CHAPTER XV: CONTRIBUTED BY DOñA MARIANA DE CORONEL
‘‘You are going to get well, Mariana. You will survive me. I feel that you will live to complete my work.’’ Thus said Mrs. Jackson to me but a few short weeks before her death. Often she had talked in that vein. She seemed ever to have a presentiment that I would survive her.
One of her most coveted projects, after her visit to the Indian settlements and her report to the Government, was the institution at some available place of a school for Indian women and girls, where instruction could be given in all of the useful arts, to the end that they might in time become self-sustaining. Regarding the details of this enterprise Mrs. Jackson talked frequently with my husband, Don Antonio, and myself.
Nearly thirty years have passed since Helen Hunt Jackson put her arm lovingly about me and declared her belief that I would survive her, and that the completion of her life's work would devolve upon me. To some persons ‘‘Time's unpitying fingers’’ may begin ‘‘to smooth out and obliterate the lines, once so sharp and distinct, with which she engraved herself on the consciousness of her contemporaries.’’ To some persons even her memory may have grown dim, as the impression of a face long unseen fades, until no longer can be recalled the exact look and smile. This is regarded as the inevitable law, each day bringing its ‘‘little dust our soon choked hearts to fill.’’ But it has never been so with me. Never a day or night but I feel her presence. Once, I well remember, she said: ‘‘Mariana, if it be possible
Eight months ago, at the beginning of the terrible fratricidal strife that has brought so much misery to my country and its people, I thought it best I should return to the United States before it should become too hazardous to undertake the journey. It involved a muleback trip of one hundred and fifty miles over the mountains to the nearest railway station; not a cheerful prospect for a woman of my years to undertake. But I entered upon it with the utmost confidence that Helen Hunt Jackson would be with me every foot of the way, protecting me from every possible danger. As though in life, she seemed to place her hand upon my shoulder and assure me that all would be well.
I have never thought much about spiritualism. I am not a spiritualist. And yet, oh, so many times since, when trouble and grief have been my lot, when clouds encircled my pathway, when gloom surrounded and threatened to engulf me, I have suddenly been brought to a realization that Mrs. Jackson's
DOñA MARIANA DE CORONEL, LOS ANGELES
FIRST COPY OF RAMONA TRANSLATED INTO SPANISH,
My acquaintance and association with her has constituted one of the fondest and sweetest recollections of my whole life. Our meeting was singular. Had she come in any other way than she did, her first visit, it is likely, would have been her last. I had never heard of her or her books. Like most Spanish people, I shrank from publicity. Had she simply introduced herself as a correspondent of the Century Magazine, it is likely I should have taken little interest in what she had to say. But she brought a letter from Bishop Mora to Don Antonio and myself. In it the Bishop asked us to give her all the information we could regarding the Mission Indians. This we proceeded to do, her interest in our relation of the story of their treatment, so far as had come within our observation and experience, being singularly intense.
She made an engagement to come again the following week, and it happened to be Christmas day, 1881. While she and Don Antonio and myself were seated on the veranda, at the old hacienda in the orange grove, Los Angeles, five or six Indian chiefs rode into the court, in
White men had secured possession of the water rights to their land, and it was to them no better than a desert. Mrs. Jackson comprehended the whole story, and secured the consent of the Indians to visit their settlements, Don Antonio assuring them that she was their friend and would work in their interest.
She had secured the services of Mr. Abbot Kinney, and obtained his appointment as a co-commissioner soon after, and the details of the now celebrated official journey through the country of the Southern California Mission Indians were arranged at our home.
The party consisted of Mrs. Jackson, Mr. Abbot Kinney, the late Mr. Henry Sandham, the ‘‘Century's’’ artist, and Mr. N. H. Mitchell, the proprietor of a livery stable and hotel at Anaheim, whose two-seated carriage was used for a part of the journey, he acting as driver. This carriage was soon abandoned, however, not being suited to all purposes of the trip, and most of it was made on horseback, or rather mule-back, as the sure-footed little burros of the Indians were more suited to the condition of the trails over the mountains. Indeed, I later was advised that the party visited some places high up on the mountain sides, or on the borders of the desert, where it was possible only to go afoot. On one occasion, contemplating a hazardous journey into the mountains, I remonstrated with Mrs. Jackson and attempted to dissuade her from the trip. Her answer was, ‘‘I must see those poor Indians, and I'll go if I die.’’
Don Antonio was a veritable encyclopedia, and was able to recall, with the slightest effort, every important event since his boyhood. His knowledge covered the whole period of Spanish, Mexican and American rule, from the time of his arrival in California until his death. His information regarding the Indians was particularly full and accurate; hence he was of invaluable assistance to Mrs. Jackson in all her work. But his knowledge of the English language was limited, and the work of interpreting fell largely upon me.
Mrs. Jackson made many notes regarding the story of Ramona at our home. She discussed the intended book with us on many occasions, and told us she would name it Ramona. She would gladly have located the scene of Ramona at our hacienda, and doubtless would have done so but for the suggestion made by Don Antonio himself, and insisted upon by him, that Camulos was the more fitting place. We both assured her that
Notwithstanding all these facts, the author might easily and with perfect fidelity to truth and tradition, have located the scenes at the Coronel hacienda. But there was another fact, another barrier, and a well-nigh insurmountable one: the excessive modesty of Don Antonio himself. So marked a characteristic of him was this that, notwithstanding all he had done for Los Angeles, notwithstanding the fact that he had labored for thirty years to clear the title to Elysian Park, that it might become the
But it is true, it is history--and it would not be history if it were not true--that the inspiration of Ramona was Don Franco Antonio de Coronel, my husband, under whose expansive roof it sprouted and grew, and there it was christened with the name by which it soon came to be known and ever will be known, Ramona.
After Mrs. Jackson's return to California in 1884, the story of Ramona having been published, she did much writing at our home. She had broken her leg before leaving Colorado Springs by falling down the stairway in her home, and she had to write in a reclining position. Don Antonio, my husband, had a little table made especially for her use, Mrs. Jackson specifying its height, and requesting the placing of two shelves in it upon which she could lay her finished sheets or notes. Much of her writing during her stay in Los Angeles in 1884-85, was done on this table, which is now a part of the Coronel Collection in the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
THE WILLOWS AND SOUTH VERANDA, CAMULOS
(1)THE CROSS ON THE NORTH HILL, CAMULOS, OVERLOOKING THE RANCH
In the latter part of 1884 Mrs. Jackson returned to Los Angeles. Ramona had not been issued from the press at the time of her departure from the East. I went with her to the postoffice one day, when a package was delivered to her there. She opened it, and there was a copy of Ramona, the first she had seen. She at once said to me: ‘‘Mariana, here is the first copy of my book, and I give it to you.’’ Taking a pencil she wrote on the flyleaf, ‘‘With compliments of the author,’’ and then handed it to me. I have the same book now.
Naturally I am proud of the fact that Mrs. Jackson wished to make our home the home of Ramona; but greater honor have I always had, and greater comfort will I ever enjoy, in the fact that the gifted author, beloved of two continents, enshrined in the hearts of the people