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Title: Mariposilla - A Novel
Author: Daggett, Mary Stewart
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 "Mariposilla - A Novel" ***

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MARIPOSILLA

A Novel

BY
MRS. CHARLES STEWART DAGGETT

[Illustration: Decoration]

CHICAGO AND NEW YORK:
RAND, McNALLY & COMPANY.
MDCCCXCVI.


Copyright, 1895, by Rand, McNally & Co.



MARIPOSILLA.



CHAPTER I.


When I abandoned the home of my girlhood, and took my delicate child to
California, I started upon the journey goaded only by apathetic hopes,
sustained only by the desperation of despair.

Marjorie was my all, and I could no longer endure the tension of her
gradual decline. As I watched her fade away, I realized that my closest
friends were becoming reconciled to my bereavement, with the
philosophical fortitude of spectators. When I was coolly advised "not to
sacrifice pecuniary interests for the sentiment of a hopeless
experiment," an outraged love grew strong and defiant. The calculating
counsel, so cruel and unexpected, strengthened, at last, the timid
resolution. Even the silent walls of my house oppressed, while an
absolute hatred of the machinery of life seized my tired soul. I
determined to be free at any price. Fresh courage entered my life, and
impelled me to remove, without a pang, most cherished household gods. My
relief was immoderate when everything was gone. Then I experienced for
the first time in years the sweet exhilaration that welcomes,
breathlessly, a change. In my dreams I had apparitions of purple
mountains, and long quiet days purified with sunshine. Suddenly, into my
sad life there came new hope, kindled, it seemed, from the very ashes of
an abortive past.

Before I realized the initial steps of my undertaking, anticipated
perplexities had been absorbed by the novel conditions of our journey.
Four days away from the old home and New York found me happier than for
months, when I saw for the first time a flush upon the pallid cheeks of
my child, the faintest reflection of the coveted boon I sought.

A fresh excitement made me strong for each new duty. The present at last
held all that I craved. When I watched my child among her pillows, so
much better that she prattled of great plans to be carried out on the
far away Coast, I loved even then the land. To see the little one sleep,
and watch for her awakening among the great quiet mountains, was to my
heart an ecstasy. "Dear Mamma," she cried, clasping her thin hands as
the train clambered close to the silent monarchs of the West, "I want to
touch they!"

"Yes, sweetheart," I said; "When Marjorie is strong and well, she shall
not only touch the dear mountains, but she shall crawl into their very
arms! Mamma will take her into the beautiful cañons, where little
streams always sing to the tall ferns; we shall have a picnic, and
perhaps the fairies will come! When my little girl sees the Fairy Queen
she can ask for a boon, like Mabel in the song. Perhaps the Queen will
say: 'So this is little Marjorie, who came all the way from New York to
see us? Marjorie is a good child, and was very patient during her long
journey. She took her bitter medicine bravely, and now she must be
rewarded. What shall be done for her, my Fairies?'

"Then perhaps one kind fairy may say, 'Her cheeks must grow pink like a
La France rose'; and another, 'Her limbs must grow strong like a
perfect tree'; and a third, 'Her eyes must be bright like the stars, and
she must soon be well, and as happy as she is pretty.'"

Thus I romanced to my patient child, snatching an inspiration from every
mile that drove us into the far country.

When we entered the wide, trackless desert--the home of distorted
yuccas, which stretched gaunt arms to the cloudless sky, like hopeless
criminals doomed to the intermediate wastes of purgatory--I knew that
the "Happy Valley" lay beyond. Then my child was sleeping for long hours
at a time; nor did she awaken until the last yucca had vanished from the
desert's edge; then she opened her eyes in Wonderland! For the overland
train had completed its conquest. The great mountain chains had been
passed over in safety, while far behind, fields of snow and shrieking
blasts were forgotten, as we glided peacefully into the beautiful Valley
of San Gabriel, that Pet Marjorie might live.

Our long journey was ended. We could rest, although not perfectly until
after leaving the pleasant hotel known as the East San Gabriel, when I
hoped to find in the old Spanish home of the Doña Maria Del Valle the
coveted seclusion of which I had dreamed.

From the beginning of our journey, everyone had been interested in
Marjorie.

I soon found myself accepting small attentions from sympathetic
strangers as naturally as I would have accepted, a few weeks before, the
favors of old friends.

It thus happened that I first heard of the Doña Maria Del Valle, through
a lady and her son with whom I traveled. "A most perfect place for Pet
Marjorie would be with the Doña Maria Del Valle," Mrs. Sanderson had
told me, shortly after our arrival in San Gabriel, when I inquired of
all for a home that would shelter us for at least a year. Marjorie must
not live in a hotel, exposed to the constant excitement of robust
children and irresponsible strangers.

Besides, I desired to try not only the winter of Southern California,
but the long, unimpassioned summer, so conducive to the restoration of
the delicate.

My new friend had spent the previous season in San Gabriel; she was
familiar with the locality, and offered at once to intercede in our
behalf with the Doña Maria Del Valle. When she told, in her captivating
way, of the quaint, picturesque Spanish home, I could content myself
with no other retreat, and begged that the preliminary arrangements
might be made at once. From the first moment of our acquaintance, Mrs.
Sanderson's attentions had been agreeable. As soon as we arrived at the
hotel she was perfectly at home. Every one hastened to serve her, and I
perceived that she was an acknowledged authority wherever she went. My
mind was not then equal to the analysis of character. I was unsuspicious
and willing to believe in the assumed qualities of those about me. It
was enough that my child was improving hourly in health, and that I had
found a congenial and sympathetic companion in my extremity.

Now that I have undertaken a story in which Mrs. Sanderson and her son
Sidney so conspicuously figure, I feel compelled to review carefully my
early and subsequent impressions of both, in order that the events of
our short and memorable acquaintance may be readily understood.

Doubtless my estimate of entire strangers would have been different
under less intense circumstances; but, at that time, any one who
appeared interested in my child was at once my friend--not only the
conspicuous and influential, but the humble and uncultivated, as well.
Looking back over those trying weeks, I now remember hosts of delicate
attentions dispensed by the unpretentious, that at the time were hardly
realized, owing to the effusive ostentations of the Sandersons.

Since I have studied carefully the events which followed rapidly from
the beginning of our acquaintance, I am certain that neither Marjorie
nor myself would have received the slightest notice from either Mrs.
Sanderson or her son, had we failed in their selfish entertainment. My
little girl, beautiful and bright, unconsciously stole into the coldest
hearts; but I know now that it was not her delicate frame, nor the
pathos of a defrauded childhood that won the devotion of Mrs. Sanderson.
It was simply that Marjorie was an additional amusement, an additional
effect, enlivening the small court which the lady invariably held. The
capricious woman petted the child only for entertainment. A
thoroughbred dog, or a kitten, could have won her interest as
successfully, had her passing mood been favorable to their antics. Her
fancy for myself was equally selfish. I was young enough to interest her
son, and from the first she evidently regarded me as a convenient and
suitable companion for the winter. I learned afterwards that Mrs.
Sanderson was notoriously fond of young widows. She treated them with
unusual favor in view of eventual schemes which she generally worked.
Her only idea of life was entertainment, and, in order to satisfy her
thirst for novelty, she had always chosen pretty widows to expand her
power and promote her individual caprices. Unincumbered by the
unreasonable demands of a husband, she regarded a pathetic young widow a
most desirable companion; always securing, if possible, a fresh one for
the nucleus of her social experiments.

Why I should have submitted to this woman's patronage, I can not
understand. My only excuse is the recollection of an unsuspicious joy,
that came like new life into my soul. Marjorie was getting well! and
there was no one who understood my happiness like Mrs. Sanderson. It
never occurred to me to doubt her sincerity. That she was often haughty
and disagreeable to others I saw, but for me she had only indulgence and
delicate sympathy. Under calming climatic influences my pagan intuitions
grew hourly. Beneath the lights and shadows of the prophetic mountains,
analytical tendencies ceased. Possibly my creeds became unorthodox, but
they expanded cheerfully each day, that they might hold more of God's
harmonious universe and less of man's deformity.

I believed afresh in universal philanthropy. The sweet lethargic days
were satisfying; I had no desire to analyze the motives of my
associates.

I was no longer interested in attenuated studies of character. The Book
of Nature, and the literal tales of "Mother Goose" now constituted my
library. For the present, the Wise Men of Athens were no wiser than the
man who so successfully evaded the consequences of the "bramble bush."
Now that my child had been given back to me, no unnecessary suspicions
disturbed my credulous content. I had been tired so long, that to rest,
at last, necessarily developed passive conditions over which I had but
languid control.

Mrs. Sanderson, crossing my path at this particular time, appeared to be
the very person to stimulate my reviving interest in life, and I
accepted eagerly and without analysis the friendship she offered.

From the first, I had been fascinated by her alertness. Unconsciously, I
felt indebted to her for my renewed fortunes. It was not until long
afterward that I discovered how very little she really did for me, or
for anyone else, when she appeared to be doing so much. She always
assumed the leadership of social affairs so cleverly, that to have
questioned her right would have proved fatal to the individual. It was
impossible to resist her personality when she chose to be engaging.

She was tall and slender, with the established slenderness that
emphasizes distinction at forty-five, when plump women often exhibit the
ripeness of decay.

In a word, Mrs. Sanderson eclipsed completely her feminine
contemporaries, often exciting jealous antagonisms.

The lady's superior preservation was at times exasperating, and her
scornful indifference to topics usually interesting to middle life
disconcerted and annoyed domestic women of her own age. Her infirmities
she heroically concealed, and was never surprised into the
acknowledgement of a physical weakness. The chronic afflictions of other
women never moved her to sympathetic confidences. In fact, she avoided
systematically the society of older women, while she ingratiated herself
irresistibly with young people of both sexes.

For these reasons, Mrs. Sanderson was frequently disliked, but as few
dared to oppose her openly, her sway always grew to be absolute.



CHAPTER II.


Mrs. Sanderson, at the various stations of her social pilgrimage, had
managed to create fresh enthusiasms for every shrine. Each year found
her alert, substituting new images for those cast down, and, withal,
grading so ingeniously the declivities of time, that the world failed to
detect the skillful engineering, because for her there had been none of
those abrupt drops so disastrous to the grace of womanhood.

She was always in sympathy with the age. For this reason she was
perpetually surrounded by young people, who referred to her upon all
questions, accepting her decree as preëminent.

Her distinguished bearing and captivating manners were so infectious
that, before she had been in San Gabriel a week, she was the recognized
authority of the hotel.

It was suicidal to one's standing with a laundress to advocate the
doctrines of unfluted linen, contrary to the opinion of Mrs. Sanderson.
Even the non-emotional Wing Lee replied to my entreaty "to handle less
roughly Marjorie's frocks": "High tone lady _she_ muchey likey my
washey! my starchey!" I felt the propriety of the rebuke when Mrs.
Sanderson at that moment sauntered past my door.

Having established her position, even in the estimation of the domestics
and Celestials, it is not surprising that at the end of two weeks she
was widely known in the district of San Gabriel. Devoutly feared by the
usual social barometers of the hotel, adored by all on whom she smiled,
and hated by the unfortunate few ostracized from her favor, she seemed
the sun of the San Gabriel social system, compelling Sidney and every
one about her to reflect modestly the capricious beams she magnanimously
bestowed. In the meantime, a marvelous change had taken place in the
bare apartments that, up to the present time, had not been distinguished
as the choice of a popular leader. The rooms were no longer suggestive
of the fluctuating tourist, but suddenly became rich in abiding
personality and comfort.

It was observable that the obsequious housekeeper had rifled other
apartments, and that couches and easy chairs had materialized with a due
conformity to the prolific climate.

The formerly obtrusive white walls soon grew companionable, as pictures,
draperies, Japanese plaques, and characteristic Indian baskets sprouted
upon them each night. In all directions were strewn evidences of travel
and refinement.

In the bepillowed alcove a dainty tea table invited the five o'clock
teabibbers of the circle elect, while a piano and stringed instruments
allured the musical, and always the young.

More noticeable, however, than all else in the rooms was the display of
attractive photographs, indicating for the Sandersons a large and
distinguished acquaintance of beautiful women.

"Sid's sweethearts!" the mother said playfully, to the girls who
questioned her about the rival beauties, and when a pert miss bravely
intimated that young Sanderson must be "a kind of a Blue Beard," the
lady good-naturedly replied: "Oh, yes, Sid is terribly fickle. Most of
the dear ones have been beheaded long ago, and now the naughty boy is
only in love with his mother."

At the same time, we noticed that the face of one beautiful girl was
repeated many times in the collection, and inferred that this particular
beauty still found favor.

The son was noncommittal. He submitted indifferently to the attentions
of the various young women who thronged his mother's rooms, yet more
often appeared bored than entertained.

Had I met Sidney away from his clever relative, I am certain I would
never have honored him with my acquaintance; but from the first his
mother compelled me, as well as her entire circle of friends, to accept
the young man at her estimate. Sidney Sanderson was undoubtedly a
striking development of his type; but foolish indulgence, a naturally
indolent and unsympathetic disposition--together with certain
disreputable vices, had made him totally unworthy of the consideration
he received. About his full, blond physique there was a blasé
indifference which unfortunately very often fascinates young girls. Yet,
without his mother, the young man would have found it difficult to
retain social approbation. Deprived of her shielding expedients, his
dissipations would have become notorious, his gentlemanly pretensions
questioned.

Away from her far-reaching influence, her vigilant contrivance and
conquering resources, he would not have been long courted or extolled.

The usual unhappy demand for young men would doubtless have insured, for
a time, his toleration about the hotel, but his position would have been
different. He would have been openly criticised, and perhaps denounced,
unprotected by his mother's popularity.

As it was, no one dared to hint an unfavorable judgment on the son of
the gifted mother who put words into his mouth and characteristics to
his account, which, in reminiscent moods, must have embarrassed him.

Mrs. Sanderson approved, or withered instantly, our plans, although she
never neglected to refer with the sweetest subserviency to her son.
"Ask Sid," she would say; "I dare say he will think it quite the thing
for us all, but his judgments are so much quieter than mine, that he is
best to consult." Thus she constituted her self-instructed oracle a
paramount authority.

I am still fascinated with the recollections of this wily woman. Her
ability to deceive captivates me now, as, in the beginning of our
acquaintanceship, it enthralled my reason and silenced my prejudices.

Not satisfied with posing her son before the young and unthinking as a
model of refinement, endowed with the intrinsic qualities of manhood,
his intellectual upheavals were often depicted in side talk, with
celebrities. Once with maternal discretion as fine as it was
impertinent, she told our latest nervously prostrated authoress, who was
enjoying a cup of tea in the alcove, about her boy's passion for old
books. "Sidney's library is his one extravagance," she confided,
sweetly. Then, with unblushing assurance, she told how her son's
intellectual indulgence had cost her an orange ranch; yet, owing to the
extremely moral character of the fad, she had grown resigned. Only once
had she ventured a remonstrance--when a fabulous sum was paid for an
atrocious old Dante, too absolutely filthy for any one but a
connoisseur. Of course, she knew she was uncultivated, but she preferred
her books fresh and clean, with attractive covers. However, there were
compensations with every trial, and Sid's veneration for antiquities
might still prove a blessing, as she herself would some day be
sufficiently antique to justify his supreme devotion.

Thus the woman audaciously chattered, advertising fearlessly the bogus
literary tastes of her son.

If we questioned Sidney's phenomenal reticence upon subjects so near his
heart, for convenient reasons all appeared willing to accept the
mother's version of the unexplored country where gold abounded--and
still waters ran to a depth unparalleled.

Now that the scales have fallen from my eyes, I have spare justification
for this woman, for so many weeks my daily companion. Even a mother's
desperation can not excuse her conduct, although it may possibly
moderate its enormity in the eyes of those who have sought to shield
with ornate falsehood an unworthy child. With the woman's clear
perception, she must have known more certainly than all others the
fullest truth concerning her son. She could not be blind to his aimless
life, his selfish nature, his depraved, ill-controlled passions. Yet,
with all her superior knowledge of the risk, she deemed it her right to
supplement her boy's deficiencies by chimerical attractions, sheltering
him, if possible, to the end, beneath the decencies and refinements of
society.

Without his mother in the breach, Sidney Sanderson would undoubtedly
have been publicly disgraced many times, for he was not a clever rogue.
Yet, only once, to my knowledge, did his disreputable conduct appear in
print, and even then the mother proved herself equal to the dastardly
emergencies of the scandal.

The affair occurred in one of the quick-grown Western cities in which
the Sandersons were financially interested. They lived in the place for
a number of months, and were soon the center of the fashionable!
questionable! mushroom! set of the town. I had the story from an eye
witness of the unique local travesty, which, together with my personal
knowledge of the leading lady's adaptation for her part, enabled me to
readily imagine the dramatic force of the situation.

It was simple to see a group of fair gossipers, suspending instantly the
bold assertions of the moment, when the tall, gracious, masterful Mrs.
Sanderson appeared among them, holding in her beautiful jeweled hands
the daily paper. Still easier to fancy the incredulous expressions,
followed by eager devotion to fancy work, when the lady deliberately
seated herself in the cosy corner of the hotel corridor and read,
unflinchingly, a long, scandalous article, replete with stinging
invective, which everyone knew applied to but one man, and that man her
son. I could fancy the woman asking insolently, at the close of her
desperate performance, if any one could locate the "Blond Lothario" of
the sensation, feeling absolutely sure that no voice would answer.

Such was Mrs. Sanderson's nerve, such her diabolical vigor. So strong
were her restraining influences, and so unflinching her power, that none
of the social squad dared to confront her with her lie. It was not until
weeks afterwards, when both mother and son had left the town, that
tongues were loosened and restricted gossips happy.



CHAPTER III.


It has appeared wise to relate at once my warranted impression of Mrs.
Sanderson. Having failed so completely in the early part of our intimacy
to penetrate her character, I offer the reader an advantage; and that
the events which follow may be better understood, I have endeavored to
make plain her supreme selfishness.

As previously stated, it was she who first told me about the home of the
Del Valles. The year before, she had gone to the ranch in quest of the
exquisite drawn work, done upon the finest linen, for which the Doña
Maria was famous; and so charmed had the lady been with the recollection
of the picturesque visit, that she hastened, upon her return to San
Gabriel, to renew the acquaintance.

She was surprised to find the family much less prosperous than formerly,
and the ranch mortgaged for almost its value. The proud Doña Maria told
her, with quiet tears, how all was wrong; how her grandnephew Arturo
had gone to Old Mexico to renew, if possible, the failing fortunes of
his family, while upon her, assisted by an idle Mexican, had fallen the
sole responsibility of the ranch; how it was impossible not to neglect
many things now that Arturo was gone, for her aged mother was again bad
with the old spells, and soon must make a great care. But most
deplorable of all, her little Mariposilla was growing up in idleness,
caring not for the teachings of the good Sisters at the Convent, hating
persistently the drawn work, trying only to be like the Americans in
disobedience and manners, forgetting each day how once it was glorious
to have been born a Del Valle. The result of these confidences was a
second visit from Mrs. Sanderson, this time accompanied by Sidney, who
at once suggested the ranch as a home for myself and Marjorie.

Mrs. Sanderson had captivated the Doña Maria with the rest of us, and
had no difficulty in persuading the unfortunate woman to receive us into
her household. She dilated with her usual flow upon the mutual
advantages of the arrangement, until I was charmed with her
disinterested kindness. Not even now do I charge the woman with a
premeditated plot. If one existed then, it existed for Sidney alone--the
shadow of a foul possibility. Neither do I believe that Mrs. Sanderson
cared to befriend either the Doña Maria Del Valle or myself.

Our residence at the ranch might prove another opportunity for enjoyment
during the winter, an added zest to the California sojourn. Picturesque
situations were the chief articles in the woman's creed; to entertain
Sidney, her religion.

She was so supremely worldly, so accustomed to her own selfishness, that
the possibility of harm, developed by the franchise of pleasure, was not
considered in her schemes for entertainment. She thought it natural and
amusing "that Sid should flirt with the pretty Mariposilla," and soon
played herself, with the emotions of the unsuspicious child, as a cat
would have played with the life of a mouse.

In a word, when Marjorie and I had once been established at the ranch of
the Doña Maria Del Valle, there would be constant opportunities for
pleasure, mingled with novelty. If the hotel grew intolerable, with an
influx of stupid, dissatisfied tourists, the ranch might prove a haven
in which one could safely linger, sheltered from the interrogations of
the irrepressible "tenderfoot." Upon the shaded veranda of the old
adobe, fancy work could be pleasantly pursued, or one could simply idle
the time, which in Southern California seems without limit, surrounded
by congenial society and picturesque associations.

Thus it came about that, believing in the generous sympathy of my new
friend, I went with my child to live in the old Spanish home of the Doña
Maria Del Valle.

Pervading my satisfaction was a sincere admiration for the woman who
could arrange so readily tiresome details, sequestering us, almost
immediately upon our arrival in a strange country, in one of the fairest
spots of the rare San Gabriel Valley.



CHAPTER IV.


The San Gabriel Valley, in December, is pleasant to look upon. Not as
winsome as in February, when the Carnival of the year is born, but
serenely beautiful. Cleansing rains have polished every ridge of the
Sierra Madre, until purple cañons shine out like treasures of amethyst,
while clearly defined spurs, shot with softest green, reflect the
promises of the Spring.

"Old Baldy," the hoary sire of the range, gleams like a high priest. To
the south, shaggy "Gray Back," and still beyond, San Jacinto, a lone
fortress of alabaster on a turquoise sea, emphasize again the boundaries
of the horizon. The misty veil of the long summer has lifted, disclosing
an unbroken line of ravishing landscape. Every leaf and bud in the
valley breathes with fresh lungs. The meadow lark, tilting upon the
topmost tip of the highest pine, sings to the sky a jubilate in three
pure syllables. Birds are wooing sweethearts fearlessly, for now time
must not be lost, and home sites must be secured in the lacy pepper
trees, before the poppies cover the foothills, or baby-blue-eyes and
cream-cups fringe the roadsides.

Everything is noisy with awakening life. The rich earth teems with
ambitions. Volunteer seeds are springing enthusiastically to the
surface. Timid wild flowers are peeping forth each day to test the
possibilities of an early season, heralded even now by the irrepressible
Al Filerea, which runs riot in all directions, unconscious of its doom
when the plowman invades the land.

Then it is that the oranges begin to glow like gold among green shadows,
and naked deciduous trees to flush with the faintest pink of returning
life. So intoxicating is the air that the saddest invalid beams with
renewed hope, almost forgetting his burden beneath the delicious blue of
the peaceful sky.

At the foot of the Sierra Madre lies Pasadena--"Crown of the Valley"--so
named from its imperial situation. An established and aristocratic
nucleus for its surrounding towns, few places are so rich in conditions
to palliate or allay the sorrows and disappointments of the usual life.

South of this beautiful town, where wealth and culture have displaced
the primitive ranch, ordaining in its place extensive villa sites,
ornate with lawns of blue grass, bordered by rose gardens and ornamental
shrubbery, stretch the fertile acres of San Gabriel. Still utilitarian
in their scheme, these acres comprise ranches that radiate for miles in
all directions from the Old Mission, like spokes from an antiquated hub.
Close to the old church are the houses and stores of the once thriving
village, now, alas! dusky with memories of the Señora, the captivating
Señorita, the valiant Don, and the watchful Padre.

Defenseless in its degeneracy, the place now boasts a motley population
of low-bred Mexicans and narrow-eyed Celestials. Still, when the old
Spanish bells call to the early Sabbath mass, if one is observing, he
may find among the weather-beaten countenances of the Mexicans, often
marked with the high cheek bone of the Indian, true descendants of the
early aristocracy, holding aloof from the horde, absorbed in prayers,
that alone are the same since the ranches were ruthlessly divided and
railroads allowed to invade.

Yet the Spanish homes that remain in the valley are mere echoes of
former times, but tiny specks upon the map of the real estate dealer,
which have miraculously escaped the clutches of strangers. Although
humble, a few of these homes are strikingly picturesque.

On a retired road, sheltered on either side by mammoth pepper trees,
east of the Mission by several miles, lived the Doña Maria Del Valle.
Her little ranch was all that she had saved from her husband's estate,
and she ever scorned its importance when she told indignantly how her
husband's father had once held a splendid principality comprising four
thousand acres.

"Now, alas! we own nothing," she said, resting, a moment, her dark hands
from their incessant labor at the exquisite drawn work. "My child will
be always poor, she will grow like the Americans, caring not for the
past. It is cruel indeed that she saw not her noble father Don Arturo.
Had he but lived, with his learning and accomplishments, his child would
rejoice that she was born a Del Valle! Now she listens not patiently to
the tale of former days, for in the Convent she has met American girls,
and thinks only to imitate them, hoping to gain for herself a strange
husband who loves not her people. Our dear Arturo she scorns! driving
him far away by her wicked disobedience; for when she laughed at his
love he could no longer endure to behold her."

Unhappy indeed was the Doña Maria when indulging in such confidences;
but not often did she speak of her troubles, for so poor had the family
become, that, to support her aged mother and the pretty Mariposilla, she
was compelled to work constantly at the drawn work, learned in her youth
as a pastime, now, alas! one of her chief sources of revenue.

It was owing to her reduced circumstances that the proud Doña Maria had
received under her roof Marjorie and myself, for she loved not the
Americans; but, as she told me artlessly one day, "Only the Americans
now have gold.

"Once it was not so. We, too, had gold in abundance, but we loved not
our gold as the Americans love theirs, to keep in the bank. We loved
gold because it gave us joy to buy land, and cattle, and jewels, and
lace."

Yes, it was simply for our gold that Marjorie and I had been received
under the roof of the Del Valles. Still, when once the arrangement had
been entered upon, the Doña Maria was all that we could desire as a
hostess.

Marjorie stole each hour into the hearts of the old grandmother and the
proud disappointed daughter, aging so fast under stress of multiplied
troubles, that she needed just such an appealing interest as my delicate
child to call into action the unselfish side of her noble nature. Before
we had lived long at the ranch our lives were running together as
smoothly as if we all rejoiced in the same blood.

The house of the Doña Maria Del Valle was not the original ranch house,
but a smaller adobe, built after many of the broad acres had been
bartered away by the taking of imperfect securities, the worthlessness
of which the happy-go-lucky owners had failed to comprehend until too
late to obviate the consequences.

"We understood not the laws and the papers of the Americans," the Doña
Maria explained, as we sat, one sunshiny morning, upon the sheltered
veranda. "One day we owned all the land in the valley for many miles,
the next day we owned not so much, and at last only the little that is
left."

To me, the fifteen remaining acres appeared most desirable, for I was
not then versed in the matter of fruit culture. I did not understand
that orange trees differ one from another in point of perfection as
widely as do people.

It was some time before I learned that in the early settlement of the
valley disastrous experiments had been made. Many of the first trees
planted had yielded an inferior variety of fruit, not lucrative in a
market each year growing more critical, as the country became settled by
determined agriculturists, who possessed, not only cash capital, but
brains stimulated by college education and practical experience. Such
men soon discovered that it was unprofitable to irrigate or nurture for
long a tree that was not all that a tree of its kind should be.

Consequently there had been frequent upheavals of earth; many old
orchards were regarded by the experienced as worthless, the owners
preferring to replant with the best varieties of budded trees, even
though a considerable time must elapse before a revenue would result.
Unfortunately, the orange ranch of the Doña Maria Del Valle was a poor
one. It was planted with a flavorless variety of seedling, which yielded
an income quite insufficient for the demands of the family. From an
æsthetic point of view the grove appeared the Garden of the Hesperides.
The staunch, far-reaching limbs of the old trees drooped opulently
beneath the golden balls that invited the "Forty Thieves," who,
happening to be "tenderfeet," ate with wry faces and discourteous
exclamations the fruit that a native would have scorned to touch. For in
California oranges are not ripe in December. Not until the late spring,
when the sun has used persistently his winsome inducements, does the
fruit consent to assume its luscious perfection.

Turning from the highway, the ranch of the Doña Maria Del Valle was
entered from between two mammoth century plants, whose giant spears made
formidable the approach to the long avenue leading to the house. The
drive was shaded by gnarled old pepper trees, uniting from each side
their fantastic branches to form an elfin tunnel of lacy shade. On the
ground, thickly scattered, lay dartlike leaves, and scarlet berries
shading from rich to pale, until a long oriental rug seemed spread for
the court of an expected princess.

At the end of the Avenue stood the low adobe, covered with ivy and the
famous Gold of Ophir rose, which at Easter illuminated the veranda and
roof with the lights and shadows of forty thousand blooms. Not far from
the house two giant palms--honored patriarchs of the valley--reared
their trembling feathers to the sky. Like grim sentinels, true to a
trust, they guarded in dumb eloquence the story of the past.

Before reaching the house the drive divided, encircling within the arms
of its curve a soft oval cushion of Bermuda grass that in December is
brown and unpromising, but in the spring grows green remaining so
through the long summer, making no imperative demand for water, and
being at all seasons as soft to the feet as the most luxurious rug. It
is the grass created for the invalid. He alone appreciates the thick,
delicious mat, which hoards for his bloodless feet thousands of warm
sunbeams that cheat his physician into the belief that he is eminent,
when he discovers his patient escaping his professional clutches.

Added to the tropical effect of full-grown palms and riotous shrubbery,
the guardian Sierra Madre was ever flashing rich shadows and tender
patches of light, that, in the clear, prismatic air, reflected countless
expressions into the hearts of the flowers and onto the surface of the
leaves.

Such was the home of the Doña Maria Del Valle. Here Mariposilla had been
born, sixteen years before, five months after the death of her father,
Don Arturo.



CHAPTER V.


Each year, when the Gold of Ophir illuminates the valley with its
passionate bloom, I think of Mariposilla. Under the spell of the
transient radiance of the rose, her beauty comes to me like a lovely
dream. The flashing lights and subtile shades of the marvelous flower
seem to communicate a wild sensation of the child's presence; for ever
since I first beheld her close to the rose, there has been in my mind a
fancy that between these two children of the valley there existed a
bond, an almost supernatural kinship, that betrayed itself with each
quiver of the atmosphere.

So impressed I became with the idea, that I unconsciously sought for
Mariposilla's mood in the changing color of the rose. During the
eventful weeks of which I shall write, when the rose and the girl began
and finished their one exciting drama, bursting together into fullest
perfection, I found myself associating them constantly in my thoughts.
So essential each appeared to the other, that when Mariposilla stood
beneath the Gold of Ophir she seemed to absorb its every tint, while at
the same time its golden sprays glowed with the effulgence of her
glorious proximity. Their harmony appeared perfect, their united beauty
the personification of carnal and ethereal blending. When the sun shone
early, with no rebuff from the occasional fog, thousands of buds and
blossoms bloomed upon the somber adobe, and even while one looked,
indescribable tones of gold, and pink, and yellow appeared to creep from
the passionate hearts of the buds onto the glorified edges of the
full-blown flowers. Then, too, Mariposilla dazzled. Her very being
flashed with a phosphorescence akin to nothing human, but so like the
luster of the rose that each must have been created that the other might
bloom. Both seemed children of the sun, entrusted with opalescent
secrets that nothing but his rays could reveal; for, if the day grew
chill, both Mariposilla and the Gold of Ophir paled. The fire left the
edges of the rose petals, and the blood retreated from the surface of
the girl's creamy flesh. Her great luminous eyes grew dull, as she
sought listlessly her neglected lace frame, drawing silently the threads
of the linen, ignoring the whining questions of her old grandmother,
completely lost in the indifference of her mood.

Or perhaps, disregarding the commands of her mother, she tossed aside
the lace frame and crept into a silent corner of the room to play upon
her guitar wild, turbulent music, until the Doña Maria, angry and
impatient, commanded her to finish at once the altar cloth ordered
months before by the lady from Pasadena. At the same time she bade her
mind with care to cross herself at the little Jesus stitch, else a curse
would come upon them all.

Even yet I dread to think of this strange child out of the sunshine. I
would always have kept her under the influence of soothing warmth.
Mariposilla--little butterfly--how well she idealized her name. Born of
the sun and for the sun, no real butterfly ever rivaled her. Why could I
not protect her passionate, capricious young heart, as the flowers
enfold at night the dazzling, thoughtless beauties of a summer's day?
Alas! destiny seemed kinder to the insect than to the child.

Viewing in retrospect the girl's rapid and eventful development, I now
remember vividly each incident in her little history. When she came into
my life like a picturesque plaything, I failed to realize that she was
other than a beautiful child. I was then totally ignorant from
experience of the premature blooming of Spanish girls. From history I
knew that they developed young; but history is easily forgotten. It was
natural to expect Mariposilla to pursue the same pace that once upon a
time I had taken myself. We are all miserable egotists, without
realizing the weakness; and I fell at once into the fallacy of believing
that all girls develop in the same way. Mariposilla was only sixteen,
and at sixteen most girls are children. I recalled my own blushes, as I
remembered drawing-room miseries to which I was at that age subjected.
When my grown brothers insisted upon presenting me to college chums, I
flew at my earliest opportunity from the ordeal, cheered by the thought
of a toboggan slide with my nice boy beau. Yes, I had a boy beau, who
was truly delightful. It was only when he went away to college that I
ceased to care for him, and bestowed my smiles upon a new flame across
the way, who was yet a boy. At sixteen I regarded men as formidable
creatures, to be encountered when school days were over, and childhood
had come to an end. When I heard later that my gay Freshman smoked! and
was engaged to a young woman of his college town, six years his senior,
I wondered how I had ever consented to sit upon a sled with such a
monster. At sixteen my ideas of love were as vague as they were
wholesome. In my young healthiness I doubted seriously if any girl ever
died for love outside of a book. Thus recalling my own girlhood, I at
first felt no misgivings in exposing Mariposilla to the apparently
innocent attentions of Mr. Sidney Sanderson, especially as his mother
and myself were always about. It seemed only sensible to believe that
the Spanish child would receive real benefit from her new associations.
I did not realize the narrow boundaries of her young life, nor did I
then understand how she adored Americans, whom she regarded as models
of refinement and wisdom. When the Doña Maria told me of her
grandnephew's love for her daughter I felt it an outrage that so young a
girl should have been spoken to about marriage.

I was secretly glad that Mariposilla had repulsed her second cousin, and
I could not cease to wonder why the Doña Maria, so sensible in most
respects, should desire her only child to accept at sixteen the only man
she had ever known. It delighted me to believe that Mariposilla found
full enjoyment in the society of Marjorie. They were great friends, and
at times Marjorie seemed almost as mature as the older girl. Each day
they played with the hounds upon the Bermuda grass, as happy and free
from responsibility as the dogs. Thus time slipped away. Peace and
contentment filled our lives, while my child and her Spanish playmate
rivaled each day in healthy beauty the roses, now responding to the
first welcome rains.



CHAPTER VI.


As Christmas approached, I found myself anticipating the festal time
with a restored interest as keen as the feigned enthusiasms of the
previous holiday season had been unbearable. But three weeks remained of
the old year, and already the new one seemed full of promises.

As I watched Marjorie and Mariposilla romp like kittens upon the Bermuda
grass, I wondered if my heart could ever ache again with the old,
tiresome pain. The morning was glorious, and I felt myself buoyed above
my most ardent hopes. Our new life was an elixir, that drove away sad
thoughts, while it invited pleasant memories. Nature had aroused once
more my sluggish sympathies, until I complied eagerly with all of her
coaxing demands. When her trees swayed, their quiet motion lulled me. If
her birds talked, I understood their pleasant assurances. With the sun
rose my heart. When it sank slowly to rest, I waited for its good-night
promise upon the mountains, and when they flushed rosiest, I, too,
glowed with a rapturous trust.

With Marjorie asleep in my arms, I heard my father calling dear names to
his own little girl. I felt my mother braid my hair, and saw her smile
at my fresh blue ribbons. Two handsome brothers teased me about the new
lover, who had driven away the other beaux. And then I felt again upon
my lips this lover's first true kiss. When my child laughed in her sleep
I laid her gently down, and lived once more the short, sweet romance of
my life.

Each day I was learning to go alone, gradually attaining the composure
of one who has survived a shock, realizing at last the odds of destiny,
and the necessity of making much of comfortable opportunities.

I am describing my feelings, not that I wish to write about myself, but
in order that I may be pardoned if later some may blame me for lack of
perception. If I was beguiled into unsuspiciousness by the peace of my
new life, I should be forgiven, for at that time God's whole creation
seemed as good as in the beginning.

Christmas was coming, I have said, and Marjorie was wild with
expectation. I could hear her merry treble entreating Mariposilla to
tell how Santa Claus could ever come to California, where there was no
snow, except upon the tops of the mountains.

When the Spanish girl failed to explain, the child grew flushed and
excited. Marjorie's vivid imagination was tempered by a rational
appreciation of consistency, and she declared indignantly that Santa
Claus always traveled in a sleigh. Without snow the reindeer would have
a difficult time, and she was pathetically certain that her stocking
would be quite empty upon Christmas morning. The little girl was a
stubborn logician. The form of her infantile dictum was often mixed, but
her mother generally perceived her difficulties, and drew from
sadly-muddled premises conclusions that were entirely satisfactory to
both. In the existing case she had foreseen the burst of skepticism that
was now distressing the child, and was well prepared to confute her
troublesome doubts. "Listen," she said, "and I will explain.

"Mariposilla ought to know that when Santa Claus comes to Southern
California he always lives upon the top of 'Old Baldy.' The beautiful
valley is too warm for him. So each year he builds a snow house upon the
mountain, and, with his pipe and reindeer for company, he works merrily
at the toys which he so skillfully fashions for the children of the far
West. When his loving labor is completed, he packs the wonderful
presents into a huge sleigh, and at twelve o'clock of the night before
Christmas, he feeds his reindeer, and hitches them to the great sledge.
When the children of the peaceful valleys are fast asleep, the dear old
Saint drives gaily down the steep, white side of the great mountain. At
its foot he blows a long, shrill whistle, and from the many cañons of
the range come the fairies. The happy little people dearly love to be
useful. They have the greatest affection for Santa Claus, and they tell
him truthfully about all of his boys and girls; reporting both good and
naughty ones. But most tenderly do the fairies tell of the little sick
children who have come from faraway homes in the East to seek for
health in the land of sunshine. When the kind Saint is sure that no
child has been forgotten, he commands the fairies to finish his loving
work. He can go no farther with the reindeer, and so he intrusts his
beautiful gifts to the willing little helpers, who have swarmed at his
call. And now, at the bidding of the Fairy Queen, thousands of lily
chariots, drawn by dashing teams of bumblebees, form in long lines upon
the foothills. The white chariots, with their yellow daisy wheels, are a
wonderful sight in the early daylight.

"Each one has a fairy driver, dressed in a Christmas suit, made from the
petals of a Maréchal Neil rose. When the chariots are at last loaded to
their fullest capacity with the precious toys, old Santa Claus gives the
signal to start. Then the happy drivers spring upon their high, yellow
seats in the center of the chariots. Gripping firmly a long lash of blue
grass, each little fellow waves farewell to dear Santa Claus, who has
already started up the mountain, satisfied and happy that his holiday
work is done. Not until another Christmas will the valleys feel the
loving presence of the kind old Saint, for when the sun and the birds
have awakened his children he will be far away. But his beautiful gifts
will be hanging upon the great, white rose-trees--the Christmas trees of
our summer land."

When I had finished Marjorie clapped her hands and exclaimed with
delight, but Mariposilla said nothing. She was silently eloquent for
several moments, until, suddenly remembering that she ought to
acknowledge genius, she kissed me gently upon the cheek, much as she
would have kissed the wooden image of the Virgin that stood in the Doña
Maria's bedroom. Looking down into my face with her great, beautiful
eyes, she said, almost reverently: "The Señora knows much; she is a
great and wise Americana; I love her with great love."

Mariposilla had never before addressed me in the quaint, affectionate
style of her anglicized tongue, and as I caught her in my arms, laughing
at the sweet, sober compliment, I told her how I would always treasure
it for her sake--the most delightful praise I had ever received.

I remember it was about this time that I first became aware of the
girl's rare beauty. Suddenly she seemed to have commenced to mature, and
her radiance startled me. I wondered then if such ravishing charms were
to be desired, for it seemed hardly possible that she would be contented
with her available destiny.

I had already seen that her thoughts were not with her countryman and
kinsman, Arturo, but remote, engaged with intangible dreams of she knew
not what. I could not refuse to see, at times, in her restless,
unsatisfied expression, that she had outgrown the customs and
associations of her race. I saw that she was consumed with admiration
for Americans, attempting their fashions and manners with a
determination almost pathetic.

When the Sandersons came to the ranch, and we sat upon the veranda
chatting in the effervescent style of our Republic, Mariposilla listened
like a charmed bird, especially if Mrs. Sanderson chanced to relate a
story replete with inimitable shades and mannerisms. I am certain that
the lady herself realized and exerted unduly her magnetism upon the
unsophisticated girl. I often noticed her regarding with complacent
amusement the worshipful expression upon Mariposilla's face. Sometimes
she would abruptly summon her to her side, while she touched the dark
head with her beautiful jeweled hand. Perhaps she called her a pretty
name; or possibly joked her about her faith in the good stories of the
great Americanos, until the child's cheeks grew opalescent with happy
embarrassment. Then, before the lovely tints had paled, she would send
her away for a glass of water from the deep red olla, or for a rose from
a bush indicated by her fancy.

I remember that upon this particular morning I was troubling indirectly
about Mariposilla, thinking that perhaps her daily association with
Sidney might not be for the best. I had not then dreamed of inhuman
exertions on the part of the Sandersons to entrap the child. I simply
wondered if we were wise to expose the beautiful, immature girl to the
constant, flattering attentions of an impossible young man.

I remember that I decided to tell her, at my earliest opportunity, that
Sidney was destined to marry a New York heiress. However, as soon as the
thought had taken shape in my mind, I felt indignant for imagining
possibilities disagreeable enough to disturb the peace of our pleasant
social conditions. I said to myself that Mariposilla was still a child,
often the satisfied playmate of Marjorie. It would be easy, I was sure,
to observe the slightest vibration in the direction of a love affair.

The Doña Maria had assured me that her child was hard of heart, ever
scorning the devotion of lovers. Altogether I felt a ridiculous prude
when the gay trap of the Sandersons suddenly dashed into the avenue.

Sidney was driving the spirited team, with his mother behind him,
luxuriously wrapped for the December morning.

At the first sound of the horses' hoofs upon the driveway, Mariposilla
vanished. I could see at a glance, upon her return, that she had been
before the little mirror in her bedroom, for the betumbled appearance
occasioned by her romp with Marjorie had disappeared; likewise she had
embellished her scarlet frock with a little black velvet girdle that
emphasized the costume with an irresistible touch of Spain.

I perceived that Sidney was unmistakably pleased with the child's
appearance; but I could not consistently blame him for our common crime,
for never before had I been so impressed with the superb type of
Mariposilla's beauty.

Mrs. Sanderson was most winning. She had come, she said, in search of
good company for a drive. She was going to Pasadena for two yards of
yellow ribbon. Was it not absolutely delightful to drive eight miles for
a couple of yards of ribbon? Such irresponsible pleasure made one scorn
philanthropy. Why should one desire to reconcile happy Hottentots to
Parisian costume? Why be perpetually annoyed with grave and difficult
questions, when all could be easily dismissed in a drive after ribbon?
She lamented that she had not come to San Gabriel years ago, before
there was so little to prolong. She was sure native Californians were
born without nerves. It rested her more than a whole year at a
sanitarium to look at Mariposilla. What a perfect beauty she was, this
minute, in her red frock. She must gain at once the Doña Maria's consent
and come for a drive. All must make haste, for it was criminal to lose
one moment of the morning.

Mariposilla, as usual, had stood unconsciously enthralled by Mrs.
Sanderson's wonderful personality. The child had not understood the
lady's ironic sallies, but the invitation to drive had been plain.

Instantly the absent, incomprehensible look fled from her eyes; they
seemed suddenly bathed in lambent joy, while an emotional radiance
enveloped her form. Resembling the beautiful little creature after which
she had been named, she appeared to dart through the sunshine, then to
vanish in the doorway of the somber adobe, like a lost meteor. Her
marvelous, unstudied motions seemed the reflection of fickle twilight.

"Will she come back? or has she flown forever into an old legend of
Spain?" Mrs. Sanderson demanded, tragically. "She will return as demure
as a novitiate," I replied.

A few moments later the truth of the statement was verified. The girl's
first intense emotions had been forcibly quieted by her desire to be
thought conventional. When she reappeared, prepared for the drive, she
walked slowly, almost stiffly--"like a lady," the Sisters at the Convent
would have said.

She had donned a black jacket, that was fortunately too small and
obliged to flare, exposing the little velvet girdle and a dash of
scarlet that emulated coquettishly the breast of a robin. Her hair was
carefully twisted into a girlish coil, while upon her head she wore a
large, picturesque black hat.

During the drive to Pasadena she was ecstatically solemn, and it was
only when she turned her profile to reply almost in monosyllables to the
ingenious questions of Sidney that I discovered how happy she was. Her
cheeks had again assumed wonderful tints, occasioned by a renewed
realization of her exalted privileges, and I could see that she was
flattered beyond her most daring expectation. Sidney, usually so
reticent, had suddenly maddened into an animated inquisitor. I observed
that he never allowed his eyes to leave the girl's face, when she
replied modestly to his volley of direct questions.

Necessarily, these recollections have now come back to me slightly
embellished by the events which quickly followed this initial drive. It
must have been a comprehension of the common failure to note the signs
of a disaster in time to obviate it, which led the ecclesiastical
composers to insert in the general confession of the Prayer Book the
clause in which the sinner bewails not only his actually committed sins,
but his passive criminalities, born of neglect.

My conscience will ever ache with the knowledge of "things left undone"
for Mariposilla. I know now that I should have explained more decidedly
to the child the impassable width of the social gulf, even at the risk
of her loving me less. I should have protected her against herself, by
showing her the truth without palliation. I should have told her how
fraudulent and glittering are the attentions of fashionable men, and
warned her against the cruel disappointments of society.

Doubtless the child would have disregarded my wisdom, for wilful,
rapturous youth is slow to accept experience secondhand. At the time, it
appeared only right and natural that Mariposilla should take part in our
daily pleasures, while, in justice to myself, it did not occur to me to
doubt the good intentions of the Sandersons, until too late to overcome
the complications which arose by degrees from our general intimacy.



CHAPTER VII.


It was impossible for me to resist my impulses as we dashed through the
sunshine. To be absolved from every responsibility as I breathed with
joy the vigorous, sedative air--a mingled freshness of May and
October--had intoxicated my nerves. Unconsciously I allowed sentiments
to escape, which I usually restrained when in the society of the
brilliant cynic by my side.

It seemed impossible that the most hardened wretch could be capable of
criminality upon such a divine morning; and I enthusiastically aired my
moral philosophy, much to the amusement of Mrs. Sanderson, who jestingly
replied, as we turned from a long avenue into the principal business
street of Pasadena--"As usual, my dear, you have caught entirely the
local spirit of your environments. I am told that the millennium has
already begun in Pasadena, and that even now there are more sanctified
cranks to the acre than in any town in America."

As the lady spoke, a Salvation Army girl approached with the _War Cry_.
The fresh young face peering from beneath the ugly bonnet had a demure
fascination, and rebellious to the scornful expression of my companion,
I dropped the requested nickel into the extended hand of the pretty
fanatic. As the young woman retired to the sidewalk, Mrs. Sanderson
laughed a derisive little laugh.

"I am sure you will be doing something wild if you stay in this country
long," she said. "If it were not for Marjorie I should feel alarmed. The
noticeable attentions of the sallow, sanctimonious priest at the hotel
may yet prove dangerous. I shall feel it my duty to keep an eye upon you
both."

"Pray do," I replied coldly, as we left the trap and entered a dry-goods
store, gay with Christmas decorations, and crowded with shoppers.

Wending our way to the ribbon counter we found it thronged by pretty
girls, chattering merrily as they selected various shades from a gay
labyrinth of color, that announced a sale of remnants.

It was evident that but one damsel of the group had troubled herself to
remember that the month was December, for she alone did credit to her
conventional convictions. She resembled, at first glance, a properly
rolled umbrella. Her tailor-made gown was severe in the extreme, and her
hat and carriage were harmoniously stiff. Her companions wore cheerful,
girlish costumes, ranging in variety from a white flannel tennis frock,
supplemented by fur cape and straw sailor hat, to the very correct
street suit of the severe young woman. Bright eyes and glowing cheeks
showed plainly that if cotillions were a frequent occurrence in
Pasadena, as the conversation of the lassies indicated, their disastrous
ravages were providentially repaired by horseback riding and tennis the
year round.

We had not expected to meet friends among the merry bevy, but as the
young woman of the "tailor-made" turned to leave the store, Mrs.
Sanderson recognized her. She was Miss Walton, the daughter of an old
friend, a wealthy New Yorker, who now lived most of his time in
Pasadena.

The acknowledgement was instantaneous, and before the ladies had
exchanged a dozen sentences they were joined by a younger sister who was
quite a beauty.

"This encounter is delightful," said the younger girl, extending
cordially a pretty bare hand slightly browned by the sun. "I am so glad
you have come, for now we can have Mr. Sanderson for our cotillion. We
were quite desperate for another man, as one of our dearest one-lungers
has been forbidden to dance. The pretty, tall girl buying the pink
ribbon is the unfortunate bereft of her partner. She will be delighted
with her luck, when I tell her she is to dance with a man who will not
be a responsibility."

"For shame, Ethel!" interrupted the tailor-made Miss Walton; "what will
the ladies think?"

"The simple truth," replied the irrepressible Ethel. "The ladies have
doubtless learned of the one drawback to our glorious climate--its
dearth of able-bodied dancing men. Do you wonder, Mrs. Sanderson," the
girl continued appealingly, "that we jump at the chance to dance once in
a while with a man who is not delicate, who has never had a hemorrhage
or organic heart trouble? Of course," she rattled on, "we have a few
sound men, but this year has been an off year for the unengaged. The two
dear fellows who made love collectively have gone East, so you see a new
man is like balm in Gilead."

"Sidney must certainly attend the cotillion," his mother said, much
amused.

"Of course he must," the girl replied, gaily. "He will be the belle of
the ball. When I tell the girls confidentially that he won't have to be
saved a particle, won't they dote on him? You see it is simply crushing
to have the responsibility of a one-lunger for a whole evening. Delicate
men are always idiotic about getting in a draught, and as stubborn as
mules about not putting on overcoats when healthy people are freezing.
It certainly is not pleasant to stop a man in the middle of a waltz when
you see his wind giving out, or to be blamed the next day when he is
absolutely ill. Of course you have to be sympathetic, send him dainties,
and take him to drive as soon as he is out again, but the responsibility
after a time becomes too serious to be interesting."

"Ethel!" said her sister, "what do you mean? She is really not as
heartless as she appears," Miss Walton continued, turning to Mrs.
Sanderson. "I trust you will make due allowance for a young lady who
persists in coming to town in a tennis costume; but as my father has
always allowed her to act like a barbarian, mamma and I can do nothing."

"She seems delightfully hopeless," Mrs. Sanderson replied. "We must have
the pretty barbarian at San Gabriel as soon as possible. Sid would find
your case most interesting, Miss Ethel, but perhaps you are not aware of
his missionary tendencies?"

Ethel laughed, but Miss Walton took no pains to conceal her annoyance,
although she politely seconded her sister's invitation to lunch that
same day at Crown Hill.

"You shall not escape us," Ethel said, gaily, as we hesitated on account
of our number, explaining that five hungry people were too many to usher
unexpectedly upon even the most long-suffering cook. "Not at all," the
girl declared. "Wong would be in despair if no company came, as he was
expecting guests who at the last moment sent word that it would be
impossible for them to come."

Her father and mother, too, were away, and "but for the delightful
accident of the morning my sister and I would have been all alone," she
added, convincingly.

Promising to accept the invitation at the time appointed, we left the
store in search of Sidney and the children.

Looking about, we perceived the team hitched across the street, while
those we sought had gone into a confectory close by. I could see
Marjorie dancing in front of the door with a box of candy.

The child was still too delicate for rash experiments, and I hastily
rushed to her rescue. Mrs. Sanderson cynically remarked that possibly
Marjorie might find it less easy to be good than her mother, adding that
if the divine climatic restraints had not proved stronger than her
temptation I must be merciful. I could not help feeling irritated by the
sarcastic remark, and replied with spirit. Mrs. Sanderson must have seen
the uncomfortable flush that I felt mounting to my cheeks, for in her
inimitable way she apologized.

"Dear little saint," she said, coaxingly; "forgive me if I am less
sentimental than yourself. It is, perhaps, because I have lived too long
in this stupid world to believe in it very much. Alas! I am not a poet,
and my blood runs cooler every day." A half tragic expression, the
suggestion of regret, darkened the woman's handsome, composed face. In
an instant it fled, leaving no trace of emotion.

I was much relieved to find that Mariposilla had kindly restrained
Marjorie's saccharine yearnings. The child was obediently awaiting
permission to eat a chocolate cream.

Mariposilla, too, had a box of candy. Sidney gallantly handed about
another, which I saw was intended to insure the Spanish girl's
individual claim to the little gift he had just made her.

As we left the shop, Mrs. Sanderson's eye caught sight of a window just
beyond, in which was displayed a choice collection of Indian baskets.
The craze had seized the lady the year before, returning with renewed
vigor, she laughingly owned, when Sidney attempted to restrain her
covetous longings. Her son declared that it would even now be
impossible to take home all the trash she had accumulated.

"Never mind," she insisted, "we shall look at the collection. I can see
at a glance that it is a fine one, and it is not yet time to go to the
Waltons'."

The collection in question, we learned, was a private one offered for
sale by a boom victim, whose inflated ideas of Pasadena real estate had
at one time stimulated his artistic desires to ruinous extravagance. At
that time he had ransacked the country for miles around for rare
baskets, regardless of price, which now he was obliged to sell.

I learned later that Mrs. Sanderson was ever upon the look-out for
forced sales. Keenly alive to chances for procuring things at half
price, she was always alert for the critical moment.

Her enthusiasms over the existing opportunities were those of a
connoisseur loaded with the offered commodity, yet unable to endure the
thought of a Philistine invasion.

She said it was wrong for her to consider the purchase of another Indian
basket, but if the beautiful cora with the feathers was not so
extravagant in price she might possibly add it to her collection.

The clerk in attendance now signaled the owner of the baskets from the
rear of the store. The gentleman came at once, and tried in vain to
convince Mrs. Sanderson that the cora with the feathers was so unusually
rare that it was worth much more than the price demanded. He said
pathetically that his collection was very dear to him, he loved each
basket with a different degree of affection, for he had discovered them
all. Each had a little history.

Dearest of all was the beautiful cora which the lady admired, and
nothing but absolute necessity compelled him to part with it.

Mrs. Sanderson replied that she understood perfectly his feelings. She,
too, had always been a great collector. She had even at this late day
discovered baskets, and knew now of a Mexican settlement where valuable
things were still in hiding. She thought she would soon go upon a tour
of discovery, and perhaps she might find a cora with feathers. She was
sorry not to assist the gentleman in his difficulties. She would be
very fond of the feather basket, she knew, and if the price were reduced
upon three larger baskets as well as upon the one she admired, she might
possibly take all four. However, she had best flee from temptation. It
was getting late, after twelve, and the Waltons were expecting them at
one.

With her inimitable smile she bade us make haste to depart, while she
sympathetically hoped, in the hearing of the obsequious clerk who opened
the door, that the feather basket might soon find a purchaser who would
appreciate its beauty.

As she left the store her deliberation was masterly. Before she had
reached the sidewalk the clerk had motioned her back. The four baskets
were hers at half their value.



CHAPTER VIII.


On our way to luncheon we drove between palms and flowers, the entire
length of a long, well-kept avenue. Located at its end is a group of
small hills, each of which has been eagerly selected for a home site
because of the incomparable advantages of the situation. Conspicuous
among these knolls is Crown Hill, the home of the Waltons. Unique as an
island in its individual charm, its gentle slopes are surrounded on all
sides by traveled roads which define perfectly its boundaries, while
they protect from intrusion the low-gabled country house which stands in
the heart of six acres, cresting hospitably the hill. The landscape upon
all sides is strikingly beautiful. From the south and west the pastoral
harmony of the view is enhanced by a chain of wooded hills evading the
advances of civilization, as they smile serenely upon extensive gardens
and picturesque homes. Upon other sides glorious snow-capped mountains,
glittering with Alpine splendor, intensify the rich, ever-changing tones
of the long, over-lapping chain. The day was so fresh and bright that as
we drove to Crown Hill a new luster seemed upon the earth. As we
ascended the gentle slope, Ethel waved us a welcome from the broad
veranda. When we alighted, too entranced to enter the house, the elder
sister appeared.

"Is it not lovely?" Ethel cried enthusiastically, perceiving our delight
at the unbroken landscape. "Don't hurry us, Margaret," the girl
implored, when Miss Walton began to evince a slight nervousness at our
delay in entering. "Daddy is not here to point out the unsurpassed
beauties of the hill; so his own girl must see that no points are
overlooked, even if luncheon does wait a minute. You see," Ethel
continued as we turned slowly to enter the house, drawn by the
persistent expression upon Miss Margaret's apprehensive countenance;
"this place belongs to Daddy and me. Mamma and Margaret own the house in
New York. Every year they go back to its dingy magnificence, and imagine
themselves supremely happy. When they sit in the middle drawing-room,
that looks so touchingly upon our neighbors' brick side-wall, their
enjoyment is rare. The place has to be lighted all day with electric
lanterns, but it matters not to these two deluded souls. They are
enjoying themselves in the swell room of the house--so very oriental,
don't you know?"

"Do be quiet, Ethel, and show our friends in," the elder sister
implored. "Margaret is an absolute tyrant," the girl replied, leading us
beyond the wide, inviting hall, into a large, sunny drawing-room that at
once captivated us with its individuality.

As we entered between the portières I noticed that Mariposilla flushed
with delight. The child had never before been in so lovely a room. Its
warm delicacy was a strange contrast to the gaudy, half-grotesque,
half-religious apartments to which she had been accustomed. Ethel,
perceiving her pleasure, smiled encouragingly.

"You like my room?" she said, kindly. "It is all mine, and, to be
honest, I am proud of it. You see how differently I have worked for my
effects from the usual methods," she said, turning to Mrs. Sanderson,
who was exclaiming over the restfulness of the furniture. "I am so glad
that you are pleased," Ethel continued, "for I had much to combat before
I was allowed to fire oppressive upholsterings in favor of lovely Morris
cottons."

The girl had indeed caught the spirit of her semi-tropical climate; for
the room was charmingly in sympathy with the world outside of the
windows. The rough walls, pale yellow, in combination with the paneled
ceiling and colonial casings, painted cream, had surely created a
perfect background for the admirable furnishings. Never before had
quaint chairs and deep couches looked so inviting as these in Morris
cottons. Their creamy tone, relieved by soft browns and warm yellows,
defied the sordid observer, who could never quite estimate their yard
value. The broad windows were curtained in simple falls of dainty lace
of open texture that excluded neither sunlight nor landscape. In the
colonial fireplace burned a real fire of huge logs, that was never
allowed to die out, and warmed with irresistible comfort the fresh,
healthful atmosphere of the room. In unsuspected corners and in bold
situations, great satsuma jars filled with ferns and tall papyrus
emphasized the possibilities of a Pasadena home. Cheerful watercolors in
plain white frames adorned the walls, while above the fire, an old
French mirror caught from the picture-window opposite the distant
shadows and sunlit spurs of the peaceful Mother Mountains. Long-stemmed
roses and dear old silver candlesticks gleamed side by side upon a
quaint, inviting tea-table, which, close by the glowing fire, shone like
a glimpse from America's most picturesque period, adorned with the
dainty relics of a colonial tea-set.

"The room is superb," Mrs. Sanderson declared, as she surveyed
critically its artistic details. The rich oriental rugs and large white
Angora skins thickly strewn upon the straw matting completely captivated
Mariposilla. She timidly sank her feet into a rug lying before one of
the broad couches, blushing perceptibly, I thought, at the recollection
of her own humble home.

The simple child was nearly frightened by the prevalent luxury, and but
for the watchful attentions of Ethel, might have grown uncomfortable.
With infinite tact her pretty hostess led her about, with the
familiarity of a sister, often coaxing her into artless bursts of
enthusiasm.

"The library is papa's success," Ethel explained as we sauntered
reluctantly from the beautiful drawing room. "You see," she continued,
"Papa, too, has made a California room. Excepting his books, there is
hardly a vestige of civilization to be found."

It was even as the daughter had said, a room in which literature and the
odor of fragrant cigars alone suggested a modern epoch. The decorations,
if such they could be called, were all Indian. Rare tribe blankets
covered the floor and couches, serving not only for portières, but in
parts of the room for wall hangings. Against these blankets were
displayed an unrivaled collection of rich old baskets. Upon one wall was
stretched a gorgeous Indian genealogy, the handiwork of a gifted squaw,
while the skin of a mammoth grizzly, the huge head still intact,
reposed in front of the fireplace. From chimney shelf to ceiling hung
weapons and finery pertaining to the aboriginal chase.

"Now," said Ethel, when Miss Margaret demanded once more our immediate
attendance upon luncheon, "we will strike for high civilization--my
sister's own kingdom!" Upon seating ourselves about the great round
table in the perfectly appointed dining-room, I observed that Sidney had
been placed between Ethel and Mariposilla, while Marjorie and I had been
assigned places opposite. I could see Mariposilla's every motion without
appearing to watch her, and I confess that I was at first slightly
agitated, fearing the ordeal might prove embarrassing, not only for the
child, but for ourselves.

I was sure that she had never before been seated at so stylish a
lunch-table. In spite of its cultivated informality, there was for the
unsophisticated girl an unintelligible problem close at hand in the
complicated appointments of her plate.

While we spoke of the exquisite long-stemmed pink roses that filled a
cut-glass punch-bowl in the center of the table, I could see Mariposilla
regarding quietly the array of silver encompassing her place. If I again
doubted the propriety of what we had done, it was evident that but one
method of escape remained--to make plain my every motion. Even as the
idea seized me I perceived that the Spanish child had hit upon the plan
herself, and was nervefully determined not to disgrace her friends.

As luncheon proceeded I almost forgot my fears in admiration for the
child's pluck. Her sensible, observant conduct delighted me, and I no
longer doubted her fitness for any social position to which she might be
raised.

Mrs. Sanderson, as usual, captivated the party with gay sallies of wit.
Her pretty allusions to the faultless details of Miss Walton's table won
for her at once Miss Margaret's approval.

"Your starched Celestial fills me with reverence," she declared, when
the impassible Wong left the dining-room, after depositing, with
majestic importance, a wonderful salad.

"He never allows the maid to bring in the salad," Ethel explained,
mirthfully. "He considers a salad the culmination of his art, and
generally announces for the benefit of our guests, 'Heap fine salad!
Muchey good.'"

"You tempt me to set up a house in Pasadena," Mrs. Sanderson said, "if
for no other reason than to eat, as often as possible before I die, a
perfect salad such as this. Shall we not start an establishment at once,
Sid? for the joy of a Wong who enjoys entertaining as much as does his
mistress? Can you invite friends in this irresponsible way at any time?"
the lady asked, earnestly.

"Oh, yes," answered Ethel, "nothing delights Wong so much as company.
You know, a good Chinese servant is quite ignorant of his spinal
organism. He expects to serve you well for what you pay him, exonerating
you delightfully from the heavy obligations often imposed in America by
ambitious females who assist at cooking for a pastime."

"Then you really don't have to hold a preliminary caucus to ascertain
the state of the cook's health and temper before you can find courage
to invite a few friends to dinner?" Mrs. Sanderson answered,
interrogatively.

"Certainly not!" said Ethel. "A good Chinaman has the greatest reverence
for caste; his respect for his mistress depends largely upon what he
shrewdly determines in regard to her position in society. 'She very
high-tone lady,' is his favorite expression for a thoroughly admired
mistress. He considers it an honor not only to serve her to the best of
his ability, but regards her friends with equal consideration."

"How delightfully comfortable it all sounds! Yet is there not a
possibility of converting these same convenient heathen into a state of
uselessness, rather than to Christianity?" Mrs. Sanderson pursued. "I
have heard," the lady continued, "that enthusiasts are already
metamorphosing some of the best cooks into poets and orators, as well as
first-class laundrymen into political economists."

"Now," laughed Ethel, "you are tramping poor Margaret's toes. When we
first came to California my sister approved warmly of the education of
the downtrodden Celestial, but I fear that experience has withered her
philanthropy. One boy that we had, after professing a most devout
conversion, which necessitated his departure to school at the most
inconvenient times, suddenly conceived a renewed longing for the
exciting informalities of Chinese New Year.

"He told Margaret, as he bade her a polite good morning, that he 'no
likey be good velly long. Have more fun be heap bad some time. Good Boss
forgive sins all samey when you be heap solly after while.' Even sister
was crushed by the theology. Our next boy was a genuine heathen."

"I am astonished, Ethel," said Miss Walton, "I hope you will never again
repeat that blasphemous story."

"Forgive her," entreated Mrs. Sanderson, "I would not have missed it for
a great deal, and although it seems unfortunate that our romantic
philanthropy is often quenched by a downpour of common sense, yet it is
perhaps safest for the world after all. I shall never cease to enjoy
your story, Miss Ethel. When my sympathies threaten to melt my
judgments I shall think of your theological heathen who rose superior to
his instructors, able to grasp so cleverly the pleasant features of
Christianity without its inconveniences."

When Mrs. Sanderson finished her irreligious sally, Miss Walton's
pained, shocked expression was most apparent. She concentrated her
attention upon her jelly, with a well-bred annoyance that was readily
understood by the offender. The calculating woman, with no desire to
anger the truly conscientious girl, whose sectarian delight in the
teachings of her church made it impossible for her to tolerate the
semblance of skepticism, gracefully shifted the conversation to the
engrossing cotillion, afterward bearing down with conciliatory intent
upon the Christmas bazar soon to be held by the Guild of Miss Margaret's
church.

"We will all come," she said, as we left the table. "One soon loses step
with events in San Gabriel, but the bazar will help us to catch up with
the world," she added, mirthfully.

That Mrs. Sanderson was a scoffer of the most captivating and dangerous
type can not be denied. She loved to ridicule uninteresting things and
commonplace people; and doubtless this fact accounted for the dearth of
friends answering to her own age. It was to unthinking youth that the
flashing sarcasms and stinging flings at established usages and sacred
traditions appeared the embodiment of brilliant repartee. In complete
contradiction to her caustic beliefs, she seemed to the young the soul
of sincerity, working ever the most unselfish conditions for their
enjoyment.

Mrs. Sanderson disliked old people inhumanly, while she courted, with
every possible inducement, the society of the young.

"I have a morbid horror of growing old," she would say. "Sid won't
promise to poison me, so I suppose I must provide myself with a
daughter-in-law. My best blood is French, and when the illusions are
once dispelled each new wrinkle will torture." On the day of the
luncheon, as we sauntered from the drawing-room into the library, Mrs.
Sanderson declared that she had conceived an idea for old age. "Your
father's study is an inspiration," she exclaimed, turning to Ethel. "As
soon as I am sixty I shall take down all the mirrors in my house and
prepare a similar retiring room, although more entirely barbaric. There
shall be no vestige of civilization in my den, nothing to encourage
reminiscences, nothing to suggest the masterful march of time. I see now
that it is the certainty of one's period which crushes. Indian
decorations mean absolutely nothing to the uninitiated. Wrapped in the
blanket of a remote chief one could forget even his birthday. There
shall be nothing in my room to remind me every hour that I am a
grandmother. Nothing to say--'You bought me thirty years ago,' or, 'We
are both growing threadbare together. Your hair is white and thin, while
I am quite out of style.' No, my dears, if I live to be old, I shall
never be tortured by relics of my own period. However," the cold,
worldly woman continued, smiling irresistibly upon her young companions,
who failed to comprehend her heartless theories, "I am not sixty. I have
several years before I must take to a blanket, so let us return to the
pretty drawing-room and Mariposilla will play one of her witching
Spanish dances."

"Be spry, Sid," she commanded, when the Spanish child obediently seated
herself upon a low chair preparatory to tuning the guitar, "a footstool
for the little feet; they look so pretty upon a cushion."

The lady's open flattery appeared no longer to embarrass Mariposilla;
she was gradually growing accustomed to that, but when Sidney placed in
front of her the footstool, a richer flush intensified her beauty.

"She must have a mantilla for her head," Mrs. Sanderson cried, as she
caught from her own shoulders the rich Spanish lace scarf, which she
wore in her drives as a throat protector. She threw it lightly over the
girl's dark head, allowing the ends to fall about her scarlet frock.
"There! is she not a divine señorita?" she exclaimed, as she viewed her
blushing plaything with critical delight. "Is she not exquisite?" she
continued shamelessly. "See how easily we have caught the loveliest
butterfly in all Old Spain! Play! Mariposilla, play!"

When the child obediently struck the strings of the guitar, Mrs.
Sanderson declared that American women knew nothing of dress. "Why do we
not burn our bonnets, that our lovers may kneel to our lace mantillas?"
she said to Ethel.

As Mariposilla paused in her playing, all applauded with the exception
of Miss Walton. From the first, she had appeared annoyed by the dramatic
conditions of the afternoon. As our hostess, she was oppressed with
suppression. I could see that the literal young woman, viewing all
things from a narrow and conventional standpoint, longed to escape from
the theatrical atmosphere which Mrs. Sanderson had so unexpectedly
created.

I myself may have doubted the propriety of Mrs. Sanderson's course, but
at the time, I did not doubt the woman, and was so completely bewitched
by Mariposilla's beauty, that I failed to disapprove what appeared to be
only a pleasant pastime.

Never before had I seen any one so lovely as this young girl. The rich
tints had kindled beneath her cheeks, while her eyes, when she lifted
them, shone with lambent reflections of wonderful, half-understood joy.
She appeared a vision from a lost century, playing upon the credulity of
the present.

I do not wish to give the impression that Mariposilla was a marvelous
musician, for such was not the case. She only played with an original
abandon which made her movements and the customary little tricks of her
instrument appear more masterly than in reality they were. Her playing
depended entirely upon her mood, and that she was now happy, carried far
away from vexation or possible disappointment, was plain; for the
slender brown fingers picked the strings as never before. She seemed
perfectly absorbed in her music, and only when the long lashes lifted
for a moment did her wonderful eyes proclaim the truth she was
attempting to hide. When the lashes again drooped, soft, telltale
shadows quivered beneath the dark fringe that hid her impassioned joy.
The ridges of her small ears grew pink, her lips richer. The merest
reflection of dimples fled and returned to the glowing cheeks, as each
new emotion revealed her happy secret.

The day, I have said, had been unusually warm. The sun had reached its
meridian without faltering; only above the mountains had the fathomless
blue of the sky been broken by a few thin clouds. Unexpectedly the air
grew chill as the sun fled behind a bank of fog, which spread each
moment with amazing density upon the valley.

With the first dimming of the day, a change appeared in Mariposilla;
while Miss Walton grew at once serene. Unexpectedly and discordantly the
Spanish child ended her performance. Like a frightened bird she
fluttered to my side, her color gone, her courage shaken.

"We must go," I said, turning to Mrs. Sanderson. "Marjorie must not be
exposed to the fog," I explained, as we bade good bye to Miss Walton and
Ethel. There appeared to be a mock significance in Miss Margaret's thin
voice when she invited us to repeat our visit. Ethel alone accompanied
us to the door.



CHAPTER IX.


Never before had the unpretentious home of the Doña Maria Del Valle
appeared so complete a refuge as upon our return after the eventful day
in Pasadena. In the living-room our kind hostess had lighted a fire of
grotesque grape roots, that writhed like a holocaust of mummies. After
the gloom without, our welcome seemed perfect. The ruddy flames from the
fireplace, flickering against the dusky walls, had mercifully relieved
the row of saints, who in the daytime appeared to suffer persistently
the throes of indigestion. Likewise, from her frame above the chimney
shelf the little Spanish Virgin smiled serenely upon her holy Child. In
the firelight, she seemed to forget her atrocious finery in the sweet
consciousness of her maternity.

The aged grandmother dozed in her accustomed chair. At her feet the
grayhounds, Pancho and Pachita, sprawled in longitudinal grace, dead
dogs, to all appearances, until a trespassing footstep attested their
vigilance.

A faint, delicious odor of frijoles floated from the kitchen when the
Doña Maria opened the door to bid us welcome home.

Marjorie flew to the strong arms overjoyed; but Mariposilla avoided her
mother as she hastily retreated to her own room, remaining apart until
called to supper.

The watchful Doña Maria, observing that her child could eat nothing,
artlessly inquired the cause. "Are not the frijoles inviting?" she
asked, in simple distress. "I have prepared them most fresh, and the oil
is from a new bottle," the good woman pursued.

"Perhaps my child is not well; if so, it is unfortunate that she should
have gone from home, for the good Father and Sister Francisco came at
noon. While I served them with fruit and wine the Father told much of
our dear Arturo, expressing often great joy that so fine a youth grows
rich, soon to return to the friends who await him with so much
affection. Sister Francisco was grieved that the convent is no more dear
to her child. She requested that the days be few until a visit is paid,
and left with her love a little gift."

As the Doña Maria paused, she arose from the table and handed
Mariposilla a small religious book.

The child had controlled herself with stoical determination throughout
her mother's reproachful disclosures, but, unable to do so longer, she
burst into tears and fled from the room.

The calm Doña Maria took no notice of the tempestuous departure, but the
grandmother appeared distressed, muttering her disapproval in Spanish.

I confess that I felt annoyed at Mariposilla's conduct. I could see no
reason for the outburst of grief and felt myself an innocent agent in
unsettling her happiness and disturbing her family.

After supper, when I had undressed Marjorie, who was soon asleep, and
had put on a chamber gown preparatory to writing letters, a timid tap at
my door told me that Mariposilla was without. So fond had I become of
the child that I instantly forgot my recent resentment. Not waiting for
the penitent to come to me I met her at the door. Drawing her to the
couch I urged her to tell me quietly the cause of her unhappiness.

"The señora will think me unworthy of her love," she cried, chokingly.

"No, dear," I replied, "I shall always love you. I have had many sorrows
myself, and I know how hard it is to speak of them; but always when I
have confided in a true friend, I have felt better and sorry that I had
not sought relief sooner."

"I will tell you," she said, "and then you may despise me."

She was very beautiful as she half drooped before me, her great eyes
moist, her dark hair loose about her shoulders.

"Tell me all, dear child," I urged, as she still hesitated.

"I am most wicked!" she cried desperately. "I love not my people; I am
unhappy because I am not an American."

A gush of tears terminated the confession.

"Poor child!" I said, drawing her to my side; "I am glad that you have
told me your trouble, for I think I can help you very soon."

She lifted her face appealingly while I spoke.

"Yes," I continued, "I am sure that I understand your unhappiness. You
are not untrue to your people. You only desire to be an American because
you have perceived that they are more in touch with the times than your
own nation, who, from loss of fortune and other causes, are not what
they once were, or what they will some day be again. Your poor little
heart and mind are starving for food. You must be nourished, and then
you will be happy. It is perfectly right that you should admire the
superior attainments and polished manners of a race not your own. It
means no disloyalty to your people, only the desire for a broader life
and a higher culture.

"You may be sure, dear child, that no one is ever satisfied. The
yearnings of the heart after unattainable desires is common in God's
wide creation. The longings of the savage are only different in degree
from yours or mine. Race puts no limits upon pure and laudable ambition.

"It is not necessary for you to be an American to be all that a lovely
woman should be. The daughter of the brave, wonderful Doña Maria Del
Valle can make of herself whatever she determines."

Mariposilla was still weeping gently.

"You are very beautiful, dear child," I continued. "More beautiful than
any American girl I ever knew. Still there is a beauty which shines from
the soul and from the mind that you must try daily to acquire. Then you
will be lovely, without flaw.

"If only you will be patient and true to your best ambitions, I am sure
that a great happiness will some day come into your life. Try to be
contented. Be a dutiful daughter to your dear mother, who has seen so
much sorrow, and has left only her precious child. Please her in all
things that are possible, and if you will do this I am sure that after a
time you will understand how wise and unselfish she has always been."

Instantly the girl released herself, while she faced me with a
passionate despair I will never forget.

"I will do all," she cried, "but marry Arturo. If I do not that I have
done nothing. The priest and my mother and the sisters at the convent
will curse me if I refuse. They will call me a shame, and, although I
love not Arturo, they would sell me for his gold."

"No, dear," I entreated, "no one will compel you to marry Arturo.
Believe me, you shall do as you please, only you must not allow unjust
suspicions to make you miserable. Think no more for the present of
marriage, try only to learn things that will fit you for life and
happiness; after a time, if one should come whom you love, you can then
not only make him joyful with your great beauty, but he will love and
respect you, because you have acquired the knowledge that makes life
agreeable and comfortable long after youth and beauty have flown."

"The señora is most wise," the child assented calmly. "Perhaps she will
teach me a little from her books, that I, too, may learn of the great
world; for, indeed, I will be good," she cried, brightening with the
determination.

"Yes, Mariposilla," I replied; "each day you shall have a lesson in
English, and soon you will be able to enjoy all that I enjoy; only in
return you must teach me Spanish, that I may also understand the
language and literature of your famous race."

Thus the compact was sealed, and each day afterward found Mariposilla
seated quietly in my room, poring over an allotted task. Her stormy
passions seemed stilled. If the wind of destiny sometimes shrieked in my
watchful ears, it more frequently sighed plaintively as I devised new
educational schemes for my protégée.

No one was more delighted over Mariposilla's apparent reformation than
the Doña Maria.

Not only did the lessons progress with astonishing regularity, but work
on the altar cloth, which had been for long intervals neglected so that
its various stages of completion were easily detected in the several
soiled sections of the linen, was resumed with steady, plodding
determination. Now but one row of the little Jesus stitch remained to be
done in the beautiful cloth ordered months before by a wealthy devotee.

The Doña Maria was in ecstasies when her daughter brought the task
finished, two days before Christmas; at the same time begging permission
to ride to Pasadena that she might receive for her labor the great sum
of thirty dollars.

That same morning, when Mariposilla was pressing carefully the handsome
piece of linen, Father Ramirez had looked into the kitchen and praised
her industry.

"After all, she is a dear child," the old priest said, patting the dark
head. "She will yet make a true woman like her dear mother. Before long
Arturo will come, and the bells of Old San Gabriel shall ring again as
they rang for the Doña Maria long ago."

Mariposilla flushed not. A deadly pallor extinguished the healthy glow
that the light labor had produced. Turning disrespectfully away, she
darted through the open door, and was gone.

It was only after the old priest had left and the Sandersons had driven
into the long green tunnel that color shone again beneath the surface of
her cheeks.



CHAPTER X.


The Sandersons did not remain long at the ranch. After their departure
Mariposilla saddled the pony, and, bidding us a gleeful adieu, cantered
away with the precious altar cloth.

At parting, the Doña Maria had given her child, for a surprise, a dozen
exquisite doilies of her own workmanship. They were bestowed as a reward
for the girl's recent industry, and she was permitted to sell them with
the altar cloth.

"Shall I not be rich?" she cried, brandishing in excitement a superb
riding whip, a remnant of former glories. "When I am come again the
señora will go with me to Los Angeles. There I shall buy beautiful
things for you all."

An instant later she was flying down the green tunnel. As she passed
between the mammoth century plants, she waved once more her whip--and
was gone.

"Dear child!" I said, as we entered the house.

"Yes," said the mother, "she is good of heart. If only she would listen
to the advice of Father Ramirez and marry Arturo, we might all be once
more joyful."

"Yes," I answered, "I hope it may yet be as you desire; but, if you will
pardon me, dear Doña Maria, for speaking plainly, let no priest or other
person come between your child and yourself. Mariposilla is still so
young that she is absolutely frightened at the thought of marriage. Let
her develop gradually in her own way, willful though it may appear.

"I am sure that after a time, when Arturo returns, handsome and
successful, she will accept his proffered love."

The Doña Maria's great, sad eyes filled with happy tears. "Blessings be
on you, dear lady!" she said; "I shall ever be happy that it has been
sweet to have given you our home."

Kind Doña Maria! it was exactly what she had done--she had given us her
home. Generously, she had taken two strangers into her great motherly
heart to dwell.

Mrs. Sanderson was to come this same afternoon, for a lesson in drawn
work.

As I dropped into my accustomed nook of the veranda, the industrious
Doña Maria hastened out to the kitchen to perform a remaining duty.
Then, before she had made the still rich, dark hair tidy, and perhaps
said a prayer to the little wooden Virgin in the corner of her bedroom,
her pupil had arrived. Mrs. Sanderson was driven by a groom; her son was
not with her.

Sidney had gone coursing with some people from East San Gabriel who kept
hounds, she explained.

I remember that I wondered instantly if the man had followed
Mariposilla.

As it was impossible to know, I could only appear interested in the
progress of the drawn work. For some unknown reason the lesson soon
lagged. Mrs. Sanderson grew irritable over her indifferent success, and
for the first time wearied me a little.

The lady was in one of her intolerant moods. Her captious rejoinders and
censorious criticisms upon the guests of the hotel annoyed me. I
realized for the first time that possibly I myself might sometime become
a target for my capricious friend's sarcasms.

Marjorie wanted to go for a walk, so, excusing myself, we departed.

Holding my little one's hand, I tried to forget, in her sweet,
unconscious talk, the caustic brilliancy of the woman I had left. Every
stray dog or resting bird that enlivened our walk delighted the child.
When we came to some anthills she grew flushed and excited as she built
a fence about the thriving city to protect it against the invasion of
tarantulas.

Ever since Antonio, the Mexican, had unearthed a tarantula one morning
in the corner of the orchard, Marjorie had regarded the ugly yet
comparatively harmless creature as California's one demon. Romancing in
her play, she slew the formidable monsters in single imaginary combat,
enjoying among the birds and butterflies the same enviable notoriety
that St. Patrick attained when the snakes fled from the Emerald Isle.

Watching my child at play, I scarcely realized that the short winter day
was rapidly settling into twilight. At once hastening home, we found
Mrs. Sanderson gone and the Doña Maria busy preparing supper. Half an
hour later it was dark and Mariposilla had not yet come.

I could see that the Doña Maria was uneasy, for she went often to the
door, once as far as the turn in the driveway. Supper was now waiting.
The frijoles were in steaming readiness, and yet Mariposilla was absent.

All were growing alarmed, when the dashing of horses' hoofs told me that
not one but two persons had arrived. In a moment, I had flashed the
light of the room through the open door into the night.

I heard distinctly the sweet, low voice of Mariposilla and saw her
lifted to the ground from her pony. In the uncertain light the strong
arms of Sidney Sanderson appeared to poise dangerously long the girlish
form that resisted not the delay of the transit.

I doubt if the Doña Maria saw what I believed that I saw, for at the
time I think she had turned to speak to the anxious grandmother; then,
satisfied that the child had returned, she left the room.

The barking of the vigilant dogs had drawn me instantly to the door, and
I remember how positively certain I then felt that Sidney had kissed
Mariposilla during her groundward journey.

At the moment I believed entirely that he had done this thing, I was
filled with indignation, and ready to denounce him fearlessly, until
Mariposilla, bounding to my side, radiantly innocent, from the uncertain
darkness, implored me to assist in detaining for supper the kind friend
who had proved himself so invaluable during the afternoon. I stood
bewildered as the child proceeded to disarm my suspicions. Calling her
mother from the kitchen, she begged her to press the invitation that
Sidney was hesitating to accept.

That Mariposilla could be acting a part seemed impossible. Involuntarily
I followed the girl from her disappearance between the century plants
early in the afternoon, up to the present time, when she stood before
me, dazzling and lovely, telling what to all appearance was nothing but
the truth.

As we seated ourselves about the supper table, I knew that my suspicions
were rapidly subsiding. Later I denounced myself humbly, for allowing my
imagination the absolute freedom of the night.

Sidney had never before appeared so manly or straightforward. He seemed
highly amused at Mariposilla's ecstasy over his apparently accidental
appearance upon the scene of her disasters, while he ate with innocent
relish the supper which the hospitable Doña Maria delighted to serve.

"I was ruined but for Mr. Sanderson," the Spanish girl explained
tragically. "I could not have gone to Los Angeles with the señora, and
the precious things for Christmas could not have been bought; because I
had stupidly lost the altar cloth and the gift of my mother. I was
returning home miserable, without the money for which I had labored;
wild with anger when I remembered how I had gone almost to Pasadena
before I knew that my treasures were lost. For wicked Chiquita had shied
in many places, and many strangers had passed upon the road, so I knew
that to search in hope would be useless. I could only weep upon the neck
of my bad Chiquita, feeling ashamed, but unable to forget my sorrow. It
was then that my friend saw me, and restored again my treasures.

"Was it not kind in our dear Lady to send him so quickly; almost as
soon as I had prayed through tears one little prayer?

"Oh! it was joy to see again my things in the hand of a friend, when I
had believed them found by a stranger."

As the child paused, she looked confidingly at Sidney, who smiled assent
to what she had been saying.

"Yes," he affirmed with unusual animation, "I was permitted to play, for
the first time in my life, the exalted rôle of the good old man who
comes out of the bushes just in time to save the beautiful princess from
disaster."

We all laughed, but Mariposilla sank her lovely face lower, while she
regarded her plate intently.

Suddenly she lifted her great earnest eyes fearlessly to my own. They
were full of light and happiness. I doubted no longer that she was
innocent of what I had imagined.

"I will call the señora early," Mariposilla said, when Sidney had gone
and we were parting for the night. She had been dancing about the room
clicking, in imitation of castanets, her cherished gold pieces.

"Is it not grand to be rich?" she cried. "How happy I am this night! I
shall never be so happy again."

She looked strangely prophetic as she spoke. She had not removed her
riding habit, and, while dancing, she caught up gracefully the
insubordinate skirt, which trammeled her exuberance. Floating about the
room, she appeared unconscious of everything but the delights of her
awakened body. Her feet and arms moved in an ecstasy of unrestraint. The
abandoned sway of her agile frame caught naturally each modulation of
the improvised castanets.

"Come, dear Butterfly," I said, when she threw herself panting into a
chair, her eyes shining with excitement. "Fly quickly to bed or the
pretty wings will be weary for the hard, long to-morrow."

"Oh, the beautiful to-morrow!" she cried, rapturously. "I will call the
señora early--that not one moment of the precious day may be lost."



CHAPTER XI.


True to the arrangement, I heard the little bare feet patter across the
hall to my door with the first gleam of the bright December morning.

The Doña Maria had prepared an early breakfast, but Mariposilla could
eat nothing in her excitement. The gold pieces were carefully counted
into the little purse, and the deliberate Antonio was soundly scolded
for his delay in bringing around the pony hitched to the old buggy,
which I earnestly hoped would not fall to pieces short of the station.

As we parted from the Doña Maria, she requested me to select a
ready-made frock for Mariposilla, explaining that her daughter had been
invited to spend a week at the East San Gabriel Hotel with Mrs.
Sanderson.

I was so astonished at the announcement that I could hardly conceal my
surprise; but the Doña Maria not appearing to notice it, I replied that
I would be happy to serve her; at the same time, I decided to take
Marjorie and go myself to the hotel. Mrs. Sanderson had urged us to come
repeatedly, and I felt that now the invitation was imperative.
Mariposilla should not go to the Sandersons' alone. I had instituted
myself her guardian, and I would protect her not only from her
inexperience, but from unscrupulous attentions, selfishly bestowed.

I knew that Mrs. Sanderson had secured the Doña Maria's consent for her
daughter's visit to the hotel during my absence the previous afternoon;
and I saw at once that Mariposilla had not known of the plan before.
However, her first demonstrative joy was smothered in quiet ecstasy. All
the way to the city she was rapturously solemn. Only her telltale color
and her eyes confessed the exciting dreams which were filling her
innocent brain.

As the purchase of the dress had now become the mainspring of our
expedition, we went, at the termination of our short journey, directly
to a store, announcing through show windows its distinctive claim to
imported novelties. Upon the threshold we were met by a smiling French
saleswoman, possibly the only genuine importation in stock, but
wonderfully successful in discounting the abnormal developments of
Hebrew physiognomy visible in the ever watchful proprietor.

It was but the work of a moment to abandon ourselves completely to the
feminine joy of our undertaking. Once within the toils of the
Frenchwoman, escape appeared the height of ingratitude.

Mariposilla was soon radiant with delight as she tried on, for the first
time in her uneventful life, costume after costume, commenting
innocently upon the merits of one, while she deplored the deficiencies
of another. After many trials, she had almost decided to take a pretty,
rich blue serge, enlivened with touches of gay plaided silk, when the
wily saleswoman brought out unexpectedly from a perfumed box a beautiful
dress of cream cloth.

The child held her breath as she begged to try on the wonderful frock
with the jaunty, sleeveless jacket, worn over a soft, creamy silk waist,
the entire costume daintily brightened with bands, embroidered in gold
thread. When she stood arrayed before the long mirror, regarding
affectionately the stylish puff of the sleeves, and the circular,
girlish effect of the throat, outlined by a band of gold, her simple
vanity forgot concealment.

"Mademoiselle is most bewitching!" the Frenchwoman exclaimed. "She can
not find one other costume so becoming. Her complexion looks most
perfect! So harmonious! So delightful!"

In the mirror I could see reflected Mariposilla's extravagant joy. She
had never in her life before been so beautifully dressed. Instinctively
she snatched from her head her hat, discovering with quick perception
that its somber shabbiness detracted from the general effect of the
dainty costume. Standing for a moment unconscious of the audience, she
threw a kiss to her own lovely image. Realizing what she had done, she
flushed deeper and turned away.

"Mademoiselle is an artist! She perceives that she looks most
beautiful," the Frenchwoman pursued. "She must certainly buy the
costume. There is about it an air. It has just arrived, and will soon
be sold. Mademoiselle must not hesitate."

For the first time the thought of the price presented a possible
drawback to the inexperienced child. She turned from the mirror,
touchingly in earnest in her inquiry. "How much does it cost?" she
asked.

When the saleswoman named the amount the disappointed girl began
heroically to remove the jacket. As she laid it aside she turned
instinctively to me for sympathy.

"I cannot pay the price," she whispered. "It would take all that I have,
and there would be nothing left to buy the shawl for my mother, or the
slippers for my grandmother, or the doll for Marjorie."

A moment longer she hesitated, the mist of disappointment gleaming in
her eyes. Then, with a quiet resolution that was wonderful, she
commanded the saleswoman to remove the coveted temptation, announcing
her determination to take the blue dress which she had previously
fancied.

I was delighted at the character she evinced. I knew how bitterly
disappointed she was, and I was proud not only of her quiet
self-control, but of the loving thoughtfulness she had displayed in
remembering that her little store of gold must be divided with the
toiling mother, the old grandmother, and my own little child.

"Do up both costumes," I said in undertone to the saleswoman, less
attentive now that she had discovered the extent of Mariposilla's
capital. Impertinently folding the discarded dress, she allowed
Mariposilla to struggle as best she could with her buttons.

At my announcement she flew to assist, but I commanded tartly the
packing of our purchases.

After we left the store I noticed several times during the day that the
child still remembered covetously the denied frock; but she behaved
sensibly, and after we had bought the shawl, and the slippers, and a
Chinese doll for Marjorie, and there was still money for a sailor hat
and a few trifles, she appeared satisfied. She enjoyed, with childish
appetite, our elaborate luncheon; while she evinced the warmest
interest in my selection of toys and books for Marjorie. When she
discovered that I had bought presents for her mother and the
grandmother, she seemed to have dismissed entirely the disappointment of
the morning.

We left the city by a late afternoon train, and already twilight had
ceased to linger. As we stepped blindly into the early winter darkness
at the end of our short journey, the voice of Sidney Sanderson sounded
pleasant and assuring.

"You see," he explained, as he unburdened our far-reaching arms, "I
fancied you would need assistance. Antonio gratefully resigned his
responsibilities, and I took the liberty of coming myself with a more
substantial vehicle."

The escape from the uncertainties of the old buggy, to say nothing of
the eccentricities of the pony, filled me with gratitude for our
deliverer. After the tiresome day, it was truly delightful to find a
friend in the depths of the darkness. As yet I had not attained the
independence exhibited by many unprotected women whom I met, and
Sidney's unexpected courtesy so touched my heart that I meekly
determined to forget forever my suspicions of the evening before.

I had never quite overcome my childish dread of the dark, and as we
stepped from the train to the wayside platform I shall never forget the
sickening wave of loneliness that deluged my courage. A longing for the
electric lights of the city, for the first time in months, fastened upon
me; while never before had a familiar voice sounded so welcome as did
Sidney's, coming from the uncanny denseness of the night. It was not
until we had reached the long dark tunnel of peppers that I regained the
composure which I felt continually from my first day with the Doña
Maria.

Through the open door streamed a bright welcome, checking effectually my
transient discontent; for midway in the flood of light danced
Marjorie--a sprite in white, flushed and joyous, she watched for our
return.

Within, the grape roots had been piled high. The supper table shone with
unusual luster. Old silver and rich red roses proclaimed the night a
gala one, and the kind Doña Maria, in her best black silk, bade us the
old-time welcome of Christmas Eve.

The grandmother, resplendent in great gold ear-rings, chattered
garrulously in Spanish, while Mrs. Sanderson smiled indulgently and
regally upon all.

The lady was in demi-evening toilet, and the delicate tone of her
French-gray gown, embellished with lace and caught at the half low
throat by flashing jewels, was to Mariposilla a revelation. To the
simple child the handsome woman appeared a wonderful vision, from which
she could not withdraw her eyes. For the first time she beheld Mrs.
Sanderson in her most captivating rôle; the conventional habit of day,
exchanged for one of rare artistic beauty, had given to the lady a
sudden fascinating youth which was startling. In the less impertinent
light of evening, the encroachments of time were effaced. The
aristocratic features and dazzling teeth belied the years of the woman
whose supreme object had been their preservation. The beautiful hands,
ablaze with jewels, seemed to smite the humble room with light, when the
lady caressed, with amused vanity, the bewildered child she had so
perfectly enthralled.

"Fly, Butterfly," she coaxed, as Mariposilla lingered by her side; "Sid
is starving! and so are we all. Cast aside the old, dull frock and
dazzle us in the new one."

I had always noticed that Mrs. Sanderson was exuberant in the evening.
To her theatrical nature there was something exhilarating in the flicker
of artificial lights. When high noon told her unpleasant truths, she
forgot them the same evening, amid shaded lamps and candles. An open
fire could warm her usually chilly sympathies, until she sometimes
forgot her selfishness in genuine kindness. At such times, occasionally,
she grew honest, and often liberal.

She had declared that misfortunes and ugly surroundings would soon make
her a devil. It was only when deceived by luxury and flattery that she
was capable of good thoughts.

"I am naturally depraved before I have had my bath and my early coffee,"
she would say, jestingly, to the amazement of the literal, whom she
delighted to shock. "Sid, the scamp, knows better than to cross me
before luncheon. In the evening he is safe. When he sees that I am in
the ecstasies of dotage, a perfect old egotist, happy with illusions, he
imposes upon me shamefully."

Strange, worldly woman that she was, it was impossible to condemn her
brilliancy.

She had told us that her great grandmother was a Frenchwoman of rank,
and as I regarded her this Christmas Eve, I seemed to see the proud dame
of the fallen monarchy living again in the imperious form of her
descendant.

I had not completed my hasty toilet when Mariposilla came flying to my
door, breathless. She held in her arms the dress of cream and gold.

"See," she cried; "they have made a mistake! and I must again part with
the beautiful dress. Can I not wear it this once that my friends may see
it?"

I had not the heart to rebuke her; she was so lovely in her ignorance. I
could only smile indulgently, as I bade her enjoy the frock, which was
to be her Christmas present.

"Dear, kind Señora," she exclaimed, passionately kissing my hand; "I
will indeed be good! I will indeed learn fast."

"Very well," I replied, "if you are good I shall always be glad that I
was able to please you. But come, dear child," I urged; "make haste, for
the Doña Maria is calling. She will be deeply annoyed if we allow her
supper to cool."

It was astonishing how quickly Mariposilla complied with my command. Her
transformation appeared to occupy but a moment. And never was the
awakening of an actual butterfly more surprising or triumphant.

Her joy in her enhanced beauty was rapturous and innocent. When we
entered the living-room she hugged herself with delightful vanity as she
approached the astonished Doña Maria.

"Am I not grand? Am I not beautiful?" she demanded. "Is not my dress
more rich than the dresses in the green chest of my grandmother? Be
happy with me, dear mother. Kiss thy child, and give her at last the
little necklace of opals. See," she continued, coaxingly, peering into
a mirror, "see how sweetly the necklace will lie against my throat; just
as my beautiful Aunt Lola once wore it," she entreated in Spanish.

"Hush, foolish child," the Doña Maria commanded sternly; for at the
first mention of the necklace the grandmother had shown ominous signs of
dissatisfaction. When Mariposilla persistently mentioned the name of the
dead Lola the old woman screamed angrily, growing each moment more
excited, until the patient Doña Maria coaxed her gently from the room.

"I am so sorry," cried the penitent child, when the door closed upon the
now shrieking and unmanageable Spanish woman. "I am so sorry that I
compelled my grandmother to make a noise. She approves not of joy; and
my mother, too, is often sad when I am happy; for she then thinks only
of my dead father and the evil fortunes which have befallen us."

For answer, Mrs. Sanderson drew the unhappy girl within the charmed
circle of her arms. With her soft, jeweled hands she clasped about her
throat a pretty string of gold beads. "Say no more about the opal
necklace," she said; "the little beads will do until you are older."

When the Doña Maria returned, Mariposilla had recovered her spirits. She
was talking gaily with Sidney, unconscious of everything but the delight
of the moment. As her mother approached, she flew to her side, that she
might admire the necklace she had just received. With pretty entreaty
she begged the Doña Maria to thank once more the dear friends who had
given her so much joy.

For a moment the mother seemed to forget everything but the touching
happiness of her child. A tender light shone in the great, dark eyes
when she thanked us in a little speech displaying the fervent
characteristics of her simple nature.

The supper was now steaming upon the table. A great platter of chicken
tamales had been prepared, as none but the Doña Maria knew how to
prepare them. The fragrant coffee, the dainty biscuit and the rich
preserves and cream, tempted us delightfully with the unconventional
perfection of Spanish hospitality.

The only restraint upon our complete enjoyment was the consciousness of
the protesting grandmother. Mrs. Sanderson, I perceived, was intensely
annoyed.

Her hatred of the imbecile tyranny of age was plain when the Doña Maria
excused herself, finding it impossible to remain longer away from her
unreasonable charge, now protesting in methodical shrieks.

"Be happy, dear friends," she said. "Mind not the infirmities of my
mother. I will soon soothe her--in time--to sleep; when she will forget
for a season the sorrows of her life. Make free with all that is ours,
and enjoy, if possible, the supper which I have prepared. My daughter
will serve, and may the night be happy!"

Dear, brave Doña Maria! how could we reverence her enough? How forget in
mirth the pathos of her noble unselfishness?

Long after the Sandersons had gone, long after Mariposilla had ceased to
rejoice over her splendid fortunes, forgetting in the natural slumbers
of youth the caressing pressure of the gold beads, or the sweet secret
of the little bracelet hugging her arm, that she must not show, but
could kiss in solitude, long after the gorgeous air castles, built by
the ignorant, innocent young architect, had crumbled for the night, and
I had ceased to listen to the faint noises from the adjoining room, did
the patient Doña Maria keep her vigil.

As I dropped to sleep I heard her tender voice soothing like an infant
the aged mother, who at last sank away into a long, irresistible
slumber.

When the clear, yellow dawn of Christmas morn awakened the cocks of the
corral, I heard the Doña Maria knocking at her daughter's door. Opening
my own I inquired if her mother still slept, begging that I might
relieve for a time her patient watch.

"The Señora is kind," she said, "but my mother will now sleep for many
hours. The Señora need not fear; she will scream no more. She has taken
the sleeping potion, and now I am free to go with my child to the early
celebration."

Mariposilla was now awake. Her hair had fallen over her shoulders and
the little necklace still encircled her throat. About her eyes lingered
the rosy flush of her unbroken sleep. She sat up as we entered, pushing
quickly beneath her nightgown sleeve a tiny rim of gold.

"Come, my child," said the Doña Maria, "make haste and prepare for the
early celebration. Our sufferer sleeps at last, and we may now go
together to the church and thank once more the sweet Mother for the
birth of the Holy Child."

I went back to my room as Mariposilla began to dress. A few moments
later I heard the outer door close gently, and knew that the Doña Maria
and her child had gone.

A strange fear fastened upon me, driving me irresistibly to the
adjoining door. I opened it. The darkened room was a fascinating terror.
I entered, and approached the bed of the sleeping Spanish woman. Her
stillness was terrible. The old horror seized me. I felt once more the
power of my old enemy. Death seemed to be facing me again. The same
cruel, dreadful certainty that I knew so well! I staggered forward to
flee. I must have fainted, for when I revived I was lying upon the floor
in front of the little wooden Virgin. The blessed sunlight was peeping
from the sides of the window curtains, while above the head of the
image there hung a golden beam.

I arose and stood calmly by the bed of the Spanish woman.

The linen was spotless; the pillow cases and night-dress of the sleeper
elaborate with the drawn needlework of the Doña Maria. The snowy
whiteness of the counterpane contrasted strangely with the bronzed,
weather-beaten features and large, gnarled hands of the woman beneath,
so like a mummy that her breathing alone seemed human.

Yet regular and warm as an infant's, her breath issued through her
half-open mouth. No muscle stirred. No sound broke the silence; until,
in the distance, floating above the orange groves, and on to the
Christmas day, rang the bells of old San Gabriel.



CHAPTER XII.


A soothing peace possessed me, as I listened to the ringing of the old
bells. I left quietly the bedside of the aged sleeper to kneel a moment
later by that of my child. The healthy loveliness which I beheld
completed my restoration. As I kissed the dainty, dimpled hands, and
laid my cheek against the yellow curls, her warm, sweet breath infused
my flagging circulation with the energy of love.

I no longer forgot my plans for the morning. Hastily dressing, I
gathered as quickly as possible the various mysterious parcels secreted
about my room, glancing occasionally at Marjorie to be sure that no
possum slumbers hid beneath deceitful lashes. Satisfied that my schemes
were unsuspected, I fled eagerly, with ladened arms, from the silent
house out into the crisp, inspiring air of the sacred morning.

The sun was now well up. As it rose, it touched with magical radiance
the most distant reaches of the Christmas landscape.

Reverently I lingered, enthralled with the breath of Judea. Standing
beneath the old palms I listened to an anthem, led by a lark and
sustained by the lowing cattle, who seemed to tell, as at first, the
birth of the long-expected Saviour; while the rosebuds reflected from
jeweled hearts his pure parables.

About me the purple mountains gleamed with the fresh, cool touch of the
night. Between twin spurs, resting against the bosom of the sky, snow
had gathered, until in the distant outline a pure, white lamb appeared,
slain for the holy festival.

Old Baldy, the high priest of the morning, until now had withheld the
fullness of his majesty. Suddenly the sun with golden shafts rent far
asunder the misty veil that had enveloped his hoary summit. Transfigured
with supernatural glory, the morning seemed to pause for one still
moment, as if to receive his benediction.

"I, too, have been to the early celebration," I said to my heart, as I
turned reluctantly to the pressing demands of the now inaugurated day.

Hastily I hid the packages in various secret nooks, while I decorated a
great white rose tree with cornucopias and knicknacks.

Hardly had the last bauble been hung upon the magnificent Christmas tree
when I heard the plaintive voice of my child.

I hurried to the house to find the little girl upon the bed, struggling
bravely with her shoes and stockings.

"Did the fairies come?" she demanded, springing into my arms for her
Christmas kiss.

For my answer I carried her to the window, through which she beheld the
white rose tree.

"See," I said, "how good are the good little fairies to good little
girls."

"May I go as soon as I am dressed and pick the tree?" the child
besought, her eyes beaming with expectation.

"Yes," I said, "you may go, but I think the fairies would rather you
would wait until our kind Doña Maria and Mariposilla return from church.
The Doña Maria must be very weary; she has not slept all night for
watching at the bedside of the grandmother. I think I know a little girl
who might help to get breakfast, so that when the Doña Maria returns she
can refresh herself at once with some hot coffee. I wonder if the little
girl's name is Marjorie? Or perhaps I am mistaken; I may have forgotten
her name."

Marjorie took one long, regretful look at the rose-tree; then from her
baby heart there escaped a tragic little sigh that was half a sob.
"Please, dear mamma," she said, bravely, "I will mind the fairies."

Fortunately for both mother and child, their resolution was not long
tested.

It took but a few moments to prepare the toast and coffee, for Antonio
had unexpectedly lighted the fire and filled the water kettle. Before
our simple meal was quite ready the Doña Maria and Mariposilla had
arrived.

It was amusing to witness the Doña Maria's mortification when she
perceived that I had cooked the breakfast; her distress was genuine when
she declared that the Señora would certainly be ill. "I am ashamed that
I should have remained so long," she apologized. "The Señora should not
have arisen until our return. It is ill fortune that she has not
permitted me to prepare her a dainty holiday breakfast."

"Dear Doña Maria," I entreated, "why will you deplore what is already
accomplished? I have told you often that a simple breakfast is all that
I require, and our frolic has given me a fine appetite. See," I urged,
"is my toast not a delicious brown? Make haste and enjoy the coffee, or
I shall be greatly disappointed."

"The Señora is most kind," the Doña Maria replied, seating herself
submissively. With her dark hand she brushed away a tear. "We are ever
happy, my daughter and I, that we have known one so good and gentle,"
she added, feelingly.

Marjorie and Mariposilla had by this time declared it impossible to
resist longer the fascinations of the rose-tree, tantalizingly visible
through the open door. Gaining permission, they scampered away, followed
by the hounds. The dogs appeared to understand the occasion. They ran
forward, doubling over with excitement, as though expecting to find a
jack-rabbit suspended from a bough of the Christmas tree. The picture
was a pretty one, and none of us enjoyed it more than the Doña Maria,
who soon left the table and joined the children in their merry hunt for
the hidden parcels.

Marjorie led her about at will, compelling the sedate woman to stoop and
caper as she had not done for years. When the gifts had all been
discovered, we arranged them in rows upon the Bermuda grass, preparatory
to the untying of strings and ribbons.

Marjorie's row was long and diversified, while Mariposilla declared that
she had never before received so many gifts at one time.

"It is because we are so good," Marjorie explained; "for you know that
fairies never bring presents to naughty children, only just stones and
mud."

We all laughed as we continued our occupation each untying in turn a
parcel marked with the name of the recipient and the good fairy who had
been responsible for its safe delivery from the foot of Old Baldy.

With each discovery the air was flooded with shrieks of approval.
Marjorie rejoiced over every little treasure, while Mariposilla
embraced us excitedly at each happy surprise.

Even the Doña Maria grew artlessly gay, appearing to forget that the
grandmother might soon awaken, to be cared for like an infant, and that
Christmas was now but a colorless counterfeit of years past.

"Ah!" exclaimed the sympathetic mother, when Mariposilla held up for
admiration a little silver bracelet; "it is almost like the happiness of
the old days. Not the same; for the Spanish gave not gifts, but the good
cheer is most sweet. I grieve," she continued, "that the Señora and my
child should not have known those once glad days--now gone forever.
Then, all went about from rancho to rancho, free from sorrow; always
joyful in abundance. But the holiday is no more what it once was--so
full of mirth and sweet enjoyment for both old and young; yet ever
sacred, for none dared forget to go to the old church when the bells
rang lovingly the birth of the Holy Child.

"Dear Señora," she continued, her dark eyes intensifying with awakening
memories; "could you have seen the beauty of the old Spanish life,
then, with thy gentle heart, tears would now fall for those of us who
are left."

With increasing melancholy she explained that her child refused to
grieve for the departed glory of her family.

"I am often miserable when I remember how different I once felt, so full
of joy and pride when I dreamed that my children would thank always the
sweet Mother for the nobility of their father's name. Yet I blame not
Mariposilla; for she saw not my husband, Don Arturo. Her life was too
late to know of his goodness and beauty. I could forgive always her
thoughtless indifference, if only sometimes she would weep when I show
her the riding jacket embroidered with gold, and the botas of exceeding
richness, once worn by her dear father. But she is cold, and understands
not what she has lost. She would even profane the precious shawls of her
grandmother, urging that some be sold to envious Americans for gold!"

Poor Doña Maria! I feared that her transient happiness had fled. But she
soon controlled the dash of bitterness that tinctured for a moment her
reminiscences, and continued to describe the wonderful days, once
enjoyed by her now scattered and Americanized people.

"Think not, dear Señora, that I am ungrateful," she begged, sweetly. "It
is perhaps best that my child should grow like the Americans. Her older
kinsmen will soon be gone; the younger ones, like herself, care not to
continue in the old way, seeking to marry with strangers, forgetting
often even the religion of their childhood."

I was loath to interrupt the gentle complaints of the Doña Maria; for
beneath the shadow of the venerable palms her sweet, low, sympathetic
voice enthralled me with realistic glimpses of her picturesque past.

Tears dropped upon the brown cheeks when she told how she had knelt for
the communion that same morning, alone with her child, surrounded no
longer by dear, familiar faces.

"How different it once was!" she explained eagerly. "How sad, yet good,
to remember how once the altar rail was thronged with near relatives and
loving friends. To think how joyful were our hearts when we had
received and could go absolved from the cold church into the warm
sunshine, there to speak pleasant kind words and wish to each other a
merry day. How beautiful to listen to the gay greetings of the young, to
grasp the hands of dear ones, and hear, upon all sides, 'Feliz noche
buena!'"

"Come," she said, rising; "my mother still sleeps, and I will show you
the silken shawls, the lace mantillas, and the embroidered garments of
our family."

Gladly I followed her to the little chamber, where she opened reverently
a huge chest, from which she drew, one by one, the beautiful relics of
her prosperity.

With loving care she took from scented wrappings gorgeous shawls of
crêpe, blooming on both sides with rich, yet delicately wrought flowers,
mantillas of wonderful lace, and dainty bits of Spanish finery, that
brought to my lips repeated exclamations of wonder and delight.

"I am happy to have shown the Señora my treasures," she said, flushing
with pleasure, as she drew, from a silken bag embroidered with silver, a
scarf which she had reserved until the last, as the most precious and
beautiful heirloom in her possession.

Draping it pathetically about her somber figure, she urged me to admire
the delicate green which displayed so marvellously the butterflies
embroidered in pink and gold, studded with real jewels.

"See!" she cried, caressing tenderly the clinging fabric; "is it not
wonderful! So bright and sparkling after all the sad years!"

"The Señora will understand how dear is the scarf of the butterflies,
when I relate to her its story, explaining how it came from Spain, the
gift of my husband's grandmother; how I wore it to church upon our
wedding day to shield from the sun the neck and arms that were once my
foolish pride; how, when we were returning from our marriage, mounted
upon horses decked with roses and splendid with silver and jewels, my
husband, desirous that all should see the magnificence of my satin gown,
caught away playfully the scarf, throwing it about his own shoulders,
while he declared that all must behold the beauty of his bride. After a
time, when our child was born, my husband brought again the scarf of the
butterflies, commanding my mother to wrap it about our boy, that he
might carry him upon the veranda to be admired by our assembled
household.

"Ah! Señora, was not my husband proud the day he went with a company to
the church for the christening of our child? Many relatives had arrived
from Los Angeles and from Ventura, so that our house was overflowing
with cheer. The kitchen and the court were gay with preparations from
morning until evening. Although I could not go myself to the church, my
husband told me joyfully how the dear old Father who had married us the
year before took in his arms our boy, blessing him with double certainty
when he kissed his little cheek.

"But too beautiful to live was our baby, and in one short year we gave
him tearfully to the sweet Mother of Heaven, who heard not our prayers
when our little one lay ill. Two more sons, grown almost to manhood, we
lost; and then my brave husband, who had ever grieved sorely for his
boys, went too.

"I alone remained with my mother and my unborn child, who came not
until her father had been five months dead.

"See," she said, wiping away the tears that suffused her great, sad
eyes; "see, dear Señora, the little petticoats of my dead babies, all
now yellow with age.

"Who will care, when I am gone, for the worthless garments of my little
ones? Surely not Mariposilla, for she understands not why I should still
grieve, after the long years that have passed.

"She loves, however, the scarf of the butterflies, and begs often to
possess it. When I am taken she may do as she desires with it, for it
will then be her own, to treasure or to resign unto strangers.

"Yet I pray that she may always hold sacred the gift of her father's
grandmother; for she, too, was carried to her christening wrapped in the
beautiful shawl.

"Well do I remember how sore was my heart the day that my mother went
alone to the church with my fatherless child. So ill was I, that I cared
not even to name my little daughter, entreating my mother to consult
with the priest, who might choose for us.

"But my good mother was wiser than I, and when she had thought much she
remembered the butterflies upon the beautiful scarf, and how my husband,
Don Arturo, had delighted to behold them glistening in the sunlight when
I first wore the shawl to my bridal; how, afterwards, he insisted that
his children should first be shown to his household wrapped in the
splendid gift of his grandmother. Wisely she remembered these things,
and when, weeks after, I asked her the name of my child, I wept for joy
when she said, 'She is Mariposilla.'"

Tenderly the dark hand folded and replaced in its embroidered bag the
precious scarf of the butterflies. Tearfully she laid it away by the
side of the sparkling riding-jacket and gorgeous botas of the dead
Arturo, while she reverently closed the old chest, relegating to its
scented depths the fading remnants of her former grandeur, together with
the sad, sweet memories of her poetic life.



CHAPTER XIII.


It had been arranged that we should go to San Gabriel late in the
afternoon of Christmas Day.

As the time approached for our departure, I grew more reluctant to leave
the ranch. I was still loath to submit to the restraints of a hotel. Had
I dared, I would have abandoned the visit. It irritated me to submit
heroically to exile from Paradise, but there now seemed no alternative.

The little valise had been packed for hours; the precious evening frock
safely folded away in its scented wrappings, together with little bits
of finery to be worn at the hotel. Mariposilla, radiant and expectant,
counted the moments which delayed our departure.

Even the grandmother was now comfortably restored, having awakened from
her long sleep fresh and docile.

No vestige of excuse remained to justify a change in our plans. An
ordained agreement of trifles appeared conspiring with Fate.

As we bade farewell to the Doña Maria, I found it impossible to resist
the unhappy presentiments which thronged our departure.

When we drove away with Sidney and passed between the great century
plants, a sudden fear seized my vacillating will. I knew in an instant
that I dreaded the possible consequences of what I had undertaken.

In the front seat of the trap, with Sidney, sat Mariposilla, transformed
by excessive happiness and conventional garb into another creature.
Never again would she be the child she had been even that same morning,
when she had romped upon the Bermuda grass with Marjorie, flushed with
pleasure over her Christmas trifles. Now another flush was upon her
cheeks, another light shone in her eyes; for, even as I looked,
Mariposilla had bidden farewell forever to the restraints of her simple,
beautiful childhood.

Had I created a scene by turning back in our journey into the world, it
is hardly possible that I could have obviated the difficulties of
Mariposilla's emancipation from the life she had determined to escape.

As I continued to face the responsibilities of her case I grew more
tranquil. I reasoned that it was perhaps best not to resist the
unmistakable leadings of Fate, which seemed to point to a destiny for
the girl different from the one desired by the Doña Maria. Her
remarkable beauty, the truly good blood which ran in her veins, to say
nothing of her laudable ambition and determination not to accept a
husband dictated by the priest or her relatives, justified me in the
belief that she had outgrown the old life, which was now each day
growing more and more intolerable.

With care and advantages, it seemed not only credible, but certain, that
Mariposilla might eventually satisfy her ambition.

The longer I thought upon the subject, the more I felt it to be my duty
to watch jealously the marvelous and unavoidable development of this
wonderful girl.

In a word, I compromised with my contending emotions, instituting
myself the guardian of her glorious beauty. Our arrival at the hotel was
concurrent with the usual lively glimpses of festivity always prevalent
at a pleasure resort upon the approach of evening. A gush of music, the
ripple of laughter, the tripping of feet, and the spontaneous rush of
cherubs in white frocks to investigate our arrival constituted for
Mariposilla and Marjorie a prime reception.

Mrs. Sanderson awaited us upon the landing of the broad staircase, then
led us cordially to her own apartments. When she threw open the door to
her sitting-room, Mariposilla exclaimed with pleasure as the lady drew
her affectionately to the open fire.

"Sit down, little one," she said. "I will draw some tea, while Sid
attends to the luggage. My pretty butterfly must be warmed after her
drive; for of course she is to outshine all beauties at the ball
to-night."

As Mrs. Sanderson spoke, she went to the tea-table, where the kettle was
already singing.

I could see, as Mariposilla received her tea from the hand of our
hostess, that the shell-like cup and saucer were a source of
apprehension. The child dreaded a catastrophe more than she would have
dreaded, a month previous, a dire calamity in her family.

Covertly she watched me as I deposited upon the side of my saucer the
biscuit that must not interfere with the manipulation of my spoon.

But, although she endeavored to follow my exact policy, her first
attempt at tea drinking was destined to be unfortunate.

Mariposilla had not yet achieved the confidence necessary for the poise
and counterpoise of the treacherous spoon. The girl had not yet attained
the dallying point. She could not yet sip tea one moment with assurance,
the next, disregard the responsibilities of Dresden or Coalport china
while she chatted unconsciously with her neighbor.

Notwithstanding her most earnest efforts to succeed in the undertaking,
the spoon flew at an aggravating tangent across the room. In a frantic
lurch to capture it she upset her cup, spilling into her lap the
steaming tea.

In a moment Mrs. Sanderson was by her side.

"Dear child," she said, sympathetically, relieving the girl at once from
her costly incumbrances. "I alone am to blame for offering you that
stupid cup. Sid declares each time it is used that it shall be the last.

"You see," she added charmingly, "those miserable little feet, that look
so secure when the cup is standing upon the saucer, have a malicious way
of running away. They are just like the profligate dish that eloped with
the spoon, when the cow jumped over the moon."

In a moment, Mariposilla had forgotten her embarrassment.

The lady took her at once to her bedroom, where she sponged away the
stains, petting and reassuring the child until she glowed with
happiness.

Soon Sidney came to say that our rooms were ready, urging us, as we
withdrew, not to be late for dinner.

When we had unpacked our apparel, Mariposilla became at once absorbed in
the delights of her toilet, speculating innocently, while she dressed,
in regard to the mysteries of the cotillion, which she was to witness
for the first time after dinner.

The cream and gold frock was joyfully assumed, and if possible the
girl's pleasure was keener than upon the previous evening.

With true womanly instinct she established the harmonious intimacy
between herself and her finery which at first had been lacking. She now
wore her gown with composure. None would have suspected that she had not
always been well dressed.

She had pushed above the elbow the wide, puffy sleeves, displaying the
lower half of her rounded arms; while the smile that parted her lips
told plainly of satisfaction, when she regarded the effect.

Now that her mother was absent she wore fearlessly the shining bracelet.
About her throat she fastened with delighted vanity the little necklace,
declaring, with one more loving glance into the mirror, that she was
ready.

Marjorie, having finished her tea, had obediently retired, satisfied to
watch for a few moments from her bed our elaborate preparations. She was
deeply moved by our grand toilets, pronouncing us "the beautifulest
peoples in the house." I was the loveliest of mammas, in my long
neglected "dwaggin dress"; while upon Mariposilla she bestowed a
profusion of compliments, as pretty as they were genuine.

When we had kissed the little girl good night, we started at once to
rejoin our friends. Half way down the hall we met Mrs. Sanderson and her
son coming to us.

The lady wore a rich lavender evening gown, while Sidney for the first
time appeared before Mariposilla in the immaculate perfection of full
dress.

I saw in a moment that the Spanish child was in an ecstasy of adoration.
Ever after, it would be useless for the Doña Maria to endeavor to
interest her in the magnificence of her father's once splendid apparel.

Even upon the threshold of this new experience she was captivated beyond
release. Never again would she submit to her old life.

The next moment was felicitous, when Mrs. Sanderson took caressingly her
hand. Drawing it within her own she commanded her son to escort us to
dinner.



CHAPTER XIV.


As we disposed ourselves about the friendly table in the cheerful dining
room, I could see that Mariposilla's wildest desires were at last
realized.

She was trembling slightly, I fancied, as I glanced at her from my
opposite position, but in a moment she had controlled herself, and if
the ordeal of dinner had at first appeared formidable, she soon forgot
her fears in rapturous happiness.

As upon the occasion of the Waltons' luncheon, she watched intelligently
my every move, making no mistakes, as she received prettily the
flattering attentions of those about her.

As dinner proceeded, the girl's excitement was manifest only in her
transcendent coloring. She was dropping naturally, as well as
gracefully, into the most difficult requirements of her social
novitiate. As I watched her anxiously, I grew tranquil with the
assurance that the first step in her education had been successfully
taken, exulting, as I reflected upon the complications of modern dining.

One of my pet theories had led me to believe that I could discern
correctly the character or native refinement of anyone, provided I could
observe, unsuspected, his gastronomical endeavors. I had often
discovered inherent resemblances to the brute, or lingering traces of
the savage, as I watched covertly the table attainments of a person who,
under other ordinary conditions, appeared eminently correct. I felt
willing to stake extensive odds that Mariposilla's social success would
progress satisfactorily in intelligent ratio to her first unique
acquirement.

Our coffee was served in Mrs. Sanderson's sitting-room, where we were
joined by a bevy of young people, to whom we were introduced in
anticipation of the week's festivities.

Sidney and a young Englishman prepared to smoke, while the girls
gathered about Mrs. Sanderson, like moths around a candle.

"Have you heard of the coincidence?" demanded Mrs. Wilbur, a dashing
blonde, who thus far in the season had monopolized the attentions of
the social leader's son. "Imagine, if you please, a shortage of young
women for our cotillion."

"Just think of an extra man in San Gabriel!" shouted the girls in
chorus; while Mrs. Wilbur appealed confidentially to Mrs. Sanderson to
settle the impending difficulty.

"We were expecting six couples from Pasadena, and now, at the last
moment, Ethel Walton sends word that the giddy widow who was to have
chaperoned her party is ill, obliging them to bring a maiden lady who
doesn't dance," she exclaimed.

"Delightful!" exclaimed the girls. "How jolly to boast a rover, and dear
Mr. Eastman at that."

"Won't he be popular?" Mrs. Wilbur added, aside to Mrs. Sanderson, who
was at that moment glancing interrogatively at Sidney.

The young man divined his mother's signal, for he came to her side with
unusual alacrity.

"The very thing," the lady replied to his earnest undertone. "The
arrangement will be quite proper, and I am sure that Mrs. Wilbur will
relinquish you for Mr. Eastman. Won't you, my dear?" the lady continued,
turning suddenly to Mrs. Wilbur, who was now beginning to suspect that
Sidney was quite satisfied to obey the suggestion of his mother.

"It will be so interesting to watch Mariposilla dance in the cotillion,"
Mrs. Sanderson pursued, bravely. "Dear Mrs. Wilbur will excuse you, for
my sake, I am sure, Sid," she added, sweetly, as she turned from that
somewhat ruffled young woman to the Spanish child, who was prettily
pleading her ignorance of cotillions.

"Never mind, dear," she said, coaxingly, to the timid girl, "you dance
divinely, and Sid will take you through the figures beautifully."

I saw that Mrs. Wilbur was chagrined and angry, for a hot flush had dyed
her cheeks, when she replied that of course Mr. Sanderson could do as he
chose. As far as she was concerned she would be greatly pleased to dance
with Mr. Eastman, having formerly refused him her partnership on account
of an early engagement with Mr. Sanderson.

"My mother appears to have solved our difficulties. Mr. Eastman
certainly surpasses me as a partner, and as there is no robbery in a
beneficial exchange, with Mrs. Wilbur's permission, I will dance with
Miss Del Valle," the young man responded, indifferently.

A suppressed titter from one of the girls had the unfortunate tendency
to increase Mrs. Wilbur's pique.

She answered curtly that certainly Mrs. Sanderson had the first claim
upon her son. "Mr. Eastman is a delightful partner, and I am
exceptionally favored in the cut," she added, with spirit.

"Why, Mrs. Wilbur," exclaimed a girl with baby-blue eyes and a
sympathetic costume, embellished by infant devices; "how dare you
perpetrate a pun? You are surely not ignorant of the punishment which
fits such a crime?"

"While you, my dear, have yet to learn of penalties arranged for young
women who can not distinguish between a pun and a simile," Mrs. Wilbur
replied.

Mrs. Sanderson, perceiving that the air was becoming tinctured with
personalities, declared that there were also penalties for being
disagreeable.

"Come," she said, "let us resist the desire to quarrel. I am sure that
Mrs. Wilbur and Sidney are both satisfied, they have simply been
misunderstood; and under the circumstances it becomes a polite duty to
change the subject."

As the lady finished her tactful and decisive rejoinder, she took from
the table a package which had just arrived by express from New York.

"A box of chocolate creams for the one who guesses my Christmas gift,"
she said, graciously, holding above the throng a long, narrow package,
that was certainly not suggestive of any particular thing.

"Each person shall have three guesses, which Mrs. Wilbur will kindly
record."

"Go, Sid, and fetch some paper," his mother commanded; turning sweetly
to Mrs. Wilbur, who was evidently weighing the consequences of refusing
to act as secretary.

However, when Mr. Sanderson brought the writing pad and pencil she
accepted them with mollified mien.

"Mr. Brooke shall guess first," Mrs. Sanderson said, addressing the
diminutive Englishman, who was smoking before the fire.

"What do you say my package contains, Mr. Brooke?" the lady urged; when
the young man persisted in a grinning silence.

"Weally, my deah lady, I am deucid poor at a fancy;" he at length
divulged.

"Never mind," cried the aggressive baby girl; "say anything! Time is
precious."

"As you insist," the man replied, "I fancy the package contains Mr.
Sanderson's sweetheart."

"That is but one guess," objected Mrs. Wilbur, "there are two more
possibilities in store for you."

"Three sweethearts, as you bother so," the Englishman replied, greatly
elated at his wit.

"Very well," said Mrs. Sanderson. "Three sweethearts are surely not an
impossibility to a young man; are they, Sid?"

"Certainly not," her son replied, as he lit, with adorable indifference,
a fresh cigar.

"Now, my little Butterfly shall guess," Mrs. Sanderson declared, turning
to Mariposilla, who was the unconscious center of the admiring throng.
All listened eagerly to hear what the beautiful child would say;
suffused as she was with charming embarrassment.

"I am sure it is a gift of devotion and great affection," she answered
modestly, gazing with touching earnestness into the face of her adored
friend.

"How extremely pretty!" approved Mrs. Sanderson.

"Thus far the contents of the package is enchantingly abstract; can not
some one, who is matter-of-fact, indulge in a guess which is tangible?"

In accordance with the request, there followed in quick succession a
volley of reckless ventures, each outdoing the other in substantial
reality.

When the guessing ceased, Mrs. Wilbur remarked the weight of the
package, and announced that she believed the box contained shot.
"Nothing but lead could weigh so heavily, but of course, as secretary, I
am not guessing," she remarked, indifferently.

"Surely, you must guess!" Mrs. Sanderson urged, sweetly; but as Mrs.
Wilbur insisted that she preferred to keep out of the game, the lady
said no more, but proceeded to undo the mysterious parcel.

A shout of admiration burst from the expectant company when she exposed
for view an elegant silver picture shrine, containing three superb
postures of a beautiful girl.

"By Jove, I am right!" lisped the Rivulet, gleefully. "Did I not say
three sweethearts?"

"Certainly Mr. Brooke has won," several cried at once.

"Don't be so sure," retorted Mrs. Wilbur, in an undertone. "Did I not
say the box contained shot? If you doubt the fact, look at the Spanish
girl," she added, censoriously, to Sidney, who appeared not to hear.

It was true that Mariposilla had grown strangely pale. She seemed like
one smitten by a remorseless blast. Instinctively she vanished from Mrs.
Sanderson's side, while her pitiful eyes implored me to take her away.

Fortunately, at this particular time the tallyho arrived from Pasadena,
and to my infinite joy the situation was relieved. Mariposilla,
forgotten in the excitement, soon regained her composure, and later,
when we entered the ballroom, her color was restored and her distress
obliterated.

I was glad that Mrs. Wilbur and I had alone witnessed the child's
jealousy. The rest of the company had been too busy admiring the
pictures to notice Mariposilla's pale countenance; while Mrs. Wilbur's
sarcasms had been uttered low, apart from the throng, as she sat by the
table on which she had been writing.

I felt that the poor child's secret was safe for this evening, at least;
for I believed Mrs. Wilbur too wily to acknowledge her rival at present.
The woman of the world still hoped to distance the Spanish child.

I could see that she was determined to drive her to a disadvantage if
possible.

The cotillion was not to be enjoyed until a programme of dances had been
offered to all the guests of the hotel, some of whom had not been
favored with invitations for the cotillion.

This arrangement proved fortunate for Mariposilla. She forgot her first
slight embarrassment entirely, as she glided happily among the less
exclusive throng, who good-naturedly jostled her as she passed in the
dance.

Sidney had assumed entire charge of her. He had arranged her programme
with great consideration, interspersing his own name freely between the
names of the most desirable men in the room; while he reserved for
himself the privilege of escorting her to the refreshment room,
preparatory to the cotillion.

The evening from its beginning appeared auspicious for Mariposilla.
Between dances the child flitted to my side like a happy bird.

"It is most grand, Señora!" she whispered, as Sidney drew her away for a
waltz.

During refreshments, I noticed that Mrs. Wilbur was both fascinated and
annoyed at the sensation the girl was producing. Where would the matter
end? I asked myself.

Even in the midst of Mariposilla's apparent success, I felt my heart
sinking with apprehension. "Why," I questioned, "Why did I let her
come?"

The dancers were rapidly leaving the supper room, and when I looked for
Mariposilla, she, too, had disappeared. Thinking that she had gone below
into the ball-room, I followed hastily; but she was not there. Excusing
myself to Mrs. Sanderson, upon the plea that I must peep at Marjorie, I
ran hastily above, hoping to find my charge in one of the reception
rooms. Faithfully I searched the parlors and corridors, and later the
verandas, in vain, for a trace of the truants, so successfully escaping
me.

There was yet Mrs. Sanderson's sitting-room. I must pass it on the way
to Marjorie.

I hastily ascended the stairs, contemplating, as I flew along the hall,
my chances of interrupting a tête-a-tête.

I felt indignant that Sidney Sanderson should abuse so soon my
confidence.

I realized that Mariposilla already had been missed by her rival, and
the thought that the inexperienced child would doubtless be criticised,
and perhaps maligned, was decidedly irritating.

Slackening my pace as I approached the vicinity of Mrs. Sanderson's
parlor, I perceived the door ajar. A second more and I comprehended the
absurdity of my vigilant endeavors. My conscientious plans and
sentimental reservations, thus far, were not proving superior to the
wiles of Cupid.

I winced cruelly when I remembered the confident schemes for
Mariposilla's gradual translation into the bosom of the conventional
world.

In the center of the room, her profile outlined by acute emotion, stood
the Spanish girl. Bending beside her, Sidney was evincing an ardency
entirely paradoxical, when I considered his indifferent temperament.

Mariposilla held in her hands, which trembled, the silver shrine,
containing the pictures of the beautiful girl.

"You love her not?" she repeated in an ecstasy of doubt; her voice
gradually rising in joy at the sweet denial she had forced from the lips
of her lover.

Her head was still in profile, but the long lashes, that had lifted to
disclose her rapture, now dropped like a sable fringe upon her precious
secret, while she listened in silent contentment to the deep undertone
assurances of the man by her side.

I could endure the restraint no longer. Tapping deceitfully upon the
door, I began at once an animated search for my fan, inwardly disgusted
with my cowardice, furious over my imbecile failure as a chaperone.



CHAPTER XV.


Mariposilla was the belle of the cotillion. Seated between Sidney and
Ethel Walton, she knew no embarrassment. When dancing, she was
absolutely free from self-consciousness.

I assisted Mrs. Sanderson at the favor tables, where I had every
opportunity of observing the girl's behavior.

She was constantly called out, and to my delight accepted her popularity
with gracious modesty.

Often, when she came for a favor, Mrs. Sanderson delayed her to whisper
a compliment, or else to lavish upon her a marked caress.

From first to last, the happy child was noticeably bedecked with
trophies of success. In her hair a number of gauzy butterflies of
different hues fluttered as she danced, encouraging the fancy that she
was truly related to the gorgeous little creatures after which she had
been named.

By the side of the Spanish child the other girls appeared artificial.
Their respective claims to beauty seemed easily determined, the limit of
their fascinations soon estimated.

"I never felt so blasé in my life before," Ethel Walton whispered, as I
handed her a favor. Later, when there was an intermission in the
cotillion, she crossed the room and sat by my side.

"As I told you once, I feel dreadfully blasé to-night," she said,
picking to pieces a rose which had fallen away from her stylish gown.
"To watch your wonderful protégée rejoicing over the sweet, uncertain
trophies of her first cotillion, is entirely refreshing. Her extravagant
happiness makes me feel as though I had finished my course and been
decidedly beaten."

"Did you ever see anyone so effulgent?" Ethel continued, following with
her eyes the outlines of Mariposilla's figure. "No one in the room can
approach her in beauty," she mused amiably. "And yet the girl inspires
no jealousy; for, like Donatello, her moral nature seems absolutely
undeveloped. Sometimes she seems like an exquisite link between nature
and the fallen angels."

"Have you, too, noticed this?" I exclaimed.

"Yes," Ethel replied, "I have been thinking about her ever since that
first visit to Crown Hill. If I am ever famous in the Salon, Mariposilla
shall be the theme for my picture."

"If you work I am sure you will succeed," I replied.

"I hope I shall continue to work," she answered, "but even work is an
uncertain proviso. Sometimes I wonder why God inconveniences the
ordinary mortal with an imagination. Why does he not reserve the
allurements of art for the genius of the century alone?"

"I so often envy my sister," the girl continued. "It is beautiful to
watch her at a high church service. This one exalted caprice seems to
satisfy entirely her cravings after the extraordinary. She believes the
tenets of her faith so implicitly that she is never beguiled into
uncomfortable doubts. She never reaches after unattainable things, and
is absolutely satisfied with the common conventions of life."

"Then surely she is happy?" I replied.

"Yes," answered Ethel, "but look at Sidney Sanderson. Certainly he is
in love with Mariposilla! Watch him a moment and see how he has
forgotten his blasé part to-night. All things considered, I believe the
match would be a good one," she continued. "Sid is carnal enough to
appreciate Mariposilla's physical perfection, and I believe he could
easily dispense with moral and intellectual qualities."

Later, when Ethel bade me good-night, she whispered that I might depend
upon her as my ally. "If Mr. Sidney becomes too masterful let me know,"
she said, gaily, as she enveloped herself in the folds of her evening
cloak.

Long after the hotel had been hushed with the final hush which follows a
ball, I lay awake thinking of Mariposilla and the possible intentions of
Sidney Sanderson. Time after time her beautiful, passionate face
appeared before me, tortured, one moment, with wild, half-civilized
jealousy; the next, transcendent with blissful trust in the man she
loved.

When I awoke from my unrefreshing slumbers at the usual time, aroused by
Marjorie, who had crawled into my bed, I felt that I must invent a
pretext for returning Mariposilla as soon as possible to the care of her
mother.

The morning was dull. A prophetic contrast to the glorious Christmas
dawn of the day before. The rains had been threatening at intervals for
several weeks, but the sun had dissipated the clouds each day, leaving
always the impression of a pleasant trick arranged for the bewildered
tourist, who, contrary to the example of natives and adopted
Californians, lugged about persistently his mackintosh and umbrella,
declaring each cloudy morning that rain must certainly fall before
night. Then, suddenly, the gray clouds seemed to melt into the liquid
blue of the sky, while against the sides of the purple mountains only
one long streak of vapor rested, like the shroud of a giant.

The week before Christmas the sky had smoothed away its every trace of
rain. Light snows had sugared the feathery outlines of the distant
peaks, and the delighted tourist had hung up his mackintosh and
umbrella, deciding that the climates of Southern France and Italy were
not to be considered with that of Southern California. Now the clouds
had returned reënforced. The range had grown richer in color, almost
black, except when the sun shot for a moment his presence in temporary
triumph against a spur, that glistened responsively, while the cañons
scowled in dark disapproval. Then, all at once, a gloom, like a
half-dropped curtain, settled back of the foothills, defying the
prophecies of the most ancient mariner of the Coast.

As I awoke I felt with unusual depression the absence of the sun. And
when I drew aside my curtains I peered in vain for streaks of gold
threading the horizon. The morning was lifeless and gray. Even the great
clusters of cactus, the remains of the natural wall planted by the good
padres years ago for protection against the Indians, seemed an invasion
of gray spirits. Not so when the sun glanced their bristling tops, for
then they shone like knights in full armor.

My heart went out in childish homesickness to the Doña Maria and the
little nest I had prepared for myself in her simple Spanish home. While
I dressed myself and Marjorie, I turned over and over the subject which
had taken possession of my thoughts. How could I escape the
complications of this inopportune visit? How could I, without offending
the Sandersons and noticeably meddling with the discretion of the Doña
Maria, return quietly with Mariposilla to the ranch?

But the problem grew more difficult as the day advanced, for Mariposilla
was now in a seventh heaven, which surpassed entirely her expectations.
All at once she was the pet and sensation of the hotel. Mrs. Wilbur had
conquered her pique of the previous evening, and, for reasons clear to
herself, she flattered and patronized the child with unlooked-for
benevolence. The gay young woman seemed to have recovered her lost
temper, for she urged Sidney and Mariposilla to waltz after breakfast,
volunteering, with sweet unselfishness, to furnish the music for the
aimless crowd who had congregated in the ball-room. Later, the tennis
experts insisted on a few last sets before the rain, and all sauntered
in the direction of the courts, pairing off as they went, drawn by the
flirtatious affinities of the moment.

However, tennis soon languished, and the crowd returned to the
Sandersons' sitting-room to beguile the rest of the morning with guitars
and banjos. Mrs. Wilbur professed unbounded admiration for Mariposilla's
performances, and engaged to practice with her that same afternoon, when
the present audience had dispersed for beauty naps.

"We could soon play together wonderfully well," she declared. The woman
had evidently decided that her best game was to patronize Mrs.
Sanderson's guest, if she intended to regain the attentions of Sidney
when the girl departed. Yet she loved to embitter the latent
apprehensions of the poor child by constant reference to the face in the
silver shrine. I could see that although Mariposilla carried herself
with unusual composure, there was beneath her stifling calm a lurking
tempest of doubt and jealousy. She seemed horribly fascinated by the
unpleasant possibilities of the beautiful face that occupied so many
conspicuous situations in the room. She gazed again and again at the
lovely, aristocratic features which haunted her to despair. Once she
locked them passionately in their silver case. Quickly turning to a pile
of music, she tried to hide her secret; but Mrs. Sanderson had observed
her.

"Looking at my beautiful Gladys again?" she said, drawing the blushing
child to her side. "I hope you will know her some day, for Gladys would
love you dearly. She adores everything beautiful."

The color deepened beneath the Spanish girl's cheek as Sidney's mother
continued to explain the tender relations existing between herself and
the New York heiress.

"Gladys is the daughter of a school friend, who died when her little one
was but six years old. She is my godchild, and I have watched the
motherless child grow up, thinking always of her loss. The dear girl has
many lovers, but refuses them all. She lives only for her father, who is
an invalid. She will never marry, I am afraid, during his life. I had
hoped to bring them both to California, but, instead, they have gone to
a sanatorium, about which Gladys has grown quite wild. The poor girl
believes that her father is going to recover, and has shut herself away
from society and friends, only to be disappointed," the lady added, with
calculating sympathy.

"Perhaps her father will live many years," Mariposilla said, eagerly. To
the suspicious child no Providential arrangement could be more
satisfactory. That the father of Gladys might be spared to a green old
age would now become a part of her prayers. She would say, that very
evening, a double number of aves to our dear Lady. She would supplicate
her to keep the beautiful Gladys with her father in the hospital for
many years. Then, perhaps--she told her poor, foolish, jealous little
heart--then, perhaps, Sidney would love only herself.



CHAPTER XVI.


For a brief period in the afternoon the clouds of the morning promised
to disperse. The wind shifted from the rain quarter, and the sun made a
sickly attempt to shine.

Patches of yellow light tantalized the sulky sides of the mountains. A
presumptuous rainbow started to span the sky, but parted in the middle
and soon disappeared in the settled gloom which quickly followed.

When the sun first tried to break through the clouds, shortly after
luncheon, Mrs. Sanderson proposed a walk.

"Come," she said, "I must have the air. One can not house up in
California. Even one day indoors stifles. Mariposilla has arranged to
practice duets with Mrs. Wilbur. Sid is obliged to go to Los Angeles;
Marjorie is asleep. Our best plan is to walk down to the Mission and
back."

We had gone but half way to the old church when we perceived that a
rain storm was now indeed coming. Each moment the air grew colder. The
wind suddenly ceased to compromise with the south, changing almost
immediately into the east. The mountains disappeared, and soon the
foothills were hidden beneath a smooth veil of mist. Several immense
drops announced the gathering downpour.

"Come," said Mrs. Sanderson, "let us make haste, before we are
drenched."

We were both famous pedestrians, yet before we had reached the hotel the
rain was pelting our faces with stinging persistency. We barely reached
the veranda when the deluge came.

Those who have seen a California rainstorm, watching for days, perhaps
weeks, the baffled efforts of the clouds to wipe out the landscape, will
understand the term. No word but "deluge" describes adequately the
steady, unremitting torrent which breaks at last from the sky.

As we entered the house I felt like crying. I was chilly and tired, and
had the feeling that I had been beaten even by Nature. There was now no
excuse for returning to the ranch until after the rain. I had foolishly
pleaded the danger of exposing Marjorie to the drive, in case of a
storm, and now the rain had come--come to stay for several days; perhaps
for a week. I could not consistently depart until the downpour had
ceased.

When I said early in the day to Mrs. Sanderson that the weather had
become so threatening that I would very much prefer taking the children
home, she silenced me by reminding me that Mariposilla was visiting with
the full consent of the Doña Maria.

"The child would be heart-broken to lose one day of her promised week.
As for yourself, you need a change to wake you up. It is absurd for one
so young to refuse the natural enjoyments of youth, and I think your
determination not to dance a pretty but silly affectation. California is
not the place to mourn in. The climate is opposed to dejection. The
natives go to funerals in the morning and chase with the hounds in the
afternoon."

"Don't," I cried peremptorily. "Don't make me believe that you mean what
you say."

"All the same, I do," she replied. "I am a fatalist, and while I am
permitted to enjoy myself, I shall avoid sackcloth and ashes."

Perceiving that I was hurt, she endeavored to appease me.

"Never mind, little dignity," she said, smiling her rarest smile. "You
are always preaching me silent sermons; though you don't mean to scorn
me, I feel your principle in the air, until I am wild to shock you in
return."

Later, we went for our walk, each a little uncomfortable, as each began
to wonder why she had chosen the other for her friend.

Upon our return Mrs. Sanderson had remained in the corridor in front of
the open fire attempting to dry her dress. I went above at once. As I
passed the familiar sitting-room I saw through the open door that the
room was deserted. Mrs. Wilbur and Mariposilla had evidently not made a
success of the practicing. Without stopping I went to my own rooms,
where I found Marjorie still asleep.

Pushing open a communicating door, I saw Mariposilla upon her bed. Her
head was buried in the pillow, while long, choking sobs caught and held
her breath. She had been so happy but a short time before, flattered and
pleased because Mrs. Wilbur had invited her to practice duets, that I
was surprised at her condition.

"Tell me, dear child," I said, gently, "what has happened."

For several moments she refused to speak, but after a time she grew more
composed. It was clear to me at once that Mrs. Wilbur was responsible
for the girl's passionate grief.

"Never mind my unhappiness, dear Señora," she said at last, touchingly.
"I am a poor, foolish girl, and must weep when I am sad; just as I
rejoice when I am happy. It is not so with the Americans--they smile
always, even though they are miserable."

I found it impossible to insist upon a confidence.

"Yes, dear," I agreed, "as people grow wise and worldly, they generally
grow deceitful. I dare not advise you to cultivate insincerity; but for
convenience you must endeavor to control your emotions. You will, after
a time, learn that it is often best to smile, even though you feel
sore. Often a heartache or a heart hunger will go away when we have
bravely concealed it."

"Indeed, I have done so!" she cried, fiercely. Rising from the bed she
confronted me excitedly. Upon her sweet face, still wet with tears,
there was an exultant expression, mingled with tragic distress.

"She knew not that I was unhappy! She thought only to make me wretched,
but I wept not until I was alone," she sobbed, triumphantly.

Poor little one! how my heart ached for her! How readily was she
acquiring the miserable experience from which I would have saved her.
Never again could she be the Mariposilla she had been before this
unfortunate visit.

The flame was now lighted which threatened to consume her.

"Come, dear," I said; "you must not mind Mrs. Wilbur. She is a vain,
foolish woman. If she has hurt your feelings, she has shown herself
coarse and vulgar. Perhaps we had better order a close carriage and go
back to the dear Doña Maria," I continued, jumping at the opportunity to
escape from our difficult surroundings.

"No, no!" she cried, passionately; "let us not go away. I will be
foolish no more. I will look no more into the silver shrine if only we
may stay longer."

It was impossible to repulse her confidence. I could not then urge her
to shield her love from the probabilities of disappointment. I could not
add to the anguish of her afternoon. I shrank from assisting Mrs. Wilbur
in her cowardly attack. At present I must wait. A few days, at most,
would restore the child to the care of her mother. I would then know
better what course to pursue.

In my inmost heart I believed that Sidney Sanderson would be willing to
marry the beautiful Spanish girl, but as yet I could not interpret his
mother.

I was beginning to feel more and more the woman's artful depth, but yet
I did not really doubt her.

Mariposilla was now quite composed; the thought of our return to the
ranch had silenced her at once. She bathed her face and dressed for
dinner with the greatest care, soon appearing as if nothing had occurred
to disturb her.

In defiance to the pelting rain, an impromptu dance was arranged for
the evening.

After dinner the young people flew to their rooms to improvise fancy
costumes, for Mrs. Sanderson had decided that the ball should be masqué.

The lady showed at once great energy in arranging the costumes to be
worn by Mariposilla and Sidney. After considerable maneuvering, she
succeeded in converting her son into a splendid Spanish cavalier. She
had upon her wall a superb trophy of a sombrero, ornate with silver
decorations, which, with other trifles and a red silk scarf properly
arranged, completed the gallant don of the past. Mariposilla, in her
actual character of sweet señorita, was enveloped in a rich mantilla of
black lace, coquettishly caught upon the shoulders and to the hair with
pink roses. A short black satin petticoat displayed the pretty little
feet, encased in dainty slippers that shone with jeweled buckles. The
girl's bare arms and hands glittered with the contents of Mrs.
Sanderson's jewel box.

We all confessed that we had never seen anyone more beautiful. The
theatrical yet natural character which she assumed had driven away
every vestige of her depression. Never before had the child appeared so
gay. Mrs. Wilbur's most insinuating remark had now no sting. The joyous
present was enough; she would not believe that the future might be full
of tears.

I remembered, long afterwards, how Sidney Sanderson had forgotten to
look bored; and how both he and Mariposilla had neglected everyone in
the room but each other, like two happy children in their devotion.

Not once again while we remained in the hotel did I see a shadow upon
Mariposilla's brow. In vain did Mrs. Wilbur endeavor to excite her
jealousy. The child was too happy to doubt. Each moment she grew more
beautiful, maturing almost as we watched her, with the ripening
influences of her strong first love.



CHAPTER XVII.


The breath of Easter was in the air. It was hard, even in that last
penitential week, to renounce the seductive wooings of those first April
days. In the little Episcopal chapel, or in the venerable Mission, we
acknowledged each evening our infirmities; but with all our abnegation,
there was for some of us an heterodox satisfaction in hastening away
from our prayers.

We wanted to exult, rather than to bemoan "our manifold sins and
wickedness."

We were not sufficiently impressed with our depravity to smell
brimstone, when the air was richly purified with the scent of orange
blossoms and millions of newborn roses.

Doubtless our lenten orthodoxy would have developed more strongly in the
cutting blast of a Manitoba blizzard. We would have felt more contrite,
drawn by the persuasive chastisements of a sweet spring cyclone. But in
such days as the ones which followed each other like glad birds in a
flock, it was difficult to assume a despondency adequate to the
penitential demand.

The Gold of Ophir rose and Mariposilla were now blooming together. The
old house was bright, outside and in, with light and glory.

From the veranda and the crest of the roof, long sprays of dazzling
bloom swept voluptuously to the sky. In the blushing hearts of myriads
of buds and blossoms, the sun whispered each day his rapturous secrets.

Wonderful from its first hour of triumph until its last pale,
dilapidated petals have fallen to the ground--a moral to its transient
magnificence--this rose is tragic.

It seems always the glorious prototype of Mariposilla, who ever stole
its fickle lights and shades. As I watched, through those eventful
weeks, the marvelous unfolding of bud to flower and child to maiden, I
was never able to separate them in my thoughts. Their analogy was
captivating.

I have already said that I learned instinctively to watch for the girl's
mood in the complexion of the rose. When the edges of its petals burned
with fire, I knew that Mariposilla, too, glowed with hope and ecstasy.
When the fog smote sullenly the golden heart of the Ophir, I felt
without looking that the girl, too, was pale, tortured with jealousy,
and indefinite forebodings. Thus for me there will always remain the
fancy that between this rose and the Spanish child there existed a
kinship--a subtile sympathy, that each unconsciously felt when the other
was near.

Looking back over those happy days, they seem fraught with no ordinary
conditions. Unconsciously all took part in the several acts of a
realistic drama.

I see now, as I could not then see, the innumerable cues, the important
by-play and scenic situations, which eventually led up to an inevitable
climax.

As the weeks glided away, I no longer doubted Sidney Sanderson's love
for Mariposilla. Had there been a sign of opposition on the part of his
mother, I would have warned the Doña Maria. But, to the contrary, Mrs.
Sanderson increased her affection daily for her pretty plaything; often
alluding to the girl's beneficial influence upon her son.

"The scamp is head and ears in love!" she said one day. "Just look at
him. I should die of rage and jealousy if I didn't adore his sweetheart
myself," she confided.

Mariposilla and Sidney were at the far end of the veranda, oblivious to
all but each other.

The woman then went as far as to intimate that a few years in a
fashionable New York school would do all that was necessary for
Mariposilla.

"Beauty such as hers would be ruined by rigorous education. Fortunately,
Sid hates wise women. Imagine Mariposilla developing the occult
transitions of theosophy. Come here, you pretty butterfly!" she cried.
"Sid is a greedy boy to keep you away so long. Go fetch the guitar; I am
just in the humor for music."

Thus the woman countenanced the wooing, petting, and enriching with
gifts the happy child, while she silenced my own doubts and those of the
Doña Maria.

That Mrs. Sanderson was selfish, worldly, and at times mercenary, I
well knew. However, these very attributes led me to believe that she
would gratify herself and her son. I knew how thoroughly she would enjoy
the absolute control of Mariposilla, how extravagantly she would equip
her with the elegancies of life, exulting that Sidney's wife eclipsed
always the beauty of other women.

Beauty she worshipped.

It had never occurred to her that Sidney might possibly marry a plain
woman.

"If Sid should marry a homely girl, I should hate her," she said, one
day. "Is he not splendid?" she would ask, when her son chanced to dwarf
physically his associates.

And Sidney's exterior was admirable. He dressed perfectly, and there was
about him the freshness of perpetual bathing. To Mariposilla he was the
ideal type of masculine American elegance.

She scorned each day in her secret soul the careless, unconventional
dress of the remaining Spanish men of her acquaintance, feasting her
eyes with childish delight upon every detail of her lover's faultless
attire.

Yet, withal, Sidney was not a fop. He was too blasé, and at times too
sullen, to represent the gibbering class to which his immaculate and
ultra-fashionable clothes might have otherwise attached him. But his
unbounded reticence was his greatest protection; while it gave him, with
some, a reputation for depth. Many believed that, although not brilliant
in conversation, he sympathized silently with culture, and was shrewd in
business affairs. In truth, Sidney had never taken an active part in his
mother's financial transactions; but that her son was a dummy she
carefully concealed. There was a laudable spirit in the woman's
attitude. Her affectionate subserviency to her boy in the eyes of their
friends was admirable.

I had so often seen wealthy mothers humiliate and belittle their sons,
that, although I believed Mrs. Sanderson to be the business brains of
the family, I was glad that she abstained from flaunting the fact.

I think I understood the elements of Mrs. Sanderson's character at that
time quite well, with one exception. Unfortunately, I stopped too soon
in my analysis. I innocently took it for granted that she possessed a
moral side to her worldly and perhaps frivolous nature. Here was my
fatal mistake. I did not understand that the woman would unflinchingly
sacrifice any one for selfish, momentary enjoyment.

In all cases her own pleasure was suggested by the inclinations of her
son. To keep him contented and passably respectable, she would have
ruined her dearest friend.

Ethel Walton was arranging an entertainment to take place shortly after
Easter. The girl was an enthusiast. Everything that she did called for
her heart's best efforts.

Her present schemes were charitable. The Episcopal church needed an
organ, and Ethel had determined that the necessary money should be
raised. Her artistic and really poetic nature had found an outlet in the
existing emergencies of her church, and she boldly originated a grand
rose pageant. Each day she grew more enthusiastic over her prospects of
success.

All the youth and beauty of Pasadena had been pressed into the carnival.
The opera-house had been generously donated by the owner; while the
papers each day keyed to the highest pitch the expectations of the
public, by promising the most ravishing display of beauty and flowers
ever gathered upon the celebrated Pacific Coast.

Even the Doña Maria had been beguiled into loaning treasures from the
sacred green chest. But, best of all, she had generously consented to
allow Mariposilla to dance, when Ethel explained, in her pretty way,
that everyone was taking part, for the glory of Pasadena, if not for the
church.

"Will you believe it?" she said; "I have had scarcely any opposition. My
dances are all full, and I have two magnificent marches composed of
beauties, whose scrupulous parents can't quite go the tripping, but are
delighted to allow their consciences a constitutional walk."

The rehearsals were, of course, an interesting excuse to go to Pasadena;
and each week we drove over with Mariposilla. At home she was
continually practicing her steps, and the clicking of castanets soon
grew familiar. She was alive with enthusiasm and expectation; while her
costume to be worn upon the eventful night became a matter for our
united thoughts, before it was at last satisfactorily designed.

It was all that the Doña Maria could do to restrain her restless child
through the long, religious hours of Good Friday. When they knelt
together in the old church, Mariposilla listened not to the solemn
prayers. Sternly her mother rebuked her inattention; but the girl's eyes
were flooded with happy dreams, and she forgot over and over again the
crape-draped cross. The pictures of the stern, gloomy saints failed to
frighten her into a state of contrition. Only to the Virgin did she
sometimes lift her wandering eyes to implore protection for the lover
now absent from her side.

When the sun rose gloriously upon the last day of the penitential
season, Mariposilla's spirits rose too. Nothing could restrain her.

"I am most tired of prayers!" she cried, innocently joyous in her
emancipation, as we went together, at the request of the Doña Maria, for
lilies.

Like a field of snow in the sunshine the tall, pure flowers bloomed in
symbolic beauty, for the world's glad festival. Our offering to the
sweet Mother and the holy Child was a thousand--and on Easter day they
would make glorious the old church.

For years the Doña Maria had dressed the ancient Mission for Easter, and
for several seasons her daughter had also assisted. Now for the first
time the girl plead excuses.

She wanted to go to Pasadena with Sidney and Mrs. Sanderson, as there
was to be a rehearsal of her dance in the afternoon and Ethel had urged
them to drive over early and lunch at Crown Hill.

Sadly the Doña Maria turned from the basket of white roses she had just
gathered.

"What!" she exclaimed, "does my child refuse to honor the sweet Mother
and the holy Child? Never before has she thought it other than joy to
arrange the holy altar."

"Forgive Mariposilla, dear Doña Maria," I said. "Let me assist this
year, and later, when the work is completed, I will drive the child
myself to the rehearsal."

To this arrangement the mother agreed, and in consequence we had gone
for the lilies early, reaching the old church in advance of other
workers.

As we drove through the long, shaded roads of San Gabriel, the waysides
seemed lined with devotees. Everyone was going to some church with
flowers. Wagon-loads of lilies and roses were soon a common, though not
less beautiful spectacle. Loveliest of all were the little children,
hastening eagerly upon their sweet errand, with arms almost hidden
beneath fragrant burdens.

We met one small child carrying in proud distinction a cross of violets.
Another bore a crown of golden poppies, smiling with the light of the
foothills.

When we approached the Mission, groups of Mexican children, many of them
in their bare feet, thronged about us with funny little offerings,
composed of flowers whose astonishing tones were often a mad blending of
orange and deep pink.

The near advent of the happy festival had awakened in these humble
breasts and uncultivated natures a God-given love for the beautiful.
Each arrangement of flowers told a touching story. In every bunch was
hidden the angel of the child who gathered it.

When we halted with our fresh burden, Father Ramirez, who was standing
in the doorway of the ancient church, hastened with courtly
consideration to assist us. The old priest commanded the staring
children (in Spanish) to carry the flowers into the church, as he
gallantly hitched our horse.

Once free from the wagon, I found it impossible to resist the
picturesque old stone stairway, which leads from the ground to the choir
above. Stealing a moment from my duties, I ran up the rough, time-worn
steps, and from a little overhanging balcony caught the morning vision
of the valley, stretching peacefully beyond.

"Some time I must come here in the moonlight," I said, as I descended
and entered the chilly old church. "Surely I would learn sweet secrets
which the sun each day effaces."



CHAPTER XVIII.


It had been an eventful day for Ethel Walton. Now but a brief half hour
remained to determine the creditable success of the rose pageant.

With a sandwich in her hand, she had slipped into the rear passage
leading to the door of Mrs. Sanderson's box.

"No, I can't come in," she replied to her friend's entreaty to enter. "I
want just one little peep at the audience, while I eat my supper. I must
feel particularly inspired in this last dreadful moment. And the house
is grand," she exclaimed, triumphantly. "'Delightful to the ravished
sense,'" she hummed, enveloping herself gleefully in the folds of a
sheltering portière.

"What a relief, after all these weeks! Sister has just come from the
front, where they are actually speculating on the tickets. It sounds too
good to be true. I hear the distant strains of the new organ!" she
cried, dramatically. "If only we can postpone the murder of the calcium
light man by our bloodthirsty Professor Tiptoe success is ours!"

She flew gaily from the box to attend to the last few arrangements that
prefaced the overture.

Pasadena's handsome opera house had been, possibly, the supremest
blessing of the great boom. At the time it was built, few doubted the
absolute necessity of a rival city for the south of the State.
Fortunately for beautiful Pasadena, the men with visions were ruthlessly
awakened to find Los Angeles still the acknowledged commercial center of
the valley. In the meantime, her aristocratic suburb had an opera house
and a number of other delightful conveniences that might have been
delayed in the absence of a boom.

The audience assembled upon the night of the pageant indicated assured
prosperity. The sight was an opulent surprise for the uninstructed
stranger. Not a vacant seat was visible. The upper galleries were
crowded to the wall; many were standing in the aisles.

From our box we rejoiced for Ethel in the finished brilliancy of the
scene.

"Every one in the set is here but the Prince of Wales," Mrs. Sanderson
remarked, jestingly, as she surveyed with honest astonishment the
elaborate equipments of the evening.

Extending completely around the balcony, across the proscenium, and
encircling both upper and lower boxes, bloomed a variegated band of
exquisite roses, four feet in width.

Here and there the luxurious band turned from a knot of glorious
Duchesse into a stretch of Maréchal Neil, which farther on caught hold
of the vivid Henrietta. Touching close the pure French rose-color, the
simple, unaffected La Marque lay like a field of snow between voluptuous
meadows--for next beyond, almost throbbing, scintillating with every
change of the lights, shone the Gold of Ophir.

In its distinctive beauty, it seemed to steal from the wonderful galaxy
of bloom the composite glory of all.

Last in the wonderful band, the Jacqueminot imparted its dark beauty,
also its rich odor of high-born culture that lingers in the petals long
after their color has fled.

Although the general scheme of the pageant had been a secret, it was
soon understood that the roses used in the decoration of the auditorium
were sympathetic representatives of those personified upon the stage.

Each dance was to be an idealization of a particular rose. In the
audience, personal preferences were quite noticeable; for favorite
dances were boldly championed, not only in corsage bunch and
boutonnières, but by superb bouquets of enormous size.

It is doubtful if more beautiful floral decorations were ever seen.
Viewed from the stage, the dress circle and parquet appeared a huge
garden of beauty; the boxes, fairy bowers, twined with their
representative roses.

Those attending, almost without exception, were in full evening dress.

Gay parties of visitors from the various hotels waited eagerly for the
rise of the curtain, satisfied that the decorations of the house
justified great expectations for the performance. Anon, were heard
surprised confessions from the provincial Easterner, who had for the
first time discovered the existence of a civilized West.

Mrs. Wilbur laughingly owned that her only opportunity for enjoying a
peep at the notorious "wild and woolly" was one afternoon when she had
gone into Los Angeles to a wild and woolly show from New York. The show
pretended to represent the common peculiarities of the West, whereas she
blushed to acknowledge it an embarrassing portrayal of Eastern conceit
and prejudices.

Mariposilla was to dance in the Spanish dance. She was to personify the
Gold of Ophir rose--their subtile charms would mingle at last.

It is hardly necessary to relate that our box bloomed with her chosen
rose; that we ourselves heralded our devotion by wearing no rose but the
Gold of Ophir.

As the overture died away, the curtain lifted upon a scene at once
familiar with local beauty. The time of year was supposed to be
November; and at the foot of the protecting Sierra Madre, whose tops
stretched away in the distance, we beheld the old garden of Las Flores.
The gray haze of summer still hung about the peaks, for the Silver
Harlequin, the son of the mighty Rain God, had not come.

Nature was inactive, as yet unable to overcome the lethargy of her
annual rest.

In the garden, sheltered by interlacing trees and tall palms, upon a
couch of verdure, slept the goddess Flora--her pagan spirit now at last
purified and free, after weary wanderings in regions of ice and snow.

Close to the Goddess slumbered the golden Poppies, who ring always the
first sweet bells of spring. The Poppies were dainty children, whose
golden heads and gowns of yellow and green told instantly the story of
the Foothills. The music, which from the first had been soft and dreamy,
now suddenly grew harsh. Its poetry was gone, for stealing into the
peaceful garden came the ashy Breath of the torrid Desert.

At last he had outwitted the Silver Harlequin, the son of the mighty
Rain God! and his diabolical joy was horrible to behold. His agile
movements were wonderful, as he appeared to actually float through the
air. One moment he leered at the unconscious Goddess, the next he
satirized, in a demoniac dance, the belated Harlequin. Then, unable to
control his mad fury longer, he summoned from his desert kingdom an army
of Cacti to despoil the beautiful Valley. At the head of this evil
legion, bristling with cruel needles, and grotesquely formidable in its
reality, the Breath of the Desert took formal possession of the Happy
Valley. Through excited gestures he commanded the Cacti to take root in
the fruitful land, to spear the charming plants and choke the tender
flowers; while he breathed upon the sleeping Flora his own fiery breath,
that she might never again gaze into the shining face of the Silver
Harlequin, or feel the touch of the gentle maiden, Spring.

But his conquest is short, for, even as he exults, the Silver Harlequin
appears, glittering and strong, from the realms of the Rain God.

In his hand is the magic sword with which he fells to the ground the now
powerless Cacti; then, in majestic anger, challenges to single combat
the vile usurper.

A moment the irreconcilable enemies pause, and then ensues a deadly
fight; thrilling and uncertain as the passionate music leads it on.
Again and again each combatant strives for mastery. Implacable hate
flashes from their burning eyes as their merciless swords strike fiercer
and fiercer. Now, wilder grows the combat; wilder speaks the music,
until at last the fatal plunge is made. The magic sword of the Rain
God's son has triumphed. At the feet of the glittering Harlequin the
Breath of the Desert falls.

The music then sank into a low, sweet whisper of melody, while at the
same instant the precious rain was heard. The veil of mist ascended from
the glad "Mother Mountains," and a glorious rainbow proclaimed the
advent of the gentle maiden, Spring, who came joyfully from the Magic
Cañon. In her train danced a company of wee, fairy raindrops, who
deluged the Valley gleefully with showers from their sparkling wands.

Spring held in her hand the magic fern, stolen from the queen of the
highest waterfall of the Enchanted Cañon. With her glittering band she
descended the mountain to do obeisance before the mighty Harlequin;
then with the wonderful fern she awoke the golden Poppies and the
sleeping Goddess.

In the second scene, Nature is fully aroused, and gracious Flora smiles
again. The maiden, Spring, pulsing with joy, clad in a robe of palest
green, adorned with sprays of maidenhair from the far, cool cañon, the
breath of almond blossoms in her golden locks, dances before the
Harlequin the dance of Spring. Gliding about the garden she tells her
wonderful secret with poetic grace, falling at last upon her knees
before her shining master, who commands her to bid the Poppies ring once
more the glad, golden bells of Spring.

No words are spoken. All is action--poetry in motion, intensified by
music.

As the drop fell on each of the scenes, the house grew stormy with
applause, the air sweet with flying bouquets; while the audience turned
one to another to exclaim at what they had seen, and to speculate upon
what was yet to come.

The curtain now rose upon the carnival of the Foothills.

The season had advanced to the latter part of February, and from field
and roadside trooped the wild flowers.

In a succession of charming dances and marches, children and young girls
personified, in artistic and sympathetic costumes, the wealth of wild
flowers which each year adorns the Southern California spring. First
came the Poppies, ringing long chimes of golden bells to the music of
their dainty yellow feet, while close to them marched, in bewildering
phalanx, the delicate lavender Brodiæas. The Brodiæas were graceful
maidens in æsthetic gowns, overlaid with the effective flowers that
trailed from a belt, like green silk cords tipped with purple tassels.
Their pilgrim hats were solid with purple bloom; their long pilgrim
staves a marvel of loveliness, covered with ferns and nodding lavender
flowers.

Next came the Wild Daisies--dear little girls in quaint, creamy gowns,
sprinkled with yellow field flowers. On their heads, demure Dutch caps
produced the impression of careworn Gretchens, as they sat upon
three-legged daisy stools, knitting their stint of a daisy stocking.
Last, from the Foothills came the Baby-Blue-Eyes--wee men in blue,
trundling small wheelbarrows overflowing with starry blue flowers.

When each group of wild flowers had in turn completed the dance or march
expressing its idealized part in the carnival, they together formed into
a triumphant tableau as the curtain fell, stormed again with
enthusiastic applause.

But the event of the evening was yet to come. The rose pageant was about
to begin, and Mariposilla would soon dance.

Thus far there had been no delay in the performance, no uncertainty, no
halt. We rejoiced momentarily for those who had worked so tirelessly.

The director of the orchestra, a German, intense and enthusiastic, had
worked hand in hand with Ethel to interpret to the highest degree her
poetic ideas. The little man's delight was visibly manifest as the
performance proceeded. Not once did the music halt, not once did the
intelligent leader fail to intensify the climax of the stage.

When the drop rose for the grand pageant of the season a hush was upon
the house.

Then murmurs escaped from all.

"How superb" exclaimed Mrs. Sanderson, her handsome, critical face
softening with pleasure.

It was now the season of Easter; the rapturous Valley was in its glory.
High up in the mountains, in a wooded cañon, fringed with growing ferns,
beneath a canopy of roses, we beheld the Goddess. The simple outlines of
her classic robe defined her nobly. Her charming, gracious bearing was
beyond expression, her serene beauty the theme of all.

Before her knelt the Silver Harlequin.

With dignity the smiling Flora commanded him to arise and produce the
pageant of Roses, the glory of the year. Now, in obedience to the
Harlequin's magic sword, the Spirit of Easter is felt in the land.
Mission chimes smite suddenly the air. The music deepens into a grand
march, while the bells strike time to its solemn measures. Then appears
a wonderful procession moving slowly to the old church; for from the
far-reaching ranchos of the Valley have assembled strong youths and
sweet señoritas. The snowy robes of the neophytes are embellished with
symbolic stoles of white roses; in their hands they carry long fronds
from the date palm, that wave as they march to the victorious strains of
the music. The girls follow, wonderfully beautiful in the ever-changing
lights that intensify their pure robes, or color, with violet, and
green, and amber, the long, floating veils fastened to crowns of white
roses. Pure roses deck their throats and glistening arms, while in their
hands they bear tall tapers in rose candlesticks. Like a beautiful
vision they pass and repass, the waving palms and shining tapers telling
a sweet story of youthful devotion to a poetic religion. Then the music
deepens, the fickle lights intensify, and the old bells ring sadly and
solemnly the chimes of a picturesque and dead past.

As the White Roses drifted away, the scene suddenly changed.

In a blaze of light and music, the Silver Harlequin now called before
the Goddess an array of dainty color and grace. Stepping the faultless
measures of a court quadrille came the ladies of the Duchesse Rose. Clad
in Empire gowns of pink, garlanded with pink roses, wearing huge hats
from under whose rose-laden brims they glanced with coquettish charm,
they took all hearts by storm.

Next in the marvelous pageant came the Yellow Butterflies, born in the
hearts of the great Maréchal Neil. One by one they flitted with bright
yellow wings from the dark hiding-places of the garden.

The sixteen glancing creatures were blondes. Golden hair floated about
their white shoulders, and golden crowns sustained the jeweled antennæ,
which quivered while they danced. Maréchal Neil roses clung to their
gowns and smiled into their faces, as they poised and wavered in the
gorgeous, ever-changing lights.

Now from the distant Orient were seen approaching dark beauties clad in
the purest rose color. They were borne by slaves of the Sultan in
sumptuous sedans covered with rich Henrietta roses. As the beauties left
their flower chairs, they posed gracefully before the goddess, then sped
away to perform a charming tamborine dance, which fully realized the now
exalted expectations of the audience.

Hardly had the roses of the Orient vanished before the garden was again
brilliant. The sweet Jacqueminots had come in dainty aprons, big
kerchiefs, and colonial caps. Industriously the pretty maidens plied the
rose-twined spinning wheels of their grandmothers, until the imaginary
stint was spun; then, abandoning their picturesque wheels, they joined
in an old-fashioned dance upon the green.

When the colonial maids had passed from sight, followed by rounds of
patriotic applause, Mrs. Sanderson moved nearer to the front of the box.

"The señoritas have discharged their spiritual duties; they are coming
now to dance," she said, smiling, as she eagerly scanned the side
approaches of the stage.

She had but ceased to speak when from secluded Spanish gardens,
flourishing now only in the imagination of the aliens who destroyed
them, came the dark, happy, historic señoritas.

Emotional, fickle, passionate--rare personifications of their typified
rose--the matchless, wonderful Gold of Ophir. A hush of surprise for a
moment pervaded the house; then its enthusiasm burst forth, when the
sixteen señoritas began to weave and glance in the intricate measures
of an old Spanish dance.

"Where," whispered Mrs. Wilbur, "did Miss Walton find these marvelous
creatures? And how did she create such costumes?"

"The coloring is perfect," Mrs. Sanderson declared. "The fickle shading
is all there, showing in every detail. See how the Ophir buds nestle in
the yellow lace mantillas. The effect is thrilling."

Fast and daintily flew the thirty-two golden feet. Brilliantly flashed
the jewels on the white arms, swung high at the bidding of castanets.
Then the spirit of the music changed, and the señoritas vanished into
the shadow of the trees, to return instantly with gorgeous hoops of
Ophir roses. Dancing again, they formed at last on each side of the
garden.

From this living phalanx of bloom, extending like twin sprays of the
marvelous Ophir, sprang Mariposilla.

Shaming not her prototype, she stood before us, the vision of all that
we had anticipated.

For a moment she hesitated, trembling like an Ophir bud in the breeze.
Then her lovely, tearful eyes sought for Sidney. For once in his life,
the man forgot himself. For once, honest emotion swayed him.

Leaning unconsciously from the box, enamored, forgetful of the audience,
spellbound, he snatched from his coat the rose that Mariposilla had
given him. Pressing it to his lips, he flung it at the feet of the
trembling child.

It was enough. The dancer's response told passionately, without words,
what she never could have said.

Her form seemed suddenly enveloped in translucent light. She was
oblivious to everything but the rapturous moment.

Clad in the fatal satin skirt of the Doña Maria's little dead sister;
about her throat, the coveted necklace of opals, and, draping her
beautiful head, the filmy yellow wedding lace of her mother, she danced
as she never danced before. She seemed a marvelous apparition, freed
from a haunted chamber of the Alhambra. With every step, with every
movement of the palpitating figure, with every droop of the deep-fringed
eyelids and every fling of the glancing arms, the ecstatic passion of
her young life was manifest.

Unconsciously she imparted to the dance of her nation the tragic
possibilities of her nature.

Forgetting all restraint, all method, she abandoned her liberated body
to the emotions of her throbbing soul.

Long afterward, all remembered how she had swayed the great house into
irresistible tumult; then suddenly had floated mysteriously away, lost
in the dazzling retreat of the señoritas.

The pageant terminated with a superb tableau, symbolizing the end of the
prolific rose season.

At Easter, and for a number of weeks after, nature grows prodigal. Then
comes a lull. The roses have exhausted themselves. The brilliant
carnival is over, and a number of weeks must now elapse before the vines
and bushes gather strength to flower again.

With an appropriate accordance to reality, the closing tableau
represented, with poetic significance, the return of Spring, accompanied
by wild flowers and roses, to the Magic Cañon.

From the front of the garden the brilliant procession wound upward in
tiers of harmonious color, until, far above in the mountains, the
Silver Harlequin and Spring stood close to the entrance of the Magic
Cañon. From the heart of this enchanted spot all had issued--a divine
secret; all were again returning to sleep until nature bid them once
more arouse. This last magnificent spectacle was glorified by strong
rose lights; while from above a silent rain of variegated rose petals
fell like a soothing benediction.

When the curtain was at last down, the artistic and financial success of
the pageant was the theme of the entire community.

The profits of the matinée, to be given the next afternoon, would more
than defray expenses, and the proceeds of this victorious night would be
safe.

Ethel and her able assistants were happy with excitement. Upon the now
demoralized stage they were receiving congratulations from throngs of
friends. Ethel stood like a delighted child between her father and the
rector, when Mrs. Sanderson approached to utter the pretty things she
always said so well.

At her side stood Mariposilla, flushed and submissive to the woman's
bold caresses.

"Our little Butterfly is weary after her wonderful flight," the lady
said, turning to the rector in her inimitable way. "Bring the little
one's cloak, Sidney," she continued, addressing her son, who went at
once to find a rich, fur-lined garment belonging to his mother.

"There," she said, when the young man returned with the wrap and placed
it solicitously about Mariposilla, "the dear child will now be quite
safe from a cold."

The running hither and thither was at last decreasing. The lights were
growing dim and the performers were rapidly dispersing. We ourselves
were just leaving the stage, when Ethel flew to my side and claimed
Mariposilla for the night.

"She must come home with me," she declared. "I want to take care of her
for to-morrow. It is perfect nonsense for her to drive to San Gabriel
when she must return at noon to-morrow. I am determined to have my own
way to-night," she cried. "It is the duty of all to spoil me this once,"
she declared, when Sidney interfered, volunteering to bring Mariposilla
to the opera house in good season the next day.

"No, sir," said the girl with an oracular shake of her finger,
"Mariposilla belongs to me to-night. You may control her movements after
to-morrow."

Reluctantly the child yielded to the decision of Ethel. As she parted
from her lover she unconsciously smiled up into his face a regretful
good-night that answered touchingly his own silent renunciation.



CHAPTER XIX.


Ethel went early to the opera house the morning after the eventful night
of the pageant. The flowers would need freshening, and the girl was
determined that the matinée should give full satisfaction to those who
had been denied the excitement of the opening night. She knew that many
delicate persons and children would attend in the afternoon. There would
also be critical ones, who, having failed to secure tickets in time for
the evening performance, would come to the matinée, perhaps with
ungenerous spirits. For these reasons Ethel desired that the decorations
of the house and stage should both delight and astonish, as they had
done upon the previous evening.

Afterward the girl told how she had felt almost like weeping when she
entered alone the dark, chilly opera house.

"It seemed like a great tomb, with its thousands of wilting roses," she
said. "Until joined by others, I was filled with a horrible depression.
I felt as if something miserable was about to happen. The flowers really
looked no worse than I had expected, for the gorgeous band was still
effective; but its first, perfect freshness was gone, its roses were
dying, and I was alone at their death. Of course," she continued, "I
felt better when we covered the withered places with fresh roses, but I
was still restless and foolishly apprehensive."

Yet, with all the girl's uneasiness, she had little time for indulging
nervous presentiments. There was much work to be done, and the time was
short. Even when the decorations had been satisfactorily freshened, her
unreliable performers would have to be looked after.

One girl had left a candlestick, which must be retrimmed; another had
forgotten to take home her hoop, which had to be twined with fresh Gold
of Ophir roses. Last of all she must collect and sort carefully all the
necessary articles that would be called for by fair irresponsibles at
the very last moment.

When I joined her in the green room at one o'clock, she looked anything
but dejected, as she dabbed energetically the contents of a rouge pot
onto the cheeks of a procession of maidens, filing in turn before her.

"There! go in peace, and dance your best," she cried, flinging away the
ruddy rag as the last of the file passed on to the artist who was doing
the eyes.

"Everything moves anxiously to-day," the girl said, pathetically, while
she rested a moment against the wall. "I suppose I am a simpleton, but I
feel as if the crack of doom were at hand. Mariposilla is late, although
I told them to send her at half past twelve, and the Harlequin's wife
has forgotten his cap," she said, almost hysterically, as she turned
from my side to answer a volley of unnecessary questions.

"Where shall we go, Miss Walton?"

"Miss Walton, can't I have some paint on my cheeks?"

"Please, Miss Walton, my slipper is untied!"

"Miss Walton, my sister has lost her hat."

"Go directly onto the stage and stay, in readiness for your positions,"
the girl answered, distractedly.

"Come," I said, hoping to take her a moment out of herself, "Come with
me into one of the flies; I have something to tell you."

"Dear me," she exclaimed, "what can have become of Mariposilla?"

"She is safe to-day," I answered, as we entered the fly. "She is safe
to-day! But what will become of her to-morrow? The Sandersons have
gone!"

"The Sandersons gone!" the girl repeated, in excitement. "Where have
they gone?"

"They left to-day at noon for New York, to enable Sidney to marry, if
possible, Gladys Carpenter. Her father has just died. With his death the
daughter inherits three millions."

The words had but escaped my lips when a commotion in the adjoining fly
betokened some catastrophe. In a second we had pushed through a crowd of
frightened girls, to bend in horror over the prostrate form of
Mariposilla.

"She is dead," cried Ethel. "She heard what we said and our words have
killed her."

"Hush!" I whispered, "she has only fainted. Get water quickly."

Ethel flew at my bidding, while I unfastened the little bodice that but
a moment before had heaved so lightly with the pulsations of a happy
heart. Dear little Butterfly, I thought, how cruelly have your poor
little wings been crushed!

Hot, indignant tears rained from my eyes, as I superstitiously unclasped
the opal necklace, once worn by the beautiful, unfortunate Lola.

Ethel had now returned with the water, and the crowd, still pressing
about us, was creating a panic.

"Stand back," I cried. "Don't you see you are taking every breath of the
air?" As I spoke, the excited, curious, theatrical throng fell away.

Enveloped in her mother's wedding lace, that in the fall had shrouded
her with prophetic significance, Mariposilla lay like one dead,
unconscious of a miserable awakening. As I bent beside her I almost
dreaded to see the heavy fringes lift from the beautiful eyes that I
feared would never shine again with their old happy light.

"Dear child!" I whispered, as I applied the water, "what can we do to
mend your poor little broken heart?"

While I yet spoke, the delicate eyelids began to quiver, and a little
hand to tremble. A tired sigh and then a stifled sob burst from the
lips.

"Darling, be brave, you have only fainted. I will take you home to the
dear Doña Maria," I said, as naturally as I could.

Mariposilla lifted her great sorrowful eyes in mute entreaty; then two
heavy tears rolled to her cheeks, imploring me to fulfill my promise. I
knew that it was best to take her home while she wished it.

In her weakness she had not the strength to realize her sorrow. She
seemed almost to have forgotten the occasion of her shock, for she
closed her eyes at once, and submitted almost unconsciously to her
transportation to the carriage. Tenderly we placed her on the very
cushions from which she had sprung, but a few hours before, radiant and
expectant.

Would she not see Sidney! The cruel night, and the long, uneventful
forenoon were at last over. Now she could dance again for her lover.
When it was all over, she would ride away with him in the gay trap. He
would tell her once more how fondly he loved her. Tell her how beautiful
she was--how much more beautiful than the cold, wise Gladys. Then she
would go again to the dear, bright hotel for dinner. She would sit by
Sidney. He would watch her every desire, and when dinner was ended they
would go to the pretty sitting-room, where she would look fearlessly
into the silver shrine; for never again would she be jealous and weep.
No, no! not when her lover had sworn that he loved not the cold,
beautiful Gladys; that he cared not for her riches or accomplishments.
Then, after a while, all would go to the ball-room; Sidney would lead
her to dance, and Mrs. Wilbur would be unhappy. But she--she,
Mariposilla, would be joyful!

Poor, foolish little Butterfly, flitting eagerly from flower to flower,
drinking, unconsciously, deadly poison with honey, how cruelly different
from the sweet dreams of the morning would be the realities of the
evening!

While she ran gaily from the carriage at noon, full of sweet, innocent
visions, the ironic interpretation of her pitiful fate was even then
decided. For, flying from rash promises, flying from the distractions of
her beauty, flying from the tardy entreaties of conscience--Sidney
Sanderson and his mother had gone.

With every intervening mile they were outstripping her ruined love, were
nearing the selfish goal of the mother's ambitions; nearing the desolate
Gladys, who, bowed with grief, and ignorant of all, would take, at the
entreaty of her dead mother's friend, the reluctant lover who could
never make her happy.

Poor Gladys! Poor Mariposilla!

Even before I allowed myself to acknowledge the perfidy of the woman
with whom I had been so intimately associated, I began to understand
her, when, early in the morning, a groom from the hotel brought me a
note, asking me to drive over at once, as they were to leave that day at
noon for the East.

"Duty compels us to go," Mrs. Sanderson wrote, shamelessly.

The word "duty" aroused at once my suspicions. I felt with a creeping
certainty that Gladys Carpenter was the woman's prey. I believed that
some unexpected turn of fortune had revived Mrs. Sanderson's ambitions.

I was sure that she had at one time relinquished all hope of obtaining
the heiress for her son; but I felt on my way to the hotel a sudden
presentiment that, on account of some unlooked-for occurrence, she was
going to New York to revive her abandoned schemes.

I felt an uncomfortable stiffness as I entered the once familiar
sitting-room, now in a state of wild disorder.

Mrs. Sanderson was on her knees, packing the last trunk. Upon the floor
were piles of clothing and innumerable trifles, which she had torn from
the wall.

"Dear child! How good of you to come!" she said, extending her hand with
brazen determination. "It would have broken our hearts to have left
without seeing you. And dear Mariposilla! and Pet Marjorie, and the good
Doña Maria--how can we ever be reconciled to leave them?"

"Why is your departure compulsory?" I asked, coldly.

The woman perceived instantly that I understood her, but her control was
perfect. Her will was diabolical, yet for a moment a gleam of anger
darkened her eyes. Then she answered naturally:

"Dear Gladys has lost her father. She is perfectly crushed, and has
wired us to come at once."

I stood like a stone, while she told again of the intimate relations
that had always existed between the families.

"Gladys is just like my own child," she continued, turning away her face
with the pretense of forcing a protruding Indian basket into the trunk.
"We are so disappointed to miss the matinée," she said, with her face
still in profile. "Sid begged to stay until to-morrow, just to see
Mariposilla dance, but I persuaded him that it would be brutal to
neglect Gladys one moment longer than the necessary time for our
miserable journey."

Before I could reply she had crossed the room to her son, who was
fumbling over a finished trunk.

"Don't touch the things in the tray," she cried, nervously. "I never saw
such a boy. This morning he actually packed books on top of my best
tea-gown."

I knew that the insolence of the woman had cowed me. She was sublime in
her villainy.

I stood helplessly rooted to the spot which I had first selected upon
entering the room. Too weak to stand unsupported, I leaned against the
table. My perverse silence must have astonished the woman, but she
talked on loquaciously, appearing not to notice my lack of interest.

How I despised her! How hard she looked to-day, when only the night
before I had thought her charming and humane.

Doubtless she had slept but little since she left the box in the
Pasadena opera house. In the strong morning light she looked old and
strangely haggard. Dark circles defined more clearly the faint network
of wrinkles beneath her eyes. Her whole countenance was drawn with the
tension of her anxious night.

Her aristocratic nose seemed elongated with the avaricious thinness
noticeable in grayhounds when the chase is at its height. Even the
delicate, shapely hands appeared parched and old.

Never again would I think of the woman as beautiful.

I saw her now for the first time in her true, deplorable character.
With but one object to accomplish, her masterful selfishness had taken
possession of her soul. Closing tightly its chamber, she refused to hear
the entreaties of the outraged voice that plead in vain. For Mrs.
Sanderson, retribution was the ghost of the cowardly; repentance, a
science to be skillfully ignored.

I could endure my thoughts no longer.

"Good bye," I said, coldly, as I walked mechanically to the door.

As I spoke, the woman raised herself with decision from the floor. With
outstretched hands she attempted a fraudulent embrace; but I anticipated
the movement in time to escape.

"No, no!" I cried, in childish tremolo; "you must not touch me. I will
not pretend that I am sorry that I will never see you again. I will
never forget what you have done. Now I will go away, despising you, to
the unhappy child whose life you have ruined for selfish amusement and
the idle entertainment of your son!"

At last I had spoken, and at last she recoiled before me.

Without waiting to hear what she would attempt to say, I fled like Lot
from the City of Destruction. But fatal curiosity I had not, and I cared
not how the Sandersons writhed in the fire of my indignation.

My only desire was to get out of the house and never see them again.

As I left the hotel the groom in waiting advanced to drive me home.

"I will walk," I said curtly, spurning even this last attention from the
woman I had left.

Later in Pasadena, when I heard the departing shriek of the Overland,
with its echo flung fatefully back from the mountains as the train
rounded a curve, I knew that the Sandersons had cut loose forever from
the complications of their San Gabriel episode.

In justice to Sidney, I believe him to have been the better of two bad
people. I believe that in his sensual selfishness he would willingly
have resigned his mother's ambitions in regard to a marriage with Gladys
Carpenter, glad to enjoy, for a time at least, the simple fascinations
and marvelous beauty of Mariposilla.

The man was so perfectly carnal, so easily bored by the least
intellectual superiority in a woman, that I believe he would have
remained true to his own choice, had it not been for his mother's
threats and positive command to marry, if possible, the three millions
at hand.

I know that the thought of the classic, high-bred, sorrow-bowed Gladys
must have been a cold shock, after his recent associations with
Mariposilla. He must have remembered long how the Spanish girl adored
him openly with all her young heart. Perhaps even as he went away the
man held in cowardly reserve the possibilities of a refusal from the
heiress.

I knew without being told that the conflict between the mother and son
had been bitter. The mother had conquered, but Sidney had managed to
write a parting note to his abandoned sweetheart, which the poor child
unfortunately received. His slender promises only delayed her final
despair, making it hopeless for those about her to arouse her pride or
to graft in her trusting heart a proper disdain for the false lover.

I afterwards read his cowardly note, and saw clearly its import.

Now that Mrs. Sanderson had at last wearied of her infatuation, the
proud, high-born Gladys, with her millions, would eclipse a dozen
Spanish beauties. Soon she would laugh and jest over the affair with her
New York friends, describing Mariposilla delightfully, while she
enlarged upon the poor child's passion for her son.

I have since wondered if the Spanish girl would have been happy had Fate
consented to her choice. I sometimes believe that eventually the
restraints and requirements of the untried life would have wearied her.
I also believe that with a nature so true, so simple and affectionate,
she would have done her best to excel in the eyes of those she loved. In
a responsive atmosphere her proud ambition would have fulfilled her
will. With the cold and critical she would have lost her subtile charm.
Away from her mountains and unconventional life she might have learned
sad lessons. She could never have conned them alone without an aching
heart; for, like her rose, she would have grown pale and dejected away
from the sunlight of love.



CHAPTER XX.


In Southern California that part of the year extending from the middle
of November to the middle of May virtually represents to the stranger
its season.

The secret of the delightful summer, tempered, especially in the San
Gabriel Valley and the vicinity of Santa Barbara, by unfailing
sea-breezes, would astonish the infidel tourist who has flown excitedly
away, stubbornly denouncing the summer as unbearable. Perhaps he has
experienced two or three warm days in May that have played a trick on
the tardy trade winds. If so, he comprehends perfectly, from a few
weeks' sojourn, the imminent danger of climatic cremation.

He believes, ignorantly, that he has fled from the mid tropics, when he
mops the damp perspiration from his gigantic brain-front in the dizzy
June of an interior town. Devoutly thanking the kind Providence that has
returned him to Tuckersville, he proceeds to write for the Tuckersville
_Sun_ full particulars relating to the climate and limited resources of
Southern California.

Still, contrary to the slanders of the Tuckersville man, the weather,
with the exception of a few warm days in the early spring, remains
delightfully cool from the middle of April until the middle of August.

September is possibly less agreeable, for it is then that people are apt
to believe themselves tired or warm, and there is a general wishing for
change.

In the sweet, quiet summer, one wishes for nothing.

Refreshing breezes from the broad Pacific extend inland for many miles,
and if occasional warm days come, the coast is near by, always inviting
for a day those who do not care to stay long by the sea, or cannot
afford a protracted outing.

For those who desire weeks of recreation and salt bathing, the Pacific
coast offers every advantage. On the irresistible Santa Catalina Island,
at the pleasant hotels that dot the coast, or in the poor man's
sequestered cañon close to the sea, there are opportunities of rest and
enjoyment for all.

To the resident of the San Gabriel Valley, who truly loves its grand,
natural beauty enough to enjoy the free gifts of each day, there is
about the summer a never-ending sense of peace and rest.

The winter months are restless and rushing--full of social excitement
and alive with indefatigable sight-seers. As long as the tourist is
abroad in the land his presence is a perpetual challenge. His
disappointments are personally felt each day by his friends.

It is unfortunate that much of the picturesque hospitality of earlier
days should have given way to a more laborious and less charming mode of
entertaining. Now, the Marthas of pretentious country houses and elegant
villas are "cumbered about much serving."

I had fortunately escaped both convention and routine in my life with
the Doña Maria Del Valle, but I had been drawn by degrees into an
experience that, from the beginning, was an anxious strain. I was now
almost ill; I needed a change and the sea.

Yet I dared not desert Mariposilla, for I felt daily the burden of the
part I had taken in establishing her intimacy with the Sandersons. I
was determined to restore, if possible, her stolen happiness. The child
seemed now comparatively docile and less changed than I had feared. I
did not expect her to resist at once her first crushing disappointment,
but in a few weeks I expected to take her to the seashore, when I hoped
to surround her with new friends and new pleasures.

Time alone could help her, and I was full of hope.

I had now fully determined to educate Mariposilla, to fit her, with the
Doña Maria's permission, for intimate contact with the dangerous world.

So infatuated I became with my plans that I again misunderstood the
girl, while I foolishly lost sight of her race inheritances.

I thought she would revive, after a time, as an American girl would have
revived. I expected her to be restored, with new beauties of mind and
character.

As the days went by and nothing unusual happened, I told myself,
joyfully, that experience was working the cure. I believed that soon a
womanly scorn would heal effectually the wound which Sidney Sanderson
had inflicted.

The girl had not grown less beautiful. With her trouble there had come
into her face, after the first wild paroxysms of grief, a look that I
could not interpret. I know now that it was the reflection of hope, a
hungry, superstitious expectancy that tugged hourly at her heart.

Sidney's parting note had inspired in the ignorant girl the faith that
he would return.

She had grown very gentle. She went regularly to mass, and arranged
flowers each day in front of the little Spanish Virgin. One day I
noticed that she had wreathed the picture in ivy, and ever after the
grotesque little Mother displayed her finery subdued by the dark, cool
leaves.

In the child's own room was carefully treasured every trifling relic of
Sidney's past devotion. She had decked the whitewashed walls, in
imitation of Ethel Walton's æsthetic chamber, with every small, sweet
souvenir of the winter. The favors she had received at the eventful
holiday cotillion surrounded the little looking-glass. Above her bed
hung a cane and a cast-off tennis cap of Sidney's; while tenderly
hidden from sight, except when she opened the drawer each day to weep,
were the innumerable trinkets and gifts that her false lover had given
her.

Every empty candy-box and every withered flower had been lovingly saved.

She still wore about her throat the little necklace, but the bracelet
she concealed pitifully beneath her sleeve.

Each day she dressed with unusual care, expecting always the return of
her lover.

One day a lover came. Not Sidney, for whom her poor heart pined, but
Arturo, her kinsman.

There was no scene, as we had feared, for the Doña Maria had warned the
young man to restrain, for the present, all signs of impatient passion.

"Speak to her not of love," she said, sadly, when she had confided to
the burning, indignant youth by her side the present state of
Mariposilla's feelings. "The poor, foolish child yet believes that the
American will return," she explained. "Be patient, dear son," the Doña
Maria besought when Arturo chafed under his tedious restraint; "the
American will soon marry the choice of his mother; then will my poor
deluded child lie crushed; yet, by the will of God, she will revive.

"Tell her not yet of love, only of the success and riches which you have
gained. Treat her gently, as a sister, and in time all may be as we
desire."

It was surprising how considerate the handsome, hot-headed Arturo
remained, restrained always by the quiet persuasions of the firm, quiet
Doña Maria.

The boy's unexpected return had been full of comfort to the lonely
Spanish woman. She loved her grandnephew as a son; while she rejoiced
daily that the young man was growing more and more like her own lost
Arturo, whose name he bore.

As the summer wore away, the Doña Maria grew content. She believed that
Mariposilla would outgrow her sorrow, that in time Arturo would be
successful in his suit, and that she might yet live to hold in her arms
the children of her dear ones--dark, rich little beauties, who would
preserve through yet another generation the inheritance of the Spanish
blood.

"How often did I weep when I thought of my child united not with one of
her own race. When I saw in my dreams grandchildren--pale little ones
that I could not love, I cared scarcely to live," she said,
pathetically.

With the exception of the Doña Maria's mother, who was now confined to
her bed, our household moved as usual.

Arturo took a masterful charge of the neglected ranch, and, as the
summer advanced, a gradual calm pervaded both the land and the family.

Through the middle of the day all enjoyed the refreshing siesta, and by
the early afternoon the ocean breeze was stirring delightfully. Great
baskets of luscious fruits were picked daily and placed about the
veranda. In the grape arbor a table held always a pitcher of cool
lemonade, delightfully softened with fruit flavorings.

The Doña Maria loved to prepare pleasant drinks, and, now that Arturo
had returned and Father Ramirez came more often to the ranch, the good
woman had frequent opportunities for serving her friends.

She revived the pleasant Spanish custom of gathering in the arbor for
light refreshments. Each day she grew happier and more hopeful in regard
to the future of her child.

The old priest also believed that Mariposilla would soon recover from
her childish disappointment and be but too willing to accept for a
husband the handsome Arturo, who had now a half interest in a large
quicksilver mine in Old Mexico.

During the quiet afternoons Arturo took the greatest pains to explain to
Father Ramirez his plans and ambitions. In the old summer house the
young man would spread out the map of Mexico, tracing eagerly the new
railroads, while he located, enthusiastically, his mine.

"There is no country like it," the younger man would declare, joyfully.
"I am impatient every moment that I remain away.

"Of course, the American hounds are stealing in, just as they stole into
California. Their cursed gold ought to buy them Paradise; yet, in Mexico
they can never be the aristocracy. The gates and doors of the old
families will always remain barred to the pale thieves who seek to
enter."

"Be not so angry with the strangers, my son," replied the old priest.
"Remember that gold and brains are both necessary in the development of
any undeveloped country. The Americans have both. Love of race is noble,
but often it dwarfs the mind. The cosmopolitan will ever succeed, while
the narrow and revengeful will generally fail. But here comes the Doña
Maria, we will contend no more," the old priest exclaimed, joyfully, as
he clasped the hand of his dear old friend.

"Arturo is a true son of Spain," he said, gazing into the burning face
of the youth he had always loved. "He is unlike his generation. He
should have lived earlier."

I had heard without attempting to listen. Through my open window I often
caught snatches of conversation that gave me a pleasant insight into the
lives of these most interesting people. The warm, unrestrained affection
and tender social relations existing between the old priest and his
parishioners were things that I had not until now understood.

I often heard, in quiet, half undertone, the name of Mariposilla.
Sometimes Arturo grew passionate in spite of his discretion. Then the
old priest would reprove him gently; for he was a born Jesuit,
restraining all those about him with calm determination.

"Peace, my son, always peace!" he would say. "Time alone can do for us
what haste could never accomplish. Soon the blow will descend, for the
false lover will marry the heiress. The poor little one will be crushed
for a time, and then she will revive.

"Remember, through these hard weeks of waiting, only your love. Let not
anger or revenge fill your young heart. Keep that ever clean and pure,
ready for the treasure it shall some day hold."

"I will try to obey, Father," the young man replied, rebelliously. "It
is easy for you to reprove," he exclaimed. "You who have never known the
misery of a hopeless love."

A strange shadow flitted across the old priest's face. "How knowest
thou, my son, that I never battled with unrequited affection? Judge not
that the old father is stone. He was once even as thyself. But God
forbid that he should think of aught now but the world beyond, and poor
souls trying to find it."

"Forgive me, Father," the young man said, tenderly. "I will be a good
son, and, in return for my obedience, you shall one day order the chimes
of Old San Gabriel to ring for my wedding."



CHAPTER XXI.


The announcement of the marriage of Sidney Sanderson to Gladys Carpenter
reached us during the latter part of June.

We were indebted to Mrs. Wilbur for the New York papers in which we read
the embellished details of the "strictly private nuptials." The several
accounts agreed in pronouncing the marriage the most noteworthy
matrimonial event of the early summer. The facts, in brief, were as
follows:

"The beautiful bride, heiress to three millions, although in deep
mourning for her father, had laid aside, only for the wedding ceremony,
the somber robes of her recent bereavement. At the close of the
impressive yet simple service, she had resumed her mourning, preparatory
to the departure for Scotland. On the historic isle, sequestered in a
romantic castle overlooking Loch Lomond, Mr. and Mrs. Sanderson would
spend their honeymoon. Society had unanimously agreed that a match more
suitable in every way had seldom occurred. The high social position of
both parties, the beauty and fortune of the bride, combined with the
popular traits of the handsome groom, pointed unmistakably to social
leadership.

"The palatial home of the late Rufus Carpenter would, doubtless, become
a recognized center, when his beautiful daughter again rejoined with her
chosen husband, the charmed circle of the Three Hundred."

This is the substance of what we knew. All that we would ever certainly
know of the two lives in question.

For us the history of Sidney Sanderson was virtually closed. I alone
claimed the privilege of imagining his uneventful end.

A creditable career he could never have. A life of indolent luxury,
environed by the ordinary excitements of club life, would be the
probable limit of his achievements.

His domestic life would, in time, become a monotonous restraint.

In dismissing him, I will always believe that he thought often during
the years of his aimless existence of Mariposilla. Her beautiful dark
eyes, flooded with adoring love, must have haunted many of the
indifferent hours spent with his highly refined, philosophical wife.

After the first cool understanding, when both the man and the woman
acknowledged the disappointment that each felt in the other, their lives
would run on quietly and indifferently, each moved by separate interests
that enormous wealth made possible.

Their elegant home I can readily picture. Artistic rooms, undisturbed by
little meddlers. Silent halls, in which echoed no voices of children.

Dark shades, often drawn close before the windows of a mansion deserted
for months at a time, by reason of the protracted absence of both
mistress and master, who seldom traveled in the same direction, finding,
as the years made plainer the remoteness of their tastes and principles,
that antipodal distances alone could insure for each a comparative
comfort.

I learned from authority that Mrs. Sanderson escaped old age.

On the verge of the dreaded boundaries of infirmity her selfish
energies gave way. An unexpected puff of disappointment chilled her
nerve, while it extinguished, midway in its socket, the brilliant candle
that had cheered no lonely heart, had illuminated no sorrowing soul.

For Mariposilla alone the announcement of Sidney's marriage contained
crushing evidences of his final desertion. The poor child had always
believed that her lover would return. We had never been able to convince
her of the hopelessness of the dream.

Now that the blow had at last descended, we hoped for much.

Through all the long weeks we had done nothing but wait. Even now we
must wait still longer. We dared not show impatience at the child's
terrible grief, when she remained as one stunned, refusing, day after
day, our sympathy and society.

It was only in the cool of the evening that she left her room to join
the family upon the veranda. Then she would slip away by herself, hiding
in the darkest corner among the vines, a listless shadow in white that
we dared neither to comfort nor to rebuke.

The summer was now at its height; the days were warmer and the cool
nights more welcome. The haze had thickened about the mountains; the sky
was often without a cloud.

The seaside resorts were crowded with pleasure-seekers. Only the
industrious ones of the Valley remained at home to attend to the immense
fruit crops, ripening every hour.

The hotels and villas were undergoing repairs for the ensuing winter.
Society, in a body, appeared to be rusticating at Santa Catalina.

We, too, would have gone to the sea, but sorrow held us down with a
relentless grip. The once happy household of the Doña Maria Del Valle
was no longer the abode of peace and joy.

Each day Mariposilla required more care, for she was now really ill. She
went about the house and garden as usual, but we had thus far failed to
arouse her from her grief. Each day she grew more silent and suspicious,
shedding fewer tears, but refusing always to listen to a word of
reproach against the man who had deceived her.

Now, in addition to the anxiety for her miserable child, another stroke
had fallen upon the Doña Maria.

The angel of death had entered again her home--her aged mother was
dying. Father Ramirez had administered the Holy Sacrament, and now only
the most powerful opiates could relieve, temporarily, the aged sufferer,
sinking away from a horrible disease that for years had been
unsuspected.

To myself fell the incessant care of Mariposilla.

It was seldom now that the sad-eyed Doña Maria left her mother's
chamber. She had procured a Mexican woman to superintend the household,
while she devoted herself, lovingly and unceasingly, to the care of the
sufferer. Day and night she watched alone, until I feared she would drop
under the strain.

It was astonishing how tenaciously the aged woman lingered. Sometimes
she would revive, with almost supernatural strength. Stimulated by the
opiates, she would protest desperately against remaining in bed. The
poor old creature seemed to think that the bed alone was responsible for
her death.

In her less painful moments, when the opiates soothed without
stupefying, she talked excitedly in Spanish, living always far back in
the days of her prosperity.

She was again on the far-reaching rancho, riding by the side of her
husband, or dispensing free hospitality to a house full of guests.
Always with her were the two little daughters, Maria and Lola.

"She remembers not the sorrows which have befallen us," the Doña Maria
would say with tearful eyes, that each day grew larger as the rings of
sorrow deepened beneath them. "She mercifully believes that my dear
sister and I are still little ones at home.

"We are continually running from her side with messages for the maids.

"Sometimes she commanded us to stop our play and go to the old church
for prayers. Again, she coaxes our father to buy more jewels, that we
may outshine in beauty our neighbors at the grand wedding, soon to occur
upon a distant rancho, where there will be for days feasting and great
joy.

"Is it not kind, dear Señora, that the old mother should depart among
pleasant memories, knowing not of my poor child's humiliation?"

As the Doña Maria spoke, the glory of unselfishness lit for a moment
with saintly beauty her dark, worn face.

"Yes, dear friend," I replied, "it is kind and sweet that the loved one
can go to rest in peace, but it is wrong for you to refuse relief from
the heavy strain of the sick-chamber. Oblige me this once by allowing
your place to be filled. You will be ill, I am sure, if you take neither
air nor rest."

"Thanks, dear Señora," she replied, "I am happy for your thoughtful
care; but I can now no longer take rest away from my mother. Sometimes I
fall, for a few moments, asleep by her side, but I wish always to be
near, that I may watch tenderly until her spirit has flown.

"I should grieve sorely if another closed forever the dear eyes."

I saw that the devoted daughter was happiest performing alone the last
few duties that after death grow measurelessly sweet, and said no more.
A few hours later the Doña Maria stood at my door quiet and tearless.

"Dear Señora," she said, "my mother is dead."

"What can I do?" I cried, daring not yet to presume with sympathy. Under
the first cold shock of the impalpable mystery, I longed for a task that
would check the dreadful, unsatisfied questions that thronged my mind.

"There is little to do. Arturo had gone for Father Ramirez.

"If only the Señora will speak to my unhappy child, I shall be most
thankful. Tell her that her grandmother is no more, but restrain her
from coming for a time into the chamber of death.

"Soon I shall have done all. I shall then come for my child and lead her
to the dear one."

As the Doña Maria finished speaking, she vanished from my side.

As I heard her close the door of her mother's room, I knew that she
would first pray before the shrine of the little Virgin.

For a moment I listened in the silence, almost longing myself to entreat
comfort of the image.

I remembered how I had fainted Christmas morning, and how gladly I had
regained consciousness in the protecting presence of the little Mother.
I knew that the Doña Maria would gain strength and courage before the
shrine of her implicit faith, and my own heart hungered for a touch of
palpable comfort.

What if the little image was only painted wood? It whispered something
to the simple, aching heart that a stern theology could never say.

Alas! I knew that for myself there was nothing but blind hope and
fruitless speculation. I could never have knelt before a picture or a
shrine, but I envied, none the less, the Spanish woman who found peace
and comfort, while I so often suffered in the dark, unsatisfied and
rebellious.

When at last I heard quiet steps, I knew that the Doña Maria had arisen
from her prayers. I knew that in her sorrowing heart there was a blessed
faith, childlike and strong, that would help her to perform, quietly and
correctly, the last sad offices for her dead.



CHAPTER XXII.


I sought in vain about the house and garden for Mariposilla.

The child had not been away from the ranch since the news of Sidney's
marriage, and her sudden absence alarmed me.

I remembered that it was Saturday. Perhaps Mariposilla had gone to the
old church for confession. Arturo had the pony, and for a moment I was
in despair.

Fortunately a neighbor arrived with a horse and buggy, which I borrowed.

I was determined not to alarm the Doña Maria, and drove away at once in
the direction of the Old Mission. The road, for the first time, seemed
long and uninteresting. The neighbor's horse was an ancient nag, who
discovered at once my impatience and inexperience. He absolutely refused
to accelerate his midsummer dog-trot. The persuasions of a stranger he
ignored.

Despairing, I submitted, while I vaguely questioned myself as to what I
should do, in case Mariposilla had not gone to the church.

When at last I caught sight of the long, gray outline, hiding among
cool, green peppers, my heart seemed to stand still.

As I turned into the main approach leading to the Mission, the old bells
broke suddenly the oppressive silence. Their melancholy strokes were for
the dead; perhaps for the Doña Maria's mother, I thought.

Mechanically I counted the tolls, until their number had reached
sixteen, then the old bells paused a moment before they again repeated
the years of the youthful dead.

Upon approaching nearer I perceived that a funeral procession had just
left the church. An assistant priest and a barefooted Mexican altar-boy
stood framed in the arch of the ancient portal.

The sad little procession was now entering the old graveyard at the rear
of the Mission. I could hear the sobs of the mourners, and my heart went
out to the poor mother, garbed in faded mourning, bowed with both grief
and labor.

The little coffin was borne on a bier by six swarthy young Mexicans,
possibly one of them the lover of the dead girl.

The sight was pathetic, and at this particular time I felt it to be
more than I could bear.

A moment later I peered into the old church--it was empty.

Where now could I go? To whom should I apply for help?

Father Ramirez was evidently not about; a strange priest had followed
the funeral procession, and doubtless the old friend of the Del Valles
had gone at once with Arturo.

I had probably missed passing them by taking a different road, having
endeavored to shorten the distance by a cut through a ranch.

Mechanically I climbed into the buggy, believing that there was no
course left but to return home for assistance, when in the distance I
saw, almost like a sign from on high, the deserted hotel of East San
Gabriel.

Without stopping to consider the probable absurdity of my surmise, I
started the old horse upon the maddest race of his life.

In my excitement the wielding of the whip was a nervous joy.

The old bones of the beast seemed almost to crack as he leaped along the
road.

All at once I seemed to be acting without reason, for when I at last
entered the grounds of the deserted caravansary, there were no evidences
to justify my suspicions.

The summer's silence was intense; not a human being was visible, and the
desolation pervading the deserted resort was sickening as well as
satisfying.

I felt that I had been absurd to believe for a moment that Mariposilla
could have wished to reënter the place, and I was also convinced that,
in her feeble condition, she could never have walked the distance from
the ranch.

The old horse was now resting in front of the silent hotel, and my very
inaction was unbearable. I racked my brain to the verge of despair,
before I again hit upon a possible explanation for Mariposilla's
disappearance.

Why had I not thought of it before? Why had I taken it for granted that
Arturo had gone alone for Father Ramirez? The priest drove always in his
own conveyance, and what could be more natural than to believe that
Arturo had induced Mariposilla to accompany him upon his errand? Was it
not reasonable to believe that the young people had laid aside their
personal feelings at such a time, desiring to perform together a last,
trifling duty to the dead grandmother?

True to the comforting inspiration, I had turned the reluctant horse to
leave the grounds, when, rushing joyfully in front of the astonished
brute, I beheld the hounds, Mariposilla's grayhounds, who knew where
their little mistress was hiding.

Hastily hitching the horse to the nearest tree I reconnoitered at once
the long veranda. Each door that I tried was locked; the windows were
fastened, and the inside blinds closed.

Close at my heels followed the dogs, now wildly excited.

As a last resort, I decided to urge them to lead me.

"Dear Pachita! dear Pancho!" I cried, patting encouragingly their long,
beautiful heads, while I entreated their almost human eyes to reply.
"Take me to Mariposilla."

"Where is Mariposilla?" I repeated, slowly, "your dear little mistress,
Mariposilla?"

For a moment, the poor brutes whined piteously; the next, they had
darted away to the rear of the hotel.

I followed hotly, and at the corner of the house I perceived them wild
with excitement at the foot of the escape ladder, leading from the
ground to the upper veranda.

I needed no more to convince me of the truth.

Mariposilla had ascended the ladder which the dogs had not been able to
scale. The half-frantic girl had sought to enter again the rooms once
occupied by the Sandersons.

I delayed no longer. In a moment I was above, trying in vain the doors.
As I approached the window of Sidney's now deserted bedroom, I perceived
instantly that its glass had been shattered, and knew at once that
Mariposilla was within.

For a moment, I stood rooted with apprehension; I dared not enter. A
horrible dread deprived me of strength, until from within a piteous
sobbing, more musical, more welcome than any sounds which I had ever
before heard, told me that the child I sought was safe.

"Thank God!" I cried, springing into the room.

There, upon Sidney's deserted bed, upon his pillow, lay Mariposilla.

For a moment I shrank away, for the child had not heard me enter. I
would willingly have allowed her the full extent of her strange, unusual
consolation. Now that she was safe, I would have stayed with her the
remainder of the afternoon, but the thought of the Doña Maria compelled
me to speak.

"Dear child," I said, approaching the bed; "you must come home. We are
in great distress. Your grandmother has just died."

"Just died?" she repeated, touchingly. "Why can I, too, not die? Indeed,
kind Señora, I am most tired of life; I would gladly go with my
grandmother."

"No, dear," I answered, "you must not want to die. It is wrong for you
to remain so miserable. You should remember your dear mother, and try to
recover your spirits, to be once more our good, happy child.

"Think no more of Sidney; dismiss now forever from your thoughts the
selfish man who has deceived you."

Like a young tigress wounded into fury, the girl sprang from the bed.

"I blame him not," she cried, passionately. "It is the wicked, wicked
Gladys who has stolen his love. I knew she would coax him from me when
she sent so often her beautiful face to his mother.

"She loved him much, I was sure, but he said always that he loved her
not in return; that she made him most tired, when he must listen to her
learning and long words.

"That he loved none but me--poor, little Mariposilla, who knew nothing
but to love him only."

"Yes, dear," I said; "you have loved as few ever love. I pity the man
who has thrown lightly away your warm, true heart; but I know that after
a time you will cease to pine. You will see that Sidney gave you up, not
because Miss Carpenter was more beautiful, or that he loved her more,
but because she had millions of dollars to make his life luxurious and
idle.

"Be a brave girl," I continued, noticing with pleasure that the child
had brightened visibly at my words. "Be good and brave for your own
sake, and for the sake of the dear Doña Maria.

"Come home before you are missed, or your mother will be greatly
distressed by your absence."

Obediently she followed me from the room, and down the ladder. As we
drove away from the grounds she threw her arms about my neck and sobbed
pitifully.

"Dear, kind Señora," she cried, "I will be good; indeed I will be good.

"If Sidney loves Gladys only for gold, he will yet come back! he will
yet be mine!"

It was impossible for me to misunderstand the girl's passionate meaning.
I trembled at the recollection of the opportunities and temptations of
the winter. For the first time a terrible realization of the child's
Spanish inheritances seized me. I felt that she would never acknowledge
moral barriers to be a final restraint to her denied destiny; never be
able to resist the undisciplined desires of her heart.

For the present I could not hope to unfold the immoral, or impossible
consequences of Sidney Sanderson's return. Nothing but time and angelic
patience would enable me to make plain to the ignorant girl the
arbitrary laws of fate.



CHAPTER XXIII.


The sun had departed for the day, the evening had flushed and died in
the cool arms of night.

In the chamber of death there was now the breathless calm which follows
when all has been done.

Before the little Virgin, and about the spotless bed, where in purest
linen slept the mother of the Doña Maria, holy candles had been lighted.
Still unmolested stood the small stand covered with a fine drawn linen
cover, upon which had rested for weeks the tumblers and bottles needed
now no longer.

"See," the Doña Maria said tenderly, "see the spoon in the potion I had
prepared but a moment before the poor suffering body found peace."

When I offered to remove the medicines, the devoted daughter was not
willing.

"Touch not the table yet, kind Señora," she pleaded. "Wait until the
dear body has been taken away; then will I find courage to disturb the
tumblers that the dear hands once held."

As the Doña Maria spoke, Mariposilla entered the room, bearing a little
cross of white roses. She laid it timidly upon the breast of her
grandmother; then, frightened and hysterical, she fled from the bed.

"Poor child," said the Doña Maria, "she fears death greatly. She thinks
only of the fire that must at first purify the soul, not of the joys of
eternity.

"Go now, Señora, retire at once for the night. You are weary and in need
of rest.

"I care not for company. I will remain alone with my mother and our
blessed Lady. I desire to entreat that the sufferings of the dear one
may be short.

"Surely the dear Lord will have mercy upon the aged one who has already
endured so much upon earth."

"Good Doña Maria," I plead, "you will surely be ill if you kneel all
night in prayer. To-morrow will be a sad, hard day, and without rest you
will be unfit for its strain."

"No, Señora," she replied firmly; "I shall not be ill. After midnight I
shall sleep; until then I shall pray."

I saw that my persuasions were in vain, and left her alone with her
dead.

As I passed through the living-room to reach my own, I was startled by a
white-robed figure in front of the Virgin's picture.

The full July moon, streaming through the open door, discovered
touchingly the hopeless misery of Mariposilla. She was in her nightgown,
gazing piteously into the illuminated face of the unsympathetic doll
above the chimney shelf.

As I approached her, she turned sadly from the picture.

In the moonlight, I saw great tears shining in her eyes.

"She loves me not; she is angry and smiles no more," she said,
despairingly.

The child's lovely face expressed so perfectly the agony of desertion
that I felt powerless to comfort her. Her firm belief in the Virgin's
displeasure had torn from her heart its last hope. For weeks she
believed that the little mother would have mercy, would intercede for
her, and restore in some miraculous way her lover; but to-night the
Virgin would not smile. She refused to pity her sorrowful child.

"Dear Mariposilla," I said, remembering the tactics that I sometimes
employed with Marjorie; "you must not think because the Virgin refuses
to smile that she is angry.

"We ourselves cannot smile. We are sad and awed by the presence of
death, and surely it would be heartless for 'our Lady' to smile, when
those who love and trust her are in trouble.

"You are nervous and weary. You shall room with me to-night. I have
already prepared you a nice bed upon my couch."

I drew her gently in the direction of my room, persuaded that I had
quieted for a time her moody fears.

"No! no!" she cried, bursting away from me; "I can not sleep. I will
never sleep again."

She rushed, passionately, through the open door into the moonlight. In
her bare feet, clad only in her flowing nightgown, she stood like a
spirit among the dark vines and lacy shadows of the old veranda.

Her hair fell about her shoulders like a tragic veil, while a sudden
agony touched her young, white face.

"You know not what I have suffered," she sobbed. "You think I shall
forget, but I never shall. I can not bear that he should not be mine."

"If only he had gone away like my grandmother, I could endure never to
see him again. He would then be mine! all mine, and I could go joyfully
into a convent and pray always for his soul."

Her voice had grown tearless and sharp.

From the corner of the house a tall, dark form was approaching.

"Come in quickly," I whispered; "Arturo is listening."

She obeyed me now, sinking wearily, as we entered my room, upon the
waiting couch.

I was devoutly thankful when I believed her to be sleeping.

She had scarcely stirred for nearly an hour, and I told myself, wearily,
that I, too, might perhaps catch a little rest. The day had been a
perpetual strain. I was not expecting or intending to sleep soundly, but
I felt a merciful relief in lying quietly by the side of Marjorie.

For the night, at least, Mariposilla was safe. I could only hope that
the morrow would dawn more tranquilly than the trying day now, at last,
over.

After the funeral, I intended to go immediately to Catalina with
Marjorie and Mariposilla. I would wait no longer; the heartbroken child
must leave San Gabriel at once.

I was arranging my plans most carefully, when I fell asleep from
absolute exhaustion.

When I awoke, the moon was no longer casting fantastic shadows. My white
walls were no longer softened by elfin touches.

The shadow vines and pepper branches had disappeared in the honest light
of the July sun.

The morning was yet deliciously cool, but the day was fairly begun, even
now brimful of sweet odors and bird-music.

The mockers, who had sung all night, were not yet weary, but less
belligerent. At night they sometimes quarreled, but in the morning their
little disagreements were adjusted.

As I delayed to open my eyes, half awake, but unwilling to shock too
soon the last lingering desire to doze, I seemed to hear a familiar
rebuke from the great pepper tree beyond my window.

"Señora! Señora! Señora!" called an old mocker. "Get up! get up! get
up!" screamed his neighbor from the next limb.

I fancied now as I listened, that the birds had tried to awaken me in
the night. Vaguely returned an ugly dream, with the ceaseless call of
the persistent birds.

In a moment I remembered all. The dead grandmother, Mariposilla, the
midnight cry of the mockers--"Señora! Señora! Señora!"

Mariposilla?

Where was she? When had she slipped away? Did the birds alone know?

The couch was empty. Each pillow bore the mark of the child's weary
head.

In the night, while I slept, my restless captive had fled.

I sprang across the hall to her room; it was empty, and the bed
undisturbed. Trembling I entered the death chamber. The Doña Maria was
alone; her child was not with her.

The good woman was again before the shrine of the Virgin, repeating a
last prayer for her dead, preparatory to the painful duties of the
morning.

The front window shades were closely drawn to exclude the morning sun,
but looking north, to the great, quiet mountains, an open window invited
the cool breath of the day.

Without understanding my motives, I took a hasty survey of the silent
room. To all appearances everything was as usual.

A sheet had been drawn over the face of the dead, and the holy candles
were burning low and pale.

Mariposilla's little cross of white roses was still fresh where the
child had placed it, the table of medicines undisturbed except the
tumbler containing the unused opiate.

Horrible discovery!

The poisonous glass was gone, and the dark, innocent-looking bottle that
remained was empty.

How could I grasp the frightful suspicion? How believe that the Virgin
had forgotten her child? How bear the burden of my own selfish slumbers?

Why in the night had I not understood the mocking-birds when they
called in vain, "Señora! Señora! Señora?"

       *       *       *       *       *

A few moments later Arturo bore in his arms from the arbor the lifeless
body of Mariposilla.

From her beautiful face the color had faded forever.

We laid her upon her own bed, still robed in the little nightgown, for
the long sleep that had closed at last the wakeful eyes.

Poor foolish, beautiful little Butterfly, her summer was now forever
ended.

As I performed for the dead girl the last few loving labors, I acquitted
her in my inmost heart of her terrible crime. She had meant only to
rest, to forget for a time in sleep the anguish of her cruel
disappointment.

When from between the great century plants, the yellow edges of their
spears shining like avenging swords, passed the hearses--the black one
bearing the aged Spanish woman, the white one bearing Mariposilla--I
remembered the tragic blooming of the Gold of Ophir rose.

I saw again the old veranda illuminated with Easter glory. I saw timid
buds open to full roses. Scintillating in the spring sunshine, more
lustrous than all, I saw a child-bud burst into a maiden flower. I saw
its petals deepen with the kisses of the sun; then I saw them pale and
fall to the ground; for the sun had hidden his face.

I saw the great-hearted Doña Maria bending wearily, as she attempted to
gather the scattered petals. I saw the dark Arturo kneel beside her.

Together they seemed to pray; but in the heart of the man was born a
horrible curse for those two, now far away.

In my misery I saw the Demon of Selfishness, blacker than night, blacker
than death.

I tried to pray--but I could only weep.


THE END.





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