31. SANTA FÉ
The orders for Santa FÉ reached us in mid-summer at Nantucket. I knew about as much of Santa FÉ as the average American knows, and that was nothing; but I did know that the Staff appointment solved the problem of education for us (for Staff officers are usually stationed in cities), and I knew that our frontier life was over. I welcomed the change, for our children were getting older, and we were ourselves approaching the age when comfort means more to one than it heretofore has.
Arriving at Santa FÉ in the mellow sunlight of an October day, we were met by my husband and an officer of the Tenth Infantry, and as we drove into the town, its appearance of placid content, its ancient buildings, its great trees, its clear air, its friendly, indolent-looking inhabitants, gave me a delightful feeling of home. A mysterious charm seemed to possess me. It was the spell which that old town loves
Lying only eighteen miles away, over a small branch road from Llamy (a station on the Atchison and Topeka Railroad), few people take the trouble to stop over to visit it. “Dead old town,” says the commercial traveller, “nothing doing there.”
The Governor's Palace, the old plaza, the ancient churches, the antiquated customs, the Sisters' Hospital, the old Convent of Our Lady of Loretto, the soft music of the Spanish tongue. I loved them all.
There were no factories; no noise was ever heard; the sun shone peacefully on, through winter and summer alike. There was no cold, no heat, but a delightful year-around climate. Why the place was not crowded with health seekers, was a puzzle to me. I had thought that the bay of San Francisco offered the most agreeable climate in America, but, in the Territory of New Mexico, Santa FÉ was the perfection of all climates combined.
The old city lies in the broad valley of the Santa FÉ Creek, but the valley of the Santa FÉ Creek lies seven thousand feet above the sea level. I should never have known that we were living at a great altitude, if I had not been told, for the equable climate made
I listened to old Father de Fourri preach his short sermons in English to the few Americans who sat on one side of the aisle, in the church of Our Lady of Guadaloupe; then, turning with an easy gesture towards his Mexican congregation, who sat or knelt near the sanctuary, and saying, “Hermanos mios,” he gave the same discourse in good Spanish. I felt comfortable in the thought that I was improving my Spanish as well as profiting by Father de Fourri's sound logic. This good priest had grown old at Santa FÉ in the service of his church.
I read and studied about the old explorers, and I seemed to live in the time of Cortez and his brave band. I became acquainted with Adolf Bandelier, who had lived for years in that country, engaged in research for the American Archæological Society. I visited the Indian pueblos, those marvellous structures of adobe, where live entire tribes, and saw natives who have not changed their manner of speech or dress since the days when the Spaniards first penetrated
The pueblo of TesúquÉ is only nine miles from Santa FÉ, and a pleasant drive, at that; it seemed strange to me that the road was not lined with tourists. But no, they pass all these wonders by, in their disinclination to go off the beaten track.
Visiting the pueblos gets to be a craze. Governor and Mrs. Prince knew them all—the pueblo of Taos, of Santa Clara, San Juan, and others; and the Governor's collection of great stone idols was a marvel indeed. He kept them laid out on shelves, which resembled the bunks on a great vessel, and in an apartment especially reserved for them, in his residence at Santa FÉ, and it was always with considerable awe that I entered that apartment. The Governor occupied at that time a low, rambling adobe house, on Palace Avenue, and this, with its thick walls and low window-seats, made a fit setting for the treasures they had gathered.
On the walls were hanging old portraits painted by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. They were done on rawhide, and whether these interesting and historic pictures have been preserved by our Government I do not know.
The distinguished Anglican clergyman living there taught a small class of boys, and the “Academy,” an excellent school established by the Presbyterian Board of Missions, afforded good advantages for the young girls of the garrison. To be sure, the young woman teacher gave a rousing lecture on total abstinence once a week; going even so far as to say, that to partake of apple sauce which had begun to ferment was yielding to the temptations of Satan. The young woman's arguments made a disastrous impression upon our children's minds; so much so, that the rich German Jews whose daughters attended the school complained greatly; for, as they told us, these girls would hasten to snatch the decanters from the sideboard, at the approach of visitors, and hide them, and they began to sit in judgment upon their elders. Now these men were among the leading citizens of the town; they were self-respecting and wealthy. They could not stand these extreme doctrines, so opposed to their life and their traditions. We informed Miss X. one
But our time was not entirely given up to the study of ancient pottery, for the social life there was delightful. The garrison was in the centre of the town, the houses were comfortable, and the streets shaded by old trees. The Tenth Infantry had its headquarters and two companies there. Every afternoon, the military band played in the Plaza, where everybody went and sat on benches in the shade of the old trees, or, if cool, in the delightful sunshine. The pretty and well-dressed señoritas cast shy glances at the young officers of the Tenth; but, alas! the handsome and attractive Lieutenants Van Vliet and Seyburn, and the more sedate Lieutenant Plummer, could not return these bewitching glances, as they were all settled in life.
The two former officers had married in Detroit, and both Mrs. Van Vliet and Mrs. Seyburn did honor to the beautiful city of Michigan, for they were most agreeable and clever women, and presided over their army homes with distinguished grace and hospitality.
Every morning we rode across country. There were no fences, but the wide irrigation ditches gave us a plenty of excitement, and the riding was glorious. I had no occasion yet to realize that we had left the line of the army.
A camping trip to the head-waters of the Pecos, where we caught speckled trout in great abundance in the foaming riffles and shallow pools of this rushing mountain stream, remaining in camp a week under the spreading boughs of the mighty pines, added to the variety and delights of our life there.
It was against the law now for soldiers to marry; the old days of “laundresses” had passed away. But the trombone player of the Tenth Infantry band (a young Boston boy) had married a wife, and now a baby had come to them. They could get no quarters, so we took the family in, and, as the wife was an excellent cook, we were able to give many small dinners. The walls of the house being three feet thick, we were never troubled by the trombone practice or the infant's cries. And many a good time we had around the board, with Father de Fourri, Rev. Mr. Meany, the Anglican clergyman, the officers and
Such an ideal life cannot last long; this existence of ours does not seem to be contrived on those lines. At the end of a year, orders came for Texas, and perhaps it was well that orders came, or we might be in Santa FÉ to-day, wrapt in a dream of past ages; for the city of the Holy Faith had bound us with invisible chains.
With our departure from Santa FÉ, all picturesqueness came to an end in our army life. Ever after that, we had really good houses to live in, which had all modern arrangements; we had beautiful, well-kept lawns and gardens, the same sort of service that civilians have, and lived almost the same life.