ANTONIA AND ISABEL
"He various changes of the world
And some vicissitudes of human fate,
Still altering, never in a steady state
Good after ill, and after pain delight,
Alternate, like the scenes of day and night."
"Ladies whose bright eyes
"But who the limits of that power shall trace,
Which a brave people into life can bring,
Or hide at will, for freedom combating
By just revenge inflamed?"
For many years there had never been any doubt in the mind of
Robert Worth as to the ultimate destiny of Texas, though he was
by no means an adventurer, and had come into the beautiful
land by a sequence of natural and business-like events. He
was born in New York. In that city he studied his profession,
and in eighteen hundred and three began its practice in an
office near Contoit's Hotel, opposite the City Park. One day
he was summoned there to attend a sick man. His
patient proved to be Don Jaime Urrea, and the rich Mexican
grandee conceived a warm friendship for the young physician.
At that very time, France had just ceded to the United States
the territory of Louisiana, and its western boundary was a
subject about which Americans were then angrily disputing.
They asserted that it was the Rio Grande; but Spain, who
naturally did not want Americans so near her own territory,
denied the claim, and made the Sabine River the dividing line.
And as Spain had been the original possessor of Louisiana, she
considered herself authority on the subject.
The question was on every tongue, and it was but natural that
it should be discussed by Urrea and his physician. In fact,
they talked continually of the disputed boundary, and of
Mexico. And Mexico was then a name to conjure by. She was as
yet a part of Spain, and a sharer in all her ancient glories.
She was a land of romance, and her very name tasted on the
lips, of gold, and of silver, and of precious stones. Urrea
easily persuaded the young man to return to Mexico with him.
The following year there was a suspicious number of American
visitors and traders in San Antonio, and one of the Urreas was
sent with a considerable number of troops to garrison the
city. For Spain was well aware that, however statesmen might
settle the question, the young and adventurous of the American
people considered Texas United States territory, and would be
well inclined to take possession of it by force of arms, if an
Robert Worth accompanied General Urrea to San Antonio, and the
visit was decisive as to his future life. The country
enchanted him. He was smitten with love for it, as men are
smitten with a beautiful face. And the white Moorish city had
one special charm for him--it was seldom quite free from
Americans, Among the mediaeval loungers in the narrow streets,
it filled his heart with joy to see at intervals two or three
big men in buckskin or homespun. And he did not much wonder
that the Morisco-Hispano-Mexican feared these Anglo-Americans,
and suspected them of an intention to add Texan to their names.
His inclination to remain in San Antonio was settled by
his marriage. Dona Maria Flores, though connected with the
great Mexican families of Yturbide and Landesa, owned much
property in San Antonio. She had been born within its limits,
and educated in its convent, and a visit to Mexico and New
Orleans had only strengthened her attachment to her own city.
She was a very pretty woman, with an affectionate nature, but
she was not intellectual. Even in the convent the sisters had
not considered her clever.
But men often live very happily with commonplace wives, and
Robert Worth had never regretted that his Maria did not play
on the piano, and paint on velvet, and work fine embroideries
for the altars. They had passed nearly twenty-six years
together in more than ordinary content and prosperity. Yet no
life is without cares and contentions, and Robert Worth had
had to face circumstances several times, which had brought the
real man to the front.
The education of his children had been such a crisis. He had
two sons and two daughters, and for them he anticipated a
wider and grander career than he had chosen for himself.
When his eldest child, Thomas, had reached the age of
fourteen, he determined to send him to New York. He spoke to
Dona Maria of this intention. He described Columbia to her
with all the affectionate pride of a student for his alma
mater. The boy's grandmother also still lived in the home
wherein, he himself had grown to manhood. His eyes filled
with tears when he remembered the red brick house in Canal
Street, with its white door and dormer windows, and its one
cherry tree in the strip of garden behind.
But Dona Maria's national and religious principles, or rather
prejudices, were very strong. She regarded the college of San
Juan de Lateran in Mexico as the fountainhead of knowledge.
Her confessor had told her so. All the Yturbides and Landesas
had graduated at San Juan.
But the resolute father would have none of San Juan. "I know
all about it, Maria," he said. "They will teach Thomas Latin
very thoroughly. They will make him proficient in theology
and metaphysics. They will let him dabble in algebra and
Spanish literature; and with great pomp, they will give him
his degree, and `the power of interpreting Aristotle all
over the world.' What kind of an education is that, for a man
who may have to fight the battles of life in this century?"
And since the father carried his point it is immaterial what
precise methods he used. Men are not fools even in a contest
with women. They usually get their own way, if they take the
trouble to go wisely and kindly about it. Two years
afterwards, Antonia followed her brother to New York, and this
time, the mother made less opposition. Perhaps she divined
that opposition would have been still more useless than in the
case of the boy. For Robert Worth had one invincible
determination; it was, that this beautiful child, who so much
resembled a mother whom he idolized, should be, during the
most susceptible years of her life, under that mother's influence.
And he was well repaid for the self-denial her absence
entailed, when Antonia came back to him, alert, self-reliant,
industrious, an intelligent and responsive companion, a neat
and capable housekeeper, who insensibly gave to his home that
American air it lacked, and who set upon his table the well-cooked
meats and delicate dishes which he had often longed for.
John, the youngest boy, was still in New York finishing his
course of study; but regarding Isabel, there seemed to be a
tacit relinquishment of the purpose, so inflexibly carried out
with her brothers and sister. Isabel was entirely different
from them. Her father had watched her carefully, and come to
the conviction that it would be impossible to make her nature
take the American mintage. She was as distinctly Iberian as
Antonia was Anglo-American.
In her brothers the admixture of races had been only as alloy
to metal. Thomas Worth was but a darker copy of his father.
John had the romance and sensitive honor of old Spain, mingled
with the love of liberty, and the practical temper, of those
Worths who had defied both Charles the First and George the
Third. But Isabel had no soul-kinship with her father's
people. Robert Worth had seen in the Yturbide residencia in
Mexico the family portraits which they had brought with them
from Castile. Isabel was the Yturbide of her day. She had
all their physical traits, and from her large golden-black
eyes the same passionate soul looked forth. He felt that it
would be utter cruelty to send her among people who must
always be strangers to her.
So Isabel dreamed away her childhood at her mother's side,
or with the sisters in the convent, learning from them such
simple and useless matters as they considered necessary for a
damosel of family and fortune. On the night of the Senora
Valdez's reception, she had astonished every one by the
adorable grace of her dancing, and the captivating way in
which she used her fan. Her fingers touched the guitar as if
they had played it for a thousand years. She sang a Spanish
Romancero of El mio Cid with all the fire and tenderness of a
Her father watched her with troubled eyes. He almost felt as
if he had no part in her. And the thought gave him an unusual
anxiety, for he knew this night that the days were fast
approaching which would test to extremity the affection which
bound his family together. He contrived to draw Antonia aside
for a few moments.
"Is she not wonderful?" he asked. "When did she learn
these things? I mean the way in which she does them?"
Isabel was dancing La Cachoucha, and Antonia looked at her
little sister with eyes full of loving speculation. Her
answer dropped slowly from her lips, as if a conviction was
"The way must be a gift from the past--her soul has been at
school before she was born here. Father, are you troubled?
What is it? Not Isabel, surely?"
"Not Isabel, primarily. Antonia, I have been expecting
something for twenty years. It is coming."
"And you are sorry?"
"I am anxious, that is all. Go back to the dancers. In the
morning we can talk."
In the morning the doctor was called very early by some one
needing his skill. Antonia heard the swift footsteps and
eager voices, and watched him mount the horse always kept
ready saddled for such emergencies, and ride away with the
messenger. The incident in itself was a usual one, but she
was conscious that her soul was moving uneasily and
questioningly in some new and uncertain atmosphere.
She had felt it on her first entrance into Senora Valdez's
gran sala--a something irrepressible in the faces of all the
men present. She remembered that even the servants had been
excited, and that they stood in small groups, talking with
suppressed passion and with much demonstrativeness. And the
officers from the Alamo! How conscious they had been of their
own importance! What airs of condescension and of an almost
insufferable protection they had assumed! Now, that she
recalled the faces of Judge Valdez, and other men of years and
position, she understood that there had been in them something
out of tone with the occasion. In the atmosphere of the festa
she had only felt it. In the solitude of her room she could
apprehend its nature.
For she had been born during those stormy days when Magee and
Bernardo, with twelve hundred Americans, first flung the
banner of Texan independence to the wind; when the fall of
Nacogdoches sent a thrill of sympathy through the United
States, and enabled Cos and Toledo, and the other
revolutionary generals in Mexico, to carry their arms against
Old Spain to the very doors of the vice-royal palace. She
had heard from her father many a time the whole brave,
brilliant story--the same story which has been made in all
ages from the beginning of time. Only the week before, they
had talked it over as they sat under the great fig-tree together.
"History but repeats itself," the doctor had said then; "for
when the Mexicans drove the Spaniards, with their court
ceremonies, their monopolies and taxes, back to Spain, they
were just doing what the American colonists did, when they
drove the English royalists back to England. It was natural,
too, that the Americans should help the Mexicans, for, at
first, they were but a little band of patriots; and the
American-Saxon has like the Anglo-Saxon an irresistible
impulse to help the weaker side. And oh, Antonia!
The cry of Freedom! Who that has a soul can resist it?"
She remembered this conversation as she stood in the pallid
dawning, and watched her father ride swiftly away. The story
of the long struggle in all its salient features flashed
through her mind; and she understood that it is not the sword
alone that gives liberty--that there must be patience before
courage; that great ideas must germinate for years in the
hearts of men before the sword can reap the harvest.
The fascinating memory of Burr passed like a shadow across her
dreaming. The handsome Lafayettes--the gallant Nolans--the
daring Hunters--the thousands of forgotten American traders
and explorers--bold and enterprising--they had sown the seed.
For great ideas are as catching as evil ones. A Mexican, with
the iron hand of Old Spain upon him and the shadow of the
Inquisition over him, could not look into the face of an American,
and not feel the thought of Freedom stirring in his heart.
It stirred in her own heart. She stood still a moment to feel
consciously the glow and the enlargement. Then with an
impulse natural, but neither analyzed nor understood, she
lifted her prayer-book, and began to recite "the rising
prayer." She had not said to herself, "from the love of
Freedom to the love of God, it is but a step," but she
experienced the emotion and felt all the joy of an adoration,
simple and unquestioned, springing as naturally from the soul
as the wild flower from the prairie.
As she knelt, up rose the sun, and flooded her white figure
and her fair unbound hair with the radiance of the early
morning. The matin bells chimed from the convent and the
churches, and the singing birds began to flutter their bright
wings, and praise God also, "in their Latin."
She took her breakfast alone. The Senora never came
downstairs so early. Isabel had wavering inclinations, and
generally followed them. Sometimes, even her father had his
cup of strong coffee alone in his study; so the first meal of
the day was usually, as perhaps it ought to be, a selfishly-
silent one. "Too much enthusiasm and chattering at breakfast,
are like too much red at sunrise," the doctor always said; "a
dull, bad day follows it"--and Antonia's observation had
turned the little maxim into a superstition.
In the Senora's room, the precept was either denied, or
defied. Antonia heard the laughter and conversation through
the closed door, and easily divined the subject of it. It
was, but natural. The child had a triumph; one that appealed
strongly to her mother's pride and predilections. It was a
pleasant sight to see them in the shaded sunshine exulting
themselves happily in it.
The Senora, plump and still pretty, reclined upon a large
gilded bed. Its splendid silk coverlet and pillows cased in
embroidery and lace made an effective background for her. She
leaned with a luxurious indolence among them, sipping
chocolate and smoking a cigarrito. Isabel was on a couch of
the same description. She wore a satin petticoat, and a loose
linen waist richly trimmed with lace. It showed her beautiful
shoulders and arms to perfection. Her hands were folded above
her head. Her tiny feet, shod in satin, were quivering like
a bird's wings, as if they were keeping time with the
restlessness of her spirit.
She had large eyes, dark and bright; strong eyebrows, a pale
complexion with a flood of brilliant color in the checks,
dazzling even teeth, and a small, handsome mouth. Her black
hair was loose and flowing, and caressed her cheeks and
temples in numberless little curls and tendrils. Her face was
one flush of joy and youth. She had a look half-earnest and
half-childlike, and altogether charming. Antonia adored her,
and she was pleased to listen to the child, telling over
again the pretty things that had been said to her.
"Only Don Luis was not there at all, Antonia. There is always
something wanting," and her voice fell with those sad
inflections that are often only the very excess of delight.
The Senora looked sharply at her. "Don Luis was not
desirable. He was better away--much better!"
"Because, Antonia, he is suspected. There is an American
called Houston. Don Luis met him in Nacogdoches. He has
given his soul to him, I think. He would have fought Morello
about him, if the captain could have drawn his sword in such
a quarrel. I should not have known about the affair had not
Senora Valdez told me. Your father says nothing against the
"Perhaps, then, he knows nothing against them."
"You will excuse me, Antonia; not only the living but the dead
must have heard of their wickedness. They are a nation of
ingrates. Ingrates are cowards. It was these words Captain
Morello said, when Don Luis drew his sword, made a circle
with its point and stood it upright in the centre. It was a
challenge to the whole garrigon, and about this fellow
Houston, whom be calls his friend! Holy Virgin preserve us
from such Mexicans!"
"It is easier to talk than to fight. Morello's tongue is
sharper than his sword."
"Captain Morello was placing his sword beside that of Don
Luis, when the Commandant interfered. He would not permit his
officers to fight in such a quarrel. `Santo Dios!' he said,
`you shall all have your opportunity very soon, gentlemen.'
Just reflect upon the folly of a boy like Don Luis,
challenging a soldier like Morello!"
"He was in no danger, mother," said Antonia scornfully.
"Morello is a bully, who wears the pavement out with his
spurs and sabre. His weapons are for show. Americans, at
least, wear their arms for use, and not for ornament."
"Listen, Antonia! I will not have them spoken of. They are
Jews--or at least infidels, all of them!--the devil himself is
their father--the bishop, when he was here last confirmation,
told me so."
"At least they are unbaptized Christians, Antonia. If you are
not baptized, the devil sends you to do his work. As for Don
Luis, he is a very Judas! Ah, Maria Santissima! how I do pity
his good mother!"
"Poor Don Luis!" said Isabel plaintively.
He is so handsome, and he sings like a very angel. And he
loves my father; he wanted to be a doctor, so that he could
always be with him. I dare say this man called Houston is no
better than a Jew, and perhaps very ugly beside. Let us talk
no more about him and the Americans. I am weary of them; as
Tia Rachella says, `they have their spoon in every one's mess.'"
And Antonia, whose heart was burning, only stooped down and
closed her sister's pretty mouth with a kiss. Her tongue was
impatient to speak for the father, and grandmother, and the
friends, so dear to her; but she possessed great discretion,
and also a large share of that rarest of all womanly graces,
the power under provocation, of "putting on Patience the noble."
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