"A truce to all such excuses!"
"Patience, Miss Florence, hear me only once more. The reason is, that I was looking at your cousin over there, and calculating the chances of her surviving suffocation."
"There is certainly some danger. Pray, Mary, why wrap up so closely? AEolus has closed the mouth of his cave, and the warring winds are securely pent in their prison."
"Are you not very much edified Miss Mary? I should beg pardon for such a waste of time and talk, if I were not aware that
"'A little nonsense now and then, Is relished by the wisest men.'"
As Mary made no reply, he turned around and regarded her earnestly, Her hat had fallen back from the face, which rested on his black cloak. Every vestige of mirth fled from his countenance as they gazed on the sleeping girl. The feverish flush had left the cheek, now perfectly wan; the dark brown hair clung on the pure, beautiful brow, and beneath the closed eyes were dark circles, traced by mental suffering. The expression of the face was perfectly calm, yet a wearied look, as though longing to be at rest, lingered there. So motionless she lay, that Frank hastily placed his hand on hers to feel if warmth and vitality remained. Slowly and faint came the pulsations, and, as he watched her deathlike slumber, his cheek grew pale, a look of unutterable anguish settled on his noble brow, and the finely cut lips were tightly compressed, as with some acute though hidden pain. Florence slowly returned to Mr. and Mrs. Carlton—no smile passed her lips the remainder of the day; she seemed now, for the first time, to realize her cousin's danger, and naught could divert her mind from this new grief.
Dr. Bryant bent his head upon his breast, and murmured in saddened tones: "Oh, Mary! Mary! how gladly would I give all I possess on earth to see you strong and well again."
"And therefore my heart is heavy With a sense of unquiet pain, For but Heaven can tell if the parted Shall meet in the earth again.
"With Him be the time and the season Of our meeting again with thee: Whether here, on these earthly borders, Or the shore of the world to be."
One day our party had traveled further than on any previous occasion: long and tedious was the ride, still they pushed on, hoping to reach some stream ere the tents were pitched for the night, as an abundant supply of pure fresh water was essential to the comfort of their camp. In the metaphorical strain of a certain writer—"Phoebus drove his steeds to be foddered in their western stables." Slowly twilight fell upon the earth, and, one by one, the lamps of heaven were lit. The wagon in which Dr. Bryant and Mary rode was rather in the rear of the party, as the riders pressed anxiously forward. The cool night-wind blew fresh upon the fevered brow of the invalid, and gently lifted and bore back the clustering curls.
"I am very much afraid you will take cold:" and Dr. Bryant wrapped his coat carefully about her.
"Thank you:" and she sank back in its heavy folds, and looked up to the brilliant firmament, where the stars glittered, like diamonds on a ground of black velvet, in the clear, frosty air.
"Orion has culminated; and how splendidly it glows to-night, I think I never saw it so brilliant."
"Perhaps it appears so from the peculiar position whence you view it. You never observed it before from a wagon, in a broad prairie, with naught intervening between the constellation and yourself save illimitable space, though I agree with you in thinking it particularly splendid. I have ever regarded it as the most beautiful among the many constellations which girt the heavens."
"I have often wondered if Cygnus was not the favorite of papists, Dr. Bryant."
"Ah I it never occurred to me before, but, since you mention it, I doubt not they are partial to it. How many superstitious horrors are infused into childish brains by nurses and nursery traditions! I well remember with what terror I regarded the Dolphin, or, in common parlance, 'Job's Coffin,' having been told that, when that wrathful cluster was on the meridian, some dreadful evil would most inevitably befall all who ventured to look upon it; and often, in my boyhood, I have covered my face with my hands, and asked its whereabouts. Indeed I regarded it much as AEneas did Orion, when he says:
"'To that blest shore we steered our destined way, When sudden dire Orion roused the sea! All charged with tempests rose the baleful star, And on our navy poured his watery war.'
The contemplation of the starry heavens has ever exerted an elevating influence on my mind. In viewing its glories, I am borne far from the puerilities of earth, and my soul seeks a purer and more noble sphere."
"Your quotation from Virgil recalled a passage in Job—'Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into morning.' Oh! how inimitably sublime is inspired language—and 'turneth the shadow of death into morning.' And how comforting the promise conveyed," said Mary, earnestly.
"Miss Irving, don't you admire Cassiopeia very much?" said Dr. Bryant, wishing to turn the current of her thoughts. "I think it very beautiful, particularly when it occupies its present position, and, as it were, offers to weary travelers so inviting a seat. Yet often I am strangely awed, in gazing on the group so enveloped in unfathomable mystery. Who may say when another of its jewels shall flicker and go out? And when may not our own world to other planets be a 'Lost Star?' How childish associations cling to one in after years. I never looked up at Cassiopeia, without recalling the time when my tutor gave me as a parsing lesson, the first lines of the 'Task'—literally a task to me (mind I do not claim the last as original, for it is a plagiarism on somebody, I forget now who). My teacher first read the passage carefully over, explaining each idea intended to be conveyed, and at the conclusion turned to an assistant, and remarked that 'with Cassiopeia for a model, he wondered chairs were not earlier constructed.' I wondered in silence what that hard word could signify, and at length summoned courage to ask an explanation. A few nights afterward, visiting at my father's, he took me out, pointed to the constellation, and gave the origin of the name, while, to my great joy, I discovered the resemblance to a chair. Ah! that hour is as fresh in my memory as though I stood but last night by his side and listened to his teachings.
"Yes, who will deny the magic influence of association? After all, Dr. Bryant, it is not the intrinsic beauty of an object that affords us such delight, but ofttimes the memory of the happy past, so blended with the beauty viewed as scarcely to be analyzed in the soothing emotions which steal into the heart. Such a night as this ever reminds me of the beautiful words of Willis, in his 'Contemplations;' and, like Alethe, I often ask, 'When shall I gather my wings, and, like a rushing thought, stretch onward, star by star, up into heaven?'"
A silence ensued for several moments, and then the cry of "Water!" "water!" fell refreshingly on the ears of the wearied travelers, and the neighboring stream was hailed as joyfully as was in olden time the well of Gem-Gem.
Soon the tents were pitched, and a bright crackling fire kindled. Florence, declaring she was too much fatigued for supper, threw herself on her pallet. Aunt Lizzy and Mrs. Carlton were busily unpacking some of their utensils, and Mary, closely wrapt up, stood by the blazing logs, thinking how cheerful its ruddy light made every object seem, and wondering if, after all, the Ghebers were so much to blame, Mr. Carlton joined her; and after inquiring how she bore their very fatiguing ride, remarked that in a few more days their journeyings would be over.
"I shall almost regret its termination. This mode of traveling seems very pleasant to me, and you, who are strong and well, must enjoy it much more."
Just then the sound of approaching hoofs caused her to look toward their wagon; and she perceived two men mounted, one in the act of descending, while Dr. Bryant advanced quickly to meet him.
Mr. Carlton left her. Silently she looked on, wondering who the strangers could possibly be, when the words fell with startling distinctness on her listening ear:
"Dudley Stewart! do my eyes deceive me?"
"Frank Bryant is it possible I meet you here?"
The tones of the last speaker were too familiar to be mistaken. She trembled from head to foot as the past rose before her. Her first thought was of Florence.
"Oh, if he is married, this meeting will be terrible!" and her heart throbbed violently as the gentlemen approached her. Scarce conscious of her movements, she advanced to meet Dr. Bryant, whose arm was linked in that of the new comer. They met: the fire-light glowed on the face of both.
"Mr. Stewart!" and the wasted hand was extended.
"Mary Irving! or is this an illusion?" Tightly the hand was clasped.
"It is I——your old pupil, though so altered, I wonder not that you fail to recognize me." She lifted her eyes and met Dr. Bryant's gaze, deep and piercing, as though he were reading her inmost soul. Mr. Stewart looked long at the face turned toward him.
"Frank, you did not tell me she was with you! Oh, how changed—how wasted you are! But what means this black dress?" and his fingers clutched her mourning gown, while his deep tone faltered. Mary drew closer to his side, and murmured:
"Florry is well: but my uncle has been taken from us." Her head sunk on her bosom as she spoke.
"Where is Florence?" and he tightly clasped her hand between his own.
A shudder crept over Dr. Bryant, who had not heard their words, and he walked quickly away.
"Florry is in the tent. Mr. Stewart, we heard that you were married; can this be true?"
"No, no! Did your cousin credit the report?"
"Yes; and ere you make yourself known, let me in some degree prepare her for the meeting."
So saying, she sought Florence, and asked if she were sleeping.
"No, Mary; can I do anything for you?" and she raised her head.
"Yes, Florry, come with me—I want to speak to you."
Her cousin accompanied her to the door, and standing so that the tent intervened between them and Mr. Stewart, Mary laid her hand on Florence's shoulder, and said:
"I have just learned, Florry, that Mr. Stewart is not married."
"Mary, Mary! why touch a chord which ever vibrates with the keenest agony? There is no happiness for me on earth—I have known that for long, and now I am striving to fix my thoughts, and all of hope that remains, on heaven."
Mary linked her arm in Florence's, and gently drawing her forward, replied:
"God has not promised heaven as the price of every earthly joy and comfort. Can you not still hope for happiness?"
"Mary, I am parted forever from him whom I have loved so devotedly; yet I cease to repine. I know my lot, and I will pass through life alone, yes, alone, without a murmur."
"Not so, Florence—my own treasured Florence!"
She turned quickly, and was clasped to the heart of him she had sworn to love alone.
"Am I dreaming?" said Florence, gazing eagerly up into the noble face before her. He lifted his cap from his brow, and bent his head that the light might fall full upon it. A gleam of perfect joy irradiated her beautiful face, and, leaning her head on his shoulder, she whispered: "Forgive me—for I doubted you."
He bent, and sealed her pardon with a long kiss.
Mary stole away to Mrs. Carlton to impart the good news; Dr. Bryant had already communicated it. Warmly she sympathized with them in again meeting an old friend; but Mary heeded not her words, for her eyes were riveted on Frank's stern brow and slightly curling lip. A mist rose before her, and catching for support at the tent, she would have fallen, had not his strong arm encircled her; and soon she lay motionless in her tent. He stood and looked on her a moment, then knelt and clasped the cold hands. Mary had not swooned, though well-nigh insensible, and a low moan of anguish escaped her lips, colorless, and writhing with pain.
"Can I do nothing for you?"
"No, thank you; only do not tell Florry and Mr. Stewart I am ill. It would only damp the joy of their meeting."
He left her, and met the lovers as they sought the remainder of the party. He understood at a glance the position of affairs, and with the sad conviction that Mary loved Mr. Stewart, and loved him in vain, he strove to repress his emotion and appear as usual.
Florence withdrew her hand from Mr. Stewart's clasp, and, with a deep blush, passed Frank in order to reach the tent. He placed himself before it.
"Miss Hamilton, I can't allow any one to disturb your cousin; she is almost exhausted by our long ride, and I forbid all company, as she needs rest and quiet."
"I will not disturb her in the least, I assure you, Doctor." But he persisted, and she was forced to form one of the circle that now gathered round the fire.
Mr. Stewart, in answer to Dr. Bryant's inquiries, replied that he had long felt anxious to visit San Antonio, but had been detained at home by important business till within a few weeks, when he set out for Austin, and obtaining there a sort of guide and companion, was hastening on, hoping to reach the former place ere the arrival of the Mexican forces.
"Having heard," continued he, "that Mr. Hamilton's death left his family somewhat unprotected, I felt particularly anxious on their account. Seeing your camp-fire, attracted us in this direction, and happy am I to meet so many old friends."
To Florence he had been far more explicit, detailing the causes which produced a most fortunate change in his circumstances, and his immediate determination to seek her in her Western home.
"You will return with us to Washington then, Stewart, as we possess the treasure you are in search of?"
"Yes, if none of the party offer any objection," replied he.
"I don't know that any feel disposed to act so ungratefully: suppose we inquire however. Miss Hamilton, have you any objection to receiving, as an escort and protector, this amiable cavalier, who has wandered so far from home to offer his services?"
"Frank, it is hardly fair to make her speak for the party; some may differ with her, on so important a point."
"You seem quite certain as to her sentiments on this subject. Upon my word, Miss Florence, if I were you, I should most assuredly take this occasion to teach him a little humility; for instance, just tell him it makes no difference with you—that it is perfectly immaterial."
"In following your advice, Doctor, the responsibility will be inevitably transferred to yourself; and I must thank you for so politely relieving me."
"I see no reason, Stewart, why you should not join our party, and lend your assistance toward enlivening the tedious hours yet in store for us; though only a few more days of travel remain, thank Heaven."
"One would suppose, from the fear of ennui which seems to cloud your future, that Mary and I had not succeeded so happily as we imagined, in our efforts to entertain you."
"Pardon me, Miss Florence, if I have failed duly to appreciate your kind efforts; though candor compels the avowal, that I was not aware any extraordinary exertion was made in my behalf."
"Really, Frank, I should say you have made considerable progress in raising yourself in your own estimation since last I heard you converse. Mrs. Carlton, I am afraid this climate is unfavorable for the growth of at least two of the cardinal virtues."
"Your insinuation is contemptible, because utterly without grounds. Miss Florence, I appeal to you, as worthy the privilege of acting as umpire in this important discussion. Have you ever observed aught in my conduct indicating a want of humility?"
"Unfortunately, Doctor, should I return an answer in your favor, it would be at the expense of a virtue equally entitled to pre-eminence."
"To the very candid Miss Hamilton, I must return thanks for her disinterested and very flattering decision."
Here the conversation was interrupted by a call to the evening meal, and gladly they obeyed the welcome summons.
Florence glancing round perceived the absence of her cousin, and inquired the cause.
"I dare say she is asleep, poor child," said Aunt Lizzy.
"She is trying to rest, Miss Hamilton, and I would not advise any interruption. She needs quiet, for she was sorely tried by this day's fatigues," observed Dr. Bryant.
"I am afraid so," replied Florence, an anxious look again settling on her face. "Oh, I wish on her account we could reach a place of rest and safety. I fear she has failed in strength since leaving San Antonio."
"How sadly changed she has become: had she not spoken in her old, familiar tones, I should not have known her. I earnestly hope there is nothing serious in her attack, and that she will soon regain her former bloom; it pains me to see her so altered," said Mr. Stewart.
"She cannot possibly improve while subjected to the fatigues of this journey. I feared she was scarce able to endure it," answered Frank.
The conversation turned on more agreeable topics, and soon—by all but Frank, who could not forget her look of anguish—she was for a time forgotten.
Mary heard from her couch of suffering the cheerful blending of voices, though nothing distinct reached her ear; and as none approached to soothe her by affectionate inquiries, a sense of neglect stole over her. But too habitually accustomed to judge gently of others and forget herself, it passed quickly away. She knelt on her pallet, and clasping her thin hands, raised her heart to God, in the low, feeble tone of one well-nigh spent:
"My God, thou readest my heart! Thou knowest how, day by day, I have striven to love thee more and serve thee better. Yet, oh, Father of mercies! my soul is tortured with unutterable agony! Oh! on the verge of the tomb, my heart still clings to earth and its joys. Look down in thy mercy upon me, and help me to fix my thoughts on heaven and thee. For long I have known the vanity of my hope, and the deceitfulness of human things; yet I could not tear away the pleasing image, and turn to thee alone for comfort. Oh, may peace be my portion the few days I have to live, and when death comes, be thou with me, my God, to comfort and take me soon to my home above."
She sank back in very weariness. "Oh, Frank, how could you so mistake me?—you whom I have loved so long, how could you believe I loved another?"
* * * * *
In the clear sunny light of morning, how cheerful all things looked; and to a heart at peace with God, nature seemed rejoicing. The deep blue vault arching inimitably above—the musical murmuring of the creek, as it rushed along its rocky bed—the mosquit, bent and glittering with its frosty mantle, blended with the blazing camp-fire and the busy hum of preparation for the day, stole pleasingly into the heart. All the party, save Mary, stood about the fire, warming their fingers and chatting on the various occurrences of their long journey. All paused to welcome the invalid, as she joined them with a slow, feeble step; yet she looked better than she had done since leaving her home. Restlessly she had tossed on her hard couch, and now the hectic flush mantled the thin cheek and brightened the deep blue eyes. The warm congratulations of her friends on her improved appearance brought a sad smile to her lip, and the expression of Dr. Bryant's countenance told her that he at least realized her danger. Never had Florence looked more beautiful, as the clear cold air brought the glow to her cheek, added to the effect of her mourning dress and the expression of quiet happiness, imparting an indescribable charm to her lovely features.
"As you now stand, Miss Florence, looking so earnestly toward the east, you seem to me a perfect realization of Willis's Jephtha's Daughter:
"'She stood before her father's gorgeous tent, To listen for his coming. Her loose hair Was resting on her shoulder, like a cloud Floating around a statue, and the wind Just swaying her light robe, revealed a shape Praxiteles might worship: Her countenance was radiant with love: She looked to die for it—a being whose Whole existence was the pouring out Of rich and deep affections.'"
As he looked upon her these lines were uttered half unconsciously; and then turning to Mary, he gently asked if he might speak what was passing in his mind.
"Certainly, Frank—continue your quotation; the lines never seemed so beautiful before;" said Mr. Stewart, glancing at Florence as he spoke.
"Doubtless not, Stewart, because never so applied. Miss Hamilton, your cousin looks more as did the Jewish maiden at close of evening:
"'Her face was pale, but very beautiful; her lip Had a more delicate outline, and the tint Was deeper. But her countenance was like the Majesty of Angels.'"
"Dr. Bryant, is it possible you so far forget yourself and previously expressed opinions, as to make quotations? I thought you a sworn foe to the practise."
"On ordinary occasions, I am: and you may rest assured it is the last time I commit such an absurdity by a camp fire. I think you once asked me my objection—will you hear it now? When I was quite young, I one day read an anecdote of the celebrated Greek professor, Dr. Porson, which gave me a strong bias against quotations, particularly locating them, which necessarily follows. Porson was once traveling in a stage-coach, when a young Oxonian, fresh from college, was amusing some ladies with quite a variety of small talk, among other things a quotation from Sophocles, as he said. A Greek quotation in a stage-coach roused Porson, who half slumbered in a quiet corner. 'Young gentleman,' said he, 'I think you indulged us, just now, with a quotation from Sophocles; I don't happen to remember it there.'—'Oh, sir,' rejoined the tyro, 'the quotation is word for word, and in Sophocles too.' The professor handed him a small edition of Sophocles, and requested him to point out the passage. After rummaging about for some time, he replied: 'Upon second thought the passage is in Euripides.' 'Then,' said Porson, handing him a similar edition of Euripides, 'perhaps you will be so kind as to find it for me in this little book.' Our young gentleman returned unsuccessfully to the search, with the very pleasant cogitation of 'Curse me, if ever I quote Greek again in a stage-coach,' The tittering of the ladies increased his confusion, and desperate at last, he exclaimed—'Bless me, how dull I am; I remember now perfectly that the passage is in AEschylus. The incorrigible professor dived again into his apparently bottomless pocket, and produced an edition of AEschylus; but the astounded Oxonian exclaimed, 'Stop the coach! Halloa! coachman, let me out instantly; there is a fellow inside here that has got the whole Bodleian library in his pocket. Let me out, I say—it must be Porson or the devil!' Now previous to reading this anecdote, I must confess to quite a penchant for quotations, but I assure you a full year elapsed ere I ventured on another; and for a long time the ghost of our gentleman appeared, specter-like, before me, whenever I attempted one."
When the merriment subsided, Mr. Stewart asked if it was not of this same professor that a phrenologist remarked, on examining his skull, that "the most important question was, how the ideas found access to the brain—once inside, and there are very solid reasons to prevent their getting out again."
"Yes, the same. Craniologists admit, I believe, that his was the thickest skull ever examined; and it is related that when he could no longer articulate English, he spoke Greek with fluency."
In a few moments the camp was broken up, and they proceeded on their way. Mary cast a longing glance toward her horse, now mounted by one of the servants, and was taking her seat in the wagon, when Dr. Bryant said:
"Would you like to try your horse a little while this morning? If it proves too fatiguing, you can return to the wagon."
"I should like it very much, if I felt strong enough, but I could not sit upright so long. Doctor, will you be so kind as to ride my horse for me to-day, and let William drive?"
"Certainly, if you prefer it; but may I venture to ask your reason?"
"You have long been separated from your friend, and naturally wish to be with him. Do not, on my account, remain behind the party, as you are forced to do in driving the wagon, but join Florence and Mr. Stewart, who seem in such fine spirits this beautiful morning. I feel too weary and feeble to talk, and William will take good care of me."
He fixed his dark eyes mournfully on her face; she could not meet his gaze, and her head sunk upon her bosom.
"Believe me, Miss Irving, every other pleasure is second to that of watching over and being with you. If, in the proposed change, my feelings alone are to be consulted, allow me to remain with you."
"Thank you, Dr. Bryant, you are very kind to remember me so constantly; my only object was to promote your enjoyment of the day."
They rode for some distance in silence.
"This is my birthday; and how little I fancied, on the last anniversary, that I should be so situated," said Dr. Bryant, as though speaking unconsciously.
"How one's feelings change with maturer years. I remember well that, in my childhood, the lapse of time seemed provokingly slow, and I wondered why, from year to year, it seemed so very long. The last three years of my life, though somewhat checkered, have flown too quickly away. A month ago, I would willingly have recalled them, but they are lost in the ocean of eternity, only to be remembered now as a changing, feverish dream," Mary replied.
"Miss Irving, without the benign and elevating influence of Hope, that great actuating principle from the opening to the close of life, what a dreary blank our existence would prove. In childhood it gorgeously gilds the future; the tints fade as maturity gains that future, and then it gently brightens the evening of life, while memory flings her mantle of witchery over the past, recalling, in hours of sadness, all of joy to cheer the heart, and banishing forever the phantoms of terror—the seasons of gloom that once haunted us."
"Yes, how appropriately has the great bard of Time, termed Hope 'silver-tongued.' And then, its soothing accents are felt and acknowledged in the darkest hour of human trial. When about to sever every earthly tie—when on the eve of parting with every object rendered dear by nature and association—when the gloomy portals of the silent tomb open to receive us, then comes Hope to paint the joys of heaven. Our reunion with those we have loved and lost—perfect freedom from sin—the society of angels, and the spirits of the just made perfect; the presence of our Saviour, and an everlasting home in the bosom of our God."
A look of unutterable peace and joy settled on the face of Mary as she finished speaking and sank back, her hands clasped, and her eyes raised as though in communion with the spirits above.
Dr. Bryant's eyes rested with a sort of fascination on her countenance.
"You have this hope; yes, already your soul turns from earth and its vanities to the pure, unfailing fount of heavenly joy. Oh! that I, like you, could soon find peace and perfect happiness? I have striven against the bitter feelings which of late have crept into my heart; still, despite my efforts, they gather rapidly about me. I look forward, and feel sick at heart. Turbid are all the streams of earthly pleasures, and fully now I realize those lines, which once seemed the essence of misanthropy—
'I thought upon this hollow world, And all its hollow crew.'
For a time I found delight in intellectual pursuits, but soon wearied of what failed to bring real comfort in hours of trial."
"You need some employment to draw forth every faculty: in a life of active benevolence and usefulness, this will be supplied. Do not give vent to feelings of satiety or ennui; your future should be bright—no dangers threaten, and many and important duties await you in life. God has so constituted us, that happiness alone springs from the faithful discharge of these. Every earthly resource fails to bring contentment, unless accompanied by an active, trusting faith in God, and hope of blessedness in heaven. Wealth, beauty, genius are as naught; and fame, that hollow, gilded bauble, brings not the promised delight, and an aching void remains in the embittered heart. One of our most talented authors, now seated on the pinnacle of fame, assures us that
'The Sea of Ambition is tempest tost, And your hopes may vanish like foam.'
* * * * *
'The Sun of Fame but gilds the name, The heart ne'er felt its ray.'
Pardon me if I have ventured too far, or wounded your feelings: it was not my intention, and I have spoken half unconsciously."
"Thank you, Miss Irving, for your kind words of comfort and advice. Fear not that ambition will lure me: I know its hollow, bitter wages, and cannot be deceived. Yet there is a lonely feeling in my heart which I cannot dispel at will. Still my plans for the future are sufficiently active to interest me; and I doubt not that a year hence I shall feel quite differently. If I could always have your counsel and sympathy, I should fear nothing."
"In seasons of trial—in the hours of gloom and despondency—appeal to your sister for comfort. Oh! she is far more capable of advising and cheering than I, who only echo her sentiments." Mary pressed her hand to her side, and leaning back, closed her eyes, as if longing for rest.
"I have drawn you on to converse more than was proper—forgive my thoughtlessness; and, if it would not be impossible, sleep, and be at rest." He carefully arranged her shawls, and as she lay a long while with closed eyes, he thought her sleeping, but turning, after a time, was surprised to perceive her gazing earnestly out on the beautiful country through which they now rode.
"Alas! how light a cause may move Dissensions between hearts that love! Hearts that the world in vain had tried, And sorrow but more closely tied; That stood the storm when waves were rough, Yet in the sunny hour, fall off, Like ships that have gone down at sea, When heaven was all tranquillity!"
"Peace and quiet and rest for you at last!" cried Dr. Bryant, as they drove into the village of Washington, and, by dint of much trouble and exertion, procured a small and comfortless house. But a bright fire soon blazed in the broad, deep, old-fashioned chimney—the windows and doors closed—their small stock of furniture and provisions unpacked, and a couch prepared for Mary, now far too feeble to sit up. The members of the safe and happy party gathered about the hearth, and discussed hopefully their future prospects. Dr. Bryant raised his eyes to the somewhat insecure roof, through which the light of day occasionally stole in, and exclaimed:
"'And doth a roof above me close?'"
"Not such a one as greeted Mazeppa on regaining his senses, Frank; rather insecure, 'tis true, yet somewhat better than the canvas covering for which we have been so grateful of late."
Dr. Bryant leaned his elbow on the mantel-piece, and fell into a fit of musing, not unusual to him since leaving San Antonio. The servant disturbed his reverie by requesting room for her cooking utensils. He raised his head as she spoke, and then, as if utterly unconscious, dropped it again, without reply.
"A cigar for your thoughts, Bryant!" said Mr. Stewart, and linking his arm in that of his friend they turned away. Florence approached her cousin, and bending over the wasted form, asked if she were not already better.
Mary lifted her arms to her cousin's neck, and for a moment strove to press her to her heart, but strength had failed rapidly of late, and they sank wearily by her side. Florence sat down and took both hands between hers.
"Tell me, dear, if you are in pain?"
"No, Florry, I do not suffer much now; I am at present free from all pain. I have not had an opportunity of talking with you for some time. Florry, tell me, are you very happy?"
"Yes, Mary, I am very happy—happier than I ever was before; and far more so than I deserve. Oh! Mary, how miserable I have been; and it is by contrast that the transition is so delightful. I doubted the goodness and mercy of God; and, in the bitterness of my heart, I asked why I had been created for so much suffering. Oh, Mary! my pure-hearted, angel cousin, how much of my present happiness I owe to you. Suppose you had suffered me to wander on in the maze of darkness. At this moment I should have been a desolate, deluded, miserable nun; clinging to a religion which, instead of Bible truths, filled the anxious, aching heart with monkish legends of unattested miracles, and in place of the pure worship of God, gives us mummeries nearer akin to pagan rites! I thank God that I am released from my thraldom. I see now the tissue of falsehood so plausible in which all things were wrapped. Blackness and deceit in the garb of truth and purity! And it is horrible, to think that he who so led me astray claims to be my brother! Mary, Mary, how can I tell Mr. Stewart this?—tell him that I have wandered from the true faith—that I have knelt in confession to him who cursed our common father! He will despise me for my weakness: for only yesterday he said he first loved me for my clear insight into right and wrong, and my scorn of deceit and hypocrisy! Yet I deceived you; at least, tacitly—you who have ever loved me so truly, you who have saved me at last, and pointed out the road to heaven. Mary, forgive me! I never asked pardon of any on earth before, but I wronged you, good and gentle though you always were. Forgive me, oh, my cousin!"
Mary clasped Florence's hands in hers, and though too feeble to speak very audibly, replied:
"Florry, think not of the past; it has been very painful to us both, yet I thank God that you are right at last. You know how I love you: I would give every treasure of earth to contribute to your happiness; and now that you are so blest, listen to my counsel. Florry, there is a cloud no bigger than a man's hand resting low on the horizon of your happiness—be warned in time. You know Mr. Stewart's firm, unwavering principals of Protestantism; you know, too the aversion with which he regards the priests of Rome; it may be a hard task now, but it will be tenfold more difficult a year hence. Go to him at once, tell him you were misguided and deceived, and reveal every circumstance connected with that unhappy period. He will love you more for your candor. Florry, you turn pale, as though unequal to the task. Oh, my cousin, you prize his love more than truth; but the time will come when he will prize truth more than your love! Florry, let me beg you tell him all, and at once." She sank back, as if exhausted by her effort in speaking so long, yet firmly retained Florence's hand.
"Mary, if I do this, it is at the risk of losing his esteem, which I prize even more than his love. And after all, I cannot see that truth or duty requires this humiliating confession. Should he ever question me, I should scorn to deceive him, and at once should tell him all. But he does not suspect it, and I, being no longer in danger or blinded, need not reveal the past."
Mournfully Mary regarded her beautiful cousin.
"Florry, if you conceal nothing now, he will esteem you more than ever for hazarding his love in the cause of truth. If, in after years, he discovers the past, he will tell you that, silently at least, you deceived him, and reproach you with want of candor and firmness. Oh! there is a fearful risk to run; he will never place confidence in you again—be warned in time."
The entrance of Aunt Lizzy and Mrs. Carlton prevented further conversation, and unclasping Mary's fingers, Florence disengaged her hand and left the room.
Two days passed in furnishing and arranging their new home, and Mary saw but little of her cousin. As evening closed in again, the invalid watched from her couch the countenance of Mr. Stewart, as he sat earnestly conversing with her aunt. Florence and Mr. and Mrs. Carlton were out making some necessary purchases, and Dr. Bryant had been absent on business of his own since morning.
"Florence is too young to marry, or even dream of it, at present, Mr. Stewart; and besides, if I must be candid, I have always entertained different views for her."
"Pardon me, but I believe I scarcely comprehend your meaning. You speak of other views for her; may I venture to ask the nature of these?"
"I have never expected her to marry at all, Mr. Stewart."
"And why not, pray? What can you urge in favor of your wishes?"
"I had her own words to that effect, scarce a month ago."
A proud, happy smile played round his lips, and he replied: "She may have thought so then, but I think her views have changed."
"But for Mary, she would have been the same;" and a bitter look passed over her wrinkled face.
"Excuse me, if I ask an explanation of your enigmatical language; there is some hidden meaning, I well know."
"Mr. Stewart, your mother and I are old friends, and I wish you well; but all good Catholics love their church above every earthly thing. I should like to see Florence happy, but her eternal good should first be secured; you are a Protestant, and bitterly opposed to our Holy Church, and I cannot consent to see her marry a heretic, for such you are: she is too far astray already."
"If your niece were herself a Papist, your reason would indeed be a cogent one; but, under existing circumstances, I am puzzled to understand you."
"Were it not for Mary's influence, Florence would even now rest in the bosom of our Holy Church. She has done her cousin a grievous wrong; may God and the blessed Virgin forgive her!"
Mary groaned in spirit, as she marked the stern glance of his eagle eye, and feebly raising herself, she said: "Mr. Stewart, will you take this seat beside the sofa? I wish to speak with you."
Aunt Lizzy left the room hurriedly, as though she had already said too much, and silently he complied with Mary's request.
"You are pained and perplexed at what my aunt has just said; allow me to explain what may seem a great mystery. You are not aware that my uncle died a Papist. Weakened in body and mind by disease, he was sought and influenced in secret, when I little dreamed of such a change. On his death-bed he embraced the Romish faith, and, as I have since learned, exacted from Florry a promise to abide by the advice of his priest, in spiritual as well as temporal matters. He expired in the act of taking the sacrament, and our desolation of heart can be better imagined than described—left so utterly alone and unprotected, far from our relatives and the friends of our youth. I now marked a change in Florry, though at a loss to account for it. An influence, secret as that exerted on her lost parent, was likewise successful and, to my grief and astonishment, I found that she too had embraced papacy."
The door opened and Florence entered. She started on seeing her lover, but advanced to them much as usual. He raised his head, and cold and stern was the glance he bent on her beautiful face. She stood beside him, and rising, he placed a chair for her in perfect silence. Mary's heart ached, as she noted the marble paleness which overspread her cousin's cheek. Mr. Stewart folded his arms across his chest, and said in a low, stern, yet mournful tone:
"Florence, I could not have believed that you would have deceived me, as you have silently done."
Mournfully Florence looked for a moment on Mary's face, yet there was no reproach in her glance; it seemed but to say—"You have wakened me from my dream of happiness."
She lifted proudly her head, and fixed her dark eye full on her lover.
"Explain yourself, Mr. Stewart; I have a right to know with what I am charged, though I almost scorn to refute that of deceit."
"Not a week since, Florence, you heard me avow my dislike of the tenets and practises of the Romish Church. I said then, as now, that no strong-minded, intelligent woman of the present age could consult the page of history and then say that she conscientiously believed its doctrines to be pure and scriptural, or its practises in accordance with the teachings of our Saviour. You tacitly concurred in my opinions. Florence, did you tell me you had once held those doctrines in reverence? Nay, that even now you lean to papacy?" Stern was his tone, and cold and slightly contemptuous his glance.
A bitter, scornful smile wreathed the lips of his betrothed. "I acknowledge neither the authority of questioning, nor allow the privilege of any on earth to impugn my motives or my actions. Had I felt it incumbent on me to acquaint you with every circumstance of my past life, I should undoubtedly have done so, when you offered me your hand. I felt no obligation to that effect, and consequently consulted my own inclinations. If, for a moment, you had doubted me, or asked an explanation of the past, I should have scorned to dissemble with you; and now that the subject is broached you shall have the particulars, which, I assure you, have kept well, though, as you suppose, sometime withheld. I have been a member of the Church of Rome: I have prayed to saints and the Virgin, counted beads and used holy water, and have knelt in confession to a priest of papal Rome. I did all this, thinking, for a time, my salvation dependent on it. You know all now."
Mr. Stewart regarded her sadly as she uttered these words, and his stern tone softened as he noticed her bloodless cheek and quivering lip.
"Florence, it is not your former belief or practise that gives me this pain, and saddens our future. If you were at this moment a professor of the Romish faith, I would still cherish and trust you: I should strive to convince you of your error—to point out the fallacy of your hopes. When I recall the circumstances by which you were surrounded, and the influences exerted, I scarcely wonder that, for a time, you lent your credence and support. But, Florence, full well you know that this is not what pains me. It is the consciousness that you have kept me in ignorance of what your own heart told you would show your momentary weakness, and led me to suppose you entertained a belief at variance with your practise. You have feared my displeasure more than the disregard of truth and candor. Florence, Florence! knowing how well I loved you, and what implicit confidence I reposed in you, how could you do this?"
"Again, Mr. Stewart, I repeat that I perceive no culpability in my conduct. Had I felt it my duty, your love or indifference would not have weighed an atom in my decision to act according to my sense of right and wrong."
He turned from her, and paced to and fro before the fire. Florence would have left the room, but Mary clasped her dress, and detained her.
"Mr. Stewart, you have been too harsh and hasty in your decision, and too severe in your remarks. Florry has not forfeited your love, though she acted imprudently. Ask your own heart whether you would be willing to expose to her eye your every foible and weakness. For you, like all God's creatures, have faults of your own. Is there nothing you have left untold relative to your past? Oh! if you knew how deep and unutterable has been her love, even when she never again expected to meet you, you would forget this momentary weakness—a fault committed from the very intensity of her love, and fear lest she should sink in your estimation."
"Mary, if she had said, Dudley, I have not always felt as now, and my mind was darkened for a time, I should have loved her, if possible, more than before, for her noble candor. My own heart would have told me, This is one in whom you may eternally trust, for she risked the forfeiture of your love in order that truth might be unsullied. How can I confide in one who values the esteem of man more than the approval of her own conscience? You have said her love was a palliation. No, you are wrong; it is an aggravation of her fault. She should have loved me too well to suffer me to discover by chance what should have been disclosed in confidence. Mary, her love is not greater than mine. None know how I have cherished her memory—how I have kept her loved image in my heart during our long separation. I would give every earthly joy or possession to retain her affection, for it is dearer to me than everything beside, save truth, candor, and honesty. I have nothing to conceal from her; I would willingly bare my secret soul to her scrutiny. There is nothing I should wish to keep back, unless it be the pain of this hour."
He paused by her side, and looked tenderly on the pale, yet lovely face of Florence.
"Mr. Stewart, shall one fault forever destroy your confidence in Florry, when she has declared that had she thought it incumbent on her to speak of these things—if she had felt as you do, she asserts that nothing could have prevented her revealing every circumstance."
"Mary, I fear her code of morality is somewhat too lax; and the fact that she acknowledges no fault is far more painful than any other circumstance."
"Mary, I have omitted one thing which I wish him to know. I neglected to inform you, that the priest to whom I confessed is my half-brother! I have now told you all; and thinking as you do, it is better that in future we forget the past and be as strangers to each other. That I have loved you fervently, I can never forget—neither your assertion that I am unworthy of your confidence."
She disengaged her dress from Mary's clasp, and turned toward the door. Mr. Stewart caught her hand, and firmly held it. She struggled not to release herself, but lifted her dark eyes to his, and calmly met his earnest glance.
There was a mournful tenderness in the deep tone. Her lip quivered, still her eyes fell not beneath his, piercing as an eagle's.
"Mr Stewart, you have wronged her; you have been too severe." And Mary clasped his hand tightly, and looked up appealingly. He withdrew his hand.
"Florence, this is a bitter, bitter hour to me. Yet I may have judged too harshly: we will forget the past, and, in future, let no such cloud come between us."
"Not so, Mr. Stewart: if I am unworthy, how can you expect confidence from me? Think you I will change the code which you just now pronounced too lax? Oh! you know not what you have done. It is no light thing to tell a woman of my nature she is unworthy of the love she prized above every earthly thing!" Her voice, despite her efforts, faltered.
"Florence, I have been too severe in my language, and you too proud and haughty. Full well we know that without the love of each other life would be joyless to both. Ours is not a common love; and again I say, let us forget the past, while, in future, need I ask you to keep nothing from me?"
He drew her to him as he spoke, and passing his arm round her, pressed her to his heart. A long time Florence hid her head on his shoulder, as if struggling with her emotion, and then a heavy sob relieved her troubled heart. Closer he clasped her to him, and, laying his cheek on hers, murmured:
"My own darling Florence, forgive me, if I misjudged you; tell me that you will not remember my words—that this hour shall be to us a painful dream,"
She withdrew from his embrace, and, lifting her head, replied:
"I was wrong to doubt your love, or believe that you would think long of my weakness; but I am innocent of the charge of dissimulation, and never let us recur to the past"
She held out her hand, and clasping it in his, Mr. Stewart led her away.
An hour later Mary lay with closed eyes, too weary, from overexcitement, even to look about her. All had left the room, and a dim light from the hearth just faintly lighted the large, comfortless apartment. With noiseless step Dr. Bryant entered, and seating himself in the vacant chair, near Mary's sofa, bent forward that he might look on the wan face of the sufferer. His heart ached as he noted the painful alteration of the last week, and gently and softly he took one of the thin white hands between his own. It was cold and damp, and, while he pressed it, the dark blue eyes rested earnestly on his face.
"I hoped you were sleeping, did I wake you?" and he laid the hand back, as she strove to withdraw it.
"No, I have not slept since morning."
"Oh! I am troubled at your constant suffering; is there anything I can do for you?"
"No, thank you, Doctor, I wish nothing."
"All my arrangements are completed, and to-morrow I return to your home. Can I deliver any message, or execute any commission?"
For a moment, Mary closed her eyes, then replied in a low voice:
"If you should see Inez, tell her to remember my gift at parting, and thank her, in my name, for her many, many kindnesses." She paused, as if gathering courage to say something more.
"And tell her, too, that ere many hours I shall be at rest. Tell her I have no fear, nay more, that I have great hope, and that heaven is opening for me. Let her prepare to join me, where there is no sorrow nor parting."
There was a silence, as if each were communing with their own hearts.
"You go to-morrow, Dr. Bryant? Then you will not stay to see me die? I am failing fast, and when you return, I shall have gone to that bourne whence no traveler comes back to tell the tale. Let me thank you now, for your unvarying kindness; many have been your services, and a brother's care has ever followed me. Thank you; I appreciate your kindness, and earnest and heartfelt is my prayer that you may be very happy and blest on earth; and when you, too, come to die, may your end be like mine—free from all fear, and may hope and joy attend your last moments!"
Her breathing grew short, and large drops stood on her pure beautiful brow.
He had bent his head upon his bosom while she spoke, but now he raised it, and, taking her hand, clasped it warmly.
"Mary, Mary, if you knew what torture you inflicted, you would spare me this!"
It was the first time he had called her Mary, and her pale lip quivered.
"Forgive me, if I cause you pain!"
Bending forward, he continued, in a tone of touching sadness—"I had determined, Mary, to keep my grief locked in my own heart, and never to let words of love pass my lips. But the thought of parting with you forever is more than I can bear. Oh! Mary, have you not seen for weeks and months how I have loved you? Long ago, when first we met, a deep, unutterable love stole into my heart. I fancied for a time that you returned it, till the evening we met at my sister's, and you spoke with such indifference of leaving me behind. I saw then I had flattered myself falsely; that you entertained none save friendly feelings toward me. Still, I thought in time you might learn to regard me with warmer sentiments. So I hoped on till the evening of our last ride, when your agitation led me to suppose you loved another. I saw you meet Mr. Stewart, and was confirmed in my supposition. I gave up all hope of ever winning your affection in return. Now I see my error in believing for a moment that you felt otherwise to him than as a brother, as the betrothed of your cousin. I know that you have never loved him, and pardon my error. When I sought you just now, it was to say good-by, and in absence and varied and exciting pursuits to shut out from my heart the memory of my hopes and fears. Mary, your words fill me with inexpressible anguish! Oh, you cannot know how blank and dreary earth will seem when you are gone! I shall have no hope, no incitement, no joy!"
As she listened to this confession, which a month before would have brought the glow to her cheek and sparkle to her eye, she felt that it came too late; still a perfect joy stole into her heart. She turned her face toward him, and gently said:
"I am dying; and, feeling as I do, that few hours are allotted me, I shall not hesitate to speak freely and candidly. Some might think me deviating from the delicacy of my sex; but, under the circumstances, I feel that I am not. I have loved you long, and to know that my love is returned, is a source of deep and unutterable joy to me. You were indeed wrong to suppose I ever regarded Mr. Stewart otherwise than as Florry's future husband. I have never loved but one."
"Mary, can it be possible that you have loved me, when I fancied, of late, that indifference, and even dislike, nestled in your heart? We shall yet be happy! I thank God that we shall be so blest!" And he pressed the thin hand to his lips.
"Do not deceive yourself. Your confession has come too late. I can never be yours, for the hand of death is already laid upon me, and my spirit will wing its way, ere long, home to God. Now that we understand each other, and while I yet live, let us be as calm, as happy as the circumstances allow. It may seem hard that I should be taken when the future appears so bright, but I do not repine, neither must you. God, ever good and merciful, sees that it is best I should go, and we will not embitter the few hours left us by vain regrets." Too feeble to speak more, she closed her eyes, while her breathing grew painfully short.
Dr Bryant bent forward, and gently lifting her head, supported her with his strong arm, and stroked off from her beautiful brow the clustering hair. A long time she lay motionless, with closed eyes, and bending his head, he pressed a long kiss on the delicately-chiseled lips.
"O God! spare me my gentle angel Mary," he murmured, as looking on the wan, yet lovely face, he felt that to yield her up was more than he could bear.
At this moment Mrs. Carlton entered: he held out his hand, and drawing her to his side, said, in a deep, tender tone:
"She is mine now, sister; thank God, that at last I have won her, and pray with me that she may be spared to us both."
Fervently she pressed his hand, and a tear rolled down and dropped upon it, as she bent down to kiss the sufferer. Gently he put her back.
"She is wearied, and just fallen asleep; do not wake her."
He carefully depressed his arm that she might rest more easily. Mrs. Carlton seated herself beside her brother, and whispered:
"You will not go to-morrow, Frank?"
"No, no; I will not leave her a moment. Ellen, does she seem very much thinner since leaving home? I know she is very pale."
"Yes, Frank; she is fearfully changed within the last week."
"Oh, Ellen! if she should be taken from me;" and closer he drew his arm, as though fearing some unseen danger.
"We must look to Heaven for her restoration, and God is good," answered his sister, turning away to conceal her tears.
"Ah! whence yon glare That fires the arch of heaven?—that dark red smoke Blotting the silver moon?... Hark to that roar whose swift and deafening peals, In countless echoes, through the mountains ring, Startling pale midnight on her starry throne!
* * * * *
Loud and more loud, the discord grows, Till pale Death shuts the scene, And o'er the conqueror and the conquered draws His cold and bloody shroud."
The 6th of March rose dark and lowering, and all nature wore an aspect meet for the horrors which that day chronicled in the page of history. Toward noon the dense leaden cloud floated off, as though the uncertainty which veiled the future had suddenly been lifted—the crisis had come. Santa Anna and his bloodthirsty horde, rendered more savage by the recollection of the 11th December, poured out the vial of their wrath on the doomed town. Oh! San Antonio, thou art too beautiful for strife and discord to mar thy quiet loveliness. Yet the fiery breath of desolating war swept rudely o'er thee, and, alas! thou wast sorely scathed.
A second time the ill-fated fortress was fiercely charged. Long it withstood the terrible shock, and the overwhelming thousands that so madly pressed its gray, moldering walls. The sun went down as it were in a sea of blood, its lurid light, gleaming ominously on the pale, damp brows of the doomed garrison. Black clouds rolled up and veiled the heavens in gloom. Night closed prematurely in with fitful gusts, mingling the moans and strife of nature with the roar of artillery. Still the fury of the onset abated not: the Alamo shook to its firm basis. Despairingly the noble band raised their eyes to the blackened sky. "God help us!" A howling blast swept by, lost in the deep muttering of the cannonade. Then a deep voice rung clearly out, high above the surrounding din: "Comrades, we are lost! let us die like brave men!"
The shriek of departing hope was echoed back by the sullen groan of despair. Travis fell, fighting at the entrance. As the hero sank upon the glory floor, there was a pause; friend and foe gazed upon the noble form! His spirit sprung up to meet his God.
"On, comrades! Travis has fallen! dearly will we die!"
One hundred and fifty brave hearts poured out their life-blood by his motionless form, struck down like sheep in the slaughter-pen. But seven remained: in despair they gazed on the ruin around, reeling from exhaustion and slipping in gore. There was borne on the midnight air a faint, feeble cry: "Quarter! quarter!" Alas! brave hearts, the appeal was lost, for an incarnate demon led the thirsty band. With a fiendish yell it was answered back, "No quarter!" and ye seven were stretched beside your fearless, noble Travis.
Not a living Texan remained. The stiffening forms, grim in death, returned not even a groan to the wild shout of triumph that rung so mockingly though the deserted chambers of the slaughter-house. Victory declared for the wily tyrant—the black-hearted Santa Anna. Complete was the desolation which reigned around: there was none to oppose—no not one; and the Alamo was his again! Oh, Death! thou art insatiate! Hundreds had yielded to thy call, and followed the beckoning of thy relentless hand: and still another must swell thy specter host, and join the shadowy band of the Spirit World!
For three days Don Garcia lay motionless on his couch of pain; even utterance was denied him, for paralysis had stretched forth her numb, stiffening finger, and touched him, even while he stood in the busy haunts of men. All day the din of battle had sounded in his ear; Inez from time to time stole from his side, and looked out toward the fortress, dimly seen through the sulphurous cloud of smoke and the blaze of artillery.
In the silent watches of the night, the shout of "Victory!" was borne on by the blast. "My father, the Alamo is taken—Santa Anna has conquered!" He struggled fearfully, a gurgling sound alone passed his lips, and he fell back lifeless on his pillow.
Calmly the girl bent down and closed the eyes, covered decently the convulsed features, and then, shrouding her face with the mantilla, stept forth for assistance. The next day saw the Don borne to his last resting-place. In accordance with the custom of the nation, no female followed the bier. It was borne by two men, and followed by some dozen children, and perhaps as many aged Mexicans. While just in advance strode the Padre, repeating the Latin service for the dead, and attended by four boys—two bearing censers, one a cross, and the other holy water. With indecent haste they pressed forward, passing through the church, and resting the bier for a moment on the altar, while an Ave Maria was repeated. At a sign from the Padre, the procession moved on to the churchyard, and, without further ceremony, the body deposited in consecrated ground. Holy water was sprinkled profusedly around, and then all departed, leaving him to sleep undisturbed the last dreamless sleep.
Night found Inez sitting alone by her dreary, deserted hearth. Father, mother, sister, cousin, all had passed on before her; and the last of her house, she mused in her lonely home. A faint fire flickering on the hearth just revealed the form and face of the Mexican maiden. Her mantilla lay on the floor beside her, the black hair, thick and straight, hung to the waist, her brilliant, piercing eyes were bent vacantly on the fire, her dark cheek perfectly colorless as clay.
"Who is there to care for Inez now? Who will smooth my pillow, and close my eyes, and lay me to rest?"
Her desolation of heart conquered; her head sunk upon her bosom, and a deep, bitter groan burst from her lips. Slowly she rocked herself to and fro in the loneliness of her spirit.
She had not loved her father warmly; there was little congeniality between them, and her hasty rejection of Manuel's suit mutually embittered their intercourse. For Nevarro, a sort of sisterly feeling was entertained, no warmer affection. Yet she could love intensely. A little sister had waked her tenderness—her heart clung to the gentle child, so unlike herself. She sickened, and in a day went down to the tomb: bitter was the grief of Inez, who felt little for her mother, and soon she too took her place in the churchyard. Dr. Bryant came, and again Inez loved—again she was disappointed; and now she sat alone in the wide world, without one remaining tie to bind the future.
The hour of bitterness had come. She looked upon that dreary future and her utter desolation, and no gleam of hope stole to her darkened soul. An almost vacant expression settled on the dark countenance of the once beautiful maiden. Softly the door was pushed ajar, and the form of the Padre stood within. By instinct she seemed aware of his entrance, for raising her bowed head, the black sparkling eyes flashed, and the broad brow wrinkled into a frown dark as night. He approached her, and they stood face to face upon the hearth.
"What do you here, in the house of death, Mio Padre?"
"Inez, my queen of beauty, I have come to take the prize for which I toiled. There are none now between us, no, not one. You need not draw back so proudly."
A bitter, contemptuous laugh rung out on the night air, and Inez folded her arms upon her bosom.
"Truly, Padre, we are well mated! You have opposed me, and I thwarted you! I am your equal: think you to intimidate me with threats? You should know better!"
"Inez, listen! I leave this place before many days. My work is finished here; there are none to oppose, and I go elsewhere. To Mexico first, and then to Italy. You must go with me, my proud beauty! I cannot leave you here!"
Again Inez laughed her mocking laugh. "Go with you, Mio Padre! No, no; I must decline the honor. The hour of settlement has come! Alphonso Mazzolin, for long you have plotted my destruction; and one by one removed every obstacle in your way, and smoothed my path to ruin! I have known this—silently I have watched you maneuver. You counseled Manuel; you flattered him, encouraged his hasty course and overbearing manner, and caused the rupture between us. You knew my nature, and foresaw the result. You thought to secure me within the walls of yonder gloomy convent, and hoped that in time my broad lands would bless and enrich your holy church! But, Padre, I did not fancy the home prepared for me in San Jose. I promised to comply with my father's wish, and fulfil the engagement, much to your surprise and chagrin. Padre, I would have married Manuel, sooner than second your plans. I, too, foresaw the tempest that even now howls over us. It was my only hope, and I said, who may predict the chances of war? The Americans may yet number the most here, and then your power will be at an end. Seemingly I was passive, but you are thwarted. We stand face to face, and I scorn you, incarnate devil as you are. How dared you do as you have done? Mine eyes are opened—you can no longer deceive me with your lying legends and the marvelous traditions of your country. I tell you, I hate you with an everlasting hate. You have led me far from God, if there be a God, and may my curse follow you, even to your grave!"
Fiercely the glowing face was bent upon him. Hate, scorn, bitterness of heart, and utter desolation mingled strangely in the withering glance. The Padre seized her arm, and hoarsely exclaimed:
"We know each other now: no matter, you cannot escape me: if force be necessary to take you hence, I can command it at any moment. You know full well my word is law; resist not, nor further rouse me—there is no help for you save in submission. I will not leave you."
"Ere I follow you hence, yonder river shall close over my body. I tell you now I will not accompany you."
He stepped to the door and whistled faintly. The next moment a black-browed soldier stood before them.
"Herrara, she has broken her promise—she refuses to enter a convent, and she defies me, and scorns our holy church. I somehow expected this; and I charge you now, suffer her not to pass the threshold of her own room; guard well the door, there is no window. See you, Inez, you cannot escape me?" He whispered in the intruder's ear, and, promising to come again the ensuing day, left the house, carefully closing the door after him. Lighting his cigarrita, Herrara requested Inez to seek her own apartment, that he might secure the door outside, and then return to the fire. Without a word she ascended the stairs to her own room. A chain was passed about the door, and then the retreating steps of the soldier died away.
What should she do? Inez sat down to collect her thoughts, and looked round the apartment. The walls were of solid rock, and in one corner was a small grating of four iron bars, which admitted light and air, but precluded all hope of escape in that quarter. The door was secured, and no means of egress presented itself. Her eye rested on her lamp, and a smile lit up the dark countenance of the prisoner. She threw herself on her bed: slowly the hours rolled—midnight came at last. She rose and listened—no stir, no sound of life reached her: she glanced at her lamp, now dim—the light was waning, and softly stepping across the room, she drew from a basket several bundles of paper. These she tore in pieces, and placing them beside the door, drew the lamp near. Inez carefully twisted up her long black hair, and placed on her head a broad sombrero, which the Don had worn of late; then taking his Mexican blanket, she slipped her head through the opening, and suffered it to fall to her feet. Something seemed forgotten, and after some little search, she found a small cotton bag, into which she dropped a polonce, then secured it beneath the blanket. Queerly enough she looked, thus accoutered; but apparently the oddity of her appearance never once crossed her mind, for, stepping across the floor, she held the pieces of paper over the lamp till ignited, then quickly thrust them one by one between the small crack or chink in the center of the door. It was of wood, old and dry, and caught like tinder. She watched it burn; the door was narrow, and the devouring element soon consumed all save the top and bottom pieces which extended across. These quivered as their support crumbled beneath them, and soon would fall with a crash. She watched her time, and gathering dress and blanket closely about her, sprang through, and though almost suffocated with smoke, hurried down to a small door at the rear of the house. She stood without and listened: Inez fancied she heard the crackling of the fire, yet there was no time to lose. Just before her sat a large stone vessel, containing the soaking corn for the morning tortillos; drawing forth her bag, she filled it with the swollen grain, and hastened on to where a small black horse was lassoed, having his hay scattered on the ground beside him. It was but the work of a moment to throw on and fasten her father's saddle, which hung on a neighboring tree, and loosing the hair lariat, she patted the pony she had often ridden on St. ——'s day, and sprang into the seat. Slowly she passed through the narrow yard, and entered the street; pausing, she glanced up at her window, and perceived through the grating the blaze and smoke now filling the vacant room. Distinctly the clank of the chain fell on her ear, and turning into an alley, she galloped away.
Inez knew it would be impossible to pass over the bridge, and down the Alameda without detection, for seven hundred Mexican troops were stationed on the outskirts of the town; and, with the celerity of thought, she directed her way in the opposite direction, toward a shallow portion of the river, occasionally used as a ford. Happily the distance was short; and urging her somewhat unwilling horse, she plunged in. The moon rose full and bright as she reached the opposite bank; and pausing a moment, she looked back upon the sleeping town. No sound of life fell on her ear; and avoiding the beaten track, she turned her horse out on the grass, and hastened on toward the east, directing her course so as to pass beyond the Powder-House, which was dimly seen in the distance. At a quick canter it was soon passed, and she pressed on to the Salado, some three miles distant. Full well she knew she would be sought for when morning dawned; and with such speed she almost flew on, that sunrise found her many miles from her home, Inez was fearless, or she would never have dared to undertake what lay before her. Alone, unprotected, in the guise of a man, without possessing his ordinary means of defense, there was much to risk; for Indian depredations were frequent, and she must traverse a wide waste of almost interminable length ere reaching any settlement.
When the sunbeams played joyously about her Inez stopped to rest, and eating a few grains of her treasured corn, she allowed her horse to graze a short time along the margin of a stream, where the grass was tender and abundant; and then remounting, rode on somewhat more leisurely than she had previously done.
"To die, is landing on some silent shore, Where billows never beat nor tempests roar!"
Since morning, Mary had lain in the deep, dreamless sleep of exhaustion: and now the leafless boughs, which waved to and fro before her window, threw long shadows athwart the wall and across the deserted yard. Evening was creeping slowly on. Over the wan, yet lovely face of the sleeper had come a gradual change—agonizing, yet indescribable. It ever appears when Death approaches to claim his victim, and it seems as though the shadow cast by his black pinions. Mary opened her eyes and looked silently on the sad group which clustered around her couch. Mr. Stewart, alone able to command his voice, asked if she was not better, as she had slept so gently.
"All is well, Mr. Stewart—I have no pain;" and her eye again rested on Florence. Long was the look, and full of deep, unutterable tenderness. Feebly she extended her hand.
Her cousin knelt beside her, and buried her face in her hands. Mary laid hers on the bowed head.
"Dear Florry, I have little time to stay. Do not sadden this last hour with vain regrets. Ah! my cousin, I thank God that you will be so happy. When you miss me from your side you will feel lonely enough, and your heart will ache for me again. Yet, though bodily absent, I shall not be far away, Florry. My spirit will hover round the loved ones I leave on earth. Your dead, forming an angel-guard, will ever linger about your earthly path, and in the hour like this will bear up your spirit to God. Think not of me as resting in the silent grave. I shall not be there, but ever near you. I do not say, try to forget me, and fix your thoughts on other things. Oh! I beg you to think of me often, and of our glorious reunion in heaven! Florry, there is one thing which will stand between you and me. My dear cousin, conquer your pride, cast away your haughtiness, and learn to lean on God, and walk in accordance with his law. Oh! who would exchange the hope of a Christian for all that worlds could offer? One may pass through life, and do without it; but in the hour of death its claim is imperatively urged, and none can go down to the tomb in peace without it. Florry, you said last night it was hard that I should die. I am not merely reconciled, but I am happy! Earth looks very bright and joyous, and if I might stay, my future is attractive indeed. Yet I know that for some good end I am taken, and what seems to you so hard, is but a blessing in disguise. Oh! then, when you are summoned away, may you feel, as I now do, that the arms of your God are outstretched to receive you." She held out her hand to Mr. Stewart, who stood beside her: he clasped it in his.
"Cherish Florry, and let no shadow come between you. It gives me inexpressible joy to know that when I am gone you will be near to love and to guide her."
"We will comfort and guide each other, dear Mary, and oh! I pray God that we may be enabled to join you in that land of rest to which you are hastening." He fervently kissed the thin white hand he held, and then gently raised Florence. Mary lifted her arms feebly, and they clasped each other in a long, last embrace.
"Mary, my angel cousin, I cannot give you up. Oh! I have never prized you as I ought. Who will love me as you have done?"
"Hush, Florry!" whispered the sinking voice of the sufferer. "I am very, very happy—kiss me, and say good-by."
Gently Dr. Bryant took Florence from her cousin, and then each in turn, Mrs. Carlton and Aunt Lizzy, bent over her; as the latter turned away, Mary took her hand, and drawing her down, murmured:
"My dear aunt, forgive what may have pained you in my past life. We have differed on many points, but we both know there is one God. Ah! aunt, in his kingdom may we soon meet again: think of me often, dear aunt. When I am gone you will be very lonely, but only for a short period are we separated."
Dr. Bryant elevated her pillow that she might rest more easily. She lifted her eyes to his pale face. "Frank, will you turn the sofa that I may see the sun set once more?"
He moved it to the west window, and drew aside the curtain that the golden beams might enter: she could not look out, for the sofa was low, and sitting down beside her, he passed his arm around her, and lifted her head to his bosom. For a time she looked out on the brilliant hues of the setting sun, now just visible above the tree tops. Slowly it sank, then disappeared forever to her vision. Once Dr. Bryant had seen her lips move, as in prayer; now the deep blue eyes were again raised to the loved face bending over her.
"Long ago, I prayed to God that I might fade away gently, and die a painless death. He has granted my petition. All things seem very calm and beautiful—earth ne'er looked so like heaven before; yet how insignificant in comparison with the glories which await me. Frank, if aught could draw me back, and make me loth to leave this world, it would be my love for you. Life would be so bright passed by your side. You know the depth of my love, yet I may not remain. Frank, tell me that you can give me up for a little while. Oh! can you not say, 'God's will-be done?'"
"Mary, it is a terrible trial to yield you up, when I looked forward so joyously to the future. It is hard to think of the long, long dreary years that are to come, and know that you will not be near me; that I cannot see your face, or hear your loved tones. Oh, Mary, you know not the bitterness of this hour; yet I can say God's will be done, for I have conquered my own heart, but every earthly joy and hope has passed away. To our reunion I must ever look as my only comfort, and I pray God that it may be speedy."
He bent his head till his lips rested on the white brow, now damp in death. Wearily she turned her face toward his; he clasped the wasted form tightly to his heart, and kissed the pale lips; her fingers clasped his hand gently, and she whispered, "Good-by!"
"Good-by, my darling Mary!—my own angel one, good-by!"
Again he pressed his lips to hers, and then rested her head more easily upon his arm. The eyes closed, and those who stood watching her low, irregular breathing, fancied she slept again.
One arm was around her, while the other supported the drooping head. Her beautiful brown hair fell over his arm, and left exposed the colorless face. She was wasted, yet beautiful in its perfect peace and joy was the expression which rested on her features. Dr. Bryant, leaning his noble brow on hers, felt her spirit pass away in the last sigh which escaped her lips. Yet he did not lift his head. Cold as marble grew the white fingers which lingered in his, still he clasped her tightly. He sat with closed eyes, communing with his own saddened heart; he was stilling the agony which welled up, and casting forth the bitterness which mingled darkly with his grief, and he said unto his tortured soul: "Be still! my treasure is laid up in heaven."
He lifted the hair from his arm, and gently drew his hand from hers; yet, save for the icy coldness of her brow, none would have known that the soul which lent such gentle loveliness to the countenance had flown home to God.
Dr. Bryant pressed a last kiss on the closed eyes and marble brow, softly laid her on her pillow, and left the room.
"All things are dark to sorrow," and the very repose and beauty of nature seem to the aching heart a mockery. No violent bursts of grief had followed Mary's death, for so peaceful and painless was her end, it was scarce allowable. Yet now that she had been consigned to the quiet grave, a dreary sense of loneliness and desolation crept to the hearts of the saddened group. They stood assembled at the door of their new home, to bid adieu to Dr. Bryant. In vain had been his sister's tears and entreaties, and Mr. Carlton's expostulations. Florence had clasped his hand, and asked in trembling accents, why he left them in their sorrow, and Mr. Stewart implored him not to seek death on the battlefield.
Firm in his purpose, naught availed. He stood upon the step ready to depart; his noble face was very pale, and grief had touched with saddening finger every lineament. Yet his tone and mien were calm as usual.
"My dear sister," said he, "in times like these a man should first regard duty—the laws and precepts of his God! then the claims of his suffering country; and lastly, the ties of nature and the tenderer feelings of his heart. Ellen, think how many have torn themselves from weeping wives and clinging children, and cast their warm love far from them. The call to patriots is imperative. I have now nothing to detain me here: it is my duty to lend my arm toward supporting our common liberty. Do not fear for me, Ellen, my dear sister; remember that the strong arm of all-seeing God is ever around us, to guard in time of danger!" He clasped her tenderly to his heart, then placed her in her husband's arms.
"Florence, if not again in Texas, I hope we shall soon meet, in more peaceful hours, in Louisiana; if not, I pray God that you and Stewart may be as happy as I once hoped to be." He pressed her hand warmly, and returning the long, tight clasp of Mr. Stewart, mounted his horse and rode slowly away.
"Mother," said Elliot, "Uncle Frank has not taken the right road toward home."
"Hush, Elliot!" she sadly answered, while her tears gushed anew; "he has gone by his Mary's grave."
On that hour, spent at the early tomb of the "loved and lost" Mary, we will not intrude: it is rendered sacred by its deep, unutterable anguish.
Nearly a week passed, and Dr. Bryant had hurried on, riding through the long, long nights, and only pausing at times to recruit his jaded steed. He had arrived at within two days' ride of San Antonio, and too wearied to proceed, stopped as night closed in, and picketing his horse wrapped his cloak about him, and threw himself under a large spreading oak to rest, and, if possible, to sleep. An hour passed on: still he lay looking up to the brilliant sky above. Perfect quiet reigned around, and he felt soothed inexpressibly. Overcome with fatigue, sleep stole on, and momentary oblivion of the past was granted. He was startled from his slumber by the neighing of his horse; and rising lightly, drew forth his pistols, cocked one, and turned in the direction whence came the sound of approaching hoofs. The neighing was answered by the advancing steed, and soon the figure of both rider and horse was dimly seen; for the moon was not yet risen, and the pale light of the stars but faintly assisted the vision.
"Who comes there?" asked Dr. Bryant, throwing off his cloak, and stepping up to the stranger.
"A peaceful Mexican, in search of cows, and some twenty sheep which strayed away. I think, from your voice, you are an Americano. I am friendly to your people—you will not molest me, and I will not harm you."
"My friend, I rather doubt your word. These are stormy times for a man to venture out in search of cattle, so far from San Antonio.".
"I could tell you a piece of news that would satisfy you that I run less risk than yourself. But, stranger, it's not civil to doubt a man's word, and make him an enemy whether he will or not."
"I am willing to receive your proffered proof of sincerity, and hope to find you unlike your fickle nation. Come, tell the news which sanctions this long ramble of yours. These are dark days, and it becomes every man to look well to his own safety, and likewise watch his neighbor's movements."
"I will do you a kindness, stranger; turn your horse's head, and let moonrise find you where you drank water at noon. San Antonio is no place for Americans now. Santa Anna has taken the Alamo; and every one of your people lie low. Not one was spared to carry the tale to Austin—no, not one!"
Dr. Bryant groaned in spirit, and his extended arm sunk to his side.
"Oh God! hast thou forsaken us? Surely thou wilt yet listen to the voice of justice and liberty," he murmured to himself, and there was a pause.
"How long since the ill-fated Alamo fell?" he inquired.
"Five days ago. Hintzilopotchli came down and held his bloody feast, and cut off many brave men."
"By what force was the fortress assaulted?"
"Seven thousand men, led by the great and victorious Santa Anna. Not long lasted the strife: we were too many for your people, and the fight was short."
"And was our noble Travis slaughtered with his brave band?"
"He was too brave to live. Think you he would survive his comrades? No! he fell first, and then all followed."
"Will Santa Anna march to Austin, think you; or, content with victory, remain in your town?"
"Truly you give me credit for few brains and a woman's tongue. I have told you one true tale, can you expect another from a fickle Mexican? I tell you now, stranger, push me not too closely, if you would hear what is good for you."
"Your voice sounds strangely familiar; yet I cannot recognize it sufficiently to know with whom I am speaking. If, as you declare, friendly to our people, you will not object to giving your name. Perhaps I have known you in San Antonio."
"We Mexicans can tell a friend across the prairie—but no matter. I am thinking we be strangers, yet I am not ashamed of my name. They call me Antoine Amedo—did you ever hear of such an 'hombre?' My ranche is just below the mission San Jose, and I have large flocks of sheep and cattle."
"Antoine Amedo," repeated Dr. Bryant, musingly, and striving, through the gloom, to scan his features. "You are right; I do not know you, though your voice is familiar."
"If you have no objection, Senor Americano, I will let my horse picket awhile, and rest myself; for I have ridden many miles since sunrise, and not a blessed 'barego' have I smelled."
"You are at liberty to rest as long as you please: consult your own inclinations." And he turned away to his own horse, yet marked that the newcomer dismounted with some difficulty.
He changed his own picket, that fresh grass might not be wanting; and returning to the tree, leaned against its huge body, and watched the movements of the intruder. They were very slow, as if he were well-nigh spent with overexertion. He took off his broad hat, smoothed his hair, then replaced it; adjusted his heavy blanket more comfortably, and drawing forth a sort of wallet, proceeded to satisfy the cravings of hunger. He ate but little, and returning the bag or sack to its hiding-place in the broad girdle which was passed about his waist beneath the blanket, stretched himself on the ground, with not even a straggling bough between him and the deep blue vault of heaven.
No sound broke the silence, save the cropping of the horses as they grazed near; and, seeking again his grassy couch, Dr. Bryant closed his eyes, and communed with his own heart. Sleep was now impossible, and he lay so rapt in thought, that time flew on unheeded. The moon was shining brightly now, and every object was distinctly seen. He heard the rustling of leaves and the crush of grass. A moment he opened his eyes, then closed them, and feigned sleep.
The Mexican had risen, and softly approaching the motionless form, knelt on the ground beside him, and listened to his breathing. It was low and regular, as one in quiet slumber. He bent and gazed into the upturned face—not a muscle quivered or a feature moved. Stealthily a hand crept round the collar of the cloak, and lifted a heavy lock of the raven hair. Smoothing it out on the grass, he drew forth a crooked blade, which, in accordance with the custom of his countrymen, ever hung in the girdle passed about the waist. It glittered in the moonlight; and with dexterous hand he cut the lock of hair: then, returning the knife to its resting-place, rose, and noiselessly retreating to his former position, some yards distant, threw himself down to sleep.
Dr. Bryant, fully conscious of every movement, determined, if possible, to solve this mystery. His pistols were in readiness, and, had violence been attempted, he would have sprung to his feet and defended himself. He waited awhile, then turned, stretched, yawned, and finally rose up. He drew out his watch, the hand pointed to two. He wound it up, and drawing his cap closer about his ears, for the night was cold, approached his companion and stirred him with his foot. No sound or movement indicated consciousness; he stooped and shook him.
"Antoine, Antoine, get up my friend: you don't intend to spend the night here, do you?"
Ameda sat upright, and rubbed his eyes with well-feigned sleepiness: "Well, Senor Americano, what is it—Indians smelling about?"
Dr. Bryant could not repress a smile at the drowsy tone of the ranchero, who scarce five moments before had crept from his side.
"Upon my word, you seem a match for the seven sleepers of old. Why, man, if Indians had stumbled on you by chance, they had slung your scalp on yonder bough. In times like these men should slumber lightly."
"Very true, Senor; yet mine eyes are heavy, for two moons have seen me riding on. But you are up! wherefore?"
"I proceed on my journey, and wakened you to ask advice and direction, and request your company, if it be that we take the same route."
"Jesu Maria! One might think the man had choice! Why, turn your horse's head, and rest for naught but grass and water."
The Mexican had risen, and in adjusting his blanket, a sudden gust of wind lifted his hat, and it fell to the ground at his feet; he clutched at it convulsively, but it was too late. Dr. Bryant started back in astonishment:
The head sunk on her bosom, and the hair which had been confined at the back of her head, fell in luxuriant masses to her waist.
"Fearless, yet unfortunate girl! what has led you to this freak?"
A singular group they presented, standing on the broad and seemingly boundless prairie—the March wind moaning through the old oaks, and rustling the brown grass. The moon shone full upon them; Dr. Bryant, with his large cloak wrapped closely about him, and the black cap drawn over his brow—surprise, reproach, pity, and chagrin strangely blended in his gaze. One arm was folded over the broad chest, the other hung by his side. Inez stood just before him, her beautiful head bent so that the black locks well-nigh concealed her features. Her father's large variegated blanket hanging loosely about the tall, slender form. At her feet lay the hat, crushed by the extended foot, and quivering in the night wind, her hands tightly clasped.
"Inez, you crouch like a guilty being before me! Surely you have done nothing to blush for. Yet stranger step was never taken by a reasonable being. Inez, raise your head, and tell me what induced you to venture in this desolate region, alone, unprotected, and in disguise?"
Inez lifted slowly the once beautiful face, now haggard and pale. Anguish of spirit had left its impress on her dark brow, wrinkled by early care. Mournful was the expression of the large dark eyes raised to his face:
"Dr. Bryant, I am alone in the wide, wide world—there are none to protect—none to care for me now! My father sleeps by Manuel's side, in the churchyard, and I am the last of my house. The name of De Garcia, once so proud and honored, will become a byword for desolation and misery! I have said cursed was the hour of my birth! and I now say blessed is the hour of my last sleep! You see me here from necessity, not choice, for all places would be alike to me now; but I have been driven from my lonely hearth—I dared not stay, I flew to this dreary waste for peace—for protection! There is no rest, no peace for me, Not one is left to whom I can say, guard and keep me from harm! Alone, friendless, in this wide, bitter world!"
"Your language is strangely ambiguous, Inez! Can you not explicitly declare what danger threatens, and believe that all I can do to avert evil will gladly be done?"
"Dr. Bryant, the Padre is my most inveterate enemy! Is not this sufficient to account for my presence here?"
"Unfortunate girl! how have you incurred that man's hatred?"
"It is a long tale, and needless to repeat: enough, that he plotted my ruin—that the strong, silent walls of a far-off convent was my destination. And why?—That my flocks and lands might enrich his precious church. You look wonderingly upon me; strange language, this, I think you say, for a lamb of his flock. How dare you speak so irreverently of the holy man, consecrated priest of Rome as he is? Dr. Bryant, I am no Catholic, nor have I been since you have known me. It was my policy to appear passive. I attended mass, and sought the confessional, and all the while cursed him in my heart. I watched him, and saved your people from destruction. Would you know how? I heard whispered promises to meet at dead of night. I followed; I saw the meeting between an emissary of Santa Anna and my godly Padre. At imminent risk I listened to their plot. You were to be kept in ignorance of the powerful force hurrying on to destroy you. Santa Anna was to burst suddenly upon the town, and, ere you could receive reinforcements, capture the Alamo at a blow. Once in his possession, more than one of your people were to be handed over to the tender mercies of my holy confessor. I warned you of your danger, and happily you heeded the signs of the time; else you, too, would now molder beneath the walls of the Alamo. His prey escaped him, and with redoubled eagerness he sought to consummate my destruction. I was made a prisoner in my own home, ere the sod settled on my father's grave! I fled in the midnight hour, and you see me here! Dr. Bryant, I well-nigh cut short the knotted thread of my life; but one thing saved me, else my body would even now whirl along the channel of the river. When I parted from the blue-eyed, sainted Mary, she gave me this book, and asked me not only to read but follow its teachings. She clasped my hand, and told me to remember God, and the eternity which awaited me, and the judgment of that other, final world. Oh! if there be a heaven and a purgatory! a God and a judge! if I sink to perdition, one alone is to blame. He told me he had power to forgive my sins; that the more completely I obeyed him on earth, the more blessed I should be in heaven. Yet I have heard him lie, and seen him set aside the rules of humanity and the laws of God! Mary's Bible tells me 'to keep holy the Sabbath day.' Yet, from my childhood, I have seen our Priests at mass on Sabbath morning, and at monte and cock-fights on the evening of the same day! And I have seen them take from the widow, as the burial-fee of her husband, the last cow she possessed. I saw these things, and I said, there is no God, or he would not suffer such as these to minister as his chosen servants upon the earth. I said in my heart, purgatory is but a lie made to keep pace with their marvelous legends and frequent miracles! There is not a purgatory, or they would fear the retribution in store for them. I had none to teach me aright. I mocked at the thought of religion. I said there is none on the earth—it is merely a system of gain, and all that constitutes the difference is, that some are by nature more of devils, and others gifted with milder hearts. But I saw Mary—pure angel that she is—I saw her with the sick and the dying: she railed not at our priest, as he at her. She carried her Bible to the bed of death, and told them to look to God for themselves. She bade them leave off saint-worship, and cling to Jesus as their only Mediator. Peace followed her steps, and much good she would have done, but my Padre interfered, peremptorily ordered all good Papists to shun her as they would an incarnate demon, and frightened many into submission with his marvelous tales and threats of purgatory. I said to myself, if there be truth in God and religion, this Mary walketh in the right path, for like an angel of mercy and light she ever seems. She was the hope, the joy, the blessing of all who knew her. Oh! I will come to you, Mary, and learn of you, and die near, that you may be with me in the hour of rest."