Desert willow was there, and palo fierro trees, and
at every turn our hopes were high that a well, or even
a camp, might be found. The hills on the east came
near, and in any land we had known there would be
wells somewhere in the canons.


Thus I rode ahead alone while the scouts were spread
out like a fan north and west in search of water as
marked on a map of the trail. Sancha begged to go also,
but for once I was ungallant enough to refuse, though
the greatest joy I had on the long way was when we
rode together ahead of the others, and she remembered
poems or romances and repeated them for me and
called me at times the name of the hero, and made pre
tense that she was a captive Moorish maid whose soul
I was to save by my own piety. This last jest was be
cause of her joy in frightening me by spiritual converse
with the pagans, of whom she asked no questions, but
would offer a flower, or make them the sign of the cross,
and the circle in the north sky, and looked with a child s
reverence on their prayer things, until I was bewildered
between her jests and her strange way of standing well
with them. All my reason told me that a proper maid
should have a godly fear of these as had the nuns but
not Sancha.

Yet I rode away from her through the white-green
brush of the arroyo, troubled over delays and mishaps
of the journey, and with ever near me the fear of danger
for her in the wilderness, also a dread of that day when
she must know the difference between a pictured lover
of childhood, and the man whose thoughts held her
heart as in a net.

Then, suddenly, my horse stopped short in fear in
the willows, and I saw a small huddled figure of a
woman on the ground with her back to me, and the
sound of her weeping came to me while the cast of a
lance away, a man bent over a dead Indio to place it in
a shallow grave scraped in the sand.


He turned at sound of the horse, and stood erect,
but I knew him at sight of the shoulders and the strong
hand below the monk s sleeve it was Tristan !

The thought of him had been so close to me through
all the many leagues, that I should not have had affright
to look on him. Yet so afraid was I that I fairly fell
from the horse, and my first thought was of gratitude
for the broken leg of good Padre Jose ; which was a sin
in itself. But Padre Jose would have known Tristan.

" You must go you must go ! " I heard myself
mumble. " If anyone knows you they will take you
back to death ! "

" Not from here," he said, and the Indian woman
came and stood beside us and her looks at me had no
kindness in them. Tristan put his hand on my shoulder
and looked at her.

" Quatzi " he said " friend of mine," then she
nodded her head, and looked at the dead man, but
turned quickly away again, tears of grief in her eyes.

I wondered not that she turned away, for the face
of the man was no longer a face, a poisoned arrow had
pierced the cheek and death had come only after all
the bones were bare.

" She is of a north tribe enslaved and knew not the
remedy for poison of the south," said Tristan, " so I
found him thus. Their rancheria is beyond the mes-
quite trees above."

"And water," he said, making a sign to the woman
who took the horse and left us to bury her man. But
ere the sand was over him, there was a sound of other
feet, and two of our guard rode up with questions.

But they were men of Puebla, and saw in Tristan


only a lay brother performing a pious duty his face
meant nothing to them.

But the older man, Salvadore Serri, was given joy and
courage even at sight of the robe, and plead with all
respect that Tristan come with haste to comfort Mother
Maria Clemente by word of these warring tribes, and
tell us all how to avoid meeting them on the road to

" It is true then that women of religion are to risk
their lives here as men do and for what?" asked
Tristan, but Serri scarcely heeded, so full of gladness
was he that a man who knew the land had met them,
and one who knew also the places of water.

From first to last I was tongue-tied; first with
the surprise, and horror of the dead Indio by which I
was made sick, then when Serri rode up. Tristan had
no look or word for me. He took the horse offered
and they rode away to camp while I could follow as
might be when the pagan woman led back my horse.

But she would not speak to me, though I had seen
she understood Castilian, she sat herself down again in
the sand as if I had never ridden that way to disturb her.

I reached camp as Mother Clemente was speaking
her pleasure, and thanks to God that a traveled man
was with them on the trail. As no euro was now with
us, she declared, it was a blessing from heaven that we
had been without water and left the road to seek it as
we did.

" But I am not in orders, Holy Mother," said Tristan,
" I have only been an assistant with the Indies for men
more exalted."

" Then be our assistant since no one else can have


greater need," she said in pleading, and I could see by
his face that he was like to yield.

" I have a task, set for New Granada, and go north
as soon as may be," he said. " But that can be
after I have seen you safe to your mission, though I
am earnest to persuade that you go back on the trail
and rest at Sinaloa while this tribal trouble rages. It
is wider than you know. There will be no maize
planted, and in the hungry months the Indies will dig
roots and go to the hills for seeds of the trees. You and
your holy ladies cannot live in that way, Excellencia.
You can only make Christians of Indios if you have
food to offer."

" Then the food will come if the work is to be blessed
by Our Lady," declared Mother Clemente. " Were not
the fathers of the church fed in the deserts by the grace
of God? and is not our cause worthy? We will

" You are a good soldier, Mother," said Tristan, " and
while I do go with you, I give you earnest warning
that this war of the tribes is not a little thing. If they
come together where we are, your guard is not strong
enough to turn them back. I have been tardy for my
own task because I halted to work with them for peace
but the fight is on. I have already had Indio friends
killed in this province and I buried one this day. Also
you may not know that Indio war is a very terrible

"We will continue," said Mother Clemente. "We
feel more safe with you to guide us. The tent of Padre
Jose will be yours, also there are garments his guard
could not bear back with him, all these are for the


service of God; I bid you make free of them. Don
Juan de Rivera will conduct you to the place of storage.
Juanito, my son, this is Senor Alcatraz whom the saints
have sent to us."

I made my bow to the Senor Alcatraz, and grinned
in my sleeve at that credit given to the saints, for to
my mind the devil himself was taking a hand in both
the beginning of it and the end of it.

I led him to the packs, and Salvadore gladly offered
to find all the senor cura required, and bear it to him.
So in courtesy I led our new guest to the shelter of a
palo fierro tree where my horse was feeding on that
gracious herbage of the Desert.

" I look in sore need of the reverend sister s gifts,"
he said, looking down at his frayed robe. " It is plain
to see that I have traveled over no broad highway since
leaving the fair city. I bargained with Indio friends
for a deerskin garb it was moving well in the making
when this war swept them to death."

" Tristan you trail him north to kill him ? " I mut
tered, caring nothing for his garb, or his pagan tribes
but burning hot and cold with my fears. Though I
spoke low, and no one was near, he put his hand out
in warning.

" That is with God," he said, but smiled as he said
it; and by the smile I perceived that he meant neither
God, the Father, nor anything of earth to keep them
apart. " She is there in Mexico " he went on in a
low, even, strange tone as though it was a thing he had
said over and over many times in the solitude of desert
days and nights. " In all her purity of a white soul
she waits for him there no, Juanito do not speak !


You hid it from me until I saw her look down from
the viceroy s balcony with that fair cat beside her. Be
tween them, when he goes back, she will be trapped
like a caged bird, and serve as a cloak for their intrigue.
And north beside him journeys the ruined life of the
maid who is become as his slave, and will be the mother
of his child. This the Indies have told me who saw
them pass. At one presidio he even tried to leave her
because she was ill to leave her there with an Indio
woman and the soldiers of an otherwise womanless
camp to leave her there as the toy of which he was
weary ! This came to me because of the quarrel of two
soldiers who were each eager to marry her and keep her
in honesty, and thus, Juanito, will you see our little song
bird Anita, if ever you see her again on earth! So, as
I say, if there is justice at the throne of God, the Father,
it is written there that I find him, and see him sent
to hell."

He did not lift his voice, nor look at me, but as he
said these words in that strange even way, he made
me see all he spoke of and see it with the deeps of
misery held in his voice and not in the words he spoke.
My throat ached, and I choked with weeping as I hid
my face there and strove to speak yet could not.

Then I heard him rise to meet Salvadore to whom
he gave some directions regarding horses of his on pas
ture near the rancheria of the dead Indio. He said they
had a friendly guard of the Pimas there, and that the
woman they would find was also a friend. Then I
heard my name mentioned, for Salvadore could plainly
see I was weeping, also I was shaking with terror.


" The Sefiorito de Rivera was made ill by the sight
of that dead Indio which sight was indeed a terrible
thing to view " stated Sefior Alcatraz. " Also he has
a chill, and will have a fever if he is not given a quick
remedy of herbs. Have water heated that I may pre
pare it. As to the robe thanks, senor, I will don it
gladly when time serves."

Salvadore Serri gave him two robes rolled together
instead of one, and made haste to the cook, thanking
the saints that at last we had a man at the head who
knew the thing to be done, and how to do it, also vow
ing that my chill was from the last bad well, and was

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Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 12 of 26)