Marah Ellis Martin Ryan.

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Not so much news did he send of the cities of the new
land, except that they were unduly housing too many
of the idle adventurers who lounged in sun or shadow,
waiting newly arrived riches from the mines, and all
the gay carouse of the gamblers heaven. He, Tristan,
escaped all such danger by lack of gold, and by the garb
of the convent. He went as a lay brother with Fray
Fernando, as the dress of the order was a help in herding
the flocks of heathen lambs. Already he was learning



the language, and noting down many of their strange
thoughts of the false gods to which they had in ignor
ance given worship.

Padre Juan was very happy over this word. It was
as if his pupil were already on the golden ladder to a
Bishop s mitre, at least. If he was not to be a painter
of saints, he might do even better and become a saint
himself in his zeal for converts !

Our good Padre Juan read into that account more, I
think, than he got out of it. I had not seen so much of
saintliness in the spirit of Tristan Rueda; and that he
wore on his journeys the robe of a monk, was as if he
had protected his legs with a new sort of boot or armor
to fit the desert he was to cross.

Of cousin Sancha, Padre Juan had little to say, except
that she had grown more tall. There is not much else
a priest may tell a lad concerning a maid.

But I was soon to need no messenger to tell me any
thing. From the archbishop came the word for which I
had prayed rather than hoped. I was to see a bit of the
world, and fit myself in good time for even a place at
court, if need be. I was chosen as one of the pages in
his train, and this ended my school days and took me to
Seville for the requisite preparation.



SO AGAIN I saw Sancha, and felt myself more
dumb and stupid than ever in the light of her
beauty, for which there were no words.

" But you are a woman ! " I found myself
saying as I stared at her, and she laughed the dear,
lighthearted, reckless laugh the good nuns could never
tone down to a discreet smile or simper.

" A woman, Juanito mine, and either a married woman
or a nun before I am grown much more in height," she
said, nodding her pretty head, and her gray eyes dark
ling. " I am sick of gray walls, and priest letters, and
there is no one to tell it to but you. I sang with joy
when I heard you were coming. We will go into the
orchard where I will bring my love gifts to show you,
and there we can talk."

It was like paradise to be with her, and I choked back
a sigh as she spoke of her love gifts. Though I should
bring down the moon out of the sky for her, she would
regard it only as a kinsman s gift.

She came back to me in a little while, with her skirt
gathered up and loaded full, as a peasant woman would
carry cabbages or onions, and then with a laugh in
which there was derision of herself, she let fall her load
at my feet and I stared, and laughed, and then grew
sober enough as I saw her eyes.



These were her love gifts from over the sea for all the
years, and not one thing but the Indian dolls and beads
and toys such as had been sent in the very first ship !

" Every homeward vessel shows me I am not for
gotten," she said with a little crooked smile. " Yet who
is it remembers me? Some one to whom I am still a
little child! Here are the letters; they are the same.
They come to the Mother Abbess. When that monk,
Fray Fernando, was north among the heathen there
were no letters. But the end has come. There are lovers
in Spain if not over the water and I have written and
told that to Don Rodrigo.

"You have sent a letter, one you wrote?" Our
women were not bookish. To read the lives of the
saints it was good enough to know how, but the writing
of letters was not so well for maids. And in the end
you will see that was where the plain trail for trouble
began for Sancha.

When I told her that I myself was to sail in the next
vessel, and that I would carry the message to Don Rod
rigo or to Marco, she was wild with protests that we all
could journey to see the world, while for her, a maid,
there was nothing to do but stay close at home, and
make endless prayers.

" But not to Marco shall you carry word for me," she
declared with pride. " It is to Don Rodrigo, Padre Juan
is writing the word, for it is only poor old Don Rodrigo
who sends the letters and selects these," and she
touched the heap of dolls with her foot. " Poor Don
Rodrigo! He made the betrothal, and now he sends
all the love gifts ! No, if Marco de Ordono thinks he has
taken a step upward in the favor of our family, it may


be as well he is given a lesson. I will write him a
reminder. I thought I was married to him that day he
sailed away, but my mind is changed. If ever I marry
him it will be after he has wooed me and gifts of
Indian dolls will not serve."

Here was a new sort of trouble, for I was boy enough
to fear that a bearer of fiery messages would lack the
welcome I longed for in New Spain. Yet what was
there but to do her will, and do it with the best grace I
could muster?

She wept at our parting, and kissed me, and after that
I knew little of how I tumbled into the small boat
at the shore, or how I went up over the side of the ship
and landed on the deck, striving as might be to remember
that as grandnephew to the viceroy of Mexico I was a
personage of importance aboard ship, and that to shed
the tears I felt would not be in keeping with my dig

From the Azores I sent back a letter to Sancha, telling
her all that had happened, and then we set sail out over
the untracked waters to the west, and with every dawn
ing and every nightfall the wonder grew in my mind as
to the bigness of the man who first ventured there, for
we had calms and hurricanes and our own share of sea
troubles ; added to which was the ever restless watch for
English pirates and French corsairs. But at last our
stubborn vessel proved her worth by bearing us all safe
to Hispaniola where we rested a week for the mending
of ship, the taking on of fresh water and other pro
visions; and I, who, during the hurricanes, had strong
conviction that food of earth could never more attract
me, was astonished at my own appetite, for surely never


had fruit or meat such wonderful delicacy as that of
the tropic land. This was the effect of the many weeks
of salted pork, and, at the last, none too much of that.

From there, in due time, the Santa Maria sailed west
ward through sea gardens, for the days were few when
we saw neither palm isles, nor canoes of the natives or
traders with fruits, nuts, or fowl for sale.

At Havana ill word was waiting. A ship from Mexico
was in harbor, and there was much of surmise over
changes to be made because of an illness of the viceroy.
His physician had made the statement that his years of
work for church and crown had left their mark, and that
a new archbishop and a new viceroy would be named,
for the good Fray Payo was making arrangements to
resign and end his days in a monastery in the old home
land of Spain.

Here was a new turn to my wheel of life. Were all
my dreams of viceregal grandeur to melt beneath the
tropic suns? In my excitement I had ill thoughts of a
man who could remain viceroy and archbishop, yet
choose a monk s cowl instead. Why, it was to be a
king so far as power was concerned, and even the
unknown grandnephew might hope to fare well under
such patronage.

Whatever else I heard of concern passed me unheeded.
Even my boy s joy of new sights and new lands was
dampened, and my greatest fear was that I might be
called upon to face about and journey back with him
through the hurricanes to Seville. Yet, would a monk
in a monastery need a page? Could I not hope to live
in New Spain if Marco could live there? I assured
myself yes, and remembered with gladness the words


of Tristan Rueda. There, at least, I would have a
friend though all the people of our own family should
fail me.

Thus I argued myself across the seas from Havana,
and questioned with eagerness the first man aboard at
Vera Cruz. The viceroy was able to walk again, but
he had gone through two months siege of fever, and
was peacefully preparing for retirement. The man
spoken of as his successor was Don Tomas Antonio,
Marquis de la Laguna, Conde de Parades, and it was
said that the ruling of the new day would have diversions
of its own and have little likeness to the six years of the
rule of the good priest, Don Payo de Rivera.

By this I gathered that the new ruler would at least
be of the world, worldly, and that a page of his would
see gayer life than with an archbishop. In fact and in
truth, I see myself now as a selfish little animal, measur
ing the greatest only by their ability to confer favors.
I was at the same time homesick, if I may call it so, at
losing the only relation I knew of in Mexico. He had
seemed to me as a bond with Sancha, though he had
never seen either of us!

Each new thing I saw on the great journey I wished
for the able pen of a Diaz that I might make clear the
picture of it for her, but when the great enchantment
of white Orizaba met my eyes above the palms, I knew
no pen was equal to the writing of its beauties. The
natives call it Mountain of the Star, and Tristan told
me, long after, that it was used by the ancient priests as
a range finder for the stars forming the heart of heaven
our Polaris and his circling companions of the Serpent
and the Eagle,


Of all that paganism I knew nothing then or of the
mythology of the red tribes, but it is easy to believe
when looking on Orizaba that its meaning was linked
with the sky and its sacred things.

A slender, pale priest with a curious Indian rosary of
crude turquoise and shell was with the cavalcade going
up from the seashore, and he told us much of the strange
land and places, and at Pueblo de los Angels he was
greeted with glad looks. Little brown, naked babes
were held out to him for his smile, and doors were open
to his friends. I was told that in an epidemic he had
remained to care for the stricken, after all other help
had fled, and the Indians came near to worship of him.
His help had been great to Fray Payo, and he knew the
tribes from Yucatan to the pueblos of the Rio Brava del
Norte. He could speak in the tongue of many, and was
called " El Sabio." I heard that term so often that I
took it to be his title. And then an old soldier whom we
met on the trail doffed his hat and saluted him as Don
Fernando, and I knew that the slender man with the
face like old ivory was the friend of the De Ordonos and
the writer of the letters to the abbess ; also he was the
miracle worker with whom Tristan had made the jour
ney to the far north !

It was the first time, I think, that my mind was con
sciously impressed by force of character apart from all
the trappings of circumstance and state. Don Fernando
wore a habit that was old and somewhat frayed as to
sleeves and hem, and we had some richly dressed mer
chants, together with men of family, in that group of
travelers; yet among them all the quiet Don Fernando
won central place without striving, and the most pre-


tentious listened when he spoke. I learned that the
turquoise and shell beads were gifts of Indio tribes.

He bade me ride beside him, and showed me such
kindness as a traveler might, but of the many questions
concerning Marco and his magnificence he could tell
me little ; only, Fray Payo had opened the door for him,
and his handsome face had won its own way to prefer

As to Tristan, he had made great headway with the
strange picture-writing records of the heathen, and
already he had ranged afar on every quest the church
could send him, thus adding greatly to this knowledge.
Also, he had painted in a chapel a frieze of angels, and
the native chiefs had been duly impressed by those spirit
faces gazing down from the clouds. The result had
been curious. Tristan, though not in holy orders, or
like to be, had been given high place in the minds of the
brown people; his fame had traveled because it was
thought by them that he could see the spirit people
whom the heathens were convinced were everywhere.
While the brown priests could see them only after long
fasting and prayers, this white youth with the brushes
could see them at all times ! When a revolt threatened
at the mines, he had saved the lives of Marco and Don
Rodrigo by learning of the secret leader, and painting
his portrait with a fiery devil peering over his shoulder.
The sight of it frightened every native to his knees.
The leader was shunned and would have been killed by
his comrades but for Tristan, who saved him and sent
him north to his own forests. Thus he both bettered
conditions and saved lives, and despite his short stay in
Mexico, his fame had traveled in strange ways into far


deserts and jungles. Don Payo would gladly have held
him in the town, but Tristan had the blood of rangers in
his veins, and was restless for the free wild places.

Thus I learned more in riding beside Don Fernando
than ever went over the seas to Spain. The name of
Tristan was as a key to his heart, and while love and
loyalty were as a blanket to cover the acts of a De
Ordono, I could easily perceive that Marco, with all his
pride, stood not so high as Tristan, the ranger, might
stand if he chose.

Lad though I was, I could see why the walls of palace
and monastery were left behind him, despite all exalted
patronage. It was the first time he had ever ranged free,
and of patronage, in a way, he had been given more than
made for his happiness, since it chained him to a cer
tain allegiance to the house of De Ordono.

The air was like wine to me where we rode hour by
hour above the palms and into the oaks and pines, with
ever the snow peaks white in the sun, or rosy long
after the sun was gone. I wondered not at the witchery
by which Marco was held from Spain, though it was
true he could not even think how fair Sancha had grown !

Don Fernando knew also Luiza, who had married the
soldier Gomez, and to her home he took me that I might
make myself fit for the presence of the viceroy after
all the journey, and when I saw pretty Anita there, the
daughter of Luiza s first husband, I wondered that no
mention of her was in all the letters home ; for Anita
Gomez was sparkling as the water of a fountain in the
sun, a slender flitting wisp of a girl, with big eyes of

Luiza wept at the messages sent from home, and



showed all deference to Don Fernando, and many kind
nesses to me, and made plans to house me in her own
home, if by chance the illness of the viceroy should make
delay as to my comfort in the palace.

So I found a good nest, and a welcome comforting to
a strange lad in a strange land. Through the little court,
Anita took me to the cell-like room of Tristan s choice,
and showed me his Indian mats, and rugs, and strange
arms and paintings.

" But those we never touch, for the records are
pagan," she said with a little shrinking. " He studies
out the meanings, and puts them in good Spanish for
the archbishop. But these days he is out somewhere
with the tribes, and you can have his room if need. Tris
tan is rich in beds, for there is ever one for him at the
monastery of San Carlos. They are glad when he goes
there, for he is helping Fray Bernardino with the

" And what of Marco, senorita? " I asked, and thought
how much prettier she was when the red flushed her
cheek at the question.

"I I am not so exalted that your excellency should
give me senorita ," she said slowly, and when the color
went again from her face it left her pale. I did not know
then what I learned later, that pretty Anita was a child
of love, and that Luiza did a Christian thing when she
married the father, and took the little orphan to her own

"But what of Marco? does he also abide with you
when here from the mines? " I asked.

" Not now," she said. " Since Don Tristan is here,
Don Marco is more with his palace friends, and it is


very gay there. This is very plain, as you see, senor."
Anita had the pretty, friendly ways of a servant who
has pride in service, and quickly made clear the remem
brance that I was not only a tired lad off a journey, but
that I was a Llorente y Rivera and the grandnephew of
the viceroy. But as I put on my finest apparel, I was
more than a little oppressed, and longed for a voice of
other shores that would call me " Juanito."

My luck would have it that my regal and priestly
relative was sleeping when I made my visit, and a very
learned gentleman, Don Martin de Silva, the vicar gen
eral, saw to it that I was provided with a companion of
my own age, Gilberto Lanchitas, whose uncle was prior
of the consulado. Together we climbed stairs and looked
from towers out over the wondrous valley of the Mex-
icos ; and the perfection of it all was enough to astonish
even the most loyal Sevillan, for it was no new city, as
a Spaniard might expect, but everywhere there were
traces of ancientness and mysteries. An old temple was
being torn dov/n in a garden back of Chapultepec, where
we went on horseback, and the brown people stood by
and watched the carven stone being carted on wooden
wheels for the building of a stable; and I thought, and
crossed myself at the same time, of the chapel of Charles
the Fifth, set in the midst of the Moorish marbles of
Cordoba. Even as a boy it seemed to me sacrilege of

But Gilberto took little heed, and could tell me little
enough of Mexico. All his thought was centered on
learning the latest news of Spain, and what was said of
the death of Don Juan of Austria, and what of the queen
mother and the court intrigues, and so on. All I heard


from him was gossip of the viceregal succession and
the probable archbishop. There were aspirants for both
posts of honor and also questionings as to whether
new dignitaries would be sent out from Spain. Gilberto
had an eye to his own advancement, and plied his arts
to make his virtues known to me, as a relative of the
viceroy; as if he had not spent years himself in shadow
of the palace, whilst I was the stranger.

Such discourse was of small profit to me, for he was
of the milk-and-water sort, ever intent on his own
apparel and questions of the latest fashions and favor
ites at court. So, soon as might be in courtesy, I slipped
away to range alone and, though I knew it not then, I
crossed with an adventure my first day in the garden
of the palace.

I had no intent to listen, but the voice inside the barred
window of the patio was the sweetest one could wish to
hear ; it had the deep seductive notes and again the light
ness of love music. Truly, to this day, I have not heard
more wondrous tones in a speaking voice than those of
Dona Perfecta de Dasmarinas.

She was laughing gently as if teasing some one, and
then she said, " But truly, Don Marco, if you in truth
seek to serve me, how is it that your friend, Don Tristan,
never again comes as I request? If he paints angels for
a chapel, why should he not paint another face it may
be for a palace? "

There were some hesitant murmurings in a voice I
knew after all the years, and those two names Marco
and Tristan made me hold my breath.

" It is not for myself I care," continued the lady, " but
when one has been married to a man, the padre ever


tells a woman to seek to pleasure her husband, and this
is a thing upon which his mind is set. Who knows what
honors there will be to divide when Don Payo goes? Is
your friend blind, that he ranges with the brown people
for empty learning, when his talents should hold him

Marco assured her that he had only returned from
San Luis Potosi that hour, and that he had faithfully
borne her message to Tristan of the honor she had sug
gested, also that Tristan had been booted and spurred
for a sally to the north, and made comment that the
painting of beauty was a joy not allowed to a maestro de

Perhaps the lady knew Marco was framing his words
as best he could to please her, for she was silent a bit
as if in thought, and then said, " Remember that I have
trusted you in this. Don Eduardo wants the portrait
of me, yet will he value it the more if I surprise him with
it, and " she laughed softly " when the new viceroy
comes in, I may have friends to ask favors for."

Then a youthful lady quickly crossed the corridor and
entered the room. I heard her called Dona Mercedes
by Marco.

" Perfecta," she said with coldness, " your husband is
waiting. He thinks you in the chapel at confession."

" I am this little minute returned through the garden
and stop to greet Don Marco. He is as a stranger from
those rich mines of his. Shall we ask him to the ball
with us tonight? "

Then their voices went away, and I hurried through
the garden and around to the entrance of the palace that
I might see them come out.


Dona Perfecta fitted her seductive voice. Her hair
was of red gold and her eyes brown, and her every move
ment had the slow grace by which you were made to
wonder that each turn of her head, or her eyes, was more
lovely than the last. And to think that Tristan turned
away to barbarians when he could paint such beauty !

Dona Mercedes was not beautiful, but looked very
capable also she looked not well pleased, and she
stepped into the waiting carriage without the helping
hand of Marco de Ordono. He assisted Dona Perfecta,
saluted the gentleman who entered the carriage with
them, and then stood uncovered, a very courtly, hand
some figure, as they drove away. No wonder Sancha
had held him so long as an ideal in her heart. I thought,
and still think, Marco de Ordono the very handsomest
man I ever had sight of.

That he had joy in seeing me again he gave every
sign of in courtesy, though he looked me over, made
comment on my growth, and wondered at my coming.
Why had I journeyed from my comfort to far uncer

I told him that Sancha decided those far uncertainties
must have great and strange charms that he did not
return from them to claim his betrothed. He laughed
at that, and stared at me, and looked after the carriage.

" Is that her wording, or your own? " he asked, " and
are there messages for me? Come within."

I was presented to people of distinction, and noted
how, even in their courtesy, they were curious. Thus at
the very gate of the new life I saw the uneasiness of the
office-holding, office-seeking men, for whom life might
be changed by the threatened new rule. The very


courtiers, and some of them men of talents, had the
natural curiosity as to a new seeker of even a small
office, especially one of the blood of the viceroy.

Through these several signs and the banter of Marco
de Ordofio, my heart was low enough in my boots ere
the time came that I should be brought to his eminent
excellency, the priestly viceroy. Strange enough it is
that the little, frittering minds take the courage out of
one, while the big, simple souls provide with a glance
all that you lack. Thus it was with Fray Payo Enriqez
de Rivera, the archbishop and viceroy of Mexico. His
hand met mine, and his other hand was on my shoulder
as he gave me welcome, and at once he spoke signifi
cantly: I was not to lose courage in the new land for
want of a patron; he would make that his own charge,
whether he stayed or sailed for Spain.

Fray Fernando was by his side, and, I gave a guess,
had divined my boyish uncertainties. Thus life, at a
moment, took on a different color to me, and I could
enter into the gaieties of the youths, and take less to
heart the raillery of Marco over a stray lad seeking

Also I was housed in the palace, and to give me
acquaintance and ease of mind, was made page, and
Gilberto s was the task of guide and friend in the new
and care-free office to which I was assigned.


THE frail health of Don Payo made clear that his
viceregal office was a burden he would gladly
lay aside, and in the following days I had many
opportunities of seeing how, little by little, he
was making all plans to shift safely the weight of both
church and state from his own shoulders.

To Marco I said little as might be of Sancha all
the more so that she had sent him no direct message by
me. All that came was safe within the scroll to Don

Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 3 of 26)