Marah Ellis Martin Ryan.

The house of the dawn online

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that her mind could be at rest," she said mockingly;
" the good lady has fear that he never sleeps ! Yet each
lazy Indio and guard is up and alert save only he ! "

" But Sancha " I protested, and took her hand
to draw her away lest her voice wake him despite of

She shook me loose and pointed to him.

" O brave cavallero ! " she said slightingly, " and see,
how, even in his stupor, he clutches that rosary of the
Indian gifts! He holds to the pagan enchantments to
guard even his sleep your brave cavallero ! "

I drew her away, and tried to make clear that his
sleep had been slight yet, as I dared not alarm the


women by telling the dangers he feared, my words were
lame and careful, and she would not even listen.

"Is he worth so many words?" she asked in con
tempt. " Because he talks well of new things, and
knows the water holes and red Indians, you and
Mother Clemente speak of him as if he were an arch
angel sent by God, yet I see him thus when off his
guard! Find other idols, Juanito."

She was very gay over this because she thought it
teased me, and I perceived it was not a good time to
follow his request, and mention again the beads.
Because the Indians of the palm groves and the little
adobes under the pepper trees had been to her as grave
yet kindly children, she could not see that the savages
of wild barrancas and brown hills were a different
people, thus she attached no importance to the work
of a master of camp beyond the fact that this one had
a knack of making the packers move, and that we cov
ered space in half the time as when Padre Jose had
the word to give.

The supper was all but over before I dared let Sal-
vadore arouse him. I knew he counted the hour of
sleep of as much importance as food.

Carefully he looked over every horse in the herd when
he wakened, and saw that every water bottle was filled
ere he gave the word to break camp, and then with
a quiet word to Mother Clemente he rode on ahead,
and out of sight in the canon.

Sancha looked after him with impatience in her eyes.

" It would be but civil to ask us to ride with him,"
she said ; " it is not much pleasure to ride at the heels
of another man s horse. You see how he has changed


everything. You and I used always to ride at the head,
and have races, and find surprises."

I tried to remind her that our races had been in a
country where all the roads were plain and where
there had been no question of safety, but here for
forty leagues was a reach of land of which the rule
might change in a day, and all the trails be blocked.

"What could be done did that really happen?" she
asked, incredulous, " our guard carry arms."

" They would only be a handful between two rival
hordes of the sierra and llano," I said : " and I truly
have not dared ask what might chance if we did ride
into one of their battles, but the most likely thing would
be to ride back to Sinaloa and pray for a better year
to build missions."

" Ride back ! " and she turned startled looks on me
" ride back I would not. To ride over these hundreds
of leagues to meet him only to turn and ride back to
Sinaloa? No, I would not. Rather would I ride the
other leagues north to New Granada."

" That could never be. The other ladies are already
much worn with the travel, and even the guard did not
engage to fight the savages. No, they would turn back,
and be held justified."

" You commend all the things for which I have no lik
ing," she complained, "and it never used to be so with
you. I think it is the fault of that man."

Thus she at least gave him credit for strength, since
she felt the influence of him in all things.

The ride thus in the evening was as through hundreds
of wonder pictures, for the changing lights of the low
sun threw strange colors back to the sierras yel-


lows and reds, with deep purples where the shadows
were. On the llanos to the west high fog would drift
in from the sea of Cortez, and cast bars of shadow over
the yellow land. There was no darkness, only a dim
half light between the going of the sun and the rising
of the moon, and the tall sahuaros stood out like gray
phantoms against far silver hills.

" Yes, it has beauty," agreed Sancha, " but it is a
beauty like no other living thing. Each rise of a hill
one looks to see some castle of enchantment in some
oasis, and there is only an arroya or a tinajia, and we
are gladdened if there is water for the beasts. Also
when the sun goes down there is a hush about it all.
Our guard do not sing in the night here as did they in
the palm forests of the south; it is not the weariness
of the trail alone, it is the spirit the land has no spirit
of joy."

" True, it does not seem to us joyous, yet it is good
to watch the stars come out, and give thanks each time
of waking that we are yet guarded safe."

" Safe ! safe ! " she repeated. " Now again you repeat
that man. I grow so tired of his strict ruling that I
can almost feel myself riding in spite of him far ahead,
for the adventure of it."

" For all our safety do not dare that until he gives
us the word," I pleaded, and would have said more,
but she laughed at me.

" Dare? " she said, " and wait his word? Have you
then forgot that we De Llorente y Rivera let not even
the priests think for us? Why then a priest s robe? "

To quell her rebel spirit, I talked of Marco, and the
fact that he was now safe in the turquoise land of


New Granada, and she fell a wondering if there were
white butterflies there, and the things of flower and field
loved by him, and then she was back, discoursing of his
wondrous letters, and his genius, and the bigness of
his mind that he sought no credits for the pious work
of the picture in the chancel !

So, no matter which of the two men we talked of, I
had my own troubles. But in my heart I had no
thought but that when she learned the truth of Marco,
she would decide for a nun s robe, and the journey into
the wilderness for planting of a mission was a most
satisfying novitiate for any mortal maid of proud

She laughed with me over the wisdom of primitive
things she had gained in the Desert of making fires,
of cooking maize, and of mending things with leather
thongs or thread of yucca. For a jest she had mended
with yucca thread that day her robe torn on thorns of
the pale fierro tree, and she confessed she had patched
the pocket in which she kept the letters of love always
close to her.

" I pray each night and morning to my wonderful
Saint of the Impossible that at some turn in the trail
I find him close beside me," she said, " and there are
times, Juanito, when I close my eyes and dream that
the horse beside me may be his almost I reach out
my hand to touch him so real is the sense of his
nearness. Does that seem strange to you? "

It did not, and I told her so, for she had lived with
the thought of him all the long journey until the thought
was part of her, but I warned her no other would under
stand, for no other could know.


" He will understand," she said, and her eyes were
all aglow in the moonlight as she looked at me. " O
Juanito ! he is the wonder man of all the world, and it
is as though his heart was beating here in my breast.
I waken in the night and feel that he is close even
though I have not been dreaming of him it is very
strange, that! Think you, Juanito, that it is because
he has ridden his horse over these wilderness trails
ahead of me? Now this instant it is as if around
the mesa we will find him waiting."

She laughed, and lifted her hand, and her horse broke
into the easy lope of the range while I followed with
what haste I could, yet urging her not to go beyond
sight of the cavalcade.

And around the foot of the mesa was Tristan, his
horse across the trail black shadow against the night
silvers by which the desert was all a gray garden under
the moon. She pulled her horse up short.

" Santa Maria and Santa Rita ! " she whispered as if
in fear. " That is how it is at each turn ! I wish for the
one man in all the world, and ever, for my sins, the
one sent is the one who makes me have fear, or I know
not what! Juanito, does it not seem a thing of reason
to you that the pagan beads of that rosary are of evil
enchantings? "

I made the sign of the cross for fear it might be.
My own doubts and troubles were many.

Yet his presence there was a simple matter, for he
but stood across the trail and talked with an Indio who
spoke briefly and softly in the shadows, and then faded
away again among the low shrubs and strange shapen


Tristan turned to us, and I could see he was troubled.

" We must take great care, yet cover ground this
night," he said. " The Pima sentinels are watching
from the hills and see the Haquis come in large bodies
from the west."

" Yet they travel on foot while we have horses," I

" That is true," he said, " but footmen can run ahead
of horses on this trail, and we need to take each short
cut until the great body of Pimas and Papagoes are

Sancha talked to her horse, and petted him, and could
not credit that a footman could outdistance him, also
she had confidence in our guard brought from the

Tristan looked at her, noting her pettish humor, and
rode in silence near us, and after awhile finding no one
to argue with, she too fell silent with weariness as the
night wore on, and Tristan took the reata and led her
horse, so that often she slept.


THE dawn broke with coral pink beyond the blue
walls of the sierras, and Sancha aroused to the
beauties of blossoms of pale lemon scattered
among the shrubs and cactus of the trail. We
were in a pass where the walls narrowed, and the space
between was level as a floor. The way was plain before
us, and she looked at me and laughed.

" You were not gallant," she said accusingly. " I
thought you were leading my horse, but when I wak
ened, it was that man. I will show him I can ride
the trail alone, also that I am tired of never getting
away from his eyes so adios! "

She lifted the bridle, and used the whip only one
stroke, but the horse had felt it seldom, and leaped

" Sancha ! " I called, but she lifted her hand high in
salute, and rode her mount to the utmost. There was
nothing to do but follow, which I did. Tristan was
somewhere at the rear end of the line of travelers, and
no guard followed us. They thought it but a bit of
childish play, and the road was good.

I thought little of the road, only of keeping her in
sight. Once I did miss her in the jungle of low growth
where another canon branched, but it was only for a



moment, and I rode my utmost to reach and hold her
by force if need be until Tristan should come and place
her in the very middle of the cavalcade instead of at
either end.

The first bend took us out of sight of all of them,
and the second into a beautiful canon where the sun
was gilding the view on the west, and the sunflowers
reached to our saddles.

" Sancha ! Sancha ! " I called, and the walls echoed
back my cry, for my horse labored wearily after both
animals could only be aroused for a spurt, but her
weight was the less, and I could only keep in sight her
robe, or high flung hand.

Her laughter came back to me mockingly, and then
one scream made the canon walls echo strangely. My
heart seemed to be in my throat as I rode forward
fearing to see her horse fallen, and with my mind
filled with visions of broken bones weary leagues
from a surgeon.

But it was not a fallen horse I found at the bend
of the canon, but a girl with a very white face sitting
her horse in still horror while around her circled a sea
of red brown faces.

My first thought was to ride forward to her rescue,
but my second was to call back for help to Tristan
first and last, to Tristan!

The thought was scarce formed, or my bridle touched,
till I saw how useless it was. From a side canon, the
Indians swarmed, and above the edges of the cliffs they
peered, and there was no calling back.

I looked in their faces, and without word, I rode
forward and halted my horse beside Sancha.


" Listen," she said.

I did, and heard back of us the echoes of firearms.
The guards were using arquebuses against an enemy in
the rear.

Even while we listened, the groups of Indios divided.
At the word of a man who stood at Sancha s bridle, the
mass of them raced back the way we had come, and,
with another brief word, a score of the devils circled us,
and our horses were led through a narrow break in the

I looked back; four men stood sentry at the narrow
pass, and behind our horses walked others with lances
leveled, and the points of them were the sharp cutting
knives of smoked volcanic glass.

" Thus have you shown him how you can ride the
trails alone," I said, furious with her as I heard the far
distant reports, and the savage yells.

She only looked at me, and I felt like a coward. The
Indios watched us with smiling faces in which there
was little of threat they were rather as exultant
children who had made an unexpected point in a

There were no words to us only the dark bodies
trotting ahead and back of me, and Sancha at times out
of my sight in the winding canon.

Then we reached a wider place between walls where
water trickled at foot of a cliff, and a tree of size spread
wide arms.

Some women were there, and a fire of mesquite poles
sent up meager blue smoke, while a boy turned a rab
bit on a spit, and a girl heated stones to cook some mess
in a basket.



All let go their tasks to stare as we were driven in
like cattle before the lances. Sancha won most of their
notice for no white women in nun s robe had come their
trail. Somewhat in awe they looked on her until her
captor pulled her roughly from the saddle, and with
some words in their devilish jargon, thrust her towards
the women.

I strove as I might to reach her, for I had still my
knife and the orders of Tristan were plain if the end
came for the women, and this seemed the end.

But a stroke from one of the brutes left me sense
less, and when I came back into knowledge the blood
was holding sand caked against my cheek, and Sancha
was roped to the tree. Two women had stripped from
her the robe, and a boy had her shoes. Girt as she was
with the reatas from our horses, she was a figure of
pitiful appeal. My tears blinded me, and I felt for my
knife but it was gone!

The women were having dispute for the robe and the
stronger wrenched it free from the grasp of the other.
As they did so, there fell on the sand beside me the
rosary of Sancha, and something else. One woman
with a squeal of laughter saw the jeweled strand and
let go the robe. I had lifted the rosary and gave it up,
reluctant, to her eager clutch, and in their wrangle,
and in the new treasure trove, neither of them saw
the flat packet over which I laid my arm. Then I rose
and went over by the water to slake my thirst and wash
the sand out of the cut, and though I was watched, no
one halted me.

I had wonder as to why I was not deprived of gar
ments and liberty as well as Sancha, but I soon discov-


ered that the horses were being given water for the trail,
and while the leading Indian took Sancha s horse for
himself, I was tied on mine, and the men spoke to
gether with many nods in my direction, and back to the
trail we had come.

It seemed clear I was to be taken with them while
Sancha was to be held in camp with the women and
boys. The tall fellow gave some scowling directions
indicating that the girl tied to the tree was his prop
erty, and then we were headed back between the cliffs,
and never once had I been let get within touch of

" They have not harmed me," was all the word I had
of her, " but your head "

The Indio riding her horse heard, and smiled with
evil, half closed eyes, and then to my surprise, he spoke

" No time for women, time tomorrows," he said.
" Now you people learn how Pimaria like when you
take their maidens."

As I had taken none, or had will to, his taunt had
no sting for me beyond the horror of the thought of
Sancha. I was certain that his scowling instruction
to the women was to guard her for his return and
Sancha, perhaps, like myself, without a knife!

All that ride between the cliffs I saw not the arrow-
bush, or the mesquite or the long shadows, but Sancha,
bare armed and bare of foot, bound to the tree trunk
within canon walls, and the evil-faced native smiled as
he saw me striving at every chance to loosen my bonds.

" No good," he said. " Take you to make talk plenty
good many horses maybe for one girl Castilian."


Thus I saw his plan to make a deal for stock, and
hold Sancha for ransom, and the other man smiled when
he said horses that much they knew of the white
man s language.

" You are not Pima? " I said as I looked from his
face to theirs, and they ceased to smile, and stared.

"What is your medicine to see?" he asked. "It is
true. I am Apache once when little. Know you also
my father s or my clan? "

I perceived that my careless guess had given him
suspicion that I had power of divining. I remembered
the lore of Tristan, and used it.

" Do these people with whom you live mention the
names of the dead? " I asked in reproof. " To tell your
clan, and the name of your father might bring evil on
the trail."

" That is true," he said. " You have the knowing.
You can go south for the horses ; a man of medicine we
let go in peace."

To go in peace, and alone, was the last thing for which
I craved. My prayers were silent ones as we went on
over the brown sand, and fervently I remembered
Sancha s Saint of the Impossible. If ever the seeming
impossible must happen, and happen quickly, this was
the time. I thought ruefully of the holy beads offered
by Tristan and disdained so lately would they have
proven more potent than the jewels of gold and

As we emerged into wider space between the walls
I perceived the thing I had not when I raced by eager
to keep her in sight. We had turned into one lane of
rock while another had been the main trail where a


battle had been fought. The trampled sand and a dead
mule told me little of the outcome of it, but the red
men scattered north and south, and climbed cliffs like
so many squirrels, the while my renegade Apache
looked and smiled evilly.

" All what was caught, we caught," he said with sat
isfaction. " The Haqui are driven back with the thun
der arrows of the white men and look you here
they carried with them their dead."

Then, by pretense of knowing more than I in reason
could, I learned that north of us there had been rights
with the Haquis the day before, and that two companies
of Pimas had been waiting in the gulch and on the
heights to trap a southern group of their enemies who
were on the war trail. The thing, as it chanced, had
turned in a different way. Sancha and I had ridden
from the true road into one company, and our friends
had met the fierce Haquis, and each had retreated in
what order none could say.

No doubt Tristan thought us captured by the Haquis,
and my mind was certain on one point, the retreat of
the expedition meant perhaps not great defeat or
injury, but the willingness at last of Mother Clemente
to accept advice of Tristan, return to Sinaloa, and wait
a more peaceful year for the planting of a sisterhood
among the heathen.

Men from above the cliffs came down, and told of the
Castilians turning back on the trail, after their men,
headed by their priest, had fought the Haquis and made
the canon walls echo fearfully with the thunder of their

" Have the Haquis followed the trail by the south? "


asked the Apache, and by gesture and tone, and
nods of the head, I learned they had not. The clash
with the white people had been accident, and the enemy
of the Pima were not eager to fight against thunder,
lightning, and lead hail.

The Apache scowled and looked at me, and then they
sat in the sand and talked. His plan for me was
changed if I was sent to ride after the Castilians
now, it would not be horses they would get in exchange
for the white maid, but more of the same gun fire ; also
I could tell how small was their own company, and there
would be time to call on help from other Pima clans.

I could see that the sullen Apache was alone in his
scheme for a herd. They quarreled among themselves,
and one man pointed to Sancha s horse. Already the
Apache had one while the Pima men walked. It was
easy to follow their argument. Through it I learned
that the Apache was called Kasia, and when no settle
ment could be made an older man said some words end
ing with " Matiwa," whereupon all nodded and said
" Matiwa " except Kasia, who looked sulky that he was
voted down.

Again I was tied on my horse, but driven north
instead of the way we had come. Later I learned from
the sulky Kasia that Matiwa was an older chief and a
Piman; also that there was to be council to decide if I
was to be sent back to ask horses in ransom for Sancha.
Evidently his adopted brothers were not so eager for
trouble with Castilians once the excitement of the
adventure was over.

But ere the night fell we learned it was not over, for
up from a barranca swarmed nude brown bodies follow-


ing their spent arrows, and my captors fought back,
but a running fight, for they were outnumbered, and
out of the scramble the horse of Sancha leaped riderless,
for Kasia lay with an arrow piercing his eye, and a lance
thrust in his throat.

Another Indio leaped on the horse and led mine out
of arrow range, and as I had no mind to change captors
now that the Apache was gone, I rode right willingly.
To my surprise the enemy did not follow ; evidently the
two horses and a Castilian rider caused them suspicion
that the Pimans had strong allies.

There was no sign of grief over the death of Kasia;
he had been a strong man but not a favorite and of no
blood kindred. His going left me even more alone, for
only one youth had few words of Castilian which he
used with little meaning.

The dusk of night came on as we reached a place of
water, and a little apart from it was a small shrine place
of stones, circled crudely by the dried skeleton ribs of
the sahauro. It was still light enough to discover wil
low wands to which bird feathers and seed pods were
tied with the fiber of yucca some pious pagan had
made thanks or prayer there for the dribble of water
in the pool.

Stiff and sore though I was from the rope and the
saddle, I was alive to that flat packet rescued by me
in the canon camp, and having little doubt but that
my garments would be divided as were Sancha s, I had
cast about for some way of hiding or destruction for
the letters ere the fragments of them be used for charms
in medicine bags. To attempt burning might fail, and
the shrine place was the only likely haven.


While prno/e and a bit of dried deer were doled out
to us, and the horses were held at graze, I broke four
twigs of mesquite evenly, stripping the bark, and from
my shirt tore bits of linen until four newly garnished
prayer plumes were finished.

With solemnity I did the work putting aside the
parched maize until the prayer was made, and then as if
not noting the awe-struck, curious watching of all, I
arose and walked slowly to the little hedge of the shrine.
With gesticulations and bowings, I stood by it, then
knelt with my back to the men. One by one I raised
the twig with its shred of linen, and lifted a stone that
it might be planted firm. Under the largest of the
stones went the packet, and it was a true prayer I
planted there though the way of it was pagan.

I felt their eyes on me, and returned to my seat
silently, and gathered up my few grains of maize with
out looking at any of them. They were as solemnly
silent as myself, yet I could feel that they were not
disapproving. I had learned from Tristan that the re
ligion of every man is sacred to these people so long
as there is no attempt to impose it upon them ; for their
gods are jealous and peculiar.

It was plain that the planting of prayer sticks with
fragments of my garment did impress the minds of all

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Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 14 of 26)