THE DOCTOR AND THE PRIEST
"I tell thee, priest, if the world
They would not wag one finger in your quarrels:
Your heaven you promise, but our earth you covet;
The Phaetons of mankind, who fire the world
Which you were sent by preaching but to warm."
Your Saviour came not with a gaudy show,
Nor was His kingdom of the world below:
The crown He wore was of the pointed thorn
In purple He was crucified, not born.
They who contend for place and high degree
Are not His sons, but those of Zebedee."
The exalted state of mind which the victorious men had brought
home with them did not vanish with sleep. The same heroic
atmosphere was in the house in the morning. Antonia's face
had a brightness upon it that never yet was the result of mere
flesh and blood. When she came into the usual sitting-room,
Dare was already there; indeed, he had risen purposely for
this hour. Their smiles and glances met each other with
an instantaneous understanding. It was the old Greek
greeting "REJOICE!" without the audible expression.
Never again, perhaps, in all their lives would moments so full
of sweetness and splendor come to them. They were all the
sweeter because blended with the homely duties that fell to
Antonia's hands. As she went about ordering the breakfast,
and giving to the table a festal air, Dare thought of the old
Homeric heroes, and the daughters of the kings who ministered
to their wants. The bravest of them had done no greater deeds
of personal valor than had been done by the little band of
American pioneers and hunters with whom he had fought the last
four days. The princes among them had been welcomed by no
sweeter and fairer women than had welcomed his companions and
And, though his clothing was black with the smoke of the
battle and torn with the fray, never had Dare himself looked
so handsome. There was an unspeakable radiance in his fair
face. The close, brown curls of his hair; his tall figure,
supple and strong; his air of youth, and valor, and victory;
the love-light in his eyes; the hopes in his heart, made
him for the time really more than a mere mortal man. He
walked like the demi-gods he was thinking of. The most
glorious ideal of life, the brightest dream of love that he
had ever had, found in this hour their complete realization.
The Senora did not come down; but Isabel and Luis and the
doctor joined the breakfast party. Luis had evidently been to
see Lopez Navarro before he did so; for he wore a new suit of
dark blue velvet and silver, a sash of crimson silk, the
neatest of patent leather shoes, and the most beautifully
embroidered linen. Dare gave him a little smile and nod of
approbation. He had not thought of fine clothing for himself;
but then for the handsome, elegant, Mexican youth it seemed
precisely the right thing. And Isabel, in her scarlet satin
petticoat, and white embroideries and satin slippers, looked
his proper mate. Dare and Antonia, and even the doctor,
watched their almost childlike devotion to each other with
Oh, if such moments could only last! No, no; as a rule they
last long enough. Joy wearies as well as sorrow. An
abiding rapture would make itself a sorrow out of our very
weakness to bear it. We should become exhausted and exacting,
and be irritated by the limitations of our nature, and our
inability to create and to endure an increasing rapture. It
is because joy is fugitive that it leaves us a delightsome
memory. It is far better, then, not to hold the rose until it
withers in our fevered hand.
The three women watched their heroes go back to the city. The
doctor looked very little older than his companions. He sat
his horse superbly, and he lifted his hat to the proud Senora
with a loving grace which neither of the young men could
excel. In that far back year, when he had wooed her with the
sweet words she taught him, he had not looked more manly and
attractive. There is a perverse disposition in women to love
personal prowess, and to adore the heroes of the battle-field;
and never had the Senora loved her husband as she did at that
In his capacity of physician he had done unnoticed deeds of
far greater bravery--gone into a Comanche camp that was being
devastated by smallpox--or galloped fifty miles; alone in
the night, through woods haunted by savage men and beasts, to
succor some little child struggling with croup, or some
frontiersman pierced with an arrow. The Senora had always
fretted and scolded a little when he thus exposed his life.
But the storming of the Alamo! That was a bravery she could
understand. Her Roberto was indeed a hero! Though she could
not bring herself to approve the cause for which he fought,
she was as sensitive as men and women always are to victorious
valor and a successful cause.
Rachela was in a state of rebellion. Nothing but the express
orders of Fray Ignatius, to remain where she was, prevented
her leaving the Worths; for the freedom so suddenly given to
Isabel had filled her with indignation. She was longing to be
in some house where she could give adequate expression to the
diabolical temper she felt it right to indulge.
In the afternoon it was some relief to see the confessor
coming up the garden. He had resumed his usual deliberate
pace. His hands were folded upon his breast. He looked as
the mournful Jeremiah may have looked, when he had the
burden of a heavy prophecy to deliver.
The Senora sat down with a doggedly sullen air, which Antonia
understood very well. It meant, "I am not to be forced to
take any way but my own, to-day"; and the wise priest
understood her mood as soon as he entered the room. He put
behind him the reproof he had been meditating. He stimulated
her curiosity; he asked her sympathy. No man knew better than
Fray Ignatius, when to assume sacerdotal authority and when to
lay it aside.
And the Senora was never proof against the compliment of his
personal friendship. The fight, as it affected himself and
his brotherhood and the convent, was full of interest to her.
She smiled at Brother Servando's childish alarm; she was angry
at an insult offered to the venerable abbot; she condoled with
the Sisters, wept at the danger that the famous statue of the
Virgin de Los Reinedias had been exposed to; and was
altogether as sympathetic as he could desire, until her own
affairs were mentioned.
"And you also, my daughter? The sword has pierced your
heart too, I am sure! To know that your husband and sons were
fighting against your God and your country! Holy Mother! How
great must have been your grief. But, for your comfort, I
tell you that the saints who have suffered a fiery martyrdom
stand at the feet of those who, like you, endure the continual
crucifixion of their affections."
The Senora was silent, but not displeased and the priest then
ventured a little further:
"But there is an end to all trials, daughter and I now absolve
you from the further struggle. Decide this day for your God
and your country. Make an offering to Almighty God and the
Holy Mother of your earthly love. Give yourself and your
daughters and all that you have to the benign and merciful
Church. Show these rebels and heretics--these ungrateful
recipients of Mexican bounty--what a true Catholic is capable
of. His Divine Majesty and the Holy Mary demand this supreme
sacrifice from you."
"Father, I have my husband, and my sons; to them, also, I owe
"The Church will absolve you from them."
"It would break my heart."
"Listen then: If it is your right hand, or your right eye--
that is, if it is your husband, or your child--you are
commanded to give them up; or--it is God's word--there is only
"Mother of Sorrows, pity me! What shall I do?"
She looked with the terror of a child into the dark, cruel
face of the priest. It was as immovably stern as if carved
out of stone. Then her eyes sought those of Antonia, who sat
at a distant window with her embroidery in her hand. She let
it fall when her mother's pitiful, uncertain glance asked from
her strength and counsel. She rose and went to her. Never
had the tall, fair girl looked so noble. A sorrowful majesty,
that had something in it of pity and something of anger, gave
to her countenance, her movements, and even her speech, a kind
"Dear mother, do as the beloved and kindhearted Ruth did.
Like you, she married one not of her race and not of her
religion. Even when God had taken him from her, she chose
to remain with his people--to leave her own people and
abide with his mother. For this act God blessed her,
and all nations in all ages have honored her."
"Ruth! Ruth! Ruth! What has Ruth to do with the question?
Presumptuous one! Ruth was a heathen woman--a Moabite--a race
ten times accursed."
"Pardon, father. Ruth was the ancestress of our blessed
Saviour, and of the Virgin Mary."
"Believe not the wicked one, Senora? She is blinded with
false knowledge. She is a heretic. I have long suspected it.
She has not been to confession for nine months."
"You wrong me, father. Every day, twice a day, I confess my
"Chito! You are in outrageous sin. But, then, what else? I
hear, indeed, that you read wicked books--even upon your knees
you read them."
"I read my Bible, father."
"Bring it to me. How could a child like you read the Bible?
It is a book for bishops and archbishops, and the Immaculate
Father himself. What an arrogance? What an insolence of
self-conceit must possess so young a heart? Saints of God!
It confounds me."
The girl stood with burning cheeks gazing at the proud,
passionate man, but she did not obey his order.
"Senora, my daughter! See you with your own eyes the fruit of
your sin. Will you dare to become a partner in such
"Antonia! Antonia! Go at once and bring here this wicked
book. Oh, how can you make so miserable a mother who loves
you so much?"
In a few moments Antonia returned with the objectionable book.
"My dear grandmother gave it to me," she said. "Look, mi
here is my name in her writing. Is it conceivable that she would
give to your Antonia a book that she ought not to read?"
The Senora took it in her hands and turned the leaves very
much as a child might turn those of a book in an unknown
tongue, in which there were no illustrations nor anything that
looked the least interesting. It was a pretty volume of moderate size,
bound in purple morocco, and fastened with gilt clasps.
"I see the word GOD in it very often, Fray Ignatius.
Perhaps, indeed, it is not bad."
"It is a heretic Bible, I am sure. Could anything be more
sinful, more disrespectful to God, more dangerous for a young
girl?" and as he said the words he took it from the Senora's
listless hands, glanced at the obnoxious title-page, and then,
stepping hastily to the hearth, flung the book upon the
With a cry of horror, pain, amazement, all blended, Antonia
sprang towards the fire, but Fray Ignatius stood with
outstretched arms, before it.
"Stand back!" he cried. "To save your soul from eternal
fires, I burn the book that has misled you!"
"Oh, my Bible! Oh, my Bible! Oh, mother! mother!" and
sobbing and crying out in her fear and anger, she fled down
stairs and called the peon Ortiz.
"Do you know where to find the Senor Doctor? If you do,
Ortiz, take the swiftest horse and bring him here."
The man looked with anger into the girl's troubled face. For
a moment he was something unlike himself. "I can find him; I
will bring him in fifteen minutes. Corpus Christi it is here
he should be."
The saddled horse in the stable was mounted as he muttered one
adjuration and oath after another, and Antonia sat down at the
window to watch for the result of her message. Fortunately,
Rachela had been so interested in the proceedings, and so
determined to know all about them, that she seized the
opportunity of the outcry to fly to "her poor Senora," and
thus was ignorant of the most unusual step taken by Antonia.
Indeed, no one was aware of it but herself and Ortiz; and the
servants in the kitchen looked with a curious interest at the
doctor riding into the stable yard as if his life depended
upon his speed. Perhaps it did. All of them stopped their
work to speculate upon the circumstance.
They saw him fling himself from the saddle they saw Antonia
run to meet him; they heard her voice full of distress--they
knew it was the voice of complaint. They were aware it was
answered by a stamp on the flagged hall of the doctor's iron-
heeled boot--which rang through the whole house, and which was
but the accompaniment of the fierce exclamation that went with it.
They heard them mount the stairs together, and then they were
left to their imaginations. As for Antonia, she was almost
terrified at the storm she had raised. Never had she seen
anger so terrible. Yet, though he had not said a word
directly to her, she was aware of his full sympathy. He
grasped her hand, and entered the Senora's room with her. His
first order was to Rachela--
"Leave the house in five minutes; no, in three minutes. I
will tell Ortiz to send your clothes after you. Go!"
"My Senora! Fray I--"
"Go!" he thundered. "Out of my house! Fly! I will not
endure you another moment."
The impetus of his words was like a great wind. They drove
the woman before him, and he shut the door behind her with a
terrifying and amazing rage. Then he turned to the priest--
"Fray Ignatius, you have abused my hospitality, and my
patience. You shall do so no longer. For twenty-six years I
have suffered your interference-"
"The Senor is a prudent man. The wise bear what they
cannot resist"; and with a gentle smile and lifted eyebrows
Fray Ignatius crossed himself.
"I have respected your faith, though it was the faith of a
bigot; and your opinions, though they were false and cruel,
because you believed honestly in them. But you shall not
again interfere with my wife, or my children, or my servants,
or my house."
"The Senor Doctor is not prince, or pope. `Shall,' and
`SHALL NOT,' no one but my own ecclesiastical superiors can
say to me."
"I say, you shall not again terrify my wife and insult my
daughter, and disorganize my whole household! And, as the God
of my mother hears me, you shall not again burn up His Holy
Word under my roof. Never, while I dwell beneath it, enter my
gates, or cross my threshold, or address yourself to any that
bear my name, or eat my bread." With the words, he walked to
the door and held it open. It was impossible to mistake the
unspoken order, and there was something in the concentrated
yet controlled passion of Robert Worth which even the haughty
priest did not care to irritate beyond its bounds.
He gathered his robe together, and with lifted eyes muttered
an ejaculatory prayer. Then he said in slow, cold, precise tones:
"For the present, I go. Very good. I shall come back again.
The saints will take care of that. Senora, I give you my blessing.
Senor, you may yet find the curse of a poor priest an inconvenience."
He crossed himself at the door, and cast a last look at the
Senora, who had thown herself upon her knees, and was crying
out to Mary and the saints in a passion of excuses and
reproaches. She was deaf to all her husband said. She would
not suffer Antonia to approach her. She felt that now was the
hour of her supreme trial. She had tolerated the rebellion of
her husband, and her sons, and her daughter, and now she was
justly punished. They had driven away from her the confessor,
and the maid who had been her counsellor and her reliance from
Her grief and terror were genuine, and therefore pitiful; and,
in spite of his annoyance, the doctor recognized the fact. In
a moment, as soon as they were alone, he put aside his anger.
He knelt beside her, he soothed her with tender words, he
pleaded the justice of his indignation. And ere long she
began to listen to his excuses, and to complain to him:
He had been born a heretic, and therefore might be excused a
little, even by Almighty God. But Antonia! Her sin was
beyond endurance. She herself, and the good Sisters, and Fray
Ignatius, had all taught her in her infancy the true religion.
And her Roberto must see that this was a holy war--a war for
the Holy Catholic Church. No wonder Fray Ignatius was angry.
"My dear Maria, every church thinks itself right; and all
other churches wrong. God looks at the heart. If it is
right, it makes all worship true. But when the Americans have
won Texas, they will give to every one freedom to worship God
as they wish."
"Saints in heaven, Roberto! That day comes not. One victory!
Bah! That is an accident. The Mexicans are a very brave
people,--the bravest in the world. Did they not drive the
Spaniards out of their country; and it is not to be
contradicted that the Spaniards have conquered all other
nations. That I saw in a book. The insult the Americans
have given to Mexico will be revenged. Her honor has
been compromised before the world. Very well, it will be made
bright again; yes, Fray Ignatius says with blood and fire it
will be made bright."
"And in the mean time, Maria, we have taken from them the city
they love best of all. An hour ago I saw, General Cos, with
eleven hundred Mexican soldiers, pass before a little band of
less than two hundred Americans and lay down their arms.
These defenders of the Alamo had all been blessed by the
priests. Their banners had been anointed with holy oil and
holy water. They had all received absolution everyday before
the fight began; they had been promised a free passage through
purgatory and a triumphant entry into heaven."
"Well, I will tell you something; Fray Ignatius showed it to
me--it was a paper printed. The rebels and their wives and
children are to be sent from this earth--you may know where
they will all go, Roberto--Congress says so. The States will
give their treasures. The archbishops will give the episcopal
treasures. The convents will give their gems and gold
ornaments. Ten thousand men had left for San Antonio,
and ten thousand more are to follow; the whole under our great
President Santa Anna. Oh, yes! The rebels in Washington are
to be punished also. It is well known that they sent soldiers
to Nacogdoches. Mexicans are not blind moles, and they have
their intelligence, you know. All the States who have helped
these outrageous ingrates are to be devastated, and you will
see that your famous Washington will be turned into a heap of
stories. I have seen these words in print, Roberto. I assure
you, that it is not just a little breath--what one or another
says--it is the printed orders of the Mexican government.
That is something these Americans will have to pay attention to."
The doctor sighed, and answered the sorrowful, credulous woman
with a kiss. What was the use of reasoning with simplicity so
ignorant and so confident? He turned the conversation to a subject
that always roused her best and kindest feelings--her son Jack.
"I have just seen young Dewees, Maria. He and Jack left San
Felipe together. Dewees brought instructions to General
Burleson; and Jack carried others to Fannin, at Goliad."
She took her husband's hands and kissed them. "That indeed!
Oh, Roberto! If I could only see my Jack once more! I have
had a constant accusation to bear about him. Till I kiss my
boy again, the world will be all dark before my face. If Our
Lady will grant me this miraculous favor, I will always
afterwards be exceedingly religious. I will give all my
desires to the other world."
"Dearest Maria, God did not put us in this world to be always
desiring another. There is no need, mi queridita, to give up
this life as a bad affair. We shall be very happy again, soon.
"As you say. If I could only see Jack! For that, I would
promise God Almighty and you Roberto to be happy. I would
forgive the rebels and the heretics--for they are well acquainted
with hell road, and will guide each other there without my wish."
"I am sure if Jack has one day he will come to you.
And when he hears of the surrender of General Cos--"
"Well now, it was God's will that General Cos should
surrender. What more can be said? It is sufficient."
"Let me call Antonia. She is miserable at your displeasure;
and it is not Antonia's fault."
"Pardon me, Roberto. I have seen Antonia. She is not
agreeable and obedient to Fray Ignatius."
"She has been very wickedly used by him; and I fear he intends
to do her evil."
"It is not convenient to discuss the subject now. I will see
Isabel; she is a good child--my only comfort. Paciencia!
there is Luis Alveda singing; Isabel will now be deaf to all
else"; and she rose with a sigh and walked towards the
casement looking into the garden.
Luis was coming up the oleander walk. The pretty trees were
thinner now, and had only a pink blossom here and there. But
the bright winter sun shone through them, and fell upon Luis
and Isabel. For she had also seen him coming, and had gone to
meet him, with a little rainbow-tinted shawl over her head.
She looked so piquant and so happy. She seemed such a proper
mate for the handsome youth at her side that a word of dissent
was not possible. The doctor said only, "She is so like you,
Maria. I remember when you were still more lovely, and
when from your balcony you made me with a smile the happiest
man in the world."
Such words were never lost ones; for the Senora had a true and
great love for her husband. She gave him again a smile, she
put her hand in his, and then there were no further
conciliations required. They stood in the sunshine of their
own hearts, and listened a moment to the gay youth, singing,
The strong old Alamo
Two hundred men, with rifles true,
Shot down a thousand of the foe,
And broke the triple ramparts through;
And dropped the flag as black as night,
For Freedom's green and red and white.
 The flag of the Mexican Republic of 1824 was green, red
and white in color.
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