IT was in April, 1719. Father Kino had been long desirous to build a new church of stone, to replace the old adobe one which had so long existed here, and frequently undermined by rains, required constant repairs. To-day the corner stone of the new edifice was to be laid. It was to be of tetzontli, a light, porous stone found near here. The Papago Indians were enthusiastic over it, and promised to labor assiduously upon it.
‘‘Well, my daughter, we have chosen your adopted birthday for our ceremonies,’’ he said to Manuelita, that morning, as she came out on the remado to breakfast. It was now summer-time in this latitude, and the meals were all served in what still forms an important feature of all Mexican houses, and is called a remado. The houses were all built immediately upon the street, only two rooms deep, the rear opening upon a square of ground, larger or smaller and more or less cultivated, according to the means or taste of the owner. They were not unlike, in a modest way, the old Pompeiian houses. This remado was a broad porch enclosed by lattice work and often entwined by pretty vines, that extended across the length of the house at the rear, and opened upon this yard or square of ground. Around the outside extended
This little mission of San Xavier del Bac, seemed an oasis in the great barren wastes, that stretched out for miles and miles around it, whichever way one turned. It is the prettiest part of the Santa Cruz valley, and here, during the thirty past years of his mission work, Father Kino had done a noble work. He had learned their language, translated the prayers and catechism into it, composed vocabularies for the use of his assistants, helped them to build their houses and taught them to till their soil, working often in the fields with them, and eating bread of their own raising, and when other parts of New Spain were suffering from famine, he had
‘‘I shall not live to see much work done on the new church, my child,’’ he said to Manuelita, ‘‘but there is a beautiful thought, that when one leaves a noble undertaking unfinished in this world those that have loved them are permitted to complete it. My Manuelita will be my chosen medium for the continuance of my work here.’’
Then Manuelita said, ‘‘I will devote my life to its completion,’’ she sincerely meant it; she had all the firmness and strength of will her Spanish blood brought her, its enthusiasm, its intensity, with the physical strength and endurance which were her Indian heritage.
‘‘How lovely she is,’’ thought Father Kino, ‘‘and how intense her nature! It is such characters that are often destined to much sorrow and suffering; her girlish intensity is rapidly growing into woman's passion, gaining in strength and power as she grows older. God bless and protect her, my beautiful child,’’ he uttered very fervently.
‘‘Yes, and a man of distinguished rank in Spain. He is the son of the Marquis de Carillo, a man of large wealth and noble lineage. His father consented to his coming out here, as he is fond of travel and adventure. I dined with him yesterday, and found him very genial and intelligent. He is a young man, not yet thirty and singularly handsome. He seems full of zeal for the welfare of the people, and ambitious to do something for their benefit. The young have more ambition than we old people, who are said to love our ease,’’ he said laying his hand affectionately upon her smooth, black hair.
‘‘As long as you live, and then, you remember, you leave me your great work of completing your church. How often I have heard you say that nothing was so exalted as a great and brave spirit working out its end through every obstacle, and I shall overcome them all in the end—the church shall be built,’’ she said with enthusiasm.
‘‘Other factors and influences may come into my daughter's life, and these dreams which are but fleecy clouds now, will be absorbed, like the clouds, into new shapes, and with their new forms the whole over-arching sky changes.’’
‘‘Oh, yes, Senor Padre,’’ replied Catiche, who guarded the stores with a jealous care and watchfulness, yet the old Pythagorean argument, ‘‘the master has said it, it is the law,’’ was this faithful creature's creed.
‘‘The good Senor Padre would think it a sin to keep anything for himself, if any one else needed it,’’ she would say to Manuelita, ‘‘but he grows old and needs the best of food,’’ so they conspired that he should always have it. Poor Catiche would often look at his bed, without mattress or pillow, and would say, ‘‘Oh, Senor Padre, why will you not let me make you comfortable?’’
The ceremonies attending the laying of the corner-stone were quite brilliant for the time and place; the officers were in full Spanish uniform, the priests from all the surrounding missions took part, and the Indians were wild with enthusiasm.
Father Kino had determined that Manuelita should lay the corner-stone, and as she advanced, trowel in hand, her face was aglow with the sunshine of animation and devotion and kindled into transcendent beauty. Captain Carillo observed her for the first time.
Another watchful eye had observed the Captain's admiration for Manuelita with a disquieted heart. Louis Ramirez, whose eyes constantly followed Manuelita like a persistent shadow, had seen the first conscious glance that had passed between them. Until this moment he had never quite realized what his own feeling for her was; he was with her daily, almost hourly, her gentle, sympathetic voice fell upon his ear, her bright winning smile responded to his constantly, he was contented; his hungry heart did not understand all the depth and tenderness of his great love for her, until it became necessary to analyze his feelings. Love is so subtle, such a metaphysical marvel as well as power,
When she had said to Father Kino that morning that she would devote her life to the completion of this church, his heart had given a great bound: this too should be his object in life, he would work beside her, watch over her, keep her from all harm, and guard his great love in silence; it should be a quieting, hallowing sentiment, above the eager glow of passion. He had never thought of the possibility of her loving; an Indian was, of course, out of the question; an officer of the Spanish army, there seemed such a distance between them. Now, as he watched Captain Carillo, and saw how eagerly his eyes followed her, the thought for the first time presented itself, ‘‘Why not?’’ She was beautiful, gentle, well educated, and many men were, he knew, above the prejudice of birth.