AT THE SPRING

“I suggest that we all take a little _siesta_,” said Aunt Mary after
dinner. “We shall feel much better for the rest of the day if we do.”

The children looked at each other. Siestas had not entered into their
plans at all.

“We don’t have to, do we, mother?” asked Walter. “You know Nellie and I
never do such a dreadful thing at home.”

“What do you purpose doing?” inquired their father.

“Oh, we didn’t know,” said Walter. “We thought of going down to the
springs again and watching the people bathe.”

“They don’t _bathe_ in the pools from which they drink, surely,” said
Aunt Mary in disgust. “Don’t tell me they do that, Walter.”

“I thought there was another pool,” said Walter. “I’m certain I heard
them say something about washing down there this morning.”

“Oh, that man was speaking of the laundry where the women wash the
clothes,” said Mr. Page. “He said it was quite interesting to watch
them.”

“Bother!” said Walter. “I thought there was a pool for bathing, and
that we might paddle about in it, just as we used to do at Ti Juana.
But, anyhow, Nellie and I don’t want to take any _siesta_, do we,
Nellie?”

His sister shook her head. “Just let’s go out and ramble around,” she
said. “We’ll find something to amuse us.”

“There is something already,” said Mr. Page, as the clear note of a
bird broke upon the midday stillness. Soft and sweet it trilled, then
loud and shrill, then quivered down to a melancholy note, and again
gradually ascended, terminating in one long, beautiful, slowly-dying
tremolo.

“_What_ can that be?” cried Mrs. Page. “It seems almost like an angel’s
song. I have never heard anything like it.”

“It is only me–Francisco,” said a boyish voice on the outside, while
a pair of bright eyes peered in between the interstices of the sylvan
dining-room.

“Come in, come in!” cried Walter, hurrying from his place. “I want
mother to see you.”

“Mother,” he continued, as the boy entered slowly, cap in hand, “this
is Francisco, our friend whom we met near the church this morning. Is
there anything he can do?”

Mrs. Page extended her slim white hand. The boy took it and said: “I
can work very well. I could fetch water.”

“I do not believe there is anything you _could_ do,” replied Mrs. Page.
“We have a man who does all we require. We shall not need any carrying
of water, I think. I see there are hydrants not far away.”

“Oh, but that is not to drink–that water. It is not so _very_ good,”
said Francisco. “But farther up, about half a mile, or maybe a little
more, there is a beautiful spring. _That_ is nice and cold and good
to drink. Some carry it in buckets, but I would fetch it on a little
wagon, in a barrel. And I can give you another barrel in which to keep
it. Out there under the largest pepper tree it would be very good.”

“Do you hear, Charlie?” asked Mr. Page. “Francisco tells us he can
bring very good drinking water. It will be an excellent plan, I think,
so let him do it.”

“Yes,” replied Charlie, appearing from the other end of the room. “I was
going to ask what we should do about drinking water. That which comes
through the pipe just above here is very warm. The hill being so bare is
always sunny. I’ve seen people bringing that other water right along.”

Mr. Page turned to Francisco. “You have a horse, then?” he asked.

“Oh, yes; we have two horses. Shall I get my wagon? Will you like the
water? I can bring the barrel along for you.”

“Very well; go and fetch it,” said Mr. Page.

“Oh, father, may I go with him?” pleaded Walter.

“To the spring? Yes; if he is willing to take you,” replied his father.

“Yes, I meant to ask. And the little girl maybe, too, if she will,”
said Francisco.

“Yes, papa; yes, mamma, let me go,” Nellie begged.

“Very well,” both replied, but Aunt Mary said:

“Don’t you think it rather tomboyish, to use a mild word, to go about
that way with two boys?”

“One of them is her brother, Aunt Mary,” hastily interjected Walter.
“Nellie has always played with boys.”

“It won’t harm the child a bit,” said Mr. Page.

Francisco smiled and said:

“The horse is very slow. He cannot hurt. He is an old one, mine. Once
he was turned out to die, and I begged for him. So my uncle gave him.
And he helps earn me my living now. When you see him I think you will
laugh; but he is very good, as I said, my Rosinante.”

“Where did you hear that name?” inquired Aunt Mary.

“A gentleman told me to call that name to my horse. He said there was a
story about it–in Spanish.”

“Don Quixote,” said Aunt Mary pleasantly. “Did you ever hear about it?”

“Only that the bones of a horse were once coming through the skin,”
replied Francisco. “And so it was with mine. But now he is not so bad.
I will go quickly and bring the cart.”

Walter looked at his father.

“Yes, go along,” said Mr. Page. “Nellie will wait until you come back.”

“But about the money–I was forgetting,” said Francisco. “Is it too
much for every barrel to pay twenty-five cents?”

“Not at all. It is quite reasonable,” said Mr. Page.

“There will be perhaps two every week.”

“That will be all right.”

“Very good,” said Francisco.

The two boys left the tent, beginning a lively race with each other at
once. Francisco soon outdistanced Walter, but magnanimously refusing
to presume on his superior skill, waited for him under an oak tree
which stood, beautiful and solitary, in the middle of the road.

“You are a fine runner, Francisco,” said Walter, when he arrived.

“I was best at the Mission,” the boy replied. “At the Fiestas we always
run, and, of the boys, Juan Palos and me–we most always get the prize.”

“When do you have the Fiesta?”

“Oh, in October, on the third–the Feast of San Francisco. It is his
church, you see. But this year there will not be any, for the people
will need to save their money if they must go away to some other place.”

“It is too bad that they have to go,” said Walter.

“You think it is true, then? there is no hope? What thinks your father?”

“He says they will have to leave. But the government will find them
some other place.”

“It will be hard,” said the boy, “and it is not just. But, if it must
be, it must.”

“I wish I could see a Fiesta. What do they have?”

“Oh, first Mass and Benediction; and the people are married, and the
children get baptized. Afterward they have games, and they dance.
Once, for three years the priest did not come, because they would not
give up the gambling.”

“Do Indians gamble?” asked Walter, in surprise.

“Oh, yes, they do, and very much. They lose a great deal of money that
way. But from the whites they have learned it, I believe.”

Walter did not know what reply to make to this assertion, doubtless
a true one. They walked at a quick pace till they reached the ruined
adobe, Francisco’s home, behind which stood the wagon–three or four
long, unplaned boards set on four wheels. The horse was grazing some
distance away.

“I will catch Rosinante,” said Francisco, taking an armful of hay from
a pile.

“If you are thirsty there is, inside, a clean cup, and there at the
other end, by the tree, an _otla_ with water.”

Walter felt quite thirsty. Moreover, he was somewhat curious to see
the inside of a genuine Indian dwelling. It seemed very dark to him,
coming out of the hot, bright sunshine. There was a window facing
the door, but every pane of glass was gone. The sill was so wide as
to form a very comfortable seat. The thick walls and smooth earthen
floor made the place feel very cool. The room contained very little
furniture–two cots, one at either end; in the middle a table, with
clean plates, cups and saucers; also a couple of boxes and a pair of
broken chairs. The house was almost roofless, save for the withered
boughs which had been laid across the broad, irregular openings.
Nothing could have been more humble; yet everything was clean and
orderly.

Francisco came with Rosinante as Walter was replacing the cup.

“That is very good water,” he said.

“The same as you will have to drink,” replied Francisco. “See, here is
your barrel. I thought it better to take but one. I can change twice a
week. Now I will harness Rosinante.”

This was soon done; the barrel was placed on the wagon and fastened
with a couple of thongs. Walter took his place beside Francisco, and
they rattled away, down the hill. Nellie was on the watch; when they
reached the tent Francisco and Walter got off and told her to take
their place, saying they would drive her up the hill, but that she
would have to walk down. “The full barrel of water is quite enough for
Rosinante, Francisco says,” explained Walter. “Besides, if the thongs
that tie the barrel to the wagon should break, it might fall over on
you and kill you.”

The whole family stood at the door of the large tent to see them off,
Nellie gaily waving her hand to them.

“Is there not some danger that they may fall into the boiling spring?”
asked Aunt Mary, anxiously, as they passed out of sight.

Aunt Mary was the widow of Mr. Page’s uncle. He could not help smiling,
occasionally, at her causeless fears.

“I’m afraid you will not enjoy your trip unless you try to be less
fearful of accidents,” he said. “They are not going in the direction of
the hot springs. However, they would not be injured if they did fall
in. They could clamber out at once. You must come down with me after a
while to see the springs.”

“I think I shall wait until Martha is able to go,” said Aunt Mary;
“perhaps to-morrow. If the odor when one is near is any worse, or even
as bad, as the whiffs we get of it here, I should not think people
could either drink the water or bathe in it.”

“One gets to like it after a while,” said Mr. Page. “I have heard that
after a sojourn here people can not bear to drink cold water for some
time.”

“I am already longing for a cool drink,” said his wife.

“The children will not be gone very long, I think,” rejoined her
husband.

The trio were enjoying themselves very much at that moment.
Francisco was hailed by several persons with the reminder that their
water-barrels were almost empty, and to each demand he replied
courteously that he would attend to it. Turning off from the road, they
crossed the path which led to the pools, and were soon on a rough,
uneven highway, stony and bleak. A few moments brought them to a sharp
divide, which they skirted for some distance till they came to a place
where the steep sides were worn away by wagon wheels. On the other
side of this cañon everything was green and luxuriant, in remarkable
contrast to the ground they had just left. A well-worn trail wound in
and out among the trees, which grew closer together as they ascended
the verdant slope. A tiny stream, seemingly not broader than a silver
ribbon, trickled along to meet them.

“Now we are there,” said Francisco, at length, pausing under the shade
of a magnificent oak tree.

“Isn’t it lovely!” cried Nellie, springing from the wagon.

To the left, from a granite boulder, a living stream of water was
trickling, forming a miniature pool. Francisco, with great dexterity,
steered his wagon beneath the stream in such a position that the water
would flow into the upright barrel.

“Let us go now a little while the water is filling, and look about,” he
said to the children. “It is very pretty here.” And so it was.

They climbed up the bank, pushing the fragrant bushes aside, and came
suddenly upon a broad plateau of many acres, dotted at intervals with
splendid forest trees. In the distance the rugged, blue mountains
stretched along the horizon. All was radiant, still, and incomparably
lovely.

The children ran about for a time, then seated themselves under one of
the massive trees. Presently they heard a crashing noise in the bushes,
and a red head appeared. In a moment they saw that it belonged to a boy
about Walter’s age, a most ungainly and unattractive-looking person.
His eyes were small and close together, his teeth uneven and protruding.

“Hello!” he cried as he saw Walter and Nellie; then, catching sight of
Francisco, he made a horrible face.

The Indian boy looked at him calmly, but said nothing.

“Hello!” he repeated, throwing himself on the ground beside Walter.

“Hello!” responded Walter, coolly. He did not like the aspect of the
newcomer any more than he did his attitude toward Francisco.

“When did you get here?” inquired the red-haired boy, “and how long are
you going to stay?”

“We came this morning, and we may stay all summer,” replied Walter.

The boy edged nearer him. Francisco got up and walked away, followed by
Nellie.

“Isn’t he horrid?” she said when they got out of hearing-distance.

“Never mind. I will tell you after,” said Francisco, “when he is gone.
I do not care what he will say about me. If you like, I will make you a
staff. It is easier to walk up and down these hills with one.”

“I’d rather you would make one for mamma,” said Nellie.

“I will make for her one, too.”

“I will make for her one-two,” said a mocking voice behind them. “You
can’t speak English–you can’t. Why don’t you talk Indian?”

Francisco turned sharply around. Walter and the unwelcome visitor were
just behind them, Walter evidently bent on quitting him.

“If I talked Indian you could not understand me,” said Francisco,
pausing squarely in front of the red-haired tormentor; “but if I knock
you down Indian, then perhaps you will understand.”

“Oh, boys, don’t fight,” began Nellie, in alarm. “Papa will never let
us come out here again if you do. Please, boys.”

“He dasn’t fight. He’s afraid. He had to promise he wouldn’t. His
priest won’t let him, he won’t. He’s an old Catholic, he is.”

“So are we Catholics,” cried Walter, pausing and setting his feet
squarely apart. “We _all_ are Catholics.”

“Like that Indian?” scornfully inquired the other, pointing to
Francisco, who now came, with flashing eyes, closer to Walter.

“Yes, like that Indian,” Walter replied, unabashed. “Who’s meddling
with you? Get off here this minute, or I’ll make you.”

“Boys, boys,” pleaded Nellie again, “please don’t fight. Let him go.”

“I’ve got as good a right here as any of you old Catholics,” sneered
their antagonist; but it was noticeable that he gradually backed away
as he spoke.

Once more he made a repulsive face; then he began to sing, in a nasal
voice:

“Indian, Indian, never die–
Yellow skin and mean eye,
Black—-”

He did not finish the stanza. Francisco sprang forward, seized him
about the waist, and rolled him down the bank.

“There! Finish your song where no one can hear it but yourself,” said
the Indian, calmly returning to his companions. Shouts of anger,
followed by whimpers of pain, came up from below.

“Oh, Francisco,” exclaimed Nellie, “if you haven’t hurt him very much,
I think I am glad.”

“Hurt him!” echoed Walter. “That wouldn’t hurt a fly–such an easy
setting-down as he got.”

“I did not hurt him, and I would not. I was not so angry with him, as
that he makes me tired. I do not like to see him where I am. He might
have followed us for a long time else.”

“But maybe he’ll be waiting for us down there to fight,” said Nellie.

“No, he will not,” answered the Indian boy. “He is a coward. He will
go off home as quickly as he can. And then, maybe, some day when I am
passing where I can not see him, he will throw a stone. Oh, I know him
very well. What did he say to you, Walter, when we walked away?”

“He said: ‘Do you play with _Indians_?'”

“And what did you say?”

“‘Go away–no one asked you to come here,’ I said. Then I got up and he
followed me.”

“Ah, the water overflows,” said Francisco, as they once more came in
sight of the spring. He hurried down the bank, turned the horse round,
tightened the thongs holding the barrel so that it would stand firmly
on the wagon, and the boys began to retrace their steps.

As soon as they were on level ground again, Francisco, with the reins
in his hand, the other two walking beside him, pointed to a frame
dwelling a little removed from the others at the top of a little hill.

“You see that house?” he said. “It is where he lives–that boy. He
came last month, with his mother and sister. They tell that the lady is
a missionary from India. Have you heard of women doing like that?”

He looked earnestly at the two children, awaiting their reply.

“In the Protestant churches they do send women to far countries as
missionaries,” rejoined Walter.

“That is funny,” replied Francisco, reflectingly. “It may be well, if
they are savages in India; but here we do not want them, I think.”

“Are they here to convert the Indians?” asked Nellie.

“For the good waters, they say–but maybe, too, for other things. Oh, I
tell you, we have plenty of such people in the summer. But they can not
hurt very much.

“One day I was going for water, just like now,” he continued. “The
horse I could not find. After a while I saw this boy riding him
bareback, and I said to him: ‘You ride pretty well, but it is my horse,
and I want him!’ But he made one of his faces, and said he would not
get off, and called me a dirty Indian. Then I pulled him off, and he
struck me. After that I knocked him down, and my uncle came out from
the house and said it was wrong to do so–that it was never known that
the Indians quarreled with the whites at the Springs. So then I made my
excuse to the boy and promised I would not quarrel again; but my uncle
said to him that he must not take my horse again. And then he mocked my
uncle; and I was going to hit him, but my uncle held me, and he said:
‘Go away, boy. You are not a good boy.'”

“And then what did he do?” asked Walter.

“He put out his tongue, and just as he did so a lady came from around
the corner by the church. She stopped and said: ‘My son, that is not
polite. You must not let the savages teach you how to behave.'”

“I’m sure you got angry again then, didn’t you?” said Walter.

“Well, I did, and my uncle a little, too. He spoke for me. He said we
were not savages, but Christian people. As he was speaking, that boy
had picked up a stone, and, sneaking behind my uncle, he hit him in the
back of the head. Once more I was going to fight with him, but my uncle
took my arm, and he said: ‘Promise me you will not strike that boy,
either now or ever!’ I promised, and we went away and left them. That
is all–except that sometimes, when he sees me, he tries very hard to
make me angry.”

“He’d better not talk very much to me,” said Walter. “I’m not afraid
of him. If I gave him one good lamming, I guess he’d stop.”

“You must not _think_ of quarreling with him, Walter,” said Nellie.

“I sha’n’t, if he lets me alone,” her brother replied. “But if he turns
out to be a nagger, I’ll settle him, once and for all.”

“Would you like to see the _Lavenderia_?” asked Francisco, as a company
of Indian women passed them with huge bundles thrown across their
shoulders.

“What is that?” Nellie inquired.

“What you call washing-house–laundry,” replied the boy. “They are
going now to wash. All day long, from early, early morning, they come.
For so it must be. They have to wash the clothes, but all cannot do
it at once; so one week a few come in the early morning, and others
later; and the next week the late ones come first. But always, except
on Sunday, until night they are washing.”

“Shall we leave the water here and go now?” asked Nellie.

“I think not,” replied Francisco. “It is better first to leave the
water at your camp; then you can sit on the wagon again, and your
brother and I will walk beside.”

“Let’s hurry up, then,” said Nellie. “I just love to watch those women
as they trot along. But why don’t the men help them carry those heavy
bundles.”

Francisco regarded her for a moment with astonishment.

“Carry clothes to the wash?” he said. “It is not men’s work–that.”

Nellie did not reply. She was not going to quarrel with Francisco.
But in her kind little heart she thought the noble Indian wanting in
chivalry to the weaker sex.

Everyone at the camp was glad to see them; they had been gone exactly
an hour and a half.

“You can’t make an Indian hurry,” Charlie had said when Mrs. Page began
to grow uneasy. “Nothing can happen to the young folk; the boy is all
right, and they’re nothing but children.”

Francisco led the horse to the back of the large tent, and with
Charlie’s assistance placed the barrel under the pepper tree; a
gourd-dipper was produced from Charlie’s countless stores, and everyone
had a drink of the delightful, cool water.

“If you will take a piece of cheese-cloth,” said Francisco, “and,
running a string through, tie it around the top of the barrel, wetting
it always, it will keep cool the water, and the flies away.”

“A very good idea, Francisco,” said Aunt Mary, preparing to go in
search of the cheese-cloth, needle, and tape, at once.

“And now, if we may, I will take them to see the _Lavenderia_,” said
the Indian boy. “They wish to look at the washing going on.”

“I don’t care so much for it, but Nellie does,” said Walter.

“You do so–every bit as much as I do–Walter,” rejoined Nellie. “Only
you think it’s like a girl to go and see them washing.”

“No; it isn’t that,” said Walter, when everybody had finished laughing.
“But maybe they won’t like our looking at them.”

“They are probably used to it by this time,” said Mr. Page. “People
have been watching them for many years.”

Up and down the hills they clattered briskly once more with the wagon,
Rosinante doing her best to make a record for speed, with Nellie behind
her. When they reached the top of the hill above the first spring, they
left the wagon and scrambled down the steep, rocky pathway. At some
little distance from the others, a separate pool for washing had been
roofed over very picturesquely. It reminded one of old pictures of
Hygeian temples. The sides were open, allowing the looker-on to see the
washerwomen, squatting on their heels, soaping the clothes or leaning
over the steaming water. Young and old, to the number of perhaps a
dozen, they worked and chattered, apparently altogether oblivious of
those who regarded them.

Flat granite slabs served them for washboards. Vigorously, indeed, did
they ply their arms. Some were rinsing, a few wringing out, and others
spreading the garments, white as snow, either on the ground or on the
straggling bushes in the vicinity.

“I could watch them forever,” said Nellie, when Walter, having made a
little journey around the place with Francisco, told her he thought
they should be going campward. “I’m going to ask mamma to let me come
down here to-morrow and wash some napkins.”

“Would they allow her to wash there?” asked Walter.

“Yes, if she would like; anyone can,” said Francisco. “But always, I
think, the white people come about from ten to twelve in the morning.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t like that,” said Nellie. “I want to go with the Indians
and wash.”

“Maybe you can do that, too,” said Francisco. “Some time, when my
cousin Leonidas is coming, I will ask that you may go along.”

“You must not forget it, Francisco,” said Nellie, reluctantly tearing
herself away.

“Hi! hi! Chrysantha!” called Francisco to an old woman who waved her
hand at them as they passed. Then he said something in Spanish. The
old woman spoke to her companions. They all laughed merrily, nodding
pleasantly to the children, and the old woman called out something
several times to Francisco.

“What do they mean? What is she saying?” asked Nellie, looking back at
them shyly.

“They are telling me you will be welcome to wash with them whenever you
wish,” said the boy. “They like you.”

Arrived at the tent, Nellie admitted that she was tired. But Walter
begged to be allowed to go back on the wagon with Francisco, who had
to fetch some eggs to a lady in the village and draw some more water
before evening.

Rosinante jogging leisurely along, they soon came in sight of the old
adobe. The figure of a woman standing in the rear of the church at once
attracted the attention of Francisco.

“It is the missionary lady!” he exclaimed. “It is the mother of
William. She has come to say something about what has happened. How I
wish she would stay away!”

The woman came forward to meet them. She was smiling; evidently she
had not yet had an interview with her hopeful son.

The boys exchanged glances. Francisco breathed more freely.

“I am pleased to see that you are in a better humor to-day,” she said
sweetly. “And who is your companion?”

“My name is Walter Page,” was the response. “I live in San Diego.”

“Oh, do you? I have a dear friend there–the Reverend Mr. Binder.
At present he is not serving any church. Like myself, he has been a
missionary, and his health failed. Perhaps you have met him, my boy.”

“I don’t know any ministers,” said Walter, rather brusquely. “We go to
the Catholic church.”

The lady’s face grew more stern. She looked from one boy to the other.

“You never go to Sunday-school, then,” she said in regretful tones, but
as if stating an undeniable fact.

“I go every Sunday,” said Walter.

“Does your priest allow it?”

“He teaches us,” rejoined Walter.

“That must be something new–something entirely new.”

Walter made no reply.

“It was my purpose, in coming here, to establish a Sunday-school,”
the missionary continued, true to her avocation. “I saw this boy and
marked him,” pointing to Francisco. “He looked intelligent, as though
the others might follow his lead. But unfortunately he got into an
altercation with my son, and I have taken no further steps with him.”

Walter looked down, embarrassed upon hearing himself addressed
personally. He hoped she was not going to ask him to be a leader. He
would in that case tell her something, he now thought.

“It is difficult, very difficult, to accomplish anything. The mothers
and fathers are indifferent, if not rude–the children the same.”

Neither of the boys made a reply.

“The teacher tells me she has been here twelve years,” went on the
missionary, after waiting in vain for a remark. Her voice now began to
lose its sweet accents and to savor of asperity.

“Twelve years–and she has not been able to make any impression–in a
Christian way. She thinks you are all very good, but you cling to your
old beliefs.”

“And why not, please?” asked Francisco. “Why should we not keep to our
own faith? Why do they give us teachers who are not of our religion?
How many go there to that school?” pointing to the building, not far
away. “Maybe twenty out of seventy-five children. To the Mission go the
others, where they belong—-”

“I think it is very cruel in the priests to insist on sending those
children nearly a hundred miles from their parents to the Mission,”
said William’s mother, growing warmer with every word.

“And the Indians think it is _right_–_right_ to send them to the
Mission, where they will learn their religion,” answered Francisco with
equal warmth. “The teacher is very good and kind, and the people are
grateful to her for all she does, but if she should stay here twelve
years longer, they will never give up what the Fathers have taught them.”

“It is well, it is very well, my poor child,” rejoined the missionary,
compassionately, “that all whom she does teach are not so high-tempered
as you are. What a time there would be in the school!”

“Why do you not leave us alone?” cried Francisco. “Do we trouble you?
Do we try to make Catholics of you who come to our home here? Why do
you not leave us alone?”

Walter was alarmed. He looked at his companion in surprise. The
missionary drew back.

“Do not become violent,” she said. “In India the natives were at least
respectful. I wonder that your parents are not more careful of you than
they are,” she went on, turning to Walter. “They should not allow you
to associate with such a rude person.”

The boy’s cheek flushed; he turned away without replying.

“Come, Francisco,” he said in a low tone, pulling his companion by the
sleeve. “Come; let us go into the house.”

“I do not wonder you should wish to go away, my boy. You are probably
ashamed of the conduct of your friend. I hope, at least, that you are.”

“I am not ashamed,” said Walter. “Neither of us is. We have no reason
to be ashamed.”

“You have been badly brought up,” continued their tormentor. “You have
been badly brought up–very badly.”

They waited to hear no more, but walked quietly onward until they found
shelter within the crumbling doorway of the brown, smoky adobe.