|Newspaper Title||Globe (Sydney, NSW : 1885 - 1886)|
|Trove Title||One Christmas Eve: A Romance of the Missionary Days of California|
ONE CHRISTMAS EVE. A ROMANCE OF THE MISSIONARY DAYS OF CALIFORNIA. CesArra I. The soft-tonel be'ls were chiming the Angelus from the tower of the Carmel 13ssion Church as Don Pedro Sanchez sprang fiom his horse to the vec.mdah of the hacienda of the RIancho Aquajito'. Tho hoese was near the outer wall of the misseion, so near, indeed, that the perfume of those beaatiful rose, upon which the good Padre Antonio prided himself, per vaded the cool, spacious sitting-room where Jovina Sauchez, the acknowledged beauty of the Ci:mel Valley, was filling a vase with fragraint mas'ea of those identi cal flowers. An only daughtar and an heiress, Jovina was something of a spoiled child, Padre Antonio spoiled her, her father idolied her, and the Mission Indians, whoao coustant benefactress she was, loaded her with prasents of curioris embroideries, e.arved shells, and all the ancient treasures of their barbaric art. "You are latb, Padre mio," said the girl in.hcrlow, sweet Spanish tones, "but you are always late when you visit our neighbour Juan Gomez. Andusually cross when you return, old bear that you are," and she stepped out the low window, and fondly stroked the grizzled beard of her fa thor. "Tisne, tree. my daughter," replied Don Pedro, "Senor Gomes and myself have much business to talk about. You know we expect somen American ships in nex tmonth, and' they will want hides in exchange for their dollars, mi querida, and those nice silk gowns my Jovina will wear." "Jovina has gowns and silks enough, you foolish old papa, and I don't lke Gomes." "lie is a comely gentleman, my daughter, and he certainly has shown his preference for you," and Don Pedro cast a searching glauce into these deep, lustrous' eyes which met his so fondly. But there was no sihrinking in them, nothing that might induce her father to believe that she was insincere in her avowed dislike of their neighbour. "Well, we will not discuss him now, dear," she said; "come, our dinner waits. Pancho has brought us some nice trout from the Carmel. We will not spoil our appetite with Gomez. And Padre Antonio will come to see us afterward and taste my coffee." As thbe Spaniard clasped his daughter's waist and stroked her black curls, a looke of trouble and perplexity swept over his fine bronzed face. Evi dently Jovina was right. These visits to their neighbour, Gomez, were not good for Don Pedro's peace of mind. T'he Cermcl Valley, in 18f0, the period of time opening of our story, was divided into five or six large ranches, exclusive of the Mission property. That exquisite gaerden-apet, and it is to-day one of the lovelicst spots in California. was the scene of innocent and prosperous industry. The Indians, while cartad for by the good fatoers of the Mission, wore instructed by them in the necessity of labour, and found congenial employment in tending the large herds of cattle which were the prin cipal posesesieons of the land-owners. For months before the arrival of the fleet of trading vessels from the E.isot they wore busy slaughtering them and curing hides. Don Pedro S:nchez was cue of theearliest settlers in the valley. He came from old Spasn and had all the pride of a Cal.lian combined with 1is ui boraded hopitasity. His wife died in giving birth to Jovina, andthough many a fair woman hal smiled graciously at tlhe high-bred exitl.e, Sanchez was faitihful to the memory of his bride. SJovina had been educated at the Mis sion, and was learned in all those arts and accomplishments which wore at tlhat poriod considered essential to ai young Spanish lady. Gomnz had only been four years in the valley, lie, toe, came front old Spain, but of his previous history nothing was Iknown. lie was a sombre, taciturn man, unpopular with his peons, and sellom cour?ing society. die was wealthy, and a few months after his arrival purclased a ranch adjoining the Aquajitos, and gradu. ally became interested with Sanchsz in tihe business of furnishing cattle to the Amori can traders. When Jovina bloomed into womanhood he displayed, in his strange, unconth fashion, a decided preference for her society. When joked by her girl asso ciates about her conquest Jovina tossed her curls, and declared that when she did marry, if ever she did, which was doubt fls, sae would not select a man quite as old as her father. SAnd then, my dears," she added, "who knows anything about our friend ? Why, he may have a dozen wives in old Spain, and some day, after we have been married, they might all come out here together, and see then what a plight'your Jovina would be in. No, indeed; I'll grow old here with Padre Antonio, or wait till he founds a convent, and become the Mother Superior of the order." Don Pedro sat on his'verandah pensively smoking his cigarette and looking over the grand panorama of plain, hill, stream, wood, and sea that lay before him. "It is ai fair world," ihe said, musingly, "and it is a pity there should be any trouble in it. Alh ! hero comes Padre An tonio for his coffee. And he was never more welcome, for I must advise with him." He greeted the old priest cordially. "Jovina expects you, Padre," ihe said. She will.,ba here with your coffas directly.", "We are happy, you and I, in our girl, amigo mio," said the priest. "I some times wonder you did not grow jealous of me.". "How do you know I am not?" laughed Sanehez. ",When anything ehoico comes to the house it is Padro Antonio first and Padre Sanchez last." "Quarrelling again, and about me," laughed Jovina. "Now here is the coffee, and there is not one grain of sugar more in one cup than the other.c" "Now, Jovina, the good father and my self have some serious matters to talk veo, so go and amuse yourself. Or take Rosalia with you, my daughter," added Padre An tonio, "and plunder the rose bushes, and don't forget to fill the altar vases before you return." When the girl with her attendant tripped down the willow-shaded road, Sanchez rolled a fresh cigarette and looked anxiously at ihe priest. "Wlhat is it, my sos," asked the Padre, "' What Iave yoe got on your mind ? You look troubled, old friend." "I am, my dear old friend, I am," re plied Sanchez, "and I aus going to tell you what it is all about and to ask your advice. Matters have not gone well with .gueo of late. I have loat a great due.l oi sroney, more thu s . ehsosal like to
mention, and that has necessitated the incurring of obligations that perplex me sorely." "I am grieved to hear it, old friend," said the priest sympathetically. "I have placed myself in a measure in te power of a man whom you, I know, do ot like, and whom I have no confidence in," continued Sanchez. "IHow it came to pass itis needless to mention." "And that man is- " "Don Juan Gomez," replied Sanchez, gloomily. Padre Antonio was silent for some minutes, and evidently distressed. "I am sorry that Gomez is your creditor," ha said, gravely. "I do not, I never have, liked that man; but for other reasons," and he paused and looked searchingly at Sanchez. " Ah, I know what you mean," rejoined the other bitterly; "tsereare, as you sur 'misc, other reasons why this debt is espe cially painful. There is my daughter." "I feared so,' said the priest. "I have heard the Mission gossip, and I have my celf noUiced his predilection. atu do you think he would ever make thatan alterna. tive?" "I left him less thatl three lspcdrs ago. We went over our accounts. I am ter ribly involved, and was appalled at the showing. 'Do not look so worried, amigo mio,' he said (and I knew his meaning), 'we may nrrive at a simpler and happier settlement of all this thanou mere nci p y ments.' Ivnderstood him. but said nothing. I fear he is a bad man. We know nothing of him, and I am sure that nevelr, under any circ'emstances, would Joviua consent to receive him as a suitor." "Heaven forbid, my friend," re joined Pedro Antonio, piously. "When the Mission. lose does ssm:ry, please the Virgin, but we will find her a comelier mate that that b'aek-browed cons'sshtoa. Do not trouble her place byhintiug at the possiblity of 0uc'. a eatastrophe. Duen.ss noel "s, my f:iend. Keep a good heart. and we may yet escape the toils without a sac'ifice."
CHAPTER Ii. Sanchco took his Zriend's adviee. and l'p lhis o,in counsel in regard to the aspirat'ons of hio grim neighbour to the hand of his daughter. But he observed, with neasinass, that Gomoez rode oftener tbrobgh the Mission avenue than was his wont,andneverfailedtocallatthohacienda, end linger about the place until Jovina appa.rcd and he was afforded an oppar Lunity of conversing with her. The lglt-bo:eted girl was amused at those palp.,hble attempts at couriahip, and t-eated Don lsen in a bantering fashion, which seemed to suit the mood of that taciturn and mybsteOios lover. "I do believe the old grizzly is fond of mn" she remarked once to her father. " Don't you knew, he inquired last even ing if I was going to the ecscasone ball, and if I had not declared that I was, and that young Pancho Gatie.rez was to be my cro'_. r think he would have offered himself." The ca:resrono ball was to be the event of the season. There were no leas than four Ameiican trading ships in Monteroy, end the population of that seaport had deternined that the gringos should carry home some fair tales of Spanish hospi tality. The old family chariot which San chez had brought from Spain was burnished up, and Jovina bedecked her self with jewels which had shone in the court of Madrid upon the bosoms of her great-grandmothers. She looked ravish ingly beautiful in all.this finery of a bygone age, while in contrast to the diamouds on arms and breast she wore a bunch of scarlet Mission roses in her lustrous hair and the old golden circlet that spanned her tiny waist. The Spanish fort, where the festivities were held, cast a blaze of light far out upon the watera a3 the Sanchez carriage drove into the parade ground. Anc then guitars and hasps and violins sounded, and the Sp.nish caballeros contended with the American officers and supercargoes for the hands of the dark-eyed beauties. "Miss Sanchez. let me present to you Mr. Richard Willard of the good ship Wrteroiteb." said the comandante, how "-g zco.o the acknowledged bello of the room. Jovina glenced approvingly at the tall blond American youth who leased on the e.m of the gallant old Sp.miard. audthey, moved off together to take their places in use da.ce. '" Mis Sanchez, this is my first visit to Ca"foenia. and. though I am anaeored:tcd tacer with your people, the Spanish is yoet on unknown tonguo to me. Now why, may I ask, is td'i? called a 'esucacrone' ball ?" "Ahl ! you will see presently," she said, merrily, making a signal to one of her flends, who promptly broke a gayly painted egg, from which the yolk had bhen removed and a filling of colored paper sub stituted, over the head of the young American. This was the signal for a com bined assault, and in a few minutes Willard's desk clothes were as spangled with the tinsel and shell as if he were a hIrlequin. The novelty of conversing with a stranger from that great country of which she had heard so much was so fas cinating to the young Spanish girl that she permitted Willarsd to monopolize her during the whole of that delightful evening. "Your daughter seems to be enjoying herself," said'Gomeoz to Don Pedro, wlho foun d in the captain of the Waterwitalsh an old friend. "Willard is a bright fellow," said tihe sallor, "though a. university chap, he has picked up so much sailor knowled?o during one voyage that if any. of my officers should be taken, ill I would not be afraid to replace him with Dick." Then the conversation drifted into bs'uiness channels, the rate of Lhides, at what time they could be obtained, and oiher topics of mutual interest. "We sball be happy to see you, sir, at the Rancho Aquejitos," said Don Pedro, with gSave courtesy, as Willard handed his daughter to the carriage. "We may be able to amuso you, after your long sea voyage." Willard gratefully accspted the invitation. which was indeed but supple mental to one she had received from the daughter of the house but five minutes before. Days drifted into weeks, and weeks into months, and still the stout Waterwitch of Boston lay in Monterey harbour taking in cargo and elchanging Eastern goods of all varieties with the natives. Sanchez was not faithless to his promise when he as sured Willard that he would find some thing at the Rancho Aquajitos to amuse himself. His advent was a delight to. Padre Antonio, a breeze from, the climes ' of learning, a companion who eould converse witlh him on matters literary, which word rarely meo'itioned at the Misson. And Jovina, who had never heard anything beyond the, nariow gossip of the Mission-it was the tale of Desdeomona and Othello (ban, the com 'plexion) toldover again. It seoemed dill cult to imap'ne such doings, such vast places. such magnificence and wealth, as this young'stranger described. In return she gave all the lore of the Mission, the romantic history of Junipero Serra, and 'reverentially poinuted out the spot where the honoured dust rested. They w.alked together, sometimes accompuanied by the old priest. but oftener alone, by those willow-lined paths, which bordered the ,?wift and sinuous Carmel. And Don Pedro, seeing the girl was happy, and still dreading that cloud that was overhanging her young life, offererd no objections to the intimacy. There could be butone re sult, and that happy evening came when under the shadow of the old Mission walls, with the perfume of the roses in the air, and the boom of the surf struggling to drown the murmur of the river hard by; Jovina listened to the sweetest story tlhat ever fell on maiden's ears, and Willasrd pressed the first kiss of of passion upon her red lips and heard from them her faltering assurance of love. And then came the bitter day when tie Wsatoriwitch spread her sails to the southern breeze and boro tway to the noshh with Jovivs's plighted lover on board, and would return wsthin tso year, when the agony of porting would be
forgotten in the delight of their reunion. But the roces on Jovina's cheeks faded away before the Waterwitch weathered Cypress Point and her royals showed faint and dimupon thehorizon. CHAPTER III. Since their conversation on the veran dah, after Sanchez's visit to Gomez, Don Pedro had not referred to his relations with his neighbour to the priest. Padre Antonio had begun to hope that everything had been satifactorily arranged, and that his friend was clear of the influence of the creditor. When Jovina blushingly told her father of Willard's proposal the Don had simply said: "Obey the dictates of your own heart, my daughter. He is a good and worthy young man ;he is of our faith, and your old preceptor has con ceived a warm regard for him." Don Juan seldom came to the ranch now, and his visits were on business, never demanding to see Jovina, and seldom inquiring for her. One day the sails of an incoming vessel loomed up of Point Cypress. Nearer she drew and nearer, and Jovina's heart beat arxioraly, for might not that ship bring leer inteligeoce of her absent lover? A fLe hours p?o?sd and the Penguin of New Yo.k dropped auehor in Monterey fay. "I will ride to town, my daughter," said Don Pedro, "and on my return have all the news for you. Meanwhile, you must ask Pedro Antonio to join us at dinner." The priest and the maiden sat in the Mti:ion garden, waiiting the arrival of Sanchez and look u; anxiously along the teep rosd tbat led from the town to the Mission. Then when Jov~na nervously propo:cd that one of the Indians should be sunt to inquire if he had come to any ha:.m, the ta'l figerse of the ranchero was bees riding fuiiously toward the house. Ah! hie knows he is late, and feels gr".ty," sAid the priest, as they walked to the tanch. Padre Antonio feared the moment be anw his friend that he had hea?d bad news. "Go into the house, my daughter," said Don Pedro, "but sty, I see you are e .iors. Your lover is well. See, I have letters from him. There is another matter I wish to discuss with our friend." "What is this fresh trouble?" inquired rodre Antonio, anxiously. "My friend, I am ruined," said Don Pedro, in a stifled voice. "Gomee and I, on his advice, chartered the Mary Jane, v?'ich sailed a few days after the Boston Pfet. She has not been heard from, and they are assured that she is a wreck. This leaves me utterly in the power of that man. He can take everything I've got, and yet that would nob be enough to wipe out the debt betweenu us. Furthermore, ihe has thrown asido the mask, and assures me that on the dlay Jovina becomes his, all obl;gatiois will be cancelled, and I be once more ftoe. What can I do?" "I wail tell you, my father,", and Jovina, pale end ghastly, stepped on the verauda h. "I have heard all, and I am tieady. What. should I hesitato for so slight a sacrifice,when your whole life has been one nut of devotion to me?" "So slight a sacrifice? Great heavens!' groaned Sanchez, burying his face in his bands.
"I' know Richard will forgive me," she continued, "and he tells me that he will be with vs at Christmas, and with my wcdding things from his mother. It will be a sad Chei.tmas for him, poor boy, but were he here to-day, he could not reproach a daughter for breaking her troth to save her frther from rain," and she threw her- - -self at Don Pedro's feet, while the old priest. with exiaunded hands and in a voice broken by sobs, blessed her earnestly, and begged heaven to give her strength and comfort. CHAPTER IV. From the moment. Jovinas had deter mined to become the wife of Gomez she never p^. in *ed her f rther to refer in sny oway Io lhe ch,:e'ear -of the union. This gloomy Saui.ird was sipnlased - and du ighlr'? ' ? the r'nner in which his woo 'iu" s-:" r-ceird. There was no more b.aun'r, to be ur:s,° but there were no Fighs or tlrs, though the roses;,which no'ce 'd4 with t"e pride of the Mission ga-den. never rsainoed to her cheeks. Even i-or father was deceived by-this re sigentioe. re'd co-eoled bhim36f with the rcf-etios that perhaps, after all, her love for We"ord w3 buit a passing fancy, and th* sl-e lrd really .iscovered something in Goaesz which shl'eadmired. Only Padre "' tonio knew that the girl's heart was breal:'sg, and the old priest s-73 lost in ,woder aend a im': ar.tin at her heroism. The npunt:i3 wrer to take place on Christmas eve, red Don Juan, auxions for popularity prcpr:-:d to give a magnificent feast. Aimost ?he euntire population of Monterey was invited, together with every rauchero :n t'e Carmel Vtoley. The sun -rose brightly on Jovina's wedP;ng morning. They dressed her in the anouint old Spanish robes, but she wou'd have none of the Mission roses for I:er hair, but wore insteoad some odd jewels that Gomez bad presented to her. The day : r ,ged on wearily enough, and when the shadowis fol on the Carmel hills the grests began to arrive. The Mission chinurch was througed, and Father Autonio s oc i a' the altar in his sanerdotal robes awa?ti" t:,e arrival of the wedding pro cession. At last they came, the bride pale but marvellously beautiful, and Don Juan, despite lhis years, looking a gay bride groom. Up the aisle they marched, while a choir tof Iniian girls, tihe good priest's pue's. ist'wed en oeli Gregorian chant. Thei ring was in Dan luan's hand, the final von s were on the bride's lips, when a bustto rnd the round of loud voices were heard at the chn-eh door. The priest looked up indignantly at this unseomely interruption, andthe groom turned angrily Is face te crowd. "Stand aside, good people hero, I forbid the bans," and Richard Willard dashed up the aisle. bis dress disordered from hard aiding and his handuplifted threateningly toward the wedding group. "On what ground, young man?" in quired the priest wildly, for Don Juan, seemivgly paralyzed with indignation, corld rot find his voice. "On tie ground that this so-called Don Juan Gomes is a prate ,and a murderer, and an escapee from the gallows of Bar colonas, and that Inow hold authority from the Alcalde of Monteroy for his arrest," shouted Williard; "thank ,God I am not too late." With a scream of mingled joy at the ar rival of her lover and horror at the fate she had oecaped, Jovina sprang into Wlillard's arms. At this moment there was a tush at the door, caused by the en trance of a posse from the fort, led by the old comandanto himself. The large can ,deloabra in the centre of the church was esting'ished, and when order was re stored, Gomez was missing, nor, though the couitry was scoured for him, was a single trace of the pirate over discovered. Willard's story was soon told. Before he sailed for home in the Waterwitch, one of his shipmates recognised Goaine as a 'notlorious scourge of the seas who had' ibeun poiited out to him when lying in the port of Barcelona, during a visit to the galleys. From the priest he had received an inkling of Gomez's relations with Don Pedro, and on his return to Boston, pro cured all the necessary proof to assure the Alcualde that he vas not mistaken in his man. On the day of his arrival at Mon t?erey he heard df the marriage, and, wild with exciteinent, dashed ahead of the soldiers. The - Christmas chimes from the old Mission tower next morning had wedding music in them. Nor did Jovina this time refuse to deck her dark curls with the fairest roses in the mission garden.