Chapter VI


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WHEN Manuelita was about fifteen years of age a new element came into her life; one that brought much pleasant variety and delightful companionship. Father Kino's assistant, a man like himself advancing in years and in failing health, was compelled to give up his work and return to Spain. Louis Ramirez, a young man of five and twenty years, a lay brother, was sent to temporarily fill his place.

Louis Ramirez was a poet and a scholar, and when advised by his friends that he was mistaking his vocation, that with his dreaming, poetic nature he would never be able to endure the privations and hardships of the Jesuit mission work, he would say that, ‘‘the enthusiasm and feeling which would have made the poet, would augment and strengthen


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in the priest. There is no toil which can be nobler,’’ he would reply. ‘‘The great desire I feel to do something for humanity will bring that passion for my labor which is thought and feeling united, and without which religion, history, art, even the poet, for which you tell me I am only fit, could not exist.’’

Full of this earnest enthusiasm for the mission work, he left his pleasant home in Spain for this arduous field of New Spain.

Louis Ramirez was the son of a successful councillor-at-law in Seville, who, when quite a young man, had been sent by a law firm, in whose employ he then was, to the little village of Mesnil St. Loup, in France, to hunt the heir to a large estate in Seville. While there he had fallen in love with and married a young French girl. Fearing to incur his father's displeasure by this rash and hasty step, he left her with her mother until he could reconcile his father to his marriage, but death stepped in to smooth the way for him; the young wife died some months later,


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at the birth of the little Louis, who was left to the care of his maternal grandmother, and his father formed a second alliance more in consonance with his father's wishes, and his own later ambition.

Mesnil St. Loup was a little village on the road from Paris to Troyes, of almost as little importance then as now. It contained a pretty little auberge, or inn, with a picturesque pole in front of the door, garlanded with flowers, as the sign of a public-house, after the fashion of the times, and a little church, which had seen many centuries pass over its primitive walls, surrounded by venerable oaks. These oaks had long shown the hand of time, but still shaded a great stone cross and fountain, at which the traveller halted to drink, and offer a silent prayer for the faithful who worshipped there.

Always a dreamy, silent boy, Louis would sit for hours under these old trees, with some odd volumes of poems, or Chanson de Geste of the great heroic age of France, the early


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Carlovingian,—how he loved these old French epics, and the old poetry and stories of the Troubadours, which excited and fed his poetic nature, until this dreaming by daylight became the happiest part of the boy's life!

About one and a half miles from the village, upon an eminence commanding a view of the entire country, stood the old château of St. Loup. The valley beneath was covered with wood, through which passed the deserted road from Mesnil St. Loup, once much frequented by visitors to the old château, but now abandoned and untrodden. In the oak grove, beyond the precincts of the cemetery, was buried the once famous "Père le Rouge," condemned and burned as a sorcerer.

Here this dreamy boy loved to wander during the long summer holidays, all alone, much to the consternation of his old grandmother and his young schoolmates, who would often ask him if he were not afraid of meeting "Père le Rouge," whose spirit was said to haunt the château and its grounds.


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Louis loved the quiet and repose of this old forest, where the sun poured his rays between the tall oaks, and checkered the green shadows of the wood with its broad beams of golden light. The deep solitude, the profound silence, the mystic shadows of the overhanging woods, and the grey light of the fading day filled him with delight. Great cascades of water rushed from the hilltop, tumbling, hurrying with its melodious music into the stony basin that nature had fashioned to receive it; and here, under towering pines, those gloomy children of the forest, whose shadows cast so much melancholy and sternness over the landscape, he would sit for hours listening to the music of the waters, and looking out upon the indefinite horizon beyond the valley below.

Here, in the spring, in the crooked, rocky road of moss-grown stone, were the first of nature's wildlings found, the cyclamen growing in its crevices, the dainty myosotis peeping out from under the stony ledges, great


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bunches of daffodils making sweet the air, the beautiful Marguerite shedding its white petals on the mossy sward, and the fragrant banks of purple violets, were all there; while far away, on each hand, stretched the rich pastures and the dark earth ready to receive the seed for the summer's harvest. The green leaves of spring quivered on the trees, among which the happy birds fluttered, breathing the gladness of their souls in song.

And then the long summer days, when a breathless calm hung over the town, and the air was dead and lifeless; how beautiful these forests were then, perfumed by the blossoming fruits of some neighbouring orchard, a soft summer wind gently swaying the branches of the trees, until the chords of an Æolian harp seemed to this dreamy boy to fall upon his ear! And in the golden pomp of early autumn, here, in this forest, was the most beautiful autumnal foliage, bronzed and reddened with the flush of waning summer, the orchis, the dahlia and the blood-red cardinal,


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while the scent of the pines, borne on the keen, frosty air, filled him with a keen, subtle sense of youth and health and strength. He learned the "langue d'oc" that he might read and understand the early knights and poets of France, and here he would spend whole days with these dreamy and congenial companions.

When he was about sixteen years of age there appeared at his home, suddenly and unexpectedly, a grave and rather austere-looking priest, of the Jesuit order, who introduced himself as Ferdinand Ramirez, his uncle, and who brought him a letter addressing him as "my son," and signed "your father," consigning him to the care of his uncle. From his uncle he learned that his father had just died from a malignant fever in Spain; that just prior to his death he had told him of his early marriage, of the birth of this son whom he had never seen, and asked his protection and interest for him. A few days later Louis accompanied his uncle


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to Paris, where the uncle was to be attached to the Jesuit house.

Here, in Paris, Louis remained four years with his uncle, who became sincerely attached to him. A man severe in his own life, severe even in thought and feeling, there was a charm, beyond expression, to him in watching the development of this poetic, gentle temperament. ‘‘Only be brave, be strong, my boy,’’ he would often say to him; ‘‘men sin oftener through weakness than from design.’’

These four years were the most important of the boy's life: he was just at the age when the youth was becoming the man, and when everything made such a permanent impression upon him, and here, in Paris, he found so much food for his poetic nature.

It was at the close of the seventeenth century, during the later part of the reign of Louis XIV., known as the "Golden Age of French Literature." Voltaire ranks this reign among the great epochs of history, with


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that of Pericles in Greece, Augustus in Rome, and the Medici in Italy, and thinks that Louis accomplished even more than the other three, exerting greater influence on the human mind throughout Europe. Although not himself a man of letters or culture, he assumed the title of protector of letters, and through him France entered upon a long period of glory and prosperity which gave leisure and stimulus to learning and culture.

The civil wars of the Fronde were long over, and the taste for literature had become generally diffused; religious and political differences, which had caused so much disunion between individuals as well as political organizations, and had banished mutual confidences and social intercourse, destroyed internal peace and retarded public advancement, had ceased. France had been brought into close relations with the countries then most advanced in civilisation, Spain and Italy, and became in herself the highest expression of monarchy, religion, and literature;


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of monarcy through Louis, whose military successes excited the admiration of the world, who built magnificent palaces, who held the most dignified and brilliant court of Europe, and who from this court gave laws to the whole continent; of religion through Bossuet, Bourdalone, Massillon, Pascal, Fénélon and other distinguished churchmen, and of literature through Corneille, Racine, Boileau, Molière and a galaxy of brilliant writers, all encouraged by Louis. Great men in arts and in literature gave splendor to the most fortunate and brilliant monarch who ever sat upon the throne of France; the position of women also was unequalled in point of attainments and influence during this reign. The church and state became one. To be a citizen it was necessary to be a Roman Catholic. The Edict of Nantes had been revoked ten years before, and the king, to put an end to Jansenism, had demolished the famous Port Royal, founded in 1202, six leagues from


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Paris, and dispersed its learned hermits and transferred its inmates to other monasteries. The Jesuits became all-powerful.

Though his uncle's influence, Louis spent these four years at the Sorbonne, the famous university of Paris. With access to this fine library, and the stimulus of literary culture all around him, Louis became a fine scholar, absorbing everything that came in his way, the philosophical, physical and metaphysical works of Descartes, who deduced all moral and religious truth from self-consciousness, a system of philosophy founded upon phychological analysis which for so long held mastery, and opened the way for Locke, Newton and Leibnitz, and was the foundation of all philosophy that superseded it. How intensely the boy with his scholarly mind and poetic temperament enjoyed this train of thought! It was certainly a most interesting period in the literary history of France, the works of Racine, Boileau, Molière, Corneille, were all here; Bossuet, Bourdalone and Massillon in pulpit


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oratory, St. Simon in history and memoirs.

The order which peace and kingly encouragement of literature restored to France, made society a brilliant feature of the court, and from this arose a new kind of romance in which elevated sentiments replaced the impossible and exaggerated plots of mediæval fiction. The Hotel Ranbouillet, which was so much the fashion the early and middle part of the century, had left its impress on the manners as well as culture of Paris; amid much affectation and exaggeration there was much refinement. Mme. de Lafayette introduced that kind of romance in which the interest is centred in psychological analysis, the conflicting passions of mind and heart, and which made life more realistic, more dependent upon thought and feeling. Over these the dreamy boy loved to linger.

Into some of the salons of Paris he occasionally accompanied his uncle, who soon realised that the boy's heart was not in this


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life, and left him to his books, and his wanderings about Paris.

The vast Sylva Lida which, in the days of Charlemagne, stretched far along the banks of the Seine, and formed a woody screen around the infant city of Paris, was at this time still a magnificent forest, extending to the town of Nantes, or the "Forest of Laye." Here, on holidays, Louis Ramirez would spend much time, as he had done in the grounds and woods of the château at Mesnil St. Loup. In the heart of this forest of St. Germain he explored every recess. He knew every glade and covert, every maze of this leafy labyrinth, that had lain secret and undiscovered to the keeper of many years.

At this time the sect known as "Quietists," with Madame Guyon at their head, had obtained a good deal of influence in Paris. It had for its object a sublimation of religion, a reduction of the passions, and even the entire life, to an absolute condition of quietism, and when Fénélon was drawn into it, through his


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generous defence of Madame Guyon, who, by this time, was an object of persecution to the king and Bossuet, Louis became an earnest supporter and advocate of the brave Frenchman, whom he so greatly reverenced. He became a sort of disciple of his, going often to Cambray to hear him preach.

He was in that revolutionary crisis through which genius passes in youth before it knows its own self, and when it vaguely seeks for some indefinite path or pursuit that it has not yet found,—genius unconcentrated, undisciplined. His mind, thoughtful as well as imaginative, made an idol of Divine philosophy. He delighted in the mazes of metaphysical investigation, and, in seeking to trace the source of intellectual and ethical progress, descended into the deepest and darkest recesses of thought and study, and, where formerly much had been emotion, now all became principle, that principle which keeps men good, and makes them desirous to assist their fellow-men to be so also,


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His young heart was full of the noble aspirations which usually belong to imaginative natures.

Thus passed rapidly his four years in Paris, years which were the most important in the boy's life. In the second year of his stay in Paris, his maternal grandmother, whom he had occasionally visited, died, and left Louis, very much to his surprise, quite an independent property: the little home, in which they had lived, and a considerable sum of money, which her frugal manner of life had enabled her to save.

On their return to Spain, his uncle proposed, that as he knew his paternal language but imperfectly, he should spend a year at the college of Salamanca to perfect himself in Spanish. Upon leaving this college he announced his intention of entering the Jesuit order, but his uncle, attributing much of his zeal and enthusiasm for religion to his dreamy, impressionable nature, insisted upon his deferring it for a year at least.


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‘‘Your beautiful theories are, as yet, but dreams, my son,’’ he said to him. ‘‘They need knowledge of the world, more intimate relations with your fellow-men, to make them practical. There is but little education in which the lessons of the world do not enter: mere knowledge that comes from books must be converted into wisdom, which only experience in life will give you.’’

‘‘But will I not find this in my duties in the priesthood?’’ he would ask him.

‘‘Not yet, my son; see the world for a while first.’’

His uncle, so good a judge of human nature, saw that Louis had much talent, and some latent energy, and yet he wanted something, an amalgamation, a faculty that would enable him to understand men, and act in concert with them.

‘‘Study men and women for a year, let romance and poetry, which if rightly understood in youth, form a happy basis for wisdom in after years, alone—even abandon your


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metaphysical studies, adopt a new train of thought and study. Take up political economy, jurisprudence; travel, see the world outside of college walls, and take eighteen months to decide this vital question.’’

But the expiration of the eighteen months found Louis still determined upon entering the Jesuit order of priesthood, and in the third year of his novitiate he went out to New Spain, to San Xavier del Bac, as Father Kino's assistant.

Father Kino was charmed with him, his zeal for his work, the readiness with which he adapted himself to this new life, with its hardships and many privations, and above all with his remarkable culture and scholarly attainments which made him so agreeable a companion. He seemed to be able to talk to him with less reserve than to men nearer his own age, to be able to open his own tender heart to him, and bring himself, through his own zeal and enthusiasm, down to Louis' years; this clever, practical man saw much of his


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own youth in his young assistant, and seemed often to have become a boy again.

Manuelita was at this time about fifteen years of age, an age which, in a southern latitude, means the tenderness and beauty of youth, combined with the precocity and attractiveness of womanhood. Her figure, though slight, was perfectly developed, her movements light and graceful, with a repose blended with earnestness which make the face beam with life, and a tender soul which shone with a beautiful light in her large, dark eyes. She was ‘‘
Standing with reluctant feet
Where the brook and river meet
Womanhood and childhood fleet.
’’

She had a quick, retentive mind, and Father Kino had taught her German and Spanish, both of which she spoke and read well. From Catiche and the Indian children she had learned their language, and Father Kino now proposed to Louis Ramirez that


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he should teach her French, and the hour devoted daily to this study had become his greatest pleasure. Her poetic, gentle nature was so congenial to his own, and amidst all this poverty of his new life she alone was beautiful and pleasant to the eye. Insensibly, unconsciously at first, she soon became the great object of interest in his life. He watched her grow with pride; her softened accent, her gentle manner and intelligent vivacity grew upon him.

It was not his mind which now hungered, but his tender heart; his affection for Manuelita became daily more real and living than any he had ever known before. Sometimes he feared that by its side the fervor of religion was becoming a cold and empty abstraction. There had suddenly opened to him a new joy, a new charm in life of which he had never dreamed. ‘‘What a sweetener and ennobler of life, woman is,’’ he often thought. ‘‘I did not think that one sweet face could make this desert blossom like a garden of nature's


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choicest flowers. Well did the Greeks think that a beautiful woman bore the sign of the favor of the immortal gods,’’ he one day said.

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