Porch angle of brushwood

Bleak and barren as is for the most part the immediate neighborhood of
the Springs, one need not ride very far to reach the cool shade of the
mountain woods.

One day, when Walter and Nellie were telling Francisco of the delicious
sugar-cane in their native State and lamenting that in California there
were no lilacs or “snowballs,” the Indian boy said:

“But yes; in the garden of the teacher there are always lilacs in the
spring. From the woods the children brought them to her, young plants;
now they are trees, and they bloom very well indeed. She says they are
not so large or so sweet-swelling as those of her own home in the East,
but yet they will do, she says. And of snowball trees she has two.”

“With bright green leaves and big, round flowers, like snowballs?”
asked Nellie.

“Yes, from a distance that is how they look. Now they have done
blooming, but in the spring they are fine. Wild roses we have in the
woods over yonder. There are spots full of them. Would you like to see?
And I will show you then the sugar tree.”

“Let us ask papa to have a picnic. Can we come and go in one day,
Francisco?”

“Easily, if we start early enough,” said Francisco.

The children lost no time in making their request. Everybody was
willing to do something to vary the monotony of life in Cupa. Very
early one morning a few days later the party, with Mauricio and
Francisco in charge, started for the woods.

Mr. Page was something of a naturalist, or, it might more properly be
said, a lover of nature in every beautiful form. When they had come
into the shadow of the woods he began to observe the various kinds
of shrubs, and was pleased to find a variety of “buckeye” native to
California. Presently they came upon a large cluster of bushes, growing
luxuriantly, the leaves of which very much resembled those of the
india-rubber tree.

“There,” said Francisco, “is a tree the Americans call ‘mahogany tree’
on account of its color, but the Indians name it _limonada_.”

“What does that mean?” asked Mr. Page.

“The lemonade tree,” said Mauricio. “The little fruits, or pods, have a
sour sweetness. We soak them in water, and they make a nice lemonade.
You will see our women and children gathering them when they are
getting ripe. They put them into sacks and carry them home. Then they
lay them in the sun to dry. It is a very nice drink. We have some at
our house. Some day, if you wish, Francisco will take you a quantity.”

“Yes; we’d like to taste it,” said Nellie. “Perhaps we might gather
some of the fruit and take it home.”

“Of what need?” said the Indian boy. “There you have plenty lemons.
Here we have none–that is, unless we buy them.”

“They are cheaper now than in the old days,” said Mauricio. “Still,
many of our people like better the _limonada_ pods.”

“Over there, in the cañon,” said Francisco, “are the sugar trees. It
is not the time now for the fruit, but later in the autumn they will
gather it and dry it.”

They followed a well-worn road along the course of a small stream which
trickled down the mountain-side–now disappearing, now shining like a
thread of silver, now crossing the path in front of them. All along the
road, marking its course in its curving deviations, grew the beautiful
wax myrtle, with its smooth, dark-green leaves and perfect, white
flowers.

As they plunged deeper into the woods, the rich, pungent odor of the
mountain sage grew more pronounced; they came upon wild bees flitting
from flower to flower. Clumps of wild-rose trees, drooping with blooms,
offered a generous hospitality to the industrious gatherers of honey.
However, the little wayfarers undoubtedly preferred the aromatic white
and black sage.

The foliage grew more and more dense; soon the trees on either side
arched over their heads; the bed of the stream was now perfectly dry.
Just at the bend of a broad cañon they came upon more bushes, in some
places as high as trees and with a crown of dense, pale foliage at
their top.

“What are these?” inquired Mr. Page. “Some are like dwarfs, others are
giants, and their trunks and stocks seem to have been twisted by some
convulsion of nature.”

“That is the manganita–the Christmas berry of California,” said
Francisco.

“Ah, I see,” remarked Mr. Page. “When we first came, don’t you
remember, mother, it reminded us of the eastern holly.”

“Yes,” said his wife, “and it made me very homesick to see it.”

“It is always beautiful, the manganita,” said Mauricio. “About
December, when it is warm in the sheltered cañons though there may be
snow in the mountains, the manganita puts forth pretty, small white
bells.”

“Sometimes they are a little pink,” said Francisco, “and then they are
prettier. When they fall the shrub seems to grow stronger, and the new
shoots come forth scarlet and crimson. They look beautiful with the
green of the older leaves.”

“Again in the fall the fruit ripens,” said Mauricio, “and near to
Christmas, when the berries are a bright red, you begin to see the
wagons loaded with the Christmas greens coming down the mountain roads
and going into the city. Oh, I have often taken down a load; it makes
money for us.”

“That manganita is the finest thing we know,” said Francisco. “Deep in
the ground are the roots; they make good fuel. We burn them, and some
sell them in town. You have, maybe, burned the manganita roots, Mr.
Page?”

“No, we have not,” was the reply; “but if you ever fetch us down a good
load in the fall, Francisco, we will burn them this winter.”

“Very well; it shall be done,” said the boy. “I shall be glad to do so.”

“It must be nearly lunch-time,” ventured Nellie. “I feel pretty hungry.”

Her father looked at his watch. “It is only eleven,” he said, “but we
had breakfast early. There does not seem to be any level ground just
here. Shall we come to some after a while, Mauricio?”

“Soon,” replied the Indian. “Wait a while and you will see. There will
be water, good water, and we can make coffee.”

The ascent had grown very steep; the horses tugged slowly but willingly
upward. Suddenly they seemed to be at the top of the mountain. The
slope on the other side, becoming very gradual, led into a broad,
green, pleasant valley fringed by luxuriant foliage.

“How beautiful!” was the general exclamation.

“It seems like an enchanted valley,” said Aunt Mary. “If you will
observe, it forms an almost perfect circle. That lovely fringe of
green surrounding it–the foot-hills just above–and those magnificent
mountains in the background–it does indeed make one think of an
enchanted valley.”

“Once it _was encantado_,”[F] rejoined Mauricio.

“What is it called? Has it any name?” asked Walter.

The Indians smiled and looked at each other.

“You will not be frightened if I tell you?” asked Mauricio. “The danger
is past–nothing can hurt you. The spell is long since broken.”

“Oh, tell us!” cried Nellie. “We won’t be frightened.”

“It is called ‘_El Valle de los Cascabeles_’–‘The Valley of the
Rattlesnakes.'”

“Ugh!” exclaimed Nellie. “Are there rattlesnakes down there?”

“Not any more, I think; perhaps never any there,” answered Mauricio.
“But there is a story.”

“A story? Oh, do tell it to us,” cried the children.

“You see, as we come nearer,” replied the Indian, “that in the centre
is a large, round spot where nothing is growing–no grass, no bush, no
tree.”

It was true. In strange contrast to the fresh verdure all around, this
single, bald, unlovely spot, black as though fire had burned it, stood
forth.

“Once, very long ago,” said Mauricio, “there lived a tribe of Indians
in those mountains over there where the Volcan smokes. They came every
year here to this valley for their _fiesta_–all the tribe. Once they
were at war with some others who dwelt beyond the Volcan, near to the
peaks of the Cuyamaca. Then it happened that the son of the chief of
the Volcans was wounded and captured in a fight, and they took him to
the camp of the Cuyamacas, and there he was tended by the women.

“Then, when he was well and able to go again back to his own people,
he vowed that he would have for his wife the daughter of the chief
of the Cuyamacas, the fairest of her tribe, and that there should be
peace forever between the Cuyamacas and the Volcans. Now, the chief
of the Cuyamacas was very, very old, and he was not unwilling that
peace should be before he died. Not so the chief of the Volcans. He
called down all the wrath of the great spirit on his son, and the young
man, angered at his father, swore that he would disobey him and join
the side of the enemy against him. ‘The great good spirit will desert
thee,’ said his father. ‘Thou and thy posterity shall be accursed.’

“‘Then I call upon the spirit of evil to aid me,’ said the rash young
brave, and bursting away from his father he betook himself to this
valley. When he reached it he saw in the middle of the broad space a
large, flat stone which before had not been in the valley. And a voice
said in his ear: ‘Lift up the stone.’ But he said: ‘I can not; it is
twenty times broader, and many times heavier than I.’ ‘Lift up the
stone,’ said the voice again.

“Then he obeyed, and there came forth a legion of rattlesnakes,
scattering in every direction; but they touched him not. He slept, and
in the morning returned to the camp of the Cuyamacas and married the
daughter of the chief. But the people did not trust him, and his wife
taunted him with his ingratitude to his parents. He bowed his head and
went forth once more. In the bitterness of his grief he wandered to the
valley, and there he saw lying dead around the ashes of a camp-fire
many braves and squaws and papooses of his tribe. His father and mother
were there, and his sisters and his fellow-braves. All about them were
the cascabeles darting to and fro, and then he knew that the evil
spirit had done this thing because he had called upon him for aid.

“So he lay down in the centre of the valley, where the stone had
been, and he cried out: ‘I renounce you, O Spirit of Evil! Be it done
unto me, O Spirit of Good, as it has been done unto my people.’ Then
there came a great fire out of the earth beneath him, and even to his
bones he was destroyed. But perhaps he was thus purified from his
sin. Since that time this place has been known as the ‘Valley of the
Rattlesnakes.’ Where the young chief was burned no blade of grass has
since grown.”

“A very interesting story,” said Mr. Page.

“But who told of it if they were all dead?” queried Walter, a little
skeptical.

Mauricio shrugged his shoulders. “That I can not say,” he replied. “It
was an old story long before my grandfather was born.”

“And what became of the rattlesnakes? Are any of their descendants
living among those bushes?” asked Mrs. Page.

“If they are,” said Aunt Mary, “I think we ought to camp somewhere
else for lunch and rest.”

“We shall not be near the bushes,” said Mauricio, “and there is no
other place near where we can stop to eat.”

“You will never see a snake in an open place like this,” said
Francisco. “There is no danger.”

“We will stop now,” said Mr. Page. They were at the edge of the
circular green basin, and Mauricio pulled up the horses. The party left
the wagon, glad to stretch their limbs after so long a ride. A couch of
robes and blankets was made for Mrs. Page under a tree. Aunt Mary sat
down beside her, and the others busied themselves in spreading out the
lunch.

“Come; I will show you a pretty sight,” said Francisco to the children,
taking a tin pail from the wagon. They followed him to the bushes, in
the midst of which stood a large sycamore tree, the only one to be
seen. Putting aside its luxuriant boughs, the Indian boy disclosed a
sparkling spring tumbling down from the rocks above.

“This it is which makes the valley so green,” he said, “and the bushes
to grow everywhere.” The water was icy cold. “It is an iron spring,”
continued Francisco, “and good for many diseases. Many persons camp in
this section. There are pretty little spots all around.”

“See that rock above the spring?” asked Nellie, pointing to the spot.
“It looks like an armchair with a flat back and a broad seat. It must
be lovely to sit up there and listen to the trickle, trickle of the
water over the pebbles.”

“I never thought of that,” said Francisco. “Many times as I have been
here, I have never thought of that. But so it is.”

When they returned with the water Aunt Mary made the coffee, and
luncheon was ready. Afterward Mr. Page and Mauricio walked up and down,
discussing the coming eviction of the Indians; Mrs. Page and Aunt Mary
were resting; Francisco and Walter were cutting twigs for whistles.

For some time Nellie wandered about alone till finally her steps turned
in the direction of the iron spring. She had a strong desire to sit in
the natural armchair she had discovered. It was just like what a girl
in a story-book would do, she thought.

For some moments she stood watching the clear, sparkling water falling
over the stones; then, stepping across the little stream she climbed
up on the other side and seated herself on the broad rock, her feet
resting on the turfy grass beneath. It was very pleasant to sit in
that shady nook, to watch the sunlight filter through the green leaves
of the sycamore, and listen to the singing of the tiny waterfall.

Nellie was tired; she had been up since dawn. Pulling off her
sun-bonnet, she leaned her head against the flat, cool stone that
formed the back of the comfortable seat.

“Whiz–whiz–whiz!” went something close behind her. Leaning back, she
tried to locate the sound. “It is like a corn-crake,” she thought. “But
I never heard anything _just_ like it. Can it be a bird?”

“Whiz–whiz!” she heard again, but now the sound receded and presently
ceased.

“I wonder if it could have been a big grasshopper,” thought the child,
once more resuming her restful position. In a moment she was fast
asleep.

“Nellie! Nellie!” called her father; but she did not hear him.

“Nellie! Nellie!” repeated Walter a few moments later.

The child slept on, while the golden light still trickled through the
leaves, and the silvery water sang its one, unchanging song. Something
that had crawled away, something Nellie had mercifully not seen!–long,
lithe, slender, sinuous, horrible, with slimy skin and loathsome head
and glittering eyes–began slowly to return, creeping toward the child
in the sylvan chair.

She did not awake, for the crawling thing made no perceptible sound.
The bushes parted. Francisco was there, hearing, seeing, and in an
instant, leaping the stream, springing to her side.

In a moment she was in his arms, wide-awake and frightened; but the
creeping creature the Indian boy had seen with its head erect and fangs
exposed had vanished in the bushes, despoiled of its prey. Another
instant, and they all had surrounded the little girl. Alarmed by
Walter’s shriek, for he also had seen the snake, they had run to the
spot.

When everyone had grown calm again, they looked about for Francisco.
While they were wondering where he had gone and why, the boy came
crashing through the brushwood, carrying upon a stout stick a
rattlesnake more than six feet long.

When Nellie saw the reptile she grew white from fear and aversion.

“Oh, take it away! take it away!” she cried. “I can’t bear to look at
it.”

Francisco flung it into the bushes.

“Some would stuff it and keep it,” he said. “And some make belts of it.
But you shall never see it again, my good little Nellie, if you do not
wish.” Later he told Walter that he would get the snake again, hide it
in the wagon when the child was not looking, and sell it to someone at
the Springs. It was unusually large and venomous, and loud were the
thanks Francisco received on all sides for the rescue.

“Weren’t you afraid, my boy?” asked Aunt Mary, placing her hand on
Francisco’s arm.

“No, I was not afraid,” said the boy. “Often I have killed a
rattlesnake before.”

“But were you not fearful that it would spring at you, or on Nellie, if
you made a noise? Or that it might fix its eyes upon you and hold you
there?”

“No, no; it is not true that they can do that,” said Francisco,
“unless, perhaps, with birds, who are so very little that they stand
still with fear. The snakes run away when they hear a noise; they are
afraid of noise and of men.”

“There is probably a nest of snakes in the bushes,” said Mr. Page.

“I think so,” replied Francisco. “Shall we look?”

“No, no–not for us,” said Mrs. Page. “Let us get as far away from
here as we can, as soon as we can. The thought of the danger the child
escaped makes me nervous and afraid.”

“Strange that you did not hear it in the bushes,” said Francisco.

“I did,” responded Nellie. “I am sure I did. It went ‘whiz–whiz,’ like
a corn-crake or a grasshopper, or those funny little windmills you take
in your hand and whirl around, mamma. Why, it made me feel sleepy to
listen to it; I know it made me go to sleep—-”

“That was the rattle,” said Francisco.

Mauricio was already putting the horses into the wagon, and in a few
moments they were leaving the beautiful green valley behind, although
they did not retrace the route they had taken that morning.

Mauricio, wishing to show them the source of the iron spring, suggested
that they make a circuit, which would bring them eventually to the road.
All agreed. When they came opposite the bare spot where the immolation
of the Indian was supposed to have taken place Walter asked:

“What became of the huge stone under which the snakes were hidden,
Mauricio?”

“I do not know,” replied the Indian; “I have never heard. Maybe it
crumbled to pieces after awhile, or maybe it disappeared as suddenly as
it came.”

“I went over there this morning, or, rather, Francisco and I did,” said
Walter, “and we believe, at least I do, that there is nothing peculiar
about the spot at all. You can see there have been a great many fires
there–that is why nothing grows.”

“No Indian would make a fire there,” said Francisco.

“Wouldn’t you?” queried Mr. Page.

“No, I would not,” said the boy. “I would be afraid.”

“I would just love to try it,” said Walter. “If we were going to stay
longer I would.”

“And then maybe you would be burned up, like the bad brave of long
ago,” said Mauricio, laughing.

“Well, we’ve had one experience to-day; that is enough, Walter,”
said his mother. “I am not afraid anything might happen, but do not
think I would allow you to go against all the traditions of the
place. The legend is undoubtedly obscure, but _something_ must have
happened there. We have had evidence enough to-day that there are some
rattlesnakes about and that the valley deserves its name. I do not
think I can ever look at a rattlesnake’s skin again.”

When they left the valley the road wound up a long, moderately steep
ascent overlooking another valley similar to the one they had just
left, but much smaller.

“One might truly call this a hidden nook,” remarked Mr. Page.

“And that is what they call it,” said Mauricio, ‘_El Valle
Escondido_’–the hidden valley. “Over there at the edge of the brush is
a camp.”

When they came nearer they met several Indian children with long,
slender reeds in their hands.

“They have gathered them by the stream, and they are taking them to be
softened,” explained Mauricio. “It is of those that they make baskets.”

“The famous Indian baskets?” inquired Aunt Mary.

“Yes,” replied Mauricio. “There under that tent is a woman weaving one,
and just across sits a man making a mat.”

They now saw that they were in the midst of a genuine Indian camp.

“Do those people belong to Cupa?” asked Mr. Page of Mauricio.

“No,” he replied; “they are the Volcans–they live up there behind the
mountains, but come here in the summer to get the reeds. Always at this
season you will find them here. They come and go.”

Under hastily erected brushwood dwellings quite a number of persons,
mostly women, were seated. They accosted Mauricio and Francisco in
their own tongue. “They ask if we will stay a little,” said Mauricio,
turning to Mr. Page.

Mrs. Page and Aunt Mary both expressing themselves as much interested,
the party alighted and walked about the camp. A large portion of the
luncheon had been left. This Mauricio distributed among the Indians,
after Mr. Page had inquired whether they would accept it. They did not
seem so intelligent as the Cupa Indians and looked much poorer. This,
Francisco explained, was because they had not had so much intercourse
with the white people.

The process of basket-weaving appeared to be slow. The material was
soaking in earthern jars, one long strand at a time being woven in
and out, apparently without design. However, this is not the case.
Wonderfully beautiful shapes these baskets assume under the skilful
hands of the weaver.

The rug-maker, a man past ninety, with bent shoulders and white hair,
smilingly held up his work for examination. It was of coarser material
than that of the baskets and the work went much faster.

“He has all he can do, old Feliciano,” said Mauricio. “His son is
blind. He cannot work, and his grandson, with whom he lives, has lost
the use of his limbs. There are two little girls and a boy, and the
mother is dead. With the work of his hands that old man supports _four_
generations. He is teaching it now to his granddaughters, but he tells
me that they do not care much to learn it.”

“Will he sell us a mat?” asked Mrs. Page.

“Yes, if he has one there. They are nearly always sold before they are
finished. The people at the Springs buy them, and now the stores are
selling them. They wear very well.”

Feliciano had two or three mats on hand. Mrs. Page bought them all.

“Come and see this primitive cooking-stove,” said Mr. Page, who had
been passing from one tent to another.

A little removed from the rest a brush-shed, open on every side, was
being used as a kitchen. A large hole in the roof gave egress to the
smoke. A circular wall of round, flat stones about a foot in height had
been erected; within this wall the fire had been made. A huge black
pot containing an appetizing stew was steaming on the embers. In front
of it, in an upright pan, a rabbit was roasting. A woman was peeling
potatoes, another cutting green tomatoes and mixing them with mango
peppers.

“All _that_ goes into the pot,” said Francisco. “Don’t you like the
smell?”

“Will everybody eat out of that pot?” inquired Aunt Mary, to whom this
primitive method did not strongly appeal.

“No one will eat out of it but the dogs–what is left,” laughed
Francisco. “There are dishes and plates and knives and forks in every
house. But everybody will have some of it, for each has helped to
provide the food. To-day one does the cooking, or two, or three, and
to-morrow others.”

After smiling adieux from the Indians the party resumed its journey.
On the opposite side of the hill they came to another camp, much more
attractive in appearance than that of the Volcans.

“These are some of the Santa Isabel Indians,” said Mauricio. “They live
in the valleys hereabout, but farther back among the mountains. There
was once a church for them, and a very good one, of adobe–now nothing
but the walls remain. But they are going to build another. The priest
comes once a year.”

“Do they have Mass then?” asked Mrs. Page.

“Oh, yes,” replied Mauricio. “They have it in the brush-house over
there. Did you not see the bells when you came?”

“No; we did not notice them,” said Mr. Page.

“They are always photographed by visitors,” remarked Francisco. “They
came from old Spain. They are the finest toned in California; there is
much gold and silver in them.”

“We shall have to look at them on our way home,” said Aunt Mary. “I am
greatly interested in such things.”

“They are more than two hundred years old,” said Mauricio. “The Volcans
and Santa Isabels are very proud of them.”

And now once more they were at the top of the ascent overlooking a
valley much smaller than either of the others. Behind this rose an
almost perpendicular hill covered with an undergrowth of various kinds
of bushes.

Two snow-white tents were pitched at its base. In front of one of them
a young girl lay reading in a hammock. At her feet a boy was making
a bow and arrow. In the door of the tent an old lady, with a white,
fleecy shawl thrown over her shoulders and a lace scarf over her
snow-white hair, was knitting.

“They are the Almirantes,” said Francisco in a whisper to Miss Nellie
and Walter. “They come every year to the Iron Spring.”

Respectfully saluting the old lady, who arose at their approach, the
party was about to pass on when, coming forward, she said, “How do you
do, Mauricio and Francisco? And how is Cecilio?”

“All are well, Señora,” was the reply.

“And you are from the Springs–driving for the day?” she continued,
courteously addressing Mrs. Page. Being answered in the affirmative,
she said:

“I am the Señora Almirante; I live with my grandchildren at the ranch
not far from San Diego. We come to this place every year for the last
five–no, four years. I find it does me a great deal of good.”

Mr. Page then introduced himself and his family.

“Oh, can it be that you are the friends of the Gordons, our neighbors,
of whom we have heard them speak so often? Father Gregorio told me also
that you had been living in California, and had now decided to remain
here.”

“Yes, indeed,” replied Mrs. Page, “the Gordons are old friends. We were
disappointed on coming out to learn that they had gone East again.”

“Well, it is only for a time, you know,” said the Señora. “It is only
to settle some business, and then they will return.”

“Ramona,” she continued, addressing the young lady in the hammock,
“come here to be made acquainted with some friends of the Gordons. And
you also, Alejandro,” to the boy.

They came forward, the girl tall, dark and slender, with a crown of
magnificent jet-black hair wound round and round her small head; the
boy, several years younger than his sister, but very much resembling
her in feature.

“Any friends of the Gordons we are very glad to know,” said Ramona
Almirante in response to the kindly greetings of Mr. and Mrs. Page.
“What a pity you are not camping here with us at the Spring. It is so
pleasant.”

Walter and Alejandro were by this time conversing like old friends.
But the day was wearing on. Mauricio reminded them that there was
considerable traveling to be done before sundown, and they were
compelled to say good-by. In the few moments’ intercourse they had
had the Pages were charmed with the Señora and her grandchildren.
She promised to call at their home in the city in October, when she
expected to make her usual yearly trip.

“Will you not come to the Springs for a day before returning to town?”
asked Mrs. Page. “We could manage to entertain you pleasantly, and even
put you up for the night.”

A slight change passed over the Señora’s countenance.

“I thank you very much,” she replied. “I do not go there–I do not like
the place; but we shall soon meet again. With friends of the Gordons we
_must_ be friends.”

“What charming persons,” remarked Aunt Mary as they drove on. “If all
the old Spanish families were like this one, I do not wonder that poets
and story-writers lament their passing away.”

“Many are like them,” rejoined Mauricio. “The Señora has done much good
in her time. Once they were a very rich family.”

“How very dark the girl and boy are,” said Mrs. Page.

“The boy, mother–the boy looks like Francisco. Don’t you think so,
Mauricio?” asked Walter.

“I have never thought of it,” the Indian replied. Francisco said
nothing.

They had not gone far when they met two Indians, a man and a woman,
both considerably advanced in years, carrying bundles of fagots on
their shoulders.

“Ay, ay!” called Mauricio. “_Como estan ustedes, Concilio Valeriano?_”

The couple halted.

“Ay, ay, Mauricio! We did not know you. We are not so young as we once
were,” the old man said. “We do not see so well.”

“But you are strong and well still,” rejoined Mauricio. “We have been
at the camp. We have seen the Señora. These ladies and gentlemen I have
been giving a ride to-day.”

“Well, well,” said the old woman; “and is this not Francisco?”

“Yes,” said the boy; “am I grown tall?”

“Yes, yes, and handsome, too!” exclaimed the old woman. “We are glad to
have seen you. How is Cecilio, and Maria, and Juan Diego?”

“All are well,” replied Mauricio. “_Adios._”

“_Adios!_” rejoined the pair and, bowing politely to the occupants of
the wagon, they passed on.

“They are the servants of the Señora,” said Mauricio, when they had
resumed their way. “They have lived many, many years with her. They are
related to us, both husband and wife.”

The moon had risen when they reached the camp. Charlie was awaiting
them with a good dinner. Mrs. Page insisted that Mauricio and Francisco
partake.

When the rest of the family had retired Mr. Page, not feeling sleepy,
went out for a walk and a smoke.

Near the springs he met the stage-driver, about to fill a pail with hot
water. After having told him of their drive and the meeting with the
Almirantes, Mr. Page said:

“They seem to be very fine people.”

“They are–what is left of them,” rejoined old Chadwick. “Forty year
I’ve known them. The old Señora is as proud as Lucifer. Captain, I can
tell you that, nice as she is. She’s never got over that mistake of her
son–never will; though she’s a mother to both them children.”

“What mistake was that?” inquired Mr. Page.

“Why, didn’t you notice how dark them two are? Didn’t Mauricio tell
you nothing about them?”

“No, he did not.”

“Why, they’re part Indian. Couldn’t you see it? Notice how fair the
Señora is beside them.”

“Yes, but we never surmised that they had Indian blood,” said Mr. Page.

“Well, they have, sir, good and strong. Their mother is a full-blooded
Indian, living on the Mesa Grande–married again to a good
fellow–Indian–up there. She’s a cousin to Mauricio and Francisco.
Lots of their relations living round here. That’s why the Señora never
comes to Warner’s. I don’t blame her–it’s a bitter pill.”

“It must have gone hard with her,” said Mr. Page.

“It did. Yet she took that girl when she was a baby, and has raised
her ever since. They do say she never knew she was part Indian until
four or five years ago. The old lady took the boy then–he was at the
mission school. Now she sends him up to Santa Clara. They’re fine
children–the image of their father, both of them. Miss Ramona, she’s a
perfect lady if there ever was one.”

The next day Mr. Page said to Mauricio:

“Chadwick told me the story of the Almirante children last night. I
know now why it is that Francisco looks like the boy.”

“Yes?” replied Mauricio. “Chadwick talks too much, I think. Still,
everybody knows it. But it would not have been for either Francisco
or myself to have been the first to tell of that which has caused the
Señora so much unhappiness.”

Which Mr. Page considered, and justly, another admirable trait in the
Indian whom he had already learned to admire and respect.