Wednesday, November 7, 2007



With an Introduction by
A long list of works Gertrude Atherton has to
her credit as a writer. She is indisputably a woman
of genius. Not that her genius is distinctively
feminine, though she is in matters historical a passionate
partisan. Most of the critics who approve
her work agree that in the main she views life with
somewhat of the masculine spirit of liberality. She
is as much the realist as one can be who is saturated
with the romance that is California, her birthplace
and her home, if such a true cosmopolite as she can
be said to have a home. In all she has written there
is abounding life; her grasp of character is firm;
her style has a warm, glowing plasticity, frequently
a rhythm variously expressive of all the wide range
of feeling which a writer must have to make his
or her books living things. She does no less well
in the depiction of men than in the portraiture of
women. All stand out of their vivid environment
distinctly and they are all personalities of power--
even, occasionally, of "that strong power called
weakness." And they all wear something of a glory
imparted to them by the sympathy of their creator
and interpreter. High upon any roster of our best
American writers we must enroll the name of Mrs.
Of all her books I like best this "Rezanov,"
though I have not found many to agree with me.
It is not so pretentious as others more frequently
commended. It is a simple story, almost one might
say an incident or an anecdote. It is not literally
sophisticated. For me that is its unfailing charm.
I find in it not a little of the strange, primeval
quality that makes me think of "Aucassin and Nicolette."
For it is not so much a novel as an historical
idyl, not to be read without a persisting
suffusion of sympathy and never to be remembered
without a recurring tenderness. Remembered, did
I say? It is unforgettable. There are few books
of American origin that resist so well the passing
of the years, that take on more steadily the glamour
of "the unimaginable touch of time." "Rezanov"
is a classic, or I miss my guess. This, though
it was first published so recently as 1906.
The story has the merit of being, to some extent
historically, and wholly artistically, true. For the
matter-of-facts Mrs. Atherton provides a bibliography
of her authorities. Those authorities I
have not read, nor should others. Sufficient unto
me is the authority of the novel itself splendidly
demonstrated and established in the high court of
the reader's head and heart by the author's visualizing
veritism. Not twenty pages have you turned
before you know this Rezanov, privy councilor,
grand chamberlain, plenipotentiary of the Russo-
American company, imperial inspector of the extreme
eastern and northwestern dominions of his
imperial majesty Alexander the First, emperor of
Russia--all this and more, a man. He comes out of
mystery into the softly bright light of California,
in strength and shrewdness and dignity and personal
splendor. And there is amidst it all a pathos
upon him. He commands your affection even while
suggesting a doubt whether the man may not be
overwhelmed in the diplomat, the intriguer. The
year is 1806. The monstrous apparition of Napoleon
has loomed an omen of the doom of ancient
authority and the shattering of nations in Europe.
That faithless, incalculable idealist Alexander,
plans he knows not what of imperial glory in the
Eastern and Western world. Rezanov is his servant,
a man of ambition, perhaps in all favor at
court, desirous of doing some great service for his
master. He dreams of dominion in this sun-soaked
land so lazily held in the lax grasp of Spain. He
has come from failure. He had been to Japan
with presents to the emperor, was received by minor
officials with a hospitality that poorly concealed the
fact that he was virtually a prisoner, and then dismissed
without admission to the audience he sought
with the mikado. He had gone then to bleak, inhospitable
Sitka, to find the settlement there in a
plague of scurvy and starvation only slightly mitigated
by vodka. Down the coast then he sailed to
the Spanish settlement for food for the settlement.
He comes to that place where in his vision he sees
arise that city of the future which we know now
as San Francisco. Masterful man that he is, he
feels that here some great thing awaits him. The
Spaniards are wary of him. They will not trade
with him, but they receive him courteously and they
are fascinated by his self-possessed, well-poised but
withal so gracious personality. The life there at
the time is a sort of lotus-eating existence. It is
a piece of Spain translated to a more luscious, a
lovelier land, overlooking beautiful seas and perilous.
Into the dolce far niente Rezanov enters with
some surrender to its softening spell, but with the
courtier's prudence.
And he meets the girl, Concha Arguello. He
sees her in the setting of burning and sweet Castilian
roses--a girl who has had the benefit of education,
who keeps the graces of old Madrid in this
realm beyond sea, a burgeoning bud of womanhood,
daughter of the commandante. The doom of both
is upon them at once. They have drunk the poisoned
cup. Rezanov resists the first approaches of
the delightful delirium, remembering Russia, his
duty, his ambition, the poor starving men of the
Sitka factory. At a party he dances with Concha
and they both know that for each there is none
other. So in that setting so wild, so strange, so
remote, so lovely for the old world grace that is
made native there by this bright, deep, fond girl,
the high gods proceed to have their will upon the
two. The little community life pulses around them
the faster because they are there. Their love becomes
a motive in the diplomatic drama which has
for end, first, the securing of food for those famishing
folk at Sitka, and beyond that, possibly the
seizing of the region for Russia, lest that new
young power of the West, the United States, preempt
the rich domain. Concha would help the Russian
to those ends immediate which he reveals to
her, and succeeds. He tells her of Russia and his
mighty position there. He would have her for his
wife, his helper in the vast imperial affairs at the
Russian capitol, his princess in his palace, augmenting
his official and personal distinction. She shares
his vision, rising to all the heights it unfolds in a
splendid future. Child she is, but she is transformed
into a woman by the prospect not of her own pleasure,
but of participation in splendid achievement
with this man so keen, so supple, yet so firm in
high purpose. And as the prospect opens to her
desire and his there looms the obstacle. They cannot
marry, for Rezanov is a heretic. And now the
passion flames. This child woman will go with him.
Ah, but the church, the king of Spain, will they permit?
And the Czar! Rezanov will see to it that the
Czar will clear the way for them through power
exercised at Rome and at Madrid. Conditioned
upon this, the girl's parents consent.
These lovers prate very little of love. Their
desire runs too deep for mere speech. It is a desire
made up of as much spiritual as carnal fire. It is
fierce but steady in ecstacy and agony, indistinguishable
the one from the other. Rezanov, man of the
great world, it purifies. Concha it strengthens and
makes indomitable. They will abide delay. They
will endure in faith and hope--the faith and hope
both dimmed by the vague and unshakable intuition
or premonition that fate has marked them for
derision. Nevertheless, they will endure.
There is a meeting on a path that overlooks where
the white seas strike their tents. It is a meeting of
little action, of few words. It is tense with the
almost inexpressible, but at its end, confronting the
doubtful future, realizing that when Rezanov goes
he may not return, this girl tells him: "I will give
myself to you forever, how much or little that may
mean here on earth. Forever!" And then that
scene in the moonlight amid the scent of the Castilian
roses, when Concha, as signal of her trust in
her lover, lifts the little wisps of hair that conceal
her ears and shows them to him--it throbs with
passionate purity in memory yet.
Rezanov sails away to Sitka with provisions,
thence to Siberia, and then begins the long ride over
endless versts of land, across streams in icy flood,
in rain and cold and snow towards the capitol and
the Czar. Delays, disasters to vehicles and horses
and the maddening lengthening of time. From
drenchings and freezing comes the fever that calls
for more speed. Krasnoiarsk is reached. The fever
mounts, the traveler must stop and rest and be
cared for. His visions commingle his objective
and his memories . . . CONCHA! . . . The snowy
steppes and the inky rivers. . . . His servant enters
the room in the inn . . . Why . . . "Where
has Jon found Castilian roses in this barren land?"
. . . "and his unconquerably sanguine spirit flared
high before a vision of eternal and unthinkable
happiness" . . . Castilian roses! Concha Arguello
waits among them, immortal, sainted in her purity
and fidelity, ministering to her poor Indians, her
face alight with unquenchable memory and with
surety of an eventual everlasting tryst. Those Castilian
roses! They perfume forever one's memories
of this pair, puissant in faith, in this novel
that is a poem and a shrine of that love which lives
when death itself is dead.
As the little ship that had three times raced with
death sailed past the gray headlands and into the
straits of San Francisco on that brilliant April
morning of 1806, Rezanov forgot the bitter humiliations,
the mental and physical torments, the
deprivations and dangers of the past three years;
forgot those harrowing months in the harbor of
Nagasaki when the Russian bear had caged his tail
in the presence of eyes aslant; his dismay at Kamchatka
when he had been forced to send home another
to vindicate his failure, and to remain in the
Tsar's incontiguous and barbarous northeastern
possessions as representative of his Imperial
Majesty, and plenipotentiary of the Company his
own genius had created; forgot the year of loneliness
and hardship and peril in whose jaws the
bravest was impotent; forgot even his pitiable crew,
diseased when he left Sitka, that had filled the Juno
with their groans and laments; and the bells of
youth, long still, rang in his soul once more.
"It is the spring in California," he thought, with
a sigh that curled at the edge. "However," life
had made him philosophical; "the moments of unreasonable
happiness are the most enviable no doubt,
for there is neither gall nor satiety in the reaction.
All this is as enchanting as--well, as a woman's
promise. What lies beyond? Illiterate and mercenary
Spaniards, vicious natives, and boundless
ennui, one may safely wager. But if all California
is as beautiful as this, no man that has spent a
winter in Sitka should ask for more."
In the extent and variety of his travels Rezanov
had seen Nature more awesome of feature but
never more fair. On his immediate right as he
sailed down the straits toward the narrow entrance
to be known as the Golden Gate, there was little to
interest save the surf and the masses of outlying
rocks where the seals leapt and barked; the shore
beyond was sandy and low. But on his left the last
of the northern mountains rose straight from the
water, the warm red of its deeply indented cliffs
rich in harmony with the green of slope and height.
There was not a tree; the mountains, the promontories,
the hills far down on the right beyond the
sand dunes, looked like stupendous waves of lava
that had cooled into every gracious line and fold
within the art of relenting Nature; granted ages
after, a light coat of verdure to clothe the terrible
mystery of birth. The great bay, as blue and tranquil
as a high mountain lake, as silent as if the
planet still slept after the agonies of labor, looked
to be broken by a number of promontories, rising
from their points far out in the water to the high
back of the land; but as the Juno pursued her slanting
way down the channel Rezanov saw that the
most imposing of these was but the end of a large
island, and that scattered near were other islands,
masses of rock like the castellated heights that rise
abruptly from the plains of Italy and Spain; far
away, narrow straits, with a glittering expanse beyond;
while bounding the whole eastern rim of this
splendid sheet of water was a chain of violet hills,
with the pale green mist of new grass here and
there, and purple hollows that might mean groves
of trees crouching low against the cold winds of
summer; in the soft pale blue haze above and beyond,
the lofty volcanic peak of a mountain range.
Not a human being, not a boat, not even a herd of
cattle was to be seen, and Rezanov, for a moment
forgetting to exult in the length of Russia's arm,
yielded himself to the subtle influence abroad in
the air, and felt that he could dream as he had
dreamed in a youth when the courts of Europe to
the boy were as fabulous as El Dorado in the immensity
of ancestral seclusions.
"It is like the approach to paradise, is it not,
Excellency?" a deferential voice murmured at his
The plenipotentiary frowned without turning his
head. Dr. Langsdorff, surgeon and naturalist, had
accompanied the Embassy to Japan, and although
Rezanov had never found any man more of a bore
and would willingly have seen the last of him at
Kamchatka, a skilful dispenser of drugs and mender
of bones was necessary in his hazardous voyages,
and he retained him in his suite. Langsdorff
returned his polite tolerance with all the hidden resources
of his spleen; but his curiosity and scientific
enthusiasm would have sustained him through
greater trials than the exactions of an autocrat,
whom at least he had never ceased to respect in the
most trying moments at Nagasaki.
"Yes," said Rezanov. "But I wonder you find
anything to admire in such unportable objects as
mountains and water. I have not seen a living
thing but gulls and seal, and God knows we had
enough of both at Sitka."
"Ah, your excellency, in a land as fertile as this,
and caressed by a climate that would coax life
from a stone, there must be an infinite number of
aquatic and aerial treasures that will add materially
to the scientific lore of Europe."
"Humph!" said Rezanov, and moved his shoulder
in an uncontrollable gesture of dismissal. But the
spell of the April morning was broken, although
the learned doctor was not to be the only offender.
The Golden Gate is but a mile in width and the
swift current carried the Juno toward a low promontory
from the base of which a shrill cry suddenly
ascended. Rezanov, raising his glass, saw that what
he had taken to be a pile of fallen rocks was a fort,
and that a group of excited men stood at its gates.
Once more the plenipotentiary on a delicate mission,
he ordered the two naval officers sailing the ship
to come forward, and retired to the dignified isolation
of the cabin.
The high-spirited young officers, who would have
raised a gay hurrah at the sight of civilized man
had it not been for the awe in which they held
their chief, saluted the Spaniards formally, then
stood in an attitude of extreme respect; the Juno
was directly under the guns of the fort.
One of the Spaniards raised a speaking trumpet
and shouted:
"Who are you?"
No one on the Juno, save Rezanov, could speak a
word of Spanish, but the tone of the query was its
own interpreter. The oldest of the lieutenants,
through the ship's trumpet, shouted back:
"The Juno--Sitka--Russian."
The Spanish officer made a peremptory gesture
that the ship come to anchor in the shelter given by
an immense angle of the mainland, of which the
fort's point was the western extreme. The Russians,
as befitted the peaceful nature of their mission,
obeyed without delay. Before their resting
place, and among the sand hills a mile from the
beach, was a quadrangle of buildings some two hundred
feet square and surrounded by a wall about
fourteen feet high and seven feet thick. This they
knew to be the Presidio. They saw the officers that
had hailed them gallop over the hill behind the fort
to the more ambitious enclosure, and, in the square,
confer with another group that seemed to be in a
corresponding state of excitement. A few moments
later a deputation of officers, accompanied by a
priest in the brown habit of the Franciscan order,
started on horseback for the beach. Rezanov ordered
Lieutenant Davidov and Dr. Langsdorff to
the shore as his representatives.
The Spaniards wore the undress uniform of
black and scarlet in which they had been surprised,
but their peaked straw hats were decorated with
cords of gold or silver, the tassels hanging low on
the broad brim; their high deer-skin boots were
gaily embroidered, and bristled with immense silver
spurs. The commanding officer alone had invested
himself with a gala serape, a square of red cloth
with a bound and embroidered slit for the head.
Leading the rapid procession, his left hand resting
significantly on his sword, he was a fine specimen
of the young California grandee, dark and dashing
and reckless, lithe of figure, thoroughbred, ardent.
His eyes were sparkling at the prospect of excitement;
not only had the Russians, by their nefarious
appropriation of the northwestern corner of the
continent and a recent piratical excursion in pursuit
of otter, inspired the Spanish Government with a
profound disapproval and mistrust, but a rumor
had run up the coast that made every sea-gull look
like the herald of a hostile fleet. This was young
Arguello's first taste of command, and life was dull
on the northern peninsula; he would have welcomed
a declaration of war.
Davidov and Langsdorff had come to shore in
one of the JUNO'S canoes. The conversation was
held in Latin between the two men of learning.
"Who are you and whence come you?" asked the
Langsdorff, who had been severely drilled by the
plenipotentiary as to text, replied with a profound
bow: "We are Russians engaged in completing the
circumnavigation of the globe. It was our intention
to go directly to Monterey and present our official
documents, as well as our respects, to your illustrious
Governor, but owing to contrary winds and
a resultant scarcity of provisions, we were under
the necessity of putting into the nearest harbor.
The Juno is navigated by Lieutenant Davidov and
Lieutenant Khovstov, of the Imperial Navy of Russia;
by gracious permission associated with the Marine
of the Russo-American Company." He paused
a moment, and then swept out his trump card with
a magnificent flourish: "Our expedition is in command
of His Excellency, Privy Counsellor and
Grand Chamberlain Baron Rezanov, late Ambassador
to the Court of Japan, Plenipotentiary of the
Russo-American Company, Imperial Inspector of
the extreme eastern and northwestern American
dominions of His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the
First, Emperor of all the Russias, whose representatives
in these waters he is."
The Spaniards were properly impressed as the
priest translated with the glibness of the original;
but Arguello, who announced himself as Commandante
ad interim of the Presidio of San Francisco
during the absence of his father at Monterey,
nodded sagely several times, and then held a short
conference in Spanish with the interpreter. The
priest turned to the Russians with a smile as diplomatic
as that which Rezanov had drilled upon the
ugly ingenuous countenance of his medicine man.
"Our illustrious Governor, Don Jose Arrillaga,
received word from the court of Spain, now quite
two years ago, of the sailing in 1803 from Kronstadt
of the ships Nadeshda and Neva, in command
of Captain Krusenstern and Captain Lisiansky, the
former having on board the illustrious Ambassador
to Japan, the Privy Counsellor and Chamberlain de
Rezanov. It was expected that these ships would
touch at more than one of His Most Holy Catholic
Majesty's vast dominions, and all viceroys and
gobernador proprietarios were alike instructed to receive
the exalted representatives of the mighty Emperor
of Russia with hospitality and respect. But
we cannot understand why his excellency comes to
us so late and in so small a ship, rather than in the
state with which he sailed from Europe."
"The explanation is simple, my father. The
original ships, from a variety of circumstances,
were, upon our arrival at Kamchatka, at the conclusion
of the embassy to Japan, under the necessity
of returning at once to Europe. His Imperial
Majesty, Alexander the First, ordered the Chamberlain
and plenipotentiary, the representative of
imperial power in the Russo-American possessions,
to remove to the Juno for the purpose of visiting
the Kurile and Aleutian Islands, Kadiak and the
northwestern coast of America." The Tsar had
never heard of the Juno, but as Rezanov was practically
his august self in these far-away waters,
there was enough of truth in this statement to appease
the conscience of a subordinate.
The Spaniards were satisfied. Lieutenant Arguello
begged that the emissaries would return to
the ship and invite the Chamberlain and his party
to come at once to the Presidio and do it the honor
to partake of the poor hospitality it afforded. An
officer galloped furiously for horses.
A few moments later they were still more deeply
impressed by the appearance of their distinguished
visitor as he stood erect in the boat that brought
him to shore. In full uniform of dark green and
gold lace, with cocked hat and the splendid order of
St. Ann on his breast, Rezanov was by far the finest
specimen of a man the Californians, themselves of
ampler build than their European ancestors, had
ever beheld. Of commanding stature and physique,
with an air of highest breeding and repose, he
looked both a man of the great world and an intolerant
leader of men. His long oval face was thin
and somewhat lined, the mouth heavily moulded
and closely set, suggestive of sarcasm and humor;
the nose long, with arching and flexible nostrils.
His eyes, seldom widely opened, were light blue,
very keen, usually cold. Like many other men of
his position in Europe, he had discarded wig and
queue and wore his short fair hair unpowdered.
It was a singularly imposing but hardly attractive
presence, thought young Arguello, until Rezanov,
after stepping on shore and bowing formally, suddenly
smiled and held out his hand. Then the impressionable
Spaniard "melted like a woman," as
he told his sister, Concha, and would have embraced
the stranger on either cheek had not awe lingered
to temper his enthusiasm. But Rezanov never made
a stauncher friend than Louis Arguello, who vowed
to the last of his days that the one man who had
fulfilled his ideal of the grand seigneur was he that
sailed in from the North on that fateful April
morning of 1806.
As Rezanov, heading the procession with young
Arguello, entered the wide gates of the Presidio, he
received an impression memorably different from
that which led earlier travelers to describe it inclemently
as a large square surrounded by mud
houses, thatched with reeds. It is true that the walls
were of adobe and the roofs of tule, nor was there
a tree on the sand hills encircling the stronghold.
But in this early springtime--the summer of the
peninsula--the hills showed patches of verdure, and
all the low white buildings were covered by a network
of soft dull green and archaic pink. The Castilian
rose, full and fluted, and of a chaste and penetrating
fragrance, hung singly and in clusters on the
pillars of the dwellings, on the barracks and chapel,
from the very roofs; bloomed upon bushes as high
as young trees. The Presidio was as delicately perfumed
as a lady's bower, and its cannon faced the
ever-changing hues of water and island and hill.
As the party approached, heads of all ages appeared
between the vines, and there was a low murmur
of irrepressible curiosity and delight.
"We do not see many strangers in this lonely
land," said Arguello apologetically. "And never
before have we had so distinguished a guest as your
excellency. It was always a gala day when ever a
Boston skipper came in with a few bales of goods
and a complexion like the hides we sold him. Now,
alas! they are no longer permitted to enter our
ports. Governor Arrillaga will have none of contraband
trade and slaying of our otter. And as for
Europeans other than Spaniards, save for an English
sea captain now and then, they know naught of
our existence."
But Rezanov had not come to California on the
impulse of a moment. He replied suavely: "There
you are mistaken. Your illustrious father, Don
Jose Mario de Arguello, is well known to us as the
most respected, eminent and influential character in
the Californias. It was my intention, after paying
a visit of ceremony to his excellency, Governor Arrillaga,
to come to San Francisco for the sole purpose
of meeting a man whose record has inspired
me with the deepest interest. And we have all
heard such wonderful tales of your California, of
its beauty, its fertility, of the beneficent lives of
your missionaries--so different from ours--and of
the hospitality and elegance of the Spaniards, that
it has been the objective point of my travels, and I
have found it difficult to curb my impatience while
attending to imperative duties elsewhere."
"Ay! senor!" exclaimed the young Californian.
"What you say fills me with a pride I cannot express,
and I can only regret that the reports of our
poor habitations should be so sadly exaggerated.
Such as our possessions are, however, they are yours
while you deign to remain in our midst. This is
my father's house. I beg that you will regard it as
your own. Burn it if you will!" he cried with
more enthusiasm than commonly enlivened the
phrases of hospitality. "He will be proud to know
that a lifetime of severe attention to duty and of
devotion to his King have won him fame abroad
as well as at home. He has risen to his present
position from the ranks, but he is of pure Spanish
blood, not a drop of Indian; and my mother was a
Moraga, of the best blood of Spain," he added artlessly.
"As to the beauty and variety of our country,
senor, of course you will visit our opulent south;
but--" They had dismounted at the Commandante's
house in the southeast corner of the square.
Arguello impulsively led Rezanov back to the gates
and pointed to the east. "I have crossed those
mountains and the mountains beyond, Excellency,
and seen fertile and beautiful valleys of a vast extent,
watered by five rivers and bound far, far away
by mountains covered with snow and gigantic trees.
The valley beyond the southern edge of the bay,
where the Missions of Santa Clara and San Jose
are, is also rich, but those between the ranges is an
empire; and one day when the King sends us more
colonists, we shall recompense Spain for all she has
"I congratulate you!" Rezanov, indifferent to his
host's ancestral tree, had lifted an alert ear. His
quick incisive brain was at work. "I should like to
stretch my legs over a horse for a week at a time,
and even to climb your highest mountains. You
may imagine how much exercise a man may get on
a vessel of two hundred and six tons, and it is
thirty-two days since I left Sitka. To look upon a
vast expanse of green--to say nothing of possible
sport--after a winter of incessant rain and impenetrable
forests--what a prospect! I beg you will take
me off into the wilderness as soon as possible."
"I promise you the Governor shall not withhold
his consent--and there are bear and deer--quail,
wild duck--your excellency will enjoy that beautiful
wild country as I have done." Arguello was
enchanted at the prospect of fresh adventure in the
company of this fascinating stranger. "But we are
once more at our poor abode, senor. I beg you to
remember that it is your own."
They ascended the steps of the piazza, suddenly
deserted, and it seemed to Rezanov that every sense
in his being quivered responsively to the poignant
sweetness of the Castilian roses. He throbbed
with a sudden exultant premonition that he stood
on the threshold of an historic future, with a pagan
joy in mere existence, a sudden rush of desire for
the keen wild happiness of youth. Such is the
elixir of California in the north and the spring.
They entered a long sala typical of its day and
of many to come; whitewashed walls hung with
colored prints of the Virgin and saints; horsehair
furniture, matting, deep window seats; and a
perennial coolness. The Chamberlain (his court
title and the one commonly attached to his name)
made himself as comfortable as the slippery chair
would permit, and Arguello went for his mother.
Langsdorff, who had lingered on the piazza with
the priest, entered in a moment.
"The good padre tells me that this rose of Castile
is the only imported flower in California," he
cried, with enthusiasm, for although not a botanist,
there was a bump between his eyes as big
as a child's fist and he had a nose like the prow
of a toy ship. "Many cuttings were brought from
"What difference does it make where it came
from?" interrupted Rezanov testily. "Is it not
enough that it is beautiful, but it must have a pin
stuck through it like some poor devil of a butterfly?"
"Your excellency has also the habit to probe
into things he deems worthy of his attention," retorted
the offended scientist; but he was obliged
to closet his wrath. An inner door opened and
the host reappeared with his mother and a fair
demonstration of her virtues. She was a very
large woman dressed loosely in black, but she carried
herself with an air of complete, if somewhat
sleepy, dignity, and it was evident that her beauty
had been great. Her full face had lost its contours,
but time had spared the fine Roman nose and
the white skin, that birthright of the high-bred
Castilian. Arguello presented his family ceremoniously
as the guest of honor rose and bowed with
formal deference.
"My mother, Dona Ignacia Arguello, your excellency,
who unites with me in praying that you
will regard our home as yours during your sojourn
in the north. My sister, Maria de la Concepcion
Marcella Arguello, and my little sisters,
Ana Paula and Gertrudis Rudisinda. My
brothers: Gervasio--soldado distinguido of the
San Francisco Company; Santiago, a cadet in the
same company; Francesco and Toribio, whose
presence at the table I beg you will overlook, for
when we are so fortunate as to be all together,
senor, we cannot bear to be separated. My oldest
brother, alas--Ignacio--is studying for holy orders
in Mexico, and my sister Isabel visits at the
Presidio of Santa Barbara. I beg that you will be
seated, Excellency." And he continued the introduction
to the lesser luminaries, with equal courtesy
but fewer periods.
Rezanov exchanged a few pleasant words with
his smiling hostess before she returned to her distracted
maids preparing the dinner; but his eyes
during Arguello's declamation had wandered with
a singular fidelity to the beautiful face of the eldest
daughter of the house. She had responded
with a humorous twinkle in her magnificent black
eyes and not a hint of diffidence. As she entered
the room his brain had flashed out the thought:
"Thank heaven for a pretty girl after these three
abominable years!" Possibly his pleasure would
have been salted with pique had he guessed that her
thought was the twin of his own. He was the
first man of any world more considerable than the
petty court of the viceroy of Mexico that had visited
California in her time, and excellent as she
found his tall military figure and pale cold face,
the novelty of the circumstance fluttered her more.
Dona "Concha" Arguello was the beauty of
California, and although her years were but sixteen
her blood was Spanish, and she carried her
tall deep figure and fine head with the grace and
dignity of an accomplished woman. She had inherited
the white skin and delicate Roman-Spanish
profile of the Moragas, but there was an intelligent
fire in her eyes, a sharp accentuation of
nostril, and a full mobility of mouth, childish, halfdeveloped
as that feature still was, that betrayed
a strong cross-current forcing the placid maternal
flow into rugged and unexplored channels, while
assimilating its fine qualities of pride and high
breeding. Gervasio and Santiago resembled their
sister in coloring and profile, but lacked her subtle
quality of personality and divine innocence. Luis
was more the mother's son than the father's--saving
his olive skin; a grandee, modified by the simplicities
of a soldier's life, amiable and upright.
Dona Ignacia recognized in Concha the quintessence
of the two opposing streams, and had long
since ceased to impose upon a girl who had little
else but her liberties, the conventional restrictions
of the Spanish maiden. Concha had already received
many offers of marriage and regarded men
as mere swingers of incense. Moreover, her cultivated
mind was filled with ideals and ideas far
beyond anything California would yield in her day.
As Rezanov, upon Dona Ignacia's retreat,
walked directly over to her, she smilingly seated
herself on a sofa and swept aside her voluminous
white skirts. She was not sure that she liked him,
but in no doubt whatever of her delight at his
Her manners were very simple and artless, as
are the manners of most women whom Nature has
gifted with complexity and depth.
"It is now two years and more that we have
been excited over the prospect of this visit," she
said. "But if you will tell me what you have been
doing all this time, I, at least, will forgive you;
for you will never be able to imagine, senor, how
I long to hear of the great world. I stare at the
map, then at the few pictures we have. I know
many books of travel by heart; but I am afraid
my imagination is a poor one, for I cannot conjure
up great cities filled with people--thousands
of people! DIOS DE MI ALMA! A world where
there is something besides mountains and water,
grain fields, orchards, forests, earthquakes, and
climate? Will you, senor?"
"For quite as many hours as you will listen to
me. I propose a compact. You shall improve my
Spanish. I will impart all I know of Europe--
and of Asia--if your curiosity reaches that far."
"Even of Japan?" There was a wicked spark
in her eye.
"I see you already have some knowledge of the
cause of my delay." His voice was even, but a
wound smarted. "It is quite true, senorita, that
the first embassy to Japan, from which we hoped
so much, was a humiliating failure, and that I was
played with for six months by a people whom we
had regarded as a nation of monkeys. When my
health began to suffer from the long confinement
on shipboard--we had previously been fourteen
months at sea--and I asked to be permitted to
live on shore while my claims to an audience were
under consideration, I was removed with my suite
to a cage on a strip of land nearly surrounded with
water, where I had less liberty and exercise than on
shipboard. Finally, I had a ridiculous interview
with a 'great man,' in which I accomplished nothing
but the preservation of what personal dignity a man
may while sitting on his heels; the superb presents
of the Tsar were returned to me, and I was politely
told to leave. Japan wanted neither the friendship
of Russia nor her gimcracks. That, senorita, is the
history of the first Russian Embassy--for the tentative
visit of Adam Lanxmann, twelve years before,
can be dignified by no such title--to Oriental waters.
It is to be hoped that Count Golofkin, who was to
undertake a similar mission to China, has met with
a better fate."
Underneath the polished armour of a man who
was a courtier when he chose and the dominating
spirit always, he was hot and quick of temper. His
light cold eyes glowed with resentment at the dancing
lights in hers, as he cynically gave her a bald
abstract of the unfortunate mission. He reflected
that commonly he would have fitted a different
mask to the ugly skull of fact, but this young barbarian,
as he chose to regard her, excited the elemental
truth in him, defying him to appear at his
worst. He was astonished to see her eyes suddenly
soften and her mouth tremble.
"It must have been a hateful experience--hateful!"
Her voice, beginning on its usual low soft
note, rose to a hoarse pitch of indignation. "I
should have killed somebody! To be a man, and
strong, and caressed all one's life by fortune--and
to be as helpless as an Indian! Madre de dios!"
"I shall take my revenge," said Rezanov shortly;
but the wound closed, and once more he became
aware of the poignant sweetness of Castilian roses.
Concha wore one in her soft dusky hair, and another
where the little round jacket of white linen,
gaily embroidered with pink, met on her bosom.
But if sentiment tempted him he was quickly poised
by her next remarks. She uttered them in a low
tone, although the animated conversation of the rest
of the party would have permitted the two on the
sofa to exchange the vows of love unheard.
"But what a practice for your diplomatic talents,
Excellency! Poor California! At least let me be
the first to hear what you have come for?" Her
voice dropped to a soft cooing note, although her
eyes twinkled. "For the love of God, senor! I am
so bored in this life on the edge of the world! To
see the seams and ravelings of a diplomatic intrigue!
I have read and heard of many, but never
had I hoped to link my finger in anything subtler
than a quarrel between priest and Governor, or the
jealousy of Los Angeles for Monterey. I even will
help you--if you mean no harm to my father or my
country. And I am not a friend to scorn, senor,
for my blessed father is as wax in my hands, the
dear old Governor adores me, and even Padre
Abella, who thinks himself a great diplomat, and
is watching us out of the corner of his eye, while
I make him believe you pay me so many compliments
my poor little head turns round--Bueno
senor!" As she raised her voice she plucked the
rose from her dress and tossed it to Rezanov. Then
she lifted her chin and pouted her childish lips at
the ironical smile of the priest.
Rezanov was close to betraying his surprise; but
as he cherished a belief that the souls of all pretty
women went to school to the devil before entering
upon earthly enterprise, he wondered that he had
been open to the illusion of complete ingenuousness
in a descendant of one of the oldest and subtlest
civilizations of earth. Within that luminous shell
of youth there were, no doubt, whispering memories
of men and women steeped in court intrigue from
birth, of triumphant beauties that had lived for love
and their power over the passions of men as ardent
as himself. It was quite possible that she might be
as useful as she desired. But his impulses were in
leash. He merely looked and murmured his admiration.
"Better ask, what chance have I, a defenceless
man, who has not seen a charming woman for three
years, against such practised art? If you can hoodwink
a Spanish priest, and manipulate a Governor
who has won the confidence of the most suspicious
court in Europe, what fortune for a barbarian of
the north? Less than with Japan, I should think."
He divested the rose of its thorns and many
tight little buds, and thrust the stem underneath the
star of St. Ann. She lifted her chin again and
tossed her head.
"You do not trust me, but you will. I fancy it
will be before long--for it is quite true that the
Californians are not so easily outwitted. And--
even did I not help you, I would not--I vow, senor!
--betray you. Is it true that Russia is at war with
"Have you not heard? It was for that we were
all so excited this morning. We thought your ship
might be the first of a fleet."
"I have heard no such rumor, and you may dismiss
it. Russia is too much occupied with Napoleon
Bonaparte, who has had himself crowned Emperor,
and by this time is probably at war with
half Europe--"
She interrupted him with flashing eye. The pink
in her cheeks had turned red. The thin nostrils of
her pretty Roman nose fluttered like paper. "Ah!"
she exclaimed, again with that note of hoarseness
in her voice. "There is a great man, not a mere
king on a throne his ancestors made for him. Papa
hates him because he has seized a throne. AY YI!
DIOS, but you should hear the words fly when we go
to war together. But I do not care that"--she
snapped her firm white fingers--"for all the Bourbons
that are in Europe. Bonaparte! Do you know
him? Have you seen him?"
"I have seen him insult poor Markov, our ambassador
to France, when I can assure you that he
looked like neither a demi-god nor a gentleman.
When you have improved my Spanish I will tell you
many anecdotes of him. Meanwhile, am I to assume
that you reserve your admiration for the man
that carves his career in defiance of the rusty old
"I do! I do! My father was of the people, a
poor boy. He has risen to be the most powerful of
all Californians, although the King he adores never
makes him Gobernador Proprietario. I tell him he
should be the first to recognize the genius and the
ambitions of a Bonaparte. The mere thought horrifies
him. But in me that same strong plebeian
blood makes another cry, and if my father had but
enough men at his back, and the will to make himself
King of the Californias--Madre de Dios! how
I should help him!"
"At least I know her better than she knows me,"
thought Rezanov, as the inner door was thrown
open and another bare room with a long table laden
with savory food on a superb silver service was revealed.
"And if I know anything of women, I can
trust her--for as long as she may be necessary, at
all events."
"Santiago!" whispered Concha. "Do not go
down to the ship. Take me for a walk. I have
much to say."
Santiago, who had not been asked to form one of
the escort upon the return of the Russians to the
Juno for the night, felt injured and sulky and
deigned no reply.
"If you do not, I'll not braid your hair to-morrow,"
said his sister, giving his arm a little shake;
and he succumbed. The luxuriant tresses of the
male Arguellos were combed and braided and tied
with a ribbon every morning by the women of the
family, and Concha's fingers were the gentlest and
deftest. And Concha and Santiago were more intimate
than even the rest of that united family. They
had studied and read together, were equally dissatisfied
with their narrow existence, ambitious for
a wider experience. Santiago consoled himself with
cards and training roosters for battle, and otherwise
as a man may. He was but fifteen, this haughty,
severe-looking young hidalgo, but while in some respects
many years older than his sister, in others
he was younger, for he possessed none of her
illuminating instinct.
She led him through a postern gate, round the
first of the dunes, and they were alone in a waste of
sand. She demanded abruptly:
"What do you think of our illustrious visitor?"
"I like him. He would wring your neck if you
got in his way, but has a kind heart for those that
call him master. I like that sort of a man. I wish
he would take me away with him."
"He shall--one of these days. Santiago mio, let
me whisper--" She pulled his ear down to her
lips. "He will marry me. I feel it. I know it.
He has talked to me the whole day. He has told
me grave secrets. Not even to you would I reveal
them. So many have loved me--why should not
he? I shall live in St. Petersburg, and see all
Europe!--thousands of people--Dios mio! Dios
"Indeed!" Santiago, still unamiable, responded
to this confidence with a sneer. "You aspire very
high for a little girl of the wilderness, without fortune,
and only half a coat-of-arms, so to speak. Do
you know that this Rezanov--Dr. Langsdorff has
told us all about him--is a great noble, one of the
ten barons of Russia, and a Chamberlain in accordance
with a decree of Peter the Great that court
titles should be bestowed as a reward for distinguished
services alone? He got a fortune in his
youth by marriage with a daughter of Shelikov--
that Siberian who founded the Russian colonies in
America. The wife died almost immediately, but
the Baron's influence remained with Shelikov--for
his influence at court was even greater--and after
the older man's death, with his mother-in-law, who
is uncommonly clever. Shelikov's schemes were
but little sketches beside Rezanov's, who from merely a
courtier and a gay blood about town developed into
a great man of business, with an ambition to correspond.
It was he who got the Imperial ukase that
gave the Russian-American Company its power to
squeeze all the other fur hunters and traders out of
the northeast, and made Rezanov and everybody
belonging to it so rich your head would swim if I
told you the number of doubloons they spend in a
year. Nobody has ever been so clever at managing
those old beasts of autocrats as he. They think him
merely the accomplished courtier, a brilliant dilettante,
a condescending patron of art and letters, a
devotee of pleasure, and all the time he is pulling
their befuddled old brains about to suit himself.
The Tsar Paul was a lunatic and they murdered
him, but meanwhile he signed the ukase. The Tsar
Alexander, who is not so bad nor so silly as the
others, thinks there is no man so clever as Rezanov,
who addresses him personally when sending home
his reports. Do you know what all that means?
Your plenipotentiary is not only a Chamberlain at
court, a Privy Councillor, and the Tsar himself on
this side of the world, but when his inspections and
reforms are concluded, and he is one of the wealthiest
men in Russia, he will return to St. Petersburg
and become so high and mighty that a princess
would snap at him. And you aspire! I never
heard such nonsense."
"His excellency told me much of this," replied
Concha imperturbably. "And I am sure that he
cares nothing for princesses and will marry whom
he most admires. He would not say, but I know
he cared nothing for that poor little wife, dead so
long ago. It was a mariage de convenance, such
as all the great world is accustomed to. He will
love me more than all the fine ladies he has ever
seen. I feel it. I know it! And I am quite happy."
"Do you love him?" asked Santiago, looking
curiously at his sister's flushed and glowing face.
It seemed to him that she had never looked so
young. "Many have loved you. I had begun to
think you had no heart for men, no wish for anything
but admiration. And now you give your
heart in a day to this Russian--who must be nearly
"I have not thought of my heart at all. But I
could love him, of course. He is so handsome, so
kind, so grand, so gay! But love is for men and
wives--has not my mother said so? Now I think
only of St. Petersburg! of Paris! of London! of
the beautiful gowns and jewels I shall wear at court
--a red velvet train as long as a queen's, and all
embroidered with gold, a white veil spangled with
gold, a head-dress a foot high studded with jewels,
ropes of diamonds and pearls--I made him tell me
how the great ladies dressed. Ah! there is the
pleasure of being a girl--to think and dream of all
those beautiful things, not of when the wife must
live always for the husband and children. That
comes soon enough. And why should I not have
all!--there is so little in life for the girl. It seems
to me now that I have had nothing. When he asks
me to marry him he will tell me of the fine things
I shall have and the great sights I shall witness--
the ceremonies at court, the winter streets--with
snow--snow, Santiago!--where the great nobles
drive four horses through the drifts like little hills,
and are wrapped in furs like bears! The grand
military parades--how I shall laugh when I think
of our poor little Presidios with their dozen officers
strutting about--" She stopped abruptly and
bursting wildly into tears flung herself into her
brother's arms. "But I never could leave you! And
my father! my mother! all! all! Ay, Dios de mi
alma! what an ingrate I am! I should die of homesickness!
My Santiago! My Santiago!"
Santiago patted her philosophically. "You are
not going to-morrow," he reminded her. "Don't
cross your bridges until you come to them. That is
a good proverb for maids and men. You might
take us all with you, or spend every third year or so
in California. No doubt you would need the rest.
And meanwhile remember that the high and mighty
Chamberlain has not yet asked for the honor of an
alliance with the house of Arguello, and that your
brother will match his best fighting cock against
your new white lace mantilla from Mexico, that
he is not meditating any project so detrimental to
his fortunes. Console yourself with the reflection
that if he were, our father and the priests, and the
Governor himself, would die of apoplexy. He is a
heretic--a member of the Greek Church! Hast thou
lost thy reason, Conchita? Dry your eyes and
come home to sleep, and let us hear no more of
marriage with a man who is not only a barbarian of
the north and a heretic, but so proud he does not
think a Californian good enough to wash his
It was long before Rezanov slept that night. The
usual chill had come in from the Pacific as the sun
went down, and the distinguished visitor had intimated
to his hosts that he should like to exercise
on shore until ready for his detested quarters; but
Arguello dared not, in the absence of his father, invite
the foreigner even to sleep in the house so
lavishly offered in the morning; although he had
sent such an abundance of provisions to the ship
that the poor sailors were deep in sleep, gorged like
boa-constrictors; and he could safely promise that
while the Juno remained in port her larder should
never be empty. He shared the evening bowl of
punch in the cabin, then went his way lamenting
that he could not take his new friends with him.
Rezanov paced the little deck of the Juno to keep
his blood in stir. There was no moon. The islands
and promontories on the great sheet of water were
black save for the occasional glow of an Indian
camp-fire. There was not a sound but the lapping
of the waves, the roar of distant breakers. The
great silver stars and the little green stars looked
down upon a solitude that was almost primeval, yet
mysteriously disturbed by the restless currents in
the brain of a man who had little in common with
primal forces.
Rezanov was uneasy on more scores than one.
He was annoyed and mortified at the discovery--
made over the punch bowl--that the girl he had
taken to be twenty was but sixteen. It was by no
means his first experience of the quick maturity of
southern women--but sixteen! He had never
wasted a moment on a chit before, and although he
was a man of imagination, and notwithstanding
her intelligence and dignity, he could not reconcile
properties so conflicting with any sort of feminine
And the pressing half of his mission he had confided
to her! No man knew better than he the
value of a tactful and witty woman in the political
dilemmas of life; more than one had given him
devoted service, nor ever yet had he made a mistake.
After several hours spent in the society of this clever,
politic, dissatisfied girl he had come to the conclusion
that he could trust her, and had told her of the
lamentable condition of the creatures in the employ
of the Russian-American Company; of their chronic
state of semi-starvation, of the scurvy that made
them apathetic of brain and body, and eventually
would exterminate them unless he could establish
reciprocal trade relations with California and obtain
regular supplies of farinaceous food; acknowledged
that he had brought a cargo of Russian and
Boston goods necessary to the well-being of the Missions
and Presidios, and that he would not return
to the wretched people of Sitka, at least, without a
generous exchange of breadstuffs, dried meats, peas,
beans, barley and tallow. Not only had he no longer
the courage to witness their misery, but his fortune
and his career were at stake. His entire capital
was invested in the Company he had founded,
and he had failed in his embassy to Japan--to the
keen mortification of the Tsar and the jubilation of
his enemies. If he left the Emperor's northeastern
dominions unreclaimed and failed to rescue the
Company from its precarious condition, he hardly
should care to return to St. Petersburg.
Dona Concha had listened to this eloquent
harangue--they sat alone at one end of the long
sala while Luis at the other toiled over letters to the
Governor and his father advising them of the formidable
honor of the Russian's visit--in exactly
the temper he would have chosen. Her fine eyes
had melted and run over at the moving tale of the
sufferings of the servants of the Company--until
his own had softened in response and he had impulsively
kissed her hand; they had dilated and
flashed as he spoke of his personal apprehensions;
and when he had given her a practical explanation
of his reasons for coming to California she had
given him advice as practical in return.
He must withhold from her father and the Governor
the fact of his pressing need; they were high
officials with an inflexible sense of duty, and did all
they could to enforce the law against trading with
foreigners. He was to maintain the fiction of belting
the globe, but admit that he had indulged in a
dream of commercial relations--for a benefit strictly
mutual--between neighbors as close as the Spanish
and Russians in America. This would interest
them--what would not, on the edge of the world?
--and they would agree to lay the matter, reinforced
by a strong personal plea, before the Viceroy
of Mexico; who in turn would send it to the Cabinet
and King at Madrid. Meanwhile, he was to
confide in the priests at the Mission. Not only
would their sympathies be enlisted, but they did
much trading under the very nose of the government.
Not for personal gain--they were vowed to
a life of poverty; but for their Indian converts;
and as there were twelve hundred at the Mission of
San Francisco, they would wink at many things condemnable
in the abstract. He had engaged to visit
them on the morrow, and he must take presents to
tempt their impersonal cupidity, and invite them to
inspect the rest of his wares--which the Governor
would be informed his Excellency had been forced
to buy with the Juno from the Yankee skipper,
D'Wolf, and would rid himself of did opportunity
Rezanov had never received sounder advice, and
had promptly accepted it. Now, as he reflected that
it had been given by a girl of sixteen, he was divided
between admiration of her precocity and fear lest
she prove to be too young to keep a secret. Moreover,
there were other considerations.
Rezanov, although in his earlier years he had so
far sacrificed his interests and played into the hands
of his enemies, in avoiding the too embarrassing partiality
of Catherine the Great, had nevertheless held
a high place at court by right of birth, and been a
man of the world always; rarely absent from St.
Petersburg during the last and least susceptible part
of the imperial courtesan's life, the brief reign of
Paul, and the two years between the accession of
Alexander and the sailing of the Nadeshda. Moreover,
there was hardly another court of importance
in Europe with which he was not familiar, and few
men had had a more complete experience of life.
And the life of a courtier, a diplomat, a traveller,
noble, wealthy, agreeable to women by divine right,
with active enemies and a horde of flatterers, in
daily contact with the meaner and more disingenuous
corners of human nature, is not conducive
to a broad optimism and a sweet and immutable
Christianity. Rezanov inevitably was more or less
cynical and blase', and too long versed in the ways
of courts and courtiers to retain more than a whimsical
tolerance of the naked truth and an appreciation
of its excellence as a diplomatic manoeuvre.
Nevertheless, he was by nature too impetuous ever
to become under any provocation a dishonest man,
and too normally a gentleman to deviate from a
certain personal code of honor. He might come to
California with fair words and a very definite intention
of annexing it to Russia at the first opportunity,
but he was incapable of abusing the hospitality
of the Arguellos by making love to their sixteen-
year-old daughter. Had she been of the years
he had assumed, he would have had less scruple in
embarking upon a flirtation, both for the pastime
and the use he might make of her. A Spanish
beauty of twenty, still unmarried, would be more
than his match. But a child, however precocious,
inevitably would fall in love with the first uncommon
stranger she met; and Rezanov, less vain than
most men of his kind, and with a fundamental humanity
that was the chief cause in his efforts to improve
the condition of his wretched promuschleniki,
had no taste for the role of heart-breaker.
But the girl had proved her timeliness; would, if
trustworthy, be of further use in inclining her
father and the Governor toward such of his designs
as he had any intentions of revealing; and,
weighing carefully his conversations with her, he
was disposed to believe that she would screen and
abet him through vanity and love of intrigue. After
the dinner, in the seclusion of the sala, he had taken
pains to explore for the causes of her mental maturity.
Concha had told him of Don Jose Arguello's
ambition that his children in their youth should have
the education he had been forced to acquire in his
manhood; he had taught them himself, and notwithstanding
his piety and the disapproval of the
priests, had permitted them to read the histories,
travels, and biographies he received once a year
from the City of Mexico. Rezanov had met
Madame de Stael and other bas bleus, and given
them no more of his society than politeness demanded,
but although astonished at the amount of
information this young girl had assimilated, he
found nothing in her manner of wearing her intellectual
crown to offend his fastidious taste. She
was wholly artless in her love of books and of discussing
them; and nothing in their contents had disturbed
the sweetest innocence he had ever met. Of
the little arts of coquetry she was mistress by inheritance
and much provocation, but her unawakened
inner life breathed the simplicity and purity of the
elemental roses that hovered about her in his
thoughts. Her very unsusceptibility made the game
more dangerous; if it piqued him--and he aspired
to be no more than human--he either should have
to marry her, or nurse a sore spot in his conscience
for the rest of his life; and for neither alternative
had he the least relish.
He dismissed the subject at last with an impatient
shrug. Perhaps he was a conceited ass, as his English
friends would say; perhaps the Governor would
be more amenable than she had represented. No
man could forecast events. It was enough to be
But his thoughts swung to a theme as little disburdening.
His needs, as he had confided to Concha,
were very pressing. The dry or frozen fish,
the sea dogs, the fat of whales, upon which the employees
of the Company were forced to subsist in
the least hospitable of climes, had ravaged them
with scorbutic diseases until their numbers were so
reduced by death and desertion that there was danger
of depopulation and the consequent bankruptcy
of the Company. Since June of the preceding year
until his departure from New Archangel in the previous
month, he had been actively engaged in inspection
of the Company's holdings from Kamchatka
to Sitka: reforming abuses, establishing schools
and libraries, conceiving measures to protect the
fur-bearing animals from reckless slaughter both
by the promuschleniki and marauding foreigners;
punishing and banishing the worst offenders against
the Company's laws; encouraging the faithful, and
sharing hardships with them that sent memories of
former luxuries and pleasures scurrying off to the
realms of fantasy. But his rule would be incomplete
and his efforts end in failure if the miserable
Russians and natives in the employ of the Company
were not vitalized by proper food and cheered
with the hope of its permanence.
In Santiago's story of the Russian visitor's
achievements and status there was the common
mingling of truth and fiction the exalted never fail
to inspire. Rezanov, although he had accomplished
great ends against greater odds, was too little of a
courtier at heart ever to have been a prime favorite
in St. Petersburg until the accession of a ruler with
whom he had something in common. A dissolute
woman and a crack-brained despot were the last to
appreciate an original and independent mind, and
the seclusion of Alexander had been so complete
during the lifetime of his father that Rezanov barely
had known him by sight. But the Tsarovitz, enthusiastic
for reform and a passionate admirer of
enterprise, knew of Rezanov, and no sooner did he
mount his gory throne than he confirmed the Chamberlain
in his enterprise, and two years later made
him a Privy Counsellor, invested him with the order
of St. Ann, and chose him for the critical embassy
to the verdant realm with the blind and gateless
Rezanov had conquered so far in life even less by
address than by the demonstration of abilities very
singular in a man of his birth and education. When
he met Shelikov, during the Siberian merchanttrader's
visit to St. Petersburg in 1788, he was a
young man with little interest in life outside of its
pleasures, and a patrimony that enabled him to
command them to no great extent and barely to
maintain the dignity of his rank. Shelikov's plan
to obtain a monopoly of the fur trade in the islands
and territories added by his Company to Russia,
possibly throughout the entire possession, thus preventing
the destruction of sables, seals, otters, and
foxes by small traders and foreigners, interested
him at once; or possibly he was merely fascinated
at first by the shrewd and dauntless representative
of a class with which he had never before come
in contact. The accidental acquaintance ripened
into intimacy, Rezanov became a partner in the
Shelikov-Golikov Company, and married the daughter
of his new friend. After the death of his
father-in-law, in 1795, his ambitions and business
abilities, now fully awake, prompted him to obtain
for himself and his partners rights analogous to
those granted by England to the East India Company.
Shelikov had won little more than half the
power and privileges he had solicited of Catherine,
although he had amalgamated the two leading companies,
drawn in several others, and built ships and
factories and forts to protect them. And if the
regnant merchants made large fortunes, the enterprise
in general suffered from the rivalries between
the various companies, and above all from lack of
imperial support.
Rezanov, his plans made, brought to bear all the
considerable influence he was able to command,
called upon all his resources of brain and address,
and brought Catherine to the point of consenting
to sign the charter he needed. Before it was ready
for the imperial signature she died. Rezanov was
forced to begin again with her ill-balanced and intractable
son. Natalie Shelikov, his famous motherin-
law, the old shareholders of the Company, and
the many new ones that had subscribed to Rezanov's
ambitious project, gave themselves up to despair.
For a time the outlook was dark. The personal
enemies of Rezanov and the bitter and persistent
opponents of the companies threw themselves eagerly
into the scale with tales of brutality of the merchants
and the threatened extirpation of the furbearing
animals. Paul announced his attention to
abolish all the companies and close the colonies to
traders big and little.
But the enemy had a very subtle antagonist in
Rezanov. Apparently dismissing the subject, he applied
himself to gaining a personal ascendancy over
the erratic but impressionable Tsar. No one in the
opposing camp could compare with him in that fine
balance of charm and brain which was his peculiar
gift, or in the adroit manipulation of a mind propelled
mainly by vanity. He studied Paul's moods
and character, discovered that after some senseless
act of oppression he suffered from a corresponding
remorse, and was susceptible to any plan that would
increase his power and add lustre to his name. The
commercial and historic advantages of prosperous
northeastern possessions were artfully instilled. At
the opportune moment Rezanov laid before him a
scheme, mature in every detail, for a great company
that would add to the wealth of Russia, and
convince Europe of the sound commercial sense and
immortal wisdom of its sovereign. Without more
ado he obtained his charter.
This momentous instrument granted to the "Russian-
American Company under our Highest Protection,"
"full privileges, for a period of twenty years
on the coast of northwestern America, beginning
from latitude 55 degrees north, and including the
chain of islands extending from Kamchatka northward,
and southward to Japan; the exclusive right
to all enterprises, whether hunting, trading, or building,
and to new discoveries; with strict prohibition
from profiting from any of these pursuits, not only
to all parties who might engage in them on their
own responsibility, but also to those who formerly
had ships and establishments there, except those who
have united with the new Company." All private
traders who refused to join the Company were to
be allowed to sell their property and depart in
Thus was formed the first of the Trusts in
America; and the United States never has had so
formidable a menace to her territorial greatness as
this Russian nobleman who paced that night the
wretched deck of the little ship he had bought from
one of her skippers. Perturbed in mind at his recent
failures and immediate prospects, he was no
less determined to take California from the Spaniards
either by absorption or force.
On his way from New Archangel to San Francisco
he had met with his second failure since leaving
St. Petersburg. It was his intention to move
the Sitkan colony down to the mouth of the Columbia
River; not only pressed by the need of a more
beneficent soil, but as a first insidious advance upon
San Francisco Bay. Upon this trip it would be
enough to make a survey of the ground and bury a
copper plate inscribed: "Possession of the Russian
Empire." The Juno had encountered terrific
storms. After three desperate attempts to reach
the mouth of the river, Rezanov had been forced to
relinquish the enterprise for the moment and hasten
with his diseased and almost useless crew to the
nearest port. It was true that the attempt could be
made again later, but Rezanov, sanguine of temperament,
was correspondingly depressed by failure
and disposed to regard it as an ill-omen.
An ambassador inspired by heaven could have
accomplished no more with the Japanese at that
mediaeval stage of their development than he had
done, and the most indomitable of men cannot yet
control the winds of heaven; but sovereigns are
rarely governed by logic, and frequently by the favorite
at hand. The privilege of writing personally
to the Tsar, in his case, meant more and less than
appeared on the surface. It was a measure to keep
the reports of the Company out of the hands of the
Admiralty College, its bitterest enemy, and always
jealous of the Civil Service. Nevertheless, Rezanov
knew that he had no immediate reason to apprehend
the loss of Alexander's friendship and esteem; and
if he placed the Company, in which all the imperial
family had bought shares, on a sounder basis than
ever before, and doubled its earnings by insuring the
health of its employees, he would meet, when in St.
Petersburg again, with practically no opposition to
his highest ambitions. These ambitions he deliberately
kept in a fluid state for the present.
Whether he should aspire to great authority in the
government, or choose to rule with the absolute
powers of the Tsar himself these already vast possessions
on the Pacific--to be extended indefinitely
--would be decided by events. All his inherited and
cultivated instincts yearned for the brilliant and
complex civilizations of Europe, but the new world
had taken a firm hold upon his humaner and
appealed more insidiously to his despotic. Moreover,
Europe, torn up by that human earthquake,
Napoleon Bonaparte, must lose the greater half of
its sweetness and savor. All that, however, could
be determined upon his return to St. Petersburg in
the autumn.
But meanwhile he must succeed with these Californians,
or they might prove, toy soldiers as they
were, more perilous to his fortunes than enemies at
court. He could not afford another failure; and
news of this attempt and an exposition of all that
depended upon it were already on the road to the
capital of Russia.
He had known, of course, of the law that forbade
the Spanish colonies to trade with foreign ships,
but he had relied partly upon the use he could make
of the orders given by the Spanish King at the
request of the Tsar regarding the expedition under
Krusenstern, partly upon his own wit and address.
But although the royal order had insured him immediate
hospitality and saved him many wearisome
formalities, he had already discovered that the
Spanish on the far rim of their empire had lost
nothing of their connate suspicion. Rather, their
isolation made them the more wary. Although they
little appreciated the richness and variousness of
California's soil, and not at all this wonderful bay
that would accommodate the combined navies of the
world, pocketing several, the pious zeal of the clergy
in behalf of the Indians, and the general policy of
Spain to hold all of the western hemisphere that
disintegrating forces would permit, made her as
tenacious of this vast territory she had so sparsely
populated as had she been aware that its foundations
were of gold, conceived that its climate and
soil were a more enduring source of wealth than
ever she would command again. If Rezanov was
not gifted with the prospector's sense for ores--
although he had taken note of Arguello's casual reference
to a vein of silver and lead in the Monterey
hills--no man ever more thoroughly appreciated the
visible resources of California than he. Baranhov,
chief-manager of the Company, had talked with
American and British skippers for twenty years, and
every item he had accumulated Rezanov had
extracted. To-day he had drawn further information
from Concha and her brothers; and their artless
descriptions as well as this incomparable bay
had filled him with enthusiasm. What a gift to
Russia! What an achievement to his immortal
credit! The fog rolled in from the Pacific in great
white waves and stealthily enfolded him, obliterated
the sea and the land. But he did not see it. Apprehension
left him. Once more he fell to dreaming.
In the course of a few years the Company would
attract a large population to the mouth of the
Columbia River, be strong enough to make use of
any favorable turn in European politics and sweep
down upon California. The geographical position
of Mexico, the arid and desolate, herbless and
waterless wastes intervening, would prohibit her
sending any considerable assistance overland; and,
all powerful at court by that time, he would take
care that the Russian navy inspired Spain with a
distaste for remote Pacific waters. He had long
since recovered from the disappointment induced
by the orders compelling him to remain in the colonies.
The great Company he had heretofore regarded
merely as a source of income and a means of
advancing his ambitions, he now loved as his child.
Even during the marches over frozen swamps and
mountains, during the terrible winter in Sitka when
he had become familiar with illness and even with
hunger, his ardor had grown, as well as his determination
to force Russia into the front rank of
Commercial Europe. The United States he barely
considered. He respected the new country for
the independent spirit and military genius that
had routed so powerful a nation as Great Britain,
but he thought of her only as a new and tentative
civilization on the far shores of the Atlantic. After
some experience of travel in Siberia, and knowing
the immensity and primeval conditions of northwestern
America, he did not think it probable that
the little cluster of states, barely able to walk alone,
would indulge in dreams of expansion for many
years to come. He had heard of the projected expedition
of Lewis and Clarke to the mouth of the
Columbia, but--perhaps he was too Russian--he
did not take any adventure seriously that had not
a mighty nation at its back. And as it was almost
the half of a century from that night before the
American flag flew over the Custom House of Monterey,
there is reason to believe that Russian aggression
under the leadership of so energetic and resourceful
a spirit as Nicolai Petrovich de Rezanov
was in a fair way to make history first in the New
Albion of Drake and the California of the incompetent
The Russians were to call at the house of the Commandante
on their way to the Mission, and Concha
herself made the chocolate with which they were
to be detained for another hour. It was another sparkling
morning, one of the few that came between
winter and summer, summer and winter, and made
even this bleak peninsula a land of enchantment before
the cold winds took the sand hills up by their
foundations and drove them down to Yerba Buena,
submerging the battery and every green thing by
the way; or the great fogs rolled down from the
tule lands of the north and in from the sea, making
the shivering San Franciscan forget that not ten
miles away the sun was as prodigal as youth. For
a few weeks San Francisco had her springtime,
when the days were warm and the air of a wonderful
lightness and brightness, the atmosphere so clear
that the flowers might be seen on the islands, when
man walked with wings on his feet and a song in his
heart; when the past was done with, the future
mattered not, the present with its ever changing
hues on bay and hill, its cool electrical breezes stirring
imagination and pulse, was all in all.
And it was in San Francisco's springtime that
Concha Arguello made chocolate for the Russian
to whom she was to give a niche in the history of
her land; and sang at her task. She whirled the
molinillo in each cup as it was filled, whipping the
fragrant liquid to froth; pausing only to scold when
her servant stained one of the dainty saucers or
cups. Poor Rosa did not sing, although the spring
attuned her broken spirit to a gentler melancholy
than when the winds howled and the fog was cold
in her marrow. She had been sentenced by the last
Governor, the wise Borica, to eight years of domestic
servitude in the house of Don Jose Arguello for
abetting her lover in the murder of his wife. Concha,
thoughtless in many things, did what she could
to exorcise the terror and despair that stared from
the eyes of the Indian and puzzled her deeply. Rosa
adored her young mistress and exulted even when
Concha's voice rose in wrath; for was not she
noticed by the loveliest senorita in all the Californias,
while others, envious and spiteful to a poor
girl no worse than themselves, were ignored?
Concha's cheeks were as pink as the Castilian
roses that grew even before the kitchen door and
were quivering at the moment under the impassioned
carolling of a choir of larks. Her black eyes
were full of dancing lights, like the imprisoned sumflecks
under the rose bush, and never had indolent
Spanish hands moved so quickly.
"Mira! Mira!" she cried to the luckless Rosa.
"That is the third time thou hast spilt the chocolate.
Thy hands are of wood when they should be of
air. A soft bit of linen to clean them, not that
coarse rag. Dios de mi alma! I shall send for
"For the love of Mary, senorita, have pity!"
wailed Rosa. "There--see--thanks to the Virgin I
have poured three cups without spilling a drop. And
this rag is of soft linen. Look, Dona Concha, is it
not true?"
"Bueno; take care thou leavest not one drop on
a saucer and I will forgive thee--do not kiss my
hand now, foolish one! How can I whirl the molinillo?
Be always good and I will burn a candle for
thee every time I go to the Mission. The Russians
go to the Mission this morning. Hast thou seen the
Russians, Rosa?"
"I have seen them, senorita. Did I not serve at
table yesterday?"
"True; I had forgotten. What didst thou think
of them?"
"What matters it to such great folk what a poor
Indian girl thinks of them? They are very fair,
which may be the fashion in their country; but I
am not accustomed to it; and I like not beards."
"His excellency wore no beard--he who sat on
my mother's right and opposite to me."
"He is very grand, senorita; more grand than the
Governor, who after all has red hair and is old. He
is even grander than Don Jose, whom may the
saints preserve; or than the padres at the mission.
Perhaps he is a king, like our King and natural
lord in spain. (El rey nuestro y senor natural.)
Is he a king, senorita?"
"No, but he should be. Rosa, thou mayest have
my red cloak that came from Mexico--last year.
I have a new one and that is too small. I had
intended to give it to Ana Paula, but thou art a
good girl and should have a gay mantle for Sunday,
like the other girls. I have also a red ribbon for
thy hair--"
Rosa spilt half the contents of the chocolate pot
on the floor and Concha gave her a sound box on
the ear. However, she did not dismiss her, a sentence
for which the trembling girl prepared herself.
"Make more--quickly!" cried the lady of caprice.
"They come. I hear them. But this is enough for
the first. Make the rest and beat with the molinillo
as I have done, and Malia will bring all to the corridor."
She ran to her room and her mirror. Both were
small, the room little more luxurious than the cell
of a nun. But the roses hung over the window,
the birds had built in the eaves, and over the wall
the sun shone in. In one corner was an altar and
a crucifix. If the walls were rough and white,
they were spotless as the hands that shook out and
then twisted high the fine dusky masses of hair.
When a fold had been drawn over either ear, in
the modest fashion of the California maid and wife,
and the tall shell comb had fastened the rest, Concha
instead of finishing the headdress with her long
Spanish pins, divested the stems of two half-blown
roses of their thorns and thrust them obliquely
through the knot. Her dress was of simple white
linen made with a very full skirt and little round
jacket, but embroidered by her own deft fingers
with the color she loved best. She patted her frock,
rolled down her sleeves, and went out to the "corridor"
to stand demurely behind her mother as the
Russians, escorted by Father Ramon Abella, rode
into the square.
Rezanov had intended merely to pay a call of
ceremony upon the hospitable Arguellos, but after
he had dismounted and kissed the hands of the
smiling senora and her beautiful daughter he was
nothing loath to linger over a cup of chocolate.
It was served out there in the shade of the vines.
Rezanov and Concha sat on the railing, and the
man stared over his cup at the girl with the roses
touching her cheeks and ruffling her hair.
"Do you like chocolate, senor?" asked Concha,
who was not in the intellectual mood of yesterday.
"I made it myself--I and my poor Rosa."
"It is the most delectable foam I have ever tasted.
I am interested to know that it has the solid foundation
of a name. What is the matter with your
"She is an unfortunate. Her lover killed his
wife, and it is said that she is not innocent herself.
The lover serves in chains for eight years, and she
is with us that we may make her repent and keep
her from further sin. She is unhappy and will
marry the man when his punishment is over. I am
very sorry for her."
"Fancy you living close to a woman like that!
I find it detestable."
"Why?--if I can do her good--and make her
happy, sometimes?"
"Does she ever talk about her life--before she
came here?"
"Oh, no; she is far too sad. Once only, when I
told her I would pray for her in the Mission Church,
she asked me to burn a candle that her lover might
serve his sentence more quickly and come out and
marry her. Will you light one for her to-day,
"With the greatest pleasure; if you really want
your maid to marry a man who no doubt will murder
her for the sake of some other woman."
"Oh, surely not! He loves her. I know that
many men love more than once, but when they are
punished like that, they must remember."
"Is it true that you are only sixteen? Is that an
impertinent question? I cannot help it. Those
years are so few, and so much wisdom has gone
into that little head."
"Sixteen is quite old." Concha drew herself up
with an air of offended dignity. "Elena Castro,
who lives on the other side, is but eighteen and she
has three little ones. The Virgin brought them in
the night and left them in the big rosebush you see
before the door--one at a time, of course. Only
the old nurse knew; the Virgin whispered it while
she was saying a prayer for Elena; and early in the
morning she came and found the dear little baby
and put it in Elena's arms. I am the godmother of
the first--Conchitita. In Santa Barbara, where we
lived for some years, Anita Amanda Carillo, the
friend of Ana Paula, is married, although she is
but twelve and sits on the floor all day and plays
with her dolls. She prays every night to the Virgin
to bring her a real baby, but she is not old enough
to take care of it and must wait. Twelve is too
young to marry." Concha shook her head. Her
eyes were wise, and Rezanov noted anew that her
mouth alone was as young as her years. "My father
would not permit such a thing. I am glad he is not
anxious we should marry soon. I should love to
have the babies, though; they are so sweet to play
with and make little dresses for. But my mother
says the Virgin does not bring the little ones to
good girls--poor Rosa had one but it died--until
their parents find them a husband first. I have
never wanted a husband--" Concha darted a
swift glance over her shoulder, but Santiago was in
the clutches of the learned doctor and wishing that
he knew no Latin; "so I go every day and play with
Elena's babies, which is well enough."
Rezanov listened to this innocent revelation with
the utmost gravity, but for the first time in many
years he was conscious of a novel fascination in a
sex to which he had paid no niggard's tribute. In
his world the married woman reigned; it was doubtful
if he had ever had ten minutes' conversation
with a young girl before, never with one whose face
and form were as arresting as her crystal purity.
He was fascinated, but more than ever on his guard.
As he rode over the sand hills to the Mission she
clung fast to his thoughts and he speculated upon
the woman hidden away in the depths of that lovely
shell like the deep color within the tight Castilian
buds that opened so slowly. He recalled the personalities
of the young officers that surrounded her.
They were charming fellows, gay, kindly, honest;
but he felt sure that not one of them was fit to hold
the cup of life to the exquisite young lips of Concha
Arguello. The very thought disposed him to twist
their necks.
The Mission San Francisco de Assisi stood at the
head of a great valley about a league from the
Presidio and facing the eastern hills. Behind it,
yet not too close, for the priests were ever on their
guard against Indians more lustful of loot than salvation,
was a long irregular chain of hills, breaking
into twin peaks on its highest ridge, with a
lone mountain outstanding. It was an imposing
but forbidding mass, as steep and bare as the walls
of a fortress; but in the distance, north and south,
as the range curved in a tapering arc that gave
the valley the appearance of a colossal stadium,
the outlines were soft in a haze of pale color. The
sheltered valley between the western heights and
the sand hills far down the bay where it turned to
the south, was green with wheat fields, and a small
herd of cattle grazed on the lower slopes. The
beauty of this superbly proportioned valley was
further enhanced by groves of oaks and bay trees,
and by a lagoon, communicating with an arm of the
bay, which the priests had named for their Lady
of Sorrows--Nuestra Senora de los Dolores. The
little sheet of water was almost round, very green
and set in a thicket of willows that were green, too,
in the springtime, and golden in summer. Near
its banks, or closer to the protecting Mission--on
whose land grant they were built--were the comfortable
adobe homes of the few Spanish pioneers
that preferred the bracing north to the monotonous
warmth of the south. Some of these houses were
long and rambling, others built about a court; all
were surrounded by a high wall, enclosing a garden
where the Castilian roses grew even more luxuriantly
than at the Presidio. The walls, like the
houses, were white, and on those of Don Juan
Moraga, a cousin of Dona Ignacia Arguello, the
roses had been trained to form a border along the
top in a fashion that reminded Rezanov of the pink
edged walls of Fiesole.
The white red-tiled church and the long line of
rooms adjoining were built of adobe with no effort
at grandeur, but with a certain noble simplicity of
outline that harmonized not only with the lofty reserve
of the hills but with the innocent hope of creating
a soul in the lowest of human bipeds. The
Indians of San Francisco were as immedicable as
they were hideous; but the fathers belabored them
with sticks and heaven with prayer, and had so far
succeeded that if as yet they had sown piety no
higher than the knees, they had trained some twelve
hundred pairs of hands to useful service.
On the right was a graveyard, with little in it as
yet but rose trees; behind the church and the many
spacious rooms built for the consolation of virtue
in the wilderness was a large building surrounding
a court. Girls and young widows occupied the cells
on the north side, and the work rooms on the east,
while the youths, under the sharp eye of a lay
brother, were opposite. All lived a life of unwilling
industry: cleaning and combing wool, spinning,
weaving, manufacturing chocolate, grinding corn
between stones, making shoes, fashioning the simple
garments worn by priest and Indian. Between the
main group of buildings and the natural rampart
of the "San Bruno Mountains" was the Rancheria,
where the Indian families lived in eight long rows
of isolated huts.
In spite of vigilance an Indian escaped now and
again to the mountains, where he could lie naked in
the sun and curse the fetich of civilization. As the
Russians approached, a friar, with deer-skin armor
over his cassock, was tugging at a recalcitrant mule,
while a body-guard of four Indians stood ready to
attend him down the coast in search of an enviable
brother. The mule, as if in sympathy with the
fugitive, had planted his four feet in the earth and
lifted his voice in derision, while the young friar, a
recruit at the Mission, and far from enamored of
his task, strained at the rope, and an Indian pelted
the hindquarters with stones. Suddenly, the mule
flung out his heels, the enemy in the rear sprawled,
the rope flew loose, the beast with a loud bray fled
toward the willows of Dolores. But the young
priest was both agile and angry. With a flying leap
he reached the heaving back. The mule acknowledged
himself conquered. The body-guard trotted
on their own feet, and the party disappeared round
a bend of the hills.
Rezanov laughed heartily and even the glum visage
of Father Abella relaxed.
"It is a common sight, Excellency," he said. "We
are thankful to have a younger friar for such
fatiguing work. Many a time have I belabored
stubborn mules and bestrode bucking mustangs
while searching for one of these ungrateful but no
doubt chosen creatures. It is the will of God, and
we make no complaint; but we are very willing,
Father Landaeta and I, that youth should cool its
ardor in so certain a fashion while we attend to the
more reasonable duties at home."
They were dismounted at the door of the church.
The horses were led off by waiting Indians. The
soldiers on guard saluted and stepped aside, and
the party entered. Two priests in handsome vestments
stood before the altar, but the long dim nave
was empty. The Russians had been told that a
mass would be said in their honor, and they
marched down the church and bent their knees
with as much ceremony as had they been of the
faith of their hosts. When the short mass was
over, Rezanov bethought himself of Concha's request,
and whispering its purport to Father Abella
was led to a double iron hoop stuck with tallow dips
in various stages of petition. Rezanov lit a candle
and fastened it in an empty socket. Then with a
whimsical twist of his mouth he lit and adjusted
"No doubt she has some fervent wish, like all
children," he thought apologetically. "And whether
this will help her to realize it or not, at least it will
be interesting to watch her eyes--and mouth--
when I tell her. Will she melt, or flash, or receive
my offering at her shrine as a matter of course?
I'll surprise her to-night in the middle of a dance."
He deposited a gold piece among the candles on
the table and followed Father Abella through a side
door. A corridor ran behind the long line of rooms
designed not only for priests but for travellers always
sure of a welcome at these hospitable Missions.
Father Abella shuffled ahead, halted on the
threshold of a large room, and ceremoniously invited
his guests to enter. Two other priests stood
before a table set with wine and delicate confections,
their hands concealed in their wide brown
sleeves, but their unmatched physiognomies--the one
lean and jovial, the other plump and resigned--
alight with the same smile of welcome. Father
Abella mentioned them as his coadjutor Father
Martin Landaeta, and their guest Father Jose Uria
of San Jose; and then the three, with the scant rites
of genuine hospitality, applied themselves to the tickling
of palates long unused to ambrosial living. Responding
ingenuously to the glow of their homemade
wines, they begged Rezanov to accept the Mission,
burn it, plunder it, above all, to plan his own
"I hope that I am to see every detail of your great
work," replied the diplomatic guest of honor. "But
at your own leisure. Meanwhile, I beg that you
will order one of your Indians to bring in the little
presents I venture to offer as a token of my respect.
You may have heard that the presents of his Imperial
Majesty were refused by the Mikado of
Japan. I reserved many of them for possible use in
our own possessions, particularly a piece of cloth of
gold. This I had intended for our church at New
Archangel, but finding the priests there more in
need of punishment than reward, I concluded to
bring it here and offer it as a manifest of my admiration
for what the great Franciscan Order of
the Most Holy Church of Rome has accomplished
in the Californias. Have I been too presumptuous?"
The priests all wore the eager expressions of children.
"Could we not see them first?" asked Father Landaeta
of his superior; and Father Abella sent a servant
with an order to unload the horse and bring in
the presents.
Not a vestige of reserve lingered. Priests and
guests sat about the table eating and drinking and
chatting as were they old friends reunited, and
Rezanov extracted much of the information he desired.
The white population--"gente de razon"--
of Alta California, the peculiar province of the
Franciscans--the Jesuits having been the first to
invade Baja California, and with little success--
numbered about two thousand, the Christianized
Indians about twenty thousand. There were nineteen
Missions and four Presidial districts--San
Diego, close to the border of Baja California, Santa
Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco. Each Mission
had an immense grant of land, or rancho--
generally fifteen miles square--for the raising of
live stock, agricultural necessities, and the grape.
At the Presidio of San Francisco there were some
seventy men, including invalids; and the number
varied little at the other military centres, Rezanov
inferred, although there was a natural effort to impress
the foreigner with the casual inferiority of
the armed force within his ken. Cattle and horses
increased so rapidly that every few years there was
a wholesale slaughter, although the agricultural
yield was enormous. What the Missions were unable
to manufacture was sent them from Mexico,
and disposed of the small salaries of the priests;
the "Pious Fund of California" in the city of
Mexico being systematically embezzled. The first
Presidio and Mission were founded at San Diego
in July of 1769; the last at San Francisco in September
and October of 1776.
Rezanov's polite interest in the virgin country
was cut short by the entrance of two Indians carrying
heavy bundles, which they opened upon the floor
without further delay.
The cloth of gold was magnificent, and the padres
handled it as rapturously as had their souls and fingers
been of the sex symbolized while exalted by the
essence of maternity, in whose service it would be
anointed. Rezanov looked on with an amused
sigh, yet conscious of being more comprehending
and sympathetic than if he had journeyed straight
from Europe to California. It was not the first time
he had felt a passing gratitude for his uncomfortable
but illuminating sojourn so close to the springs
of nature.
The priests were as well pleased with the pieces
of fine English cloth; and as their own homespun
robes rasped like hair shirts, they silently but uniformly
congratulated themselves that the color was
Father Abella turned to Rezanov, his saturnine
features relaxed.
"We are deeply grateful to your excellency, and
our prayers shall follow you always. Never have
we received presents so timely and so magnificent.
And be sure we shall not forget the brave officers
that have brought you safely to our distant shores,
nor the distinguished scholar who guards your excellency's
health." He turned to Langsdorff and
repeated himself in Latin. The naturalist, whose
sharp nose was always lifted as if in protest against
oversight and ready to pounce upon and penetrate
the least of mysteries, bowed with his hand on his
heart, and translated for the benefit of the officers.
"Humph!" said Davidov in Russian. "Much the
Chamberlain will care for the prayers of the Catholic
Church if he has to go home with his cargo.
But he has a fine opportunity here for the display
of his diplomatic talents. I fancy they will avail him
more than they did at Nagasaki--where I am told
he swore more than once when he should have kowtowed
and grinned."
"I shouldn't like to see him grin," replied Khostov,
as they finally started for the outbuildings. "If
he could go as far as that he would be the most
terrible man living. Were it not for the fire in him
that melts the iron just so often he would be crafty
and cruel instead of subtle and firm. He is a fortunate
man! There were many fairies at his cradle!
I have always envied him, and now he is going to
win that beautiful Dona Concha. She will look at
none of us."
"We will doubtless meet others as beautiful at
the ball to-night," said Davidov philosophically.
"You are not in love with a girl who has barely
spoken to you, I suppose."
"She had almost given me a rose this morning,
when Rezanov, who was flattering the good Dona
Ignacia with a moment of his attention, turned too
soon. I might have been air. She looked straight
through me. Such eyes! Such teeth! Such a form!
She is the most enchanting girl I have ever seen.
And he will monopolize her without troubling to
notice whether we even admire her or not. Pray
heaven he does not break her heart."
"He is honorable. One must admit that, if he
does fancy his own will was a personal gift from
the Almighty. Perhaps she will break his. I never
saw a more accomplished flirt."
"I know women," replied the shrewder Khostov.
When men like Rezanov make an effort to
please--" He shrugged his shoulders. "Some
men are the offspring of Mars and Venus and most
of us are not. We can at least be philosophers.
Let us hope the dinner will be excellent."
It proved to be the most delicate and savory repast
that had excited their appetites this side of Europe.
The friars had their consolations, and even Dona
Ignacia Arguello was less gastronomic than Father
Landaeta. Rezanov, whose epicurianism had survived
a year of dried fish and the coarse luxuries
of his managers, suddenly saw all life in the light of
the humorist, and told so many amusing versions of
his adventures in the wilderness, and even of his
misadventure with Japan, that the priests choked
over their wine, and Langsdorff, who had not a
grain of humor, swelled with pride in his chance
relationship to a man who seemed able to manipulate
every string in the human network.
"He will succeed," he said to Davidov. "He will
succeed. I almost hoped he would not, he is so indifferent--
I might almost say so hostile--to my
own scientific adventures. But when he is in this
mood, when those cold eyes brim with laughter and
ordinary humanity, I am nothing better than his
Rezanov, in reply to an entreaty from Father
Uria to tell them more of his mission and of the
strange picture-book country they had never hoped
to hear of at first hand, assumed a tone of great
frankness and intimacy. "We were, with astounding
cleverness, treated from the first like an audience
in a new theatre. After we had solemnly been
towed by a string of boats to anchor, under the
Papen mountains, all Nagasaki appeared to turn
out, men, women and children. Thousands of little
boats, decorated with flags by day and colored lanterns
by night, and filled with people in gala attire,
swarmed about us, gazed at us through telescopes,
were so thick on the bay one could have traversed
it on foot. The imperial sailors were distinguished
by their uniforms of a large blue and white check,
suggesting the pinafores of a brobdingnagian baby.
The barges of the imperial princes were covered
with blue and white awnings and towed to the sound
of kettledrums and the loud measured cries of the
boatmen. At night the thousands of illuminated
lanterns, of every color and shade, the waving of
fans, the incessant chattering, and the more harmonious
noise that rose unceasingly above, made up
a scene as brilliant as it was juvenile and absurd.
In the daytime it was more interesting, with the
background of hills cultivated to their crests in the
form of terraces, varied with rice fields, hamlets,
groves, and paper villas encircled with little gardens
as glowing and various of color as the night lanterns.
When, at last, I was graciously permitted to
have a residence on a point of land called Megasaki,
I was conveyed thither in the pleasure barge of the
Prince of Fisi. There was place for sixty oarsmen,
but as one of the few tokens of respect, I was enabled
to record for the comfort of the mighty sovereign
whose representative I was, the barge was
towed by a long line of boats, decorated with flags,
the voices of the rowers rising and falling in measured
cadence as they announced to all Japan the
honor about to be conferred upon her. I sat on a
chair of state in the central compartment of the
barge, and quite alone; my suite standing on a
raised deck beyond. Before me on a table, marvellously
inlaid, were my credentials. I was surrounded
by curtains of sky-blue silk and panels of
polished lacquer inwrought with the Imperial arms
in gold. The awning of blue and white silk was
lined with a delicate and beautiful tapestry, and the
reverse sides of the silken partitions were of canvas
painted by the masters of the country. The polished
floor was covered by a magnificent carpet
woven with alarming dragons whose jaws pointed
directly at my chair of state. And such an escort
and such a reception, both of ceremony and of
curiosity, no Russian had ever boasted before.
Flags waved, kettledrums beat, fans were flung into
my very lap to autograph. The bay, the hills, were
a blaze of color and a confusion of sound. The
barracks were hung with tapestries and gay silks. I,
with my arms folded and in full uniform, my features
composed to the impassivity of one of their
own wooden gods, was the central figure of this
magnificent farce; and it may be placed to the everlasting
credit of the discipline of courts that not
one of my staff smiled. They stood with their arms
folded and their eyes on the inlaid devices at their
"When this first act was over and I was locked
in for the night and felt myself able to kick my way
through the flimsy walls, yet as completely a prisoner
as if they had been of stone, I will confess
that I fell into a most undiplomatical rage; and
when I found myself played with from month to
month by a people I scorned as a grotesque mixture
of barbarian and mannikin, I was alternately
infuriated, and consumed with laughter at the vanity
of men and nations."
His voice dropped from its light ironical note,
and became harsh and abrupt with reminiscent disgust.
"And the end of it all was failure. The
superb presents of the Tsar were rejected. These
presents: coats of black fox and ermine, vases of
fossil ivory and of marble, muskets, pistols, sabers,
magnificent lustres, table services of crystal and
porcelain, tapestries and carpets, immense mirrors,
a clock in the form of an elephant, and set with
precious stones, a portrait of the Tsar by Madame
le Brun, damasks, furs, velvets, printed cotton,
cloths, brocades of gold and silver, microscopes,
gold and silver watches, a complete electrical machine--
presents in all, of the value of three hundred
thousand roubles, were returned with scant ceremony
to the Nadeshda and I was politely told to
"But the mortification was the least of my worries.
The object of the embassy was to establish not
only good will and friendship between Russia and
Japan, for which we cared little, but commercial
intercourse between this fertile country and our
northeastern and barren possessions. It would have
been greatly to the advantage of the Japanese, and
God knows it would have meant much to us."
Then Rezanov having tickled the imaginations
and delighted the curiosity of the priests, began to
play upon their heartstrings. His own voice
vibrated as he related the sufferings of the servants
of the Company, and while avoiding the nomenclature
and details of their bodily afflictions, gave
so thrilling a hint of their terrible condition that his
audience gasped with sympathy while experiencing
no qualms in their own more fortunate stomachs.
He led their disarmed understandings as far
down the vale of tears as he deemed wise, then permitted
himself a magnificent burst of spontaneity.
"I must tell you the object of my mission to
California, my kind friends!" he cried, "although I
beg you will not betray me to the other powers until
I think it wise to speak myself. But I must have
your sympathy and advice. It has long been my
desire to establish relations between Russia and
Spain that should be of mutual benefit to the colonies
of both in this part of the western hemisphere.
I have told you of the horrible condition
and needs of my men. They must have a share in
the superfluities of this most prodigal land. But I
make no appeal to your mercy. Trade is not
founded on charity. You well know we have much
you are in daily need of. There should be a biyearly
interchange." He paused and looked from
one staring face to the other. He had been wise
in his appeal. They were deeply gratified at being
taken into his confidence and virtually asked to outwit
the military authorities they detested.
Rezanov continued:
"I have brought the Juno heavy laden, my
fathers, and for the deliberate purpose of barter.
She is full of Russian and Boston goods. I shall
do my utmost to persuade your Governor to give
me of his corn and other farinaceous foods in exchange.
It may be against your laws, and I am well
aware that for the treaty I must wait, but I beg
you in the name of humanity to point out to his excellency
a way in which he can at the same time
relieve our necessities and placate his conscience."
"We will! We will!" cried Father Abella.
"Would that you had come in the disguise of a
common sea-captain, for we have hoodwinked the
commandantes more than once. But aside from the
suspicion and distrust in which Spain holds Russia
--with so distinguished a visitor as your excellency,
it would be impossible to traffic undetected. But
there must be a way out. There shall be! And will
your excellency kindly let us see the cargo? I am
sure there is much we sadly need: cloth, linen, cotton,
boots, shoes, casks, bottles, glasses, plates,
shears, axes, implements of husbandry, saws, sheepshears,
iron wares--have you any of these things,
"All and more. Will you come to-morrow?"
"We will! and one way or another they shall be
ours and you shall have breadstuffs for your pitiable
subjects. We have as much need of Europe as you
can have of California, for Mexico is dilatory and
often disregards our orders altogether. One way
or another--we have your promise, Excellency?"
"I shall not leave California without accomplishing
what I came for," said Rezanov.
Concha boxed Rosa's ears twice while being
dressed for the ball that evening. It was true that
excitement had reigned throughout the Presidio all
day, for never had a ball been so hastily planned.
Don Luis had demurred when Concha proposed it
at breakfast; officially to entertain strangers not yet
officially received exceeded his authority. Concha,
waxing stubborn with opposition, vowed that she
would give the ball herself if he did not. Business
immediately afterward took the Commandante ad.
in. down to the Battery at Yerba Buena. Before
he left he gave orders that the large hall in the barracks,
where balls usually were held, should be
locked and the key given up to no one but himself.
He returned in the afternoon to find that Concha
had outwitted him. The sala of the Commandante's
house was very large. The furniture had been removed
and the walls hung with flags, those of
Spain on three sides, the Russian, borrowed by Santiago
from the ship, at the head of the room. Concha
laughed gaily as Luis stormed about the sala
rasping his spurs on the bare floor.
"Whitewashed walls for guests from St. Petersburg!"
she jeered, as Luis menaced the flags. "We
have little enough to offer. Besides--what more
wise than to flaunt our flag in the face of the Russian
bear? Their flag, of course, is a mere idle
compliment. Let me tell you two things, Luis mio:
this morning I invited the Russians to dance tonight,
and told Padre Abella to ask all our neighbors
of the Mission besides; and Rafaella Sal
helped me to drape every one of those flags.
When I told her you might tear them down, she
vowed that if you did she would dance all night
with the Bostonian."
Luis lifted his shoulders and mustache to express
an attitude of contemptuous resignation, but his face
darkened, and a moment later he left the room and
strolled up the square to the grating of Rafaella Sal.
Concha well knew that the frank gray eyes of the
Bostonian--all citizens of the United States were
Bostonians in that part of the world, for only Boston
skippers had the enterprise to venture so far--
were for no one but herself. But his face was
bony and freckled, and his figure less in height and
vigor than her own. He was rich and well-born,
but shy and very modest. Concha Arguello, La
Favorita of California, was for some such dashing
caballero as Don Antonio Castro of Monterey, or
Ignacio Sal, the most adventurous rider of the
north. Meanwhile he could look at her and adore
her in secret, and Dona Rafaella Sal was very kind
and danced as well as himself. He never dreamed
that he was being used as a stalking horse to keep
alive in the best match in the Californias the jealous
desire for exclusive possession that had animated
him in 1800 when he had applied through the Viceroy
of Mexico for royal consent to his marriage
with the Favorita of her year. That was six years
ago and never a word had come from Madrid. Luis
was faithful, but men were men, and girls grew
older every day. So the wise Rafaella was alternately
indifferent and alluring, the object of more
admiration than a maid could always repel, yet with
wells of sentiment that only one man could discover.
And the American was patient, and even
had he known, would not in the least have minded
the use she made of him. He still could look at
Concha Arguello.
William Sturgis had sailed in one of his father's
ships, now six years ago, from Boston in search of
health. The ship in a dense fog had gone on the
rocks in the straits between the Farallones and
the Bay of San Francisco. He alone, and after
long hours of struggle with the wicked currents,
not even knowing in what direction land might be,
was flung, senseless, on the shore below the Fort.
For the next month he was an invalid in the house
of the Commandante. Fortunately, his papers and
money were sewn in an oilskin belt and his father's
name was well known in California. Moreover,
there never was a more likable youth. His illness
interested all the matrons and maids of the Presidio
in his fate; when he recovered, his good dancing
and unselfishness gave him a permanent place in the
regard of the women, while his entire absence of
beauty, and his ability to hold his own in the mess
room, established his position with the men.
In due course word of his plight reached Boston,
and a ship was immediately despatched, not only to
bring the castaway home, but with the fine wardrobe
necessary to a young gentleman of his station.
But the same ship brought word of his father's
death--his mother had gone long since--and as
there were brothers enamored of the business he
hated, he decided to remain in the country that had
won his heart and given him health. For some time
there was demur on the part of the authorities;
Spain welcomed no foreigners in her colonies.
But Sturgis swore a mighty oath that he would
never despatch a letter uninspected by the Commandante,
that he would make no excursions into
the heart of the country, that he would neither engage
in traffic nor interfere in politics. Then having
already won the affections of the Governor, he
was permitted to remain, even to rent an acre of
land from the Church in the sheltered Mission valley,
and build himself a house. Here he raised
fruit and vegetables for his own hospitable table,
chickens and game cocks. Books and other luxuries
came by every ship from Boston; until for a
long interval ships came no more. One of these
days, when the power of the priests had abated, and
the jealousy which would keep all Californians landless
but themselves was counterbalanced by a great
increase in population, he meant to have a ranch
down in the south where the sun shone all the year
round and he could ride half the day with his
vaqueros after the finest cattle in the country. He
should never marry because he could not marry
Concha Arguello, but he could think of her, see her
sometimes; and in a land where a man was neither
frozen in winter nor grilled in summer, where life
could be led in the open, and the tendency was to
idle and dream, domestic happiness called on a
feebler note than in less equable climes. In his
heart he was desperately jealous of Concha's favored
cavaliers, but it was a jealousy without hatred,
and his kind, earnest, often humorous eyes, were
always assuring his lady of an imperishable desire
to serve her without reward. Of course Concha
treated him with as little consideration as so humble
a swain deserved; but in her heart she liked him better
than either Castro or Sal, for he talked to her
of something besides rodeos and balls, racing and
cock-fights; he had taught her English and lent her
many books. Moreover, he neither sighed nor languished,
nor ever had sung at her grating. But
she regarded him merely as an intelligence, a well
of refreshment in her stagnant life, never as a man.
"Rose," she said, as she caught her hair into a
high golden comb that had been worn in Spain by
many a beauty of the house of Moraga, and spiked
the knot with two long pins globed at the end with
gold, while the maid fastened her slippers and
smoothed the pink silk stockings over the thin instep
above; "what is a lover like? Is it like meeting
one of the saints of heaven?"
"No, senorita."
"Like what, then?"
"Like--like nothing but himself, senorita. You
would not have him otherwise."
"Oh, stupid one! Hast thou no imagination?
Fancy any man being well enough as he is! For
instance, there is Don Antonio, who is so handsome
and fiery, and Don Ignacio, who can sing and
dance and ride as no one else in all the Californias,
and Don Weeliam Sturgis, who is very clever and
true. If I could roll them into one--a tamale of
corn and chicken and peppers--there would be a
man almost to my liking. But even then--not
quite. And one man--what nonsense! I have too
much color to-night, Rosa."
"No, senorita, you have never been so beautiful.
When the lover comes and you love him, senorita,
you will think him greater than our natural king
and lord, and all other men poor Indians."
"But how shall I know?"
"Your heart will tell you, senorita."
"My heart? My father and my mother will
choose for me a husband whom I shall love as all
other women love their husbands--just enough and
no more. Then--I suppose--I shall never know?"
"Would you marry at your parents' bidding, like
a child, senorita? I do not think you would."
Concha looked at the girl in astonishment, but
with a greater astonishment she suddenly realized
that she would not. Even her little fingers stiffened
in a rush of personality, of passionate resentment
against the shackles bound by the ages about the
feminine ego. Her individuality, long budding,
burst into flower; her eyes gazed far beyond her
radiant image in the mirror with a look of terrified
but dauntless insight; then moved slowly to the girl
that sat weeping on the floor.
"I know not what thy sin was," she said musingly.
"But I have heard it said thou didst obey no law
but thine own will--and his. Why should the punishment
have been so terrible? Thou hast sworn to
me thou didst not help to murder the woman."
"I cannot tell you, senorita. You will never
know anything of sin; but of love--yes, I think you
will know that, and before very long."
"Before long?" Concha's lips parted and the nervous
color she had deprecated left her cheeks.
"What meanest thou, Rosa?" Her voice rose
And the Indian, with the insight of her own
tragedy, replied: "The Russian has come for you,
senorita. You will go with him, far away to the
north and the snow. These others never could win
your heart; but this man who looks like a king, and
as if many women had loved him, and he had cared
little-- Oh, senorita, Carlos was only a poor Indian,
but the men that women love all have something
that makes them brothers--the Great Russian
and the poor man who goes mad for a moment
and kills one woman that he may live with another
forever. The great Russian is free, but he is the
same, senorita--he too could kill for love, and such
are the men we women die for!"
Concha, ambitious and romantic, eager for the
brilliant life the advent of this Russian nobleman
seemed to herald, had assured Santiago that he
would love her; but they had been the empty words
of the Favorita of many conquests; of love and passion
she had known, suspected, nothing. As she
watched Rosa, huddled and convulsed, little pointed
arrows flew into her brain. Girls in those old Spanish
days went to the altar with a serene faith in
miracles, and it was a matter of honor among those
that preceded their friends to abet the parents in a
custom which assuredly did not err on the side of
ugliness. Concha had a larger vocabulary than
other Californians of her sex, for she had read
many books, and if never a novel, she knew something
of poetry. Sturgis had filled the sala with
the sonorous roll of his favorite masters and it had
pleased her ear; but the language of passion had
been so many beautiful words, neither vibrating nor
lingering in her consciousness. But the rude expression
of the miserable woman at her feet, whose
sobs grew more uncontrollable every moment, made
it forever impossible that she should prattle again
as she had to Santiago and Rezanov in the last day
and night; and although she felt as if straining her
eyes in the dark, her cheeks burned once more, and
she rose uneasily and walked to the window.
She returned in a moment and stood over Rosa,
but her voice when she spoke had lost its hoarseness
and was cold and irritated.
"Control thyself," she said. "And go and bathe
thine eyes. Wouldst look like a tomato when it is
time to pass the dulces and wines? And think no
more of thy lover until he can come out of prison
and marry thee." She drew herself away as the
woman attempted to clutch her skirts. "Go," she
said. "The musicians are tuning."
"The sash, Excellency?" Jon longed to see his
master in full regalia once more, and after all, was
not this an embassy of a sort? But Rezanov, who
already regarded his reflection with some humor,
shook his head.
"I'll go as far as decency permits, for no one is
so impressed by external magnificence as the Spaniard.
But full dress uniform and orders are enough;
an ambassador's sash and they might suspect I took
them for the children they are. Children are not
always fools. My stock is too tight. Remember
that I am to dance, and am too tall for most wommen's
pretty little ears. And I doubt if an ear is
less thirsty for being so provocatively screened."
Jon, a "prince" whose family had fallen upon evil
days long since, but whose thin, clever fingers were
no mean inheritance, unwound and readjusted the
folds of soft batiste, that most becoming neck vesture
man has ever worn. He fain would have
pressed the matter of the sash, but Rezanov, most
indulgent of masters to this devoted servant, was
never patient of insistence. Jon also regretted the
powdered wig and queue, which he privately thought
more befitting a fine gentleman than his own hair,
even though the latter were thick and bright. He
said tentatively:
"I notice these Californians still wear the hair
long; and with their gay ribbons and showy hats
look much better no doubt than if they followed a
fashion of which it would seem they had not heard
--and perhaps do not admire. I ventured to pack
two of your excellency's wigs when we were leaving
St. Petersburg--"
"Good heavens, no!" cried Rezanov, rising to his
feet and casting a last impatient glance at the mirror.
"When a man has escaped from a furnace
does he run back of his own accord? My brain
would cook under a wig in this climate, and I need
all my wits--for more reasons than one." And he
went up on deck.
There, while awaiting his horses and escort, he
had another glimpse of the happy Arcadian life of
the Californians. Over the sand hills through
which he had floundered twice that day rode young
men in gala attire, a maiden, her attire as brilliant
as the sunset along the western summits, on the
saddle before them. These saddles were heavy with
silver, the blanket beneath was embroidered with
both silver and gold. Gay light laughter floated out
on the cool evening breeze to the little ship in the
"It has been a good day," thought Rezanov, lowering
his glass. "It is like her to arrange so charming
a finale."
When he arrived at the Presidio the guitars were
tinkling and the sala was full of eager and somber
faces. The Californians had come early, determined
to witness the arrival of the Russians. Very
pretty most of the girls were, and by no means a
bevy of brunettes. There was hair of every shade
of brown, looped over the ears, drawn high and
confined by the high comb and the long pins; and
Rafaella Sal, with her red hair and gray eyes, was
still celebrated as a beauty, although no longer in
her first youth--she was twenty-two, and should
have been a matron and mother long since! But
she looked very handsome and coquettish in her
daring yellow frock that no other red head would
have dared to wear, and she displayed three ropes
of Baja California pearls; one strand being the common
possession. The matrons, young and old, wore
heavy satins or brocades, either red or yellow, but
the maids were in flowered silks, sometimes with
coquettish little jacket, generally with long pointed
bodice and full flowing skirt. Concha's frock was
made in this fashion, but quite different otherwise;
an aunt in the City of Mexico being mindful at
whiles of the cravings of relatives in exile. It was
of a soft shimmering white stuff covered with gold
spangles and cut to reveal her young neck and arms.
She stood at the head of the room with her mother
as Rezanov entered, and he noticed for the first
time how tall she was. She held herself proudly;
mischievous twinkle, nor child-like trust, nor flashing
coquetry possessed her eyes; these, even more starlike
than usual, nevertheless looked upon her guests
with a dignified composure. Her lips, her skin,
were luminous. In this well-cut evening gown he
saw that her figure was superb; and that she could
command stateliness as well as vivacity moved her
toward a pedestal in his regard that had been occupied
by few and never for long.
Rezanov, in his splendid uniform and blazing
orders, filled the sala with his presence as he walked
past the rows of bright critical eyes toward his
hostesses. The young lips of the maids parted with
delight and the men frowned. For the first time
William Sturgis felt the sickness of jealousy instead
of its not unagreeable pain. Davidov and Khostov,
both handsome and well-bred young men, were also
in full naval uniform, and by no means ignored;
while Langsdorff, in the severe black of the scholar,
was an admirable foil.
Rezanov, wondering at the subtle change in
Concha, bowed ceremoniously and murmured:
"You will give me the first dance, senorita?"
"Certainly, Excellency. Are you not the guest
of honor?"
She motioned to the Indian musicians, fiddles
and guitars fairly leaped to position, and in a moment
Rezanov enjoyed the novel delusion of encircling
a girl's floating wraith.
"We can waltz, you see! Are you not surprised?"
"It is but one accomplishment the more. I feared
a preference for your native dances, but ventured
to hope you would teach me."
"They are easy to learn. You will watch us
dance the contra-danza after this."
"With whom do you dance it?"
Her black eyelashes were very thick; he barely
caught the glance she shot him.
"The Russian bear growls," she said lightly.
"Did you expect to dance every dance with me?"
"I came for no other purpose."
"You would have several duels to fight to-morrow."
"I have no objection."
"You have fought others, then?" Her voice was
the softer with the effort to turn its edge.
"No more than most men, I suppose. May I ask
how many have been fought for you?"
"My memory is no better than yours. Why
should I burden it with trifles?"
"True. It doubtless is charged with matters far
more serious than the desires of mere men. Tell
me, senorita, what is your dearest wish?" He had
bent his head and fixed his powerful gaze on her
stubborn lashes. As he hoped, she raised startled
eyes in which an angry glitter dawned.
"My dearest wish? If I had one should I tell
you? Why do you ask me such a question?"
"Because I lit a candle at the Mission to-day that
you might realize it," he answered, smiling.
To his surprise he saw a flash of terror in her
eyes before she dropped them, and felt her shiver.
But she answered coldly:
"You have wasted a candle, senor. I have never
had a wish that was not instantly gratified. But I
thank you for the kind thought. Will you finish
this waltz with my friend, and the fiancee of Luis,
Rafaella Sal? She has quarrelled with Luis, I see;
Don Weeliam is dancing with Carolina Xime'no, and
she cares to waltz with no one else. Pardon me if
I say that no one has ever waltzed as well as your
excellency, and I must not be selfish."
"I will release you if you are tired, but otherwise
I shall do myself the honor to waltz with your
friend later."
"I must look after my other guests," she said
coldly; and he was led with what grace he could
summon to the fair but sulky Rafaella.
"How am I to help flirting with that girl?" he
thought as he mechanically guided another light and
graceful partner through the crowded room. "If
she were one girl I might resist. But since eleven
o'clock yesterday morning she has been three. And
if she was twenty yesterday, twelve this morning,
she is twenty-eight to-night, and this might be a
court ball in Madrid. I shall leave the day after I
bring the Governor to terms."
He sat beside Dona Ignacia during the contradanza
and found the scene remarkably brilliant and
animated considering the primitive conditions. In
addition to the bright flags on the wall and the vivid
colors of the women, the officers of the Presidio and
forts wore full dress uniform, either white coats
with red velvet vest, red pantaloons and sash, or
white trousers and scarlet coat and waistcoat faced
with green. The young men from the Mission wore
small clothes of a black silk, fastened at the knee
with silver buckles, and white silk stockings; two
gentlemen from Monterey wore the evening costume
of the capital, dove-colored small clothes, with white
silk waistcoat and stockings, and much fine lawn
and lace. The room was well lighted by many
wicks stuck in lumps of tallow. The Indian musicians,
soldiers recruited from a superior tribe in
the Santa Clara valley, were clad almost entirely
in scarlet, and danced sometimes as they played;
and Indian girls, in short red skirts and snow-white
smocks open at the throat, their long hair decorated
with flowers and ribbons, already passed about wine
and dulces. The windows were open. The sweet
night air blew in.
The contra-danza was not unlike the square
dances of England except that it was far more
graceful, and the men rivalled the women in their
supple glidings and bendings, doublings and swayings.
Concha danced with Ignacio Sal, Rafaella
with William Sturgis; their pliant grace, as facile
as grain rippling before the wind, would have put the
best ballet in Europe to the blush. Concha's skirts
swept Rezanov's feet, her little slippers twinkled
before his admiring eyes, and he lost no sinuous
turn or undulation of her beautiful figure; but she
never vouchsafed him a glance.
When the dance finished his host introduced him
to the prettiest of the girls and he paid them as many
compliments as their heads would stand. He even
took some trouble to talk to them, if only to fathom
the sources of their unlikeness to Concha Arguello.
He concluded that the gulf that separated her from
these charming, vivacious, shallow young girls was
not dug by education alone. Individualities were
rare enough in Europe; out here, in earthly, but
sparsely settled paradises, they must be rarer still;
but that one had wandered into the lovely shell of
Concha Arguello he no longer doubted. The fact
that it had developed haphazardly, with little or no
help from her sentience, and was still fluid and uncertain,
but multiplied her in interest and charm.
The women to whom he was accustomed knew
themselves, consequently were no riddle to a man of
his experience, but here he had an odd sense of having
entered into a compact in the dark with a girl
who might one day symbolize some high and impassioned
ideal he had cherished in the days before
ideals had been cast aside with the negative virtues
that bred them.
As he coolly studied the good looks of the young
caballeros and the plain intellectual face and slight
little figure of the Bostonian, noted the utter indifference
with which they were treated by the
Favorita of Presidio and Mission, he felt a sudden
rush of arrogance, a youthful tingling of nerves,
the same prophetic sense of imminent happiness and
power that his first contact with the light electrical
air and the beauty of the country had induced.
After all, he was but forty-two. Life on the whole
had been very kind to him. And, although he did
not realize it as yet, his frame, blighted by the rigors
of the past three years, was already sensible to a
renewal of juice and sap. He admitted that he was
more interested than he had been for many years,
and that if he was not in love, he tingled with a
very natural masculine desire for an adventure with
a pretty girl.
But he was by no means a weak man, and his
mind counted the cost even while his imagination
hummed. He had almost decided to bid Dona
Ignacia an abrupt good-night, pleading fatigue,
which his pallor indorsed, when the door of the dining-
room was thrown open to the liveliest of
fiddling, and a white hand with a singular suggestion
of tenacity both in appearance and clasp took
possession of his arm.
"My mother has gone to Gertrudis Rudisinda,
who is crying," said Concha. "It is my pleasure to
lead your excellency in to supper."
They sat side by side at the head of the long
table almost covered by the massive service of silver
and loaded with evidences of Dona Ignacia's
generosity and skill; chickens in red rice and gravy,
oysters, tamales, dulces, pastries, fruits and pleasant
drinks. Luis, with Rafaella Sal dimpling and
sparkling at his side, and now quite resigned to the
semi-official nature of the ball, rose and drank the
health of the distinguished guest in long and flowery
praises. Rezanov responded in briefer but no
less felicitous vein, and concluded by remarking
that the only rift in the lute of his present enchanting
experience was the fear that whereas he had
nearly died of starvation several times during the
past three years, he was now threatened with a far
more ignominious end, so delicious and irresistible
were the temptations that beset the wayfarer in this
most hospitable land. Both speeches were gaily applauded,
the conversation became animated and general,
and Concha dropped her voice to the attentive
ear beside her.
"You were very successful to-day at the Mission,
"May I ask how you know?"
"I never saw anything so serenely--arrogantly,
perhaps would be a truer description--triumphant
as your bearing when you walked down our humble
sala to-night. You looked like Caesar returned from
Gaul; but I suppose that all great conquests are
merely the sum of many small ones."
"I do not regard the friendship of so shrewd a
man as Father Abella a trifling conquest. And according
to yourself, dear senorita, it is essential to
the success of a mission upon which many lives and
my own honor depend."
"Is it really so serious?" she asked with a faint
He drew himself up stiffly and his light eyes
glowed with anger. "It is a subject I never should
have thought of introducing at a festivity like this,"
he said suavely. "May I be permitted to compliment
you, senorita, upon your marvellous grace in
the contra-danza? It quite turned my head, and I
am delighted to hear that you will dance alone after
Her face had flushed hotly. She dropped her
eyes and her voice trembled as she replied: "You
humiliate me, senor, and I deserve it. I--my poor
Rosa told me something of her great tragedy while
dressing me, and for the moment other things
seemed unimportant. What is hunger and court
favor beside a broken heart and a desolate life?
But that of course is the attitude of an ignorant
girl." She raised her eyes. They were soft, and
her voice was softer. "I beg that you will forgive
me, senor. And be sure that I take an even deeper
interest in your great mission than yesterday. I
have thought much about it, and while I have told
my mother nothing, I have expressed certain peevish
hopes that a ship would not come all the way
from Sitka without taking a hint more than one
Boston skipper must have given, and brought us
many things we need. She is quite excited over
the prospect of a new shawl for herself, and of sending
several as presents to the south; besides many
other things: cotton, shoes, kitchen utensils. Have
you any of these things, Excellency?"
Rezanov stared at her face, barely tinted with
color, dully wondering why it should be so different
from the one roguish, pathetically innocent, that
had haunted him all day. He asked abruptly:
"Which is the friend whose little ones you envy?
You have made me wish to see them and her?"
"That is Elena--beside Gervasio." She indicated
a young woman with soft, patient, brown eyes, the
dignity of her race and the sweetness of young
motherhood, who would have looked little older
than herself had it not been for an already shapeless
figure. "I can take you to-morrow to see them
if you wish."
She had cast down her eyes and her face was
white. Still he groped on.
"Pardon me if I say that I am surprised your
parents should permit such a woman as this Rosa
to attend you. Why should your happy life be disturbed
by the lamentations of an abandoned creature--
who can do you no good, and possibly much
Still Concha did not raise her eyes. "I do not
think poor Rosa would do anyone harm. But perhaps
it were as well she went elsewhere. We have
had her long enough. I have taken a dislike to her.
I reproach myself bitterly, but I cannot help it. I
should like never to see her again."
"What has she told you?" Concha glanced up
swiftly. His eyes were blazing. She felt quite certain
that he rolled a Russian oath under his tongue,
and she made a slight involuntary motion toward
him, her lips trembling apart.
"Nothing," she murmured. "I do not know--I
do not know. But I no longer wish her near me.
She--life is very strange and terrible, senor. You
know it well--I, so little."
Rezanov felt his breath short and his hands cold.
For a moment he made no reply. Then he smiled
charmingly and said in the conventional tone that
was ever at his command: "Of course you know
little of life in this Arcadia. One who hopes to be
numbered among the best of your friends prays
that you never may. Yes, senorita, life is strange
--strangely commonplace and disillusionizing--but
sometimes picturesque. Believe me when I say that
nothing stranger has ever befallen me than to find
out here on the lonely brink of a continent nearly
twenty thousand versts from Europe, a girl of sixteen
with the grand manner, and an intellect without
the detestable idiosyncrasies of the fashionable
bas bleus I have hitherto had the misfortune to encounter."
She was tapping the table slowly with her fork,
and he noted that her soft, childish mouth was set.
"No doubt you are quite right to put me off," she
said finally, and in a voice as even as his own. "And
my intellect would do me little good if it did not
teach me to ignore mysteries I can never hope to
fathom. There is no such thing as life in your sense
in this forgotten corner of the world, nor ever will
be in my time. If you come back and visit us
twenty years hence you will find me fat and worn
like Elena, and busy every minute like my mother
--unless, indeed, I marry Don Weeliam Sturgis
and become a great lady in Boston. It would not be
so mean a fate."
Rezanov darted a look of angry contempt at the
pale young man who was eating little and miserably
watching the handsome pair at the head of the
table. "You will not marry him!" he said briefly.
"I could do far worse." Concha's lashes framed
an adorable glance that sent the blood to the hair
of the sensitive youth. "You have no idea how
clever and good he is. And--Madre de Dios!--
I am so tired of California."
"But you are a part of it--the very symbol of its
future, it seems to me. I wish I had a sculptor in
my suite. I should make him model you, label the
statue 'California,' and erect it on the peak of that
big island out there."
"That is very poetical, but after all, you are only
saying that I am a pretty savage with an education
that will be more common in the next generation.
It is little consolation for an existence where the
most exciting event in a lifetime is the arrival of a
foreign ship or the inauguration of a governor."
And once more she smiled at Sturgis. He raised
his glass impulsively, and she hers in gay response. A
moment later she gave the signal to leave the table.
Rezanov followed her back to the sala chewing the
cud of many reflections.
Concha had eaten no supper. As she entered the
sala she clapped her hands, the guests ranged
themselves against the wall, the musicians, livelier
than ever, flew to their instruments; with the drifting,
swaying movement she could assume at will,
she went slowly, absently, to the middle of the room.
Then she let her head drop backward, as if with
the weight of her hair, and Rezanov, vaguely angry,
expected one of those appeals to the senses for
which Spanish women of another sort were
notorious. But Concha, after tapping the floor
alternately with the points and the wooden heels of
her slippers, for a few moments, suddenly made
an imperious gesture to Ignacio Sal. He sprang to
her side, took her hand, and once more there was
the same monotonous tapping of toes and heels.
Then they whirled apart, bent their lithe backs until
their brows almost touched the floor in a salute of
mock admiration, and danced to and from each
other, coquetry in the very tilt of her eyebrows, the
bare semblance of masculine indulgence on his eager,
passionate face. Suddenly to the surprise of all, she
snapped her fingers directly under his nose, waved
her hand, turned her back, and made a peremptory
gesture to that other enamoured young swain, Captain
Antonio Castro of Monterey. Don Ignacio,
surprised and discomfited, retired amidst the jeers
of his friends, and Concha, with her most vivacious
and gracious manner, met Castro half way, and, taking
his hand, danced up and down the sala, slowly
and with many improvisations. Then, as they returned
to the center of the room and stepped lightly
apart before joining in a gay whirl, she snapped her
fingers under HIS nose, made a gesture of dismissal
over her shoulder, and fluttered an uplifted hand
in the direction of Sturgis. Again there was a delighted
laughter, again a discomforted knight and
a triumphant partner.
"Concha always gives us something we do not
expect," said Santiago to Rezanov, whose eyes were
twinkling. "The other girls dance El Son and La
Jota very gracefully--yes. But Conchita dances
with her head, and the musicians and the partner,
when she takes one, have all they can do to follow.
She will choose you, next, senor."
Rezanov turned cold, and measured the distance
to the door. "I hope not!" he said. "I should hate
nothing so much as to make an exhibition of myself.
The dances I know--that is all very well--but to
improvise--for the love of heaven help me to get
But Santiago, who was watching his sister intently,
replied: "Wait a moment, Excellency. I do
not think she will choose another. I know by her
feet that she intends to dance El Son--in her own
way, of course--after all."
Concha circled about the room twice with Sturgis,
lifted him to the seventh heaven of expectancy, dismissed
him as abruptly as the others. Lifting her
chin with an expression of supreme disdain for all
his sex, she stood a moment, swaying, her arms
hanging at her sides.
"I am glad she will not dance with Weeliam,"
muttered Santiago. "I love him--yes; but the
Spanish dance is not for the Bostonian."
Rezanov awaited her performance with an interest
that caused him some cynical amusement.
But in a moment he had surrendered to her once
more as a creature of inexhaustible surprise. The
musicians, watching her, began to play more slowly.
Concha, her arms still supine, her head lifted, her
eyes half veiled, began to dance in a stately and
measured fashion that seemed to powder her hair
and dissolve the partitions before an endless vista
of rooms. Rezanov had a sudden vision of the Hall
of the Ambassadors in the royal palace at Madrid,
where, when a young man on his travels, he had
attended a state ball. There he had seen the most
dignified beauties of Europe dance at the most formal
of its courts. But Concha created the illusion
of having stepped down from the throne in some
bygone fashion to dance alone for her subjects and
She raised her arms, barely budding at the top,
with a gesture that was not only the poetry of
grace but as though bestowing some royal favor;
when she curved and swayed her body, again it was
with the lofty sweetness of one too highly placed
to descend to mere seductiveness. She glided up and
down, back and forth, with a dreamy revealing motion
as if assisting to shape some vague impassioned
image in the brain of a poet. She lifted her
little feet in a manner that transformed boards into
clouds. There were moments when she seemed
actually to soar.
"She is a little genius!" thought Rezanov enthusiastically.
"Anything could be made of a
woman like that."
It was not her dancing alone that interested him,
but its effect on her audience. The young men had
begun with audible expressions of approval. They
were now shouting and stamping and clapping.
Suddenly, as once more she danced back to the very
center of the room, her bosom heaving, her eyes
like stars, her red lips parted, Don Ignacio, long
since recovered from his spleen, invaded his pocket
and flung a handful of silver at her feet. It was a
signal. Gold and silver coins, chains, watches,
jewels, bounced over the floor, to be laughingly
ignored. Rezanov looked on in amazement, wondering
if this were a part of the performance and
if he should follow suit. But after a glance at the
faces of the young men, lost to everything but their
passionate admiration for the unique and beautiful
dancing of their Favorita, and when Sturgis, after
wildly searching in his pockets, tore a large pearl
from the lace of his stock, he doubted no longer--
nor hesitated. Fastened by a blue ribbon to the
fourth button of his closely fitting coat was a golden
key, the outward symbol of his rank at court. He
detached it, then made a sudden gesture that caught
her attention. For a moment their eyes met. He
tossed her the bauble, and mechanically she lifted
her hand and caught it. Then she laughed confusedly,
shrugged her shoulders, bowed graciously
to her audience, and signalled to the musicians to
stop. Rezanov was at her side in a moment.
"You must be tired," he said. "I insist that you
come out on the veranda and rest."
"Very well," she said indifferently; "it is quite
time we all went out to the air. Santiago mio, wilt
thou bring my reboso--the white one?"
Santiago, more flushed than his sister at her
triumphs, fetched the long strip of silk, and Rezanov
detached her from her eager court and led her
without. Elena Castro followed closely, yet with
a cavalier of her own that her friend might talk
freely with this interesting stranger. The night air
was cool and stimulating. The hills were black
under the sparks of white fire in the high arch of the
California sky. In the Presidio square were long
blue shadows that might have been reflections of
the smoldering blue beyond the stars. Rezanov
and Concha sat on the railing at the end of the
"It is a custom--all that very material admiration?"
he asked.
"A very old one, but not too often followed.
Otherwise we should not prize it. But when some
Favorita outdoes herself then she receives the
greatest reward that man can think of--gold and
silver jewels. We do not dare to return the tributes
in common fashion, but they have a way of appearing
where they belong as soon as their owners are
supposed to have forgotten the incident. As you
are not a Californian, senor, I take the liberty of returning
this without any foolish subterfuge." She
handed him his contribution. "I thank you all the
same. It was a spontaneous act, and I am very
He accepted the key awkwardly, not daring to
press it upon her, with the obvious banalities. But
he felt a sudden desire to give her something, and,
nothing better offering, he gathered half a dozen
roses and laid them on her lap.
"I was disappointed that you did not wear your
roses to-night," he said. "I associate them with you
in my thoughts. Will you put one in your hair?"
She found a place for two and thrust another in
the neck of her gown. The rest she held closely in
her hands. Then he noticed that she was very
white, and again she shivered.
"You are cold and tired," he murmured, his eyes
melting to hers. "It was entrancing, but I hope
never to see you give so much of yourself to others
again." His hand in arranging the reboso touched
hers. It lingered, and she stared up at him, helplessly,
her eyes wide, her lips parted. She reminded
him of a rabbit caught in a trap, and he had a sudden
and violent revulsion of feeling. He rose and
offered his arm. "I should be a brute if I kept you
talking out here. Slip off and go to bed. I shall
start the guests, for I am very tired myself."
He did not talk with her again for several days. He
called in state, but remained only a few moments.
His officers went to several impromptu dances at
the Presidio and Mission, but he pleaded fatigue,
natural in the damaged state of his constitution,
and left the ship only for a gallop over the hills or
down the coast with Luis Arguello.
But he had never felt better. At the end of a
week his pallor had gone, his skin was tanned and
fresh. Even his wretched crew were different men.
They were given much leave on shore, and already
might be seen escorting the serving-women over
the hills in the late afternoon. Rezanov gave them
a long rope, although he knew they must be germinating
with a mutinous distaste of the Russian
north; he kept strict watch over them and would
have given a deserter his due without an instant's
The estafette that had gone with Luis' letters to
Monterey had taken one from Rezanov as well, asking
permission to pay a visit of ceremony to the
Governor. Five days later the plenipotentiary received
a polite welcome to California, and protest
against another long journey; the humble servant
of the King of Spain would himself go to San
Francisco at once and offer the hospitality of California
to the illustrious representative of the Emperor
of all the Russias.
Rezanov was not only annoyed at the Governor's
evident determination that he should see as little
as possible of the insignificant military equipment of
California, but at the delay to his own plans for exploration.
He knew that Luis would dare take him
upon no expedition into the heart of the country
without the consent of the Governor, and he began
to doubt this consent would be given. But he was
determined to see the bay, at least, and he no sooner
read the diplomatic epistle from Monterey than he
decided to accomplish this part of his purpose before
the arrival of the Governor or Don Jose. He knew
the material he had to deal with at the moment,
but nothing of that already, no doubt, on its way to
the north.
Early in the morning after the return of the
courier he wrote an informal note to Dona Ignacia,
asking her to give him the honor of entertaining
her for a day on the Juno, and to bring all the young
people she would. As the weather was so fine, he
hoped to see them in time for chocolate at nine
o'clock. He knew that Luis, who was pressingly
included in the invitation, had left at daybreak for
his father's rancho, some thirty miles to the south.
There was a flutter at the Presidio when the invitation
of the Chamberlain was made known. The
compliment was not unexpected, but there had been
a lively speculation as to what form the Russian's
return of hospitality would take. Concha, whose
tides had thundered and ebbed many times since the
night of her party, submerging the happy inconsequence
of her sixteen years, but leaving her unshaken
spirit with wide clarified vision, felt young
to-day from sheer reaction. She would listen to no
protest from her prudent mother and smothered her
with kisses and a torrent of words.
"But, my Conchita," gasped Dona Ignacia, "I
have much to do. Thy father and his excellency
come in two days. And perhaps they would not
approve--before they are here!--to go on the foreign
ship! If Luis were not gone! Ay yi! Ay yi!"
"We go, we go, madre mia! And his excellency
will give you a shawl. I feel it! I know it! And
if we go now we disobey no law. Have they ever
said we could not visit a foreign ship when they
were not here? We are light-headed, irresponsible
women. And if they should not let us go! If the
Governor and the Russian should disagree! Now
we have the opportunity for such a day as we never
have had before. We should be imbeciles. We go,
madre mia, we go!"
So it proved. At a few minutes before nine the
Senora Arguello, clad in her best black skirt and
jacket, a red shawl embroidered with yellow draped
over her bust with unconquerable grace, and a black
reboso folded about her fine proud head, rode down
to the beach with Ana Paula on the aquera behind
and Gertrudis Rudisinda on her arm. The boys
howled on the corridor, but the good senora felt
she could not too liberally construe the kind invitation
of a chamberlain of the Russian Court.
Behind her rode Concha, in white with a pink
reboso; Rafaella Sal, Carolina Xime'no, Herminia
Lopez, Delfina Rivera, the only other girls at the
Presidio old enough to grace such an occasion;
Sturgis, who happened to have spent the night at
the Presidio, Gervasio, Santiago and Lieutenant
Rivera. Castro had returned to Monterey, Sal was
officer of the day, and the other young men had
sulkily declined to be the guests of a man who looked
as haughty as the Tsar himself and betrayed no disposition
to recognize in Spain the first nation of
Europe. But no one missed them. The girls, in
their flowered muslins and bright rebosos, the men
in gay serapes and embroidered botas, looked a
fine mass of color as they galloped down to the
beach and laughed and chattered as youth must on
so glorious a morning. Even Sturgis, always careful
to be as nearly one with these people as his different
appearance and temperament would permit,
wore clothes of green linen, a ruffled shirt, deer-skin
botas and sombrero.
Three of the ship's canoes awaited the guests, and
as not one of the women had ever set foot in a boat,
there was a chorus of shrieks. Dona Ignacia murmured
an audible prayer, and clutched Gertrudis
Rudisinda to her breast.
"Madre de Dios! The water! I cannot!" she
muttered. But Santiago took her firmly by one
elbow, Sturgis by the other, Davidov caught up the
children with a reassuring laugh, and in a moment
she was trembling in the middle of the canoe. Concha
had already leaped into the second and waved a
careless little salutation to the Juno. Her eyes
sparkled. Her nostrils fluttered. She felt indifferent
to everything but the certain pleasure of the
day. Rezanov was sure to be charming. What
mattered the morrow, and possible nights of doubt,
despair, hatred of life and wondering self-contempt?
Rezanov awaited the canoes in the prow of the
ship. He wore undress uniform and a cap instead
of the cocked hat of ceremony which had excited
their awe. He too tingled with a sense of youthful
gaiety and adventure. As he helped his guests up
the side of the vessel and listened to the delightful
laughter of the girls, saw the dancing eyes of even
the haughty and reserved Santiago, he also dismissed
the morrow from his thoughts.
As Dona Ignacia was hauled to the deck, uttering
embarrassed apologies for bringing the two little
girls, Rezanov protested that he adored children,
patted their heads and told off a young sailor to
amuse them.
Four tables on the deck were set with coffee,
chocolate, Russian tea, and strange sweets that the
cook had fashioned from ingredients to which his
skilful fingers had long been strangers.
Dona Ignacia sat beside the host, and when she
had tried both the tea and the coffee and had demanded
the recipe of the sweets, he said casually:
"After breakfast I shall ask you to go down to the
cabin for a few moments. I bought the cargo with
the Juno, and find there are several articles which I
shall beg as a great favor to present to my kindest
hostesses and the young girls she has been good
enough to bring to my ship. Shawls and ells of
cotton and all that sort of thing are of no use to a
bachelor, and I hope you will rid me of some of
Dona Ignacia lost all interest in the breakfast,
and presently, murmuring an excuse, was escorted
by Langsdorff down to the cabin. When the light
repast was over, Rezanov made a signal to several
sailors who awaited commands, and they sprang to
the anchor and sails.
"We are going to have a cruise," announced the
host to his guests. "The bay is very smooth, there
is a fine breeze, we shall neither be becalmed nor
otherwise the sport of inclement waters. I know
that most of you have never seen this beautiful bay
and that you will enjoy its scenery as much as I
He moved to Concha's side and dropped his voice.
"This is for you, senorita," he said. "You want
change, variety, and I have planned to give you all
that I can in one day. I expect you to be happy."
"I shall be," she said dryly, "if only in watching
a diplomat get his way. You will see every corner
of our bay, and I shall have the delightful sensation
of doing something for which I cannot be held responsible."
He laughed. "I am quite willing that you should
understand me," he said. "But it is true that I
thought as much of you as of myself."
In a few moments the ship was under way. Santiago
and Sturgis had gone down to the cabin to
reassure Dona Ignacia, who uttered a loud cry as
the Juno gave a preliminary lurch. Gervasio and
Rivera had opened their eyes as Rezanov abruptly
unfolded his plan, but dropped them sleepily before
the delight of the girls. After all, it was none of
their affair, and what was a bay? If they requested
him, as a point of honor, to refrain from examining
the battery of Yerba Buena with his glass, their consciences
would be as light as their hearts.
As Rezanov stood alone with Concha in the prow
of the ship and alternately cast softened eyes on her
intense, rapt face, and shrewd glances on the ramifications
of the bay, he congratulated himself upon
his precipitate action and the collusion of nature.
They were sailing east, and would turn to the north
in a moment. The mountain range bent abruptly
at the entrance to the bay, encircling the immense
sheet of water in a chain of every altitude and form:
a long hard undulating line against the bright blue
sky; smooth and dimpled slopes as round as cones,
bare but for the green of their grasses; lofty ridges
tapering to hills in the curve at the north but with
blue peaks multiplying beyond. There were dense
forests in deep canyons on the mountainside, bare
and jagged heights, the graceful sweep of valleys,
promontories leaping out from the mainland like
mammoth crocodiles guarding the bay. The view
of the main waters was broken by the largest of
the islands, but far away were the hills of the east
and the soft blue peaks behind. And over all, hills
and valley and canyon and mountain, was a bright
opalescent mist. Green, pink, and other pale colors
gleamed as behind a thin layer of crystal.
Where the sun shone through a low white cloud
upon a distant slope there might have been a great
globe of iridescent glass illuminated within. The
water was a light, soft, filmy yet translucent blue.
Concha gazed with parted lips.
"I never knew before how wonderful it was,"
she murmured. "I have been taught to believe that
only the south is beautiful, and when we had to
come here again from Santa Barbara it was exile.
But now I am glad I was born in the north."
"I have watched the light on these hills and
islands, and what I could see of the fine lines of the
mountains ever since I came, and were there but
villas and castles, these waters would be far more
beautiful than the Lake of Como or the Bay of
Naples. But I am glad to see trees again. From
our anchorage I had but a bare glimpse of two or
three. They seem to hide from the western winds.
Are they so strong, then?"
"We have terrible winds, senor. I do not wonder
the trees crouch to the east. But I must tell you
our names." She pointed to the largest of the
islands, a great bare mass that looked as had it been,
when viscid, flung out in long folds from a central
peak, concaving here and there with its own weight.
Its southern point was on a line with a point of
mainland far to the west, and its northern, from
their vantage looking to be but a continuation of
the curve of the mainland, finished an arc of almost
perfect proportions, whose deep curve was a tumbled
mass of hills and one great mountain. "That is
Nuestra Senora de los Angeles, and it opens a triple
jaw, Luis has told me, at Point Tiburon--you will
soon see the straits between. The big rock over
there is Alcatraz, and farther away still is Yerba
Buena--that looks like a camel on its knees."
But Rezanov was examining the scene before
him. The lines of this bay within a bay were
superb, and in its wide embrace, slanting from Point
Tiburon toward an inner point two miles opposite
was another island, as steep as Alcatraz, but long
and waving of outline, with a glimpse of trees on
its crest. Rezanov, while he lost nothing of the picturesque
beauty surrounding him, was more deeply
interested in noting the many foundations, sheltered
and solid, for fortifications that would hold these
rich lands against the fleets of the world. Never
had he seen so many strategic advantages on one
sheet of water. The islands farther south he had
examined through his glass from the deck of the
Juno until he knew every convolution they turned
to the west.
Concha was directing his attention to the tremendous
angular peak rising above the tumbled hills.
"That is Mount Tamalpais--the mountain of peace.
It was named by the Indians, not by us. Sometimes
it is like a great purple shadow, and at others the
clouds fight about it like the ghosts of big sea gulls."
They were sailing past the rounded end of the
western inner point of the little bay. It was almost
detached from the bare ridge behind and half covered
with oaks and willow trees. "That is Point
Sausalito. I have often looked at it through the
glass and longed for a merienda in the deep shade."
She turned to Rezanov with lips apart. "Could we
not--oh, senor!--have our dinner on shore?"
"It is only for you to select the spot. We can
sail many miles before it is time for dinner, and you
may find a place even more to your liking. I fancy
we can not go far here. It looks swampy and shallow.
Nothing could be less romantic than to stick
in the mud."
"May I ask," said Concha demurely, "how you
dare to run the risks of an unknown sheet of water?
I have heard it said that there is more than one rock
and shoal in this bay."
"I am not as rash as I may appear," replied Rezanov
dryly, but smiling. "In 1789 there was a chart
of this bay, taken from a Spanish MSS., published
in London; and I bought it there when I ran up
from the Nadeshda--anchored at Falmouth--three
years ago. Davidov, who, you may observe, is
steering, oblivious to the charms of even Dona Carolina,
knows every sounding by heart."
"Oh!" Concha shrugged her shoulders. "The
Governor, too, is very clever. It will be a drawn
battle. Perhaps I shall remain neutral after all. It
would be more amusing." The ship was turning,
and she waved her hand to the island between the
deep arc of the hilly coast. "I have heard so much
of the beauty of that island," she said, "that I have
called it La Bellissima, but I never hoped to see
anything but the back of its head, from which the
wind has blown all the hair. And now I shall. How
kind of you, senor!"
"How easily you are made happy!" he said, with
a sigh. "You look like a child."
"To-day I shall be one; and you the kind fairy
god-father," she added, with some malice. "How
old are you, senor?"
"That is twenty-six years older than myself. But
your excellency might pass for thirty-five," she
added politely. "We have all said it. And now
that you are not so pale you will soon look younger
--and even more triumphant than when you came."
"I have never felt so triumphant as on this morning,
dear senorita. I had not hoped to give you
so much pleasure."
Her cheeks were as pink as her reboso, her great
black eyes were dancing. Her hands strained at
the railing. "I shall see La Bellissima! La Bellissima!"
she cried.
They rounded the low broken point of the island,
sailed through the racing currents between the lower
end of La Bellissima and "Our Lady of the Angels,"
more slowly past what looked to be a perpendicular
forest. From water to crest the gulches
and converging spurs of this hillside in the sea were
a dense mass of oaks, bays, underbrush; here and
there a tall slender tree with a bark like red kid and
a flirting polished leaf, at which Concha clapped her
hands as at sight of an old friend and called "El
Madrono." It was a primeval bit of nature, but
sweet and silent and peaceful; there was no suggestion
either of gloom or of discourteous beast.
"We shall have our dinner here, Excellency.
There on that little beach; and afterward we shall
climb to the top. See, there are trails! The Indians
have been here."
They stood out through the straits between Point
Tiburon and the Isle of the Angels, where the tide
ran fast. Then, for the first time, was Rezanov able
to form a definite idea of the size and shape of this
great natural harbor. To the south it extended beyond
the peninsula in an unbroken sheet for some
forty English miles. Ten miles to the north there
was a gateway between the lower hills which Luis
had alluded to as leading into the bay of Saint
Pablo, another large body of tidewater, but inferior
in depth and beauty to the Bay of San Francisco.
The mist had dissolved. The greens were vivid
where the sun shone on island and hill. The woods
of Bellissima, the groves of Point Sausalito, the forests
in the northern canyons, deepened to purple like
that of the great bare sweep of Tamalpais. Only
the farther peaks remained a pale misty blue, and
were of an indescribable floating delicacy.
Concha pointed to the eastern double cone. "That
is Monte del Diablo. Once they say it spouted fire,
but that was long ago, and all our volcanoes are
dead. But perhaps not so long ago. The Indians
tell the strange story that their grandfathers remembered
when this bay was a valley covered with oak
trees, and the rivers of the north flowed through
and emptied into Lake Merced and a rift by the
Fort. Then came a tremendous earthquake and
rent the mountains apart where you came through
--we call it the Mouth of the Gulf of the Farallones--
the valley sank, the sea flowed in, only these
hills that are islands now keeping their heads above
the flood. Perhaps it is true, for Drake was close
to this bay for a long while and never saw it, and
it would have given him a better shelter than the
little harbor he found a few miles higher on the
coast. I believe it was not here. Madre de Dios,
I hope California shakes no more. She would--is
it not true, Excellency?--be the most perfect country
in all the world did she not have the devil in
"Are you afraid of earthquakes?" asked Rezanov,
who once more had transferred his comprehensive
gaze from battery sites to her face.
"I cross myself. It is like feeling your grave
turn over. But I fancy the poor old earth is like
the people on her; she gets tired of being good and
is all the naughtier for having been sober too long.
Don Vincente Rivera is an example; he is cold,
haughty, solemn, stern to others and himself, as
you see him; but once in a while--Madre de Dios!
The Presidio does not sleep for three nights!"
Rezanov laughed heartily, then turned abruptly
away. "Come," he said. "I had almost forgotten.
Will you ask the others to go to the cabin, while I
give orders that dinner shall be served on your
In the cabin, Concha forgot him for a few moments.
Her mother, her eyes dwelling fondly upon
several shawls she hoped were intended for herself
alone, was hushing the baby to sleep in the deep
chair of his excellency. Ana Paula was playing
with an Alaskan doll she had appropriated without
ceremony. Rezanov came in when his guests were
assembled, and he had a gift for each; curious objects
of Alaskan workmanship for the men, miniature
totem poles and fur-bordered moccasins; but
silk and cotton, linen, shawls, and find handkerchiefs
for senora and maiden.
"They are trifles," he said, in response to an enthusiastic
chorus. "The cargo I was obliged to
take over was a very large one. You must not
protest. I shall never miss these things." And he
knew that he had sown the seeds of a rapacity similar
to that implanted in the worthy bosoms of the
priests when they had paid him their promised visit.
If the Governor were insensible to diplomacy he
would have pressure brought to bear upon his official
integrity from more quarters than one.
"There are also many of the presents rejected by
the Mikado, somewhere," he added carelessly. "But
I could not find them. They must have found their
way to the bottom of the hold during one of the
storms we encountered on our way from Sitka."
He certainly looked the fairy godfather, and
quite impartial as he distributed his offerings with
a chosen word to each; his memory for little characteristics
was as remarkable as for names and faces.
He had taken off his cap on deck, and the breeze had
ruffled his thick fair hair, brought the blood to his
thin cheeks. The lines of his face, cut by privation
and anxiety and illness, had almost disappeared with
the renewed elasticity of the flesh, and his blue eyes
were wide open, and sparkling in sympathy with
the pleasure of his guests and the success of his own
strategy. These few insignificant Spaniards dislodged,
a half-dozen forts in this harbor, and the
combined navies of the world might be defied; while
a great chain of hungry settlements fattened and
prospered exceedingly on the beneficence of the most
fertile land in all the Americas.
The eastern mountains looked very close from the
crest of La Bellissima and of a singular transparency
and variety of hue. It was as if the white
masses of cloud sailing low overhead flung down
great splashes of color from prismatic stores stolen
from the sun. There was a vivid pale green on the
long sweep of a rounding slope, deep violet and
pale purple in dimple and hollow, red showing
through green on a tongue of land running down
from the north; and on the lower ridges and little
islands, pale and dark blue, and the most exquisite
fields of lavender. This last tint was reflected in
the water immediately below the ridge, and farther
out there were lakelets of pale green, as if the
islands, too, had the power to mirror themselves
when the sea itself was glass.
Santiago, Davidov, Carolina Xime'no, Delfina Rivera,
Concha and Rezanov, had climbed to the ridge.
The other young people had given out halfway up
the steep and tangled ascent and returned to the
beach. Dona Ignacia immediately after dinner had
frankly asked her host for the hospitality of his
stateroom. She and her little ones must have their
siesta, and the good lady was convinced that so
high and mighty a personage as the Russian Chamberlain
was all the chaperon the proprieties demanded.
Four of the party strayed along the crest in search
of the first wild pansies. Rezanov and Concha
looked under the sloping roof of brittle leaves into
dim falling vistas, arches, arbors, caverns, a forest
in miniature with natural terraces breaking the precipitous
wall of the island.
"I should like to live here," said Concha definitely.
"It would make a fine estate for summer life--or
for a honeymoon." He smiled down upon his companion,
who stood very tall and straight and proud
beside him. "If you conclude to marry your little
Bostonian no doubt he will buy it for you," he said.
If he had hoped to see a look of blank dismay
after his hours of devotion he was disappointed.
She made a little face.
"I do not think I could stand a desert island with
the good Weeliam. For that I should prefer one
of my own sort--Ignacio, or Fernando. Better
still, I could come here and be a hermit."
"A hermit?"
"In some ways that would suit me very well. All
human beings become tiresome, I find. I shall have
a little hut just below the crest where I can look
from my window right into the woods that are so
quiet and green and beautiful. That is a thought
that has always fascinated me. And when I walk
on the crest I can see all the beauty of mountain
and bay. What more could I want? What more
have you in your world when you know it too well,
"Nothing; but you might tire, too, of this."
"What of it? It would be the gentle sad ennui
of peace, not of disillusion, senor. How I wish you
would tell me all you know of life!"
"God forbid. And do not remind me of ennui and
disillusions. I have forgotten both in California.
Perhaps, after all, I shall not return to St. Petersburg.
There is a vast empire here--"
"But it is not yours or Russia's to rule, Excellency,"
she interrupted him softly.
He did not color nor start, but met her eyes with
his deep amused glance. "I, too, can dream, senorita.
Of a great and wonderful kingdom--that
never will exist, perhaps. I have always been called
a dreamer, but the habit has grown since I came
to this lovely unreal land of yours."
"Have you the intention to take it from us, Excellency?"
she asked quietly.
"Would you betray me if you thought I had?"
Her eyes responded for a moment to the magnetism
of his, and then she drew herself up.
"No, senor, I could not betray a man who had
been our guest, and Spain needs no assistance from
a weak girl to hold her own against Russia."
"Well said! I kiss your hands, as they say in
Vienna. But we must sail again. I told them to be
ready at three o'clock."
Dalliance with the most alluring girl he had ever
known was all very well, but the day's work was
not yet done. When they returned to the ship he
deliberately engaged all the Spaniards in a game of
cards, ordered cigarettes and a bowl of punch for
their refreshment, and then the Juno steered south.
They sailed swiftly past Nuestra Senorita de los
Angeles and the eastern side of Alcatraz, Rezanov
sweeping every inch with his glass; more slowly
past the peninsula where it came down in a succession
of rough hills almost in a straight line from
the Presidio, ascending to a high outpost of solid
rock, whence it turned abruptly to the south in a
waving line of steep irregular cliffs, harsh, barren,
intersected with gullies. Then the land became suddenly
as flat as the sea, save for the shifting dunes:
the desert porch of the great fertile valley hidden
from the water by the waves of sand, but indicated
by its rampart of mountains. The shallow water
curved abruptly inward between the rocky mass on
the right and a gentler incline and point two miles
below. At its head was the "Battery of Yerba
Buena," facing the island from which it took its
name. Rezanov scrupulously kept his word and did
not raise his glass, but one contemptuous glance
satisfied his curiosity. His eye rolled over the steep
hills that were designed to bristle with forts, and,
as sometimes happened, when he spoke again to
Concha, whom he kept close to his side, for the other
girls bored him, his words did not express the workings
of his mind.
"Athens has no finer site than this," he said. "I
should like to see a white marble city on these hills,
and on that plain, when all the sand dunes are
leveled. Not in our time, perhaps! But, as I told
you, I have surrendered myself to the habit of
Concha shrugged her shoulders and made no reply
at the moment. As they sailed toward the east
before turning south again, she pointed across the
great silvery sheet of water melting into the misty
southern horizon, to a high ridge of mountains that
looked to be a continuation of the San Bruno range
behind the Mission, but slanting farther west with
the coast line.
"Those are behind our rancho, senor--Rancho El
Pilar, or Las Pulgas, as some prefer. Perhaps my
father will take you there. I hope so, for we love to
go, and may not too often; my father is very busy
here. He is one of the few that has received a large
grant of land, and it is because the clergy love him
so much they oppose his wish in nothing. Do you
see those sharp points against the sky? They are
the tops of lofty trees, like the masts of giant ships,
and with many rigid arms spiked like the pines.
You saw a few of them in the hollow below Tamalpais,
but up on those mountains there are miles and
miles of mighty forests. No white man has ever
penetrated them, nor ever will, perhaps. We have
no use for them, and even if you made this your
kingdom, senor, I suppose not many would come
with you. Far, far down where the water stops
are the Mission of Santa Clara and the pueblo of
San Jose; but I have heard you cannot approach
within many miles of the land in a boat."
When they had sailed south for a few moments
the boat came about sharply. Concha laughed. "I
had forgotten the chart. I rather hoped you would
run on a shoal."
But as they approached the cove of Yerba Buena
again she caught his arm suddenly, unconscious of
the act, and the little dancing lights of humor in
her eyes went out. "Your white city, senor! Ay,
Dios! what a city of dreams that can never come
The soft white fog that sometimes, even at this
season, came in from the sea, was rolling over the
hills between the Battery and the Presidio, wreathing
about the rocky heights and slopes. It broke
into domes and cupolas, spires and minarets. Great
waves rolled over the sand dunes and beat upon
the cliffs with the phantoms clinging to its sides.
Then the sun struggled with a thousand colors.
The sun conquered, the mist shimmered into sunlight,
and once more the hills were gray and bare.
Rezanov laughed, but his eyes glowed down upon
her. "I am not sure it was there," he said. "I
have an idea your imagination and touch acted as
a sort of enchanter's wand. The others evidently
saw nothing."
"The others saw only fog and shivered. But it
was there, senor! We have had a vision. A Russian
city! Ay, yi!"
But Rezanov had forgotten the city. Her reboso
had fallen and a strand of her hair blew across his
face. His lips caught it and his eyes burned. They
rounded a headland and the world looked green
and young.
"Concha!" he whispered.
Her eyes flashed and melted, she lifted her chin;
then burst into a merry ripple of laughter.
"Senor!" she said, "if you make love to me, I
shall have to compare you with many others, and I
might not like the Russian fashion. You are much
better as you are--very grand seigneur, ironhanded
and absolute, haughty and arrogant, but the
most charming person in the world, with ends to
gain, even from such humble folk as a handful of
stranded Californians. But to sigh! to languish
with the eye! to sing at the grating! I fear that
the lightest headed of the caballeros you despise
could transcend you in all."
"Very likely! I have not the least intention of
sighing or languishing or singing at gratings. But
if we were alone I certainly should kiss you."
But her eyes did not melt again at the vision.
She flushed hotly with annoyance. "I am a child
to you! Were it not that I have read a few books,
you would find me but a year older than Ana
Paula. Well! Regard me as a child and do not
attempt to flirt with me again. Shall it be so?"
"As you wish!" Rezanov looked at her half in
resentment, half wistfully, then shrugged his
shoulders, and called to Davidov to steer for the
anchorage. She was quite right; and on the whole
he was grateful to her.
"Concha," said Sturgis abruptly, "will you marry me?"
Concha, who was sitting in the shade of the rose
vines on the corridor making a dress for Gertrudis
Rudisinda, ran the needle into her finger.
"Madre de Dios!" she cried angrily. "Who
would have expected such foolish words from you?
and now I have pricked my finger and stained my
little frock. It will have to be washed before worn,
and is never so pretty after."
"I am sorry," said Sturgis humbly. "But it seems
to me that if a man wishes to marry a maid he
should ask her in a straightforward manner, with
no preliminary sighs and hints and serenades--and
all sorts of insincere stage play.
"He should at least address her parents first."
"True. I was wholly the American for the moment.
May I speak to Don Jose and Dona Ignacia,
"How can I prevent? No, I will not coquet with
you, Weeliam. But I am angry that you have
thought of such nonsense. Such friends as we
were! We have talked and read together by the
hour, and my parents have thought no more of it
than if it had been Santiago. There! You have a
new book in your pocket. Why did you not read it
to me instead of making love? Let me see it."
"I brought it to read later if you wished, but I
came to ask you to marry me and to receive your
answer. I never expected to ask you--but--lately
--things have changed--life seems, somehow, more
real. The thought of losing you has suddenly become
"You have been drinking Russian tea," said Concha,
stitching quietly but flashing him a glance of
amusement, not wholly without malice.
"It is true," he replied. "I suppose I never really
believed you would marry Raimundo or Ignacio or
any of the caballeros. They think and talk of nothing
but horse-racing, gambling, cock-fighting, love
and cigaritos. I thought of you always here, where
at least I could look at you or read with you. But
one must admit that this Russian is no ordinary
man. I hate him, yet like him more than any I have
ever met. Last night I stayed to punch with him,
and we talked English for an hour. That is to say,
he did; I could have listened to him till morning.
Langsdorff says that he has the greatest possible
command of his native tongue, but he speaks English
well enough. I wish I could despise him, but
I do not believe I even hate him."
"Well?" demanded Concha. She kept her eyes on
her work (and the delight that rose in her breast
from her voice).
"Why should you hate him?"
"Do you ask me that, Concha, when he makes a
fence of himself about you, and his fine eyes--practised
is nearer the mark--look at no one else?"
"But why should that cause you jealousy? He
is a man of the world, accustomed to make himself
agreeable, and I am the daughter of the Commandante."
"He is more in love with you than he knows."
"Do you think so, Weeliam?" Still her voice was
innocent and even, although the color rose above
the inner commotion. "But even so, what of it?
Have not many loved me? Am I to be won by the
first stranger?"
"I do not know."
The tumult in Concha turned to wrath, and she
lifted flashing eyes to his moody face. "Do you
presume to say you are jealous because you think
I love him--a stranger I have known but a week--
who looks upon me as a child--who has never--
never thought--" But her dignity, flying to the
rescue, assumed control. Her upper lip curled, her
body stiffened for a moment, and she went on with
her stitching. "You deserve I should rap your silly
little skull with my thimble. You are no better
than Ignacio and Fernando. Such scenes as I have
had with them! They wanted to fight the Russian!
How he would laugh at them! I have threatened
they shall both be sent to San Diego if there is any
more nonsense." Then curiosity overcame her.
"You never had the least, least reason to think I
would marry you, and now, according to your own
words, you think you have less. Then why, pray,
did you address me?"
"Because I am a man, I suppose. I could not
sit tamely down and see you go."
She looked at him with a slight access of interest.
A man? Perhaps he was, after all. And his wellbred,
bony face looked very determined, albeit the
eyes were wistful. Suddenly she felt sorry for
him; and she had never experienced a pang of sympathy
for a suitor before. She leaned forward and
patted his hand.
"I cannot marry you, dear Weeliam," she said,
and never had he seen her so sweet and adorable,
although he noted with a pang that her mouth was
already drawn with a firmer line. "But what matter?
I shall never marry at all. For many years--
forty, fifty perhaps--I shall sit here on the veranda,
and you shall read to me."
And then she shivered violently. But she set her
mouth until it was almost straight, and picked up
the little dress. "Not that, perhaps," she said
quietly in a moment. "I sometimes think I should
like to be a nun, that, after all, it is my vocation.
Not a cloistered one, for that is but a selfish life.
But to teach, to do good, to forget myself. There
are no convents in California, but I could join the
Third Order of the Franciscans, and wear the gray
habit, and be set aside by the world as one that only
lived to make it a little better. To forget oneself!
That, after all, may be the secret of happiness. I
envy none of my friends that are married. They
have the dear children, it is true. But the children
grow up and go away, and then one is fat and eats
many dulces and the siesta grows longer and longer
and the face very brown. That is life in California.
I should prefer to work and pray, and"--with a
flash of insight that made her drop her work again
and stare through the rose-vines--"to dream always
of some beautiful thing that youth promised but
never gave, and that given might have ended in dull
routine and a brain so choked with little things that
memory too held nothing else."
"But Concha," cried Sturgis eagerly, "I could
give you far better than that. I could take you
away from here--to Boston, to Europe. You
should see--live your life--in the great cities you
have dreamed of--that you hardly believe in--that
were made to enjoy. I have told you of the theater,
the opera--you should go to the finest in the world.
You should wear the most beautiful gowns and
jewels, go to courts, see the great works of art--I
am not trying to bribe you," he stammered, flushing
miserably. "God forbid that I should stoop to anything
as mean as that. But it all rushed upon me
suddenly that I could give you so much that you
were made for, with this worthless money of mine.
And what happiness to be in Europe with you--
His voice trembled and broke, and he dared not
look at her. Again she stared through the vines.
A splendid and thrilling panorama rose beyond
them, her bosom heaved, her lips parted. She saw
herself in it, and not alone. And not, alas, with
the honest youth whose words had inspired it. In
a moment she shook her head and turned her eyes
on the flushed, averted face of her suitor.
"I shall never see Europe," she said gently, "and
I shall never marry."
"Not if this Russian asks you?" cried Sturgis, in
his jealous misery.
But Concha's anger did not rise again. "He has
no intention of asking a little California girl to
share the honors of one of the most brilliant careers
in Europe," she said calmly. "Set your mind at
rest. He has paid me no more attention than is due
my position as the daughter of the Commandante,
and perhaps of La Favorita. If I flirt a little and
he flirts in response, that is nothing. Is he not then
a man? But he will forget me in a month. The
world, his world, is full of pretty girls."
"A week ago you would not have said that," said
Sturgis shrewdly. "There has been nothing in your
life to make you so humble."
"I cannot explain, but he seems to have brought
the great world with him. I know, I understand
so many things that I had not dreamed of a week
ago. A week! Madre de Dios!"
And Sturgis, who after all was a gallant gentleman,
made no comment.
Governor Arrillaga, Commandante Arguello,
and Chamberlain Rezanov sat in the familiar sala
at the Presidio content in body after a culinary
achievement worthy of Padre Landaeta, but perturbed
and alert of mind. Upon the arrival of the
two California dignitaries in the morning, Rezanov
had sent Davidov and Langsdorff on shore to assure
them of his gratitude and deep appreciation of the
hospitality shown himself, his officers and men. The
Governor had replied with a fulsome apology for
not repairing at once to the Juno to welcome his distinguished
guest in person, and, pleading his age
and the one hundred and seventy-five English miles
he had ridden from Monterey, begged him as a
younger man to waive informality, and dine at the
house of the Commandante that very day. Rezanov
had complied as a matter of course, and now he was
alone with the men who held his fate in their hands.
The dark worn rugged face of Don Jose, who had
been skilfully prepared by his oldest daughter to
think well of the Russian, beamed with good-will
and interest, in spite of lingering doubts; but the
lank, wiry figure of the Governor, who was as dignified
as only a blond Spaniard can be, was fairly
rigid with the severe formality he reserved for occasions
of ceremony--being a gentleman who loved
good company and cheer--and his sharp gray eyes
were almost shut in the effort to penetrate the designs
of this deputy, this symbol, this index in cipher,
of a dreaded race. Rezanov smoked calmly, made
himself comfortable on the slippery horse-hair chair,
though with no loss of dignity, and beat about the
bush with the others until the Governor betrayed
himself at last by a chance remark:
"What you say of the neighborly instincts of the
Russian colonists for the Spanish on this coast interests
me deeply, Excellency, but if Russia is at
war with Spain--"
"Russia is not at war with Spain," said Rezanov,
with a flash of amusement in his half-closed eyes.
"Napoleon Bonaparte is encamped about half way
between the two countries. They could not get at
each other if they wished. While that man is at
large, Europe will be at war with him, no two nations
with each other."
"Ah!" exclaimed Arrillaga. "That is a manner
of reasoning that had not occurred to me."
The Commandante had spat at the mention of the
usurper's name and muttered "Chinchosa!" and
Rezanov, recalling his first conversation with Concha,
looked into the honest eyes of the monarchist
with a direct and hearty sympathy.
"No better epithet for him," he said. "And the
sooner Europe combines to get rid of him the better.
But until it does, count upon a common grievance
to unite your country and mine."
"Good!" muttered the Governor. "Good! I am
glad that nightmare has lifted its bat's wings from
our poor California. Captain O'Cain's raid two
years ago made me apprehensive, for he took away
some eleven hundred of our otter skins and his
hunters were Aleutians--subjects of the Tsar. A
negro that deserted gave the information that they
were furnished the Bostonian by the chief manager
of your Company--Baranhov--whose reputation we
know well enough!--for the deliberate purpose of
raiding our coast."
Rezanov shrugged his shoulders and replied indifferently:
"I will ask Baranhov when I return to
Sitka, and write you the particulars. It is more
likely that the Aleutians were deserters. This
O'Cain would not be the first shrewd Bostonian to
tempt them, for they are admirable hunters and
ready for any change. They make a greater demand
upon the Company for variety of diet than
we are always prepared to meet, so many are the
difficulties of transportation across Siberia. When,
therefore, the time arrived that I could continue my
voyage, I determined to come here and see if some
arrangement could not be made for a bi-yearly
exchange of commodities. We need farinaceous
stuffs of every sort. I will not pay so poor a compliment
to your knowledge of the northern settlements
as to enlarge upon the advantages California
would reap from such a treaty."
The Governor, who had permitted himself to
touch the back of his chair after the dispersal of
the war cloud, stiffened again. "Ah!" he said.
"Ah!" He looked significantly at the Commandante,
who nodded. "You come on a semiofficial
mission, after all, then?"
"It is entirely my own idea," said Rezanov carelessly.
"The young Tsar is too much occupied with
Bonaparte to give more than a passing thought to
his colonies. But I have a free hand. Can I arrange
the preliminaries of a treaty, I have only to return
to St. Petersburg to receive his signature and highest
approval. It would be a great feather in my cap I
can assure your excellencies," he added, with a quick
human glance and a sudden curve of his somewhat
cynical mouth.
"Um!" said the Governor. "Um!"
But Arguello's stern face had further relaxed.
After all, he was but eleven years older than the
Russian, and, although early struggles and heavy
responsibilities and many disappointments had deprived
life of much of its early savor, what was left
of youth in him responded to the ambition he divined
in this interesting stranger. Moreover, the idea of
a friendly bond with another race on the lonely
coast of the Pacific appealed to him irresistibly. He
turned eagerly to the Governor.
"It is a fine idea, Excellency. We need much
that they have, and it pleases me to think we should
be able to supply the wants of others. Fancy any
one wanting aught of California, except hides, to
be sure. I did not think our existence was known
save to an occasional British or Boston skipper. It
is true we are here only to Christianize savages, but
even they have need of much that cannot be manufactured
in this God-forsaken land. And we ourselves
could be more comfortable--God in heaven,
yes! It is well to think it over, Excellency. Who
knows?--we might have a trip to the north once
in a while. Life is more excellent with something
to look forward to."
"You should have a royal welcome. Baranhov is
the most hospitable man in Russia, and I might have
the happiness to be there myself. I see, by the way,
that you have not engaged in shipbuilding. I need
not say that we should supply the ships of commerce,
with no diminution of your profits. We build
at Okhotsk, Petropaulovski, Kadiak, and Sitka.
Moreover, as the Bostonians visit us frequently, and
as your laws prohibit you from trading with them,
we would see that you always got such of their commodities
as you needed. They come to us for furs,
and generally bring much for which we have no
use. Captain D'Wolf, from whom I bought the
Juno, had a cargo I was forced to take over. I
unloaded what was needed at Sitka, but as there
was no boat going for some months to the other
islands, I brought the rest with me, and you are welcome
to it, if in exchange you will ballast the Juno
with samples of your agricultural products; while
the treaty is pending, I can experiment in our colonies
and make sure which are the most adaptable
to the market.
"Um!" said the Governor. "Um!"
Rezanov did not remove his cool direct gaze from
the snapping eyes opposite.
"I have not the least objection to making a trade
that would fill my promuschleniki with joy; but that
was by no means the first object of my voyage;
which was partly inspired by a desire to see as much
of this globe as a man may in one short life, partly
to arrange a treaty that would be of incalculable
benefit to both colonies and greatly redound to my
own glory. I make no pretence of being disinterested.
I look forward to a career of ever increasing
influence and power in St. Petersburg, and I wish
to take back as many credits as possible."
"I understand, I understand!" The Governor
rested his lame back once more. "Your ambition is
the more laudable, Excellency, since you have
achieved so much already. I am not one to balk the
honest ambition of any man, particularly when he
does me the honor to take me into his confidence. I
like this suggested measure. I like it much. I believe
it would redound to our mutual benefit and
reputation. Is it not so, Jose?"
The Commandante nodded vigorously. "I am
sure of it! I am sure of it! I like it--much,
"I will write at once to the Viceroy of Mexico
and ask that he lay the matter before the Cabinet
and King. Without that high authority we can do
nothing. But I see no reason to doubt the issue when
we, who know the wants and needs of California,
approve and desire. We are doomed to failure in
this unwieldy land of worthless savages, but it is the
business of the wretched servants of a glorious monarch
to do the best they can."
Rezanov had an inspiration. "You might remind
the viceroy that Spain and the United States of
America have been on the verge of war for years,
and suggest the benefit of an alliance with Russia
in the case of the new country taking advantage of
the situation in Europe to extend its western
Arrillaga had bounced to his feet, his small eyes
injected and blazing. "Those damned Bostonians!"
he shouted. "I distrusted them years ago. They
have too much calculation in their bluntness. They
cheated us, sold us short, traded under my very
nose, stole our otters, until I ordered them never to
drop an anchor in California waters again. If
their ridiculous upstart government dares to cast its
eyes on California we shall know how to meet them
--the sooner they march on Mexico and lose their
conceit the better. How they do brag! Faugh! It
is sickening. I shall remember all you say, Excellency;
and thank you for the hint."
Rezanov rose, and the Commandante solemnly
kissed him on either cheek. "Governor Arrillaga is
my guest, Excellency," he said. "I beg that you will
dine with us daily--unofficially--that you will regard
California as your own kingdom, and come
and go at your pleasure. And my daughter begs
me to remind you and your young officers that there
will be informal dancing every night."
"So far so good," thought Rezanov, as he
mounted his horse to return to the Juno. "But
what of my cargo? I fancy there will be more difficulty
in that quarter."
The Chamberlain was in a towering bad humor.
As he made his appearance at least two hours earlier
than he was expected, he found the decks of the
Juno covered with the skins of sea-dogs, foxes, and
birds. He had heard Langsdorff go to his cabin
later than usual the night before, and that his pet
aversion was the cause of a fresh grievance, but
hastened the eruption of his smouldering resentment
toward life in general.
"What does this mean?" he roared to the sailor
on watch. "Clear them off--overboard, every one
of them. What are you staring at?"
The sailor, who was a "Bostonian," an inheritance
with the ship, opened his mouth in favor of
the unfortunate professor, but like his mates, he
stood in much awe of a master whose indulgence
demanded implicit obedience in return. Without
further ado, he flung the skins into the sea.
Rezanov, to do him justice, would not have acted
otherwise had he risen in the best of tempers. He
had inflicted himself with the society of the learned
doctor that he might always have a physician and
surgeon at hand, as well as an interpreter where
Latin was the one door of communication. He
should pay him handsomely, make him a present in
addition to the sum agreed upon, but he had not the
least intention of giving up any of the Juno's
precious space to the vagaries of a scientist, nor to
submit to the pollution of her atmosphere. Langsdorff
was his creature, and the sooner he realized
the fact the better.
"Remember," he said to the sailor, "no more of
this, or it will be the worse for you-- What is
this?" He had come upon a pile of ducks, gulls,
pelicans, and other aquatic birds. "Are these the
cook's or the professor's?"
"The professor's, Excellency."
"Overboard." And the birds followed the skins.
Rezanov turned to confront the white and
trembling Langsdorff. The naturalist was enfolded
in a gorgeous Japanese dressing-gown, purple brocade
embroidered with gold, that he had surreptitiously
bought in the harbor of Nagasaki. To
Rezanov it was like a red rag to a bull; but the professor
was oblivious at the moment of the tactless
garment. His eyes were glaring and the extended
tip of his nose worked like a knife trying to leap
from its sheath. But although he occasionally ventured
upon a retort when goaded too far in conversation,
he was able to curb his just indignation when
the Chamberlain was in a bad temper. In that vague
gray under winking stars in their last watch, Rezanov
seemed to tower six feet above him.
"Excellency," he murmured.
"My--my specimens."
"Your what?"
"The cause of science is very dear to me, Excellency."
"So it is to me--in its proper place. Were those
skins yours?" His voice became very suave. "I am
sorry you should have fatigued yourself for nothing,
but I am forced to remind you that this is not
an expedition undertaken for the promotion of natural
history. I am not violating my part in the contract,
I believe. Upon our arrival at Sitka you are
at liberty to remain as my guest and make use of
the first boat that sails for this colony; but for the
present I beg that you will limit yourself to the requirements
of your position on my staff."
He turned his back and ordered a canoe to be
lowered. Since the arrival of the Governor and
Commandante, now three days ago, all restrictions
on his liberty had been removed, and the phrases
of hospitality were a trifle less meaningless. He
had been asked to give his word to keep away from
the fortifications, and as he knew quite as much of
the military resources of the country as he desired,
he had merely suppressed a smile and given his
This morning he wanted nothing but a walk. He
had slept badly, the blood was in his head, his
nerves were on edge. He went rapidly along the
beach and over the steep hills that led to the northeastern
point of the peninsula. But he had taken
the walk before and did not turn his head to look
at the great natural amphitheater formed by the
inner slopes of those barren heights, so uninteresting
of outline from the water. Once when Luis
had left him to go down with an order to the Battery
of Yerba Buena, he had examined it critically
and concluded that never had there been so fine a
site for a great city. Nor a more beautiful, with
the broken line of the San Bruno mountains in the
distance and a glimpse of the Mission valley just
beyond this vast colosseum, whose steep imposing
lines were destined by nature to be set with palaces
and bazaars, minarets and towers and churches,
with a thousand gilded domes and slender crosses
glittering in the crystal air and sunlight. If not
another Moscow, then an Irkutsk in his day, at
But he did not give the chosen site of his city a
glance to-day, although in this gray air before
dawn when mystery and imagination most closely
embrace, he might at another time have forgotten
himself in one of those fits of dreaming that slipped
him out of touch with realities, and sometimes precipitated
action in a manner highly gratifying to
his enemies.
But much as he loved Russia, there were times
when he loved his own way more, and since the
arrival of Governor Arrillaga he was beginning to
feel as he had felt in the harbor of Nagasaki. Not
a word since that first interview had been said of
his cargo; nor even of the treaty, although nothing
could have been more natural than the discussion
of details. Whenever he had delicately broached
either subject, he had been met with a polite indifference,
that had little in common with the cordiality
otherwise shown him. He foresaw that he
might be obliged to reveal the more pressing object
of his visit without further diplomacy, and the
thought irritated him beyond endurance.
Whether Concha were giving him her promised
aid he had no means of discovering, and herein lay
another cause of his general vexation. He had
dined every day at the Commandante's, danced
there every night. Concha had been vivacious,
friendly--impersonal. Not so much as a coquettish
lift of the brow betrayed that the distinguished
stranger eclipsed the caballeros for the moment; nor
a whispered word that he retained the friendship
she had offered him on the day of their meeting.
He had not, indeed, had a word with her alone.
But his interest and admiration had deepened. It
was evident that her father and the Governor adored
her, would deny her little. Her attitude to them
was alternately that of the petted child and the
chosen companion. As her mother was indisposed,
she occupied her place at the table, presiding with
dignity, guiding the conversation, revealing the rare
gift of making everyone appear at his best. In the
evening she had sometimes danced alone for a few
moments, but more often with her Russian guests,
and readily learning the English country dances
they were anxious to teach. Rezanov would have
found the gay informality of these evenings delightful
had his mind been at ease about his Sitkans, and
Concha a trifle more personal. He had begun by
suspecting that she was maneuvering for his scalp,
but he was forced to acquit her; for not only did
she show no provocative favor to another, but she
seemed to have gained in dignity and pride since his
arrival, actually to have kissed her hand in farewell
to the childhood he had been so slow in divining;
grown--he felt rather than analyzed--above the
pettiness of coquetry. Once more she had stirred
the dormant ideals of his early manhood; there
were moments when she floated before his inner
vision as the embodiment of the world's beauty.
Nor ever had there been a woman born more elaborately
equipped for the position of a public man's
mate; nor more ingenerate, perhaps, with the power
to turn earth into heaven.
He had wondered humorously if he were fallen
in love, but, although he retained little faith in the
activities of the heart after youth, he was beginning
seriously to consider the expedience of marrying
Concha Arguello. He had not intended to
marry again, and it was this old and passionate
love of personal freedom that alone held him back,
for nothing would be so advantageous to the Russian
colonies in their present crisis as a strong individual
alliance with California. Concha Arguello was the
famous daughter of its first subject, and with the
powerful friends she would bring to her husband,
the consummation of ends dearer to his heart than
aught on earth would be a matter of months instead
of years. And he thrilled with pride as he thought
of Concha in St. Petersburg. Two years of court
life and she would be one of the greatest ladies in
Europe. That he could win her he believed, and
without undue vanity. He had much to offer an
ambitious girl conscious of her superiority to the
men of this province of Spain, and chafing at the
prospect of a lifetime in a bountiful desert. His
only hesitation lay in his own doubt if she were
worth the loss of his freedom, and all that word
involved to a man of his position and adventurous
He shrugged his shoulders at this argument; he
had walked off some of his ill-humor, and reverted
willingly to a theme that alone had given him satisfaction
during the past few days. At the same time
he made a motion as if flinging aside an old burden.
"It is time for such nonsense to end," he thought
contemptuously. "And in truth these three years
should have wrought such changes in me I doubt I
should have patience for an hour of the old trifling.
My greatest need from this time on, I fancy, is
work. I could never be idle a month again. And
when a man is in love with work--and power--
and has passed forty--does he want a constant companion?
That is the point. At my time of life
power exercises the most irresistible and lasting of
all fascinations. A man that wins it has little left
for a woman."
He had reached the summit of the rocky outpost;
the highest of the hills where the peninsula turned
abruptly to the south, and, scrupulously refraining
from a downward glance at the Battery of Yerba
Buena, stood looking out over the bay to the eastern
mountains: dark, almost formless, wrapped in the
intense and menacing mystery of that last hour before
"Senor!" called a low cautious voice.
Rezanov stepped hastily back from the point of
the bluff and glanced about in wonder, his pulses
suddenly astir. But he could see no one.
This time the direction was unmistakable, and
he went to the edge of the plateau facing the south
and looked over. Halfway down a shallow and
almost perpendicular gully, he saw a girl forcing a
mustang up the harsh, loose path. The girl's white
and oval face looked from the folds of a black reboso
like the moon emerging from clouds, and its
young beauty was out of place in that wild and forbidding
setting. She reined in her horse as she
caught his eye and beckoned superfluously; then
guided her mustang to a little ledge where he could
plant his feet firmly, permitting her to reassume her
usual pride of carriage and averting the danger of
a sudden scramble or need of assistance.
As Rezanov reached her side, she gave him a
grave and friendly smile, but no opportunity to kiss
her hand.
"I have followed your excellency," she said. "I
saw you leave the Juno, and as I am often up at
this hour, and as no one else ever is, my father
ignores the fact that I sometimes ride alone. I have
never come as far as this before, but there is something
I wish to say to you, and there is no opportunity
at home. I asked Santiago to find me one
last night, but he was in a bad temper and would
not. Men! However--I suppose you have heard
nothing of the cargo?"
"I have not," said Rezanov grimly, although
acutely sensible that the subject suited neither his
mood nor the hour.
"But the Governor has! Madre de Dios! all the
women of the Presidio and the Mission have pestered
him. They are sick with jealousy at the
shawls you gave us that day--those that did not go
to the ship. How clever of your excellency to give
us just enough for ourselves and nothing for our
friends! And those that went want more and more.
They have called upon him--one, two, four, and
alone. They have wept and scolded and pleaded. I
did not know until yesterday that your commissary
had also shown the things to the priests from San
Jose--Father Jose Uria and Father Pedro de la
Cueva. They and the priests of San Francisco have
argued with the Governor not once but three times.
Dios! how his poor excellency swore yesterday. He
threatened to return at once to Monterey. I flew
into a great rage and threatened in turn to follow
with all the other girls and all the priests--vowed he
should not have one moment of peace until that
cargo was ours."
"Well?" asked Rezanov sharply, in spite of his
Concha shook her head. "When he does not
swear, he answers only: 'Buy if you have the
money. I have never broken a law of Spain, and
I shall not begin in my old age.' He knows well
that we have no money to send out of New Spain;
but I have conceived a plan, senor. It is for you,
not for me, to suggest it. You will never betray
that I have been your friend, Excellency?"
"I will swear it if you wish," said Rezanov
"Pardon, senor. If I thought you could I should
not be here. One often says such things. This is
the plan: You shall suggest that we buy your wares,
and that you buy again with our money. The dear
Governor only wants to save his conscience an ache,
for we have driven him nearly distracted. I am
sure he will consent, for you will know how to put
it to him very diplomatically."
"But if he refused to understand, or his conscience
remained obdurate? I should then have
neither cargo nor ballast."
"He would never trick a guest, nor would he let
the money go out of the country. And he knows
well how much we need your cargo and longs to be
able to state in his reports that he sold you a hold
full of breadstuffs. Moreover, I think the time has
come to tell him of the distress at Sitka. He is very
soft-hearted and is now in that distracted state of
mind when only one more argument is required. I
hope I have given you good advice, Excellency. It
is the best I can think of. I have given it much
thought, and the terrible state of those miserable
creatures has kept me awake many nights. I must
return now. Will your excellency kindly remain
here until I am well on my way?--and then return
by the beach? I shall go as I came, through the
valley. Neither of us can be seen from the Battery."
"I will obey all your instructions," said Rezanov.
But he did not move, nor could the mustang. Concha
smiled and pointed to the other side of the
cleft, which was about as wide as a narrow street.
"Pardon, senor, I cannot turn."
For a moment Rezanov stared at her, through
her. Then his heavy eyes opened and flashed. It
seemed to him that for the first time he saw how
beautiful, how desirable she was, set in that gray
volcanic rock with the heavens gray above her, and
the stars fading out. It was not the bower he would
have imagined for the wooing of a mate, but neither
moonlight nor the romantic glades of La Bellissima
could have awakened in him a passion so sudden
and final. Her face between the black folds turned
whiter and she shrank back against the jagged wall:
and when his eyes flashed again with a wild eager
hope she involuntarily crossed herself. He threw
himself against the horse and snatched her down
and kissed her as he had kissed no woman yet,
recognizing her once for all.
When he finally held her at arm's length for a
moment he laughed confusedly.
"The Russian bear is no longer a figure of
speech," he said. "Forgive me. I forgot that you
are as tender as you are strong."
Her hands were tightly clasped against her
breast and the breath was short in her throat, but
she made no protest. Her eyes were radiant, her
mouth was the only color in that gray dawn. In a
moment she too laughed.
"Dios de mi alma! What will they say? A
heretic! If Tamalpais fell into the sea it would not
make so great a sensation in this California of ours
where civilized man exists but to drive heathen souls
into the one true church."
"Will it matter to you? Are you strong enough?
It will be only a question of time to win them over,
if you are."
She nodded emphatically. "I was born with
strength. Now--Dios!--now I can be stronger than
the King of Spain himself, than the Governor, my
parents and all the priests-- You would not become
a Catholic?" she asked abruptly.
He shook his head, although he still smiled at her.
"Not even for you."
"No," she said thoughtfully. "I will confess--
what matters it?--I often dreamed that this would
come just because I believed it would not. But why
should one control the imagination when it alone
can give us happiness for a little while? I gave it
rein, for I thought that one-half of my life was to
be passed in that unreal but by no means niggardly
world. And I thought of everything. To change
your religion would mean the ruin of your career;
moreover, it is not a possibility of your character.
Were it I think I should not love you so much. Nor
could I bear to think of any change in you. Only
it will be harder--longer." Then she stretched out
her hand, and closed and opened it slowly. The
most obtuse could not have failed to read the old
simile of the steel in the velvet. "I shall win because
it is my nature--and my power--to hold what
I grasp."
"But if they persistently refuse--"
"Dios!" she interrupted him. "Do you think that
your love is greater than mine? I was born with a
thousand years of love in me and had you not come
I should have gone alone with my dreams to the
grave. I am all women in one, not merely Concha
Arguello, a girl of sixteen." She clasped her hands
high above her head, lifting her eyes to the ashen
vault so soon to yield to the gay brush of dawn.
"Before all that great mystery," she said solemnly,
"I give myself to you forever, how much or how
little that may mean here on earth. Forever."
The Commandante of the San Francisco Company
sat opposite Rezanov with his mouth open, the lines
of his strong face elongated and relaxed. It was
the hour of siesta, and they were alone in the sala.
"Mother of God!" he exclaimed. "Mother of
God! Are you mad, Excellency?"
"No man was ever saner," said Rezanov cheerfully.
"What better proof would you have than
this final testimony to Dona Concha's perfections?"
"But it cannot be! Surely, Excellency, you
realize that? The priests! Ay yi! Ay yi!"
"I think I understand the priests. Persuade the
Governor to buy my cargo and they will look upon
me as an amicus humani generis to whom common
rules do not apply. And I have won their sincere
"You have won mine, senor. But, though I say
it, there is no more devout Catholic in the Californias
than Jose Arguello. Do you know what
they call me? El santo. God knows I am not, but
it is not for want of the wish. Did I give my daughter
to a heretic, not only should I become an outcast,
a pariah, but I should imperil my everlasting soul
and that of my best beloved child. It is impossible,
Excellency--unless, indeed, you embrace our faith."
"That is so impossible that the subject is not
worth the waste of a moment. But surely, Commandante,
in your excitement at this perfectly natural
issue you are misrepresenting yourself. I do
not believe, devout Catholic as you are, that your
soul is steeped in fanaticism. You are known far
and wide as the first and most intelligent of His
Catholic Majesty's subjects in New Spain. When
you have my word of honor that your daughter's
faith shall never be disturbed, it is impossible you
should believe that marriage with me would ruin
her chances of happiness in the next world. But I
doubt if your soul and conscience will have the peace
you desire if you ruin her happiness in this. What
pleasure do you find in the thought of an old age
companioned by a heart-broken daughter?"
Don Jose turned pale and hitched his chair.
"Other maids have been balked when young, and
have forgotten. Concha is but sixteen--"
"She is also unique. She will marry me or no
one. Of that I am as certain as that she is the
woman of women for me."
"How can you be so certain?" asked the Commandante
sharply. "Surely you have had little talk
alone with her?"
"The heart has a language of its own. Recall
your own youth, senor."
"It is true," said Don Jose, with a heavy sigh, as
he had a fleeting vision of Dona Ignacia, slim and
lovely, at the grating, with a rose in her hair. "But
this tremendous passion of the heart--it passes,
senor, it passes. We love the good wife, but we
sometimes realize that we could have loved another
good wife as well."
"That is a bit of philosophy I should have uttered
myself, Commandante--yesterday. But there are
women and women, and your daughter is one of the
chosen few who take from the years what the years
take from others. I am not rushing into matrimony
for the sake of a pair of black eyes and a fine
figure. I have outlived the possibility of making a
fool of myself if I would. Before I realized how
deeply I loved your daughter I had deliberately
chosen her out of all the women I have known, as
my friend and companion for the various and difficult
ways of life which I shall be called upon to
follow. Your daughter will have a high place at
the Russian Court, and she will occupy it as naturally
as if I had found her in Madrid and you in
the great position to which your attainments and
services entitle you."
Don Jose, despite his consternation, titillated
agreeably. He privately thought no one in New
Spain good enough for his daughter, and his
weather-beaten self was not yet insensible to the
rare visitation of winged darts tipped with honey.
But the situation was one of the most embarrassing
he had ever been called upon to face, and perhaps
for the first time in his direct and honest life his
resolution was shaken in a crisis.
"Believe me, your excellency, I appreciate the
honor you have done my house, and I will add with
all my heart that never have I liked a man more.
But--Mother of God! Mother of God!"
Rezanov took out his cigarette case, a superb bit
of Russian enamel, graven with the Imperial arms,
and a parting gift from his Tsar. He passed it to
his host, who had developed a preference for Russian
"There are other things to consider besides the
happiness of your daughter and myself," he remarked.
"This alliance would mean the consolidation
of Spanish and Russian interests on the Pacific
coast. It would mean the protection of California
in the almost certain event of 'American' aggression.
And I hear that a courier brought word again
yesterday that the Russian and the Spanish fleets
had sailed for these waters. I do not believe a word
of it; but should it be true, I would remind you of
two things: that I have the powers of the Tsar himself
in this part of the world, and that the Russian
fleet is likely to arrive first."
Again the Commandante moved uneasily. The
news from Mexico had kept himself and the Governor
awake the better part of the night. He fully
appreciated the importance of this powerful Russian's
friendship. Nothing would bind and commit
him like taking a Californian to wife. If only he
had fallen in love with Carolina Xime'no or Delfina
Rivera! Don Jose had an uneasy suspicion that his
scruples as a Catholic might have gone down before
his sense of duty to this poor California. But a
heretic in his own family! He was justly renowned
for his piety. Aside from the wrath of the church,
the mere thought of one of his offspring in matrimonial
community beyond its pale made him sick
with repugnance. And yet--California! And he
would have selected Rezanov for his daughter out
of all men had he been of their faith. And he was
deeply conscious of the honor that had descended,
however unfruitfully, upon his house. Madre de
Dios! How would it end? Suddenly he felt himself
inspired. In blissful ignorance of her subtle
feminine rule, he reminded himself that Concha's
mind was the child of his own. When she saw his
embarrassment, filial duty and woman's wit would
extricate them both with grace and avert the enmity
of the Russian even though the latter's more personal
interest in California must die in his disappointment.
He would make her feel the weight of
the stern paternal hand, and then indicate the part
she had to play.
He rang a bell and directed the servant to summon
his daughter, drew himself up to his full height,
and set his rugged face in hard lines. As Concha
entered he looked the Commandante, the stern disciplinarian,
every inch of him.
There was no trace of the siesta in Concha's
cheeks. They were very white, but her eyes were
steady and her mouth indomitable as she walked
down the sala and took the chair Rezanov placed
for her. Except for her Castilian fairness, she
looked very like the martinet sitting on the other
side of the table. The Commandante regarded her
silently with brows drawn together. Dimly, he felt
apprehension, wondered, in a flash of insight, if girls
held fast to the parental recipe, or recombined with
tongue in cheek. The bare possibility of resistance
almost threw him into panic, but he controlled his
features until the effort injected his eyes and drew
in his nostrils. Concha regarded him calmly, although
her heart beat unevenly, for she dreaded the
long strain she foresaw.
"My daughter," said Don Jose finally, his tones
harsh with repressed misgiving, "do you suspect
why I have sent for you?"
"I think that his excellency wishes to marry me,"
replied Concha; and the Commandante was so staggered
by the calm assurance of her tone and manner
that his pent-up emotion exploded.
"Dios!" he roared. "What right have you to
know when a man wishes to marry you? What
manner of Spanish girl is this? Truly has his excellency
said that you are not as other women. The
place for you is your room, with bread and water
for a week. Sixteen!"
"Ignacio was born when my mother was sixteen,"
said Concha coolly.
"What of that? She married whom and when
she was told to marry."
"I have heard that you serenaded nightly beneath
her grating--"
"So did others."
"I have heard that when of all her suitors her
father chose one more highly born, a gentleman of
the Viceroy's court, she pined until they gave their
consent to her marriage with you, lest she die."
"But I was a Catholic! The prejudice against my
birth was an unworthy one. I had distinguished
myself. And she had the support of the priests."
"It is my misfortune that M. de Rezanov is not
a Catholic, but it will make no difference. I shall
not fall ill, for I am like you, not like my dear
mother--and the education you have given me is
very different from hers. But I shall marry his
excellency or no one, and whether I marry him or
live alone with the thought of him until the end of
my mortal days, I do not believe that my soul will
be imperilled in the least."
"You do not!" shouted the irate Spaniard. "How
dare you presume to decide such a question for
yourself? What does a woman know of love until
she marries? It is nothing but a sickening imagination
before; and if the man goes, the doctor soon
"You may not have intended--but you have
taught me to think for myself. And I have seen
others besides M. de Rezanov--the flower of California
and more than one fine gentleman from
Mexico. I will have none of them. I will marry
the man of my choice or no one. It may be that I
know naught of love. If you wish, you may think
that my choice of a husband is determined by ambition,
that I am dazzled with the thought of court
life in St. Petersburg, of being the consort of a
great and wealthy noble. It matters not. Love or
ambition, I shall marry this Russian or I shall never
marry at all."
"Mother of God! Mother of God!" Don Jose's
face was purple. The veins swelled in his neck. He
was the more wroth because he recognized his own
daughter and his own handiwork, because he saw
that he confronted a Toledo blade, not a woman's
brittle will. Concha regarded him calmly.
"If you refuse your consent you will lose me in
another way. I may not be able to marry as I wish,
but I will have no worldly alternative. I shall join
the Third Order of the Franciscans, and enter a
convent as soon as one is built in California. To
that you cannot withhold your consent, or they no
longer would call you El santo."
Don Jose leaped from his chair. "Go to your
room!" he thundered. "And do not dare to leave it
without my permission--"
But Concha sprang forward and flung herself
upon his neck. She rubbed her warm elastic cheek
against his own in the manner he loved, and softened
her voice. "Papacito mio, papacito mio," she
pleaded. "Thou wilt not refuse thy Concha the only
thing she has ever begged of thee. And I beg! I
beg! Papa mio! I love him! I love him!" And
she broke into wild weeping and kissed him frantically,
while Rezanov who had followed her plan of
attack and resistance in silent admiration, did not
know whether he should himself be moved to tears
or further admire.
Don Jose pushed her from him with a heavy sob
and hastily left the room, oblivious in the confusion
of his faculties of the boon he conferred on the
lovers. Concha dried her eyes, but her face was
deathly pale. It had not been all acting, by any
means, and she was beginning to feel the tyranny of
sleepless nights; and the joy and wonder of the
morning had left her with but a remnant of endurance
for the domestic battleground.
"Go," she whispered, as he took her in his arms.
"Return for the dance to-night as if nothing had
happened-- I forgot, there is to be a bull-bear
fight in the square. So much the better, for it is in
your honor, and you could not well remain away.
There is much trouble to come, but in the end we
shall win."
The muscles in Dona Ignacia's cheeks fell an inch
as she listened, dumbfounded, to the tale her husband
poured out. To her simple aristocratic soul Rezanov
had loomed too great a personage to dream of
mating with a Californian; and as her sharp maternal
instinct had recognized his personal probity,
even his gallantries had seemed to her no more consequent
than the more catholic trifling of his officers.
"Holy Mary!" she whimpered, when her voice
came back. "Holy Mary! A heretic! And he
would take our Concha from us! And she would
go! To St. Petersburg! Ten thousand miles!
To the priests with her--now--this very day!"
Concha had thrown herself on her bed in belated
hope of siesta, when Malia (Rosa had been sent to
the house of Don Mario Sal in the valley) entered
with the message that she was to accompany her
parents to the Mission at once. She rose sullenly,
but in the manifold essentials of a girl's life she
had always yielded the implicit obedience exacted
by the Californian parent. In a few moments she
was riding out of the Presidio beside her father.
Dona Ignacia jolted behind in her carreta, a low and
clumsy vehicle, on solid wheels and springless,
drawn by oxen, and driven by a stable-boy on a
mustang. The journey was made in complete silence
save for the maledictions addressed to the oxen
by the boy, and an occasional "Ay yi!" "Madre de
Dios!" "Sainted Mary, but the sun bores a hole in
the head," from Dona Ignacia, whose increasing
discomfort banished wrath and apprehension for
the hour.
Don Jose did not even look at his daughter, but
his face was ten years older than in the morning.
He had begun dimly to appreciate that she was suffering,
and in a manner vastly different from the
passionate resentment he had seen her display when
the contents of a box from Mexico disappointed her,
or she was denied a visit to Monterey. That his
best-loved child should suffer tore his own heart,
but he merely cursed Rezanov and resolved to do
his best to persuade the Governor to yield to his
other demands, that California might be rid of him
the sooner.
Father Abella was walking down the long outer
corridor of the Mission reading his breviary, and
praying he might not be diverted from righteousness
by the comforting touch of his new habit, when he
looked up and saw the party from the presidio
floundering over the last of the sand hills. He
shuffled off to order refreshments, and returned in
time to disburden the carreta of Dona Ignacia--no
mean feat--volubly delighted in the visit and the
gossip it portended. But as he offered his arm to
lead her into the sala, she pushed him aside and
pointed to Concha, who had sprung to the ground
"She has come to confess, padre!" she exclaimed,
her mind, under the deep tiled roof of the corridor,
readjusting itself to tragedy. "I beg that you will
take her at once. Padre Landaeta can give us
chocolate and we will tell our terrible news to him
and receive advice and consolation."
Father Abella, not without a glimmering of the
truth, for better than any one he understood the
girl he had confessed many times, besides himself
having succumbed to the Russian, led the way to
the confessional in some perturbation of spirit. He
walked slowly, hoping that the long, cool church,
its narrow high windows admitting so scant a meed
of sunlight that no one of its worshippers had ever
read the legends on the walls, and even the stations
were but deeper bits of shade, would attune her
mind to holy things, and throw a mantle of unreality
over those of the world.
He covered his face with his hand as she told her
story. This she did in a few words, disjointed, for
she was both tired and seething. For a few moments
afterward there was a silence; the good priest
was increasingly disturbed and by no means certain
of his course. He was astonished to feel a tug at
his sleeve. Before he could reprove this impenitent
child for audacity she had raised herself that she
might approach her lips more closely to his ear.
"Mi padre!" she whispered hoarsely, "you will
take my part! You will not condemn me to a life of
misery! I am too proud to speak openly to others
--but I love this man more than my soul--more
than my immortal soul. Do you hear? I am in
danger of mortal sin. Perhaps I am already in that
state. You cannot save me if he goes. I will not
pray. I will not come to the church. I will be an
outcast. If I marry him, I will be a good Catholic
to the end of my days. If I marry him I can think
of other things besides--of my church, my father,
my mother, my sisters, brothers. If he goes, I shall
pass my life thinking of nothing but him, and if it
be true that heretics are doomed to hell, then I will
live so that I may go to hell with him."
In spite of his horror the priest was thrilled by
the intense passion in the voice so close to his ear.
Moreover, he knew women well, this good padre,
for even in California they differed little from those
that played ball with the world. So he dismissed the
horror and spoke soothingly.
"What you have said would be mortal sin, my
daughter, were it not that you are laboring under
strong and natural excitement; and I shall absolve
you freely when you have done the penance I must
impose. You have always been such a good child
that I am able to forgive you even in this terrible
moment. But, my daughter, surely you know that
this marriage can never take place--"
"It shall! It shall!"
"Control yourself, my daughter. You cannot
bring this man into the true church. His character
is long since formed and cast--it is iron. Even love
will not melt it. Were he younger--"
"I should hate him. All young men are insufferable
to me--always have been. I have found my
mate, and have him I will if I have to hide in the
hold of his ship. Ah, padre mio, I know not what
I say. But you will help me. Only you can. My
father thinks you as wise as a saint. And there
are other things--my head turns round--I can
hardly think--but you dare not lose the friendship
of this Russian. And my marriage to him would
be as much for the good of the Missions as for California
herself. Champion our course, point out
that not only would it be a great match for me, but
that many ends would be lost by ruining my life.
The Governor will find himself in a position to grant
your prayers for the cargo, particularly if you first
persuaded my father--so long they have been
friends, the Governor could not resist if he joined
our forces. What is one girl that she should be
held of greater account than the welfare of this
country to which you are devoting your life? The
happier are your converts, the more kindly will
they take to Christianity--which they do not love
as yet!--the more faithful and contented will they
be, in the prospect of the luxuries and the toys and
the trinkets of the Russian north. What is one girl
against the friendship of Russia for Spain? Who
am I that I should weigh a peseta in the scale?"
"You are Concha Arguello, the flower of all the
maidens in California, and the daughter of the best
of our men," replied Father Abella musingly. "And
until to-day there has been no Catholic more devout--"
"It lies with you, mi padre, whether I continue
to be the best of Catholics or become the most
abandoned of heretics. You know me better than
anyone. You know that I will not weaken and
bend and submit, like a thousand other women. I
could be bad--bad--bad--and I will be! Do you
hear?" And she shook his arm violently, while her
hoarse voice filled the church.
"My child! My child! I have always believed
that you had it in you to become a saint. Yes, yes,
I feel the strength and maturity of your nature, I
know the lengths to which it might lead another;
but you could not be bad, Conchita. I have known
many women. In you alone have I perceived the
capacity for spiritual exaltation. You are the stuff
of which saints and martyrs are made. The violent
will, the transcendent passions--they have
existed in the greatest of our saints, and been conquered."
"I will not conquer. I-- Oh, padre--for the
love of heaven--"
He left the box hastily and lifted her where she
had fallen and carried her into the room adjoining
the church. He laid her on the floor, and ran for
Dona Ignacia, who, refreshed with wine and
chocolate, came swiftly. But when Concha, under
practical administrations and maternal endearments,
finally opened her eyes, she pushed her mother
coldly aside, rose and steadied herself against the
wall for a moment, then returned to the church,
closing the door behind her.
When a woman has borne thirteen children in the
lost corners of the world, with scarce a thought in
thirty years for aught else save the husband and
his comforts, it is not to be expected that her wits
should be rapiers or her vocabulary distinguished.
But Dona Ignacia's unresting heart had an intelligence
of its own, and no inner convulsion could
alter the superb dignity of mien which Nature had
granted her. As she rose and confronted Father
Abella he moved forward with the instinct to kiss
her hand, as he had seen Rezanov do.
"Mi padre," she said, "Concha is the first of my
children to push me aside, and it is like a blow on
the heart; but I have neither anger nor resentment,
for it was not the act of a child to its parent, but
of one woman to another. Alas! this Russian, what
has he done, when her own mother can give her no
comfort? We all love when young, but this is more.
I loved Jose so much I thought I should die when
they would have compelled me to marry another.
But this is more. She will not die, nor even go to
bed and weep for days, but it is more. I should
not have died, I know that now, and in time I should
have married another, and been as happy as a woman
can be when the man is kind. Concha will love
but once, and she will suffer--suffer-- She may
be more than I, but I bore her and I know. And
she cannot marry him. A heretic! I no longer
think of the terrible separation. Were he a Catholic
I should not think of myself again. But it
cannot be. Oh, padre, what shall we do?"
They talked for a long while, and after further
consultation with Don Jose and Father Landaeta,
it was decided that Concha should remain for the
present in the house of Juan Moraga, where she
could receive the daily counsels of the priests, and
be beyond the reach of Rezanov. Meanwhile, all
influence would be brought to bear upon the Governor
that the Russian might be placated even while
made to realize that to loiter longer in California
waters would be but a waste of precious time.
There was no performance after all in the Presidio
square that night, for the bear brought in from the
hills to do honor to the Russians died of excitement,
and it rained besides. Rezanov made the storm his
excuse for not dining and dancing as usual at the
house of the Commandante. But the relations between
the Presidio and the Juno during the next
few days were by no means strained. Davidov and
Khostov were always with the Spanish officers,
drinking and card playing, or improving their dancing
and Spanish with the girls, whose guitars were
tuned for the waltz day and night. The dignitaries
met as usual and conversed on all topics save those
paramount in the minds of each. Nevertheless,
there were three significant facts as well known to
Rezanov as had they been aired to his liking.
He had sought an interview with Father Abella,
and tactfully ignoring the question of his marriage,
had persuaded that astute and influential priest to
make the proposition regarding his cargo that Concha
had suggested. The priest, backed by his three
coadjutors, had made it, and been repulsed with
fury. From another quarter Rezanov learned that
during his absence little else was discussed in the
house of the Commandante save his formidable matrimonial
project, and the supposed designs to his
country. Troops had been ordered from the south
to reinforce the San Francisco garrisons, and were
even now massed at Santa Clara, within a day's
march of the bay.
About a mile from the Presidio and almost opposite
the Juno's anchorage were six great stone tubs
sunken in the ground and filled by a spring of clear
water. Here, once a week, the linen, fine and
heavy, of Fort and Presidio was washed, the
stoutest serving women of households and barracks
meeting at dawn and scrubbing for half a day.
Rezanov had watched the bright picture they made
--for they wore a bit of every hue they could command--
with a lazy interest, which quickened to
thirst when he heard that they were the most reliable
newsmongers in the country. In every Presidial
district was a similar institution, and the four
were known as the "Wash Tub Mail." Many of
the women were selected by the tyrants of the tubs
for their comeliness, and each had a lover in the
couriers that went regularly with mail and official
instructions from one end of the Californias to the
other. All important news was known first by these
women, and much was discussed over the tubs that
was long in reaching higher but no less interested
circles; and domestic bulletins were as eagerly
prized. The sailor that brought this information to
Rezanov was a good-looking and susceptible youth,
already the victim of an Indian maiden from the
handsome tribe in the Santa Clara Valley, and sister
of Dona Ignacia's Malia. Rezanov furnished him
with beads and other trinkets and was at no disadvantage
There was nothing Rezanov would have liked
better than to see a Russian fleet sail through the
straits, but he also knew that nothing was less likely,
and that from such rumors he should only derive
further annoyance and delay. Two of his sailors
deserted at the prospect of war, and his hosts, if
neutral, were manifestly alert. Luis and Santiago
had been obliged to go to Monterey for a few days,
and there was no one at the Presidio in whom Rezanov
could confide either his impatience to see Concha
or at the adjournment of his more prosaic but
no less pressing interests. These two young men
had been with him almost constantly since his
arrival, and demonstrated their friendship and even
affection unfailingly; but there was no love lost between
himself and Gervasio. This young hidalgo
had the hauteur and intense family pride of Santiago
without his younger brother's frank intelligence
and lingering ingenuousness. With all the
superiority and inferiority, he had made himself so
unpopular that his real kindness of heart atoned for
his absurdities only with those that knew him best.
Rezanov was not one of these nor aspired to be.
Like all highly seasoned men of the world, he had
no patience with the small vanities of the provincial,
and although diplomatically courteous to all, in his
present precarious position, he had taken too little
trouble to conciliate Gervasio to find him of use in
the absence of his friends.
At the end of three days Rezanov had forgotten
his cargo, and would have sent the Juno to the bottom
for ten minutes alone with Concha. He had
been on fire with love of her since the moment of
his actual surrender, and he was determined to have
her if there were no other recourse but elopement.
All his old and intense love of personal freedom
had melted out of form in the crucible of his lover's
imagination. That he should have doubted for a
moment that Concha was the woman for whom his
soul had held itself aloof and unshackled was a
matter for contemptuous wonder, and the pride he
had taken in his keen and swift perceptive faculties
suffered an eclipse. Mind and soul and body he
was a lover, a union unknown before.
On the fourth morning, his patience at an end,
he was about to leave the Juno to demand a formal
interview with Don Jose when he saw Luis and Santiago
dismount at the beach and enter the canoe always
in waiting. A few moments later they had
helped themselves to cigarettes from the gift of the
Tsar and were assuring Rezanov of their partisanship
and approval.
"We were somewhat taken aback at the first moment,"
Luis admitted. "But--well, we are both in
love--Santiago no less than I, although I have had
these six long years of waiting and am likely to
have another. And we love Concha as few men
love their sisters, for there is no one like her--is
it not so, Rezanov? And we quite understand why
she has chosen you, and why she stands firm, for
we know the strength of her character. We would
that you were a Catholic, but even so, we will not sit
by and see her life ruined, and we have called to
assure you that we shall use all our influence, every
adroit argument, to bring our parents to a more
reasonable frame of mind. They have already risen
above the first natural impulse of selfishness, and
would consent to the inevitable separation were you
only a Catholic. I have also talked with the Governor--
we arrived at midnight--and he flew into a
terrible temper--the poor man is already like a mad
bull at bay--but if my father yielded, he would--
on all points. This morning I shall ride over and
talk with Father Abella, who, I fancy, needs only
a little extra pressure--you may be sure Concha has
not been idle--to yield; and for more reasons than
one. I shall enlist Father Uria and Father de la
Cueva as well. They also have great influence
with my parents, and as they return to San Jose in
two days to prepare for the visit of the most estimable
Dr. Langsdorff, there is no time to lose. I
shall go this morning. One more cigarito, senor,
and when that treaty is drawn remember the conversion
of your brother to Russian tobacco."
Rezanov thanked him so warmly, assured him
with so convincing an emphasis that with his fate
in such competent hands his mind was at peace, that
the ardent heart of the Californian exulted; Rezanov,
with his splendid appearance, and typical of
the highest civilizations of Europe, had descended
upon his narrow sphere with the authority of a
demigod, and he not only thirsted to serve him, but
to fasten him to California with the surest of human
As he dropped over the side of the ship, Rezanov's
hand fell lightly on the shoulder of Santiago.
"I can wait no longer to see your sister," he
whispered, mindful of the sterner responsibilities of
the older brother. "Do you think you could--"
Santiago nodded. "While Luis is at the Mission
I shall go to my cousin Juan Moraga's. You will
dine with us at the Presidio, and I shall escort you
back to the ship."
It was ten o'clock when Rezanov, who had supped
on the Juno, met Santiago in a sandy valley half a
mile from the Presidio and mounted the horse his
young friend himself had saddled and brought.
The long ride was a silent one. The youth was not
talkative at any time, and Rezanov was conscious of
little else save an overwhelming desire to see Concha
again. One secret of his success in life was his
gift of yielding to one energy at a time, oblivious
at the moment to aught that might distract or enfeeble
the will. To-night, as he rode toward the
Mission on as romantic a quest as ever came the
way of a lover, the diplomat, the anxious director
of a great Company, the representative of one of
the mighty potentates of earth, were submerged,
forgotten, in the thrilling anticipation of his hour
with the woman for whom every fiber of his being
Nor ever was there more appropriate a setting
for one of those inaugural chapters in mating, half
appreciated at the time, that glimmer as a sort of
morning twilight on mountain tops over the mild
undulations of matrimony. The moon rode without
a masking cloud across the ambiguous night blue of
the California sky, a blue that looks like the fire of
strange elements, where the stars glow like silver
coals, and out of whose depths intense shadows of
blue and black fall; shadows in which all the terrestrial
world seems to float and recombine, where
houses are ghosts of ancient selves and men but the
eidola of forgotten dust. To-night the little estate
of Juan Moraga, the most isolated and eastern of
the settlement, surrounded by its high white wall,
looked as unreal and formless as the blue oval of
water and black trees behind it, but Rezanov knew
that it enfolded warm and palpitating womanhood
and was steeped in the sweetness of Castilian roses.
The riders, who had taken a path far to the east
of the Mission dismounted and tied their horses
among the willows, then, in their dark cloaks but a
part of the shadows, stole toward the wall designed
to impress hostile tribes rather than to resist onslaught;
at the first warning the settlement invariably
fled to the church, where walls were massive
and windows high.
In three of Moraga's four walls was a grille, or
wicket of slender iron bars, whence the open could
be swept with glass, or gun at a pinch; and toward
the grille looking eastward went Rezanov as swiftly
as the uneven ground would permit. As Concha
watched him gather form in the moonlight and saw
him jerk his cloak off impatiently, she flung her
soft body against the wall and shook the bars with
her strong little hands. But when he faced her she
was erect and smiling; in a sudden uprush of spirits,
almost indifferent. She wore a white gown and a
rose in her hair. A rosebush as dense as an
arbor spread its prickly arms between herself and
the windows of the house.
"Good-evening," she whispered.
Rezanov gave the grill an angry shake. (Santiago
had considerately retired.) "Come out," he
said peremptorily, "or let me in."
"There is but one gate, senor, and that is directly
in front of the house door, that stands open--"
"Then I shall get over the wall--"
"Madre de Dios! You would leave your fine
clothes and more on the thorns. My cousin planted
those roses not for ornament, but to let the blood of
defiant lovers. Not one has come twice--"
"Do you think I came here to talk to you through
a grating? I am no serenading Spaniard."
His eyes were blazing. Adobe is not stone.
Rezanov took the light bars in both hands and
wrenched them out; then, as Concha, divided between
laughter and a sudden timidity, would have
retreated, he dexterously clasped her neck and drew
her head through the embrasure. As Santiago,
who had watched Rezanov from a distance with
some curiosity, saw his sister's beautiful face
emerge from the wall to disappear at once behind
another rampart, he turned abruptly on his heel and
could have wept as he thought of Pilar Ortego of
Santa Barbara. But there was a hope that he would
be a cadet of the Southern Company before the year
was out, and his parents and hers were indulgent.
Even as he sighed, his own impending happiness infused
him with an almost patronizing sympathy for
the twain with the wall between, and he concealed
himself among the willows that they might feel to
the full the blessed isolation of lovers. His Pilar
presented him with twenty-two hostages, and he
lived to enjoy an honorable and prosperous career,
but he never forgot that night and the part he had
played in one of the poignant and happy hours of
his sister's life.
Day and night a great silence reigned in the Mission
valley, broken only by the hoot of the owl, the
singing of birds, the flight of horses across the
plain. Even the low huddle of Mission buildings
and the few homes beyond looked an anomaly in
that vast quiet valley asleep and unknown for so
many centuries in the wide embrace of the hills. Its
jewel oasis alone made it acceptable to the Spaniard,
but to Rezanov the sandy desert, with its close companionable
silences, its cool night air sweet with
the light chaste fragrance of the roses, the simple,
almost primitive, conditions environing the girl,
possessed a power to stir the depths of his emotions
as no artful reinforcement to passion had ever
done. He forgot the wall. His ego melted in a
sense of complete union and happiness. Even when
they returned to earth and discussed the dubious
future, he was conscious of an odd resignation,
very alien in his nature, not only to the barrier but
to all the strange conditions of his wooing. He
had felt something of this before, although less definitely,
and to-night he concluded that she had the
gift of clothing the inevitable with the semblance
and the sweetness of choice; and wondered how
long it would be able to skirt the arid steppes of
She told him that she had talked daily with
Father Abella. "He will say nothing to admit he is
weakening, but I feel sure he has realized not only
that our marriage will be for the best interests of
California, but that to forbid it would wreck my
life; and from this responsibility he shrinks. I can
see it in his kind, shrewd, perplexed eyes, in the
hesitating inflections of his voice, to say nothing of
the poor arguments he advances to mine. What of
my father and mother?"
"They look troubled, almost ill, but nothing could
exceed their kindness to me, although they have
pointedly given me no opportunity to introduce the
subject of our marriage again. The Governor
makes no sign that he knows of any aspiration of
mine above corn, but he informed me to-day that
California is doomed to abandonment, that the Indians
are hopeless, that Spain will withdraw troops
before she will send others, and that the country
will either revert to savagery or fall a prey to the
first enterprising outsider. As he was in comparison
cheerful before, I fancy he apprehends the irresistible
appeal of your father's surrender."
Concha nodded. "If my father yields he will see
that you have everything else that you wish. He
may have advocated meeting your wishes in other
respects in order to leave you without excuse to linger,
but that argument is not strong enough for the
Governor, whereas if he made up his mind to accept
you as a son he would throw the whole force
of his character and will into the scale; and when
he reaches that pitch he wins--with men. I must,
must bring you good fortune," she added anxiously.
"Marriage with a little California girl--are you
sure it will not ruin your career?"
"I can think of nothing that would advantage it
more. What are you going to call me?"
"I cannot say Petrovich or Nicolai--my Spanish
tongue rebels. I shall call you Pedro. That is a
very pretty name with us."
"My own harsh names suit my battered self
rather better, but the more Californian you are and
remain the happier I shall be. When am I to see
your ears? Are they deformed, pointed and furry
like a fawn's? Do they stand out? Were all the
women of California tattooed in some Indian
Concha glanced about apprehensively, but not
even Santiago was there to see the dreadful deed.
With a defiant sweep of her hands she lifted both
loops of hair, and two little ears, rosy even in the
moonlight, commanded amends and more from
penitent lips.
"No man has ever seen them before--since I
was a baby; not even my father and brothers," said
Concha, trembling between horror and rapture at
the tremendous surrender. "You will never remind
me of it. Ay yi! promise--Pedro mio!"
"On condition that you promise not to confess
it. I should like to be sure that your mind belonged
as much to me and as little to others as possible. I
do not object to confession--we have it in our
church; but remember that there are other things
as sacred as your religion."
She nodded. "I understand--better than you
understand Romanism. I must confess that I met
you to-night, but Father Abella is too discreet to
ask for more. It is such blessed memories that feed
the soul, and they would fly away on a whisper."
The next morning Father Abella rode over to the
Presidio and was closeted for an hour with the
Commandante and the Governor. Then the three
rode down to the beach, entered a canoe, and paddled
out to the Juno. Rezanov met them on deck with a
gravity as significant as their own, but led them
at once to the cabin where wine, and the cigarettes
for which alone they would have counselled the
treaty, awaited them.
The quartette pledged each other in an embarrassed
silence, disposed of a moment more with obdurate
matches. Don Jose inhaled audibly, then
lifted his eyes and met the veiled and steady gaze of
the Russian.
"Senor," he said, "I have come to tell you that I
consent to your marriage with my daughter."
"Thank you," said Rezanov. And their hands
clasped across the table.
But this was far too simple for the taste of a
Governor. So important an occasion demanded
official dignity and many words.
"Your excellency," he said severely, sitting very
erect, with one white hand on the table and the
other on the hilt of his sword (yet full of courtesy,
and longing to enjoy the cheer and conversation of
his host); "the peaceful monotony of our lives has
been rudely shaken by a demand upon three fallible
human beings to alter the course of history in two
great nations. That is a sufficient excuse for the
suspense to which we have been forced to subject
you. The marriage of a Russian and a Spaniard is
of no great moment in itself, but the marriage of
the Plenipotentiary of the Tsar himself with the
daughter of Jose Mario Arguello, not only one of
the most eminent, respected, and distinguished of
His Most Catholic Majesty's subjects in New Spain,
but a man so beloved and influential that he could
create a revolution were he so minded--indeed,
Jose, no one knows better than I how incapable you
are of treason"--as the Commandante gave a loud
exclamation of horror--"I merely illustrate and
emphasize. My sands are nearly run, Excellency;
it is to the estimable mind and strong paternal hand
of my friend that this miserable colony must look
before long, would she continue even this hand to
mouth existence--a fact well known to our king
and natural lord. When he hears of this projected
"Projected?" exclaimed Rezanov. "I wish to
marry at once."
Father Abella shook his head vigorously, but he
spoke with great kindness. "That, Excellency, alas,
is the one point upon which we are forced to disappoint
you. Indeed, our own submission to your
wishes is contingent. This marriage cannot take
place without a dispensation from Rome and the
consent of the King."
Rezanov looked at Don Jose. "You, too?" he
asked curtly.
The Commandante stirred uneasily, heaved a deep
sigh; he thought of the long impatience of his Concha.
"It is true," he said. "Not only would it
be impossible for my conscience to resign itself to
the marriage of my daughter with a heretic--pardon,
Excellency--without the blessing of the Pope;
not only would no priest in California perform the
ceremony until it arrived, but it would mean the
degradation of Governor Arrillaga and myself, and
the ruin of all your other hopes. We should be
ordered summarily to Mexico, perhaps worse, and
no Russian would ever be permitted to set foot in
the Californias again. I would it were otherwise.
I know--I know--but it is inevitable. Your excellency
must see it. Even were you a Catholic, Governor
Arrillaga and the President of the Missions,
at least, would not dare to countenance this marriage
without the consent of the King."
Rezanov was silent for a few minutes. In spite
of the emotions of the past few days he was astonished
at the depth and keenness of his disappointment.
But never yet had he failed to realize when
he was beaten, nor to trim his sails without loss
of precious time.
"Very well," he said. "I will go to St. Petersburg
at the earliest possible moment, obtain personal
letters from the Tsar and proceed post haste to
Rome and Madrid. At the same time I shall
arrange for the treaty with full authority from the
Tsar. Then I shall sail from Spain to Mexico and
reach here as soon as may be. It will take a long
while, the best part of two years; but I have your
"You have," the three asserted with solemn emphasis.
"Very well. But there is one thing more. I am
not in a diplomatic humor. My Sitkans are starving.
I must leave here with a shipload of breadstuffs."
Again the Governor drew up his slim soldierly
figure; deposited his cigarette on the malachite ash
tray. "You may be sure that we have given that
momentous question our deepest consideration.
Father Abella's suggestion that we buy your commodities
for cash, and that with our Spanish dollars
you buy again of us, did not strike me favorably
at first, for it savored of sophistry. I may have
failed in every attempt to benefit and advance this
Godforsaken country, but at least I have been the
honest agent of my King. But the circumstances
are extraordinary. You are about to become one of
us, to do our unhappy colony the greatest service
that is in the power of any mortal, and personally
you have inspired us with affection and respect. I
have, therefore, decided that the exchange shall be
made on these terms, but that your cargo shall be
received by Don Jose Arguello, Commandante of
the San Francisco Company, and held in trust until
the formal consent of the King to the purchase shall
Rezanov glowed to his finger tips. Not even the
assurance of his union with the woman of his heart,
which after all had met but the skeleton of his desires,
gave him the acute satisfaction of this sudden
fulfilment of his self-imposed mission. He
dropped his own official demeanor and throwing
himself across the table gripped the Governor's
hand while he poured out his thanks in a voice thick
with feeling, his eyes glittering with more than victory.
He did not lose sight of his ultimate designs
and pledge himself to external friendship, but he unwittingly
conveyed the impression that Spain had
that day made a friend she ill could afford to lose;
and his three visitors rose well pleased with the culmination
of the interview.
"You must stay here no longer, Rezanov," said
Don Jose, as they were taking leave. "My house is
now literally your own. It will be some weeks before
the large quantities of corn and flour and other
stores you wish can be got together--for we must
lay a requisition on the fertile Mission ranchos in
the valleys--and you will exchange these narrow
quarters for such poor comfort as my house affords
--I take no denial. Concha will remain at Juan
Moraga's for the present."
Concha, after her father left her, sat for a long
while in an attitude of such complete repose that
Sturgis, watching her miserably from the veranda,
remembered the consolations of his sketch book;
and he was able to counterfeit the graceful, proud
figure, under the wall and roses, before she stirred.
Concha had sent her father away deeply puzzled.
When, after embracing her with unusual emotion,
he had informed her of his consent to her marriage,
she had received the news as a matter of course,
her hopes and desires having mounted too high to
contemplate a fall. Then the Commandante, after
dwelling at some length upon his discussions with
the Governor and the priests, and admonishing her
against conceiving herself too important a factor in
what might prove to be an alliance of international
moment (she had laughed merrily and called him
the most callous of parents and subtlest of diplomats),
had announced with some trepidation and his
most official manner that the consent of the Pope
and the King would be sought by Rezanov in person,
involving a delay and separation of not less
than two years. But to his surprise she did not fling
herself upon his neck with blandishments and tears.
She merely became quite still, her light high spirits
retreating as a breeze might before one of Nature's
sudden and portentous calms. Don Jose, after a
fruitless attempt to recapture her interest, mounted
his horse and rode away; and Concha sat down on
a bench under the wall and thought for an hour
without moving a finger.
Her first sensation was one of bitter anger and
disappointment with Rezanov. He had, apparently,
in the first brief interview with their tribunal, given
his consent to this long delay of their nuptials.
Her thoughts since his advent had flown on many
journeys and known little rest. She had been rudely
awakened and stripped of her girlish illusions in
those days and nights of battle between pride and
her dazzled womanhood when, in the new humility
of love, she believed herself to be but one of a hundred
pretty girls in the eyes of this accomplished and
fortunate Russian. The interval had been brief,
but not long enough for the grandeur in her nature to
awaken almost concurrently with her passions, and
she had planned a life, in which, guided and uplifted
by the star of fidelity, and delivered from the frivolous
and commonplace temptations of other women,
she should devote herself to the improvement
and instruction not only of the Indians but of the
youth of her own class. The schools founded by the
estimable and enterprising Borica had practically
disappeared, and she was by far the best educated
woman in California. For such there was a manifest
and an inexorable duty. She would live to be
old, she supposed, like all the Arguellos and
Moragas; but hidden in her unspotted soul would
be the flame of eternal youth, fed by an ideal and
a memory that would outlive her weary, insignificant
body. And in it she would find her courage
and her inspiration, as well as an unwasting sympathy
for those she taught.
Then had come the sudden and passionate wooing
of Rezanov. All other ideals and aspirations
had fled. She had alternated between the tragic
extremes of bliss and despair. So completely did
the ardor of her nature respond to his, so fierce and
primitive was the cry of her ego for its mate, that
she cared nothing for the distress of her parents
nor the fate of California. There is no love complete
without this early and absolute selfishness,
which is merely the furious determination of the
race to accomplish its object before the spirit
awakens and the passions cool.
Last night life had seemed serious; she had been
girlishly, romantically happy. It is true that her
heart had thumped against the wall as he kissed her,
and that she had been full of a wild desire to sing,
although she could hardly shape and utter the words
that danced in her throbbing brain. But she had
been conscious through it all of the romantic circumstance,
of the lonely beauty of the night, of the delightful
wickedness of meeting her lover in the silence
and the dark, even with a wall ten feet high between
them. For the wall, indeed, she had been
confusedly and deliciously grateful.
And this was what a man's love came to: ardors
by night and expedience by day! Or was it merely
that Rezanov was the man of affairs always, the
lover incidentally? But how could a man who had
seemed the very epitome of all the lovers of all the
world but a few hours before, contemplate, far less
permit, a separation of years? Poor Concha groped
toward the great unacceptable fact of life the whole,
lit by love its chief incident; and had a fleeting
vision of the waste lands in the lives of women occupied
only with matrimony. But she dropped her
lashes upon this unalluring vision, and as she did so,
inevitably she began to excuse the man.
None knew better than she every side of the great
question that was shaking not only her life but California
itself. Appeal from the dictum of state and
clergy would be a mere waste of time. The only
alternative was flight. That would mean the wreck
of Rezanov's avowed purposes in coming to this
quarter of New Spain, and perhaps of others she
dimly suspected. It would mean the very acme of
misery for his Sitkans, and an indefensible blow to
the Company. It might even prove the fatal mistake
in his career, for which his enemies were ever on the
alert. He was not communicative about himself
except when he had an object in view, but he had
told her something of his life, and his officers and
Langsdorff had told more. He was no silly caballero
warbling and thrumming at her grating when
she longed for sleep, but a man in his forties whose
passions were in the leash of a remarkably acute
and ambitious brain. She even thrilled with pride
in his strength, for she knew how he loved her; and
although his part was action, her stimulated instincts
taught her that she would rarely be long from
his mind. And what was she to seek to roll
stumbling blocks into the career of a man like that?
In this very garden, for four long days, she had
dreamed exalted dreams of the manifold gifts she
should develop for his solace at home and his
worldly advancement. She had once felt all a
girl's impatience when her mother's tears made her
father's departure on some distant mission more
difficult than need be, and although she knew now
that her capacity for tenderness was as great, she
resolved to mould herself in a larger shape than
But she sighed and drooped a little. The burden
of woman's waiting seemed already to have descended
upon her. Two years were long--long.
There might be other delays. He might fall ill; he
had been ill before in that barbarous Russian north.
And in all that time it was doubtful if she received
a line from him, a hint of his welfare. The Boston
and British skippers came no more, and it was certain
that no Russian ship would visit California
again until the treaty was signed and official news
of it had made its slow way to these uttermost
shores. She had resented, in her young ambition
and indocility, the chance that had stranded her,
equipped for civilization, on this rim of the world,
but never so much as in that moment, when she sat
with arrested breath and realized to the full the
primitive conditions of a country thousands of miles
from the very outposts of Europe, and with never
the sight of a letter that did not come from Spain
or one of her colonies.
"Would that we lived a generation later," she
thought with a heavy sigh. Progress is almost
automatic, and to a land as fertile and desirable as
this the stream must turn in due course. But not
in my time. Not in my time."
She rose and leaned her elbows in the embrasure
of the grille, where Santiago had restored the bars,
and looked out over the fields of grain planted by
the padres, the immense sand dunes beyond that
shut the lovely bay from sight; the hills embracing
the primitive scene in a frowning arc. With all her
imagination it was long before she could picture a
great city covering that immense and almost deserted
space. A pueblo in time, perhaps, for Rezanov had
awakened her mind to the importance of the harbor
as a port of call. Many more adobe homes
where the sand was not hot and shifting, a few
ships in the bay when Spain had been compelled to
relax her jealous vigilance--or--who knew?--perhaps!--
a flourishing colony when the Russian bear
had devoured the Spanish lion. She knew something
and suspected more of the rottenness and inefficiency
of Spain, and, were Russia a nation of
Rezanovs, what opposition in California against the
tide thundering down from the north? Then, perhaps,
the city that had travelled from the brain of
the Russian to hers when the fog had rolled over
the heights; the towers and palaces and bazaars, the
thousand little golden domes with the slender cross
atop; the forts on the crags and the villas in the
hollows, and on all the island and hills. But when
she and her lover were dust. When she and her
lover were dust.
But she was too young and too ardent to listen
long to the ravens of the spirit. Two years are not
eternity, and in happiness the past rolls together like
a scroll and is naught. She fell to dreaming. Her
lips that had been set with the gravity of stone relaxed
in warm curves. The color came back to her
cheek, the light to her eyes. She was a girl at her
grating with the roses poignant above her, and the
world, radiant, alluring, and all for her, swimming
in the violet haze beyond.
Rezanov in those days was literally lord and master
at the Presidio. If he did not burn the house of
his devoted host he ran it to suit himself. He
turned one of its rooms into an office, where he received
the envoys from the different Missions and
examined the samples of everything submitted to
him, trusting little to his commissary. His leisure
he employed scouring the country or shooting deer
and quail in the company of his younger hosts. The
literal mind of Don Jose accepted him as an actual
son and embryonic California, and, his conscience
at peace, revelled in his society as a sign from
propitiated heaven; rejoicing in the virtue of his
years. The Governor, testily remarking that as
California was so well governed for the present he
would retire to Monterey and take a siesta, rode off
one morning, but not without an affectionate: "God
preserve the life of your excellency many years."
But although Rezanov saw the most sanguine
hopes that had brought him to California fulfilled,
and although he looked from the mountain ridges
of the east over the great low valleys watered by
rivers and shaded by oaks, where enough grain
could be raised to keep the blood red in a thousand
times the colonial population of Russia, although he
felt himself in more and more abundant health, more
and more in love with life, it is not to be supposed
for a moment that he was satisfied. Concha he
barely saw. She remained with the Moragas, and
although she came occasionally to the afternoon
dances at the Presidio, and he had dined once at
her cousin's house, where the formal betrothal had
taken place and the marriage contract had been
signed in the presence of her family and more intimate
friends, the priests, his officers, and the Governor,
he had not spoken with her for a moment
alone. Nor had her eyes met his in a glance of
understanding. At the dances she showed him no
favor; and as the engagement was to be as secret
as might be in that small community, until his return
with consent of Pope and King, he was forced
to concede that her conduct was irreproachable; but
when on the day of the betrothal she was oblivious
to his efforts to draw her into the garden, he
mounted his horse and rode off in a huff.
The truth was that Concha liked the present
arrangement no better than himself, and knowing
that her own appeal against the proprieties would
result in a deeper seclusion, she determined to goad
him into using every resource of address and subtlety
to bring about a more human state of affairs. And
she accomplished her object. Rezanov, at the end
of a week was not only infuriated but alarmed. He
knew the imagination of woman, and guessed that
Concha, in her brooding solitude, distorted all that
was unfortunate in the present and dwelt morbidly
on the future. He knew that she must resent his
part in the long separation, no doubt his lack of impulsiveness
in not proposing elopement. There was
a priest in his company who, although he ate below
the salt and found his associates among the sailors,
could have performed the ceremony of marriage
when the Juno, under full sail in the night, was
scudding for the Russian north. It is not to be
denied that this romantic alternative appealed to
Rezanov, and had it not been for the starving
wretches so eagerly awaiting his coming he might
have been tempted to throw commercial relations to
the winds and flee with his bride while San Francisco,
secure in the knowledge of the Juno's empty
hold, was in its first heavy sleep. It is doubtful if
he would have advanced beyond impulse, for Rezanov
was not the man to lose sight of a purpose to
which he had set the full strength of his talents,
and life had tempered his impetuous nature with
much philosophy. Moreover, while his conscience
might ignore the double dealing necessary to the accomplishment
of patriotic or political acts, it revolted
at the idea of outwitting, possibly wrecking,
his trusting and hospitable host. But the mere
fact that his imagination could dwell upon such an
issue as reckless flight, inflamed his impatience, and
his desire to see Concha daily during these last few
weeks of propinquity. Finally, he sought the cooperation
of Father Abella--Santiago was in Monterey--
and that wise student of maids and men
gave him cheer.
On Thursday afternoon there was to take place
the long delayed Indian dance and bull-bear fight;
not in the Presidio, but at the Mission, the pride of
the friars inciting them to succeed where the military
authorities had failed. All the little world of
San Francisco had been invited, and it would be
strange if in the confusion between performance
and supper a lover could not find a moment alone
with his lady.
The elements were kind to the padres. The afternoon
was not too hot, although the sun flooded the
plain and there was not a cloud on the dazzling blue
of the sky. Never had the Mission and the mansions
looked so white, their tiles so red. The trees
were blossoming pink and white in the orchards, the
lightest breeze rippled the green of the fields; and
into this valley came neither the winds nor the fogs
of the ocean.
The priests and their guests of honor sat on the
long corridor beside the church; the soldiers, sailors,
and Indians of Presidio and Mission forming the
other three sides of a hollow square. The Indian
women were a blaze of color. The ladies on the
corridor wore their mantillas, jewels, and the gayest
of artificial flowers. There were as many fans
as women. Rezanov sat between Father Abella and
the Commandante, and not being in the best of
tempers had never looked more imposing and remote.
Concha, leaning against one of the pillars,
stole a glance at him and wondered miserably if this
haughty European had really sought her hand, if it
were not a girl's foolish dream. But Concha's
humble moments at this period of her life were rare,
and she drew herself up proudly, the blood of the
proudest race in Europe shaking angrily in her
veins. A moment later, in response to a power
greater than any within herself, she turned again.
The attention of the hosts and guests was riveted
upon the preliminary antics of the Indian dancers,
and Rezanov seized the opportunity to lean forward
unobserved and gaze at the girl whom it seemed to
him he saw for the first time in the full splendor of
her beauty. She wore a large mantilla of white
Spanish lace. In the fashion of the day it rose at
the back almost from the hem of her gown to descend
in a point over the high comb to her eyes.
The two points of the width were gathered at her
breast, defining the outlines of her superb figure,
and fastened with one large Castilian rose surrounded
by its mass of tiny sharp buds and dull
green leaves. As the familiar scent assailed Rezanov's
nostrils they tingled and expanded. His
lids were lifted and his eyes glowing as he finally
compelled her glance, and her own eyes opened
with an eager flash; her lips parted and her shoulders
lost their haughty poise. For a moment their
gaze lingered in a perfect understanding; his illhumor
vanished, and he leaned back with a complimentary
remark as Father Abella directed his attention
to the most agile of the Indians.
The swart natives of both sexes with their thick
features and long hair were even more hideous than
usual in bandeaux of bright feathers, scant garments
made from the breasts of water-fowls,
rattling strings of shells, and tattooing on arm and
leg no longer concealed by the decorous Mission
smock. Rezanov had that day sent them presents
of glass beads and ribbons, and in these they took
such extravagant pride that for some time their
dancing was almost automatic.
But soon their blood warmed, and after the first
dance, which was merely a series of measured
springs on the part of the men and a beating of time
by the women, a large straw figure symbolizing an
entire hostile tribe was brought in, and about this
pranced the men with savage cries and gestures, advancing,
attacking, retreating, finally piercing it with
their arrows and marching it off with sharp yells
of triumph that reverberated among the hills; the
women never varying from a loud monotonous
There was a peaceful interlude, during which the
men, holding bow and arrow aloft, hopped up and
down on one spot, the women hopping beside them
and snapping thumb and forefinger on the body,
still singing in the same high measured voice. But
while they danced a great bonfire was laid and
kindled. The gyrations lasted a few minutes longer,
then the chief seized a live ember and swallowed it.
His example was immediately followed by his tribe,
and, whether to relieve discomfort or with energies
but quickened, they executed a series of incredible
handsprings and acrobatic capers. When they
finally whirled away on toes and finger tips, another
chief, in the horns and hide of a deer, rushed in,
pursued by a party of hunters. For several moments
he perfectly simulated a hunted animal
lurking and dodging in high grass, behind trees,
venturing to the brink of a stream to drink, searching
eagerly for his mate; and when he finally escaped
it was amidst the most enthusiastic plaudits as yet
After an hour of this varied performance, the
square was enlarged by several mounted vaqueros
galloping about with warning cries and much flourishing
of lassos. They were the cattle herders of
the Mission ranch just over the hills, and were in
gala attire of black glazed sombrero with silver
cord, white shirt open at the throat, short black velvet
trousers laced with silver, red sash and high yellow
boots. Four, pistol in hand, stationed themselves
in front of the corridor, while the others rode
out and in again, dragging a bear and a bull, with
hind legs attached by two yards of rope. The captors
left the captives in the middle of the square,
and without more ado the serious sport of the day
began. The bull, with stomach empty and hide inflamed,
rushed at the bear, furious from captivity,
with such a roar that the Indian women screamed
and even the men shuffled their feet uneasily. But
neither combatant was interested in aught but the
other. The one sought to gore, his enemy to strike
or hug. The vaqueros teased them with arrows
and cries, the dust flew; for a few moments there
was but a heaving, panting, lashing bulk in the
middle of the arena, and then the bull, his tongue
torn out, rolled on his back, and another was driven
in before the victor could wreak his unsated vengeance
among the spectators. The bear, dragging
the dead bull, rushed at the living, who, unmartial
at first, stiffened to the defensive as he saw a bulk
of wiry fur set with eyes of fire, almost upon him.
He sprang aside, lowered his horn and caught the
bear in the chest. But the victor was a compact
mass of battle and momentum. His onslaught
flung the bear over backward, and quickly disengaging
himself he made another leap at his equally
agile enemy. This time the battle was longer and
more various, for the bull was smaller, more active
and dexterous. Twice he almost had the bear on his
horns, but was rolled, only saving his neck and back
from the fury of the mountain beast by such kicking
and leaping that both combatants were indistinguishable
from the whirlwind of dust. Out of
this they would emerge to stand panting in front
of each other with tongues pendant and red eyes
rolling. Finally the bear, nearly exhausted, made
a sudden charge, the bull leaped aside, backed again
with incredible swiftness, caught the bear in the
belly, tossed him so high that he met the hard earth
with a loud cracking of bone. The vaqueros circled
about the maddened bull, set his hide thick with arrows,
tripped him with the lasso. A wiry little
Mexican in yellow, galloping in on his mustang, administered
the coup de grace amidst the wild
applause of the spectators, whose shouting and
clapping and stamping might have been heard by
the envious guard at the Presidio and Yerba Buena.
As the party on the corridor broke, Rezanov
found no difficulty in reaching Concha's side, for
even Dona Ignacia was chattering wildly with several
other good dames who renewed their youth
briefly at the bull-fight.
"Did you enjoy that?" he asked curiously.
"I did not look at it. I never do. But I know
that you were not affronted. You never took your
eyes from those dreadful beasts."
"I am exhilarated to know that you watched me.
Yes, at a bull-fight the primitive man in me has its
way, although I have the grace to be ashamed of
myself afterward. In that I am at least one degree
more civilized than your race, which never repents."
The door of one of the smaller rooms stood open,
and as they took advantage of this oversight with
a singular concert of motive, he clasped both her
hands in his. "Are you angry with me?" he asked
softly. He dared not close the door, but his back
was square against it, and the other guests were
moving down to the refectory.
"For liking such horrid sport?"
"We have no time to waste in coquetry."
Her eyes melted, but she could not resist planting
a dart. "Not now--I quite understand: love could
never be first with you. And two years are not so
long. They quickly pass when one is busy. I shall
find occupation, and you will have no time for longings
and regrets."
They were not yet alone, women were talking in
their light, high voices not a yard away. The hindrance,
and her new loveliness in the soft mantilla,
the pink of the roses reflected in her throat, the
provocative curl of her mouth, sent the blood to his
"You have only to say the word," he said
hoarsely, "and the Juno will sail to-night."
Never before had she seen his face so unmasked.
Her voice shook in triumph and response.
"Would you? Would you?"
"Say the word!"
"You would sacrifice all--the Company--your
career--your Sitkans?"
"All--everything." His own voice shook with
more than passion, for even in that moment he
counted the cost, but he did not care.
But Concha detected that second break in his
voice, and turned her head sadly.
"You would not say that to-morrow. I hate myself
that I made you say it now. I love you enough
to wait forever, but I have not the courage to hand
you over to your enemies."
"You are strangely far-sighted for a young girl."
And between admiration and pique, his ardor suffered
a chill.
"I am no longer a young girl. In these last days
it has seemed to me that secrets locked in my brain,
secrets of women long dead, but of whose essence I
am, have come forth to the light. I have suffered
in anticipation. My mind has flown--flown--I
have lived those two years until they are twenty,
thirty, and I have lived on into old age here by the
sea, watching, watching--"
She had dropped all pretence of coquetry and
was speaking with a passionate forlornness. But
before he could interrupt her, take advantage of the
retreating voices that left them alone at last, she
had drawn herself up and moved a step away. "Do
not think, however," she said proudly, "that I am
really as weak and silly as that. It was only a
mood. Should you not return I should grieve, yes;
and should I live as long as is common with my
race, still would my heart remain young with your
image, and with the fidelity that would be no less a
religion than that of my church. But I should not
live a selfish life, or I should be unworthy of my
election to experience a great and eternal passion.
Memory and the life of the imagination would be
my solace, possibly in time my happiness, but my
days I should give to this poor little world of ours;
and all that one mortal, and that a woman, has to
bestow upon a stranded and benighted people. It
may not be much, but I make you that promise,
senor, that you will not think me a foolish, romantic
girl, unworthy of the great responsibilities you have
offered me."
"Concha!" He was deeply moved, and at the
same time her words chilled him with subtle
prophecy, sank into some unexplored depth of his
consciousness, meeting response as subtle, filling
him with impatience at the mortality of man. He
glanced over his shoulder, then took her recklessly
in his arms.
"Is it possible you doubt I will come back?" he
demanded. "My faith?"
"No, not that. But such happiness seems to me
too great for this life."
He remembered how often he had been close to
death; he knew that during the greater part of the
next two years he should see the glimmer of the
scythe oftener yet. For a moment it seemed to
him that he felt the dark waters rise in his soul,
heard the jeers of the gods at the vanity of mortal
will. But the blood ran strong and warm in his
veins. He shook off the obsession, and smiled a
little cynically, even as he kissed her.
"This is the hour for romance, my dear. In the
years to come, when you are very prosaically my
wife with a thousand duties, and grumbling at my
exactions, your consolation will be the memory of
some moment like this, when you were able to feel
romantic and sad. I wish I could arrange for
some such set of memories for myself, but I am
unequal to your divine melancholy. When I cannot
see you I am cross and sulky; and just now--I
am, well--philosophically happy. Some day I shall
be happier, but this is well enough. And I can harbor
no ugly presentiments. As I entered California
I was elated with a sense of coming happiness, of
future victories; and I prefer to dwell upon that,
the more particularly as in a measure the prophetic
hint has been fulfilled. So make the most of the
present. I shall see you daily during this last
precious fortnight, for I am determined this
arrangement shall cease; and you must exorcise
coquetry and abet me whenever there is a chance
of a word alone."
She nodded, but she noted with a sigh that he
said no more of sudden flight. She would never
have consented to jeopardize the least of his interests,
but she fain would have been besought.
The experience she had had of the vehemence
and fire in Rezanov made her long for his complete
subjugation and the happiness it must bring to herself.
But as he smiled tenderly above her she saw
that his practical brain had silenced the irresponsible
demands of love, and although she did not withdraw
from his arms she stiffened her head.
"I fancy I shall return home to-morrow," she
said. "My mother tells me that she can live without
me no longer, and that Father Abella has reminded
her that if I stay in the house of Elena Castro
I shall be as free from gossip as here. I infer
that he has rated my two parents for making a
martyr of me unnecessarily, and told them it was
a duty to enliven my life as much as possible before
I enter upon this long period of probation. The grating
of my room at Elena's is above a little strip of
Garden, and faces the blank wall of the next house.
Sometimes--who knows?" She shrugged her
shoulders and gave a gay little laugh, then stood
very erect and moved past him to the door. She
had recognized the shuffling step of Father Abella.
"Is supper ready, padre mio?" she asked sweetly.
"His excellency and I have talked so much that we
are very hungry."
"There is no need to deceive me," said Father
Abella dryly. "You are not the first lovers I have
known, although I will admit you are by far the
most interesting, and for that reason I have had the
wickedness to abet you. But I fancy the good God
will forgive me. Come quickly. They are scattered
now, but will go to the refectory in a moment
and miss you. Excellency, will you give your arm
to Dona Ignacia and take the seat at the head of the
table? Concha, my child, I am afraid you must
console our good Don Weeliam. He is having a
wretched quarter of an hour, but has loyally diverted
the attention of your mother."
"That is the vocation of certain men," said Concha
Life was very gay for a fortnight. An hour after
the Commandante's surrender he had despatched
invitations to all the young folk of the gente de
razon of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles,
and San Diego, and to such of the older as would
brave the long journeys. The Monterenos had
arrived for the Mission entertainment, and during
the next few days the rest poured over the hills:
De la Guerras, Xime'nos, Estudillos, Carrillos,
Este'negas, Morenos, Cotas, Estradas, Picos,
Pachecos, Lugos, Orte'gas, Alvarados, Bandinis,
Peraltas, members of the Luis, Rodriguez, Lopez
families, all of gentle blood, that made up the
society of Old California; as gay, arcadian, irresponsible,
yet moral a society as ever fluttered over
this planet. Every house in the Presidio and valley,
every spare room at the Mission, opened to
them with the exuberant hospitality of the country.
The caballeros had their finest wardrobes of collored
silks and embroidered botas, sombreros laden
with silver, fine lawn and lace, jewel and sash, velvet
serape for the chill of the late afternoon. The
matrons brought their stiff robes of red and yellow
satin, the girls as many flowered silks and lawns,
mantillas and rebosos, as the family carretas would
hold. The square of the Presidio was crowded
from morning until midnight with the spirited
horses of the country, prancing impatiently under
the heavy Mexican saddle, heavier with silver, made
a trifle more endurable by the blanket of velvet or
cloth. No Californian walked a dozen rods when
he had a horse to carry him.
But the horses were not always champing in the
square. There was more than one bull-bear fight,
and twice a week at least they carried their owners
to the hills of the Mission ranch, or the rocky cliffs
and gorges above Yerba Buena, the Indian servants
following with great baskets of luncheon, perhaps
roasting an ox whole in a trench. This the Californians
called barbecue and the picnic merienda.
There was dancing day and night, the tinkling of
guitars, flirting of fans. Rezanov vowed he would
not have believed there were so many fans and
guitars in the world, and suddenly remembered he
had never seen Concha with either. The lady of
his choice reigned supreme. Many had taken the
long blistering journey for no other purpose than
to see the famous beauty and her Russian; the engagement
was as well known as if cried from the
Mission top. The girls were surprised and delighted
to find Concha sweet rather than proud and
envied her with amiable enthusiasm. The caballeros,
fewer in number, for most of the men in
California at that period before a freer distribution
of land were on duty in the army, artfully ignored
the unavowed bond, but liked Rezanov when he took
the trouble to charm them.
Khostov and Davidov watched the loading of the
Juno with a lively regret. Never had they enjoyed
themselves more, nor seen so many pretty girls in
one place. Both had begun by falling in love with
Concha, and although they rebounded swiftly from
the blow to their hopes, it happily saved them from
a more serious dilemma; unwealthed and graceless
as they were, they would have been regarded with
little favor by the practical California father. As
it was, their pleasures were unpoisoned by regrets
or rebuffs. When they were not flirting in the dance
or in front of a lattice, receiving a lesson in Spanish
behind the portly back of a duena, or clasping brown
little fingers under cover of a fan when all eyes
were riveted on the death struggle of a bull and a
bear, they were playing cards and drinking in the
officers' quarters; which they liked almost as well.
It is true they sometimes paid the price in a cutting
rebuke from their chief, but the rebukes were not
as frequent as in less toward circumstances, and were
generally followed by some fresh indulgence. This,
they uneasily guessed, was not only the result of
the equable state of his excellency's temper, but because
he had a signal unpleasantness in store, and
would not hazard their resignation. They had
taken advantage of an imperial ukase to enter the
service of the Russian-American Company temporarily,
and they knew that if they evaded any behest
of Rezanov's their adventurous life in the Pacific
would be over. Therefore, although they resented
his implacable will, they pulled with him in
outward amity; and indeed there were few of the
Juno's human freight that did not look back upon
that California springtime as the episode of their
lives, commonly stormy or monotonous, in which
the golden tide flowed with least alloy. Even
Langsdorff, although impervious to female charms
and with scientific thirst unslaked, enjoyed the
Spanish fare and the society of the priests. The
sailors received many privileges, attended bull-fights
and fandangos, loved and pledged; and were only
restrained from emigration to the interior of this
enchanted land of pretty girls and plentiful food
by the knowledge of the sure and merciless vengeance
of their chief. Had the rumor of war still held
it might have been otherwise, but that raven had
flown off to the limbo of its kind, and the Commandante
let it be known that deserters would be
summarily captured and sent in irons to the Juno.
In the mind of Concha Arguello there was never
a lingering doubt of the quality of that fortnight
between the days of torturing doubts and acute emotional
upheaval, and the sailing away of Rezanov.
It was true that what he banteringly termed her
romantic sadness possessed her at times, but it
served as a shadow to throw into sharper relief an
almost incredible happiness. If she seldom saw
Rezanov alone there was the less to disturb her, and
at least he was never far from her side. There were
always the delight of unexpected moments unseen,
whispered words in the crowd, the sense of complete
understanding, broken now and again by poignant
attacks of unreasoning jealousy, not only on
her part but his; quite worth the reconciliation at
the lattice, while Elena Castro, gentle duena, pitched
her voice high and amused her husband so well he
sought no opportunity for response.
Then there was more than one excursion about
the bay on the Juno, dinner on La Bellissima or
Nuestra Senora de los Angeles, a long return after
sundown that the southerners might appreciate the
splendor of the afterglow when the blue of the
water was reflected in the lower sky, to melt into
the pink fire above, and all the land swam in a pearly
Once the Commandante took twenty of his guests,
a gay cavalcade, to his rancho, El Pilar, thirty miles
to the south: a long valley flanked by the bay and
the eastern mountains on the one hand, and a high
range dense with forests of tall thin trees on the
other. But the valley itself was less Californian
than any part of the country Rezanov had seen.
Smooth and flat and free of undergrowth and set
with at least ten thousand oaks, it looked more like
a splendid English park, long preserved, than the
recent haunt of naked savages. There were deer
and quail in abundance, here and there an open field
of grain. Long beards of pale green moss waved
from the white oaks, wild flowers, golden red and
pale blue, burst underfoot. There were hedges of
sweet briar, acres of lupins, purple and yellow. Altogether
the ideal estate of a nobleman; and Rezanov,
who had liked nothing in California so well,
gave his imagination rein and saw the counterpart
of the castle of his ancestors rise in the deep shade
of the trees.
Don Jose's house was a long rambling adobe, red
tiled, with many bedrooms and one immense hall.
Beyond were a chapel and a dozen outbuildings.
Dinner was served in patriarchal style in the hall,
the Commandante--or El padrone as he was known
here--and his guests at the upper end of the table;
below the salt, the vaqueros, their wives and children,
and the humble friar who drove them to
prayer night and morning. The friar wore his
brown robes, the vaqueros their black and silver
and red in honor of the company, their women glaring
handkerchiefs of green or red or yellow about
their necks, even pinned back and front on their
shapeless garments; and affording a fine vegetable
garden contrast to the delicate flower bed surrounding
the padrone.
There was a race track on the ranch and many
fine horses. After siesta the company mounted
fresh steeds and rode off to applaud the feats of the
vaqueros, who, not content with climbing the greased
pole, wrenching the head of an unfortunate rooster
from his buried body as they galloped by, submitting
the tail of an oiled pig in full flight to the
same indignity, gave when these and other native
diversions were exhausted, such exhibitions of riding
and racing as have never been seen out of California.
As lithe as willow wands, on slender horses
as graceful as themselves, they looked like meteors
springing through space, and there was no trick of
the circus they did not know by instinct, and translate
from gymnastics into poetry. Even Rezanov
shared the excitement of the shouting, clapping
Californians, and Concha laughed delightedly when
his cap waved with the sombreros.
"I think you will make a good Californian in
time," she said as they rode homeward.
"Perhaps," said Rezanov musingly. His eyes
roved over the magnificent estate and at the moment
they entered a portion of it that deepened to
woods, so dense was the undergrowth, so thick the
oak trees. Here there was but a glimpse, now and
again, of the mountains swimming in the dark blue
mist of the late afternoon, the moss waved thickly
from the ancient trees; over even the higher branches
of many rolled a cascade of small brittle leaves, with
the tempting opulence of its poisonous sap. The
path was very abrupt, cut where the immense spreading
trees permitted, and Rezanov and Concha had
no difficulty in falling away from the chattering,
excited company.
"Tell me your ultimate plans, Pedro mio," said
Concha softly. "You are dreaming of something
this moment beyond corn and treaties."
"Do you want that final proof?" he asked, smiling.
"Well, if I could not trust you that would be
the end of everything, and I know that I can. I
have long regarded California as an absolutely
necessary field of supplies, and since I have come
here I will frankly say that could I, as the representative
of the Tsar in all this part of the world, make
it practically my own, I should be content in even
a permanent exile from St. Petersburg. I could attract
an immense colony here and in time import
libraries and works of art, laying the foundation of
a great and important city on that fine site about
Yerba Buena. But now that these kind people have
practically adopted me I cannot repay their hospitality
by any overt act of hostility. I must be content
either slowly to absorb the country, in which
case I shall see no great result in my lifetime, or--
and for this I hope--what with the mess Bonaparte
is making of Europe, every state may be at the
others' throat before long, including Russia and
Spain. At all events, a cause for rupture would
not be far to seek, and it would need no instigation
of mine to despatch a fleet to these shores. In that
case I should be sent with it to take possession in
the name of the Tsar, and to deal with these simple,
kind--and inefficient people, my dear girl--as no
other Russian could. They cannot hold this country.
Spain could not--would not, at all events, for
she has not troops enough here to protect a territory
half its size--hold it against even the 'Americans,'
should they in time feel strong enough to push their
way across the western wilderness. It is the destiny
of this charming Arcadia to disappear; and did
Russia forego an opportunity to appropriate a domain
that offers her literally everything except civilization,
she would be unworthy of her place among
nations. Moreover--a beneficent triumph impossible
to us otherwise--with a powerful and flourishing
colony up and down this coast, and sending
breadstuffs regularly to our other possessions in
these waters until the natives, immigrants, and exiles
were healthy, vitalized beings, it would be but a
question of a few years before we should force open
the doors of China and Japan." He caught Concha
from her horse and strained her to him in the mounting
ardor of his plunge down the future. "You
must resent nothing!" he cried. "You must cease
to be a Spanish woman when you become my wife,
and help me as only you can in those inevitable
years I have mapped out; and not so much for
myself as for Russia. My enemies have sought to
persuade three sovereigns that I am a visionary, but
I have already accomplished much that met with
resentment and ridicule when I broached it. And I
know my powers! I tingle with the knowledge of
my ability to carry to a conclusion every plan I
have thought worth the holding when the ardor of
conception was over. I swear to you that death
alone--and I believe that nothing is further aloof--
shall prevent my giving this country to Russia before
five years have passed, and within another brief
span the trade of China and Japan. It is a glorious
destiny for a man--one man!--to pass into history
as the Russian of his century who has done most
to add to the extent and the wealth and the power
of his empire! Does that sound vainglorious, and
do you resent it? You must not, I tell you, you
must not!"
Concha had never seen him in such a mood. Although
he held her so closely that the horses were
angrily biting each other, she felt that for once there
was nothing personal in his ardor. His eyes were
blazing, but they stared as if a great and prophetic
panorama had risen in this silent wood, where the
long faded moss hung as motionless as if by those
quiet waters that even the most ardent must cross
in his time. She felt his heart beat as she had felt
it before against her soft breast, but she knew that
if he thought of her at all it was but as a part of
himself, not as the woman he impatiently desired.
But she was sensible of no resentment, either for
herself or her race, which, indeed, she knew to be
but a wayfarer in the wilderness engaged in a brief
chimerical enterprise. For the first time she felt
her individuality melt into, commingle with his: and
when he lowered his gaze, still with that intensity
of vision piercing the future, her own eyes reflected
the impersonalities of his; and in time he saw it.
"We should all wear black for so mournful an occasion,"
said Rafaella Sal, spreading out her scarlet
"Father Abella is right. The occasion is sad
enough without giving it the air of a funeral."
"Sad! Dios de mi alma! Will he return?"
Elena Castro shook her wise head. She was
nearly twenty, and four years of matrimony had
made her sceptical of man's capacity for romance.
"Two years are long, and he will see many girls,
and become one again of a life that is always more
brilliant than our sun in May. His eyes will be
dazzled, his mind distracted, full to the brim. To
sit at table with the Tsar, to talk with him alone in
his cabinet, to have for the asking audience of the
Pope of Rome and the King of Spain! Ay yi! Ay
yi! Perhaps he will be made a prince when he returns
to St. Petersburg and all the beautiful princesses
will want to marry him. Can he remember
this poor little California, and even our lovely Concha?
I doubt! Valgame Dios, I doubt!"
"Concha has always been too fortunate," said
Rafaella with a touch of spite, for years of waiting
had tried her temper and the sun always freckled
her nose. The flower of California stood on the
corridor of the Mission and before the church awaiting
the guest of honor and his escort. A mass was
to be said in behalf of the departing guests; the
Juno would sail with the turn of the afternoon tide.
Men and women were in their gayest finery, an exotic
mass of color against the rough white-washed
walls, chattering as vivaciously as if the burden of
their conversation were not regret for the Chamberlain
and his gay young lieutenants. Concha, alone,
wore no color; her frock was white, her mantilla
black. She stood somewhat apart, but although she
was pale she commanded her eyes to dwell absently
on the shifting sand far down the valley, her
haughty Spanish profile betraying nothing of the
despair in her soul.
"Yes, Concha has always been too fortunate," repeated
Rafaella. "Why should she be chosen for
such a destiny--to go to the Russian court and wear
a train ten yards long of red velvet embroidered
with gold, a white veil spangled with gold, a headdress
a foot high set so thick with jewels her head
will ache for a week--Madre de Dios! And we
stay here forever with white walls, horsehair furniture,
Baja California pearls and three silk dresses
a year!"
"No one in all Russia will look so grand in court
dress as our Conchita," said Elena loyally. "But I
doubt if it is the dress and the state she thinks of
losing to-day. She will not talk even to me of
him-- Ay yi! she grows more reserved every
day, our Concha!--except to say she will wed him
when he returns, and that I know, for did not I
witness the betrothal? She only mocks me when I
beg her to tell me if she loves him, languishes, or
sings a bar of some one of our beautiful songs with
ridiculous words. But she does. She did not sleep
last night. Her room is next to mine. No, it is of
Rezanov she thinks, and always. Those proud,
silent girls, who jest when others would weep and
use many words and must die without sympathy--
they have tragedy in their souls, ay yi! And you
think she is fortunate? True she is beautiful, she
is La Favorita, she receives many boxes from Mexico,
and she has won the love of this Russian. But
--I have not dared to remind her--I remembered it
only yesterday--she came into this world on the
thirteenth of a month, and he into her life but one
day before the thirteenth of another--new style!
True some might say that it was an escape, but if
he came on the twelfth, it was on the thirteenth she
began to love him--on the night of the ball; of
that I am sure."
Rafaella shuddered and crossed herself. "Poor
Concha! Perhaps in the end she will always stand
apart like that. Truly she is not as others. I
have always said it. Thanks be to Mary it was
Luis that wooed me, not the Russian, for I might
have been tempted. True his eyes are blue, and
only the black could win my heart. But the court
of St. Petersburg! Dios de mi vida! Did I lie
awake at night and think of Concha Arguello in red
velvet and jewels all over, I should hate her. But
no--to-day--I cannot. Two years! Have I not
waited six? It is eternity when one loves and is
"They come," said Elena.
The cavalcade was descending the sand hills on
the left, Rezanov in full uniform between the Commandante
and Luis Arguello and followed by a
picked escort of officers from Presidio and Fort.
The Californians wore full-dress uniform of white
and scarlet, Don Jose a blue velvet serape, embroidered
in gold with the arms of Spain.
As they dismounted Rezanov bowed ceremoniously
to the party on the corridor, and they returned
his salutation gravely, suddenly silent. He walked
directly over to Concha.
"We will go in together," he said. "It matters
nothing what they think. I kneel beside no one
And Concha, with the air of leading an honored
guest to the banquet, turned and walked with him
into the dark little church.
"Why did you not wear a white mantilla?" he
whispered. "I do not like that black thing."
"I am not a bride. I knew we should kneel together--
it would have been ridiculous. And I could
not wear a colored reboso to-day."
"I should have liked to fancy we were here for
our nuptials. Delusions pass but are none the less
sweet for that."
They knelt before the altar, the Commandante,
Dona Ignacia, Luis, Santiago, Rafaella Sal and
Elena Castro just behind; the rest of the party,
their bright garments shimmering vaguely in the
gloom, as they listened; and enough fervent prayers
went up to insure the health and safety of the departing
guests for all their lives.
Rezanov, who had much on his mind, stared
moodily at the altar until Concha, who had bowed
her head almost to her knees, finished her supplication;
then their eyes turned and met simultaneously.
For a moment their brains did swim in the
delusion that the priest with his uplifted hands pronounced
benediction upon their nuptials, that probation
was over and union nigh. But Father Abella
dismissed all with the same blessing, and they shivered
as they rose and walked slowly down the
Dona Ignacia took her husband's arm, and muttering
that she feared a chill, hurried the others
before her. The priests had gone to the sacristy.
Before they reached the door Rezanov and Concha
were alone.
His hands fell heavily on her shoulders.
"Concha," he said, "I shall come back if I live. I
make no foolish vows, so idle between us. There
is only one power that can prevent our marriage in
this church not later than two years from to-day.
And although I am in the very fulness of my health
and strength, with my work but begun, and all my
happiness in the future, and even to a less sanguine
man it would seem that his course had many years
to run, still have I seen as much as any man of the
inconsequence of life, of the insignificance of the
individual, his hopes, ambitions, happiness, and even
usefulness, in the complicated machinery of natural
laws. It may be that I shall not come back. But
I wish to take with me your promise that if I have
not returned at the end of two years or you have
received no reason for my detention, you will believe
that I am dead. There would be but one insupportable
drop in the bitterness of death, the doubt
of your faith in my word and my love. Are you
too much of a woman to curb your imagination in
a long unbroken silence?"
"I have learned so much that one lesson more is
no tax on my faith. And I no longer live in a
world of little things. I promise you that I shall
never falter nor doubt."
He bent his head and kissed her for the first time
without passion, but solemnly, as had their nuptials
indeed been accomplished, and the greater mystery
of spiritual union isolated them for a moment in
that twilight region where the mortal part did not
As they left the church they saw that all the Indians
of the Mission and neighborhood, in a gala of
color, had gathered to cheer the Russians as they
rode away. Concha was to return as she had come,
beside the carreta of her mother, and as Rezanov
mounted his horse she stood staring with unseeing
eyes on the brilliant, animated scene. Suddenly she
heard a suppressed sob, and felt a touch on her
skirt. She looked round and saw Rosa, kneeling
close to the church. For a moment she continued
to stare, hardly comprehending, in the intense concentration
of her faculties, that tangible beings,
other than herself and Rezanov, still moved on the
earth. Then her mind relaxed. She was normal
in a normal world once more. She stooped and
patted the hands clasping her skirts.
"Poor Rosa!" she said. "Poor Rosa!"
Over the intense green of islands and hills were
long banners of yellow and purple mist, where the
wild flowers were lifting their heads. The whole
quivering bay was as green as the land, but far
away the mountains of the east were pink. Where
there was a patch of verdure on the sand hills the
warm golden red of the poppy flaunted in the sunshine.
All nature was in gala attire like the Californians
themselves, as the Juno under full sail sped
through "The Mouth of the Gulf of the Farallones."
Fort San Joaquin saluted with seven guns;
the Juno returned the compliment with nine. The
Commandante, his family and guests, stood on the
hill above the fort, cheering, waving sombreros and
handkerchiefs. Wind and tide carried the ship
rapidly out the straits. Rezanov dropped the
cocked hat he had been waving and raised his fieldglass.
Concha, as ever, stood a little apart. As
the ship grew smaller and the company turned
toward the Presidio, she advanced to the edge of
the bluff. The wind lifted her loosened mantilla,
billowing it out on one side, and as she stood with
her hands pressed against her heart, she might, save
for her empty arms, have been the eidolon of the
Madonna di San Sisto. In her eyes was the same
expression of vague arrested horror as she looked
out on that world of menacing imperfections the
blind forces of nature and man had created; her
body was instinct with the same nervous leashed impotent
The white rain clouds, rolling as ever like a nervous
intruder over the great snow peaks behind the steep
hills black with forest that rose like a wall back of
the little settlement of Sitka, parted for a moment,
and the sun, a coy disdainful guest, flung a glittering
mist over what Nature had intended to be one
of the most enchanting spots on earth, until, in a
fit of ill-temper--with one of the gods, no doubt--
she gave it to Niobe as a permanent outlet for her
discontent. When it does not rain at Sitka it pours,
and when once in a way she draws a deep breath of
respite and lifts her grand and glorious face to the
sun, in pathetic gratitude for dear infrequent favor,
comes a wild flurry of snow or a close white fog
from the inland waters; and, like a great beauty
condemned to wear a veil through life, she can but
stare in dumb resentment through the folds, consoling
herself with the knowledge that could the world
but see it must surely worship. Perhaps, who
knows? she really is a frozen goddess, condemned
to the veil for infidelity to him imprisoned in the
great volcano across the sound--who sends up a
column of light once in a way to dazzle her shrouded
eyes, and failing that batters her with rock and
stone like any lover of the slums. One day he
spat forth a rock like a small hill, and big enough
to dominate the strip of lowland at least, standing
out on the edge of the island like a guard at the
gates, and never a part of the alien surface. Between
this lofty rock and the forest was the walled
settlement of New Archangel, that Baranhov, the
dauntless, had wrested from the bloodthirsty Kolosh
but a short time since and purposed to hold in the
interest of the Russian-American Company. His
log hut, painted like the other buildings with a yellow
ochre found in the soil, stood on the rock, and
his glass swept the forest as often as the sea.
As Rezanov, on the second of July, thirty-one
days after leaving San Francisco, sailed into the
harbor with its hundred bits of volcanic woodland
weeping as ever, he gave a whimsical sigh in tribute
to the gay and ever-changing beauties of the
southern land, but was in no mood for sentimental
reminiscence. Natives, paddling eagerly out to sea
in their bidarkas to be the first to bring in good
news or bad, had given him a report covering the
period of his absence that filled him with dismay.
There had been deaths from scurvy; one of the
largest ships belonging to the Company had been
wrecked and the entire cargo lost; of a hunting
party of three hundred Aleuts in one hundred and
forty bidarkas, which had gone from Sitka to
Kadiak in November of the preceding year, not one
had arrived at its destination, and there was reason
to believe that all had been drowned or massacred;
and the Russians and Aleuts at Behring's Bay settlement
had been exterminated by one of the native
But the Juno was received with salvos of artillery
from the fort, and cheered by the entire population
of the settlement, crowded on the beach.
Baranhov, looking like a monkey with a mummy's
head in which only a pair of incomparably shrewd
eyes still lived, his black wig fastened on his bald,
red-fringed pate with a silk handkerchief tied under
his chin, stood, hands on hips, shaking with excitement
and delight. The bearded, long-haired priests,
in full canonicals of black and gold, were beside the
Chief-Manager, ready to escort the Chamberlain to
the chapel at the head of the solitary street, where
the bells were pealing and a mass of thanksgiving
was to be said for his safe return.
But it was some time before Rezanov could reach
the chapel or even exchange salutations with Baranhov.
As he stepped on shore he was surrounded,
almost hustled by the shouting crowd of Russians,
--many of them convicts--Aleuts and Sitkans, who
knelt at his feet, endeavored to kiss his hand, his
garments, in their hysterical gratitude for the food
he had brought them. For the first time he felt
reconciled to his departure from California, and
Concha's image faded as he looked at the tearful
faces of the diseased, ill-nourished wretches who
gave their mite of life that he might live as became
a great noble of the Russian Empire. But although
he tingled with pleasure and was deeply moved, he
by no means swelled with vanity, for he was far
too clear-sighted to doubt he had done more than
his duty, or that his duty was more than begun.
He made them a little speech, giving his word they
should be properly fed hereafter, that he would make
the improvement of their condition as well as that
of all the employees of the Company throughout
this vast chain of settlements on the Pacific, the chief
consideration of his life; and they believed him and
followed him to the chapel rejoicing, reconciled for
once to their lot.
After the service Rezanov went up to the hut of
the Chief-Manager, a habitation that leaked winter
and summer, and was equally deficient in light, ventilation
and order. But Baranhov in the sixteen
years of his exile had forgotten the bare lineaments
of comfort, and devoted his days to advancing the
interests of the Company, his nights, save when
sleep overcame him, to potations that would have
buried an ordinary man under Alaskan snows long
since. But Baranhov had fourteen years more of
good service in him, and rescued the Company from
insolvency again and again, nor ever played into
the hands of marauding foreigners; with brain on
fire he was shrewder than the soberest.
He listened with deep satisfaction to the Chamberlain's
account of his success with the Californians
and his glowing pictures of the country, nodding
every few moments with emphatic approval.
But as the story finished his wonderful eyes were
two bubbling springs of humor, and Rezanov, who
knew him well, recrossed his legs nervously.
"What is it?" he asked. "What have I done
now? Remember that you have been in this business
for sixteen years, and I one--"
"How many measures of corn did you say you
had brought, Excellency?"
"Two hundred and ninety-four," replied Rezanov
"A provision that exceeds my most sanguine
hopes. The only thing that mitigates my satisfaction
is that there is not a mill in the settlement to
grind it."
Rezanov sprang to his feet with a violent exclamation,
his face very red. There was no one
whose good opinion he valued as he did that of this
brilliant, dissipated, disinterested old genius; and
he felt like a schoolboy. But although he started
for the door, he recovered half-way, and reseating
himself joined in the laughter of the little man who
was rocking back and forth on his bench, his weazened
leg clasped against his shrunken chest.
"How on earth was I to know all your domestic
arrangements?" he said testily. "God knows I
found them limited enough last winter, but it never
occurred to me there was any mysterious process
involved in converting corn into meal. Is it quite
useless, then?"
"Oh, no, we can boil or roast it. It will dispose
of what teeth we have left, but that will serve the
good purpose of reminding us always of your excellency's
interest in our welfare."
Rezanov shrugged his shoulders. "Give the corn
to the natives. It is farinaceous at all events. And
you can have nothing to say against the flour I
have brought, and the peas, beans, tallow, butter,
barley, salt, and salted meats--in all to the value of
twenty-four thousand Spanish dollars."
The Chief-Manager's head nodded with the vigor
and rapidity of a mechanical toy. "It is a God-send,
a God-send. If you did no more than that you would
have earned our everlasting gratitude. It will make
us over, give us renewed courage in this cursed existence.
Are you not going to get me out of it?"
Rezanov shook his head with a smile. "Literally
you are the whole Company. As long as I live
here you stay--although when I reach St. Petersburg
I shall see that you receive every possible reward
and honor."
Baranhov lifted his shoulders to his ears in quizzical
resignation. "I suppose it matters little where
the last few years left me are spent, and I can hang
the medals on the walls to console me when I have
rheumatism, and shout my titles from the top of
the fort when the Kolosh are yelling at the barricades."
"You must make yourself more comfortable,"
said Rezanov emphatically. "You are wrong to
carry your honesty and enthusiasm to the point of
living like the promuschleniki. Take enough of
their time to build you a comfortable dwelling, and
I will send you, on my own account, far more substantial
rewards than orders and titles. Build a
big house, for that matter. I shall be here more
or less--when I am not in California." And he told
Baranhov of his proposed marriage with the daughter
of Don Jose Arguello.
The Chief-Manager listened to this confidence
with an even livelier satisfaction than to the list
of the Juno's cargo.
"We shall have California yet!" he cried, his eyes
snapping like live coals under the black thatch of
wig. "Absorption or the bayonet. It matters little.
Ten years from now and we shall have a line of
settlements as far south as San Diego. My plan
was to feel my way down the northern coast of
California with a colony, which should buy a tract
of land from the natives and engage immediately
in otter hunting--somewhere between Cape Mendocino
and Drake's Bay. The Spanish have no settlements
above San Francisco and are too weak to
drive us out. They would rage and bluster and do
nothing. Then quietly push forward, building forts
and ships. But you have taken hold in the grand
manner and will accomplish in ten years what would
have taken me fifty. Marry this girl, use your advantage
over the entire family--whose influence I
well know--and that great personal power with
which the Almighty has been so lavish, and you
will have the whole weakly garrisoned country under
your foot before they know where they are, and
the Russian settlers pouring in. Spain cannot
come to the rescue while this devil Bonaparte is
alive, and he is young, and like yourself a favorite
of destiny. Those damned Bostonians inherit the
grabbing instincts of the too paternal race they have
just rejected, but there are thousands of miles of
desert between California and their own western
outposts, hundreds of savage tribes to exterminate.
By the time they are in a position to attempt the
occupation of California we shall be so securely entrenched
they will either let us alone or send troops
that would be half dead by the time they reach
us. As to ships, we could soon build enough at Okhotsk
and Petropaulovsky for our purpose. For
the matter of that, if your gifted tongue impressed
the Tsar with the riches of California there would
always be war ships on her coast." He leaned forward
and caught the strong shoulders above him in
hands that looked like a tangle of baked nerves, and
shook them vigorously. "You are a great boy!" he
said with a sort of quizzical solemnity. "A great
boy. This damned, God-forsaken, pestilential, demoralizing,
brutalizing factory for enriching a few
with the very life blood and vitals of thousands that
will suffer and starve and never be heard of" (all
his language cannot be recorded), "will make two
or three reputations by the way. Mine will be one,
although I'll get nothing else. Shelikov is safe;
but you will have a monument. Well, God bless
you. I grudge you nothing. Not even the happiness
you deserve and are bound to have--for when
all is said and done, Rezanov, you are a lucky dog,
a lucky dog! Any man may see that, even when
these infernal snows have left him with but half an
eye. To quarrel with a destiny like yours would be
as great a waste of time as to protest that California
is warm and fertile, while this infernal North is
like living in a refrigerator with the deluge to vary
the monotony. Now let us get drunk!"
But Rezanov laughingly extricated himself, and
sending a message to Davidov and Khostov to come
to him immediately, walked toward the tent he had
ordered erected on the edge of the settlement; only
the worst of weather drove him indoors in these
half-civilized communities.
As he was passing the chapel, followed again by
the employees of the Company, to whom he had
granted a holiday, he suddenly found his hand taken
possession of, and looked up to see himself confronted
by a dissipated-looking person in plain
clothes. His hand became so limp that it was
dropped as if it had put forth a sting, and he narrowed
his eyes and demanded with a bend of his
mouth that brought the blood to the face of the intruder:
"And who are you, may I ask?"
The man threw back his head defiantly. "I am
Lieutenant Sookin of the Imperial Navy of Russia,"
he said in a loud, defiant tone.
"And I am Chamberlain of the Russian Court
and Commander of all America," replied Rezanov
coolly. "Now go to your quarters, dress yourself
in your uniform, and present your report to me an
hour hence."
The officer, concentrating in his injected eyes all
the lively hatred and jealousy of his service for the
Russian-American Company in this region where it
reigned supreme and cared no more for the Admiralty
than for some native chieftain covered with
shells and warpaint, glared at its plenipotentiary as
if calling upon his deeper resources of insolence;
but the steady, contemptuous gaze of the man who
had dealt with his kind often and successfully overcame
his sodden spirit, and he turned sulkily and
slouched off to his quarters to console himself with
more brandy. Rezanov shrugged his shoulders
and went on to his tent.
There was no furniture in it as yet, and he was
obliged to receive Davidov and Khostov standing,
but this he preferred. They followed him almost
immediately, apprehensive and nervous, and before
speaking he looked at them for a moment with his
strong, penetrating gaze. He well knew the power
of his own personality, and that it was immeasurably
enhanced by the fact that of all with whom he
had to do in these benighted regions his will alone
was never weakened by liquor. These young men,
clever, high-bred, with an honorable record not only
in Russia, but in England and America, looked upon
a hilarious night as the just reward of work well
done by day. Brandy was debited to their account
by the "bucket" (a bucket being a trifle less than
two gallons), and they found little fault with life.
But the profligacy gave a commanding spirit like
Rezanov's an advantage which they did not underestimate
for a moment; and they alternately hated
and worshiped him.
"I think you have an inkling of what I am going
to ask you to do." The Chamberlain brought out
the euphemism with the utmost suavity. "I have
made up my mind not to ignore the indignity to
which Russia was subjected last year by Japan, but
to inflict upon it such punishment as I find it in my
power to compass. It was my intention to build a
flotilla here, but owing to the diseased condition and
reduced numbers of the employees, that was impossible,
and I shall be obliged to content myself
with the Juno and the Avos, whose keel, as you
know, was laid in November, and is no doubt finished
long since. These I shall fit with armaments
in Okhotsk. I shall place the enterprise I have
spoken of in your charge, sailing with you from
Sitka five days hence. From Okhotsk I desire that
you proceed to the Japanese settlements in the lower
Kurile Islands, take possession of them and bring
all stores and as many of the inhabitants as the
vessels will accommodate, to Sitka, where Baranhov
will see that they are comfortably established
on that large island in the harbor--which we shall
call Japonsky--and converted into good servants of
the Company. The excuse for this enterprise is
that those islands were formally taken possession
of by Shelikov; and although abandoned later, the
fact remains that the Russian flag was the first to
float over them. The stores captured may not be
worth much and the islands are of no particular use
to us, but it is wise that Japan should have a taste
of Russian power; and the consequences may be
salutary in more ways than one. I hope you will
do me this great favor, for there is no one of your
tried probity and skill to whom I can trust so delicate
an enterprise. I am doing it wholly upon my
own responsibility, for although I wrote tentatively
to the Tsar on this subject before I sailed for California,
it is not yet time for a reply. However, I
take the consequences upon my own shoulders. You
shall not suffer in any way, for your orders are to
obey mine while you remain in these waters."
He paused a moment, and then suddenly smiled
into the unresponsive faces before him. He held
out his hand and shook their limp ones warmly.
"Let me thank you here for all your inestimable
services in the past, and particularly during our late
hazardous voyages. Be sure that whether you succeed
in this enterprise or not, your rewards shall be
no less for what you have already done. I shall
make it a personal matter with the Tsar. You shall
have promotion and a substantial increase in pay,
besides the orders and Imperial thanks you so richly
deserve. Lest anything happen to me on my homeward
journey, I shall write to St. Petersburg before
I leave."
The lieutenants, overcome as ever when he chose
to put forth his full powers, assured him of their
fidelity and, if with misgivings, vowed to mete out
vengeance to the Japanese. And although their
misgivings were not unfounded, and they paid a
high price in suffering and mortification, they accomplished
their object and in due course received
the rewards the Chamberlain had promised them.
They did not retire, and Rezanov, noting their
sudden hesitation and embarrassment, felt an instant
thrill of apprehension.
"What is it?" he demanded. "What has happened?"
"Life has moved slowly in Sitka during your
absence, Excellency," replied Davidov. "There has
been little work done on the Avos. It will not be
finished for a month or six weeks."
Then, had the young men been possessed by a
not infrequent mood, they would have glowed with
a sense of just satisfaction. Rezanov felt himself
turn so white that he wheeled about and left the
tent. A month or six weeks! And the speed and
safety of his journey across Siberia depended upon
his making the greater part of it before the heavy
autumn rains swelled the rivers and flooded the
swamps. Winter or summer the journey from Okhotsk
to St. Petersburg might be made in four
months; with the wealth and influence at his command,
possibly in less; but in the deluge between
he was liable to detentions lasting nearly as long
again, to say nothing of illness caused by inevitable
He stood staring at the palisades for many minutes.
The separation must be long enough, the
dangers numerous enough if he started within the
week, but at least he had in a measure accustomed
himself to the idea of not seeing Concha again for
"the best part of two years," and the sanguineness
of his temperament had led him to hope that the
time might be reduced to eighteen months. If he
delayed too long, only by means of an unprecedented
run of good fortune would he reach St.
Petersburg but a month behind his calculations.
And the chances were in favor of four, or three at
the best! Never since the morning that the real
nature of his feeling for Concha had declared itself
had he yearned toward her as at that moment; never
since the dictum of what she called their "tribunal"
had he so rebelled against the long delay. And yet
he hesitated. To leave Japan unpunished for the
senseless humiliations to which it had subjected
Russia in his person was not to be thought of, and
yet did he leave without seeing the Avos finished,
the two boats supplied with armaments at Okhotsk,
and under way before he started across Siberia, he
knew it was doubtful if the expedition took place
before his return; in that case might never take
place, for these two young men might have drifted
elsewhere, and he knew no one else to whom he
could entrust such a commission. In spite of their
idiosyncrasies he could rely upon them implicitly--
up to a certain point. That point involved keeping
them in sight until exactly the right moment and
leaving nothing to their executive which could be
certainly accomplished by himself alone. Did he
sail five days hence on the Juno one of the officers
would be exposed for an indeterminate time to the
temptations of Okhotsk, the ship, perhaps, at the
mercy of some sudden requirement of the Company.
His authority was absolute when enforced
in person, but it was a proverb west of the Ural:
"God reigns and the Tsar is far away." If the
Juno were wanted the manager of Okhotsk would
argue that two years was a period in which an ardent
servant of the Company would find many an
excuse to justify its seizure.
And here in Sitka it was doubtful if the work on
the Avos proceeded at all. Baranhov was not in
sympathy with the enterprise against the Japanese,
fearing the consequences to himself in the event of
the Tsar's disapproval, and resenting the impressment
of the promuschleniki into a service that deprived
him of their legitimate work. Moreover, although
he loved Rezanov personally, he had enjoyed
supreme power in the wilderness too long not
to chafe under even the temporary assumption of
authority by his high-handed superior. With the
best of intentions Davidov could make little headway
against the passive resistance of the Chief-
Manager, and those intentions would be weakened
by the consolidations the Company so generously
The result was hardly open to doubt. If he left
Sitka before the completion of the Avos, Russia
would go unavenged for the present. Or himself?
Rezanov, sanguine and imaginative as he was, even
to the point of creating premises to rhyme with ends,
was very honest fundamentally. He turned abruptly
on his heel, and calling to the officers that he would
announce his decision on the morrow, ordered the
sentry to open the gate and passed out of the enclosure.
He crossed the clearing and entered the forest.
The warlike tribes themselves had trodden paths
through the dense undergrowth of young trees and
ferns. Rezanov, despite Baranhov's warning, had
tramped the forest many times. It was the one
thing that reconciled him to Sitka, for there are
few woods more beautiful. In spite or because of
the incessant rains, it is pervaded by a rich golden
gloom, the result of the constant rotting of the
brown and yellow bark, not only of the prostrate
trees, but of the many killed by crowding and unable
to seek the earth with the natural instinct of
death. And above, the green of hemlock and spruce
was perennially fresh and young, glistening and fragrant.
Here and there was a small clearing where
the clans had erected their ingenious and hideous
totem poles, out of place in the ancient beauty of
the wood.
The ferns brushed his waist, the roar of the river
came to his ears, the forest had never looked more
primeval, more wooing to a man burdened with civilization,
but Rezanov gave it less heed than usual,
although he had turned to it instinctively. He was
occupied with a question to which nature would
turn an aloof disdainful ear. Was his own wounded
vanity at the root of his desire to humiliate Japan?
Russia was too powerful, too occupied, for the present
at least, greatly to care that her overtures and
presents had been scorned. Upon her ambassador
had fallen the full brunt of that wearisome and incomparably
mortifying experience, and unfortunately
the ambassador happened to be one of the
proudest and most autocratic men in her empire.
No man of Rezanov's caliber but accommodates that
sort of personal vanity that tenaciously resents a
blow to the pride of which it is a part, to the love of
power it feeds. As well expect a lover without passion,
a state without corruption. Rezanov finally
shrugged his shoulders and admitted the impeachment,
but at the same time he recognized that the
desire for vengeance still held, and that the tenacity
of his nature, a tenacity that had been no mean
factor in the remodeling of himself from a voluptuous
young sprig of nobility into one of the most
successful business men and subjugator of other
men that the Russian Empire could show, was not
likely to weaken when its very roots had been stiff
with purpose for fifteen months. Power had been
Rezanov's ruling passion for many years before he
met Concha Arguello, and, although it might mate
very comfortably with love, it was not to be expected
that it would remain submerged beyond the first
enthusiasm, nor even assume the position of the
"party of the second part." Rezanov was Rezanov.
He was also in that interval between youth and age
when the brain rules if it is ever to rule at all. That
the ardor of his nature had awakened refreshed
after a long sleep was but just proved, as well as
the revival of his early ideals and capacity for genuine
love; but the complexities, the manifold interests
and desires of the ego had been growing and
developing these many years; and no mere mortal
that has given up his life for a considerable period
to the thirst for dominance can ever, save in a brief
exaltation, sacrifice it to anything so normal as the
demands of sex and spirit. For good or ill, the
man who has burned with ambition, exulted in the
exercise of power, bitterly resented the temporary
victories of rivals and enemies, fought with all the
resources of brain and character against failure, is
in a class apart from humanity in the mass. Rezanov
loved Concha Arguello to the very depths of
his soul, but he had lived beyond the time when
even she could engage successfully with the ruthless
forces that had molded into immutable shape
the Rezanov she knew. Her place was second, and
it is probable that she would have loved him less
had it been otherwise; she, in spite of her fine intellect
and strong will, being all woman, as he, despite
his depth of intuition, was all man. Equality is
possible in no relation or condition of life. When
woman subjugates man the conquered will enjoy a
sense of revenge proportionate to the meanness of
his state.
It is possible that had Concha awaited Rezanov in
St. Petersburg her attraction would have focused
his desires irresistibly; but his mind had resigned
itself to the prospect of separation for a definite
period, and while it had not relegated her image to
the background, her part in his life had been settled
there among many future possibilities, and all the
foreground was crowded with the impatient symbols
of the intervening time. Moreover, he well
knew that the savor would be gone from his happiness
with the woman were the taste of another failure
acrid in his mouth.
As he realized that the die was cast, the sanguineness
of his temperament rushed to do battle against
apprehension and self-accusing. After all, he was
rarely balked of his way, accustomed to ride down
obstacles, to the amiable cooperation of fate. He
could arrive in Okhotsk late in September or early
in October. Captain D'Wolf, who had been detained
at Sitka during his absence by the same indifference
that had operated against the completion
of the Avos, would precede him and order that all
be in readiness at Okhotsk both for the ships and
his journey to Yakutsk. He could proceed at once;
and, no doubt, with twice the number or horses
needed, would make the first and most difficult stage
of the journey in the usual time, and with no great
embarrassment from the rains. From Yakutsk to
Irkutsk the greater part of the travel was by water
in any case, and after that the land was flat for the
most part and bridges were more numerous. The
governor of every town in Siberia would be his
obsequious servant, the entire resources of the
country would be at his disposal. He was sound in
health again, as resistant against hardships as when
he had sailed from Kronstadt. And God knew, he
thought with a sigh, his will and purpose had never
been stronger.
Rezanov disembarked from the Juno at Okhotsk
during the first days of October. Had it not been
for a touch of fever that had returned in the filth
and warm dampness of Sitka, he would have felt
almost as buoyant in mind and body as in those days
when California had gone to his head. The Juno
had touched at Kadiak, Oonalaska, and others of
the more important settlements, and he had found
his schools and libraries in good condition, seals
and otters rapidly increasing, in their immunity
from indiscriminate slaughter, new and stronger
forts threatening the nefarious Bostonian and Briton.
At Okhotsk he learned that the embassy of
Count Golofkin to China had failed as signally as
his own, and this alone would have put him in the
best of tempers even had he not found his armament
and caravan awaiting him, facilitating his immediate
departure. He wrote a gay letter to Concha,
giving her the painful story of the naturalist
attached to the Golofkin embassy, Dr. Redovsky,
who had remained in the East animated by the same
scientific enthusiasm as that of his colleague, the
good Langsdorff; parted some time since from his
too exacting master. Rezanov had written Concha
many letters during his detention in Sitka, and left
them with Baranhov to send at the first opportunity.
The Chief-Manager, deeply interested in the
romance of the mighty Chamberlain with whom he
alone dared to take a liberty, vowed to guard all
that came to his care and sooner or later to send
them to California. Rezanov had also written comprehensively
to the Tsar and the directors of the
Russian-American Company, adroitly placing his
marriage in the light of a diplomatic maneuver, and
painting California in colors the more vivid and enticing
for the sullen clouds and roaring winds, the
dripping forests and eternal snows of that derelict
corner of Earth where he had been stranded so
long. He had also, when Langsdorff announced his
intention to start upon a difficult journey in the interest
of science, provided him not only with letters
of recommendation, but with all the comforts procurable
in a land where the word comfort was the
stock in trade of the local satirist. But Langsdorff,
although punctiliously acknowledging the favors,
never quite forgave the indifference of a mere ambassador
and chamberlain, rejoicing in the dignity
of an honorary membership in the St. Petersburg
Academy of Sciences, to the supreme division of
natural history.
The first stage of the journey--from Okhotsk to
Yakutsk--was about six hundred and fifty English
miles, not as the crow flew, but over the Stanovoi
mountains in a southwesterly direction to the Maya,
by this river's wavering course to the Youdoma,
then northwest to the Aldan, and south beside the
Lena. The beaten track lay entirely alongside the
rivers at this season, upon their surface in winter;
and in addition to these great streams there were
many too unimportant for the map, but as erratic
in course and as irresistible in energy after the first
rains of autumn.
Captain D'Wolf had proved himself capable and
faithful, and a caravan of forty horses had been in
Okhotsk a week; twenty for immediate use, twenty
for relief, or substitutes in almost certain emergency.
As there were but one or two stations of
any importance between Okhotsk and Yakutsk, and
as a week might pass without the shelter of so much
as a hut, it was necessary to take tents and bearskin
beds for the Chamberlain, his Cossack guard, valetde-
chambre, cook and other servants, one set of fine
blankets and linen, cooking utensils, axes, arms,
tinder-boxes, provisions for the entire trip, besides
a great quantity of personal luggage.
Rezanov lost no time. He had changed his original
plan and dispatched Davidov on the Avos from
Oonalaska. Guns and provisions awaited the Juno
at Okhotsk, and in less than a week after his arrival
Rezanov was able to start on his long journey
with a mind at rest. Although the almost extravagant
delight that his body had taken in the comforts
of his manager's home, after ten weeks on the
Juno, warned him that he might be in a better condition
to begin a journey of ten thousand versts, he
hearkened neither to the hint nor to the insistence
of his host. His impatient energy and stern will,
combined with the passionate wish to accomplish
the double object of his journey, returning in the
least possible time to California with his treaty and
the consent of the Pope and King to his marriage,
would have carried him out of Okhotsk in fortyeight
hours had disease declared itself. Nor were
there any inducements aside from a comfortable
bed and refined fare, in the flat, unhealthy town
with its everlasting rattle of chains, and the hideous
physiognomies of criminals always at work to the
rumbling accompaniment of Cossack oaths.
For the first week the exercise he loved best and
the long days in the crisp open air renewed his
vigor, and he even looked forward to the four
months of what was then the severest traveling in
the world, in a boyish spirit of adventure. He reflected
that he might as well give his brain a relief
from the constant revolving of schemes and plans
for the advancement of his country, his company,
and himself, and let his thoughts have their carnival
of anticipation with the unparalleled happiness
and success that awaited him in the future. There
was no possible doubt of the acquiescence and assistance
of the Tsar, and no man ever looked down a
fairer perspective than he, as he galloped over the
ugly country, often far ahead of his caravan, splashing
through bogs and streams, fording rivers without
ferries, camping at night in forests so dense the
cold never escaped their embrace, muffled to the eyes
in furs as he made his way past valleys whose eternal
ice fields chilled the country for miles about;
sometimes able to procure a little fresh milk and
butter, oftener not; occasionally passing a caravan
returning for furs, generally seeing nothing but a
stray reindeer for hours together, once meeting the
post and finding much for himself that in nowise
dampened his spirit.
But on the eighth day the rains began: a fine
steady mist, then in torrents as endless. Wrapped
in bearskins at night within the shelter of a tent or
of some wayside hut, and closely covered by day,
Rezanov at first merely cursed the inconvenience of
the rain; but while crossing the river Allach Juni,
his guides without consulting him having taken him
miles out of his way in order to avoid the hamlet of
the same name where the small-pox was raging, but
where there was a government ferry, his horse lost
his footing in the rapid, swollen current and fell.
Rezanov managed to retain his seat, and pulled the
frightened, plunging beast to its feet while his Cossacks
were still shouting their consternation. But
he was soaked to the skin, his personal luggage was
in the same condition, and they did not reach a hut
where a fire could be made until nine hours later.
It was then that the seeds of malaria, accumulated
during the last three years in unsanitary ports and
sown deep by exceptional hardships, but which he
believed had taken themselves off during his six
weeks in California, stirred more vigorously than
in Sitka or Okhotsk. He rode on the next day in a
burning fever. Jon, minding Langsdorff's instructions,
doctored him--not without difficulty--from
the medicine chest, and for a day or two the fever
seemed broken. But Jon, sick with apprehension,
implored him to turn back. He might as well have
implored the sky to turn blue.
"How do you think men accomplish things in
this world?" asked Rezanov angrily. "By turning
back and going to bed every time they have a migraine?"
"No, Excellency," said the man humbly. "But
health is necessary to the accomplishment of everything,
and if the body is eaten up with fever--"
"What are drugs for? Give me the whole
damned pharmacopeia if you choose, but don't talk
to me about turning back."
"Very well, Excellency," said Jon, with a sigh.
The next day he and one of the Cossack guard
caught him as he fell from his horse unconscious.
A Yakhut hut, miserable as it was, offered in the
persistent downpour a better shelter than the tent.
They carried him into it, and his bedding at least
was almost as luxurious as had he been in St.
Petersburg. Jon, at his wits' end, remembered the'
practice of Langsdorff in similar cases, and used
the lancet, a heroic treatment he would never have
accomplished had his master been conscious. The
fever ebbed, and in a few days Rezanov was able
to continue the journey by shorter stages, although
heavy with an intolerable lassitude. But his will
sustained him until he reached Yakutsk, not at the
end of twenty-two days, but of thirty-three. Here
he succumbed immediately, and although his sickbed
was in the comfortable home of the agent of
the Company, and he had medical attendance of a
sort, his fever and convalescence lasted for eight
weeks. Then, in spite of the supplications of his
friends, chief among whom was his faithful Jon,
and the prohibition of the doctor, he began the second
stage of his journey.
The road from Yakutsk to Irkutsk, some two
thousand six hundred versts, or fifteen hundred and
fifty English miles, lay for the most part alternately
on and along the river Lena in a southeasterly direction;
there being no attempt to cross Siberia at
any point in a straight line. By this time the river
was frozen, and the only concession Rezanov would
make to his enfeebled frame was an arrangement
to cover the entire journey by private sledge instead
of employing the swifter course of post sledge on
the long stretches and horseback on the shorter cuts.
The weather was now intensely cold, the river
winding, the delays many, but there were adequate
stations for the benefit and accommodation of travelers
every hundred versts or less. Rezanov felt so
invigorated by the long hours in the open after the
barbarous closeness of his sick room, that at the
end of a fortnight he was again possessed with all
his old ardor of desire to reach the end of his journey.
He vowed he was well again, abandoned his
comfortable sledge, and pushed on in the common
manner. In the wretched post sledges he was often
exposed to the full violence of a Siberian winter,
and although the horseback exercise stirred his blood
and refreshed him for the moment, he suffered in
reaction and was several times forced to remain two
nights instead of one at a station. But he was muffled
in sables to his very eyes, and the road was
diverting, often beautiful, with its Gothic mountains,
its white plains set with villages and farms,
the high thin crosses above the open or swelling
domes of the little churches. Sometimes the Lena
narrowed until its frozen surface looked like a mass
of ice that had ground its way between perpendicular
walls or overhanging masses of rock that awaited
the next convulsion of nature to close the pass altogether.
Then the dogs trotted past caves and grottos,
left the abrupt and craggy banks, crossed level
plains once more; where herds of cattle grazed in
the summertime, now a vast uncheckered expanse
of white. The Government and Company agents
fawned upon him, the best of horses and beds, food
and wine, were eagerly placed at the disposal of the
favorite of the Tsar. Rezanov's spirit, always of
the finest temper, suffered no eclipse for many days.
He reveled in the belief that his sorely tried body
was regenerating its old vigors.
From Wercholensk to Katschuk the journey was
so winding by river that it consumed more than
twice the time of the land route, which although
only thirty versts in extent was one of the most
difficult in Siberia. Rezanov chose the latter without
hesitation, and would listen to no discussion
from the Commissary of the little town or from his
distracted Jon: the journey from Yakutsk had now
lasted five weeks and the servant's watchful eye
noted signs of exhaustion.
The hills were very high and very steep, the roads
but a name in summer. Had not the snow been
soft and thin, the horses could not have made the
ascent at all; and, as it was, the riders were forced
to walk the greater part of the way and drag their
unwilling steeds behind them. They were twelve
hours covering the thirty versts, and at Katschuk
Rezanov succumbed for two days, while Jon scoured
the country in search of a telega; as sometimes happened
there was a long stretch of country without
snow, and sledges, by far the most comfortable
method of travel in Siberia, could not be used. The
rest of the journey, but one hundred and ninetysix
versts, must be made by land. Rezanov admitted
that he was too weary to ride, and refused to
travel in the post carriage. On the third day the
servant managed to hire a telega from a superior
farmer and they started immediately, the heavy luggage
having been consigned to a merchant vessel at
Rezanov stood the telega exactly half a day.
Little larger than an armchair and far lighter, it
was drawn by horses that galloped up and down
hill and across the intervening valleys with no
change of gait, and over a road so rough that the
little vehicle seemed to be propelled by a succession
of earthquakes. Rezanov, in a fever which he attributed
to rage, dismissed the telega at a village
and awaited the coming of Jon, who followed on
horseback with the personal luggage.
It was a village of wooden houses built in the
Russian fashion, and inhabited by a dignified tribe
wearing long white garments bordered with fur.
They spoke Russian, a language little heard farther
north and east in Siberia, and when Rezanov declined
their hospitality they dispatched a courier at
once to the Governor-General of Irkutsk acquainting
him with the condition of the Chamberlain and
of his imminent arrival. In consequence, when
Rezanov drew rein two days later and looked down
upon the city of Irkutsk with its pleasant squares
and great stone buildings beside the shining river,
the gilded domes and crosses of its thirty churches
and convents glittering in the sun, the whole picture
beckoning to the delirious brain of the traveler
like some mirage of the desert, his appearance was
the signal for a salute from the fort; and the Governor-
General, privy counselor and senator de
Pestel, accompanied by the civil governor, the commandant,
the archbishop, and a military escort, sallied
forth and led the guest, with the formality of
officials and the compassionate tenderness of men,
into the capital.
For three weeks longer Rezanov lay in the palace
of the Governor. Between fever and lassitude,
his iron will seemed alternately to melt in the fiery
furnace of his body, then, a cooling but still viscous
and formless mass, sink to the utmost depths of his
being. But here he had the best of nursing and
attendance, rallied finally and insisted upon continuing
his journey. His doctor made the less demur
as the traveling was far smoother now, in the early
days of March, than it would be a month hence,
when the snow was thinner and the sledges were
no longer possible. Nevertheless, he announced his
intention to accompany him as far as Krasnoiarsk,
where the Chamberlain could lodge in the house of
the principal magistrate of the place, Counselor Keller,
and, if necessary, be able to command fair nursing
and medical attendance; and to this Rezanov
indifferently assented.
The prospect of continuing his journey and the
bustle of preparation raised the spirits of the invalid
and gave him a fictitious energy. He had
fought depression and despair in all his conscious
moments, never admitted that the devastation in his
body was mortal. With but a remnant of his former
superb strength, and emaciated beyond recognition,
he attended a banquet on the night preceding
his departure, and on the following morning
stood up in his sledge and acknowledged the Godspeed
of the population of Irkutsk assembled in the
square before the palace of the Governor. All his
life he had excited interest wherever he went, but
never to such a degree as on that last journey when
he made his desperate fight for life and happiness.
The snow rarely falls in Krasnoiarsk. It is a little
oasis in the great winter desert of Siberia. Rezanov,
his face turned to the window, could see the
red banks on the opposite side of the river. The
sun transformed the gilded cupolas and crosses into
dazzling points of light, and the sky above the spires
and towers, the stately square and narrow dirty
streets of the bustling little capital, was as blue and
unflecked as that which arched so high above a land
where Castilian roses grew, and one woman among
a gay and thoughtless people dreamed, with all the
passion of her splendid youth, of the man to whom
she had pledged an eternal troth. Rezanov's mind
was clear in those last moments, but something of
the serenity and the selfishness of death had already
descended upon him. He heard with indifference
the sobs of Jon, crouched at the foot of his bed.
Tears and regrets were a part of the general futility
of life, insignificant enough at the grand threshold
of death.
No doubt that his great schemes would die with
him, and were he remembered at all it would be as
a dreamer; or as a failure because he had died before
accomplishing what his brain and energy and
enthusiasm alone could force to fruition. None
realized better than he the paucity of initiative and
executive among the characteristics of the Slav.
What mattered it? He had had glimpses more than
once of the apparently illogical sequence of life, the
vanity of human effort, the wanton cruelty of Nature.
He had known men struck down before in
the maturity of their usefulness, cities destroyed by
earthquake or hurricane in the fairest and most
promising of their days: public men, priests, parents,
children, wantons, criminals, blotted out with
equal impartiality by a brutal force that would
seem to have but a casual use for the life she flung
broadcast on her planets. Man was the helpless
victim of Nature, a calf in a tiger's paws. If she
overlooked him, or swept him contemptuously into
the class of her favorites, well and good; otherwise
he was her sport, the plaything of her idler moments.
Those that cried "But why?" "What reason?"
"What use?" were those that had never
looked over the walls of their ego at the great dramatic
moments in the career of Nature, when she
made immortal fame for herself at the expense of
millions of pigmies.
And if his energies, his talents, his usefulness,
were held of no account, at least he could look back
upon a past when he would have seemed to be one
of the few supreme favorites of the forces that
shaped man's life and destiny. Until he had started
from Kronstadt four years before on a voyage that
had humiliated his proud spirit more than once, and
undermined as splendid a physique as ever was
granted to even a Russian, he had rolled the world
under his foot. With an appearance and a personal
magnetism, gifts of mind and manner and character
that would have commanded attention amid the
general flaccidity of his race and conquered life
without the great social advantages he inherited, he
had enjoyed power and pleasure to a degree that
would have spoiled a coarser nature long since.
True, the time had come when he had cared little
for any of his endowments save as a means to great
ends, when all his energies had concentrated in the
determination to live a life of the highest possible
usefulness--without which man's span was but existence--
his ambitions had cohered and been driven
steadily toward a permanent niche in history; then
paled and dissolved for an hour in the glorious vision
of human happiness.
And wholly as he might realize man's insignificance
among the blind forces of nature, he could
accept it philosophically and die with his soul uncorroded
by misanthropy, that final and uncompromising
admission of failure. The misanthrope was the
supreme failure of life because he had not the intelligence
to realize, or could not reconcile himself
to, the incomplete condition of human nature. Man
was made up of little qualities, and aspirations for
great ones. Many yielded in the struggle and sank
into impotent discontent among the small material
things of life, instead of uplifting themselves with
the picture of the inevitable future when development
had run its course, and indulgently pitying the
children of their own period who so often made life
hateful with their greed, selfishness, snobbery--
most potent obstacle to human endeavor--and injustice.
The bad judgment of the mass! How
many careers it had balked, if not ruined, with its
poor ideals, its mean heroes, its instinctive avoidance
of superior qualities foreign to itself, its contemptible
desire to be identified with a fashion. It
was this low standard of the crowd that induced
misanthropy in many otherwise brave spirits who
lacked the insight to discern the divine spark underneath,
the persistence, sure of reward, to fight
their way to this spark and reveal it to the gaze of
astonished and flattered humanity. Rezanov's very
arrogance had led him to regard the mass of mankind
as but one degree removed from the nursery;
his good nature and philosophical spirit to treat
them with an indulgence that kept sourness out of
his cynicism and inevitably recurring weariness and
disgust; his ardent imagination had consoled itself
with the vision of a future when man should live in
a world made reasonable by the triumph of ideals
that now lurked half ashamed in the high spaces of
the human mind.
He looked back in wonder at the moment of wild
regret and protest--the bitterer in its silence--
when they had told him he must die; when in the
last rally of the vital forces he had believed his will
was still strong enough to command his ravaged
body, to propel his brain, still teeming with a vast
and complicated future, his heart, still warm and
insistent with the image it cherished, on to the ultimates
of ambition and love. How brief it had been,
that last cry of mortality, with its accompaniment
of furious wonder at his unseemly and senseless
cutting off. In the adjustment and readjustment
of political and natural forces the world ambled on
philosophically, fulfilling its inevitable destiny.
If he had not been beyond humor, he would have
smiled at the idea that in the face of all eternity it
mattered what nation on one little planet eventually
possessed a fragment called California. To him
that fair land was empty and purposeless save for
one figure, and even of her he thought with the
terrible calm of dissolution. During these last
months of illness and isolation he had been less
lonely than at any time of his life save during those
few weeks in California, for he had lived with her
incessantly in spirit; and in that subtle imaginative
communion had pressed close to a profound and
complex soul, revealed before only in flashes to a
vision astray in the confusion of the senses. He
had felt that her response to his passion was far
more vital and enduring than dwelt in the capacity
of most women; he had appreciated her gifts of
mind, her piquant variousness that scotched monotony,
the admirable characteristics that would give
a man repose and content in his leisure, and subtly
advance his career. But in those long reveries, at
the head of his forlorn caravan or in the desolate
months of convalescence, he had arrived at an absolute
understanding of what she herself had divined
while half comprehending.
Theirs was one of the few immortal loves that
reveal the rarely sounded deeps of the soul while
in its frail tenement on earth; and he harbored not
a doubt that their love was stronger than mortality
and that their ultimate union was decreed. Meanwhile,
she would suffer, no one but he could dream
how completely, but her strong soul would conquer,
and she would live the life she had visioned in moments
of despair; not of cloistered selfishness, but
of incomparable usefulness to her little world; and
far happier, in her eternal youthfulness of heart, in
that divine life of the imagination where he must
always be with her as she had known him briefly at
his best, than in the blunt commonplaceness of daily
existence, the routine and disillusionment of the
world. Perhaps--who knew?--he had, after all,
given her the best that man can offer to a woman
of exalted nature; instead of taking again with his
left hand what his right had bestowed; completed
the great gift of life with the priceless beacon of
How unlike was life to the old Greek tragedies!
He recalled his prophetic sense of impending happiness,
success, triumph, as he entered California,
the rejuvenescence of his spirit in the renewal of
his wasted forces even before he loved the woman.
Every event of the past year, in spite of the obstacles
that mortal must expect, had marched with his ambitions
and desires, and straight toward a future
that would have given him the most coveted of all
destinies, a station in history. There had not been a
hint that his brain, so meaningly and consummately
equipped, would perish in the ruins of his body in
less than a twelvemonth from that fragrant morning
when he had entered the home of Concha Arguello
tingling with a pagan joy in mere existence,
a sudden rush of desire for the keen, wild happiness
of youth--
His eyes wandered from the bright cross above
the little cemetery where he was to lie, and contracted
with an expression of wonder. Where had
Jon found Castilian roses in this barren land? No
man had ever been more blest in a servant, but
could even he--here-- With the last triumph of
will over matter he raised his head, his keen, searching
gaze noting every detail of the room, bare and
unlovely save for its altar and ikons, its kneeling
priests and nuns. His eyes expanded, his nostrils
quivered. As he sank down in the embrace of that
final delusion, his unconquerably sanguine spirit
flared high before a vision of eternal and unthinkable
So died Rezanov; and with him the hope of Russians
and the hindrance of Americans in the west;
and the mortal happiness and earthly dross of the
saintliest of California's women.

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