Chapter XVI

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LOUIS RAMIREZ sat awaiting Captain Carillo, to whom he had promised an interview that evening. His heart was heavy with the burden it had taken upon it. He saw how entirely Manuelita's happiness, nay, her very life almost, depended upon her marriage with Captain Carillo, and he had determined to leave no effort untried to accomplish it. With all his poetic, dreamy nature, Louis Ramirez was not wanting in sound, practical judgment in an emergency like this; he had studied Balthazar Carillo's character closely in the past few weeks, and had learned that although courteous, brave and amiable he was easily influenced by those who were with him, and he knew that once in Spain his father's influence would prevent his ever returning to Sonora.

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‘‘She is so hopeful, so trusting—but how often hope is only another word for illusion and self-deception!’’ he said. ‘‘Our feelings give colour to our reasoning, and where the heart comes in as the important factor, all reason merges itself into hope.’’

Her head bowed upon the table by which she sat, the sobs that welled up from her very heart, rose before him, as he had seen them, but one short hour ago. ‘‘It must be, it must be,’’ he said aloud, ‘‘only in his love will she be happy.’’

Returning to the house he found that Captain Carillo was with Manuelita. A few moments later he sought Louis Ramirez.

A mutual embarrassment seemed to possess them, which Louis Ramirez was the first to break, ‘‘I understand that you are to leave us soon, Captain,’’ he said, motioning him to a seat, and seating himself opposite to him.

‘‘Yes,’’ replied Balthazar Carillo. ‘‘I leave for an absence of several months. As Manuelita's

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guardian I wished much to speak to you. I do not need to tell you that I love her, and have done so for some months; you have of course seen this. I was about to speak to Father Kino at the time of his death. I am assured of her love for me, and would ask your consent to our engagement.’’

‘‘When do you propose to marry her?’’ asked Louis Ramirez.

‘‘On my return from Spain in April.’’

‘‘What if you do not return?’’

‘‘Why, what do you mean? I shall certainly return.’’

‘‘But so many contingencies arise every day to frustrate one's most fixed intentions. You may be detained: one can never entirely control their own actions.’’

‘‘Well, cannot her simple life continue here, with Catiche and yourself, until I do return?’’

‘‘What do you call a simple life, Captain Carillo?’’

‘‘Why, the quiet, uneventful one that you

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all lead here, of course; one in which each day repeats itself.’’

‘‘Do you not think it possible that what you are pleased to call this quiet, simple life, calls for more heroism, more patient self-abnegation, than a much more brilliant one would? Except for the consciousness of a duty nobly performed, do you think that the monotony of each day's routine, of instructing these poor ignorant children, is the work that a girl of Manuelita's beauty and refinement would choose? She is poetic, even romantic: that she knows but little of the world except through the medium of books, does not prevent her young mind from being filled with the hopes and ambitions which come with intellectual growth and culture, or her young imagination from feeding upon the joy and happiness of a young maiden's first dream of love; there is but one springtime for women, if it fails them, it never returns.’’

‘‘I would not detract from the heroism and patient devotion of her life, and its self-enforced

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duties, but she does not know any other. Her whole life has been spent among them. She loves them, and would not be happy separated from them.’’

‘‘You just told me that she loved you, and yet you purpose to separate her from yourself. Will she be happy without you, think you?’’

‘‘No, I fear not; but I leave so soon. I cannot take her with me.’’

‘‘Then it is she, the woman that you say you love, and who you know loves you, whom you propose to sacrifice, not yourself? Believe me, Captain Carillo, that we who lead the simple, uneventful lives, that you despise, could not be capable of such betrayal of our truest instincts of honour, and a woman's generous faith and love.’’

‘‘My father must be prepared for my marriage. I must win his consent. He would never forgive me.’’

‘‘A man who truly loves the woman that he proposes to make his wife, counts her love

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and happiness above all the world. I fear you do not know what such love is.’’

‘‘I love her truly and tenderly. What would you have me do?’’

‘‘I would have you marry her now; defer your leave awhile, and then should accident or unforeseen emergency arise to prevent your return, as your wife she could join you. To her you are the one lover she will ever know. But for you she would have remained happy and contented in the position in which it pleased Providence to place her. You have made this impossible for her now all her hopes of happiness in life are now centered in you; she can never know it unless you give it to her. Think of her youth, her beauty, her sensitive nature. Do not these appeal strongly to your love? If you truly love her you will not leave her in any other way. It will break her heart, I am sure;’’ and, the strong, brave man pleaded for the happiness of the woman, who to him was more than all the world, pleaded for her as he would not have

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done for his own life, while his emotion almost stifled him, and made it so difficult for him to give expression to his full and earnest meaning.

And so it was settled. Captain Carillo wrote to his father that he would avail himself of the leave three months later, told him of his approaching marriage, and asked his blessing upon it.

When Louis Ramirez told Catiche that Manuelita's wedding would take place a few weeks hence, and that the Captain would defer his departure to Spain for some months, the poor woman who had watched over and loved her as her own child, said, ‘‘I am so glad that she will be happy,’’ and yet from the moment it was determined upon, a dread seemed to haunt the poor creature like a giant spectre, a dread of something, which, although she tried resolutely to drive it from her, and to think only of her child's happiness in her love and the new life that was about to open to her, impressed her more and more.

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‘‘You seem so sad, madre,’’ Manuelita said to her one day, ‘‘are you not glad that I am to be so happy?’’

‘‘Yes, my child, very glad; yet when one is to do something very serious, something that will make one either very happy or very unhappy, one is naturally very serious. Is one not, my child?’’

‘‘But, madre, what are you going to do that is so very serious?’’ replied Manuelita, laughing. ‘‘I thought it was I who was going to take a serious step.’’

‘‘And does not you happiness mean more to me, child, than my own could? I do not ask it for myself, only for you,’’ and she stroked the head of the beautiful girl with such pathetic tenderness.

‘‘Oh, I will be happy, so happy, as only his love can make me, and what more can I ask?’’ she replied, throwing her arms around the faithful woman, who had so nobly, so unselfishly filled a mother's place to her all her life.

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And yet the prescience of evil to come haunted the poor creature like a living, breathing presence. ‘‘Oh! If I were only like the birds that flee before the storm, if I could only know where it would come from, so that I could keep it away from my child,’’ she would say.

Poor, faithful Catiche, when she felt the prescience of evil to come, she could not know that it was on herself the impending stone would fall with its desolating cruelty.

In the little adobe church where Manuelita had worshipped from her earliest childhood, she became the wife of Balthazar Carillo. The morning rose bright and clear, the glorious sun coming out of its eastern shadows scattered every cloud from the face of the heavens. The autumn drawing to its close left its crimson glories tinged with the warmth and softness of summer, rather than the stern frosts which change the silk of the fields, and blight the growing clover.

The Indian youths and maidens had

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wandered far for the evergreens that dressed the little chapel, for they all loved her, and crowded eagerly around her as she passed the threshold of her own home.

When Louis Ramirez placed Manuelita's hand in that of Balthazar Carillo, he did it with a calmness of despair, but a calmness so perfect, so unperturbed that no one suspected the agony which he suffered but Catiche, who had long ago discovered the secret that the poor brother thought so carefully guarded in his own breast. When he laid his hand upon them and blessed them, his heart seemed to die within him.

Manuelita had naturally expected that when she went to her presidio home Catiche would go with her; the subject had not been discussed in the short interval previous to their marriage, but the thought of separation from her had never occurred to her as possible.

When, after their simple wedding-breakfast at the mission home, which Catiche had prepared with so much loving care, it grew

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time for them to drive to the presidio, and the carriage awaited them at the door, she went to look for Catiche, she found the poor woman's eyes full of tears, and her head bowed upon her arms.

"Why, madre mio, tears on your child's wedding day! Oh, how cruel and naughty—one does not cry when one is so happy. ‘‘And you are not ready to go with me either. Make haste, Balthazar is waiting for us.’’

‘‘Not for me, I think, my child,’’ as the tears began to form again in her eyes.

‘‘What, madre! you are not going with me?’’

‘‘The Captain thinks I should remain and take care of Brother Ramirez.’’

‘‘There is some mistake. I must see,’’ and she hurriedly left the room.

‘‘Oh, Balthazar, madre Catiche says that she is not to go with us, that you think she should remain and take care of Brother Ramirez.’’

‘‘Why, surely, my darling, you must think so too; would you leave the poor brother entirely

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alone? I must not rob him of his whole household at once,’’ and folding her tenderly in his arms, he continued, ‘‘I will explain all to my Manuelita, and she will see that I have acted for the best. Say good-bye now, and we will drive home.’’

Rushing back to her room she threw her arms around the neck of the much beloved Catiche, who knelt with head bowed upon her cot, and mingled her tears with those of the faithful, loving woman.

‘‘Do not grieve so, madre; it will all be right. I am to come back to mass and to dine with you on Sunday, and you will see that all will be right,’’ and pressing the poor woman tenderly in her arms and kissing her on both cheeks she hurried from the room.

When she came to say good-bye to Brother Ramirez he had disappeared, leaving word that he would see her on the following Sunday.

‘‘I am so unhappy at leaving madre

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Catiche. What will she do without me?’’ Manuelita said, as the carriage drove from the door.

‘‘My Manuelita will be reasonable, I am sure, when I explain to her my motive for thinking it better that Catiche should remain with Brother Ramirez. She has been a kind, devoted mother to you, and you could not feel towards her or treat her otherwise than as one, but in your home, in the presidio, my darling, it will be so different. You could not make her, your housekeeper, a servant, and my Manuelita will understand that we could not make a guest of her. I appreciate fully all your love and gratitude for her, but you will see what I mean.’’

Manuelita did not reply, but the tears coursed silently down her cheeks.

‘‘My little bride must not shed such tears upon her wedding day,’’ he continued, drawing her to him, ‘‘she will soon understand that I am right, and Catiche will see it too very soon.’’

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‘‘It will break her heart,’’ she sobbed through her tears.

‘‘For a little while only. I discussed the point with Brother Ramirez, and he thought I was right. I am sure you have confidence in his judgment, as well as in his love for you.’’

‘‘Yes,’’ she replied very hesitatingly, and the subject was never again renewed. Manuelita missed her loving ministrations, and the poor, faithful woman was not to be comforted; mechanically and conscientiously she performed her daily routine of duties, but her heart was sad and very heavy again. ‘‘Once more am I bereft of all,’’ she said, ‘‘and I cannot yet say 'Thy will be done.'’’

Each time she saw Manuelita the sorrow welled up in her heart with renewed strength, yet she would say, ‘‘Only keep her happy, merciful Providence, and I will ask no blessing for myself.’’

She understood now only too well why her heart had been so heavy with the prescience

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of evil when Manuelita was so happy and had remonstrated with her for it. ‘‘I asked,’’ she said, ‘‘that the sorrow should fall upon me only, and the good God has granted my prayer. She is happy in her love, I will ask no more.’’

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