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Isa's Loss And Her Gain

Isa's Loss And Her Gain image
Parent Issue
Day
12
Month
May
Year
1891
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

San Juan was 105 years oíd, and was held n great veneration by all the people. The little straggling Indian settlernent was sixty miles froni the priest, who could only come to them once a year; so when any one was in trouble he went to San Juan, who comforted him and helped hun. He had always seemed so strong and active until a few inonths ago, when he began to show signs of faüing. He did not go about from house to house as much as usual, and when the women chided him for staying írom sight he would shake his head and mysterioasly look up at the sky. When pressed by the women, who could not conceal their anxiety, he would tell them that before the apples were ripe again in the cactus hedge down by the oíd mission lie would go away from them all naver to come back. Then the women would humor him and take him to their houses, and send for oíd Mariana, who lived a little distance down the valley, who made the medicine for the settlement. Wonderfui medicine it was, out of roots and herbs and seeds, but it never did San Juan any good. When Isa, Antonio's wife, saw that the old man was indeed getüng weaker she tola aun that he must coiné to her house and live. San Juan shook his head and said that he had a place on the side of the hill, where the sun was always shining ; he could sit in the door and watch the children playing in the valley, and he was always the ñrst one to see the priest when he carne riding over the hills. He loved that place and wantod to stay there. But Isa entreated him, and finally he lodged in her house one night. That night Antonio stayed at home with Isa and the children, and when San Juan would again have gone away Isa begged him to stay longer, beeause, Antonio was good to her when he was in the houso. So San Juan, for the good he might do, spent another night in Isa's bonse. After they had eaten their supper oí beans Antonio brought in more manzamtta roots and piled them high, so that the flames leaped and the flre crackled and lillcd the house with light. Little Pedro dapped lüs hands and tried to catch some oí the queer figures that danced upon the adobe walls. Isa watched San Juan's face. It was ilmwu and cut by deep wrinkles. His eyes were stuaU, deep set and dim. His straight, tangled gray hair hung about his faee, and made one think of coarae torn eobwebs hanging from dirty ceilings in abandoned rooms. Isa begged San Joan to take a blanket and lie down, for he was tired she knew. Bat he only stretched himself out befare the fire and gazing absently at the llames drew San Joan (Isa's eldest son, who had been named for the oíd man) to his side. The child sat down on the eartben Hoor beside him and listened while the aged San Joan, slowly and with quivoring voioe, told him storics abont the eariy days in the valley. Man y miles from Caliente stand the walls oí the oid mission, fast cromhling into rain and decay. Ia the niches where the crucifix used to rest the birds bnild their nests and the bees swarm abont the western windows. In the hall whieh eehoed the solemn chant, or the voiees raised in prayer, there is only a sileace, nnbroken save as a piece of the wall crambles and falls to the earth. It is deathly now at the old mission. The wind sighs through the dead grasses as the work of destrucüon goes on, giving earth back to earth. I San Joan tells the boy about the jdays when he was there working up and down the valley for the padres, and going to the mission at night. Prom the window in his low, bare room he used t look down the valley, all smiling witk the river and gardens and olive orchards, and see at the end a narrow strip oí tha ocean. San Jaan closed his eyes. Clear and ptam was the picture his fading sigfat tonight ; the sun as it went down made the sea look like a tongue of flre, and it eolored the valley pink, and changed the mountains from pink to blue and soft purple. The old man opened his eyes, and raising himself on lüs elbow, more now to himself than to any one else, told how the bells calling to matins would awaken him, and when he went out to work the whole world seemed f uil of peace. But once - San Juan shook his head as he told it - he had to take soine sheep over the hills to keep for the day, and when he came home that night there were six missing. The padres were much disturbed and very angry, and they shut him up in the mission prison, where you can still see the iron bars at the Windows. They kept him there for ten days, and yet San Juan could teil nothing of the sheep. He confessed to having slept at noon under a live oak, but the sheep were never foand, and many weeks of penance did hardly atone for his great neglect. San Juan would like to creep back to the old walls once more and kneel by the western windows, but he never could go, and he sighed. It was hard to talk now. He abnost whispered as he told Antonio to be good to Isa and the children and stop gambling. There were no padres now to watch hún, no mission where he could go and pray, and temptation was great, but he would ruin his soul and kill Isa, and make bad men out of the children if he did not stop going down to Moreno's. Antonio bowed his head on his hands and did not speak, San Juan had talked to him like this befnrp The oíd man slowly raised hirnselí, and beckoning to Isa to give him a blanket, crept through the narrow doorway into the other room of the house. That was all. The next morning they found bim holding the crucifix in his hands, but he neither spoke nor stirred. San Juan was dead, and the whole village was in mournrng. The vromen wailsd and cried, and the men did not go to Moreno's, bat stayed at home with the women. For three days the dead San Juan lay wrapped in his blankets outeide Isa's house, and then they buried him over on the hill where he had lived ■when the beautiful Spanish bayonet lifted its white head to the sun. Isa went home, unfastened the black shawl that frained her dark, sad face, with the large eyes and put it away in the box where she kept the earrings and the beads that Antonio had given her when they were married five years before. Antonio was good to her then. She cooked the supper, and stepped outside the door to cali little San Juan and Pedro. She saw Antonio going around the house to the corral, and she waited patiently for him to cotne in. At length she ïollowed bim, and left tl"schildren catLo their supjx" o= xa bench by the little window. Isa stopped, caught her breath, and then walked with quick steps toward the corral, where Antonio was fastening a cord around a sheep's neck. Too well Isa knew what it all meant, and she caught Antonio by the arm and begged. "Oh, not tonight, not tonight! And the last sheep but one ! Antonio, surely yoa will not take that down to Moreno's!" He shook her roughly off. "Beeause that oíd San Juan died in your house you are a coward ! Think you I care for all he said, who thought hirnself as good as the priest? You women made a fooi of him. " "0, no, Antonio!" Isa's eyes were f uil of tears. "But see, wait, stay with me now. And you will lose all, every thing at Moreno's, and then you'll come home and strike me and curse I" She had put her arms about bis neck and hung there, looking at him with her sorrowful eyes. The sheep pulled on the eord and tried to get away. Antonio drew it nearer, and with his other hand pushed Isa from hi. She staggered backward, her bare ankle struck agaiost a gnaried root of wood, and she feil with a cry of pain into the roots piled bigh against the house. Antonio hurried away down the path bordered with sage brush ; the horned toads ran bef ore him and the lizards darted across the sand. The sun had just gone down behind the mountains, and there was a soft amethyst tint to sky and hills and valley, while the air was freighted with the fresh smell of the sage and the delicate odor of üny flowers that blossomed in the sand. Isa slowly crawled into the hoiise. The children had fallen asleep on the loor by the bench. She eovered them with a blanket, and then went into the gmall, low room where old San .Tuan had died. Throwing herself down in the corner she lay there, hoping that Antonio might retnrn, and y et knowing in her heart that she wonld not see him again for two days. She did not sleep, but tassed and prayed until day began to break, and then her baby ■was bom. The mother called Ettle San Jnan, and told him to cross the road and beg Rica to come to her. Sica was Isa's cousin, and she followed the boy to where the baby girl was crying. Isa smiled nncm the child. and tbnn turoed her face to the wall aod pnqted that Antonio might eotne home and be good. Perhaps he wonld be good to the little girl. He was angry when Pedra was bom, and went awayand staid a week, bot now Isa was snre he wonld be happy when they told him that the child was a beaatífnl girl. If some one would only find hun and teil bim, she sakL Rica went to the door, bat Isa called her back. "Not José," she whispered. Rica understood and shook her head; bat when she stepped into the road and looked up and down she only saw José, old San Juan's grandson, who was carrying his olla down to the riverbed for water. Rica hesitated, looked behind her, theu süently stepped to his side and touehed bis arm. He turned, and stinctively glanced toward isaTs House. Ricü drew her shawl closer over her head. "Go get Antonio," she said, "Isa's baby is a girl. " José looked into the face of the woman before him, bowed his head and started oLE down the path which Antonio had taken the night before with the sheep. As he neared Moreno's he heard !oud talking and cursing; now he heard something fall heavüy againsi the wall ; then the door burst open anc four men rushed out dragging the üfth by the throat. They kick him out hito the road and leave him there - then turn again to their table. José knows that the figure in the road is Antonio. This thing has happened often, and it is no use now trying to get him home. But there is Isa waiting with her baby. Poor Isa! José loved Isa. Why did she márry that thing lying there in the sand, who only bronght her sullering? José stood a moment thinking, then went up to Antonio and touched him. The dranken man stirred and groaned with pain. José lifted him, but Antonio feil back without speakiug. An instant, then raising himself with Jose's help he staggered to bis feet and turned toward Moreno's door. José held him. "Not there, you fooi 1 They'Il kill you ! Go home !" But Antonio, aflre with thirst and wild with anger, tottered back into the low, close room full of men, and reeling toward the table drew froin his belt a club and struck the man who had won his sheep. A murmur, a hisa, a volley of curses, and then they flew at Antonio, pounding him with benches, wood, anything they could lift. José struggled to drag Antonio out. A club struck his wrist, he writhed with pain, loosened his hold, and in an instant Antonio lay bleeding and gaspinp on the floor. They kieked him ouc again, but when José turned him over he had stopped gasping. Marie, Isa's baby, was eight months old, and it was time for the priest to come agaiii. Isa had washed the blankets and buHt a bed in the corner of the small room where the priest "was to stay. Great strings of brighi pepper hang on the south wall of her house, making a deep fringe of scaiiet and green on the gray adobe. The pepper tree in front of the door, with its long, willowlike branches, was gay -wiih its -white bloesoms and its long sterns heavy with red berries. The groand aroaod the honse was sweet and clean as the floor -within. Abóve the rough ftreplace hung a broken crucifix. Antonio had stepped on it once when he was angry. Ah, Antonio ! Isa slriVered when she thought of him and covered her face. She was glad that she heard jast now the soand of happy voices and children laughing and men talking, for she knew that the priest had reached the village. She broaght lika proadly into her hoase ; he looked at Marie and caHed her a beautiful baby, and said she was like her mother. Isa smiled and was very happy. Rica h' ved with her now, and together they cooked the snpper of beans and rabbit and cakes. The priest had been in the village for six days, going from honse to honse and bleasing the people and bringing them peace. The men had promised to stop gainbling, and now this moniing he would baptize the ehildren, and tomurrow he wonld goawayforanotherye;ir. Isa had put a scarlet skirt on Mar. e, and pinned around her waist, close up to her arms, a brown band. She was standing in her door holding her ehild, hugged to herself, -with a corner of her own shawl thrown over the baby's head. She was waiting for Rica, for the priest had gone on with San Juan and Pedro to the place where he was to administer the sacrament. It was a large, open square. The men had cleared away the bushes and built walls of sticks and boughs, and made the roof of branches of the live oak. "Isa!" The woman started, for t was José, who eame quietly up behind her and spoke to her. She had only seen him three tunes since that awful day when Antonio was killed, and each time he had brought her roots to bum. "Hal the priest goes away tomorrow." Isa's eyes feil. She only held Marie closer to her and answered nothing. Jose's brown foot traeed a figure in the sand. He looked up and then held out his aims for the baby. "I will be good to you, Isa," he said. She turned as though she would go into the house, heaitated, stepped back again and out into the snnshine. She laughed as she placed Marie in Jose's arms. - M. T. H. in Washington Post.