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´╗┐Title: Padre Ignacio; or, the song of temptation
Author: Wister, Owen, 1860-1938
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Padre Ignacio; or, the song of temptation" ***

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PADRE IGNACIO

Or The Song of Temptation

By Owen Wister



I

At Santa Ysabel del Mar the season was at one of those moments when the
air rests quiet over land and sea. The old breezes were gone; the new
ones were not yet risen. The flowers in the mission garden opened wide;
no wind came by day or night to shake the loose petals from their stems.
Along the basking, silent, many-colored shore gathered and lingered the
crisp odors of the mountains. The dust hung golden and motionless long
after the rider was behind the hill, and the Pacific lay like a floor
of sapphire, whereon to walk beyond the setting sun into the East. One
white sail shone there. Instead of an hour, it had been from dawn till
afternoon in sight between the short headlands; and the Padre had hoped
that it might be the ship his homesick heart awaited. But it had slowly
passed. From an arch in his garden cloisters he was now watching the
last of it. Presently it was gone, and the great ocean lay empty. The
Padre put his glasses in his lap. For a short while he read in his
breviary, but soon forgot it again. He looked at the flowers and sunny
ridges, then at the huge blue triangle of sea which the opening of
the hills let into sight. "Paradise," he murmured, "need not hold more
beauty and peace. But I think I would exchange all my remaining years of
this for one sight again of Paris or Seville. May God forgive me such a
thought!"

Across the unstirred fragrance of oleanders the bell for vespers began
to ring. Its tones passed over the Padre as he watched the sea in his
garden. They reached his parishioners in their adobe dwellings near by.
The gentle circles of sound floated outward upon the smooth, immense
silence--over the vines and pear-trees; down the avenues of the olives;
into the planted fields, whence women and children began to return; then
out of the lap of the valley along the yellow uplands, where the men
that rode among the cattle paused, looking down like birds at the map
of their home. Then the sound widened, faint, unbroken, until it met
Temptation in the guise of a youth, riding toward the Padre from the
South, and cheered the steps of Temptation's jaded horse.

"For a day, one single day of Paris!" repeated the Padre, gazing through
his cloisters at the empty sea.

Once in the year the mother-world remembered him. Once in the year,
from Spain, tokens and home-tidings came to him, sent by certain beloved
friends of his youth. A barkentine brought him these messages. Whenever
thus the mother-world remembered him, it was like the touch of a warm
hand, a dear and tender caress; a distant life, by him long left behind,
seemed to be drawing the exile homeward from these alien shores. As the
time for his letters and packets drew near, the eyes of Padre Ignacio
would be often fixed wistfully upon the harbor, watching for the
barkentine. Sometimes, as to-day, he mistook other sails for hers, but
hers he mistook never. That Pacific Ocean, which, for all its hues and
jeweled mists, he could not learn to love, had, since long before his
day, been furrowed by the keels of Spain. Traders, and adventurers,
and men of God had passed along this coast, planting their colonies and
cloisters; but it was not his ocean. In the year that we, a thin strip
of patriots away over on the Atlantic edge of the continent, declared
ourselves an independent nation, a Spanish ship, in the name of Saint
Francis, was unloading the centuries of her own civilization at the
Golden Gate. San Diego had come earlier. Then, slowly, as mission
after mission was built along the soft coast wilderness, new ports
were established--at Santa Barbara, and by Point San Luis for San Luis
Obispo, which lay inland a little way up the gorge where it opened among
the hills. Thus the world reached these missions by water; while on
land, through the mountains, a road led to them, and also to many more
that were too distant behind the hills for ships to serve--a rough road,
long and lonely, punctuated with church towers and gardens. For the
Fathers gradually so stationed their settlements that the traveler might
each morning ride out from one mission and by evening of a day's fair
journey ride into the next. A lonely, rough, dangerous road, but lovely,
too, with a name like music--El Camino Real. Like music also were the
names of the missions--San Juan Capistrano, San Luis Rey de Francia, San
Miguel, Santa Ynes--their very list is a song.

So there, by-and-by, was our continent, with the locomotive whistling
from Savannah to Boston along its eastern edge, and on the western the
scattered chimes of Spain ringing among the unpeopled mountains. Thus
grew the two sorts of civilization--not equally. We know what has
happened since. To-day the locomotive is whistling also from The Golden
Gate to San Diego; but still the old mission-road goes through the
mountains, and along it the footsteps of vanished Spain are marked with
roses, and broken cloisters, and the crucifix.

But this was 1855. Only the barkentine brought to Padre Ignacio the
signs from the world that he once had known and loved so dearly. As for
the new world making a rude noise to the northward, he trusted that it
might keep away from Santa Ysabel, and he waited for the vessel that was
overdue with its package containing his single worldly luxury.

As the little, ancient bronze bell continued swinging in the tower,
its plaintive call reached something in the Padre's memory. Softly,
absently, he began to sing. He took up the slow strain not quite
correctly, and dropped it, and took it up again, always in cadence with
the bell.

[musical score appears here]

At length he heard himself, and, glancing at the belfry, smiled a
little. "It is a pretty tune," he said, "and it always made me sorry for
poor Fra Diavolo. Auber himself confessed to me that he had made it sad
and put the hermitage bell to go with it, because he too was grieved
at having to kill his villain, and wanted him, if possible, to die in a
religious frame of mind. And Auber touched glasses with me and said--how
well I remember it!--'Is it the good Lord, or is it merely the devil,
that makes me always have a weakness for rascals?' I told him it was the
devil. I was not a priest then. I could not be so sure with my answer
now." And then Padre Ignacio repeated Auber's remark in French: "'Est-ce
le bon Dieu, oui est-ce bien le diable, qui veut tonjours que j'aime
les coquins?' I don't know! I don't know! I wonder if Auber has composed
anything lately? I wonder who is singing 'Zerlina' now?"

He cast a farewell look at the ocean, and took his steps between the
monastic herbs, the jasmines and the oleanders to the sacristy. "At
least," he said, "if we cannot carry with us into exile the friends and
the places we have loved, music will go whither we go, even to an end of
the world such as this.--Felipe!" he called to his organist. "Can they
sing the music I taught them for the Dixit Dominus to-night?"

"Yes, father, surely."

"Then we will have that. And, Felipe--" The Padre crossed the chancel to
the small, shabby organ. "Rise, my child, and listen. Here is something
you can learn. Why, see now if you cannot learn it from a single
hearing."

The swarthy boy of sixteen stood watching his master's fingers, delicate
and white, as they played. Thus, of his own accord, he had begun to
watch them when a child of six; and the Padre had taken the wild,
half-scared, spellbound creature and made a musician of him.

"There, Felipe!" he said now. "Can you do it? Slower, and more softly,
muchacho mio. It is about the death of a man, and it should go with our
bell."

The boy listened. "Then the father has played it a tone too low," said
he, "for our bell rings the note of sol, or something very near it, as
the father must surely know." He placed the melody in the right key--an
easy thing for him; and the Padre was delighted.

"Ah, my Felipe," he exclaimed, "what could you and I not do if we had a
better organ! Only a little better! See! above this row of keys would be
a second row, and many more stops. Then we would make such music as has
never yet been heard in California. But my people are so poor and so
few! And some day I shall have passed from them, and it will be too
late."

"Perhaps," ventured Felipe, "the Americanos--"

"They care nothing for us, Felipe. They are not of our religion--or of
any religion, from what I can hear. Don't forget my Dixit Dominus."

The Padre retired once more to the sacristy, while the horse that
brought Temptation came over the hill.

The hour of service drew near; and as the Padre waited he once again
stepped out for a look at the ocean; but the blue triangle of water lay
like a picture in its frame of land, bare as the sky. "I think, from the
color, though," said he, "that a little more wind must have begun out
there."

The bell rang a last short summons to prayer. Along the road from the
south a young rider, leading a pack-animal, ambled into the mission and
dismounted. Church was not so much in his thoughts as food and, after
due digestion, a bed; but the doors stood open, and, as everybody was
passing within them, more variety was to be gained by joining this
company than by waiting outside alone until they should return from
their devotions. So he seated himself in a corner near the entrance, and
after a brief, jaunty glance at the sunburned, shaggy congregation, made
himself as comfortable as might be. He had not seen a face worth keeping
his eyes open for. The simple choir and simple fold, gathered for
even-song, paid him no attention--a rough American bound for the mines
was but an object of aversion to them.

The Padre, of course, had been instantly aware of the stranger's
presence. To be aware of unaccustomed presences is the sixth sense with
vicars of every creed and heresy; and if the parish is lonely and the
worshipers few and seldom varying, a newcomer will gleam out like a new
book to be read. And a trained priest learns to read keenly the faces of
those who assemble to worship under his guidance. But American vagrants,
with no thoughts save of gold-digging, and an overweening illiterate
jargon for speech, had long ceased to interest this priest, even in his
starvation for company and talk from the outside world; and therefore
after the intoning he sat with his homesick thoughts unchanged, to draw
both pain and enjoyment from the music that he had set to the Dixit
Dominus. He listened to the tender chorus that opens William Tell; and,
as the Latin psalm proceeded, pictures of the past rose between him and
the altar. One after another came these strains he had taken from operas
famous in their day, until at length the Padre was murmuring to some
music seldom long out of his heart--not the Latin verse which the choir
sang, but the original French words:

                 "Ah, voile man envie,
                     Voila mon seul desir:
                 Rendez moi ma patrie,
                     Ou laissez moi mourir."

Which may be rendered:

                 But one wish I implore,
                     One wish is all my cry:
                 Give back my native land once more,
                     Give back, or let me die.

Then it happened that his eye fell again upon the stranger near the
door, and he straightway forgot his Dixit Dominus. The face of the young
man was no longer hidden by the slouching position he had at first
taken. "I only noticed his clothes at first," thought the Padre.
Restlessness was plain upon the handsome brow, and violence was in the
mouth; but Padre Ignacio liked the eyes. "He is not saying any prayers,"
he surmised, presently. "I doubt if he has said any for a long while.
And he knows my music. He is of educated people. He cannot be American.
And now--yes, he has taken--I think it must be a flower, from his
pocket. I shall have him to dine with me." And vespers ended with rosy
clouds of eagerness drifting across the Padre's brain.



II

But the stranger made his own beginning. As the priest came from the
church, the rebellious young figure was waiting. "Your organist tells
me," he said, impetuously, "that it is you who--"

"May I ask with whom I have the great pleasure of speaking?" said the
Padre, putting formality to the front and his pleasure out of sight.

The stranger's face reddened beneath its sun-beaten bronze, and he
became aware of the Padre's pale features, molded by refinement and the
world. "I beg your lenience," said he, with a graceful and confident
utterance, as of equal to equal. "My name is Gaston Villere, and it was
time I should be reminded of my manners."

The Padre's hand waved a polite negative.

"Indeed, yes, Padre. But your music has amazed me. If you carried such
associations as--Ah! the days and the nights!"--he broke off. "To come
down a California mountain and find Paris at the bottom! The Huguenots,
Rossini, Herold--I was waiting for Il Trovatore."

"Is that something new?" inquired the Padre, eagerly.

The young man gave an exclamation. "The whole world is ringing with it!"
he cried.

"But Santa Ysabel del Mar is a long way from the whole world," murmured
Padre Ignacio.

"Indeed, it would not appear to be so," returned young Gaston. "I think
the Comedie Francaise must be round the corner."

A thrill went through the priest at the theater's name. "And have you
been long in America?" he asked.

"Why, always--except two years of foreign travel after college."

"An American!" exclaimed the surprised Padre, with perhaps a tone of
disappointment in his voice. "But no Americans who are yet come this
way have been--have been"--he veiled the too-blunt expression of his
thought--"have been familiar with The Huguenots," he finished, making a
slight bow.

Villere took his under-meaning. "I come from New Orleans," he returned,
"and in New Orleans there live many of us who can recognize a--who can
recognize good music wherever we hear it." And he made a slight bow in
his turn.

The Padre laughed outright with pleasure and laid his hand upon the
young man's arm. "You have no intention of going away to-morrow, I
trust?"

"With your leave," answered Gaston, "I will have such an intention no
longer."

It was with the air and gait of mutual understanding that the two now
walked on together toward the Padre's door. The guest was twenty-five,
the host sixty.

"And have you been in America long?" inquired Gaston.

"Twenty years."

"And at Santa Ysabel how long?"

"Twenty years."

"I should have thought," said Gaston, looking lightly at the desert
and unpeopled mountains, "that now and again you might have wished to
travel."

"Were I your age," murmured Padre Ignacio, "it might be so."

The evening had now ripened to the long after-glow of sunset. The sea
was the purple of grapes, and wine-colored hues flowed among the high
shoulders of the mountains.

"I have seen a sight like this," said Gaston, "between Granada and
Malaga."

"So you know Spain!" said the Padre.

Often he had thought of this resemblance, but never till now met any
one to share his thought. The courtly proprietor of San Fernando and the
other patriarchal rancheros with whom he occasionally exchanged visits
across the wilderness knew hospitality and inherited gentle manners,
sending to Europe for silks and laces to give their daughters; but their
eyes had not looked upon Granada, and their ears had never listened to
William Tell.

"It is quite singular," pursued Gaston, "how one nook in the world will
suddenly remind you of another nook that may be thousands of miles away.
One morning, behind the Quai Voltaire, an old, yellow house with rusty
balconies made me almost homesick for New Orleans."

"The Quai Voltaire!" said the Padre.

"I heard Rachel in Valerie that night," the young man went on. "Did you
know that she could sing, too. She sang several verses by an astonishing
little Jew violin-cellist that is come up over there."

The Padre gazed down at his blithe guest. "To see somebody, somebody,
once again, is very pleasant to a hermit!"

"It cannot be more pleasant than arriving at an oasis," returned Gaston.

They had delayed on the threshold to look at the beauty of the evening,
and now the priest watched his parishioners come and go. "How can one
make companions--" he began; then, checking himself, he said: "Their
souls are as sacred and immortal as mine, and God helps me to help
them. But in this world it is not immortal souls that we choose for
companions; it is kindred tastes, intelligences, and--and so I and my
books are growing old together, you see," he added, more lightly. "You
will find my volumes as behind the times as myself."

He had fallen into talk more intimate than he wished; and while the
guest was uttering something polite about the nobility of missionary
work, he placed him in an easy-chair and sought aguardiente for his
immediate refreshment. Since the year's beginning there had been no
guest for him to bring into his rooms, or to sit beside him in the high
seats at table, set apart for the gente fina.

Such another library was not then in California; and though Gaston
Villere, in leaving Harvard College, had shut Horace and Sophocles for
ever at the earliest instant possible under academic requirements, he
knew the Greek and Latin names that he now saw as well as he knew those
of Shakspere, Dante, Moliere, and Cervantes. These were here also; but
it could not be precisely said of them, either, that they made a part
of the young man's daily reading. As he surveyed the Padre's august
shelves, it was with a touch of the histrionic Southern gravity which
his Northern education had not wholly schooled out of him that he said:

"I fear I am no scholar, sir. But I know what writers every gentleman
ought to respect."

The polished Padre bowed gravely to this compliment.

It was when his eyes caught sight of the music that the young man felt
again at ease, and his vivacity returned to him. Leaving his chair, he
began enthusiastically to examine the tall piles that filled one side
of the room. The volumes lay piled and scattered everywhere, making
a pleasant disorder; and, as perfume comes from a flower, memories
of singers and chandeliers rose bright from the printed names. Norma,
Tancredi, Don Pasquale, La Vestale, dim lights in the fashions of
to-day, sparkled upon the exploring Gaston, conjuring the radiant halls
of Europe before him. "The Barber of Seville!" he presently exclaimed.
"And I happened to hear it in Seville."

But Seville's name brought over the Padre a new rush of home thoughts.
"Is not Andalusia beautiful?" he said. "Did you see it in April, when
the flowers come?"

"Yes," said Gaston, among the music. "I was at Cordova then."

"Ah, Cordova!" murmured the Padre.

"Semiramide!" cried Gaston, lighting upon that opera. "That was a week!
I should like to live it over, every day and night of it!"

"Did you reach Malaga from Marseilles or Gibraltar?" asked the Padre,
wistfully.

"From Marseilles. Down from Paris through the Rhone Valley, you know."

"Then you saw Provence! And did you go, perhaps, from Avignon to Nismes
by the Pont du Gard? There is a place I have made here--a little, little
place--with olive-trees. And now they have grown, and it looks something
like that country, if you stand in a particular position. I will take
you there to-morrow. I think you will understand what I mean."

"Another resemblance!" said the volatile and happy Gaston. "We both seem
to have an eye for them. But, believe me, Padre, I could never stay here
planting olives. I should go back and see the original ones--and then
I'd hasten on to Paris."

And, with a volume of Meyerbeer open in his hand, Gaston hummed:
"'Robert, Robert, toi que j'aime.' Why, Padre, I think that your library
contains none of the masses and all of the operas in the world!"

"I will make you a little confession," said Padre Ignacio, "and then you
shall give me a little absolution."

"For a penance," said Gaston, "you must play over some of these things
to me."

"I suppose I could not permit myself this luxury," began the Padre,
pointing to his operas, "and teach these to my choir, if the people had
any worldly associations with the music. But I have reasoned that the
music cannot do them harm--"

The ringing of a bell here interrupted him. "In fifteen minutes," he
said, "our poor meal will be ready for you." The good Padre was
not quite sincere when he spoke of a "poor meal." While getting the
aguardiente for his guest he had given orders, and he knew how well such
orders would be carried out. He lived alone, and generally supped simply
enough, but not even the ample table at San Fernando could surpass his
own on occasions. And this was for him indeed an occasion!

"Your half-breeds will think I am one of themselves," said Gaston,
showing his dusty clothes. "I am not fit to be seated with you." But he
did not mean this any more than his host had meant his remark about
the food. In his pack, which an Indian had brought from his horse, he
carried some garments of civilization. And presently, after fresh water
and not a little painstaking with brush and scarf, there came back to
the Padre a young guest whose elegance and bearing and ease of the
great world were to the exiled priest as sweet as was his traveled
conversation.

They repaired to the hall and took their seats at the head of the long
table. For the Spanish centuries of stately custom lived at Santa Ysabel
del Mar, inviolate, feudal, remote.

They were the only persons of quality present; and between themselves
and the gente de razon a space intervened. Behind the Padre's chair
stood an Indian to waft upon him, and another stood behind the chair of
Gaston Villere. Each of these servants wore one single white garment,
and offered the many dishes to the gente fina and refilled their
glasses. At the lower end of the table a general attendant wafted upon
mesclados--the half-breeds. There was meat with spices, and roasted
quail, with various cakes and other preparations of grain; also the
brown fresh olives and grapes, with several sorts of figs and plums,
and preserved fruits, and white and red wine--the white fifty years
old. Beneath the quiet shining of candles, fresh-cut flowers leaned from
vessels of old Mexican and Spanish make.

There at one end of this feast sat the wild, pastoral, gaudy company,
speaking little over their food; and there at the other the pale Padre,
questioning his visitor about Rachel. The mere name of a street would
bring memories crowding to his lips; and when his guest told him of a
new play he was ready with old quotations from the same author. Alfred
de Vigny they spoke of, and Victor Hugo, whom the Padre disliked. Long
after the dulce, or sweet dish, when it was the custom for the vaqueros
and the rest of the retainers to rise and leave the gente fina to
themselves, the host sat on in the empty hail, fondly talking to his
guest of his bygone Paris and fondly learning of the later Paris
that the guest had seen. And thus the two lingered, exchanging their
enthusiasms, while the candles waned, and the long-haired Indians stood
silent behind the chairs.

"But we must go to my piano," the host exclaimed. For at length they had
come to a lusty difference of opinion. The Padre, with ears critically
deaf, and with smiling, unconvinced eyes, was shaking his head, while
young Gaston sang Trovatore at him, and beat upon the table with a fork.

"Come and convert me, then," said Padre Ignacio, and he led the way.
"Donizetti I have always admitted. There, at least, is refinement.
If the world has taken to this Verdi, with his street-band music--But
there, now! Sit down and convert me. Only don't crush my poor little
Erard with Verdi's hoofs. I brought it when I came. It is behind the
times, too. And, oh, my dear boy, our organ is still worse. So old, so
old! To get a proper one I would sacrifice even this piano of mine in a
moment--only the tinkling thing is not worth a sou to anybody except its
master. But there! Are you quite comfortable?" And having seen to his
guest's needs, and placed spirits and cigars and an ash-tray within his
reach, the Padre sat himself comfortably in his chair to hear and expose
the false doctrine of Il Trovatore.

By midnight all of the opera that Gaston could recall had been played
and sung twice. The convert sat in his chair no longer, but stood
singing by the piano. The potent swing and flow of rhythms, the torrid,
copious inspiration of the South, mastered him. "Verdi has grown,"
he cried. "Verdi is become a giant." And he swayed to the beat of the
melodies, and waved an enthusiastic arm. He demanded every note. Why did
not Gaston remember it all? But if the barkentine would arrive and bring
the whole music, then they would have it right! And he made Gaston teach
him what words he knew. "'Non ti scorder,'" he sang--"'non ti scordar di
me.' That is genius. But one sees how the world moves when one is out of
it. 'A nostri monti ritorneremo'; home to our mountains. Ah, yes, there
is genius again." And the exile sighed and his spirit voyaged to distant
places, while Gaston continued brilliantly with the music of the final
scene.

Then the host remembered his guest. "I am ashamed of my selfishness," he
said. "It is already to-morrow."

"I have sat later in less good company," answered the pleasant Gaston.
"And I shall sleep all the sounder for making a convert."

"You have dispensed roadside alms," said the Padre, smiling, "and that
should win excellent dreams."

Thus, with courtesies more elaborate than the world has time for at the
present day, they bade each other good-night and parted, bearing their
late candles along the quiet halls of the mission. To young Gaston in
his bed easy sleep came without waiting, and no dreams at all. Outside
his open window was the quiet, serene darkness, where the stars shone
clear, and tranquil perfumes hung in the cloisters. But while the guest
lay sleeping all night in unchanged position like a child, up and down
between the oleanders went Padre Ignacio, walking until dawn. Temptation
indeed had come over the hill and entered the cloisters.



III

Day showed the ocean's surface no longer glassy, but lying like a mirror
breathed upon; and there between the short headlands came a sail,
gray and plain against the flat water. The priest watched through his
glasses, and saw the gradual sun grow strong upon the canvas of the
barkentine. The message from his world was at hand, yet to-day he
scarcely cared so much. Sitting in his garden yesterday, he could never
have imagined such a change. But his heart did not hail the barkentine
as usual. Books, music, pale paper, and print--this was all that was
coming to him, some of its savor had gone; for the siren voice of Life
had been speaking with him face to face, and in his spirit, deep down,
the love of the world was restlessly answering it. Young Gaston showed
more eagerness than the Padre over this arrival of the vessel that might
be bringing Trovatore in the nick of time. Now he would have the chance,
before he took his leave, to help rehearse the new music with the choir.
He would be a missionary, too: a perfectly new experience.

"And you still forgive Verdi the sins of his youth?" he said to his
host. "I wonder if you could forgive mine?"

"Verdi has left his behind him," retorted the Padre.

"But I am only twenty-five!" exclaimed Gaston, pathetically.

"Ah, don't go away soon!" pleaded the exile. It was the first
unconcealed complaint that had escaped him, and he felt instant shame.

But Gaston was too much elated with the enjoyment of each new day to
comprehend the Padre's soul. The shafts of another's pain might hardly
pierce the bright armor of his gaiety. He mistook the priest's entreaty,
for anxiety about his own happy spirit.

"Stay here under your care?" he asked. "It would do me no good, Padre.
Temptation sticks closer to me than a brother!" and he gave that laugh
of his which had disarmed severer judges than his host. "By next week I
should have introduced some sin or other into your beautiful Garden of
Ignorance here. It will be much safer for your flock if I go and join
the other serpents at San Francisco."

Soon after breakfast the Padre had his two mules saddled, and he and his
guest set forth down the hills together to the shore. And, beneath the
spell and confidence of pleasant, slow riding and the loveliness of
everything, the young man talked freely of himself.

"And, seriously," said he, "if I missed nothing else at Santa Ysabel, I
should long for--how shall I say it?--for insecurity, for danger, and
of all kinds--not merely danger to the body. Within these walls, beneath
these sacred bells, you live too safe for a man like me."

"Too safe!" These echoed words upon the lips of the pale Padre were a
whisper too light, too deep, for Gaston's heedless ear.

"Why," the young man pursued in a spirit that was but half levity,
"though I yield often to temptation, at times I have resisted it, and
here I should miss the very chance to resist. Your garden could never be
Eden for me, because temptation is absent from it."

"Absent!" Still lighter, still deeper, was this whisper that the Padre
breathed.

"I must find life," exclaimed Gaston, "and my fortune at the mines, I
hope. I am not a bad fellow, Father. You can easily guess all the things
I do. I have never, to my knowledge, harmed any one. I didn't even
try to kill my adversary in an affair of honor. I gave him a mere
flesh-wound, and by this time he must be quite recovered. He was my
friend. But as he came between me--"

Gaston stopped, and the Padre, looking keenly at him, saw the violence
that he had noticed in church pass like a flame over the young man's
handsome face.

"That's nothing dishonorable," said Gaston, answering the priest's look.
And then, because this look made him not quite at his ease: "Perhaps a
priest might feel obliged to say it was dishonorable. She and her father
were--a man owes no fidelity before he is--but you might say that had
been dishonorable."

"I have not said so, my son."

"I did what every gentleman would do." insisted Gaston.

"And that is often wrong!" said the Padre, gently and gravely. "But I'm
not your confessor."

"No," said Gaston, looking down. "And it is all over. It will not begin
again. Since leaving New Orleans I have traveled an innocent journey
straight to you. And when I make my fortune I shall be in a position to
return and--"

"Claim the pressed flower?" suggested the Padre. He did not smile.

"Ah, you remember how those things are!" said Gaston: and he laughed and
blushed.

"Yes," said the Padre, looking at the anchored barkentine, "I remember
how those things are."

For a while the vessel and its cargo and the landed men and various
business and conversations occupied them. But the freight for the
mission once seen to, there was not much else to detain them.

The barkentine was only a coaster like many others which had begun to
fill the sea a little more of late years, and presently host and guest
were riding homeward. Side by side they rode, companions to the eye, but
wide apart in mood; within the turbulent young figure of Gaston dwelt
a spirit that could not be more at ease, while revolt was steadily
kindling beneath the schooled and placid mask of the Padre.

Yet still the strangeness of his situation in such a remote,
resourceless place came back as a marvel into the young man's lively
mind. Twenty years in prison, he thought, and hardly aware of it! And
he glanced at the silent priest. A man so evidently fond of music, of
theaters, of the world, to whom pressed flowers had meant something
once--and now contented to bleach upon these wastes! Not even desirous
of a brief holiday, but finding an old organ and some old operas enough
recreation! "It is his age, I suppose," thought Gaston. And then the
notion of himself when he should be sixty occurred to him, and he spoke.

"Do you know, I do not believe," said he, "that I should ever reach such
contentment as yours."

"Perhaps you will," said Padre Ignacio, in a low voice.

"Never!" declared the youth. "It comes only to the few, I am sure."

"Yes. Only to the few," murmured the Padre.

"I am certain that it must be a great possession," Gaston continued;
"and yet--and yet--dear me! life is a splendid thing!"

"There are several ways to live it," said the Padre.

"Only one for me!" cried Gaston. "Action, men, women, things--to be
there, to be known, to play a part, to sit in the front seats; to have
people tell one another, 'There goes Gaston Villere!' and to deserve
one's prominence. Why, if I was Padre of Santa Ysabel del Mar for twenty
years--no! for one year--do you know what I should have done? Some day
it would have been too much for me. I should have left these savages
to a pastor nearer their own level, and I should have ridden down this
canyon upon my mule, and stepped on board the barkentine, and gone
back to my proper sphere. You will understand, sir, that I am far from
venturing to make any personal comment. I am only thinking what a world
of difference lies between natures that can feel as alike as we do upon
so many subjects. Why, not since leaving New Orleans have I met any one
with whom I could talk, except of the weather and the brute interests
common to us all. That such a one as you should be here is like a
dream."

"But it is not a dream," said the Padre.

"And, sir--pardon me if I do say this--are you not wasted at Santa
Ysabel del Mar? I have seen the priests at the other missions. They
are--the sort of good men that I expected. But are you needed to save
such souls as these?"

"There is no aristocracy of souls," said the Padre, again whispering.

"But the body and the mind!" cried Gaston. "My God, are they nothing? Do
you think that they are given to us for nothing but a trap? You cannot
teach such a doctrine with your library there. And how about all
the cultivated men and women away from whose quickening society the
brightest of us grow numb? You have held out. But will it be for long?
Are you never to save any souls of your own kind? Are not twenty years
of mesclados enough? No, no!" finished young Gaston, hot with his
unforeseen eloquence; "I should ride down some morning and take the
barkentine."

Padre Ignacio was silent for a space.

"I have not offended you?" asked the young man.

"No. Anything but that. You are surprised that I should--choose--to stay
here. Perhaps you may have wondered how I came to be here at all?"

"I had not intended any impertinent--"

"Oh no. Put such an idea out of your head, my son. You may remember that
I was going to make you a confession about my operas. Let us sit down in
this shade."

So they picketed the mules near the stream and sat down.



IV

"You have seen," began Padre Ignacio, "what sort of a man I--was once.
Indeed, it seems very strange to myself that you should have been here
not twenty-four hours yet, and know so much of me. For there has come
no one else at all"--the Padre paused a moment and mastered the
unsteadiness that he had felt approaching in his voice--"there has been
no one else to whom I have talked so freely. In my early days I had
no thought of being a priest. By parents destined me for a diplomatic
career. There was plenty of money and--and all the rest of it; for by
inheritance came to me the acquaintance of many people whose names
you would be likely to have heard of. Cities, people of fashion,
artists--the whole of it was my element and my choice; and by-and-by I
married, not only where it was desirable, but where I loved. Then
for the first time Death laid his staff upon my enchantment, and I
understood many things that had been only words to me hitherto. To have
been a husband for a year, and a father for a moment, and in that moment
to lose all--this unblinded me. Looking back, it seemed to me that I had
never done anything except for myself all my days. I left the world. In
due time I became a priest and lived in my own country. But my worldly
experience and my secular education had given to my opinions a turn
too liberal for the place where my work was laid. I was soon advised
concerning this by those in authority over me. And since they could not
change me and I could them, yet wished to work and to teach, the New
World was suggested, and I volunteered to give the rest of my life to
missions. It was soon found that some one was needed here, and for this
little place I sailed, and to these humble people I have dedicated my
service. They are pastoral creatures of the soil. Their vineyard and
cattle days are apt to be like the sun and storm around them--strong
alike in their evil and in their good. All their years they live
as children--children with men's passions given to them like deadly
weapons, unable to measure the harm their impulses may bring. Hence,
even in their crimes, their hearts will generally open soon to the one
great key of love, while civilization makes locks which that key cannot
always fit at the first turn. And coming to know this," said Padre
Ignacio, fixing his eyes steadily upon Gaston, "you will understand
how great a privilege it is to help such people, and how the sense
of something accomplished--under God--should bring Contentment with
Renunciation."

"Yes," said Gaston Villere. Then, thinking of himself, "I can understand
it in a man like you."

"Do not speak of me at all!" exclaimed the Padre, almost passionately.
"But pray Heaven that you may find the thing yourself some
day--Contentment with Renunciation--and never let it go."

"Amen!" said Gaston, strangely moved.

"That is the whole of my story," the priest continued, with no more
of the recent stress in his voice. "And now I have talked to you about
myself quite enough. But you must have my confession." He had now
resumed entirely his half-playful tone. "I was just a little mistaken,
you see--too self-reliant, perhaps--when I supposed, in my first
missionary ardor, that I could get on without any remembrance of the
world at all. I found that I could not. And so I have taught the old
operas to my choir--such parts of them as are within our compass and
suitable for worship. And certain of my friends still alive at home are
good enough to remember this taste of mine and to send me each year some
of the new music that I should never hear of otherwise. Then we study
these things also. And although our organ is a miserable affair, Felipe
manages very cleverly to make it do. And while the voices are singing
these operas, especially the old ones, what harm is there if sometimes
the priest is thinking of something else? So there's my confession! And
now, whether Trovatore is come or not, I shall not allow you to leave us
until you have taught all you know of it to Felipe."

The new opera, however, had duly arrived. And as he turned its pages
Padre Ignacio was quick to seize at once upon the music that could be
taken into his church. Some of it was ready fitted. By that afternoon
Felipe and his choir could have rendered "Ah! se l' error t' ingombra"
without slip or falter.

Those were strange rehearsals of Il Trovatore upon this California
shore. For the Padre looked to Gaston to say when they went too fast
or too slow, and to correct their emphasis. And since it was hot, the
little Erard piano was carried each day out into the mission garden.
There, in the cloisters among the jessamine, the orange blossoms,
the oleanders, in the presence of the round yellow hills and the blue
triangle of sea, the Miserere was slowly learned. The Mexicans and
Indians gathered, swarthy and black-haired, around the tinkling
instrument that Felipe played; and presiding over them were young Gaston
and the pale Padre, walking up and down the paths, beating time or
singing now one part and now another. And so it was that the wild cattle
on the uplands would hear Trovatore hummed by a passing vaquero, while
the same melody was filling the streets of the far-off world.

For three days Gaston Villere remained at Santa Ysabel del Mar; and
though not a word of restlessness came from him, his host could read San
Francisco and the gold-mines in his countenance. No, the young man could
not have stayed here for twenty years! And the Padre forbore urging his
guest to extend his visit.

"But the world is small," the guest declared at parting. "Some day it
will not be able to spare you any longer. And then we are sure to meet.
But you shall hear from me soon, at any rate."

Again, as upon the first evening, the two exchanged a few courtesies,
more graceful and particular than we, who have not time, and fight no
duels, find worth a man's while at the present day. For duels are gone,
which is a very good thing, and with them a certain careful politeness,
which is a pity; but that is the way in the eternal profit and loss. So
young Gaston rode northward out of the mission, back to the world and
his fortune; and the Padre stood watching the dust after the rider had
passed from sight. Then he went into his room with a drawn face. But
appearances at least had been kept up to the end; the youth would never
know of the elder man's unrest.



V

Temptation had arrived with Gaston, but was destined to make a longer
stay at Santa Ysabel del Mar. Yet it was perhaps a week before the
priest knew this guest was come to abide with him. The guest could be
discreet, could withdraw, was not at first importunate.

Sail away on the barkentine? A wild notion, to be sure! although fit
enough to enter the brain of such a young scape-grace. The Padre shook
his head and smiled affectionately when he thought of Gaston Villere.
The youth's handsome, reckless countenance would shine out, smiling, in
his memory, and he repeated Auber's old remark, "Is it the good Lord,
or is it merely the devil, that always makes me have a weakness for
rascals?"

Sail away on the barkentine! Imagine taking leave of the people here--of
Felipe! In what words should he tell the boy to go on industriously with
his music? No, this was not imaginable! The mere parting alone would
make it for ever impossible to think of such a thing. "And then," he
said to himself each new morning, when he looked out at the ocean, "I
have given to them my life. One does not take back a gift."

Pictures of his departure began to shine and melt in his drifting fancy.
He saw himself explaining to Felipe that now his presence was wanted
elsewhere; that than would come a successor to take care of Santa
Ysabel--a younger man, more useful, and able to visit sick people at a
distance.

"For I am old now. I should not be long has in any case." He stopped
and pressed his hands together; he had caught his Temptation in the very
act. Now he sat staring at his Temptation's face, close to him, while
then in the triangle two ships went sailing by.

One morning Felipe told him that the barkentine was here on its return
voyage south. "Indeed." said the Padre, coldly. "The things are ready to
go, I think." For the vessel called for mail and certain boxes that the
mission sent away. Felipe left the room in wonder at the Padre's manner.
But the priest was laughing secretly to see how little it was to him
where the barkentine was, or whether it should be coming or going. But
in the afternoon, at his piano, he found himself saying, "Other ships
call here, at any rate." And then for the first time he prayed to be
delivered from his thoughts. Yet presently he left his seat and looked
out of the window for a sight of the barkentine; but it was gone.

The season of the wine-making passed, and the preserving of all the
fruits that the mission fields grew. Lotions and medicines was distilled
from garden herbs. Perfume was manufactured from the petals of flowers
and certain spices, and presents of it despatched to San Fernando and
Ventura, and to friends at other places; for the Padre had a special
receipt. As the time ran on, two or three visitors passed a night with
him; and presently there was a word at various missions that Padre
Ignacio had begun to show his years. At Santa Ysabel del Mar they
whispered, "The Padre is not well." Yet he rode a great deal over the
hills by himself, and down the canyon very often, stopping where he had
sat with Gaston, to sit alone and look up and down, now at the hills
above, and now at the ocean below. Among his parishioners he had certain
troubles to soothe, certain wounds to heal; a home from which he was
able to drive jealousy; a girl whom he bade her lover set right. But all
said, "The Padre is unwell." And Felipe told them that the music seemed
nothing to him any more; he never asked for his Dixit Dominus nowadays.
Then for a short time he was really in bed, feverish with the two voices
that spoke to him without ceasing. "You have given your life," said one
voice. "And, therefore," said the other, "have earned the right to go
home and die." "You are winning better rewards in the service of God,"
said the first voice. "God can be better served in other places,"
answered the second. As he lay listening he saw Seville again, and the
trees of Aranhal, where he had been born. The wind was blowing through
them, and in their branches he could hear the nightingales. "Empty!
Empty!" he said, aloud. And he lay for two days and nights hearing
the wind and the nightingales in the far trees of Aranhal. But Felipe,
watching, only heard the Padre crying through the hours, "Empty! Empty!"

Then the wind in the trees died down, and the Padre could get out of
bed, and soon be in the garden. But the voices within him still talked
all the while as he sat watching the sails when they passed between the
headlands. Their words, falling for ever the same way, beat his spirit
sore, like blows upon flesh already bruised. If he could only change
what they said, he would rest.

"Has the Padre any mall for Santa Barbara?" asked Felipe. "The ship
bound southward should be here to-morrow."

"I will attend to it," said the priest, not moving. And Felipe stole
away.

At Felipe's words the voices had stopped, as a clock finishes striking.
Silence, strained like expectation, filled the Padre's soul. But in
place of the voices came old sights of home again, the waving trees at
Aranhal; then it would be Rachel for a moment, declaiming tragedy while
a houseful of faces that he knew by name watched her; and through all
the panorama rang the pleasant laugh of Gaston. For a while in the
evening the Padre sat at his Erard playing Trovatore. Later, in his
sleepless bed he lay, saying now and then: "To die at home! Surely I
may be granted at least this." And he listened for the inner voices. But
they were not speaking any more, and the black hole of silence grew
more dreadful to him than their arguments. Then the dawn came in at
his window, and he lay watching its gray grow warm into color, until
suddenly he sprang from his bed and looked at the sea. Blue it lay,
sapphire-hued and dancing with points of gold, lovely and luring as
a charm; and over its triangle the south-bound ship was approaching.
People were on board who in a few weeks would be sailing the Atlantic,
while he would stand here looking out of this same window. "Merciful
God!" he cried, sinking on his knees. "Heavenly Father, Thou seest this
evil in my heart! Thou knowest that my weak hand cannot pluck it out! My
strength is breaking, and still Thou makest my burden heavier than I
can bear." He stopped, breathless and trembling. The same visions was
flitting across his closed eyes; the same silence gaped like a dry
crater in his soul. "There is no help in earth or heaven," he said, very
quietly; and he dressed himself.



VI

It was still so early that few of the Indians were stirring, and one
of these saddled the Padre's mule. Felipe was not yet awake, and for a
moment it came in the priest's mind to open the boy's door softly, look
at him once more, and come away. But this he did not, nor even take a
farewell glance at the church and organ. He bade nothing farewell, but,
turning his back upon his room and his garden, rode down the canyon.

The vessel lay at anchor, and some one had landed from ha and was
talking with other men on the shore. Seeing the priest slowly coming,
this stranger approached to meet him.

"You are connected with the mission here?" he inquired.

"I--am."

"Perhaps it is with you that Gaston Villere stopped?"

"The young man from New Orleans? Yes. I am Padre Ignacio."

"Then you'll save me a journey. I promised him to deliver these into
your own hands."

The stranger gave them to him.

"A bag of gold-dust," he explained, "and a letter. I wrote it at his
dictation while he was dying. He lived hardly an hour afterward."

The stranger bowed his head at the stricken cry which his news elicited
from the priest, who, after a few moments' vain effort to speak, opened
the letter and read:

My dear Friend,--It is through no man's fault but mine that I have come
to this. I have had plenty of luck, and lately have been counting the
days until I should return home. But last night heavy news from New
Orleans reached me, and I tore the pressed flower to pieces. Under the
first smart and humiliation of broken faith I was rendered desperate,
and picked a needless quarrel. Thank God, it is I who have the
punishment. By dear friend, as I lie here, leaving a world that no man
ever loved more, I have come to understand you. For you and your mission
have been much in my thoughts. It is strange how good can be done, not
at the time when it is intended, but afterward; and you have done this
good to me. I say over your words, "Contentment with Renunciation," and
believe that at this last hour I have gained something like what you
would wish me to feel. For I do not think that I desire it otherwise
now. My life would never have been of service, I am afraid. You am the
last person in this world who has spoken serious words to me, and I want
you to know that now at length I value the peace of Santa Ysabel as I
could never have done but for seeing your wisdom and goodness. You spoke
of a new organ for your church. Take the gold-dust that will reach you
with this, and do what you will with it. Let me at least in dying have
helped some one. And since them is no aristocracy in souls--you said
that to me; do you remember?--perhaps you will say a mass for this
departing soul of mine. I only wish, must my body must go under ground
in a strange country, that it might have been at Santa Ysabel did Mar,
where your feet would often pass.

"'At Santa Ysabel del Mar, where your feet would often pass.'" The
priest repeated this final sentence aloud, without being aware of it.

"Those are the last words he ever spoke," said the stranger, "except
bidding me good-by."

"You knew him well, then?"

"No; not until after he was hurt. I'm the man he quarreled with."

The priest looked at the ship that would sail onward this afternoon.

Then a smile of great beauty passed over his face, and he addressed the
strange. "I thank you. You will never know what you have done for me."

"It is nothing," answered the stranger, awkwardly. "He told me you set
great store on a new organ."

Padre Ignacio turned away from the ship and rode back through the gorge.
When he had reached the shady place where once he had sat with Gaston
Villere, he dismounted and again sat there, alone by the stream, for
many hours. Long rides and outings had been lately so much his custom
that no one thought twice of his absence; and when he resumed to the
mission in the afternoon, the Indian took his mule, and he went to his
seat in the garden. But it was with another look that he watched the
sea; and presently the sail moved across the blue triangle, and soon it
had rounded the headland.

With it departed Temptation for ever.

Gaston's first coming was in the Padre's mind; and, as the vespers bell
began to ring in the cloistered silence, a fragment of Auber's plaintive
tune passed like a sigh across his memory.

[Musical score appears here]

For the repose of Gaston's young, world-loving spirit, they sang all
that he had taught them of Il Trovatore.

After this day, Felipe and all those who knew and loved the Padre best,
saw serenity had returned to his features; but for some reason they
began to watch those features with more care.

"Still," they said, "he is not old." And as the months went by they
would repeat: "We shall have him yet for many years."

Thus the season rolled round, bringing the time for the expected
messages from the world. Padre Ignacio was wont to sit in his garden,
waiting for the ship, as of old.

"As of old," they said, cheerfully, who saw him. But Renunciation with
Contentment they could not see; it was deep down in his silent and
thanked heart.

One day Felipe went to call him from his garden seat, wondering why the
ringing of the bell had not brought him to vespers. Breviary in lap, and
hands folded upon it, the Padre sat among his flowers, looking at the
sea. Out there amid the sapphire-blue, tranquil and white, gleamed the
sails of the barkentine. It had brought him a new message, not from this
world; and Padre Ignacio was slowly borne in from the garden, while the
mission-bell tolled for the passing of a human soul.





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