Marah Ellis Martin Ryan.

The house of the dawn online

. (page 8 of 26)
Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 8 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

into the Mexican sky out of the east. He cannot ever be the
prince of the legend of enchantment for you, and his hand can
never lead you to a king s palace, but it would be joy to build
with you a shrine to the saint of your prayers. I dare not pray
at any shrine for that which you make me wish. I am neither
wise, nor great, little maid of the white butterflies. I am only
a man who wished to make you less lonely. Surely of all the
stars of the sky, the Solitary One knows best the hurt of lonely
lives. For that I have written you, and for that I bid you know
that far below your feet is stretched the guardian one, whose
heart is Alphard.



ANEW expedition of colonists was fitting out
for New Granada of the Rio Grande del Norte,
and I was of half a mind to go, for the sheer
adventure of new lands, but Don Rodrigo re
mained stubbornly ill. Thus there were some weeks of
nursing, and Tristan was so closely held that I could
hope for neither help nor encouragement from him. He
was full of regret that he had not urged the old soldier
to take ship with Don Payo, and be among his own home
kindred if serious sickness should come.

For while there were neither words nor grieving from
him, there was little doubt that the loss of Don Fernando
was as a support wrested from him, and this, so quickly
followed by the departure of Don Payo, left the old man
bewildered between illness and the new regime into
which it was not so easy to fit himself.

Tristan was the only confidential support left him, and
the cares of Tristan made a very full seven days in the
week ; thus he was ever provided with fair excuses when
the messages from Dona Perfecta or Don Eduardo would
entreat him to the palace where the portrait was a
source of praise. Marco was half inclined to go north
because of some gorgeous tales of turquoise found there.
Ernesto Galvez had returned, and brought much fine



stone, and some encouraging washings of gold. There
was a fever in the air over it, and it seemed plain that
Dona Perfecta encouraged it so far as Marco de Ordono
was concerned. She stood ready to be his advocate for
position and honor, since there should always be men
of the ruling class to keep up the dignity of a cavalcade.

Dona Mercedes, happy over her approaching wedding,
smiled at me when Marco told us, with a bit of swag
ger, of the proffered honors.

"Is it that Dona Perfecta would change courtiers?"
I asked her.

" It may be, yet he is useful to Perfecta, and I would
rather hazard a guess that there is jealousy some

"Her husband?" I asked, scenting a fine scandal if
he should make troubles so late in the day.

"No Don Eduardo thinks only of holding political
powers, or adding to them he sees little else."

" Then "

" There is a higher official, you know, than Don
Eduardo," she said with a little shrug. " Also there is
an old friendship between him and Perfecta. It may be
he grows tired of seeing the same pets in the palace.
Thank God I shall be safely married and out of it ere
long ! It is not so easy, Don Juanito, to be an undowered
maid in a house of political intrigues. I have learned
so much I will scarcely be able to trust my own husband
when I get him ! "

" Yet there are those who envy you the chance to
live at a palace."

" Foolish they ! But a soldier s orphan must take
what offers. Perfecta has no love for my presence; it


is the safe, placid Don Eduardo who deemed it wise to
remember a far relationship. It left Perfecta not alone
among strangers if he was absent, and odious gossips
would have less to whisper. He is a good soul in intent.
I would have sorrow if she should forget it utterly. She
was but a child widow when she married him yet not
a child! She picked, not the richest suitor, but the
safest, and one of family. You see already what she
has made him. Yet she encourages him to think he did
it himself, and that she is his greatest admirer! Men
are curious."

To myself I thought women were.

"Tristan knows all these things think you?" I

"Why not? He knows old soldiers of her father s
troop. Now that she has won apartments in the palace,
their memories may not prove keen for she has power,
and God knows what ambition. Vanity alone stands
chance to win her ; for she has ever seen lads fight for
her and needs for her content to ever see it ! "

Scarce a week went by after that until she saw more
of it than the greatest coquette could wish, for Marco,
after carrying and showing his commission as maestro de
campo for a week, grew suddenly jealous and let the col
onists go north without him.

Some way Dona Perfecta got grace for him on the
ground of illness, and another man took charge, for the
whims of Marco had already made too many delays for
his own comfort.

Thus affairs stood, with Marco stalking about sullenly,
when Tristan was called to the palace to help make
straight some records left over from Don Payo s day,


a simple enough thing to everyone else, but a thing of
import to the jealous, watchful eyes of Marco.

Dona Mercedes, who told me of it, knew only that
Tristan, in leaving the work completed in the hands
of Don Eduardo, chanced to halt on the gallery to speak
with Anita, who was screened from the garden by the
blossoming vines. Tristan had no thought, perhaps,
that he was standing outside the private apartment of
Dona Perfecta, and after a few words with Anita, passed
on and out, to be met by Marco boiling with fury. He
saw in Tristan the sole reason of his commission to the
provinces, and what he said was heard by all who cared
to listen. He accused Tristan of scheming to put him
out of favor with the viceroy, and whatever he could
recall of patronage accepted by Tristan, he flung in his
face under the eyes and ears of all who thronged the
court. He fumed that Tristan was trying to climb by
clinging to the skirts of a woman, and then he spoke
of him as ingrate and baseborn a peasant who strove
to climb palace steps!

Then it was that Tristan, having no weapon, struck
him down with his hand, and left him there, stretched
on the tiles, with the blood from his nose not adding to
his beauty. A cry went up to halt the man who had
struck down a gentleman within the palace grounds, but
the call came too late, for those nearest had already
shrunk back to give Tristan room, and he walked out
without a word from first to last.

Straight to the house of Luiza he went, for it was there
Don Rodrigo was being nursed. The good woman made
many a prayer there, as in spite of all good nursing, the
color came not back to the old man, and the flesh was


shrinking until his face held deep wrinkles instead of its
former plump glow.

Tristan walked past her as he had walked past the
people at the palace, and for the first time in his life he
had neither courtesy for woman, nor mercy on age. To
the comfort of Luiza, Don Rodrigo was having a fairly
good sleep, but the hand of Tristan fell on his shoulder
as if he might have been a sentry sleeping on post.

" Awake and talk to me," he said. " Who was my

Don Rodrigo opened his eyes, and looked in fear at
the hard face.

" Tell me now," said Tristan. " I have had patience.
I have had courtesy, I have waited long. But whatever
it may do to me, I want the truth if you know it. You
must know it if he does ! "

" He? " and Don Rodrigo was trembling, " he? "

" Marco he said I was some peasant s bastard whom
his family protected."

" Holy God! What did you do? "

" I struck him down in the palace. I want the truth."

Don Rodrigo signed Luiza to leave, and she did, and
knelt praying in her kitchen, feeling as if her world were
rocking. As boys, Tristan had been master, and now
as man he had struck down his foster brother.

" The truth," said Tristan when she had gone. " Who
was my father?"

" Tristan, have you never guessed? "

" Yes, many times. You, General de Ordono, and
even "

Don Rodrigo drew from under his pillow a rosary of
brown beads with turquoise and shell interposed.


" It came to me from Don Payo. It is now yours,
Tristan, for he was the man: Fernando."

And Tristan knelt to receive the rosary, and laid his
head on the bed, and hid his face because of the tears.

" I dreamed that, and hoped it," he said, " yet it is a
bitter word for all that. He gave his life trying to make
amends for a folly of mine and I gave him love as I
gave no other."

" So long as he lived you were not to know but he
took the seal from my lips. He saved the life of Pedro,
Marco s father more than his life, for they were pris
oners of the Moors held for ransom. All he ever
asked of the De Ordono in recompense was shelter and
secrecy for you."

" If there was secrecy then Marco told the truth
you have all hidden," said Tristan, but Don Rodrigo
shook his head.

" See that the door is closed tightly," he said, " for I
give you the secret of souls gone to God, and it might
be better if I never told ; I do not know."

" If I am not of shameful blood, give me the truth of
it," said Tristan.

" It were hard to do, if it were not that you have ever
read books, and know some things of history which I
lack," and the old man was plainly averse to the task.
" And so you know there were very wealthy, and very
learned Jews of Spain who were banished, and took with
them the mr.gic, and it was said accursed knowledge
that was theirs."

" I know these things, for even Cristoval Colon would
never have got the blessing of the pope or consent of the
crown, if a whisper had been let fall of his Jew ancestry."


" You have heard that, too? " whispered Don Rodrigo.
" It is still unsafe to speak of it the Holy Brotherhood
smothered that knowledge when they found it, for Colon
himself was a good Christian."

" Though his relations were burnt as Jews in Pont-
evedra," said Tristan. " I have seen the records."

" Then forget them ere another sun comes up,"
warned the old man "that, and your own family
might "

" Ah ! " and as if a revelation had come to him Tristan
said, " Then that is the secret ; I am a Jew ! "

" You are not a Jew ! Your mother was so good a
Christian she was as a saint. My brother loved her, too,
but Fernando won her. You have read, perhaps, the
name of Abarbanel."

" The very learned Jew who was banished? "

" Yes, your mother was of that blood, exiled from
Spain. In Morocco they made marriages with the
priestly Kahn class, but her father married a Christian.
The father saved Fernan and my brother, Pedro, and,
dying, asked one favor that his daughter Dolores be
brought away from the land of the Moors. They brought
her smuggled somehow, with her ropes of jewels
worn under the dress of a serving maid. It was the great
adventure. Up in the hills of Antequera Fernan found
a priest, and Pedro was their marriage witness. Up
there Fernan hid her, but the jewels made trouble. A
few were sold and one was a famous gorget, a royal
gem. The crown and the Brotherhood went on the trail,
for the family holding those trinkets had been sentenced
to perpetual exile; also the officers had stripped those
exiles of gold and lands and jewel casket, and then woke


up to find the casket held only imitations. So it was a
serious matter; the jewels had been claimed for the
crown and the crown had been cheated. It may be your
mother did not even know of this until the search for
her was taken up. She was hidden with you, in many
places even in hill caves and hunted out. Then
Pedro took you, and Fernan strove to go north with her
and take ship. Well, there was another child, and she
went to God on the Galician shore, and her babe went
with her. Yes, she was Christian, but she had the blood
of Jewish priests, and her family was so strong that no
member was to ever set foot on ground of Catholic
Spain. She was only a child in those days, and Fernan
was only a boy; they thought the Brotherhood would
take no note of one little child woman but they did
not know ! "

" Does Luiza know? "

" Nothing but what she may think and that is that
you were no doubt of our family. Her first husband
gave credit to me, as I was the one bachelor among us.
He was planning to make some money by holding my
secret, when the devil took him."

" Then I am a Jew," said Tristan again.

" Don t say it ! " begged Don Rodrigo. "Fernan and
your mother were good Christians ever."

" But my blood is Jewish my brain is Jewish. It
is like a curtain lifted! It gave me the hunger for the
study of the gods of the pagans ; I wonder, Don Rodrigo,
if I searched for the unknown god because I was search
ing the way back to the god of the ancient Kahns for
that was a royal house, and its symbol was the serpent
of wisdom, also there is the same name in the sky gods


of these people, and the symbol is the same. It is a
priestly caste."

" God forbid you should go deeper into such abomina
tions for the reason that I tell you of your Jewish
blood! " groaned Don Rodrigo. " Yes, it was blood of
power, too much power to please the kings of Spain.
Also, jewels to outshine an ambitious queen are dan
gerous possessions."

" Then why should Marco shout baseborn at me? "
demanded Tristan, but the old man reached out his hand
in pleading.

" He does not know ; he is an angry child with a lost
toy, and blames you, perhaps. But Tristan, your two
fathers loved, and starved, and shared prison together.
He can never be told that. Are you big enough, Tristan,
to know it all and hide it, and not be hurt by his words? "

" I would rather tell the truth in the plaza for all to
hear," said Tristan. " Am I to show shame of my blood
when kings of old were proud of it? "

But Don Rodrigo caught his hands, and begged him
to unsay the words.

" Your friends will be caught in the toils as well as
you if ever the Holy Brotherhood should add you to the
suspected heretics," he reminded. " You are safe
as was your father under the wing of the church, but
only the monk s robe saved him at the last. Remember
these things, Tristan. No drop of Jewish blood was
in him, and no heresy ; yet he had to live in shadow and
silence because he had fathered the son of the house of
exiles. We guarded you as a child, Tristan. He left
you to me. You would not undo the work of his life for
your safety? "


" No I will not do that. But silence is bitter ; I am
proud of the truth, yet must act shame."

" For my sake, Tristan, the sake of an old man. And
what of your quarrel with Marco? "

" I would do him no ill except as he earns it. He is
much to you, I know, but give him a word that will
warn him if ever I need lift hand to him again."

" And you are not cast down at the word I have given
you? " asked the old man.

" I ? You have opened a window for a dark soul !
Don Rodrigo, I have entered this day into a royal heri
tage, and I have learned why my mother called me the
name of sadness."

Then Don Rodrigo told him there were some family
records among Don Fernando s papers; they would
show him the ancestry of his Christian family. And
with some kindly words, the old man wearily turned his
head on the pillow, and fell asleep, worn out by the doing
of the task he had long promised to do when the time

The resentment against Marco seemed to slip out of
Tristan s mind, when he learned how very ignorant he
had been of all the truth also how senselessly jealous.

I had been told of the scandal at the palace, so I was
waiting outside at a word from Luiza, and when the door
opened, and Tristan came into the street, his face held all
the radiance of a new day. He walked beside me, scarce
heeding my blundering attempts to explain Marco and
his jealous furies.

" That will look after itself," he said ; " she has him
frantic that she seeks importance for him elsewhere
than at the palace. It was easy for him to believe I had


her ear; he could not see it was Anita with whom I

"But the insult?"

" It was an ignorant one for which I may yet give
him the sound thrashing he well earned. Yet, for the
sake of Don Rodrigo, I might find myself doing him a
favor after the thrashing! The old man has been my
friend this day. I would do much to make his days con
tent, there may not be so many of them."

There was not in his face a sign of the anger from
which the group at the palace had shrunk away, and I
had my own wonder as to how a man could, for anyone,
show favor after such an insult. But I was soon to
learn this, and other things. Marco de Ordono was only
a spoiled and petted child, yet out of his jealous whims
came tragic things to all of us, and that encounter in
the court was but the beginning.

Dona Perfecta had her own tasks to explain why two
men quarreled under her window. Even Don Eduardo
was aroused to an interest in this, and there would have
been an arrest of Tristan, but for the desire to let the
matter go quietly to sleep.

But again did Marco and his jealousy prevent. Notes
were exchanged, and Dona Perfecta, with intent to
prevail upon him that he follow quickly after the colon
ists, gave him secret audience of which only Anita was
witness. That poor child was desperate with her own
secret, as was learned later, and eager to go where
Tristan might not follow.

However they planned it, there was some lack of
cleverness, and some hand to write a note of warning
to Don Tomas ; the viceregal palace was used for


rendezvous which might make scandals for the future.
That writer was never known, but I suspected the man
who would have liked to hold the office of secretary,
instead of Don Eduardo.

The first I knew of it was a note to Tristan without

If you have power such as is thought at the palace, the
nephew of Don Rodrigo is in danger there, in the room of a
lady, and the order has come to post extra guard tonight.

Tristan read it, and looked at the time.

" The guard is changed in a few minutes, that will be
the time," he said. " In the rooms of a lady that means
she either wants him caught, or urges him to leave the
city. In either case "

He girded the old robe about him, the cowl over his
face, and was out into the darkness before the thought
was voiced.

In either case, it was the viceroy who was alert instead
of the husband. That posting of the guard had its own
significance. Ernesto Galvez was of the guard, and was
a friend of Don Rodrigo. Evidently he did not want
Dona Mercedes in any way concerned with a message.

It was not until later I had time to think this out, for
at that time I could only tag at the heels of Tristan, and
see him enter by the gate of the garden. Then I strolled
to the back to take note of guards and saw none, only
three horses held by a young fellow who gave but un
gracious greeting as I passed him in the darkness.

I had but reached the corner when a figure in robe and
cowl came flying out of the gate.


" Up ! " he said to the youth holding the horses. " Up
and away ere he finds you ! I have the pass."

Whereupon they both tumbled into saddles, and went
into darkness, and while I thought the voice was that
of Marco, it is not easy to tell of a voice by a whisper,
and I was frozen with dread lest I had seen the escape
of Dona Perfecta, and her most troublesome favorite,
and the scandal would be great.

The echo of the horse hoofs had scarce ended when a
troop of men filed along the wall. From the other
side of the narrow street I could hear one laugh, " What
sort of night bird, think you, we spread the net for?"
he asked.

There was no answer, for at that moment a door
opened in the wall at the back, and a light from the
garden came through, and in the light stood Tristan
as he stepped quickly out to the darkness.

But not quick enough, for from each side a guard
moved. I was standing square in the light ; it was dim,
yet enough to show him my face, and with a hurtling
run he staggered back the guard and leaped across the
space to me. I could only stare, for it was as if he
meant to assault me that he plunged forward ; and, step
ping back, I did trip and fall, and he dropped beside

It surely looked to the others as if he had stumbled
over me, but his knee touched the ground only enough
for the ruse, and his hand was on my breast, and under
my cloak was thrust a flat small packet, filling me with

Then he arose, and the guards were upon him, and he
laughed as he turned to walk with them.


" You are wrong, my friends," he said. " I am not
a brigand that you need arms to take me, now I know
who you are. I deemed you highwaymen when I sought
to leap clear of you."

They led him away for all that, and I followed, at a
distance, past the palace, where naught was to be
learned. A word with Dona Mercedes showed me she
was panic stricken, Dona Perfecta knew nothing, or
would tell nothing.

And I, failing to see Tristan or learn aught at the
prison, made my way back to bed and tossed, sleepless,
until morning, with the little packet under my pillow.
He had uttered no word to me, but I knew that the glove
I had coveted was at last in my keeping yet no
pleasure came with it.

The viceroy had not caught the man he hoped, and
someone had to pay for that. I do not think in the
beginning he would have given special thought to the
affair of Tristan, had Dona Perfecta not lost her head.
But she was more than a little amazed to learn that
while Marco had escaped, it had not been alone. Anita
Gomez was also gone, and Luiza in the first fright, had
asked concerning Marco, whereupon others about the
palace remembered many things! Dona Perfecta was
quite happy over this matter of Anita. It made clear all
the jealousy of Marco it was Anita with whom Tris
tan talked back of the lattice, and was the plain cause of
the quarrel, and so on, and so on !

All was fish to her net, and the going of Anita was to
her a blessing sent by the angels.

And then the real thunderbolt fell, and her little
power dwindled until she was frantic. Just as she


had planned how to appear as a guardian angel to Tris
tan, and thus make him her debtor forever, a stronger
hand than hers was laid upon him, and beyond that was
terror and sickness of heart for all of us.

For Mateo Gomez went to confession.

That sounds as slight a thing as that Marco had shown
jealous temper.

Yet all these lives were entwined until I began to
think no look or word was without weight, and the
confession of Mateo was a weighty matter indeed. It
placed a guard at the door of Don Rodrigo, and gave a
definite charge against Tristan, who had failed to accuse
himself of the evil of Jewish blood!

And poor Luiza, who retired to pray during that con
fession of Don Rodrigo, had given no thought that
Mateo was in bed in the adjoining room, and was, in one
hour, more important in the eyes of the Inquisition than
ever before in his entire life.

Don Rodrigo was questioned by the officers, and came
near to dying at the first shock, then braced himself like
an old soldier facing a charge and told all, as Mateo had
heard. The people were all dead his brother Pedro,
his friend, Fernando Alcatraz, and the Christian girl,
Dolores Maria Kahn. Yes, many jewels had been in
her hands, so he had been told, and because of that
hidden wealth, she had been searched for until she
died, so he had heard, and his brother who would have
wedded her but that Fernando had her love, was their
friend while he lived, and hid the child for them. Jewels
and books also he hid, for the father of Dolores was very
learned, and a great collector of knowledge, and the
books were for the son of his daughter if there should be


one, for he believed that the God of Moses would in
time lead his people into peace, and they must know the
records of their race and their clans.

No, Don Rodrigo knew not what had been the end of
the books. Pedro had them in charge in Spain, but
Pedro died. It might be Fernando could have told, but
Fernando also was dead, and as for the boy how could
he be blamed for all this of which he knew nothing? He
had not even known the name of either father or mother.

So all at once everybody knew at least that Marco was
wrong for a Kahn and an Abarbanel could not be
base in caste, however evil their souls might be through

Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 8 of 26)