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the other tragic dreams so much a part of a girl s

I did not wait to hear how Padre Juan and Don Rod
rigo smoothed the ruffled humor of the painter. No
doubt they told him that the lad had in truth lived his
summers with the herdsmen and the timber cutters, and


had gained a certain rustic disdain of the luxurious. But
however they patched it up, I ran after cousin Sancha
and found her half in tears with rage.

"Who is he this Tristan Rueda? " she demanded.
" No, I have never seen him. How should I see sheep
men in the convent? No, I saw only the back of his
head, but that was enough! Rueda! / shall call him
El Negrido, because he has black hair curled at the
ends like a Moor ! I know he is hideous ! I do not see
how it is, Marco, that you ever were friends with him
he is not worthy since he mocks at your beautiful pic
ture him El Negrido! "

In her fine rage and her attack on Tristan, Marco felt
himself much comforted, and when I left them he was
giving fond promise to spare Tristan s life, but also
promised to ignore him from that time forth; which, by
the way, he could not so easily do, as that " lady in wait
ing " got abroad and caused some laughter, and the
following day a threat was made by Marco to chastise
Tristan, whereupon Tristan hurt his pride some more,
also his body, and made Marco go and confess to Don
Rodrigo why it was done.

I thought of course Tristan would go back to the
hills at once, that day of the betrothal, or to the house
of Padre Juan; but long after the moon was up, and
the music of the dancing had caused me to fall asleep
on a seat outside the window of the sala, I was lifted
in strong arms and carried to the room across the patio
where the boy guests were to sleep; and as my
fine holiday shoes were slipped off, and my clothes
were unfastened with care, my curiosity conquered my
sleepy head for a little, and I was made sorry to see it



was Tristan Rueda who cared for me for if cousin
Sancha could find no good in him, how could I, her
devoted slave, accept his favors? I comforted myself
with the thought that she had not actually bound
me with a promise to refuse his friendship, well though
I knew she would have done so had she thought of it !

" Oh, Don Tristan ! I thought you had gone back to
your sheep, or to pray to your angels in the chapel," I
whispered, " for she is very, very angry, and she will
not let cousin Marco be friends with you, ever."

" That may be," he said as he slipped off the sleeves
of my jacket.

" She does not know you, of course, or she would not
call you El Negrido instead of Rueda," I continued.
" It is because your hair is so black. She only saw
your head, and heard your voice ; and you you did
not get to see her at all, and she is so fine ! "

" So very fine," he agreed. So he must have seen her
while I slept. " But you also have black hair, little com
rade, yet she is kind to you."

" You do not know how terrible Sancha can be when
she is in a rage," I persisted. " I have seen her break
things when she is in anger. It is better, I think, if you
make more angels, and pray to them. She hates you
very, very much."

" I know," he whispered, and if he said anything more,
I did not hear it. He laid me on the pillow, covered me
over, and blew out the candle, and I knew nothing more
until the other boys were throwing their shoes at me
in the morning, and daring me to come with them and
run naked down to the river for a swim before anyone
but Santiago, the old watchman, was awake.


And that was the end of the betrothal day of cousin
Sancha. Looking backward, it seems that while it was
a great and full day to me, of which I was conscious, it
was a day of fate for others more important than I, and
their after years were framed by it.

in" !.




IT IS strange how quickly a slip of a girl makes a
boy feel that she is a woman, while the boy is still
a boy.

So quickly did cousin Sancha shoot up tall and
slender, like a young palm by a living spring, that I
flushed hot and cold as I kissed her six months later,
and she patted my cheek and called me " Juanito Chi-
quito," and thanked me for a pet fawn I had sent, and
asked me if I wanted to see the Indian dolls sent her
by Marco from Mexico !

I cared as little as most boys for dolls, but I lied
graciously, and with Padre Juan I spent a wonder day
at the convent and looked at dolls, and spelled out the
letters sent with them, and was too surprised to make
comment when I saw the letters were not from, but
about, Marco. He was at the De Ordofio mines in the
interior, not convenient to the seacoast, or in the way
of letters; thus a monk who was a friend of Don Rod-
rigo wrote for them all family letters, and they were
sent to the good abbess, Mother Maria Cecilia, so that,
as far as I could see, the letters were for the relations,
and Sancha was regarded as a babe for whom only dolls
were fitting pastime.

But the pages glowed with the beauty and the fine



success of Marco as communicated by the writer, Fray
Fernando Alcatraz. The Ordono mines at San Luis
Potosi were in a fair way to make all their fortunes ; the
only difficulty was to secure a steady supply of native
slaves for the work; there had been some rebellious in
various ways, but in the end all would come right;
Marco was attached to Fray Payo, the venerable Arch
bishop and Viceroy, and was in a fair way to climb high
in the viceregal court ; and so on, and so on.

All the letters were of the same things, and each car
ried the love and the blessings of Don Rodrigo and
Marco and the priest who wrote it and a doll or a
string of beads.

" From Fray Payo and Don Rodrigo and Marco and
the learned priest, I get dolls and strings of beads," said
Sancha with disdain, " beads of turquoise, and of wood,
of berries, and stone, and shell. I shall weave them all
into a robe for the wedding dress, there will soon be
enough to cover me ! "

We laughed over how she would look in the wedding
dress of beads, and then we fell to choosing which of
the dresses of the Indian dolls would be most becoming.
They were of even greater variety of material than the
beads, and ranged from husks of maize to carvings of
stone. I know now that those things which the white
people named dolls were really effigies and figurines of
their false gods and goddesses, and I wonder much that
they escaped the sharp eyes of the officers of the Inquisi

One doll wore woven sandals of grasses, and on these
Sancha set her heart she so dearly loved to run shoe
less, and sandals like these would be so nearly nothing


on her feet. I had watched the village girls braid their
hats from the straw of the wild oats until I had the trick
of it, and with the footgear of the little Indian field god
for a pattern, I took strips of palm and braided them
and formed the fabric to her foot, and added to the
band across the ankle the silver buckles from my own
shoes, so that I had the joy of seeing her dance in them
with delight and spread her petticoats in a profound
mocking bow to me. And at that very moment the
Abbess and Padre Juan came into the garden, and tried
to look severe, and ended by laughing. Then they took
us in to the refectory, where we had bread and honey
and milk before we went back to the town below.

Sancha, with Sister Teresa, walked with us along the
path, and the fawn was led by Sancha, for already it had
learned the hand from which its food came. I looked
back at them as they stood at the edge of the olive wood,
and noted that Sancha was taller than little Sister Teresa,
and that over her head, in a way she had, she cast the
soft white skirt from the back as a shield against the
sun. The straight long folds of it either side her face,
and down to her feet, added to her height. It was not
as if a long white scarf had been flung over her head,
but rather as if close folded wings of white were either
side the slender figure, meeting overhead. It made her
look very curious with the flare of the sun back of her.
I thought of an angel I had once seen in a picture with
Joseph the carpenter. Yet Sancha herself was not like
an angel at all/

As we went down the steep way of the hill, Padre
Juan remarked that he must ask Tristan Rueda to send
some competent man to repair the chapel of the convent


where a storm had done damage ; there were some capa
ble lay brothers at the monastery who could do the work
and repair the frescoes, but Tristan always knew the
one who would be best, and it might be that he would
himself give an eye to it, despite the fact that his days
were very full with preparations for the voyage through
the sea of the north to the New World.

Don Carlos had made the journey back from Austria
sooner than hoped for. Within a week the San Clemente
would spread her wings for the western shores and, if
the saints willed, Tristan would be aboard of her, free
at last to live his own life. Through all his boyhood, he
had seemed, in some strange way, a willing, yet dominat
ing vassal of De Ordoiio s.

Padre Juan grumbled about this vassalage more than
a little that day, for he had a great belief that Tristan
came perilously near to being a genius a lad who
could manage herds, and cure the murrain in sheep with
the skill of the devil-possessed Moors, and who could
copy in fairest beauty the ancient writings of the
Fathers. An entire volume had he done for Padre Juan
on the life and works of the well beloved San Juan Bau-
tista, his patron saint, and each page had its own illum
inated letters of blue and of gold, as was custom with all
holy books of an older day I should see it ! Not an
other like it anywhere ! Padre Juan thought he painted
no more saints or angels; Tristan had never talked of
such work since a day when the Bishop had warned him
it would mean much gold and a lifetime. Also there
had been some ill feeling among the De Ordono cousins
against him because of that ugly estimate of the portrait
of Marco for which much good money had been paid.


Tristan had so much of almost heretical independence
about so many of the things of life that Padre Juan
could never understand why he made himself do the
will of the De Ordono family, even to smothering his
own talents that their sheep be rightly tended, and their
olive and orange orchards rightly cared for.

So the padre grumbled and discoursed over his favor
ite pupil all down the road to the town, and thus I
learned that Tristan Rueda did not tell all of his life
and thoughts at confession, which unsafe habit helps to
make a path for the devil to walk over and whisper
heretical things, especially in the ears of a genius. Did
not that word mean to be possessed by genii? And
were there not malicious spirits together with saintly
ones in that list? If not, why did the church and the
priests have to work so endlessly to exorcise them?

I had these thoughts, but I dared not offend Padre
Juan by speech of them. Orphan as I was, with only
Sancha, Marquesa de Llorente y Rivera as a near rela
tive, it was kind Padre Juan who made the world seem
like a home place to me, just as the good abbess of the
convent was mother to Sancha. Two nestless birds
were we, despite the countless branches of the family
tree on which we might roost and welcome.

For myself, I confess that the only branch holding
dreams of mine was that one most powerful, across the
seas in New Spain. To have a great-uncle who was
both archbishop and viceroy of Mexico made me count
the days until I, too, might fare forth to adventure, and
I was ever measuring my height, and walking with head
high held, to make myself grow tall more quickly.

Also, I was like the shadow of Tristan Rueda from


the time I learned he was to sail in the San Clemenle.
I had a holiday of two weeks from school, and all of it
was spent to fetch or carry for him, or seek out the
things he needed for the far journey. He was always
gentle with me; took me into shops and among boat
men ; bought himself a strong chest from a home-coming
merchant, and together we packed it in joy. At my wish,
he wrote a letter for me to Fray Payo de Rivera, the
Viceroy, asking that some place be made for me, if it
were but to lace his shoes a boy would need no great
height for that ! I also asked his gracious notice for my
friend, Tristan, and signed the letter with the name of
my mother, who had been with the angels before I
could even recall her, and also my own name in full,
Juan Estevan Maria Llorente y Rivera, that he might
not fail to see I was of his own family. I think now
that my determination to go was made when I read
those letters with report of the high estate of Marco de
Ordoiio under the patronage of a viceroy of our family.
Between jealousy of Marco and emulation of Tristan,
I was well nigh sleepless during those last days before
the sailing. We slept together in the De Ordono home,
for Tristan was commissioned to take charge of much
wealth in goods for Don Rodrigo. There were bales of
fine cloths, casks of Greek and Spanish wine, priests
vestments with wonderful embroideries done by the
blessed nuns in the convent, and silks of richness,
worked over and bordered with threads of gold. Also
there were statues of four saints for the church of San
Carlos, carved of wood, with eyes of glass, and a won
derful enamel of wax, painted to the life as to face and
hands. A bit of the gold on the carven lace draperies


had been rubbed off by some accident, and at the last
Tristan spent precious time in regilding them, that no
little curve or edge should be less than perfect.

This pleased Padre Juan very much. I heard his
commendation at the same time that he was giving
priestly warning concerning all books to be taken, for
strict though the Holy Brotherhood might be in loyal
Spain, it was but mild ruling to that of Mexico, where,
perhaps because of the native converts, religion must
not even be discussed, and those who went to the New
World for greater freedom found themselves there
under the iron heel of the Inquisition.

" Yet I have heard there are lands of the north coast
where the Dutch and English and some French live who
have cast free from Rome," said Tristan.

" Keep you far from such shores, lest the seas rise
up to engulf the lands! Whence comes your knowl

" I hear the sailors talk, and the merchants ; there is
always talk of the new lands. We all listen."

" Then take not Juan with you to the warehouses, no
good can be learned from the discourse of heretical

"Yet," ventured Tristan, "if Christoval Colon had
not listened to the heresies of a round world, we would
not be sending these saints to the western heathen this

Padre Juan looked at him strangely.

" Tristan, you are only a youth, yet I must warn you
not to say words like that, the San Clements might sail
without you if such words reached the Brotherhood.
It savors of careless speaking of forbidden things. And


that name Colon, and Christoval, why give the Span
ish name to a man of Italy? "

" We hear it sometimes."

" Then you should also hear that it has been for

" I was reading the letters in his book at the monastery
to learn things of New Spain, and all the letters are in
Spanish and were so signed; none in Italian, so I
thought "

" Think no more, and speak no more on that matter,"
said Padre Juan in a tone that set me quaking. " The
reasons why are not to be spoken of; it is forbidden."

" Yes, father," said Tristan obediently, and went on
with his careful work on the statute, though I slipped
out of the strong room as soon as might be, and was
relieved to see Padre Juan follow soon. I sat on the
veranda to watch if by any chance he turned towards
the office of the tribunal, but to my relief, he went on
the way to the chapel. I never before had heard Padre
Juan speak with severity to Tristan Rueda it was as
if my world were turning topsy-turvy.

And the night was the equal of that day in surprises.
It may have been the excitement by which I was kept
wakeful, or the very dread of that shadowy Holy Broth
erhood whose eyes were everywhere. Be that as it
may, I wakened suddenly with a fright at the silence,
for there was not even the sound of the breath of Tristan
in the room, and in the sickly light of the old moon, I
crept to his bed and found his pillow empty. Also the
bed was cold. Scarcely within an hour had he lain

The wonder is that I did not call aloud. It was the


thing I wanted first to do. But that warning of Padre
Juan s still ringing in my ears brought me a terror, and
also a desire to find Tristan in silence, if I alone could
find him at all.

The cocks were crowing, though there was no dawn.
Could it be that he had risen while it was yet night to
work on his tasks?

Quiet as might be, I slipped into clothing, and, with
out shoes, went through the halls and down the stone
steps to the door of the strong room where the things
of merchandise were kept. Beyond were the foreign
wines and other importations. In the anteroom his
work on the carven saints had seemed finished.

But through the keyhole a light came, and I heard
strange noises as of an auger and then of muffled ham
merings. Try as I would, I could not see farther than
the little circle gained by one eye at the keyhole, but
the ancient musty treasure chest of General de Ordono
was in the corner. I saw Tristan open it with a key
and then I scarcely dared breathe so eager was I to
see the treasure there.

I might as well have taken my comfort in bed for all
the treasure, not a thing could I see but rolls of parch
ment and some brown books ; then with a sharp knife,
Tristan cut the leather cover from every book and tossed
the covers back into the open chest ! That was a thing
so at variance with his every previous act that I was
given a fright by it. There was no sacrifice Tristan
Rueda would not make if, by any privation, he might
earn or borrow books. He had the knack of languages,
and would chaffer with a Greek sailor for even a book
of prayers in a foreign tongue. His love of books was


so pronounced that Padre Juan was wise in giving him
warning as to the laws of Mexico.

When one is startled or badly frightened, he does not
think, he only feels ; and I was filled with an unreason
ing fear that Tristan had gone mad, all alone there in
the night. In a shrill whisper I tried to reassure him
of my presence, though I was strongly put to it not to
turn and run blindly, screaming for everybody.

Tristan opened the door, perhaps fearing the thing
I was tempted to, and his face was death white in the
light of the candle, as he dragged me in, his hand over
my mouth.

" You have risked your life, your freedom, and more
than that," he said ; " but now that you are here, stay
you must to the end. You may have it in your power
for the rest of your life to send me to hell, when the
thought comes to you, Juanito. Tend your thoughts
that way? or may I trust the man your boyhood will

My teeth were like castanets in their chatter, for I
could only shake and stare at that which I saw. San
Pedro, with the keys of heaven in his hand, lay flat on his
back on the floor, and was made hollow from his feet up
and in that cavity were packed rolls of parchment.
Santa Cecilia was treated likewise, but a block, cun
ningly contrived, fitted over the work and was fresh
painted with blue and gilding. I saw then why Tristan
had much care of the saints donated to Mexican chapels.
Also there was a cask of Greek wine emptied into a
great jar, and the cask was packed with books to the
right weight, and around them fresh straw.

" Speak you, Juanito, but speak in whispers."


" What what would chance to you if "

" There would be a fine burning at the next auto-da-fe,
but first there would be one here, for the brandy in that
corner would take fire and all within these walls would
go up in smoke before you would be let go to give warn
ing. Even then it might be thought that you only
dreamed all you think you see here ! It would be a loss
to learning if the books were destroyed, and men are
hungry for learning. Speak now, Juanito, but think if
you have faith in yourself to be silent always."

I tried to think, but all that came in my head was the
voice of Don Rodrigo when he had said to Tristan in
the sala, " You are a man, comrade ; years do not always
make a man, but you have held the secret of men since
you were the height of my knee."

I had been thrilled by that praise, for it had been
wrung from a frightened old soldier, and now I was to
be put to the test as to whether I also could ever compel
such approval. That, I am sure, was the thing which
urged me to whisper, " I can be silent, Tristan."

With a bit of old canvas he covered again the keyhole
from which a draft had made it fall, and then in silence
he bound my eyes, and led me to a seat.

" It is only that you see no more than you already
have," he said, " for that will be trouble enough for you
to keep ever out of your confessions. I can waste no
time taking you back to bed, and what is to be done
must be finished before dawn."

So I sat there and shook with fear, and smelled the
paint, and heard him use the muffled hammer, and move
heavy casks, and at last gather up in a canvas all the
broken wood bored from the central blocks of the


wooden saints, and when my eyes were uncovered, we
bore it to the river and cast it in.

The gray of day was coming when we climbed the
stairs and were back in our beds.

" For the comfort of your own soul, Juanito, I will
tell you that there is no word of evil in all the books you
saw hidden there. The man who turned the key on
them was General de Ordofio. He was a stanch son of
the church, but also a loyal friend. The books belonged
to a friend who is dead to the world a letter I found
tells me this and the knowledge in the books is now
for me, if God, the Father, sends good wind to our sails."

It was a comfort that he assured me there was no evil,
for Tristan was ever truthful to boldness.

No other word passed between us concerning that
night of work in the strong room, but he put his hands
on my shoulders and looked very hard into my eyes
before the last boat left shore for the San Clemente, and
then he took my hands close in his.

" Juanito, you have a friend waiting in the New World
if ever you should set sail there," he promised, and then
he said no more, but bent his head to the blessing of
Padre Juan, and I went back, sad enough, to the chapel,
with the hope that my viceregal uncle would send for
me soon as might be.

The secret of that night gave me vast importance in
my own thoughts. I had asked no question of the books
and parchments, sure that if the General de Ordono had
hidden them away, it must have been for a good purpose.
It never occurred to my childish mind that the general
was not as much scholar as soldier, or that the contents
of the books were not known to him. Like Don Rodrigo,


his brother, he had been the ranging adventurer rather
than the student.

As the years passed after Tristan s going, strange tales
came eastward over the seas in every ship, until all the
youth and half the priesthood were stung by the gadfly
of unrest to garner gold or heathen souls in the New
World. Padre Juan, traveling to Cordoba, brought me
a wonder feast of intelligence from the letters of Tristan
the De Ordofio mines were even more rich than Don
Rodrigo had hoped ; Marco was in such favor that it was
said a high official would not be averse to giving his
daughter to a husband of such riches, though Don Rod
rigo would see to it that this should not come about, for
his heart was set on uniting the families of De Ordono
and De Llorente y Rivera.

Of Tristan there were no great riches told, but adven
tures even more dear to the heart of a boy. He had gone
north into the heathen land with a godly friar whose
mission work was as a miracle, so many of the pagans
had he won for salvation. Into the far wilderness they
had gone, and the walls of chapels and convents were
rising toward heaven as quickly as the poor heathen
could shape the timber and make the bricks.

Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 2 of 26)