Chapter X

Up: Contents Previous: Chapter IX Next: Chapter XI

[page 134]

IT was a lovely afternoon in late October, as perfect as nature ever gave even in this latitude, the air was mild and soft, a warm blue smoke lay in the mountain gaps, in which was reflected the dreamy gorgeousness of colouring of the heavens above; a gentle wind crept over the tree-tops, which were now brilliant with the glories of autumnal foliage; autumn, drawing to its close, had left its last remembrance tinged with the softness of its parent summer: the huge white clouds, known as the cirrhi cumuli, swept grandly over the blue sky, and gathered in masses westward, changing their form as the wind rolled others to them or scattered them further westward. Many of nature's wildlings

[page 135]

still parséméd the hillsides and the valleys, the golden daisies were scattered over the brown furrows of the fields, and the dainty blossoms of the grease-wood glistened in the sun like a sheet of gold over the land.

Father Kino had been weak and ill all during the summer's heat and obliged, all unwillingly, to delegate most of his work to Louis Ramirez; but this mild, soft air of autumn had brought him renewed temporary strength, and this lovely afternoon he sat with Manuelita in the pretty little summerhouse, which he had built for her out in the garden. Catiche had planted a jessamine around it, which now in full blossom wafted its perfume in upon them.

‘‘Shall I read you some of these pretty little German songs, father?’’ asked Manuelita, opening the volume which she held in her hand.

‘‘Yes, daughter, if you will.’’

When she had read him the Sower's Song, he repeated the lines:

[page 136]

And would ye partake of Harvest's joys,
The corn must be sown in the Spring.

‘‘Think of that often, my child, that in youth, which corresponds in allegory to the spring of nature, the soil must be prepared and the seed sown, if we expect an autumn's harvest. Labour was truly said by the ancients to be the price which the gods demanded for all success in life. This applies equally to the heart and mind, as well as to the hands.’’

‘‘I have striven hard to do this, dear father; help me to do more.’’

‘‘I know you have, dear child, and I feel not in vain. Others may help us, but we must be what we are of ourselves; we must learn to use all our advantages to accomplish the greatest good. Thus will we gather the rich harvest. No matter how often discouraged and defeated, we must work on to victory. Read me the little song of the Nightmoth. It was always a favourite of mine.’’

When she had finished reading it he repeated slowly:

[page 137]

Poor Moth! thy fate my own resembles,
Me too a restless asking mind
Hath sent on far and weary rambles,
To seek the good I ne'er shall find.

‘‘How often I have sympathised with the poor moth in its supposed effort to know something of itself: how delightfully poetry brings man into harmonious unison with nature: it develops all his generous impulses and feelings, the world without us and within us so beautifully linked by love into one harmonious union. It teaches morality and religion.’’ Pressing Manuelita's hand gently he continued, ‘‘How happy it makes me, dear child, to be out here once more and listen to your sweet voice read these poems that I loved so much in my youth. I had feared that happiness was to be denied me more.’’

‘‘We will soon have you well and strong again, padre mio,’’ she said.

‘‘My little daughter does not look so well herself,’’ he said, looking at her earnestly, ‘‘she is losing her pretty colour and her flesh;

[page 138]

you have been too anxious about me, I fear, dear—we must take better care of you.’’

‘‘Now that you are better I will soon regain what I have lost.’’

‘‘And Brother Ramirez seems far from well; he is pale, distrait, does not eat, and grows thin. I wish I could let him go off to the sea-coast for a few weeks; next month, when I am a little stronger, he must go.’’

‘‘Could I not do some of his work, and let him go now?’’

‘‘I fear not, child; but he tells me that you are doing admirably with your classes; that the women and children love you, and that you will succeed well with them. This is as I had hoped, dear child,’’ he said, looking tenderly at her. ‘‘You will be a great blessing to them. Work hard, dear, for the amelioration of the condition of your own sex. Christianity has done so much for the elevation and improvement of the condition of women in civilised lands that you must work hard to accomplish it here. You will have much to

[page 139]

overcome with the men—custom and prejudice are so strong, and it is the custom of most barbaric nations to exact so much of their women.’’

‘‘A young girl's life among them is not quite so hard, but after marriage their fate seems very cruel,’’ Manuelita said.

‘‘Yes, when they should be so much kinder and so much more tender of them, they make veritable slaves of them. This has been the most discouraging part of my labour among them.’’

‘‘They seem to think that help or kindness to their women means weakness—a forfeiting of some manly right to tyrannise over the weak.’’

‘‘Teach them, my child, that this is not so, that among people of education and intelligence, goodness and kindness to the weak and helpless shows manly strength and courage. His capacity to hunt and fight is what an Indian most values; teach them that they will become wiser and better and more pleasing

[page 140]

to their Creator by engaging in domestic pursuits.’’

‘‘You have done so much for them, dear father. Canoche says that they are a different people since you came among them.’’

‘‘I have been with them more than twenty years, and hope my labour has not been all in vain. Canoche has been a great help to me, and so has my good Catiche. What a faithful, devoted creature she has been to us both as well as to them! God has blessed my work among them abundantly, and in no way more than in giving me these two valuable, devoted aids. You must never be separated from Catiche, my child—she has indeed been a mother to you.’’

‘‘Poor Canoche has been so sad since Panchita's death,’’ said Manuelita.

‘‘Yes, she was his favourite child; with all the beauty and glory of life there must always be strong lines of suffering in parallel, and we must accept the one with the other; life can never be all happiness and joy; we would

[page 141]

not be reconciled to the necessity of exchanging this for a better one.’’

Taking his hand in hers and raising it to her lips she said, ‘‘How good and tender a father you have always been to me. What would my life have been without you?’’

‘‘And what a blessing my little daughter has been to me. The old live in the smiles and pleasures of their children. I could not have loved you better had you been my own child; the thought of leaving you soon makes me very sad.’’

‘‘Oh, do not speak of it—you will break my heart.’’

‘‘Where is my daughter's strength and courage?’’ he asked, stroking her head tenderly, ‘‘that she dare not look danger in the face. The old must pass away, child. I have passed man's allotted period here. It is the body only which dies, the perishable form of the immortal life; only think, child, of the heaven of purified love and life, the great book of knowledge opened to us at last, with understanding

[page 142]

to mark, read and inwardly digest all that has seemed so inexplicable, so incomprehensible here.’’

For a few moments they sat in silence, then, taking Manuelita's hand in his, Father Kino said, ‘‘I have tried to be mindful of your temporal wants also, my child: the little cottage that I have built near Canoche's is for you and Catiche, and the good Canoche has promised me to watch over and care for you both. Brother Ramirez will not probably be left long in charge of this mission, but he will never quite forsake you. The good God has been so good, child, that I feel I have only to leave you in his keeping.’’

‘‘Oh, we could not live without you, dear father.’’

‘‘You must live for your people, my child. As you love me, be faithful to them. Study much, labour hard for them, but above all love them—this is the great secret of success. Your earnestness and devotion to them must be an inspiration: it must come with love and

[page 143]

prayer. Do not weep so, my child, it may be that I shall yet be spared to you for awhile. Go now, for a long walk, and ask Catiche to bring me a glass of water.’’

As Manuelita arose hurriedly to conceal her emotion, she laid the little shell-box, which Father Kino had brought her in our opening chapter from the dying Panchita, upon the table at which he sat. Here Father Kino remained for some moments, absorbed in thought; so much of the past seemed to come to him, the waves of memory brought rapidly before him the past twenty years, the long years of his mission work here among these children that he had adopted as his own. A new generation had sprung up since he came to live among them: he had married their maidens and youths, baptised their children, buried their dead. What a rich store of memories his full and active life among them now brought him, a long life of usefulness and unselfish devotion to them. The thought of soon leaving them made him very sad, and

[page 144]

more than all this one little ewe lamb that he loved better than his own life—what would become of her, what had fate reserved for her? He could see but one life for her—one of devotion to this people.

‘‘Single is each man born into the world, single he dies,’’ says the eastern philosopher. ‘‘When he dies, his body lies like a fallen tree upon the earth, but his virtues accompany his soul. Wherefore let man harvest and garner virtue that so he may have an inseparable companion in that gloom which all must pass through, and which it is so hard to traverse.’’

Father Kino repeated this gently aloud, and then his thoughts reverted again to Manuelita, the child he had rescued, and had loved so well. ‘‘Poor child,’’ he said aloud, ‘‘how tenderly I love her. What a blessing she has been to me for twenty years.’’

Involuntarily he stretched out his hand and drew the little shell-box to him. ‘‘The child's only Lares,’’ he said, as he lifted the lid and took out the rosary; there beside it lay two

[page 145]

roses and a leaf tied with a blue ribbon. He started and a grave expression settled upon his face.

‘‘Ah, here is a Lares that I did not know of. What can it mean?’’ and he recalled a Sunday in the early summer when he had seen Captain Carillo give her these flowers.

‘‘Ah, I fear I have not watched my child as carefully as I had thought;’’ and he began to recall evidences not before thought of, and his heart grew heavy and his brow thoughtful. ‘‘Why these flowers so carefully pressed and preserved, and placed where they must be seen whenever she used the rosary?’’ he asked. ‘‘That she may see them often, I fear, and feed on the tender love and hope they inspire. Poor child, if this is so she will indeed be wretched. Captain Carillo belongs to a proud and noble house in Spain, is an only son and heir to a title and a fortune. I do not think he would marry out of his own rank. Can this account for her pallor, her dejection, her abstraction? And I had attributed

[page 146]

it all to care and anxiety for me! Strange that I should have been so long blind to this. He has certainly talked much to her and seemed much interested in her.’’

Looking up he saw Catiche. ‘‘Ah, here comes Catiche; I will speak to her about it. Her true woman's heart will have learned what I have failed to.’’

‘‘I am so glad to see the Senor Padre so much better,’’ said Catiche, placing the glass of water beside him, and a glass of wine and a few biscuits. ‘‘This wine will do the Senor good if he will drink it. Captain Carillo has just sent it, and says that it is very choice.’’

‘‘Thank you, I will drink it; and stay with me awhile, my good Catiche, I would talk to you of something that lies very near my heart. Catiche, you love Manuelita, I know, with all the tenderness and devotion of a mother; tell me, have you not thought her very quiet and abstracted lately, more so than the heat and anxiety for me would justify? The young, you know, are elastic in nature, and do not

[page 147]

grieve so much from such causes. They have a sorrow sometimes which sympathy and the love of a mother or father does not reach. Tell me, Catiche, for I know your woman's heart must know these things.’’

‘‘Ah, Senor Padre, I fear you are right. I had hoped this new sorrow would be spared you.’’

‘‘What does it mean, Catiche, when a young maiden presses the flowers given her by a young man, ties them with a blue ribbon and preserves them in the place she regards most sacred, where she can see them constantly?’’

‘‘Has Manuelita done this?’’

Father Kino opened the box, and here Catiche saw them. ‘‘Ah,’’ sighed the good woman, ‘‘it is then as I feared. I have seen it for some weeks.’’

‘‘What have you seen?’’

‘‘I have seen the extra care that she gives her dress on Sunday, the feverish excitement in her manner and voice until he comes, I have seen the sweet smile brighten on her

[page 148]

face at his approach, and forsake it when he leaves. Some weeks ago—it must have been the night that he gave her the flowers—yes, it was Sunday night, she thought I was asleep; the door between our rooms was open, she stole from her bed, I saw her go to the window and sit beside it, and look out upon the beautiful starlit night, and then I heard her say, ‘‘Madre Catiche says that love comes to us in the flowers and the birds from those who have loved us and been taken away from us, but I think the love of the living is so beautiful, it must surely come from the beautiful heavens, it is too divine for earth.’’ Here she sat for some moments, and then she fell upon her knees beside the open window and I saw her take something from her bosom and press it to her lips, and mutter, ‘‘Bless him and keep him, dear Lord, for I love him.’’ Here upon her knees she remained some time, seemingly absorbed in prayer, and again she pressed the flowers to her lips, and again murmured ‘‘Bless him and make him happy, dear Lord.’’’’

[page 149]

‘‘Ah, cruel, cruel are the tortures of love,’’ replied Father Kino. ‘‘Love's first draught is very sweet to a young girl, but the after-taste must come, and, alas, how full that often is of bitterness!’’

‘‘What do you fear, Senor? I think he loves her.’’

‘‘But Catiche, what can such love mean? He belongs to a noble, wealthy family. The Marquis de Carillo would sooner see him dead than consent to such a marriage—an obscure, unknown girl, however gentle and beautiful.’’

‘‘But if he loves her, will he not forsake everything and everybody for her?’’

‘‘My good Catiche, you speak from your own honest, faithful heart, with which love and duty are the only law, but you do not understand the pride of birth and fortune; how a proud man, who has seen each generation, through marriage, add new rank and fortune to his name and position sets his heart upon these splendid alliances.’’

[page 150]

‘‘But have you not told me often, Senor, that we are all God's children? that he cares for and watches over us all with the same love and tenderness?’’

‘‘Yes, yes, my good Catiche, this is true of our Heavenly Father, but unfortunately man is not like Him. In the world, of which you do not know, men value rank and riches very highly. I see much sorrow and disappointment for my beautiful Manuelita. Watch her, guard her, try to soften this blow for her, as you love her.’’

‘‘I will, I will; but she is brave. If he does not love her enough to cling to her above all others, she will conquer it.’’

‘‘Never, I fear: this is a philosophy young hearts do not know; theirs reconciles them only to past ills, or else those that seem in the remote future, but not to those of the present.’’

‘‘Ah, Senor, we can learn to bear a sorrow bravely when we have done no wrong, and when those we love do not suffer; if he loves

[page 151]

her then all is right, if only she loves him, then she must conquer her heart; she has a brave spirit, my little Manuelita,’’ she said tenderly.

‘‘There is a despair which brings a calmness that we sometimes mistake for resignation, it is more fatal than an outward manifestation of grief. Do not mistake it, Catiche; guard her from it if possible.’’

‘‘What would you, Senor? We are none of us happy, but we can all of us do what is right.’’

‘‘I would have her happy as far as it is possible; sadness and unhappiness in youth are so desolating. When Captain Carillo comes again, watch him closely, and tell me what you see: your woman's instincts are quicker than mine. Ask her to come and sit with me again.’’

Up: Contents Previous: Chapter IX Next: Chapter XI

© Arizona Board of Regents