Everybody was smiling

The mother had been very ill, and the question was, where shall we take
her so that she may get thoroughly well? It must be some place where
the family might accompany her. She had declared that she would not go
without papa and Nellie and Walter.

It was nearing the close of schooltime, and papa’s yearly vacation was
at hand, so there would be no difficulty on that score. Some one had
suggested Santa Monica as affording a complete change of scene, but the
doctor tabooed that place and she herself did not care for it.

“She is already too near the sea,” the man of medicine said. “She needs
entire change; she would only grow ill again and nervous amid the
clatter of hotel life and the crowds on the beach.”

“But we might take a cottage,” suggested Aunt Mary.

“Yes–I know those seaside cottages,” said the doctor, “that is, those
which are built to rent for the season. A few boards thrown together,
and only a pretence made of papering the walls inside–draughts rushing
through the rooms continually and underneath the house as well. Why,
my dear sir, you can actually see the carpet rising in waves from the
floor. They are all erected on piles, you know. No seaside cottage for
our invalid–no, indeed.”

“What do you say to the mountains, doctor?” asked Mr. Page.

“The very thing,” was the reply. “But there are objections to be made
in that case also. Accommodations are not usually comfortable–the food
is always plentiful, but not always choice.”

“I was thinking of camping,” said Mr. Page. “I have a complete camping
outfit and at my call a man, Charlie Dorner, who is the prince of
cooks. He is, besides, a fine general utility man–can do anything.”

“That would be the ideal; but,” sighed the doctor, “I wish I could go
along.”

“And so you can; or join us later.”

“Well, we’ll see about that. Just now we’re talking of Mrs. Page. If
you have an outfit of your own you need not be at anybody’s mercy. But
you must not choose too high a location, nor where it is likely to be
too warm, nor an utterly inaccessible place. By that I mean she must
not be too far from the railroad–or her doctor. What do you say to the
Springs? I have an idea that the air and the hot water together would
complete her cure.”

“The air!” exclaimed Aunt Mary. “Why, it is only fourteen miles from
here; there can’t be any difference in the atmosphere. Besides, those
springs are in a valley; you can’t have seen them. The fogs are
dreadful in the early morning I have been told.”

“Not at _my_ Springs,” said the doctor with a smile. “I’m speaking
of Warner’s Ranch, although I’ve stayed at the others and have seen
wondrous cures effected there, I assure you.”

Aunt Mary had not been long in California, but she was fond of “reading
up,” and she had been reading about Warner’s Ranch.

“Do you mean the springs which belong, or were supposed to belong, to
the Indians, from whose possession they are now going to be taken?”

“Yes,” replied the doctor; “and I think the whole proceeding is an
infamous outrage.”

Nellie and Walter had been sitting quietly listening to their elders.
But at this point in the conversation Walter, who was thirteen,
exclaimed:

“Oh, papa, let us go there, won’t you?

“Just think, Aunt Mary,” he continued, “it is a regular Indian village,
and in the summer the Indians move out of their houses and rent them
to the white people. I knew a boy who lived in one, and he said it was
fine. Wouldn’t it be grand making believe to be an Indian!”

“I sympathize with those poor creatures very much,” said Aunt Mary. “I
think it is heartless to evict them from their homes; but I _don’t_
believe I should care to occupy one of the houses. It might not be
clean, you know.”

“Well, that’s as may be,” said the doctor. “I have known persons loud
in their praises of the place, and others whining about dirt and
discomfort. You would not be subject to anything of that kind. You
would have your large, clean, comfortable tents.”

“Let’s tell mother. Let’s ask her if she would like to go,” said
Nellie, speaking for the first time.

“Of course she’ll like it; she’s certain to like it,” cried Walter,
springing to his feet. They were not long in ascending the stairs,
though they went quietly, having become accustomed to making as little
noise as possible during their mother’s long and serious illness. Now
that she was so much better they had not renounced the habit, which
had become a sort of second nature to them.

“Come in,” said a sweet, low voice as Nellie tapped on the door. In a
moment they were both kneeling beside the lounge where their mother lay.

“You don’t feel _very_ bad this afternoon, mamma?” inquired Walter,
anxiously.

“Oh, no,” she replied. “On the contrary, I am feeling particularly well
and strong to-day. But the doctor says I must lie down the greater part
of the time. I thought I heard his voice just now. Hasn’t he gone yet?”

“No; that’s why we came, mother,” said Nellie. “They’re discussing
things in the library. They think now they’ll take you to Warner’s Hot
Springs, and we want you to go there, we do, badly. Oh, it will be
great fun.”

“Papa is talking of getting out the tents and the camping wagon and
taking Charlie Dorner along. Oh, it will be lots of fun. I hope you
like the plan.”

“I am sure I shall like it,” replied their mother. “I am very fond of
camping. Don’t you remember the summer we spent at Broad Beach?”

“Yes, that was lots of fun,” said Walter. “But that wasn’t anything to
what this will be. Fancy, mother, an Indian village–a real Indian
one. And you can live in their houses if you want to–though Aunt Mary
says she doesn’t believe they are very clean.”

“We would have our tents,” said Nellie. “Dr. Madden says he thinks the
water would do you a great deal of good, mother.”

“I feel better already,” said the mother, sitting up and smoothing back
her hair. “I want to start at once.”

They all laughed, and presently the children were seated beside her,
each holding a hand, wondering when everything would be in readiness
for the start.

“We don’t have to get any new clothes, do we?” inquired Nellie, to whom
the bugbear of a summer outfit was receding into the background.

“No; we shall wear our oldest things,” replied the mother. “Still, we
shall not aim to make scarecrows of ourselves, my dear, as some people
really seem to do when they go camping.”

The children laughed again. “As though you _could_ make a scarecrow
of yourself!” exclaimed Nellie, looking fondly at her fair, delicate
mother in her dainty white wrapper, and shoulder shawl of soft, scarlet
wool.

“But suppose they would put the Indians out while we are there; then
what would we do, mother?” asked Nellie. “I couldn’t bear to be near
and see it,” said the tender-hearted child. “I think it’s dreadful,
don’t you, mother?”

“Yes, it is,” rejoined her mother. “Yet it does not seem possible to
avoid it.”

“Tell us about it, mother, will you?” pleaded Walter. “There has been
much fuss over it in the papers. Why do the Indians have to go away
from this place where they have lived so long?”

Mrs. Page reflected for a moment before replying. Then she said:

“I can’t remember all the details, and you would not be interested in
them if I could; but as nearly as I know the facts of the case I shall
try to relate them to you.

“Many years ago Col. Juan José Warner received a grant of immense
tracts of land from the Mexican government. On these lands, or part
of them, some tribes of Indians were then living. They and their
forefathers had lived there for many years. It was a provision of the
grants or patents given by the Mexican government that the ‘mission
Indians’ were never to be disturbed. In nearly all cases their rights
were respected. Do you understand, dear children?”

Walter nodded, but Nellie said: “Mamma, how was it that the _Mexican_
government granted lands to people in California?”

“Why, don’t you know that California was once part of Mexico?” inquired
Walter, with a little air of superiority.

“I believe I used to, but maybe I have forgotten it,” murmured Nellie,
quite discomfited, as she always was when her brother asserted his
better knowledge of history and current events.

“Well, mamma, what next?” inquired the boy. “We don’t want to ‘lose
the thread.’ That’s what our teacher says when the scholars’ attention
seems to wander.”

“After some time,” resumed Mrs. Page, “this tract of land, known by the
name of Warner’s Ranch, was sold to Governor Downey, who did not molest
the Indians. There were several tribes besides those who lived at the
Hot Springs. But later there was a lawsuit, and many endeavors were
made to eject them, on the ground that they had only occupied the land
_after_ it had been granted to Warner.

“This lawsuit has been going on for many years. Recently it has been
decided, very unjustly, most people think, that the Indians must go.”

“But where are they to go?” asked Nellie, her round blue eyes opening
with every word. “Where _can_ they go?”

“The United States government will place them on some other
reservation,” said Mrs. Page. “A commission has been appointed to
select one where the land is fertile and water plentiful. It will not
be very long now, I think, before some place will be decided upon. It
is a very good thing that every one on the commission is a friend of
the Indians, and would allow them to remain in their present home if
they could arrange it.”

“Is Warner’s Ranch a very large tract of land, mother?” asked Walter.

“Very large, my son.”

“Why can’t they let the Indians stay on their little bit of land, then?
They haven’t a great deal, have they?”

“Not much, compared with the extent of the whole tract. However, the
owners of the ranch wish to derive profit from the springs, as the
Indians are doing, only they would erect wooden buildings and make many
improvements. They wish to make the springs a popular resort.”

“I’d never go there if they did, never!” said Nellie. “How can the
government be so unjust as to put those Indians out, when they have
always lived there?”

“It seems that when the tract was originally sold the Indians should
have presented their claim to the portion they occupied. As they
did not do that, after a certain number of years their rights were
forfeited. That is the law.”

“Why didn’t they present their claims?” asked Walter.

“Simply, my son, I suppose, because they were ignorant of the
requirements of the law. They had lived there always; they could not
remember having heard of a time when their forefathers had not lived
there. They did not dream they would ever be disturbed. And so it came
to pass that when they were informed steps had been taken to eject them
they paid no attention to it.”

“Why didn’t they get a lawyer to attend to it for them?”

“After some time they did. There were able lawyers employed on both
sides. The suit has lasted for many years, has been taken from one
court to another, and now it has been finally decided that the Indians
must go. I have heard that many of them still refuse to believe it.”

“I call it a beastly shame,” said Walter. “Why don’t they fight?”

“What could a couple of hundred warriors do against the United States
government?” replied Mrs. Page.

“I thought the Comanches and Apaches, and those Indian tribes liked to
fight just for the sake of fighting,” said Nellie.

“That is probably true,” replied Mrs. Page; “but our California
Indians are neither Comanches nor Apaches, my dear. They have always
been peaceful, and have been called the ‘mission Indians’ from the
time of the first establishment of the Spanish Franciscans at San
Diego. The Warner Ranch Indians are called _Cupeños_, from _Cupa_, the
name given to the hot springs. Comfortable and happy they were while
under the control of the mission Fathers; but since the time that the
missions were abolished and the priests scattered things have been very
different. That was after the Mexican War, about which you both know
something, I believe. Certainly Walter does.”

“I’m very anxious to go, aren’t you, mother?” asked Walter.

“Yes, if it has been decided that it will benefit me,” said Mrs. Page.
“I should like to start to-morrow if I could.”

“Here they come–papa, Aunt Mary and the doctor,” said Nellie, as
footsteps were heard ascending the stairs; “I hope they haven’t found
many objections.”

Everybody was smiling as they entered, and the doctor said: “Mrs. Page,
no doubt the little ones have prepared you for our verdict. We have
decided to send you to the hot springs. The sooner you are ready to
start the better.”

On a bright morning in early June, Charlie Dorner drove up to the
Pages’ door with a large camping wagon, to which two strong, stout
mules were harnessed. The wagon was then laden with things brought from
the house in barrels, boxes, baskets, and bundles. One not familiar
with the capacity of California mules would have thought it impossible
for two animals to haul the tremendous load on the long climb, which
was to end sixty miles in the mountains, three thousand feet above the
level of the sea.

Charlie Holden, in a suit of corduroy, with high boots and leggings,
and a huge sombrero of Mexican make on his curly red head, excited the
admiration of Walter, who had never seen him before. The mules started
off without balking after one crack of Charlie’s whip. The speed with
which they started was not great, but Mr. Page, who stood with the
children watching the departure, said they would be likely to keep the
same pace until their destination was reached on the afternoon of the
following day.

“I’d like awfully well to go along,” said Walter. “I wish I had thought
of it before. Would you have let me go, papa?”

“No; I think it is better that we should all keep together,” said Mr.
Page. “I am sure mother would not have considered it for a moment.”

“I think it is nearly time to start, don’t you, father?” inquired
Nellie, consulting a diminutive silver watch which her mother had given
her on her tenth birthday. “Why, it’s almost _eight_ o’clock, and the
train goes at nine.”

Mr. Page laughed. “The cab will not be here before half-past,” he said;
“and even then we shall have more than ample time to reach the train.”

Nellie sighed. “I think I’ll go in and see if I can do anything for
mamma,” she said. “This does seem such a dreadfully long morning.”

“You were up at half-past five,” said Mr. Page. “That is why it seems
so long. But we shall be off pretty soon, and then you will find time
flying. At least I hope so, for we have quite a journey before us.”

When they were seated at last in the train in which they were to
make the first part of the trip, with the mother well wrapped in her
traveling cloak, the children amused themselves by looking out of
the car windows at the groves of lemons, oranges, and nuts extending
on both sides of the railroad. Thus an hour passed quickly, and the
station where they were to leave the train was reached.

“The mountains are beginning already,” said Walter, as they stood
on the platform awaiting the arrival of the stage. It was indeed a
wild-looking spot. Sheer from the road high hills rose ruggedly,
clothed here and there with mesquite bushes and wild fern, now
beginning to wither through lack of rain.

“Yes, the mountains are beginning, as you say,” remarked Mr. Page. “We
shall have ample opportunity to become acquainted with them to-day.”

As he spoke a buggy, rather dilapidated in appearance, the horse driven
by a Mexican, came in sight. Mr. Page and his wife had arranged to drive
in this, thinking it would not be so fatiguing as riding in the stage.

“Good-morning, Juan,” said Mr. Page.

“Good-morning, Señor,” the man replied. “Not very pretty, this, says
Señor Smith, but comfortable, yes.”

“Well, we care more for comfort than beauty just here and now,”
rejoined Mr. Page. “Mother,” he continued, turning to his wife, “are
you ready to drive with me for the eight hours or so?”

“Oh, not so long, Señor,” said the man. “In six you will be well at
Santa Isabel.”

“We do not go so far to-night, I think,” said Mr. Page. “However, that
will depend on circumstances.”

Mrs. Page was ready. “Shall we start at once, Ralph?” she inquired. “Or
shall we wait and see the others off first?”

“We ought to go ahead of them,” said the husband; “otherwise we shall
have the dust of the road in our eyes all the way. Those stage horses
make clouds of dust.”

“Well, then, we had better go ahead. Let us wait, though, till the stage
arrives. I want to feel that they are coming just behind us,” she said.

“Here it is now!” shouted Walter.

“My patience!” exclaimed Aunt Mary. “What a ramshackle affair it
is–nothing but a dilapidated covered wagon.”

The driver, a thin-faced, dark-skinned young man with a strong nasal
accent, showed a set of brilliant teeth as he rejoined pleasantly:

“Mebbe it _looks_ ramshackle, miss; but you’ll find it all right as a
carrier. There’s lots of folks come up and down _oncet_ or _twicet_ a
week just for the pleasure of ridin’ in this here stage.”

With these words he threw the reins over the backs of the horses and,
stepping upon the platform, prepared to put in the freight and baggage
before seating the passengers. Sack after sack, box after box, package
after package was deposited in the immense “boot” at the back of the
vehicle; then the space under and between the seats was filled to its
utmost capacity.

“See here,” said Mr. Page, who had been watching the transfer with some
concern, “where are you going to put your passengers? Or, rather, where
are they going to put their feet? Do you intend to have them sit Turk
fashion on the seats?”

The driver showed his brilliant teeth once more as he answered,
good-humoredly: “Plenty of room for passengers, mister. I understand
you and the lady are goin’ in the buggy. There won’t be no one in the
stage, ‘ceptin’ the other lady and the little boy and gal and myself.
You ought to see ’em sometimes, settin’ on each other’s laps.”

“Oh, there’s room enough in one way,” said Mr. Page; “but they will
have no place to rest their feet. Why do you crowd the stage with
baggage and freight? Why don’t you have an extra wagon?”

“Ha, ha!” laughed the driver, though not at all disrespectfully. “That
_would_ be a cost–to freighters.

“But,” he continued, quite seriously, “this is a larger load of freight
and baggage than usual. There’s going to be a party up at Julian
to-night, and there’s a good many extras.

“If you’ll step in now, ladies,” he went on, turning politely to Aunt
Mary and Nellie, “you can have your choice of seats. The lady can
set in the back with the hull seat to herself, and she won’t have to
sit Turk fashion, neither. The little gal can do the same, and when
you put a robe at your back–plenty of ’em here–you’ll be like you
was reclinin’ on a couch. Otherwise, I don’t deny that if you sit up
straight you’ll have your knees at your chin, for there won’t be no
other place to put ’em, with the boxes and bags on the floor. The
little feller can set with me in front.”

Walter sprang into the place allotted him.

“Hello!” he exclaimed. “_Our_ legs are not going to be cramped. You’ve
got all the baggage under the other seats behind there.”

“That’s the way it’s got to be,” said the driver gravely. “Got to have
my legs free to steer the ship. Holdin’ them mules ain’t always a joke.”

“Oh, are they dangerous?” queried Aunt Mary in alarm, in the act of
gathering her skirts about her to enter the vehicle. Nellie was already
seated sidewise on her perch.

“Not a bit dangerous, ma’am,” rejoined the driver. “Never been an
accident on this here line. But there could be, and there might be
without keerful drivers–we have ’em on this route—-”

“And couldn’t you, don’t you think, dust off the seats?” asked Aunt
Mary, still hesitating, her skirts in her hands.

The boy here burst into a fit of uncontrollable mirth. “It’s plain to
be seen this here’s your first trip to the mountains, ma’am. Why, what
would be the use? Before we get to Witch Creek we’ll be fairly eatin’
dust.”

With a solemn shake of the head, but making no further remarks, Aunt
Mary now took her place. Giving her and Nellie each a heavy woolen
blanket to serve as cushions for their backs, the driver also prepared
to envelop them in linen robes, to preserve them as much as possible
from the dust they were to “eat” before nightfall.

“Oh, I can’t have that thing around me,” said Nellie, tossing it aside.
“I want to be able to move about. I’m not afraid of the dust.”

Mrs. Page, who stood beside her husband watching the proceedings, was
about to remonstrate, but the husband said:

“Let her alone, Martha. The dust will not hurt her. The child is right.”

The driver nodded his head in approbation and prepared to take his own
seat. “Here comes the mail,” he said, as a short, squat man approached,
carrying a sack on his shoulder. “We’ll be off in a jiffy now.”

“There you are, Dingley!” the man called out as he flung the mail pouch
at Walter’s feet.

“Come, mother,” said Mr. Page, helping his wife into the buggy; “we
must get a start, or _we’ll_ be in for the dust.”

“That’s so,” rejoined Dingley, “that’s so. I’ll give ye five minutes’
start to forge ahead.”

Presently the brisk little buggy horse was trotting ahead, and as it
turned the first bend of the road the stage driver touched his mules.
Off they started.

Despite the dust which covered them from head to foot, even penetrating
the luncheon basket (which they opened about noon by the side of a
tiny, clear spring half hidden amid a grove of cottonwood trees), the
party enjoyed the ride very much. By the time they reached Witch Creek,
where they intended passing the night if Mrs. Page felt much fatigued,
she thought herself fully able to push on to Santa Isabel. From there
they would have to make an early start for the hot springs next morning.

Three miles and a half further on their journey ended for the day. They
had enjoyed every inch of it, yet were delighted to find themselves,
at the close of the day, in the long, white, one-story hotel, set
invitingly amid a grove of trees larger than any they had seen in
California. After an appetizing supper they retired to rest. Everybody
slept well, and seven o’clock found them ready for the road once more.

To the surprise of the children, who thought they were to make the
remainder of their journey in the company of their friend Dingley, they
learned that such was not the case. He had continued on his route up to
Julian. The way of our travelers lay in another direction. It was a
delight to step into the spring wagon awaiting them, to find themselves
speeding along the edge of the foot-hills, through the broad valley,
until, almost before they had become accustomed to their surroundings,
the driver, pointing to a speck in the distance, apparently at the very
base of a rugged mountain, announced: “There are the hot springs.”

“How close to the mountain they are,” said Walter.

“Not so close as they seem,” was the reply. “They are seven miles
distant, but the atmosphere is so clear that they appear much nearer.”

A sudden turn in the road now hid the village from view. As they wound
on and on it would reappear and disappear, always under some new aspect
of wild picturesqueness and beauty.

“You see that highest peak over there, just above the village?” said
the driver, pointing with his whip. “Well, that is the ‘Eagle.’ The two
other mountains nearest are called the ‘Rabbit’ and the ‘Squaw.'”

“What lies behind that small mountain chain at whose foot the village
seems to nestle?” inquired Aunt Mary.

“The desert,” replied the driver. “Those hills are all that separate
these lands from the dreariest wastes you ever saw.”

Soon they came in sight of small, cultivated patches of land, whose
rich, black soil gave evidence of its fertility. Adobe houses, with
brush additions, could be seen everywhere. The sound of falling water
pleasantly greeted their ears.

“Is there a waterfall here?” asked Mrs. Page.

“No, ma’am,” said the driver. “At least, not a natural waterfall. That
sound is made by the waste water from the bathhouses flowing into the
irrigation ditch, which is used by all these people in turn to irrigate
their lands.”

Some one shouted “Hello!” and in a moment Charlie Dorner was seen
approaching. “Turn in this way, if you please,” he said. “I’ve found a
splendid camping place–not too sunny, not too shady, not too close to
anybody, yet very near the baths.”

Mrs. Page remained in the wagon, but the others were soon following
Charlie down a short incline leading to a miniature grove of
cottonwoods. A pair of pepper trees stood guard at the entrance. The
main tent–there were three–was arranged as a sitting-room. Here Mrs.
Page and Aunt Mary and Nellie were to sleep. During the day their bunks
were fastened to the sides of the tent and hidden by curtains. A large
rug covered the boarded floor. Board floors are somewhat of a luxury
among the Cupa folk, especially the campers.

A table covered by a dark red cloth stood in the middle. Comfortable
camp chairs were scattered all about. In one of the other tents Mr.
Page and Walter were to sleep, in another Charlie would take up his
quarters.

An abandoned brush-house in the rear, about fifteen feet square, had
been converted into a kitchen and dining-room, divided by an archway
made of pepper boughs. When Mrs. Page arrived she was shown to the tent
sitting-room. She pronounced it perfect.

The children, eager to explore the neighborhood, scarcely took time to
unpack their belongings before they asked to be allowed to go out for a
walk. Permission being given, their father said he would go along. “Oh,
yes, do come, papa,” said Nellie. “You can show us everything.”

“We are now on the outskirts of Cupa,” he said merrily as, after
descending the declivity which led to their camping place, they stood
at the head of a street, or road, with houses straggling on either
side to the number of forty or fifty. In the distance could be seen
flourishing vineyards and green patches of land.

Here and there a man was lazily ploughing. To the left arose a great
cloud of steam ascending slowly into the air, where it was soon lost in
the clear blue.

“There are the springs,” said Mr. Page. “Shall we go down?”

“Yes, yes, let us go!” cried both children. As they strolled along the
dusty street Walter observed that he saw only white people.

“Where are the Indians?” he inquired anxiously. “Have they gone so far
away from their homes that we can’t see them at all?”

“Oh, no,” replied the father. “On our return, if we take a short cut to
the right, we shall probably see a good many of them living in those
brush-houses.”

And it so proved. After they had gone down to the springs, surveyed
the boiling pools bursting from the solid granite and taken a drink
from one of them, they returned by the back road, and found that every
brush-house they passed was inhabited by Indians, in various stages of
comfort or discomfort. These houses generally stood from fifty to a
hundred feet in the rear of the adobe dwelling, rented for the season
at a good price to the visitors in search of health or recreation.

The people manifested no curiosity at the appearance of the strangers;
even the Indian children were stolid and indifferent. Later the Pages
were to learn that the reserve could be broken when they came to look
upon the strangers as friends. Making a détour, the trio advanced toward
the church, which stood on a slight knoll overlooking the village.

Everything around it was bleak and lean, the plaster falling from the
walls both outside and inside. They tried to enter, but the door was
locked. Through the windows they could see the little altar adorned
with bright tissue-paper flowers. There appeared to be no one in the
vicinity, and Walter, in a spirit of mischief, picked up a stick from
the ground and touched the bell which hung in front of the door on two
heavy crossbeams, gnarled and worm-eaten.

“Walter, you should not have done that,” said the father, as a single,
sharp, clear note resounded through the air.

“It is what they all do,” said a boyish voice back of him. “It is a
beautiful sound, don’t you think?”

“Where did you come from, my boy?” asked Mr. Page as the young stranger
advanced. He was about Walter’s age, clad in blue overalls and flannel
shirt. The battered felt hat which served him as head covering was held
in his hand.

“I live there,” he replied, pointing to a ruined adobe house at some
distance behind the church. “I live there with Mauricio. He is my
uncle. He is the priest.”

“The priest!” exclaimed Mr. Page. “And living in such a place! Are you
not an Indian boy?” he continued, looking at the swarthy skin, black
eyes and raven hair. “Surely you are an Indian, and there are no Indian
priests, in this country, at least.”

“He is not a real priest, my uncle,” replied the boy. “But that is what
they call him–the Protestants, I mean. I told you that way just for
fun.”

He was smiling broadly, showing his white teeth, and his eyes twinkled
merrily.

“How did you know we were Catholics?” inquired Mr. Page rather gravely,
not very well pleased at this facetiousness.

“I saw you kneel in front of the church, I saw you make the sign of the
cross; and I knew then that you did not come to make fun, as so many do.”

“But why do _you_ make fun and tell us your uncle is a priest when he
is not one? Where is he now?”

“He is away at Palomas–at the sheep-shearing,” said the boy. “I will
tell it to you what I mean. My uncle takes care for the church–the
Father comes not often here any more, and every Sunday my uncle
rings the bell, or sometimes I do, and the people come, and he says
the prayers aloud. And that is why the people who do not know about
Catholics call him the priest. We let them do; we don’t care. They
don’t know much–some of them.”

“You speak English very well,” said Walter.

“And why not?” answered the boy. “I have been to school six years at
Deming, at the Mission. Maybe I go back in the fall, I don’t know.”

“What is your name?” inquired Mr. Page.

“I am called Francisco Perez,” was the reply. “I will fetch water for
you, or wood, or do anything that I can do, and I will not charge you
much. Oh, I can do many things, for I have been to the Mission to
school.”

“Are there many boys here?” asked Walter.

“What kind of boys?” questioned Francisco. “White boys, or Indian?”

“Oh, any kind.”

“Just now there are no white boys but you. Maybe some will come. And not
many Indians, either. Many are gone to Mesa Grande and around there,
picking berries and cherries, and then there will be the grape picking.”

“Will you play with us sometimes and show us places?” continued Walter.

Francisco laughed. “I do not play much,” he said, “and there are not
places to show. You see how it is,” with a swing of his hand over the
valley. “But I will do what I can.”

“We are camping down there,” said Mr. Page, pointing to the three white
tents in the midst of the cottonwood grove.

“You have the best place. In a week you could not have got there, for
others are coming soon and would have taken it.”

“Well, come down, Francisco, and we’ll see what we can do,” said Mr.
Page. “You look like a good boy, and Walter will want a companion.
Good-by for the present.”

“_Adios_,” said Francisco, retracing his steps to his ruined dwelling
and, the children noticed, not once looking back, though they followed
him with their eyes until he disappeared within the doorless opening to
his home. When they got back to camp Charlie was waiting with a dinner
of fried rabbit, potatoes, fresh tomatoes, and melons purchased from
the Indians that morning. As they sat in the brush dining-room, within
sound of the pleasant waterfall, around the well-spread table, all were
unanimous in declaring that the viands could not have been surpassed.