Dona Pomposa crossed her hands on her stomach and twirled her thumbs. A red spot was in each coffee-coloured cheek, and the mole in her scanty eyebrow jerked ominously. Her lips were set in a taut line, and her angry little eyes were fixed upon a girl who sat by the window strumming a guitar, her chin raised with an air of placid impertinence.
"Thou wilt stop this nonsense and cast no more glances at Juan Tornel!" commanded Dona Pomposa. "Thou little brat! Dost thou think that I am one to let my daughter marry before she can hem? Thank God we have more sense than our mothers! No child of mine shall marry at fifteen. Now listen--thou shalt be locked in a dark room if I am kept awake again by that hobo serenading at thy window. To-morrow, when thou goest to church, take care that thou throwest him no glance. Dios de mi alma! I am worn out! Three nights have I been awakened by that tw-a-n-g, tw-a-n-g."
"You need not be afraid," said her daughter, digging her little heel into the floor. "I shall not fall in love. I have no faith in men."
Her mother laughed outright in spite of her anger.
"Indeed, my Eulogia! Thou art very wise. And why, pray, hast thou no faith in men?"
Eulogia tossed the soft black braid from her shoulder, and fixed her keen roguish eyes on the old lady's face.
"Because I have read all the novels of the Senor Dumas, and I well know all those men he makes. And they never speak the truth to women; always they are selfish, and think only of their own pleasure. If the women suffer, they do not care; they do not love the women--only themselves. So I am not going to be fooled by the men. I shall enjoy life, but I shall think of myself, not of the men."
Her mother gazed at her in speechless amazement. She never had read a book in her life, and had not thought of locking from her daughter the few volumes her dead husband had collected. Then she gasped with consternation.
"Por Dios, senorita, a fine woman thou wilt make of thyself with such ideas! a nice wife and mother--when the time comes. What does Padro Flores say to that, I should like to know? It is very strange that he has let you read those books."
"I have never told him," said Eulogia, indifferently.
"What!" screamed her mother. "You never told at confession?"
"No, I never did. It was none of his business what I read. Reading is no sin. I confessed all--"
"Mother of God!" cried Dona Pomposa, and she rushed at Eulogia with uplifted hand; but her nimble daughter dived under her arm with a provoking laugh, and ran out of the room.
That night Eulogia pushed aside the white curtain of her window and looked out. The beautiful bare hills encircling San Luis Obispo were black in the silvered night, but the moon made the town light as day. The owls were hooting on the roof of the mission; Eulogia could see them flap their wings. A few Indians were still moving among the dark huts outside the walls, and within, the padre walked among his olive trees. Beyond the walls the town was still awake. Once a horseman dashed down the street, and Eulogia wondered if murder had been done in the mountains; the bandits were thick in their fastnesses. She did wish she could see one. Then she glanced eagerly down the road beneath her window. In spite of the wisdom she had accepted from the French romanticist, her fancy was just a little touched by Juan Tornel. His black flashing eyes could look so tender, and he rode so beautifully. She twitched the curtain into place and ran across the room, her feet pattering on the bare floor, jumped into her little iron bed, and drew the dainty sheet to her throat. A ladder had fallen heavily against the side of the house.
She heard an agile form ascend and seat itself on the deep window-sill. Then the guitar vibrated under the touch of master fingers, and a rich sweet tenor sang to her:--
EL CORAZON "El corazon del amor palpita, Al oir de tu dulce voz, Cuando mi sangre Se pone en agitacion, Tu eres la mas hermosa, Tu eres la luz del dia, Tu eres la gloria mia, Tu eres mi dulce bien. "Negro tienes el cabello, Talle lineas hermosas, Mano blanca, pie precioso, No hay que decir en ti:--Tu eres la mas hermosa, Tu eres la luz del dia, Tu eres la prenda mia, Tu me haras morir. "Que importa que noche y dia, En ti sola estoy pensando, El corazon palpitante No cesa de repetir:-- Tu eres la mas hermosa, Tu eres la luz del dia, Tu eres la prenda mia, Tu me haras morir--Eulogia!"
Eulogia lay as quiet as a mouse in the daytime, not daring to applaud, hoping fatigue had sent her mother to sleep. Her lover tuned his guitar and began another song, but she did not hear it; she was listening to footfalls in the garret above. With a presentiment of what was about to happen she sprang out of bed with a warning cry; but she was too late. There was a splash and rattle on the window-seat, a smothered curse, a quick descent, a triumphant laugh from above. Eulogia stamped her foot with rage. She cautiously raised the window and passed her hand along the outer sill. This time she beat the casement with both hands: they were covered with warm ashes.
"Well, my daughter, have I not won the battle?" said a voice behind her, and Eulogia sat down on the window-seat and swung her feet in silent wrath.
Dona Pomposa wore a rather short night-gown, and her feet were encased in a pair of her husband's old boots. Her hair was twisted under a red silk kerchief, and again she crossed her hands on her stomach, but the thumbs upheld a candle. Eulogia giggled suddenly.
"What dost thou laugh at, senorita? At the way I have served thy lover? Dost thou think he will come soon again?"
"No, mamma, you have proved the famous hospitality of the Californians which the Americans are always talking about. You need have no more envy of the magnificence of Los Quervos." And then she kicked her heels against the wall.
"Oh, thou canst make sharp speeches, thou impertinent little brat; but Juan Tornel will serenade under thy window no more. Dios! the ashes must look well on his pretty mustachios. Go to bed. I will put thee to board in the convent to-morrow." And she shuffled out of the room, her ample figure swinging from side to side like a large pendulum.
The next day Eulogia was sitting on her window-seat, her chin resting on her knees, a volume of Dumas beside her, when the door was cautiously opened and her Aunt Anastacia entered the room. Aunt Anastacia was very large; in fact she nearly filled the doorway; she also disdained whalebones and walked with a slight roll. Her ankles hung over her feet, and her red cheeks and chin were covered with a short black down. Her hair was twisted into a tight knot and protected by a thick net, and she wore a loose gown of brown calico, patterned with large red roses. But good-nature beamed all over her indefinite features, and her little eyes dwelt adoringly upon Eulogia, who gave her an absent smile.
"Poor little one," she said in her indulgent voice. "But it was cruel in my sister to throw ashes on thy lover. Not but what thou art too young for lovers, my darling,--although I had one at twelve. But times have changed. My little one--I have a note for thee. Thy mother is out, and he has gone away, so there can be no harm in reading it--"
"Give it to me at once"--and Eulogia dived into her aunt's pocket and found the note.
"Beautiful and idolized Eulogia.--Adios! Adios! I came a stranger to thy town. I fell blinded at thy feet. I fly forever from the scornful laughter in thine eyes. Ay, Eulogia, how couldst thou? But no! I will not believe it was thou! The dimples that play in thy cheeks, the sparks that fly in thine eyes--Dios de mi vida! I cannot believe that they come from a malicious soul. No, enchanting Eulogia! Consolation of my soul! It was thy mother who so cruelly humiliated me, who drives me from thy town lest I be mocked in the streets. Ay, Eulogia! Ay, misericordia! Adios! Adios!
Eulogia shrugged her shoulders. "Well, my mother is satisfied, perhaps. She has driven him away. At least, I shall not have to go to the convent."
"Thou art so cold, my little one," said Aunt Anastacia, disapprovingly. "Thou art but fifteen years, and yet thou throwest aside a lover as if he were an old reboso. Madre de Dios! In your place I should have wept and beaten the air. But perhaps that is the reason all the young men are wild for thee. Not but that I had many lovers--"
"It is too bad thou didst not marry one," interrupted Eulogia, maliciously. "Perhaps thou wouldst"--and she picked up her book--"if thou hadst read the Senor Dumas."
"Thou heartless baby!" cried her indignant aunt, "when I love thee so, and bring thy notes at the risk of my life, for thou knowest that thy mother would pull the hair from my head. Thou little brat! to say I could not marry, when I had twenty--"
Eulogia jumped up and pecked her on the chin like a bird. "Twenty-five, my old mountain. I only joked with thee. Thou didst not marry because thou hadst more sense than to trot about after a man. Is it not so, my old sack of flour? I was but angry because I thought thou hadst helped my mother last night."
"Never! I was sound asleep."
"I know, I know. Now trot away. I hear my mother coming," and Aunt Anastacia obediently left her niece to the more congenial company of the Senor Dumas.
The steep hills of San Luis Obispo shot upward like the sloping sides of a well, so round was the town. Scarlet patches lay on the slopes--the wide blossoms of the low cacti. A gray-green peak and a mulberry peak towered, kithless and gaunt, in the circle of tan-coloured hills brushed with purple. The garden of the mission was green with fruit trees and silver with olive groves. On the white church and long wing lay the red tiles; beyond the wall the dull earth huts of the Indians. Then the straggling town with its white adobe houses crouching on the grass.
Eulogia was sixteen. A year had passed since Juan Tornel serenaded beneath her window, and, if the truth must be told, she had almost forgotten him. Many a glance had she shot over her prayer-book in the mission church; many a pair of eyes, dreamy or fiery, had responded. But she had spoken with no man. After a tempestuous scene with her mother, during which Aunt Anastacia had wept profusely, a compromise had been made: Eulogia had agreed to have no more flirtations until she was sixteen, but at that age she should go to balls and have as many lovers as she pleased.
She walked through the olive groves with Padre Moraga on the morning of her sixteenth birthday. The new padre and she were the best of friends.
"Well," said the good old man, pushing the long white hair from his dark face--it fell forward whenever he stooped--"well, my little one, thou goest to thy first ball to-night. Art thou happy?"
Eulogia lifted her shoulder. Her small nose also tilted.
"Happy? There is no such thing as happiness, my father. I shall dance, and flirt, and make all the young men fall in love with me. I shall enjoy myself, that is enough."
The padre smiled; he was used to her.
"Thou little wise one!" He collected himself suddenly. "But thou art right to build thy hopes of happiness on the next world alone." Then he continued, as if he merely had broken the conversation to say the Angelus: "And thou art sure that thou wilt be La Favorita? Truly, thou hast confidence in thyself--an inexperienced chit who has not half the beauty of many other girls."
"Perhaps not; but the men shall love me better, all the same. Beauty is not everything, my father. I have a greater attraction than soft eyes and a pretty mouth."
"Indeed! Thou baby! Why, thou art no bigger than a well-grown child, and thy mouth was made for a woman twice thy size. Where dost thou keep that extraordinary charm?" Not but that he knew, for he liked her better than any girl in the town, but he felt it his duty to act the part of curb-bit now and again.
"You know, my father," said Eulogia, coolly; "and if you have any doubt, wait until to-morrow."
The ball was given in the long sala of Dona Antonia Ampudia, on the edge of the rambling town. As the night was warm, the young people danced through the low windows on to the wide corridor; and, if watchful eyes relaxed their vigilance, stepped off to the grass and wandered among the trees. The brown old women in dark silks sat against the wall, as dowagers do to-day. Most of the girls wore bright red or yellow gowns, although softer tints blossomed here and there. Silken black hair was braided close to the neck, the coiffure finished with a fringe of chenille. As they whirled in the dance, their full bright gowns looked like an agitated flower-bed suddenly possessed by a wandering tribe of dusky goddesses.
Eulogia came rather late. At the last moment her mother had wavered in her part of the contract, and it was not until Eulogia had sworn by every saint in the calendar that she would not leave the sala, even though she stifled, that Dona Pomposa had reluctantly consented to take her. Eulogia's perfect little figure was clad in a prim white silk gown, but her cold brilliant eyes were like living jewels, her large mouth was as red as the cactus patches on the hills, and a flame burned in either cheek. In a moment she was surrounded by the young men who had been waiting for her. It might be true that twenty girls in the room were more beautiful than she, but she had a quiet manner more effective than animation, a vigorous magnetism of which she was fully aware, and a cool coquetry which piqued and fired the young men, who were used to more sentimental flirtations.
She danced as airily as a flower on the wind, but with untiring vitality.
"Senorita!" exclaimed Don Carmelo Pena, "thou takest away my breath. Dost thou never weary?"
"Never. I am not a man."
"Ay, senorita, thou meanest--"
"That women were made to make the world go round, and men to play the guitar."
"Ay, I can play the guitar. I will serenade thee to-morrow night."
"Thou wilt get a shower of ashes for thy pains. Better stay at home, and prepare thy soul with three-card monte"
"Ay, senorita, but thou art cruel! Does no man please thee?"
"Men please me. How tiresome to dance with a woman!"
"And that is all the use thou hast for us? For us who would die for thee?"
"In a barrel of aguardiente? I prefer thee to dance with. To tell the truth, thy step suits mine."
"Ay, senorita mia! thou canst put honey on thy tongue. God of my life, senorita--I fling my heart at thy feet!"
"I fear to break it, senor, for I have faith that it is made of thin glass. It would cut my feet. I like better this smooth floor. Who is that standing by the window? He has not danced to-night?"
"Don Pablo Ignestria of Monterey. He says the women of San Luis are not half so beautiful nor so elegant as the women of Monterey; he says they are too dark and too small. He does not wish to dance with any one; nor do any of the girls wish to dance with him. They are very angry."
"I wish to dance with him. Bring him to me."
"But, senorita, I tell thee thou wouldst not like him. Holy heaven! Why do those eyes flash so? Thou lookest as if thou wouldst fight with thy little fists."
"Bring him to me."
Don Carmelo walked obediently over to Don Pablo, although burning with jealousy.
"Senor, at your service," he said. "I wish to introduce you to the most charming senorita in the room."
"Which?" asked Ignestria, incuriously.
Don Carmelo indicated Eulogia with a grand sweep of his hand.
"That little thing? Why, there are a dozen prettier girls in the room than she, and I have not cared to meet any of them!"
"But she has commanded me to take you to her, senor, and--look at the men crowding about her--do you think I dare to disobey?"
The stranger's dark gray eyes became less insensible. He was a handsome man, with a tall figure, and a smooth strong face; but about him hung the indolence of the Californian.
"Very well," he said, "take me to her."
He asked her to dance, and after a waltz Eulogia said she was tired, and they sat down within a proper distance of Dona Pomposa's eagle eye.
"What do you think of the women of San Luis Obispo?" asked Eulogia, innocently. "Are not they handsome?"
"They are not to be compared with the women of Monterey--since you ask me."
"Because they find the men of San Luis more gallant than the Senor Don Pablo Ignestria!"
"Do they? One, I believe, asked to have me introduced to her!"
"True, senor. I wished to meet you that you might fall in love with me, and that the ladies of San Luis might have their vengeance."
He stared at her.
"Truly, senorita, but you do not hide your cards. And why, then, should I fall in love with you?"
"Because I am different from the women of Monterey."
"A good reason why I should not. I have been in every town in California, and I admire no women but those of my city."
"And because you will hate me first."
"And if I hate you, how can I love you?"
"It is the same. You hate one woman and love another. Each is the same passion, only to a different person out goes a different side. Let the person loved or hated change his nature, and the passion will change."
He looked at her with more interest.
"In truth I think I shall begin with love and end with hate, senorita. But that wisdom was not born in your little head; for sixteen years, I think, have not sped over it, no? It went in, if I mistake not, through those bright eyes."
"Yes, senor, that is true. I am not content to be just like other girls of sixteen. I want to know--to know. Have you ever read any books, senor?"
"Many." He looked at her with a lively interest now. "What ones have you read?"
"Only the beautiful romances of the Senor Dumas. I have seen no others, for there are not many books in San Luis. Have you read others?"
"A great many others. Two wonderful Spanish books--'Don Quixote de la Mancha' and 'Gil Blas,' and the romances of Sir Waltere Scote--a man of England, and some lives of famous men, senorita. A great man lent them to me--the greatest of our Governors--Alvarado."
"And you will lend them to me?" cried Eulogia, forgetting her coquetry, "I want to read them."
"Aha! Those cool eyes can flash. That even little voice can break in two. By the holy Evangelists, senorita, thou shalt have every book I possess."
"Will the Senorita Dona Eulogia favour us with a song?"
Don Carmelo was bowing before her, a guitar in his hand, his wrathful eyes fixed upon Don Pablo.
"Yes," said Eulogia.
She took the guitar and sang a love-song in a manner which can best be described as no manner at all; her expression never changed, her voice never warmed. At first the effect was flat, then the subtle fascination of it grew until the very memory of impassioned tones was florid and surfeiting. When she finished, Ignestria's heart was hammering upon the steel in which he fancied he had prisoned it.
"Well," said Eulogia to Padre Moraga two weeks later, "am I not La Favorita?"
"Thou art, thou little coquette. Thou hast a power over men which thou must use with discretion, my Eulogia. Tell thy beads three times a day and pray that thou mayest do no harm."
"I wish to do harm, my father, for men have broken the hearts of women for ages--"
"Chut, chut, thou baby! Men are not so black as they are painted. Harm no one, and the world will be better that thou hast lived in it."
"If I scratch, fewer women will be scratched," and she raised her shoulders beneath the flowered muslin of her gown, swung her guitar under her arm, and walked down the grove, the silver leaves shining above her smoky hair.
The padre had bidden all the young people of the upper class to a picnic in the old mission garden. Girls in gay muslins and silk rebosos were sitting beneath the arches of the corridor or flitting under the trees where the yellow apricots hung among the green leaves. Languid and sparkling faces coquetted with caballeros in bright calico jackets and knee-breeches laced with silken cord, their slender waists girt with long sashes hanging gracefully over the left hip. The water rilled in the winding creek, the birds carolled in the trees; but above all rose the sound of light laughter and sweet strong voices.
They took their dinner behind the arches, at a table the length of the corridor, and two of the young men played the guitar and sang, whilst the others delighted their keen palates with the goods the padre had provided.
Don Pablo sat by Eulogia, a place he very often managed to fill; but he never had seen her for a moment alone.
"I must go soon, Eulogia," he murmured, as the voices waxed louder. "Duty calls me back to Monterey."
"I am glad to know thou hast a sense of thy duty."
"Nothing but that would take me away from San Luis Obispo. But both my mother and--and--a dear friend are ill, and wish to see me."
"Thou must go to-night. How canst thou eat and be gay when thy mother and--and--a dear friend are ill?"
"Ay, Eulogia! wouldst thou scoff over my grave? I go, but it is for thee to say if I return."
"Do not tell me that thou adorest me here at the table. I shall blush, and all will be about my smarting ears like the bees down in the padre's hive."
"I shall not tell thee that before all the world, Eulogia. All I ask is this little favour: I shall send thee a letter the night I leave. Promise me that thou wilt answer it--to Monterey."
"No, sir! Long ago, when I was twelve, I made a vow I would never write to a man. I never break that vow."
"Thou wilt break it for me, Eulogia."
"And why for you, senor? Half the trouble in the world has been made on paper."
"Oh, thou wise one! What trouble can a piece of paper make when it lies on a man's heart?"
"It can crackle when another head lies on it."
"No head will ever lie here but--"
"To thee, Senorita Dona Eulogia," cried a deep voice. "May the jewels in thine eyes shine by the stars when thou art above them. May the tears never dim them while they shine for us below," and a caballero pushed back his chair, leaned forward, and touched her glass with his, then went down on one knee and drank the red wine.
Eulogia threw him a little absent smile, sipped her wine, and went on talking to Ignestria in her soft monotonous voice.
"My friend--Graciosa La Cruz--went a few weeks ago to Monterey for a visit. You will tell her I think of her, no?"
"I will dance with her often because she is your friend--until I return to San Luis Obispo."
"Will that be soon, senor?"
"I told thee that would be as soon as thou wished. Thou wilt answer my letter--promise me, Eulogia."
"I will not, senor. I intend to be wiser than other women. At the very least, my follies shall not burn paper. If you want an answer, you will return."
"I will not return without that answer. I never can see thee alone, and if I could, thy coquetry would not give me a plain answer. I must see it on paper before I will believe."
"Thou canst wait for the day of resurrection for thy knowledge, then!"
Once more Aunt Anastacia rolled her large figure through Eulogia's doorway and handed her a letter.
"From Don Pablo Ignestria, my baby," she said. "Oh, what a man! what a caballero! And so smart. He waited an hour by the creek in the mission gardens until he saw thy mother go out, and then he brought the note to me. He begged to see thee, but I dared not grant that, ninita, for thy mother will be back in ten minutes."
"Go downstairs and keep my mother there," commanded Eulogia, and Aunt Anastacia rolled off, whilst her niece with unwonted nervousness opened the letter.
"Sweet of my soul! Day-star of my life! I dare not speak to thee of love because, strong man as I am, still am I a coward before those mocking eyes. Therefore if thou laugh the first time thou readest that I love thee, I shall not see it, and the second time thou mayest be more kind. Beautiful and idolized Eulogia, men have loved thee, but never will be cast at thy little feet a heart stronger or truer than mine. Ay, dueno adorada, I love thee! Without hope? No! I believe that thou lovest me, thou cold little one, although thou dost not like to think that the heart thou hast sealed can open to let love in. But, Eulogia! Star of my eyes! I love thee so I will break that heart in pieces, and give thee another so soft and warm that it will beat all through the old house to which I will take thee. For thou wilt come to me, thou little coquette? Thou wilt write to me to come back and stand with thee in the mission while the good padre asks the saints to bless us? Eulogia, thou hast sworn thou wilt write to no man, but thou wilt write to me, my little one. Thou wilt not break the heart that lives in thine.
"I kiss thy little feet. I kiss thy tiny hands. I kiss--ay, Eulogia! Adios! Adios!
Eulogia could not resist that letter. Her scruples vanished, and, after an entire day of agonized composition, she sent these lines:--
"You can come back to San Luis Obispo.
"EULOGIA AMATA FRANCISCA GUADALUPE CARILLO."
Another year had passed. No answer had come from Pablo Ignestria. Nor had he returned to San Luis Obispo. Two months after Eulogia had sent her letter, she received one from Graciosa La Cruz, containing the information that Ignestria had married the invalid girl whose love for him had been the talk of Monterey for many years. And Eulogia? Her flirtations had earned her far and wide the title of Dona Coquetta, and she was cooler, calmer, and more audacious than ever.
"Dost thou never intend to marry?" demanded Dona Pomposa one day, as she stood over the kitchen stove stirring red peppers into a saucepan full of lard.
Eulogia was sitting on the table swinging her small feet. "Why do you wish me to marry? I am well enough as I am. Was Elena Castanares so happy with the man who was mad for her that I should hasten to be a neglected wife? Poor my Elena! Four years, and then consumption and death. Three children and an indifferent husband, who was dying of love when he could not get her."
"Thou thinkest of unhappy marriages because thou hast just heard of Elena's death. But there are many others."
"Did you hear of the present she left her mother?"
"No." Dona Pomposa dropped her spoon; she dearly loved a bit of gossip. "What was it?"
"You know that a year ago Elena went home to Los Quervos and begged Don Roberto and Dona Jacoba on her knees to forgive her, and they did, and were glad to do it. Dona Jacoba was with her when she was so ill at the last, and just before she died Elena said: 'Mother, in that chest you will find a legacy from me. It is all of my own that I have in the world, and I leave it to you. Do not take it until I am dead.' And what do you think it was? The greenhide reata."
"Mother of God! But Jacoba must have felt as if she were already in purgatory."
"It is said that she grew ten years older in the night."
"May the saints be praised, my child can leave me no such gift. But all men are not like Dario Castanares. I would have thee marry an American. They are smart and know how to keep the gold. Remember, I have little now, and thou canst not be young forever."
"I have seen no American I would marry."
"There is Don Abel Hudson."
"I do not trust that man. His tongue is sweet and his face is handsome, but always when I meet him I feel a little afraid, although it goes away in a minute. The Senor Dumas says that a woman's instincts--"
"To perdition with Senor Dumas! Does he say that a chit's instincts are better than her mother's? Don Abel throws about the money like rocks. He has the best horses at the races. He tells me that he has a house in Yerba Buena--"
"San Francisco. And I would not live in that bleak and sandy waste. Did you notice how he limped at the ball last night?"
"No. What of that? But I am not in love with Don Abel Hudson if thou art so set against him. It is true that no one knows just who he is, now I think of it. I had not made up my mind that he was the husband for thee. But let it be an American, my Eulogia. Even when they have no money they will work for it, and that is what no Californian will do--"
But Eulogia had run out of the room: she rarely listened to the end of her mother's harangues. She draped a reboso about her head, and went over to the house of Graciosa La Cruz. Her friend was sitting by her bedroom window, trimming a yellow satin bed-spread with lace, and Eulogia took up a half-finished sheet and began fastening the drawn threads into an intricate pattern.
"Only ten days more, my Graciosa," she said mischievously. "Art thou going to run back to thy mother in thy night-gown, like Josefita Olvera?"
"Never will I be such a fool! Eulogia, I have a husband for thee."
"To the tunnel of the mission with husbands! I shall be an old maid like Aunt Anastacia, fat, with black whiskers."
Graciosa laughed. "Thou wilt marry and have ten children."
"By every station in the mission I will not. Why bring more women into the world to suffer?"
"Ay, Eulogia! thou art always saying things I cannot understand and that thou shouldst not think about. But I have a husband for thee. He came from Los Angeles this morning, and is a friend of my Carlos. His name is not so pretty--Tomas Garfias. There he rides now."
Eulogia looked out of the window with little curiosity. A small young man was riding down the street on a superb horse coloured like golden bronze, with silver mane and tail. His saddle of embossed leather was heavily mounted with silver; the spurs were inlaid with gold and silver, and the straps of the latter were worked with gleaming metal threads. He wore a light red serape, heavily embroidered and fringed. His botas of soft deerskin, dyed a rich green and stamped with Aztec Eagles, were tied at the knee by a white silk cord wound about the leg and finished with heavy silver tassels. His short breeches were trimmed with gold lace. As he caught Graciosa's eye he raised his sombrero, then rode through the open door of a neighbouring saloon and tossed off an American drink without dismounting from his horse.
Eulogia lifted her shoulders. "I like his saddle and his horse, but he is too small. Still, a new man is not disagreeable. When shall I meet him?"
"To-night, my Eulogia. He goes with us to Miramar."
A party of young people started that night for a ball at Miramar, the home of Don Polycarpo Quijas. Many a caballero had asked the lady of his choice to ride on his saddle while he rode on the less comfortable aquera behind and guided his horse with arm as near her waist as he dared. Dona Pomposa, with a small brood under her wing, started last of all in an American wagon. The night was calm, the moon was high, the party very gay.
Abel Hudson and the newcomer, Don Tomas Garfias, sat on either side of Eulogia, and she amused herself at the expense of both.
"Don Tomas says that he is handsomer than the men of San Luis," she said to Hudson. "Do not you think he is right? See what a beautiful curl his mustachios have, and what a droop his eyelids. Holy Mary!--how that yellow ribbon becomes his hair! Ay, senor! Why have you come to dazzle the eyes of the poor girls of San Luis Obispo?"
"Ah, senorita," said the little dandy, "it will do their eyes good to see an elegant young man from the city. And they should see my sister. She would teach them how to dress and arrange their hair."
"Bring her to teach us, senor, and for reward we will find her a tall and modest husband such as the girls of San Luis Obispo admire. Don Abel, why do you not boast of your sisters? Have you none, nor mother, nor father, nor brother? I never hear you speak of them. Maybe you grow alone out of the earth."
Hudson's gaze wandered to the canon they were approaching. "I am alone, senorita; a lonely man in a strange land."
"Is that the reason why you are such a traveller, senor? Are you never afraid, in your long lonely rides over the mountains, of that dreadful bandit, John Power, who murders whole families for the sack of gold they have under the floor? I hope you always carry plenty of pistols, senor."
"True, dear senorita. It is kind of you to put me on my guard. I never had thought of this man."
"This devil, you mean. When last night I saw you come limping into the room--"
"Ay, yi, yi, Dios!" "Maria!" "Dios de mi alma!" "Dios de mi vida!" "Cielo santo!"
A wheel had given way, and the party was scattered about the road.
No one was hurt, but loud were the lamentations. No Californian had ever walked six miles, and the wheel was past repair. But Abel Hudson came to the rescue.
"Leave it to me," he said. "I pledge myself to get you there," and he went off in the direction of a ranch-house.
"Ay! the good American! The good American!" cried the girls. "Eulogia! how canst thou be so cold to him? The handsome stranger with the kind heart!"
"His heart is like the Sacramento Valley, veined with gold instead of blood." "Holy Mary!" she cried some moments later, "what is he bringing? The wagon of the country!"
Abel Hudson was standing erect on the low floor of a wagon drawn by two strong black mules. The wagon was a clumsy affair,--a large wooden frame covered with rawhide, and set upon a heavy axle. The wheels were made of solid sections of trees, and the harness was of greenhide. An Indian boy sat astride one of the mules. On either side rode a vaquero, with his reata fastened to the axle-tree.
"This is the best I can do," said Hudson. "There is probably not another American wagon between San Luis and Miramar. Do you think you can stand it?"
The girls shrugged their pretty shoulders. The men swore into their mustachios. Dona Pomposa groaned at the prospect of a long ride in a springless wagon. But no one was willing to return, and when Eulogia jumped lightly in, all followed, and Hudson placed them as comfortably as possible, although they were obliged to sit on the floor.
The wagon jolted down the canon, the mules plunging, the vaqueros shouting; but the moon glittered like a silvered snow peak, the wild green forest was about them, and even Eulogia grew a little sentimental as Abel Hudson's blue eyes bent over hers and his curly head cut off Dona Pomposa's view.
"Dear senorita," he said, "thy tongue is very sharp, but thou hast a kind heart. Hast thou no place in it for Abel Hudson?"
"In the sala, senor--where many others are received--with mamma and Aunt Anastacia sitting in the corner."
He laughed. "Thou wilt always jest! But I would take all the rooms, and turn every one out, even to Dona Pomposa and Dona Anastacia!"
"And leave me alone with you! God of my soul! How I should yawn!"
"Oh, yes, Dona Coquetta, I am used to such pretty little speeches. When you began to yawn I should ride away, and you would be glad to see me when I returned."
"What would you bring me from the mountains, senor?"
He looked at her steadily. "Gold, senorita. I know of many rich veins. I have a little canon suspected by no one else, where I pick out a sack full of gold in a day. Gold makes the life of a beloved wife very sweet, senorita."
"In truth I should like the gold better than yourself, senor," said Eulogia, frankly. "For if you will have the truth--Ay! Holy heaven! This is worse than the other!"
A lurch, splash, and the party with shrill cries sprang to their feet; the low cart was filling with water. They had left the canon and were crossing a slough; no one had remembered that it would be high tide. The girls, without an instant's hesitation, whipped their gowns up round their necks; but their feet were wet and their skirts draggled. They made light of it, however, as they did of everything, and drove up to Miramar amidst high laughter and rattling jests.
Dona Luisa Quijas, a handsome shrewd-looking woman, magnificently dressed in yellow satin, the glare and sparkle of jewels on her neck, came out upon the corridor to meet them.
"What is this? In a wagon of the country! An accident? Ay, Dios de mi vida, the slough! Come in--quick! quick! I will give you dry clothes. Trust these girls to take care of their gowns. Mary! What wet feet! Quick! quick! This way, or you will have red noses to-morrow," and she led them down the corridor, past the windows through which they could see the dancers in the sala, and opened the door of her bedroom.
"There, my children, help yourselves," and she pulled out the capacious drawers of her chest. "All is at your service." She lifted out an armful of dry underclothing, then went to the door of an adjoining room and listened, her hand uplifted.
"Didst thou have to lock him up?" asked Dona Pomposa, as she drew on a pair of Dona Luisa's silk stockings.
"Yes! yes! And such a time, my friend! Thou knowest that after I fooled him the last time he swore I never should have another ball. But, Dios de mi alma! I never was meant to be bothered with a husband, and have I not given him three children twenty times handsomer than himself? Is not that enough? By the soul of Saint Luis the Bishop, I will continue to promise, and then get absolution at the mission, but I will not perform! Well, he was furious, my friend; he had spent a sack of gold on that ball, and he swore I never should have another. So this time I invited my guests, and told him nothing. At seven to-night I persuaded him into his room, and locked the door. But, madre de Dios! Diego had forgotten to screw down the window, and he got out. I could not get him back, Pomposa, and his big nose was purple with rage. He swore that he would turn every guest away from the door; he swore that he would be taking a bath on the corridor when they came up, and throw insults in their faces. Ay, Pomposa! I went down on my knees. I thought I should not have my ball--such cakes as I had made, and such salads! But Diego saved me. He went into Don Polycarpo's room and cried 'Fire!' Of course the old man ran there, and then we locked him in. Diego had screwed down the window first. Dios de mi vida! but he is terrible, that man! What have I done to be punished with him?"
"Thou art too handsome and too cruel, my Luisa. But, in truth, he is an old wild-cat. The saints be praised that he is safe for the night. Did he swear?"
"Swear! He has cursed the skin off his throat and is quiet now. Come, my little ones, are you ready? The caballeros are dry in Diego's clothes by this time, and waiting for their waltzes;" and she drove them through the door into the sala with a triumphant smile on her dark sparkling face.
The rest of the party had been dancing for an hour, and all gathered about the girls to hear the story of the accident, which was told with many variations. Eulogia as usual was craved for dances, but she capriciously divided her favours between Abel Hudson and Don Tomas Garfias. During the intervals, when the musicians were silent and the girls played the guitar or threw cascarones at their admirers, she sat in the deep window-seat watching the ponderous waves of the Pacific hurl themselves against the cliffs, whilst Hudson pressed close to her side, disregarding the insistence of Garfias. Finally, the little Don from the City of the Angels went into the dining room to get a glass of angelica, and Hudson caught at his chance.
"Senorita," he exclaimed, interrupting one of her desultory remarks, "for a year I have loved you, and, for many reasons, I have not dared to tell you. I must tell you now. I have no reason to think you care more for me than for a dozen other men, but if you will marry me, senorita, I will build you a beautiful American house in San Luis Obispo, and you can then be with your friends when business calls me away."
"And where will you live when you are away from me?" asked Eulogia, carelessly. "In a cave in the mountains? Be careful of the bandits."
"Senorita," he replied calmly, "I do not know what you mean by the things you say sometimes. Perhaps you have the idea that I am another person--John Power, or Pio Lenares, for instance. Do you wish me to bring you a certificate to the effect that I am Abel Hudson? I can do so, although I thought that Californians disdained the written form and trusted to each other's honour, even to the selling of cattle and lands."
"You are not a Californian."
"Ah, senorita--God! what is that?"
A tremendous knocking at the outer door sounded above the clear soprano of Graciosa La Cruz.
"A late guest, no doubt. You are white like the wall. I think the low ceilings are not so good for your health, senor, as the sharp air of the mountains. Ay, Dios!" The last words came beneath her breath, and she forgot Abel Hudson. The front doors had been thrown open, and a caballero in riding-boots and a dark scrape wound about his tall figure had entered the room and flung his sombrero and saddle-bags into a corner. It was Pablo Ignestria.
"At your feet, senora," he said to Dona Luisa, who held out both hands, welcome on her charming face. "I am an uninvited guest, but when I arrived at San Luis and found that all the town had come to one of Dona Luisa's famous balls, I rode on, hoping that for friendship's sake she would open her hospitable doors to a wanderer, and let him dance off the stiffness of a long ride."
"You are welcome, welcome, Pablo," said Dona Luisa. "Go to the dining room and get a glass of aguardiente; then come back and dance until dawn."
Ignestria left the room with Diego Quijas, but returned in a few moments and walked directly over to Eulogia, ignoring the men who stood about her.
"Give me this dance," he whispered eagerly. "I have something to say to thee. I have purposely come from Monterey to say it."
Eulogia was looking at him with angry eyes, her brain on fire. But curiosity triumphed, and she put her hand on his shoulder as the musicians swept their guitars with lithe fingers, scraped their violins, and began the waltz.
"Eulogia!" exclaimed Ignestria; "dost thou suspect why I have returned?"
"Why should I suspect what I have not thought about?"
"Ay, Eulogia! Art thou as saucy as ever? But I will tell thee, beloved one. The poor girl who bore my name is dead, and I have come to beg an answer to my letter. Ay, little one, I feel thy love. Why couldst thou not have sent me one word? I was so angry when passed week after week and no answer came, that in a fit of spleen I married the poor sick girl. And what I suffered, Eulogia, after that mad act! Long ago I told myself that I should have come back for my answer, that you had sworn you would write no letter; I should have let you have your little caprices, but I did not reason until--"
"I answered your letter!" exclaimed Eulogia, furiously. "You know that I answered it! You only wished to humble me because I had sworn I would write to no man. Traitor! I hate you! You were engaged to the girl all the time you were here."
"Eulogia! Believe! Believe!"
"I would not believe you if you kissed the cross! You said to yourself, 'That little coquette, I will teach her a lesson. To think the little chit should fancy an elegant Montereno could fall in love with her!' Ah! ha! Oh, Dios! I hate thee, thou false man-of-the-world! Thou art the very picture of the men I have read about in the books of the Senor Dumas; and yet I was fooled by thy first love-word! But I never loved you. Never, never! It was only a fancy--because you were from Monterey. I am glad you did not get my letter, for I hate you! Mother of Christ! I hate you!"
He whirled her into the dining room. No one else was there. He kissed her full on the mouth.
"Dost thou believe me now?" he asked.
She raised her little hand and struck him on the face, but the sting was not hotter than her lips had been.
"May the saints roll you in perdition!" she cried hoarsely. "May they thrust burning coals into the eyes that lied to me! May the devils bite off the fingers that made me shame myself! God! God! I hate you! I--I, who have fooled so many men, to have been rolled in the dust by you!"
He drew back and regarded her sadly.
"I see that it is no use to try to convince you," he said; "and I have no proof to show that I never received your letter. But while the stars jewel the heavens, Eulogia, I shall love thee and believe that thou lovest me."
He opened the door, and she swept past him into the sala. Abel Hudson stepped forward to offer his arm, and for the moment Pablo forgot Eulogia.
"John Power!" he cried.
Hudson, with an oath, leaped backward, sprang upon the window-seat, and smashing the pane with his powerful hand disappeared before the startled men thought of stopping him.
"Catch him! Catch him!" cried Ignestria, excitedly. "It is John Power. He stood me up a year ago."
He whipped his pistol from the saddle-bags in the corner, and opening the door ran down the road, followed by the other men, shouting and firing their pistols into the air. But they were too late. Power had sprung upon Ignestria's horse, and was far on his way.
The next day Eulogia went with her mother and Aunt Anastacia to pay a visit of sympathy to Dona Jacoba at Los Quervos. Eulogia's eyes were not so bright nor her lips so red as they had been the night before, and she had little to say as the wagon jolted over the rough road, past the cypress fences, then down between the beautiful tinted hills of Los Quervos. Dona Pomposa sat forward on the high seat, her feet dangling just above the floor, her hands crossed as usual over her stomach, a sudden twirl of thumbs punctuating her remarks. She wore a loose black gown trimmed with ruffles, and a black reboso about her head. Aunt Anastacia was attired in a like manner, but clutched the side of the wagon with one hand and an American sunshade with the other.
"Poor Jacoba!" exclaimed Dona Pomposa; "her stern heart is heavy this day. But she has such a sense of her duty, Anastacia. Only that makes her so stern."
"O-h-h-h, y-e-e-s." When Aunt Anastacia was preoccupied or excited, these words came from her with a prolonged outgoing and indrawing.
"I must ask her for the recipe for those cakes--the lard ones, Anastacia. I have lost it."
"O-h-h, y-e-e-s. I love those cakes. Madre de Dios! It is hot!"
"I wonder will she give Eulogia a mantilla when the chit marries. She has a chest full."
"Surely. Jacoba is generous."
"Poor my friend! Ay, her heart--Holy Mary! What is that?"
She and Aunt Anastacia stumbled to their feet. The sound of pistol shots was echoing between the hills. Smoke was rising from the willow forest that covered the centre of the valley.
The Indian whipped up his horses with an excited grunt, the two old women reeling and clutching wildly at each other. At the same time they noticed a crowd of horsemen galloping along the hill which a sudden turn in the road had opened to view.
"It is the Vigilantes," said Eulogia, calmly, from the front seat. "They are after John Power and Pio Lenares and their lieutenants. After that awful murder in the mountains the other day, the men of San Luis and the ranchos swore they would hunt them out, and this morning they traced them to Los Quervos. I suppose they have made a barricade in the willows, and the Vigilantes are trying to fire them out."
"Heart of Saint Peter! Thou little brat! Why didst thou not tell us of this before, and not let us come here to be shot by flying bullets?"
"I forgot," said Eulogia, indifferently.
They could see nothing; but curiosity, in spite of fear, held them to the spot. Smoke and cries, shouts and curses, came from the willows; flocks of agitated crows circled screaming through the smoke. The men on the hill, their polished horses and brilliant attire flashing in the sun, kept up a ceaseless galloping, hallooing, and waving of sombreros. The beautiful earth-green and golden hills looked upon a far different scene from the gay cavalcades to which they were accustomed. Even Don Roberto Duncan, a black silk handkerchief knotted about his head, was dashing, on his gray horse, up and down the valley between the hills and the willows, regardless of chance bullets. And over all shone the same old sun, indifferent alike to slaughter and pleasure.
"Surely, Anastacia, all those bullets must shoot some one."
"O--h--h, y--e--e--s." Her sister was grasping the sunshade with both hands, her eyes starting from her head, although she never removed their gaze from the central volume of smoke.
"Ay, we can sleep in peace if those murdering bandits are killed!" exclaimed Dona Pomposa. "I have said a rosary every night for five years that they might be taken. And, holy heaven! To think that we have been petting the worst of them as if he were General Castro or Juan Alvarado. To think, my Eulogia!--that thirsty wild-cat has had his arm about thy waist more times than I can count."
"He danced very well--aha!"
Aunt Anastacia gurgled like an idiot. Dona Pomposa gave a terrific shriek, which Eulogia cut in two with her hand. A man had crawled out of the brush near them. His face was black with powder, one arm hung limp at his side. Dona Pomposa half raised her arm to signal the men on the hill, but her daughter gave it such a pinch that she fell back on the seat, faint for a moment.
"Let him go," said Eulogia. "Do you want to see a man cut in pieces before your eyes? You would have to say rosaries for the rest of your life." She leaned over the side of the wagon and spoke to the dazed man, whose courage seemed to have deserted him.
"Don Abel Hudson, you do not look so gallant as at the ball last night, but you helped us to get there, and I will save you now. Get into the wagon, and take care you crawl in like a snake that you may not be seen."
"No--no!" cried the two older women, but in truth they were too terrified not to submit. Power swung himself mechanically over the wheel, and lay on the floor of the wagon. Eulogia, in spite of a protesting whimper from Aunt Anastacia, loosened that good dame's ample outer skirt and threw it over the fallen bandit. Then the faithful Benito turned his horse and drove as rapidly toward the town as the rough roads would permit. They barely had started when they heard a great shouting behind them, and turned in apprehension, whilst the man on the floor groaned aloud in his fear. But the Vigilantes rode by them unsuspecting. Across their saddles they carried the blackened and dripping bodies of Lenares and his lieutenants; through the willows galloped the caballeros in search of John Power. But they did not find him, then nor after. Dona Pomposa hid him in her woodhouse until midnight, when he stole away and was never seen near San Luis again. A few years later came the word that he had been assassinated by one of his lieutenants in Lower California, and his body eaten by wild hogs.
"Al contado plasentero Del primer beso de amor, Un fuego devorador Que en mi pecho siento ardor. "Y no me vuelvas a besar Por que me quema tu aliento, Ya desfayeserme siento, Mas enbriagada de amor. "Si a cuantas estimas, das Beso en pruebas de amor; Si me amas hasme el favor De no besarme jamas."
A caballero on a prancing horse sang beneath Eulogia's window, his jingling spurs keeping time to the tinkling of his guitar. Eulogia turned over in bed, pulling the sheet above her ears, and went to sleep.
The next day, when Don Tomas Garfias asked her hand of her mother, Dona Coquetta accepted him with a shrug of her shoulders.
"And thou lovest me, Eulogia?" murmured the enraptured little dandy as Dona Pomposa and Aunt Anastacia good-naturedly discussed the composition of American pies.
"Ay! senorita! Why, then, dost thou marry me? No one compels thee."
"It pleases me. What affair of thine are my reasons if I consent to marry you?"
"Oh, Eulogia, I believe thou lovest me! Why not? Many pretty girls have done so before thee. Thou wishest only to tease me a little."
"Well, do not let me see too much of you before the wedding-day, or I may send you back to those who admire you more than I do."
"Perhaps it is well that I go to San Francisco to remain three months," said the young man, sulkily; he had too much vanity to be enraged. "Wilt thou marry me as soon as I return?"
"As well then as any other time."
Garfias left San Luis a few days later to attend to important business in San Francisco, and although Dona Pomposa and Aunt Anastacia began at once to make the wedding outfit, Eulogia appeared to forget that she ever had given a promise of marriage. She was as great a belle as ever, for no one believed that she would keep faith with any man, much less with such a ridiculous scrap as Garfias. Her flirtations were more calmly audacious than ever, her dancing more spirited; in every frolic she was the leader.
Suddenly Dona Pomposa was smitten with rheumatism. She groaned by night and shouted by day. Eulogia, whose patience was not great, organized a camping party to the sulphur springs of the great rancho, Paso des Robles. The young people went on horseback; Dona Pomposa and Aunt Anastacia in the wagon with the tents and other camping necessities. Groans and shrieks mingled with the careless laughter of girls and caballeros, who looked upon rheumatism as the inevitable sister of old age; but when they entered the park-like valley after the ride over the beautiful chrome mountains, Dona Pomposa declared that the keen dry air had already benefited her.
That evening, when the girls left their tents, hearts fluttered, and gay muslin frocks waved like agitated banners. Several Americans were pitching their tents by the spring. They proved to be a party of mining engineers from San Francisco, and although there was only one young man among them, the greater was the excitement. Many of the girls were beautiful, with their long braids and soft eyes, but Eulogia, in her yellow gown, flashed about like a succession of meteors, as the Americans drew near and proffered their services to Dona Pomposa.
The young man introduced himself as Charles Rogers. He was a good-looking little fellow, in the lighter American style. His well-attired figure was slim and active, his mouse-coloured hair short and very straight, his shrewd eyes were blue. After a few moments' critical survey of the charming faces behind Dona Pomposa, he went off among the trees, and returning with a bunch of wild flowers walked straight over to Eulogia and handed them to her.
She gave him a roguish little courtesy. "Much thanks, senor. You must scuse my English; I no spik often. The Americanos no care for the flores?"
"I like them well enough, but I hope you will accept these."
"Si, senor." She put them in her belt. "You like California?"
"Very much. It is full of gold, and, I should say, excellent for agriculture."
"But it no is beautiful country?"
"Oh, yes, it does very well, and the climate is pretty fair in some parts."
"You living in San Francisco?"
"I am a mining engineer, and we have got hold of a good thing near here."
"The mine--it is yours?"
"Only a part of it."
"The Americanos make all the money now."
"The gold was put here for some one to take out. You Californians had things all your own way for a hundred years, but you let it stay there."
"Tell me how you take it out."
He entered into a detailed and somewhat technical description, but her quick mind grasped the meaning of unfamiliar words.
"You like make the money?" she asked, after he had finished.
"Of course. What else is a man made for? Life is a pretty small affair without money."
"We no have much now, but we live very happy. The Americanos love the money, though. Alway I see that."
"Americans have sense."
He devoted himself to her during the ten days of their stay, and his business shrewdness and matter-of-fact conversation attracted the keen-witted girl, satiated with sighs and serenades. Always eager for knowledge, she learned much from him of the Eastern world. She did not waste a glance on her reproachful caballeros, but held long practical conversations with Rogers under the mending wing of Dona Pomposa, who approved of the stranger, having ascertained his abilities and prospects from the older men of his party.
On the morning of their return to San Luis Obispo, Rogers and Eulogia were standing somewhat apart, whilst the vaqueros rounded up the horses that had strayed at will through the valley. Rogers plucked one of the purple autumn lilies and handed it to her.
"Senorita," he said, "suppose you marry me. It is a good thing for a man to be married in a wild country like this; he is not so apt to gamble and drink. And although I've seen a good many pretty girls, I've seen no one so likely to keep me at home in the evening as yourself. What do you say?"
Eulogia laughed. His wooing interested her.
"I promise marry another man; not I think much I ever go to do it."
"Well, let him go, and marry me."
"I no think I like you much better. But I spose I must get marry some day. Here my mother come. Ask her. I do what she want."
Dona Pomposa was trotting toward them, and while she struggled for her lost breath Eulogia repeated the proposal of the American, twanging her guitar the while.
The old lady took but one moment to make up her mind. "The American," she said rapidly in Spanish. "Garfias is rich now, but in a few years the Americans will have everything. Garfias will be poor; this man will be rich. Marry the American," and she beamed upon Rogers.
Eulogia shrugged her shoulders and turned to her practical wooer.
"My mother she say she like you the best."
"Then I may look upon that little transaction as settled?"
"Si you like it."
"Which art thou going to marry, Eulogia?" asked one of the girls that night, as they rode down the mountain.
"Neither," said Eulogia, serenely.
Eulogia had just passed through an animated interview with her mother. Dona Pomposa had stormed and Eulogia had made an occasional reply in her cool monotonous voice, her gaze absently fixed on the gardens of the mission.
"Thou wicked little coquette!" cried Dona Pomposa, her voice almost worn out. "Thou darest repeat to me that thou wilt not marry the Senor Rogers!"
"I will not. It was amusing to be engaged to him for a time, but now I am tired. You can give him what excuse you like, but tell him to go."
"And the clothes I have made--the chests of linen with the beautiful deshalados that nearly put out Aunt Anastacia's eyes! The new silk gowns! Dias de mi vida! The magnificent bed-spread with the lace as deep as my hand!"
"They will keep until I do marry. Besides, I need some new clothes."
"Dost thou indeed, thou little brat! Thou shalt not put on a smock or a gown in that chest if thou goest naked! But thou shalt marry him, I say!"
"Oh, thou ice-hearted little devil!" Even Dona Pomposa's stomach was trembling with rage, and her fingers were jumping. "Whom then wilt thou marry? Garfias?"
"Thou wilt be an old maid like Aunt Anastacia."
"O--h--h--Who is this?"
A stranger in travelling scrape and riding-boots had dashed up to the house, and flung himself from his horse. He knocked loudly on the open door, then entered without waiting for an invitation, and made a deep reverence to Dona Pomposa.
"At your service, senora. At your service, senorita. I come from the Senor Don Tomas Garfias. Word has reached him that the Senorita Eulogia is about to marry an American. I humbly ask you to tell me if this be true or not. I have been told in town that the wedding is set for the day after to-morrow."
"Ask her!" cried Dona Pomposa, tragically, and she swung herself to the other end of the room.
"Senorita, at your feet."
"You can tell your friend that I have no more intention of marrying the American than I have of marrying him."
"Senorita! But he expected to return next week and marry you."
"We expect many things in this world that we do not get."
"But--a thousand apologies for my presumption, senorita--why did you not write and tell him?"
"I never write letters."
"But you could have sent word by some friend travelling to San Francisco, senorita."
"He would find it out in good time. Why hurry?"
"Ay, senorita, well are you named Dona Coquetta. You are famous even to San Francisco. I will return to my poor friend. At your service, senora. At your service, senorita," and he bowed himself out, and galloped away.
Dona Pomposa threw herself into her chair, and wept aloud.
"Mother of God! I had thought to see her married to a thrifty American! What have I done to be punished with so heartless a child? And the Americans will have all the money! The little I have will go, too! We shall be left sitting in the street. And we might have a wooden house in San Francisco, and go to the theatre! Oh, Mother of God, why dost thou not soften the heart of the wicked--"
Eulogia slipped out of the window, and went into the mission gardens. She walked slowly through the olive groves, lifting her arms to part the branches where the little purple spheres lay in their silver nests. Suddenly she came face to face with Pablo Ignestria.
Her cynical brain informed her stormy heart that any woman must succumb finally to the one man who had never bored her.