The seat of Government was removed to Harrisburg, a small place on the Buffalo Bayou; and Houston was sure that this change would cause Santa Anna to diverge from his route to Nacogdoches. He dispatched orders to the men scattered up and down the Brazos from Washington to Fort Bend—a distance of eighty miles—to join him on the march to Harrisburg, and he struck his own camp at the time he had specified.
In less than twenty-four hours they reached San Felipe, a distance of twenty-eight miles. The suffering of the women and children on that march can never be told. Acts of heroism on the part of the men and of fortitude on the part of the women that are almost incredible, marked every step of the way. The Senora sat in her wagon, speechless, and lost in a maze of melancholy anguish. She did not seem to heed want, or cold, or wet, or the utter misery of her surroundings. Her soul had concentrated all its consciousness upon the strand of hair she continually smoothed through her fingers. Dr. Worth, in his capacity of physician, accompanied the flying families, and he was thus able to pay some attention to his distraught wife; but she answered nothing he said to her. If she looked at him, her eyes either flamed with anger, or expressed something of the terror to be seen in the eyes of a hunted animal. It was evident that her childish intelligence had seized upon him as the most obvious cause of all her loss and misery.
The condition of a wife so beloved almost broke his heart. The tragic death of his dear son was not so hard to endure as this living woe at his side. And when they reached San Felipe and found it in ashes, a bitter cry of hopeless suffering came from every woman's lips. They had thought to find there a little food, and a day's sheltered resting-place. Even Antonia's brave soul fainted, at the want and suffering around her. She had gold, but it could not buy bread for the little ones, weeping with hunger and terrified by the fretfulness of mothers suffering the pangs of want and in the last stage of human weariness.
It was on this night Houston wrote: "I will do the best I can; but be assured the fame of Jackson could never compensate me for my anxiety and mental pain." And yet, when he was told that a blind woman and her seven children had been passed by, and did not know the enemy were approaching, he delayed the march until men had been sent back to bring them into safety.
During these days of grief and privation Isabel's nature grew to its finest proportions. Her patient efforts to arouse her mother, and her cheerfulness under the loss of all comforts, were delightful. Besides which, she had an inexhaustible fund of sympathy for the babies. She was never without one in her arms. Three mothers, who had died on the road, left their children to her care. And it was wonderful and pitiful to see the delicately nurtured girl, making all kinds of efforts to secure little necessaries for the children she had elected to care for.
"The Holy Mother helps me," she said to, Antonia. "She makes the poor little ones good, and I am not very tired."
At San Felipe they were joined by nearly one hundred men, who also brought word that a fine company were advancing to their aid from Mississippi, under General Quitman; and that two large cannon, sent by the people of Cincinnati, were within a few miles. And thus hoping and fearing, hungry and weary to the death, they reached, on the 16th of April, after a march of eighteen miles, a place called McArley's. They had come over a boggy prairie under a cold rain, and were depressed beyond expression. But there was a little shelter here for the women and children to sleep under. The men camped in the open. They had not a tent in their possession.
About ten o'clock that night, Doctor Worth was sitting with his wife and children and Antonia in one corner of a room in a deserted cabin. He had the Senora's wasted hand in his own, and was talking to her. She sat in apathetic silence. It was impossible to tell whether she heard or understood him.
"I wonder where Isabel is," said Antonia; and with the words the girl entered the room. She had in her arms a little lad of four years old, suffering the tortures of croup.
"Mi madre," she cried, "you know how to save him! He is dying! Save him! Listen to me! The Holy Mother says so"; and she laid the child on her knee.
A change like a flash of light passed over the Senora's face. "The poor little one!" Her motherly instincts crushed down everything else. In the child's agony she forgot her own grief. With glad hearts the doctor and Antonia encouraged her in her good work, and when at length the sufferer had been relieved and was sleeping against her breast, the Senora had wept. The stone from her heart had been rolled away by a little child. Her own selfish sorrow had been buried in a wave of holy, unselfish maternal affection. The key to her nature had been found, and henceforward Isabel brought to her every suffering baby.
On the next day they marched ten miles through a heavy rain, and arrived at Burnett's settlement. The women had shelter, the men slept on the wet ground—took the prairie without cover—with their arms in their hands. They knew they were in the vicinity of Santa Anna, and all were ready to answer in an instant the three taps of the drum, which was the only instrument of martial music in the camp, and which was never touched but by Houston.
Another day of eighteen miles brought them to within a short distance of Harrisburg. Santa Anna had just been there, and the place was in ashes. It was evident to all, now, that the day and the hour was at hand. Houston first thought of the two hundred families he had in charge, and they were quickly taken over the bayou. When he had seen the last one in this comparative safety, he uttered so fervent a "Thank God!" that the men around unconsciously repeated it. The bayou though narrow was twenty feet deep, and the very home of alligators. There was only one small bridge in the vicinity. He intended its destruction, and thus to make his little band and the deep, dangerous stream a double barrier between the Mexicans and the women and children beyond them. It was after this duty he wrote:
"This morning we are in preparation to meet Santa Anna. We will only be about seven hundred to march, besides the camp guard. But we go to conquest. The troops are in fine spirits, and now is the time for action. I leave the result in the hands of an all-wise God, and I rely confidently in his Providence.
The women and children, under a competent guide, continued their march eastward. But they were worn out. Many were unable to put their feet to the ground. The wagons were crowded with these helpless ones. The Senora had so far recovered as to understand that within a few hours Santa Anna and the Americans must meet. And, mentally led by Isabel's passionate hatred, she now showed a vindictiveness beyond that of any other woman.
She spent hours upon her knees, imploring the saints, and the stars, and the angel Michael, to fight against Santa Anna. To Isabel she whispered, "I have even informed the evil one where he may be found. The wretch who ordered such infamies! He poisons the air of the whole world as he goes through it. I shall never be happy till I know that he is in purgatory. He will be hated even there—and in a worse place, too. Yes, it is pleasant to think of that! There will be many accusers of him there. I shall comfort myself with imagining his punishment. Isabel, do you believe with your heart that Senor Houston and the Americans will be strong enough to kill him?"
"Mi madre, I know it."
"Then do be a little delighted. How can you bear things with such a provoking indifference? But as Luis is safe—"
"Chito! Chito! Do not be cruel, mi madre. I would stab Santa Anna with my own hands—very slowly, I would stab him. It would be so sweet. The Sisters told me of a woman in the Holy Book, who smiled upon the one she hated, and gave him milk and butter, and when he slept, drove a great nail through his temples. I know how she felt. What a feast it would be, to strike, and strike, and strike! I could drive ten, twenty, fifty nails, into Santa Anna, when I think of Juan."
No one had before dared to breathe her boy's name in her hearing. She herself had never spoken it. It fell upon the ears of both women like a strain of forgotten music. They looked at each other with eyes that stirred memory and love to their sweetest depths. Almost in whispers they began to talk of the dead boy, to recall how lovable, how charming, how affectionate, how obedient he had been. Then the Senora broke open the seals of her sorrow, and, with bitter reproaches on herself, confessed that the kiss she had denied her Juan was a load of anguish upon her heart that she could not bear.
"If I had only blessed him," she moaned; "I had saved him from his misfortune. A mother's blessing is such a holy thing! And he knelt at my knees, and begged it. I can see his eyes in the darkness, when my eyes are shut. I can hear his voice when I am asleep. Isabel, I shall never be happy till I see Juan again, and say to him, 'Forgive me, dear one, forgive me, for I have suffered.'"
Both were weeping, but Isabel said, bravely: "I am sure that Juan does not blame you now, mi madre. In the other world one understands better. And remember, also, the letter which he wrote you. His last thought was yours. He fell with your name on his lips. These things are certain. And was it not good of Dare to die with him? A friend like that! Out of the tale-books who ever hears of such a thing? Antonia has wept much. In the nights, when she thinks I am asleep, I hear her. Have you seen that she has grown white and thin? I think that my father is very unhappy about her."
"In an hour of mercy may the merciful One remember Dare Grant! I will pray for his peace as long as I live. If he had left Juan—if he had come back alone—I think indeed I should have hated him."
"That was also the opinion of Antonia—she would never have loved him the same. I am sure she would not have married him."
"My good Antonia! Go bring her to me, Isabel. I want to comfort her. She has been so patient with me. I have felt it—felt it every minute; and I have been stupid and selfish, and have forgotten that she too was suffering."
The next day it was found impossible to move. The majority of the women had husbands with the army. They had left their wives, to secure everlasting freedom for their children; but, even if Houston was victorious, they might be wounded and need their help. To be near them in any case was the one thing about which they were positive.
"We will not move another inch," said a brave little Massachusetts woman, who had been the natural leader of this domestic Exodus; "we will rest ourselves a little here, and if the Mexicans want some extraordinary fighting they can have it; especially, if they come meddling with us or our children. My husband told me just to get out of reach of shot and shell and wait there till we heard of the victory, and I am for doing THAT, and no other thing."
Nearly two hundred women, bent upon their own way, are not to be taken any other way; and the few old men who had been sent to guide the party, and shoot what game was necessary for their support, surrendered at once to this feminine mutiny. Besides, the condition of the boys and girls between seven and fourteen was really a deplorable one. They were too old to be cared for as infants, and they had been obliged, with the strength of children, to accomplish the labor of men and women. Many were crippled in their feet, others were continually on the point of swooning.
It was now the 20th of April. The Senora and her daughters had been six weeks with the American army, exposed to all the privations which such a life entailed. But the most obvious of these privations were, perhaps, those which were most easily borne. Women endure great calamities better than the little annoyances affecting those wants which are part and parcel of their sex or their caste. It was not the necessaries so much as the luxuries of life which the Senora missed—the changes of raiment—the privacy—the quiet—the regularity of events.
During the whole of the 20th, there was almost a Sabbath stillness. It was a warm, balmy day. The wearied children were under the wagons and under the trees, sleeping the dead sleep of extreme exhaustion. The mothers, wherever it was possible, slept also. The guides were a little apart, listening and smoking. If they spoke, it was only in monosyllables. Rest was so much more needed than food that little or no attempt was made to cook until near sundown.
At dawn next morning—nay, a little before dawn—when all was chill, and gray, and misty, and there was not a sound but the wailing of a sick child, the Senora touched her daughters. Her voice was strange to them; her face solemnly happy.
"Antonio! Isabel! I HAVE SEEN JUAN! I HAVE SEEN JUAN! My eyes were shut, but I have seen him. He was a beautiful shadow, with a great, shadowy host around him. He bent on me such eyes! Holy Mother! their love was unfathomable, and I heard his voice. It was far off, yet near. 'Madre!' he said, 'TOMORROW YOU SHALL HEAR FROM US.' Now I am happy. There are words in my heart, but I cannot explain them to you. I know what they mean. I will weep no more. They put my Juan's body in the grave, but they have not buried HIM."
All day she was silent and full of thought, but her face was smiling and hopeful, and she had the air of one waiting for some assured happiness. About three o'clock in the afternoon she stood up quickly and cried, "Hark! the battle has begun!" Every one listened intently, and after a short pause the oldest of the guides nodded. "I'd give the rest of my life to be young again," he said, "just for three hours to be young, and behind Houston!"
"TO-MORROW WE SHALL HEAR."
The words fell from the Senora's lips with a singular significance. Her face and voice were the face and voice of some glad diviner, triumphantly carrying her own augury. Under a little grove of trees she walked until sunset, passing the beads of her rosary through her fingers, and mechanically whispering the prayers appointed. The act undoubtedly quieted her, but Antonia knew that she lay awake all night, praying for the living or the dead.
About ten o'clock of the morning of the 22d, a horseman was seen coming toward the camp at full speed. Women and children stood breathlessly waiting his approach. No one could speak. If a child moved, the movement was angrily reproved. The tension was too great to admit of a touch through any sense. Some, unable to bear the extended strain, sank upon the ground and covered their faces with their hands. But the half-grown children, wan with privations and fever, ragged and barefoot, watched steadily the horse and its rider, their round, gleaming eyes full of wonder and fear.
"It is Thomas," said the Senora.
As he came near, and the beat of the horse's hoofs could be heard, a cry almost inarticulate, not to be described, shrill and agonizing in its intensity, broke simultaneously from the anxious women. It was one cry from many hearts, all at the last point of endurance. Thomas Worth understood it. He flung his hat up, and answered with a joyful "Hurrah!"
When he reached the camp, every face was wet with tears, and a crowd of faces was instantly round him. All the agonies of war were on them. He raised himself in his stirrups and shouted out:
"You may all go back to your homes! Santa Anna is completely overthrown! The Mexican army is destroyed! There will be no more fighting, no more fears. The independence of Texas is won! No matter where you come from, YOU ARE ALL TEXANS NOW! Victory! Freedom! Peace! My dear friends, go back to your homes. Your husbands will join you at the San Jacinto."
Then he dismounted and sought his mother and sisters. With joyful amazement he recognized the change in the Senora. "You look like yourself, dear mother," he said. "Father sends you this kiss. He would have brought it, but there are a few wounded men to look after; and also I can ride quicker. Antonia, cheer up my dear!—and Isabel, little darling, you will not need to cry any more for your ribbons, and mantillas, and pretty dresses."
"Thomas! You have not much feeling, I think. What I want to know about, is Luis. You think of no one; and, as for my dresses, and mantillas, I dare say Fray Ignatius has sold, or burned them."
"Queridita! Was I cruel? Luis is well. He has not a scratch. He was in the front of the battle, too."
"THAT, of course. Would you imagine that Luis would be at the rear? He is General Houston's friend, and one lion knows another lion."
"Pretty one, do not be angry with me. I will tell you some good news. Luis is coming here, unless you go back at once with me."
"We will go back with you, Thomas. I am full of impatience. I remember my dear home. I will go to it, like a bird to its nest."
In half an hour they had turned the heads of their horses westward again. They went so rapidly, and were under so much excitement, that sustained conversation was impossible. And the Senora also fell into a sound sleep as soon as the first homeward steps had been taken. Whatever had been made known to her by Juan had received its fulfilment. She was assured and happy. She slept till they reached the victorious camp, and her husband awakened her with a kiss. She answered him with her old childish impulsiveness. And among the first words she said, were "Roberto, my beloved, I have seen Juan."
He believed her. To his reverent soul there was nothing incredible in the statement. The tie between a mother and her child is not broken by death. Was it unlikely, then, that Juan should have been conscious of, and touched by, the mental agony which his untimely death had caused a mother so beloved?
And oh! how different was the return to the ground west of the Buffalo Bayou. The very atmosphere was changed. A day or two of spring had brought out the flowers and unfolded every green thing. Doctor Worth took his family to a fine Mexican marquee, and among other comforts the Senora found there the chocolate she had so long craved, and some cigaritos of most delicate flavor.
In a short time a luxurious meal was prepared by Antonia, and just as they were sitting down to it, Luis and Lopez entered the tent together. Isabel had expected the visit and prepared for it as far as her limited wardrobe permitted. And her fine hair, and bright eyes, her perfect face and form, and the charming innocence of her manners, adorned her as the color and perfume of the rose make the beauty of the flower. She was so lovely that she could dare to banter Luis on the splendor of his attire.
"It is evident, mi madre, that Luis has found at least the baggage of a major-general. Such velvet and silver embroidery! Such a silk sash! They are fit at the very least for a sultan of the Turks."
He came to her crowned with victory. Like a hero he came, and like a lover. They had a thousand pretty things to say to each other; and a thousand blissful plans in prospect. Life to them had never before been so well worth living.
Indeed, a wonderful exaltation possessed both Luis and Lopez. The sombre, handsome face of the latter was transfigured by it. He kissed the hand of the Senora, and then turned to Antonia. Her pallor and emaciation shocked him. He could only murmur, "Senorita!" But she saw the surprise, the sorrow, the sympathy, yes, the adoring love in his heart, and she was thankful to him for the reticence that relieved her from special attention.
Doctor Worth made room for Lopez beside him. Luis sat by Isabel, upon a pile of splendid military saddle-cloths. As she sipped her chocolate, he smoked his cigarito in a lazy fashion, and gave himself up with delight to that foolishness of love-making which is often far wiser than the very words of wisdom.
As yet the ladies had not spoken of the battle. It was won. That great fact had been as much as they could bear at first. The Senora wanted to sleep. Isabel wanted to see Luis. Only Antonia was anxious for the details, and she had been busy in preparing the respectable meal which her mother had so long craved. The apparent indifference was natural enough. The assurance of good fortune is always sufficient for the first stage of reaction from anxiety. When the most urgent personal feelings have been satisfied, then comes the demand for detail and discussion. So now, as they sat together, the Senora said:
"No one has told me anything about the battle. Were you present, Roberto?"
"I had that great honor, Maria. Lopez and Luis were with the cavalry, and Ortiz also has had some satisfaction for all his wrongs."
"Very good! But I am impatient for the story; so is Antonia; and as for Isabel—bah! the little one is listening to another story. One must excuse her. We expected the battle on the twentieth, but no!"
"The enemy were expecting it also, and were in high spirits and perfect preparation. Houston thought it prudent to dash their enthusiasm by uncertainty and waiting. But at dawn, on the twenty-first, we heard the three taps of the drum, and seven hundred soldiers sprang to their feet as one man. Houston had been watching all night. He spoke to us with a tongue of fire and then, while we cooked and ate our breakfast, he lay down and slept. The sun came up without a cloud, and shone brightly on his face. He sprang to his feet and said to Burleson, as he saluted him: 'The sun of Austerlitz has risen again.'
"Some one brought him a piece of cornbread and broiled beef. He sat upon the grass and ate it—or rather upon the blue hyacinths that covered the grass; they are red now. For many weeks I had not seen his countenance so bright; all traces of trouble and anxiety were gone. He called Deaf Smith—the scout of scouts—and quickly ordered him to cut down the only bridge across the bayou.
"At nine o'clock, General Cos joined Santa Anna with five hundred and forty men, and for a moment I thought we had made a mistake in not attacking the enemy before his reinforcements came up. But the knowledge that Cos was present, raised enthusiasm to the highest pitch. Our troops remembered his parole at the Alamo, and the shameful manner in which he had broken it; and there was not a man who did not long to kill him for it.
"About three o'clock in the afternoon, Houston ordered the attack. The seven hundred Americans were divided into three bodies. I saw Houston in the very centre of the line, and I have a confused memory of Milard and Lamar, Burleson and Sherman and Wharton, in front of their divisions."
"Were the Mexicans expecting the attack, father?"
"They were in perfect order, Antonia; and when Sherman shouted the battle-cry: 'REMEMBER THE ALAMO! GOLIAD AND THE ALAMO!' it was taken up by the whole seven hundred, and such a shout of vengeance mortal ears never heard before. The air was full of it, and it appeared to be echoed and repeated by innumerable voices.
"With this shout on our lips, we advanced to within sixty paces of the Mexican lines, and then a storm of bullets went flying over our heads. One ball, however, shattered Houston's ankle, and another struck his horse in the breast. But both man and horse were of the finest metal, and they pressed on regardless of their wounds. We did not answer the volley until we poured our lead into their very bosoms. No time for reloading then. We clubbed our rifles till they broke, flung them away and fired our pistols in the eyes of the enemy; then, nothing else remaining, took our bowie-knives from our belts and cut our way through the walls of living flesh."
Lopez rose at the words. It was impossible for him to express himself sufficiently in an attitude of repose. His eyes glowed like fire, his dark face was like a flame, he threw up his hands as he cried:
"Nothing comparable to that charge with knives was ever made on earth! If I had seen through the smoke and vapor the mighty shade of Bowie leading it, I should not have been surprised."
"Perhaps indeed, he did lead it," said the Senora, in a solemn voice. "I saw yes, by all the saints of God! I saw a great host with my Juan. They stretched out vast, shadowy arms—they made me FEEL what I can never tell. But I shall honor Senor Houston. I shall say to him some day. 'Senor, the unseen battalions—the mighty dead as well as the mighty living—won the battle.' Roberto, believe me, there are things women understand better than wise men."
A little awe, a solemn silence, answered the earnest woman. Luis and Isabel came close to her, and Isabel took her hand. Lopez resumed the conversation. "I know Colonel Bowie," he said. "In the last days at San Antonio I was often with him. Brave as a lion, true to his friends, relentless to his foes, was he. The knife he made was the expression of his character in steel. It is a knife of extreme unction—the oil and wafer are all that remains for the men who feels its edge. For my part, I honor the Senora's thought. It is a great satisfaction to me to hope that Bowie, and Crockett, and Travis, and Fannin, and all their company were present at San Jacinto. If the just God permitted it, 'twas a favor of supreme justice."
"But then you are not alone in the thought, Lopez. I heard General Sherman say, 'Poor Fannin! He has been blamed for not obeying Houston's orders. I THINK HE OBEYED THEM TO-DAY.' At the moment I did not comprehend; but now it is plain to me. He thought Fannin had been present, and perhaps it was this belief made him so impetuous and invincible. He fought like a spirit; one forgot that he was flesh and blood."
"Sherman is of a grand stock," said the doctor; "descended from the wise Roger Sherman; bred in Massachusetts and trained in all the hardy virtues of her sons. It was from his lips the battle-cry of 'REMEMBER THE ALAMO!' sprang."
"But then, Roberto, nothing shall persuade me that my countrymen are cowards."
"On the contrary, Maria, they kept their ground with great courage. They were slain by hundreds just where they stood when the battle began. Twenty-six officers and nearly seven hundred men were left dead upon the field. But the flight was still more terrible. Into the bayou horses and men rolled down together. The deep black stream became red; it was choked up with their dead bodies, while the mire and water of the morass was literally bridged with the smothered mules and horses and soldiers."
"The battle began at three o'clock; but we heard the firing only for a very short time," said Antonia.
"After we reached their breastworks it lasted just eighteen minutes. At four, the whole Mexican army was dead, or flying in every direction, and the pursuit and slaughter continued until twilight. Truly an unseen power made all our moves for us. It was a military miracle, for our loss was only eight killed and seventeen wounded."
"I am sorry Houston is among the wounded."
"His ankle-bone is shattered. He is suffering much. I was with him when he left the field and I was delighted with his patience and dignity. The men crowded around him. They seized his bridle; they clasped his hands. 'Have we done well to-day, General? Are you satisfied with us?' they cried.
"'You have covered yourselves with glory,' he answered. 'You have written a grand page in American history this day, boys. For it was not for fame nor for empire you fought; but for your rights as freemen, for your homes and your faith.'
"The next moment he fell from his horse and we laid him down at the foot of an oak tree. He had fainted from loss of blood and the agony of his wound, combined with the superhuman exertions and anxieties of the past week."
"But he is better now?"
"Yes; I dressed the wound as well as my appliances permitted; but he will not be able to use his foot for some time. No one slept that night. Weary as the men were, their excitement and happiness were too great for the bonds of sleep. In the morning the rich spoils of the enemy's camp were divided among them. Houston refused any part in them. 'My share of the honor is sufficient,' he said. Yet the spoils were very valuable ones to men who but a few hours before had nothing but the clothing they wore and the arms they carried. Among them were nearly one thousand stand of English muskets, three hundred valuable mules, one hundred fine horses, provisions, clothing, tents, and at least twelve thousand dollars in silver."
"Were you on the field all the time, father?"
"I was near Houston from first to last. When he saw the battle was won, he did his best to prevent needless slaughter. But men on a battle-field like San Jacinto cannot be reasoned with; after a certain point, they could not even be commanded. The majority had some private revenge to satisfy after the public welfare had been served. We met one old man in a frenzy, covered with blood from his white beard to his boots, his arms bare to his shoulders, his knife dripping from haft to point."
"Houston looked at him, and said something about mercy and valor. 'General,' he said, 'they killed two of my boys at Goliad, and my brother at the Alamo. I'll not spare a Mexican while I've the strength to kill one. I'm on the scent for Santa Anna, and, by G—, if I find him, I will spare Texas and you any more trouble with the brute.'"
At this moment Thomas Worth entered the marquee, and, in an excited manner, said:
"Santa Anna is taken! Santa Anna is taken!"
"Taken!" cried the Senora in a passion.
"Taken! Is it possible the wretch is yet in this world? I was assuring myself that he was in one not so comfortable. Why is he not killed? It is an inconceivable insult to humanity to let him live. Have you thought of your brother Juan? Give me the knife in your belt, Thomas, if you cannot use it."
"My dear mother—"
"Maria, my life! Thomas could not wisely kill so important a prisoner. Texas wants him to secure her peace and independence. The lives of all the Americans in Mexico may depend upon his. Mere personal vengeance on him would be too dear a satisfaction. On the battle-field he might have been lawfully slain—and he was well looked for; but now, No."
"Holy Mary! might have been slain! He ought to have been slain, a thousand times over."
"Luis, I wish that you had been a hero, and killed him. Then all our life long, if you had said, 'Isabel, I slew Santa Anna,' I should have given you honor for it. I should be obedient to your wishes for that deed."
"But my charming one, I prefer to be obedient to your wish. Let us not think of the creature; he is but a dead dog."
The doctor turned to his son. "Thomas, tell us about the capture."
"I was riding with a young lieutenant, called Sylvester, from Cincinnati, and he saw a man hiding in the grass. He was in coarsest clothing, but Sylvester noticed under it linen of fine cambric. He said: 'You are an officer, I perceive, sir.' The man denied it, but when he could not escape, he asked to be taken to General Houston. Sylvester tied him to his bridle-rein, and we soon learned the truth; for as we passed the Mexican prisoners they lifted their hats and said, with a murmur of amazement, 'El Presidente!'
"The news spread like wildfire. As we took him through the camp he trembled at the looks and words that assailed him, and prayed us continually, 'for the love of God and the saints,' not to let him be slain. We took him to Houston in safety. Houston was resting on the ground, having had, as my father knows, a night of great suffering. Santa Anna approached him, and, laying his hand on his heart, said: 'I am General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, President of the Mexican Republic, and I claim to be your prisoner of war.' Houston pointed to a seat, and then sent for Santa Anna's secretary, Almonte, who is also a prisoner, and who speaks English perfectly.'
"When Almonte came, he embraced Santa Anna, and addressing Houston, said: 'General, you are born to a great destiny. You have conquered the Napoleon of the West. Generosity becomes the brave and the fortunate.'
"Houston answered, sternly: 'You should have remembered that sentiment at the Alamo and at Goliad.'
"Then the following conversation occurred. Santa Anna said:
"'The Alamo was taken by storm. The usages of war permitted the slaughter.'
"'We live in the nineteenth century, President. We profess to be Christians.'
"'I have to remind you, General Houston, of the storming of San Sebastian, Ciudad, Riego and Badajos, by the Duke of Wellington.'
"'That was in Spain. There may have been circumstances demanding such cruelty.'
"'Permit me also to bring to your intelligence the battles at Fort Meigs and at the river Raisin. American prisoners were there given by English officers to their Indian allies for torture and death. The English war cry at Sandusky was, "Give the d—— Yankees no quarter."'
"'Sir, permit me to say, that you read history to a devilish purpose, if you read it to search after brutal precedents. At Goliad our men surrendered. They were promised safe-conduct out of Texas. The massacre at Goliad was a ferocious crime.'
"'It was precisely the same thing as the wholesale murder of Turkish prisoners at Jaffa by the great Napoleon. Also I had the positive orders of my government to slay all Americans found with arms.'
"'These men had given up their arms.'
"'All Americans—my government said so.'
"'Sir! YOU are the government of Mexico. You obeyed your own orders.'
"'You will at least allow that, in the eyes of recognized nations, your army was but a band of desperadoes, without government, and fighting under no flag.'
"'Sir, you show a convenient ignorance. We have a government; and as soon as we can lay down our rifles, we shall probably be able to make a flag. I say to you, President Santa Anna, that the butchery at Goliad was without an excuse and without a parallel in civilized warfare. The men had capitulated to General Urrea.'
"'Urrea had no right to receive their capitulation.' Then his mild, handsome face became in a moment malicious and tigerish, and he said with a cruel emphasis: 'If I ever get Urrea into my hands, I will execute him! I perceive, however, that I have never understood the American character. For the few thousands in the country, I thought my army an overwhelming one. I underestimated their ability.'
"'I tell you, sir, an army of millions would be too small to enslave ten thousand free-born anglo-Americans. Liberty is our birthright. We have marched four days on an ear or two of dry corn, and then fought a battle after it'; and Houston drew from his pocket an ear, partially consumed, which had been his ration. 'We have had no tents, no music, no uniforms, no flag, nothing to stimulate us but the determination to submit to no wrong, and to have every one of our rights.'
"Then he turned to Rusk and Sherman, and called a military counsel about the prisoner, who was placed in an adjoining tent under a sufficient guard. But the excitement is intense; and the wretch is suffering, undoubtedly, all the mortal terrors of being torn to pieces by an infuriated soldiery. Houston will have to speak to them. They will be influenced by no other man."
The discussion upon this event lasted until midnight. But the ladies retired to their own tent much earlier. They knelt together in grateful prayer, and then kissed each other upon their knees. It was so sweet to lie down once more in safety; to have the luxury of a tent, and a mattress, and pillow.
"Blessed be the hand of God! my children," said the Senora; "and may the angels give us in our dreams grateful thoughts."
And then, in the dark, Isabel nestled her head in her sister's breast, and whispered: "Forgive me for being happy, sweet Antonia. Indeed, when I smiled on Luis, I was often thinking of you. In my joy and triumph and love, I do not forget that one great awful grave at Goliad. But a woman must hide so many things; do you comprehend me, Antonia?"
"Querdita," she whispered, "I comprehend all. God has done right. If His angel had said to me, 'One must be taken and the other left,' I should have prayed, 'Spare then my little sister all sorrow.' Good-night, my darling"; but as their lips met, Isabel felt upon her cheeks the bitter rain which is the price of accepted sacrifice; the rain, which afterwards makes the heart soft, and fresh, and responsive to all the airs of God.
At the same moment, the white curtains of the marquee, in which the doctor sat talking with his son and Luis and Lopez, were opened; and the face of Ortiz showed brown and glowing between them.
"Senors," he said, as he advanced to them, "I am satisfied. I have been appointed on the guard over Santa Anna. He has recognized me. He has to obey my orders. Will you think of that?" Then taking the doctor's hand he raised it to his lips. "Senor, I owe this satisfaction to you. You have made me my triumph. How shall I repay you?"
"By being merciful in the day of your power, Ortiz."
"I assure you that I am not so presumptuous, Senor. Mercy is the right of the Divinity. It is beyond my capacity. Besides which, it is not likely the Divinity will trouble himself about Santa Anna. I have, therefore, to obey the orders of the great, the illustrious Houston; which are, to prevent his escape at all risks. May St. James give me the opportunity, Senors! In this happy hour, a Dios!"
Then Lopez bent forward, and with a smile touched the doctor's hand. "Will you now remember the words I said of Houston? Did I not tell you, that success was with him? that on his brow was the line of fortune? that he was the loadstone in the breast of freedom?"
CHAPTER XVII. HOME AGAIN.
"Where'er we roam, Our first, best country ever is at home."
"What constitutes a state? Men who their duties know; But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain.
"And sovereign law, that states collected will O'er thrones and globes elate, Sits empress; crowning good, repressing ill.
"This hand to tyrants ever sworn a foe, For freedom only deals the deadly blow; Then sheathes in calm repose the vengeful blade, For gentle peace, in freedom's hallowed shade."
The vicinity of a great battle-field is a dreadful place after the lapse of a day or two. The bayou and the morass had provided sepulture for hundreds of slain Mexicans, but hundreds still lay upon the open prairie. Over it, birds of prey hung in dark clouds, heavy-winged, sad, sombre, and silent. Nothing disturbed them. They took no heed of the living. Armed with invincible talons and beaks tipped with iron, they carried on ceaselessly that automatic gluttony, which made them beneficent crucibles of living fire, for all which would otherwise have corrupted the higher life. And yet, though innocent as the elements, they were odious in the sight of all.
Before daylight in the morning the Senora and her daughters were ready to begin their homeward journey. The doctor could not accompany them, General Houston and the wounded Americans being dependent largely upon his care and skill. But Luis Alveda and Lopez Navarro received an unlimited furlough; and about a dozen Mexican prisoners of war belonging to San Antonio were released on Navarro's assurance, and permitted to travel with the party as camp servants. It was likely, also, that they would be joined by a great many of the families who had accompanied the great flight; for, on the preceding evening, Houston had addressed the army, and told the householders and farmers to go home and plant their corn.
Full of happiness, the ladies prepared for their journey. A good army wagon, drawn by eight mules, and another wagon, containing two tents and everything necessary for a comfortable journey, was waiting for them. The doctor bid them good-by with smiles and cheerful promises. They were going home. The war was over. Independence was won. They had the hope of permanent peace. The weather also was as the weather may be among the fields of Eden. The heavens were cloudless, the air sweet and fresh, and the wild honeysuckles, with their spread hands full of scent, perfumed the prairies mile after mile. The mules went knee-deep through warm grasses; the grasses were like waving rainbows, with the myriads of brightly tinted flowers.
Even Lopez was radiantly happy. Most unusual smiles lighted up his handsome face, and he jingled the silver ornaments on his bridle pleasantly to his thoughts as he cantered sometimes a little in advance of the wagon, sometimes in the rear, occasionally by its side; then, bending forward to lift his hat to the ladies and inquire after their comfort.
Luis kept close to Isabel; and her lovely face and merry chatter beguiled him from all other observations. A little before noon they halted in a beautiful wood; a tent was spread for the ladies, the animals were loosened from their harness, and a luxurious meal laid upon the grass. Then the siesta was taken, and at three o'clock travel was resumed until near sunset, when the camp was made for the night. The same order was followed every day, and the journey was in every sense an easy and delightful one. The rides, cheered by pleasant companionship, were not fatiguing; the impromptu meals were keenly relished. And there were many sweet opportunities for little strolls in the dim green woods, and for delightful conversations, as they sat under the stars, while the camp-fire blazed among the picturesque groups of Mexicans playing monte around it.
On the third afternoon, the Senora and Isabel were taking a siesta, but Antonia could not sleep. After one or two efforts she was thoroughly aroused by the sound of voices which had been very familiar to her in the black days of the flight—those of a woman and her weary family of seven children. She had helped her in many ways, and she still felt an interest in her welfare. It appeared now to be assured. Antonia found her camping in a little grove of mulberry trees. She had recovered her health; her children were noisy and happy, and her husband, a tall, athletic man, with a determined eye and very courteous manners, was unharnessing the mules from a fine Mexican wagon; part of the lawful spoils of war. They, too, were going home: "back to the Brazos," said the woman affectionately; "and we're in a considerable hurry," she added, "because it's about time to get the corn in. Jake lays out to plant fifty acres this year. He says he can go to planting now with an easy conscience; he 'lows he has killed enough Mexicans to keep him quiet a spell."
They talked a short time together, and then Antonia walked slowly into the deeper shadows of the wood. She found a wide rock, under trees softly dimpling, pendulous, and tenderly green; and she sat down in the sweet gloom, to think of the beloved dead. She had often longed for some quiet spot, where, alone with God and nature, she could, just for once, give to her sorrow and her love a free expression.
Now the opportunity seemed to be hers. She began to recall her whole acquaintance with Dare—their hours of pleasant study—their sails upon the river—their intercourse by the fireside—the most happy Sundays, when they walked in the house of God together. In those days, what a blessed future was before them! She recalled also the time of hope and anxiety after the storming of the Alamo, and then the last heroic act of his stainless life. She had felt sure that in such a session with her own soul she would find the relief of unrestrained and unchecked weeping. But we cannot kindle when we will either the fire or the sensibility of the soul. She could not weep; tears were far from her. Nay, more, she began to feel as if tears were not needed for one who had found out so beautiful, so unselfish, so divine a road to the grave. Ought she not rather to rejoice that he had been so early called and blest? To be glad for herself, too, that all her life long she could keep the exquisite memory of a love so noble?
In the drift of such thoughts, her white, handsome face grew almost angelic. She sat motionless and let them come to her; as if she were listening to the comforting angels. For God has many ways of saying to the troubled soul: "Be at peace"; and, certainly, Antonia had not anticipated the calmness and resignation which forbid her the tears she had bespoken.
At length, in that sweet melancholy which such a mental condition induces, she rose to return to the camp. A few yards nearer to it she saw Lopez sitting in a reverie as profound as her own had been. He stood up to meet her. The patience, the pathos, the exaltation in her face touched his heart as no words could have done. He said, only: "Senorita, if I knew how to comfort you!"
"I went away to think of the dead, Senor."
"I comprehend—but then, I wonder if the dead remember the living!"
"In whatever dwelling-place of eternity the dear ones who died at Goliad are, I am sure that they remember. Will the emancipated soul be less faithful than the souls still earthbound? Good souls could not even wish to forget—and they were good."
"It will never be permitted me to know two souls more pure, more faithful, more brave, Juan was as a brother to me, and, BY MY SANTIGUADA! I count it among God's blessings to have known a man like Senor Grant. A white soul he had indeed; full of great nobilities!"
Antonia looked at him gratefully. Tears uncalled-for sprang into the eyes of both; they clasped hands and walked mutely back to the camp together. For the sentiment which attends the realization that all is over, is gathered silently into the heart; it is too deep for words.
They found the camp already in that flurry of excitement always attendant upon its rest and rising, and the Senora was impatiently inquiring for her eldest daughter.
"GRACIOUS MARIA! Is that you, Antonia? At this hour we are all your servants, I think. I, at least, have been waiting upon your pleasure"; then perceiving the traces of sorrow and emotion on her face, she added, with an unreasonable querulousness: "I bless God when I see how He has provided for women; giving them tears, when they have no other employment for their time."
"Dearest mother, I am sorry to have kept you waiting. I hope that you have forgotten nothing. Where is your mantilla? And have you replenished your cigarito case? Is there water in the wagon?"
"Nothing has been provided. Things most necessary are forgotten, no doubt. When you neglect such matters, what less could happen?"
But such little breezes of temper were soon over. The influences surrounding, the prospects in advance, were too exhilarating to permit of anything but passing shadows, and after an easy, delightful journey, they reached at length the charming vicinity of the romantic city of the sword. They had but another five miles ride, and it was the Senora's pleasure to take it at the hour of midnight. She did not wish her return to be observed and talked about; she was in reality very much mortified by the condition of her own and her daughters' wardrobe.
Consequently, though they made their noon camp so near to their journey's end, they rested there until San Antonio was asleep and dreaming. It was the happiest rest of all the delightful ones they had known. The knowledge that it was the last stage of a journey so remarkable, made every one attach a certain tender value to the hours never to come back to the experiences never to be repeated.
The Senora was gay as a child; Isabel shared and accentuated her enthusiasms; Luis was expressing his happiness in a variety of songs; now glorifying his love in some pretty romance or serenade, again musically assuring liberty, or Texas, that he would be delighted at any moment to lay down his life for their sakes. Antonia was quite as much excited in her own way, which was naturally a much quieter way; and Lopez sat under a great pecan-tree, smoking his cigarito with placid smiles and admiring glances at every one.
As the sun set, the full moon rose as it rises nowhere but over Texan or Asian plains; golden, glorious, seeming to fill the whole heaven and the whole earth with an unspeakable radiance; softly glowing, exquisitely, magically beautifying. The commonest thing under it was transfigured into something lovely, fantastic, fairylike. And the dullest souls swelled and rose like the tides under its influence.
Antonia took from their stores the best they had, and a luxurious supper was spread upon the grass. The meal might have been one of ten courses, it occupied so long; it provoked so much mirth, such a rippling stream of reminiscence; finally, such a sweetly solemn retrospect of the sorrows and mercies and triumphs of the campaign they had shared together. This latter feeling soon dominated all others.
The delicious light, the sensuous atmosphere, the white turrets and towers of the city, shining on the horizon like some mystical, heavenly city in dreams—the murmur of its far-off life, more audible to the spiritual than the natural ears—the dark figures of the camp servants, lying in groups or quietly shuffling their cards, were all elements conducive to a grave yet happy seriousness.
No one intended to sleep. They were to rest in the moonlight until the hour of eleven, and then make their last stage. This night they instinctively kept close together. The Senora had mentally reached that point where it was not unpleasant to talk over troubles, and to amplify especially her own share of them.
"But, Holy Maria!" she said; "how unnecessary are such sorrows! I am never, in the least, any better for them. When the Divine Majesty condescends to give me the sunshine of prosperity, I am always exceedingly religious. On the contrary when I am in sorrow, I do not feel inclined to pray. That is precisely natural. Can the blessed Mother expect thanks, when she gives her children only suffering and tears?"
"God gives us whatever is best for us, dear mother."
"Speak, when you have learned wisdom, Antonia. I shall always believe that trouble comes from the devil; indeed, Fray Ignatius once told me of a holy man that had one grief upon the heels of the other, and it was the devil who was sent with all of them. I have myself no doubt that he opened the gates of hell for Santa Anna to return to earth and do a little work for him."
"This thought makes me tremble," said Lopez; "souls that have become angelic, can become evil. The degraded seraphim, whom we call the devil, was once the companion of archangels, and stood with Michael, and Raphael, and Gabriel, in the presence of the Holy One. Is there sin in heaven? Can we be tempted even there?"
The inquiry went in different ways to each heart, but no one answered it. There were even a few moments of constrained, conscious silence, which Luis happily ended, by chanting softly a verse from the hymn of the Three Angels:
"'WHO LIKE THE LORD?' thunders Michael the Chief. Raphael, 'THE CURE OF GOD,' bringeth relief, And, as at Nazareth, prophet of peace, Gabriel, 'THE LIGHT OF GOD,' bringeth release."
The noble syllables floated outward and upward, and Antonia and Lopez softly intoned the last line together, letting them fall slowly and softly into the sensitive atmosphere.
"And as for trouble coming from the devil," said Lopez, "I think, Senora, that Fray Ignatius is wrong. Trouble is not the worst thing that can come to a man or woman. On the contrary, our Lady of Prosperity is said to do, them far greater harm. Let me repeat to you what the ever wise Don Francisco de Quevedo Villegas says about her:
"'Where is the virtue prosperity has not staggered? Where the folly she has not augmented? She takes no counsel, she fears no punishment. She furnishes matter for scandal, experience, and for story. How many souls, innocent while poor, have fallen into sin and impiety as soon as they drank of the enchanted cup of prosperity? Men that can bear prosperity, are for heaven; even wise devils leave them alone. As for the one who persecuted and beggared job, how foolish and impertinent he was! If he had understood humanity, he would have multiplied his riches, and possessed him of health, and honors, and pleasures: THAT is the trial it cannot bear.'"
"Oh, to be sure! Quevedo was a wise man. But even wise men don't know everything. However, WE ARE GOING HOME! I thank the saints for this immeasurable favor. It is a prosperity that is good for women. I will stake my Santiguida on that! And will you observe that it is Sunday again? Just before sunset I heard the vesper bells clearly. Remember that we left San Antonio on Sunday also! I have always heard that Sunday was a good day to begin a journey on."
"If it had been on a Friday—"
"Friday! Indeed, Luis, I would not have gone one hundred yards upon a Friday. How can you suppose what is so inconceivably foolish?"
"I think much of the right hour to undertake anything," said Lopez. "The first movements are not in the hands of men; and we are subject to more influences than we comprehend. There is a ripe time for events, as well as for fruits: but the hour depends upon forces which we cannot control by giving to them the name of the day; and our sage Quevedo has made a pleasant mockery thereon. It is at my lips, if your ears care to hear it."
"Quevedo, again! No, it is not proper, Senor. Every day has its duties and its favors, Senor. That man actually said that fasting on Friday was not a special means of grace! Quevedo was almost a heretic. I have heard Fray Ignatius say so. He did not approve of him."
"Mi madre, let us hear what is to be said. Rachela told me, I must fast on a Friday, and cut my nails on a Wednesday, and never cut them on a Sunday, and take medicine on a Monday, and look after money on Tuesday, and pay calls and give gifts on Saturday; very well, I do not think much of Rachela; just suppose, for the passing of the time, that we listen to what Quevedo says."
"Here are four against me; well, then, proceed, Senor."
"'On Monday,' says the wise and witty one, buy all that you can meet with, and take all that is to be had for nothing. On Tuesday, receive all that is given you; for it is Mar's day, and he will look on you with an ill aspect if you refuse the first proffer and have not a second. On Wednesday, ask of all you meet; perhaps Mercury may give some one vanity enough to grant you something. Thursday is a good day to believe nothing that flatterers say. Friday it is well to shun creditors. On Saturday it is well to lie long abed, to walk at your ease, to eat a good dinner, and to wear comfortable shoes; because Saturn is old, and loves his ease.'"
"And Sunday, Senor?"
"Pardon, Senorita Isabel, Sunday comes not into a pasquinade. Senora, let me tell you that it draws near to eleven. If we leave now we shall reach San Antonio in time to say the prayer of gratitude before the blessed day of the seven is past."
"Holy Mary! that is what I should desire. Come, my children; I thank you, Senor, for such a blessed memory. My heart is indeed full of joy and thankfulness."
A slight disappointment, however, awaited the Senora. Without asking any questions, without taking anything into consideration, perhaps, indeed, because she feared to ask or consider, she had assumed that she would immediately re-enter her own home. With the unreason of a child, she had insisted upon expecting that somehow, or by some not explained efforts, she would find her house precisely as she left it. Little had been said of its occupancy by Fray Ignatius and his brothers; perhaps she did not quite believe in the statement; perhaps she expected Fray Ignatius to respect the arrangements which he knew had been so dear to her.
It was therefore a trial—indeed, something of a shock—when she found they were to be the guests of Navarro, and when it was made clear to her that her own home had been dismantled and rearranged and was still in the possession of the Church. But, with a child's unreason, she had also a sweet ductility of nature; she was easily persuaded, easily pleased, and quite ready to console herself with the assurance that it only needed Doctor Worth's presence and personal influence to drive away all intruders upon her rights.
In the mean time she was contented. The finest goods in San Antonio were sent early on the following morning to her room; and the selection of three entire wardrobes gave her abundance of delightful employment. She almost wept with joy as she passed the fine lawns and rich silks through her worn fingers. And when she could cast off forever her garment of heaviness and of weariful wanderings, and array herself in the splendid robes which she wore with such grace and pleasure, she was an honestly grateful woman.
Then she permitted Lopez to let her old acquaintances know of her presence in her native city; and she was comforted when she began to receive calls from the Senora Alveda, and judge and Senora Valdez, and many other of her friends and associates. They encouraged her to talk of her sufferings and her great loss. Even the judge thought it worth his while, now, to conciliate the simple little woman. He had wisdom enough to perceive that Mexican domination was over, and that the American influence of Doctor Worth was likely to be of service to him.
The Senora found herself a heroine; more than that, she became aware that for some reason those who had once patronized her were now disposed to pay her a kind of court. But this did not lessen her satisfaction; she suspected no motive but real kindness, for she had that innate rectitude which has always confidence in the honesty of others.
There was now full reconciliation between Luis and his mother and uncles; and his betrothal to Isabel was acknowledged with all the customary rejoicings and complimentary calls and receptions. Life quickly began to fall back into its well-defined grooves; if there was anything unusual, every one made an effort to pass it by without notice. The city was conspicuously in this mind. American rule was accepted in the quiescent temper with which men and women accept weather which may or may not be agreeable, but which is known to be unavoidable. Americans were coming by hundreds and by thousands: and those Mexicans who could not make up their minds to become Texans, and to assimilate with the new elements sure to predominate, were quietly breaking up their homes and transferring their interests across the Rio Grande.
They were not missed, even for a day. Some American was ready to step into their place, and the pushing, progressive spirit of the race was soon evident in the hearty way with which they set to work, not only to repair what war had destroyed, but to inaugurate those movements which are always among their first necessities. Ministers, physicians, teachers, mechanics of all kinds, were soon at work; churches were built, Bibles were publicly sold, or given away; schools were advertised; the city was changing its tone as easily as a woman changes the fashion of her dress. Santa Anna had said truly enough to Houston, that the Texans had no flag to fight under; but the young Republic very soon flung her ensign out among those of the gray nations of the world. It floated above the twice glorious Alamo: a bright blue standard, with one white star in the centre. It was run up at sunrise one morning. The city was watching for it; and when it suddenly flew out in their sight, it was greeted with the most triumphant enthusiasm. The lonely star in its field of blue touched every heart's chivalry. It said to them, "I stand alone! I have no sister states to encourage and help me! I rely only on the brave hearts and strong arms that I set me here!" And they answered the silent appeal with a cheer that promised everything; with a love that even then began to wonder if there were not a place for such a glorious star in the grand constellation under which most of them had been born.
A short time after their return, the Senora had a letter from her husband, saying that he was going to New Orleans with General Houston, whose wound was in a dangerous condition. Thomas Worth had been appointed to an important post in the civil government; and his labors, like those of all the public men of Texas at that date, were continuous and Herculean. It was impossible for him to leave them; but the doctor assured his wife that he would return as soon as he had placed Houston in the hands of skilful surgeons; and he asked her, until then, to be as happy as her circumstances permitted.
She was quite willing to obey the request. Not naturally inclined to worry, she found many sources of content and pleasure, until the early days of June brought back to her the husband she so truly loved, and with him the promise of a return to her own home. Indeed the difficulties in the way of this return had vanished ere they were to meet. Fray Ignatius had convinced himself that his short lease had fully expired; and when Dr. Worth went armed with the legal process necessary to resume his rights, he found his enemy had already surrendered them. The house was empty. Nothing of its old splendor remained. Every one of its properties had been scattered. The poor Senora walked through the desolate rooms with a heartache.
"It was precisely in this spot that the sideboard stood, Roberto!—the sideboard that my cousin Johar presented to me. It came from the City of Mexico, and there was not another like it. I shall regret it all my life."
"Maria, my dearest, it might have been worse. The silver which adorned it is safe. Those r—monks did not find out its hiding-place, and I bought you a far more beautiful sideboard in New Orleans; the very newest style, Maria."
"Roberto! Roberto! How happy you make me! To be sure my cousin Johar's sideboard was already shabby—and to have a sideboard from New Orleans, that, indeed, is something to talk about!"
"Besides, which, dearest one, I bought new furniture for the parlors, and for your own apartments; also for Antonia's and Isabel's rooms. Indeed, Maria, I thought it best to provide afresh for the whole house."
"How wonderful! No wife in San Antonio has a husband so good. I will never condescend to speak of you when other women talk of their husbands. New furniture for my whole house! The thing is inconceivably charming. But when, Roberto, will these things arrive? Is there danger on the road they are coming? Might not some one take them away? I shall not be able to sleep until I am sure they are safe."
"I chartered a schooner in New Orleans, and came with them to the Bay of Espiritu Santo. There I saw them placed upon wagons, and only left them after the customs had been paid in the interior—sixty miles away. You may hire servants at once to prepare the rooms: the furniture will be here in about three days."
"I am the happiest woman in the world, Roberto!" And she really felt herself to be so. Thoughtful love could have devised nothing more likely to bridge pleasantly and surely over the transition between the past and the coming life. Every fresh piece of furniture unpacked was a new wonder and a new delight. With her satin skirts tucked daintily clear of soil, and her mantilla wrapped around her head and shoulders, she went from room to room, interesting herself in every strip of carpet, and every yard of drapery. Her delight was infectious. The doctor smiled to find himself comparing shades, and gravely considering the arrangement of chairs and tables.
But how was it possible for so loving a husband and father to avoid sharing the pleasure he had provided? And Isabel was even more excited than her mother. All this grandeur had a double meaning to her; it would reflect honor upon the betrothal receptions which would be given for Luis and herself—"amber satin and white lace is exactly what I should have desired, Antonia," she said delightedly. "How exceedingly suitable it will be to me! And those delicious chintzes and dimities for our bedrooms! Did you ever conceive of things so beautiful?"
Antonia was quite ready to echo her delight. Housekeeping and homemaking, in all its ways, was her lovable talent. It was really Antonia who saw all the plans and the desires of the Senora thoroughly carried out. It was her clever fingers and natural taste which gave to every room that air of comfort and refinement which all felt and admired, but which seemed to elude their power to imitate.
On the fourth of July the doctor and his family ate together their first dinner in their renovated home. The day was one that he never forgot, and he was glad to link it with a domestic occurrence so happy and so fortunate.
Sometimes silently, sometimes with a few words to his boys, he had always, on this festival, drank his glass of fine Xeres to the honor and glory of the land he loved. This day he spoke her name proudly. He recalled the wonders of her past progress; he anticipated the blessings which she would bring to Texas; he said, as he lifted the glass in his hand, and let the happy tears flow down his browned and thinned face:
"My wife and daughters, I believe I shall live to see the lone star set in the glorious assemblage of her sister stars! I shall live to say, I dwell in San Antonio, which is the loveliest city in the loveliest State of the American Union. For, dear ones, I was born an American citizen, and I ask this favor of God, that I may also die an American citizen."
"MI ROBERTO, when you die I shall not long survive you. And now that the house is made so beautiful! With so much new furniture! How can you speak of dying?"
"And, my dear father, remember how you have toiled and suffered for THE INDEPENDENCE OF TEXAS."
"Because, Antonia, I would have Texas go free into a union of free States. This was the hope of Houston. 'We can have help,' he often said to his little army; 'a word will call help from Nacogdoches,—but we will emancipate ourselves. If we go into the American States, we will go as equals; we will go as men who have won the right to say: LET US DWELL UNDER THE SAME FLAG, FOR WE ARE BROTHERS!'"
CHAPTER XVIII. UNDER ONE FLAG.
"And through thee I believe In the noble and great, who are gone."
"Yes! I believe that there lived Others like thee in the past. Not like the men of the crowd. Who all around me to-day, Bluster, or cringe, and make life Hideous, and arid, and vile, But souls temper'd with fire, Fervent, heroic, and good; Helpers, and friends of mankind." —ARNOLD.
"Our armor now may rust, our idle scimitars Hang by our sides for ornament, not use. Children shall beat our atabals and drums; And all the noisy trades of war no more Shall wake the peaceful morn." —DRYDEN.
As the years go on they bring many changes—changes that come as naturally as the seasons—that tend as naturally to anticipated growth and decay—that scarcely startle the subjects of them, till a lengthened-out period of time discloses their vitality and extent. Between the ages of twenty and thirty, ten years do not seem very destructive to life. The woman at eighteen, and twenty-eight, if changed, is usually ripened and improved; the man at thirty, finer and more mature than he was at twenty. But when this same period is placed to women and men who are either approaching fifty, or have passed it, the change is distinctly felt.
It was even confessed by the Senora one exquisite morning in the beginning of March, though the sun was shining warmly, and the flowers blooming, and the birds singing, and all nature rejoicing, as though it was the first season of creation.
"I am far from being as gay and strong as I wish to be, Roberto," she, said; "and today, consider what a company there is coming! And if General Houston is to be added to it, I shall be as weary as I shall be happy."
"He is the simplest of men; a cup of coffee, a bit of steak—"
"SAN BLAS! That is how you talk! But is, it possible to receive him like a common mortal? He is a hero, and, besides that, among hidalgos de casa Solar" (gentlemen of known property)—
"Well, then, you have servants, Maria, my dear one."
"Servants! Bah! Of what use are they, Roberto, since they also have got hold of American ideas?"
"Isabel and Antonia will be here."
"Let me only enumerate to you, Roberto. Thomas and his wife and four children arrived last night. You may at this moment hear the little Maria crying. I dare say Pepita is washing the child, and using soap which is very disagreeable. I have always admired the wife of Thomas, but I think she is too fond of her own way with the children. I give her advices which she does not take."
"They are her own children, dearest."
"Holy Maria! They are also my own grandchildren."
"Well, well, we must remember that Abbie is a little Puritan. She believes in bringing up children strictly, and it is good; for Thomas would spoil them. As for Isabel's boys—"
"God be blessed! Isabel's boys are entirely charming. They have been corrected at my own knee. There are not more beautifully behaved boys in the christened world."
"And Antonia's little Christina?"
"She is already an angel. Ah, Roberto! If I had only died when I was as innocent as that dear one!"
"I am thankful you did not die, Maria. How dark my life would have been without you!"
"Beloved, then I am glad I am not in the kingdom of heaven; though, if one dies like Christina, one escapes purgatory. Roberto, when I rise I am very stiff: I think, indeed, I have some rheumatism."
"That is not unlikely; and also Maria, you have now some years."
"Let that be confessed; but the good God knows that I lost all my youth in that awful flight of 'thirty-six."
"Maria, we all left or lost something on that dark journey. To-day, we shall recover its full value."
"To be sure—that is what is said—we shall see. Will you now send Dolores to me? I must arrange my toilet with some haste; and tell me, Roberto, what dress is your preference; it is your eyes, beloved, I wish to please."
Robert Worth was not too old to feel charmed and touched by the compliment. And he was not a thoughtless or churlish husband; he knew how to repay such a wifely compliment, and it was a pleasant sight to see the aged companions standing hand in hand before the handsome suits which Dolores had spread out for her mistress to examine.
He looked at the purple and the black and the white robes, and then he looked at the face beside him. It was faded, and had lost its oval shape; but its coloring was yet beautiful, and the large, dark eyes tender and bright below the snow-white hair. After a few minutes' consideration, he touched, gently, a robe of white satin. "Put this on, Maria," he said, "and your white mantilla, and your best jewels. The occasion will excuse the utmost splendor."
The choice delighted her. She had really wished to wear it, and some one's judgment to endorse her own inclinations was all that was necessary to confirm her wish. Dolores found her in the most delightful temper. She sat before the glass, smiling and talking, while her maid piled high the snowy plaits and curls and crowned them with the jewelled comb, only worn on very great festivals. Her form was still good, and the white satin fell gracefully from her throat to her small feet. Besides, whatever of loss or gain had marred her once fine proportions, was entirely concealed by the beautifying, graceful, veiling folds of her mantilla. There was the flash of diamonds, and the moonlight glimmer of pearls beneath this flimsy covering; and at her belt a few white lilies. She was exceedingly pleased with her own appearance, and her satisfaction gave an ease and a sense of authority to her air and movements which was charming.
"By Maria's grace, I am a very pretty old lady," she said to herself; "and I think I shall I astonish my daughter-in-law a little. One is afraid of these calm, cool, northern women, but I feel to-day that even Abbie must be proud of me."
Indeed, her entrance into the large parlor made quite a sensation. She could see the quiet pleasure in her husband's face; and her son Thomas, after one glance, put down the child on his knee, and went to meet her. "Mi madre," he whispered with a kiss. He had not used the pretty Spanish word for years, but in the sudden rush of admiring tenderness, his boyish heart came back to him, and quite unconsciously he used his boyhood's speech. After this, she was not the least in awe of her wise daughter-in-law. She touched her cheek kindly, and asked her about the children, and was immeasurably delighted when Abbie said: "How beautiful you are to-day! I wish I had your likeness to send to Boston. Robert, come here and look at your grandmother! I want you to remember, as long as you live, how grandmother looks to-day." And Robert—a fine lad eight years old, accustomed to implicit obedience—put down the book he was reading, planted himself squarely before the Senora, and looked at her attentively, as if she was a lesson to be learned.
"Well then, Roberto?"
"I am glad I have such a pretty grandmother. Will you let me stand on tiptoes and kiss you?" and the cool, calm northern woman's eyes filled with tears, as she brought her younger children, one by one, for the Senora's caress. The doctor and his son watched this pretty domestic drama with hearts full of pride and happiness; and before it had lost one particle of its beauty and feeling, the door was flung open with a vigor which made every one turn to it with expectation. A splendid little lad sprang in, and without any consideration for satin and lace, clung to the Senora. He was her image: a true Yturbide, young as he was; beautiful and haughty as his Castilian ancestors.
Isabel and Luis followed; Isabel more lovely than ever, richly dressed in American fashion, full of pretty enthusiasms, vivacious, charming, and quite at her ease. She had been married eight years. She was a fashionable woman, and an authority upon all social subjects.
Luis also was wonderfully improved. The light-hearted gaiety, which ten years ago had bubbled over in continual song, was still there; but it was under control, evident only because it made perpetual sunshine on his face. He had taken the doctor's advice—completed his study of English and Mexican law—and become a famous referee in cases of disputed Mexican claims and title deeds. His elegant form and handsome, olive face looked less picturesque in the dull, uncompromising stiffness of broadcloth, cut into those peculiarly unbecoming fashions of ugliness which the anglo-Saxon and anglo-American affect. But it gained by the change a certain air of reliability and importance; an air not to be dispensed with in a young lawyer already aspiring to the seat among the lawmakers of his State.
"We called upon Antonia," said Isabel, "as we came here. Of course she was engaged with Lopez. They were reading a book together; and even on such a day as this were taking, with the most blessed indifference, a minute at a time. They will join us on the Plaza. I represented to them that they might miss a good position. 'That has been already secured,' said Lopez, with that exasperating repose which only the saints could endure with patience. For that reason, I consider Antonia a saint to permit it. As for me, I should say: 'The house is on fire, Lopez! Will it please you for once to feel a little excited?' Luis says they read, continually, books which make people think of great solemnities and responsibilities. How foolish, when they are so rich, and might enjoy themselves perpetually!"
"Here are the carriages," cried Thomas Worth, "and the ceremony of to-day has its own hour. It will never come again."
"Your mother and I will go first, Thomas; and we will take Abbie and your eldest son. I shall see you in your place. Luis, bring your boy with you; he has intelligence and will remember the man he will see to-day, and may never see again."
On the Plaza, close to the gates of the Alamo, a rostrum had been erected; and around it were a few stands, set apart for the carriages of the most illustrious of the families of San Antonio. The Senora, from the shaded depths of her own, watched their arrival. Nothing could be more characteristic than the approach of her daughters. Antonia and Lopez, stately and handsome, came slowly; their high-stepping horses chafing at the restraint. Luis and Isabel drove to their appointed place with a speed and clatter, accentuated by the jingling of the silver rings of the harness and the silver hanging buttons on the gay dress of the Mexican driver. But the occupants of both carriages appeared to be great favorites with the populace who thronged the Plaza, the windows, the flat roofs of the houses, and every available place for hearing and seeing.
The blue flag of Texas fluttered gayly over the lovely city; and there was a salvo of cannon; then, into the sunshine and into the sight of all stepped the man of his generation. Nature has her royal line, and she makes no mistakes in the kings she crowns. The physical charm of Houston was at this time very great. His tall, ample, dignified form attracted attention at once. His eyes penetrated the souls of all upon whom they fell. His lips were touched with fire, and his words thrilled and swayed men, as the wind sways the heavy heads in a field of ripe barley.
He stretched out his arms to the people, and they stretched out their arms to him. The magnetic chain of sympathy was complete. The hearts of his listeners were an instrument, on which he played the noblest, most inspiring, the sweetest of melodies. He kindled them as flame kindles dry grass. He showed them their future with a prophet's eye, and touched them also with the glad diviner's rapture. They aspired, they rejoiced at his bidding; and at the moment of their highest enthusiasm, he cried out:
"Whatever State gave us birth, we have one native land and we have one flag!" Instantly from the grim, blood-stained walls of the fortress, the blessed Stars and Stripes flew out; and in a moment a thousand smaller flags, from every high place, gave it salutation. Then the thunder of cannon was answered by the thunder of voices. Cannon may thunder and make no impression; but the shout of humanity! It stirs and troubles the deepest heart-stream. It is a cry that cannot be resisted. It sets the gates of feeling wide open. And it was while men were in this mood that Houston said his last words:
"I look in this glorious sunshine upon the bloody walls of the Alamo. I remember Goliad. I carry my memory back over the long struggle of thirty years. Do you think the young, brave souls, fired with the love of liberty, who fell in this long conflict have forgotten it? No! No! No! Wherever in God's Eternity they are this day, I believe they are permitted to know that Texas has become part of their country, and rests forever under the flag they loved. The shouting thousands, the booming cannon, that greeted this flag were not all the sounds I heard! Far off, far off, yet louder than any noise of earth, I heard from the dead years, and the dead heroes of these years; the hurrahing of ghostly voices and the clapping of unseen hands!"
"It was like Houston to call the dead to the triumph," said the doctor, as he stood with the Senora in her room. He was unbuttoning her gloves, and her tears dropped down upon his hands.
"He is a man by himself, and none like him. I thought that I should never forgive him for sparing the life of that monster—Santa Anna; but to-day I forgive him even that. I am so happy that I shall ask Holy Maria to excuse me the feeling; for it is not good to permit one's self to be too happy; it brings trouble. But indeed, when I looked at Thomas, I thought how wisely he has married. It is seldom a mother can approve of her daughter-in-law; but Abbie has many excellencies—good manners, and a good heart, and a fortune which is quite respectable."
"And strong principles also, Maria. She will bring up her children to know right and wrong, and to do right."
"THAT of course. Every good mother does that. I am sure it is a sight for the angels to see Isabel teaching her children their prayers. Did you observe also how great a favorite Luis is? He lifted his hat to this one and that one, and it is certain that the next election will be in his hand."
"Perhaps—I wish Lopez would take more interest in politics. He is a dreamer."
"But, then, a very happy dreamer. Perhaps to dream well and pleasantly is to live a better life. Antonia is devoted to him. She has a blessed lot. Once I did not think she would be so fortunate."
"Lopez was prudent and patient."
"Prudent! Patient! It is a miracle to me! I assure you, they even talk together of young Senor Grant! It is satisfactory, but extremely strange."
"You had better sleep a little, Maria. General Houston is coming to dinner."
"That is understood. When I spoke last to him, I was a woman broken-hearted. To-night I will thank him for all that he has done. Ah, Roberto! His words to-day went to my, soul—I thought of my Juan—I thought of the vision he showed me—I wondered if he knew—if he saw—and heard—" she leaned her head upon her husband's breast, and he kissed away the sorrowful rain.
"He was so sweet! so beautiful! Oh, Roberto!"
"He was God's greatest gift to us. Maria! dear. Maria! I love you for, all the children you have given me; BUT MOST OF ALL, FOR JUAN!"
[Footnote 1: Little dear.]
[Footnote 2: The loadstone in the bosom is a charm against evil; the bringer of good fortune.]
[Footnote 3: The flag of the Mexican Republic of 1824 was green, red and white in color.]
[Footnote 4: The Virgin appealed to in military straits.]
[Footnote 5: Copy from Department of War of the Republic of Texas.]
[Footnote 6: Sign of the Cross.]