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- Old Mission Stories of California - 4/22 -
undimmed; but turning toward the two waiting ones, she spoke again, yet as if coming back to the present:
"Mota, Itatli, I am going to the distant home of our people, where all are happy. It will be but a few hours before I shall leave you. Do you, my son, after I am dead, go to the village, and tell the chief men all that I have revealed to you to-night. Tell them that, with my last breath, I spoke the truth revealed to me by the gods above. Tell them that the only safety for them, and their children after them, is to live with the strange white men who are come to our land; that they must be at peace with the strangers, live with them, and do all that is commanded them; that this is the only way they can put off the evil day when they shall disappear forever. And it is for a time only at best; but it is better to do that than to resist them, for they are too strong to be driven back. But I fear they will not listen to my words which you shall speak. And if so, you, my children, must leave here and go to the south, through the pass in the mountains, then toward the setting sun until you come to the river; and there you will find the strange men, as in my vision. Put yourselves under their care, and perhaps Ouiot will spare you, and the others there before you, from the fate of the rest of the tribes in this land."
Her voice sank to a whisper, so that it was with difficulty they made out her last words. Closing her eyes, she lay gasping for some minutes; after this, she fell into a comatose state, from which she did not revive again. Hour after hour passed, the two watchers crouching motionless, without a word, regarding the fleeting breath of the dying woman. Shortly before the dawn began to lighten the horizon, a tremor passed through the body of the sufferer; a long, feeble sigh issued from her lips, and the aged, distrusted seer was no more.
The young woman, on seeing this, broke out into bitter wailing, swaying slowly forward and backward, while her husband sat with his head bowed on his knees. Their first thought was of utter bereavement, for to these two lonely ones, and especially to the woman, the grandparent had been not only the sole member of their tribe they had known for years, but she had proved to them a help, at times through her singular gift. On several occasions, in seasons of little game, had she told the man in which direction, to go for the best results. Once, at her instance, they had migrated to a distant spring she had known in her youth, where the three were safe from the murderous designs of the warlike tribe coming to their country from the north.
Finally the man bethought himself of the last behest of the dead woman. "I go to the village, Mota," he said hoarsely, and without another word left the hut and set off down the hill.
The woman moved not, but remained as before, near the bed of her grandmother. There she sat, on the earthen floor, without taking her eyes from the face of the dead, until her husband returned, nearly three hours later.
"It was no use," he exclaimed sadly, "they would not listen, but told me to go back and bury the grandmother; they would not come with me."
Mota replied not.
That night, as the sun was setting, the two lone creatures made a grave on the hill a few feet from the hut, and there they buried the mortal remains of the old Indian woman. It was a sad, silent rite; both felt deeply the absence of all their friends and kindred; the lack of all the customary wailing proper to the solemn service of burial; but, above all, the want of belief in the dead woman's prophecy. That gave the poignant touch to their sorrow. Sadly and silently, as they had buried the dead, they returned to their hut in the gathering shades of night.
The next morning, these two bereaved ones, packing up their few simple belongings, stole sorrowfully away from their home. They knew not what was before them, scarcely anything of the country whither they were bound; but such was their faith in the dead woman's word, that they did not falter in their resolution to fulfill her admonition.
The hut, and all belonging to it, is long passed away; and the spring, also, has disappeared, drying up till merely a stony furrow in the ground shows where it once had its course. Only the lonely grave on the hillside remains to mark the ancient Indian habitation here, and that, today, is almost obliterated. As for the village beyond in the caon, that, too, is no more; hardly a vestige can now be found to tell us that here, long ago, was a thriving Indian settlement. All is silent and deserted. Truly, as the aged Indian prophetess foretold, has the aborigine vanished from the land.
The Flight of Padre Peyri
One of the few settlements of the old mission Indians remaining in California is Pala, a little village tucked away amidst some of the most charming scenery to be found in the southern part of the state. It is twenty miles east from Mission San Luis Rey, of which mission it was an asistencia, or branch, and twenty-four miles from Oceanside, the nearest point on the coast. The village stands in a valley which is completely surrounded by mountains, high and low, far and near, uniting with it in a succession of beautiful pictures around the entire horizon. To the east, the mountains pile themselves up into huge masses, their tips hidden frequently by clouds, and by the fogs of early morning; toward the west, they fall away into low-lying hills, allowing the sea-breeze of every warm afternoon to sweep the village over them, and through the gap of the San Luis Rey River and Valley. At all times of the year the color and light and shade in every part of the valley are most lovely, delighting the artist's eye with a whole gamut of arial perspective; but it is in the spring that the hillsides and valley put on their most gorgeous robes, from the lightest tints of yellow and green, down through every hue and tone of red, blue and purple, soft and brilliant, pricked out here and there with spots of intense, flaming yellow and orange, or deepest crimson. Such color scenes are not common even in California; but on account of its comparative inaccessibility, few people visit Pala, and the village has been left much to itself in these latter days of American life in the state. The Indians live the life of the poorest class of Mexicans, dwell in adobe huts, and pursue an agricultural occupation.
During the last week of May, 1895, I passed two days in this interesting place, exploring the remains of the asistencia, and sketching the unique bell-tower and near-by mission houses. I was an object of interest to all who saw me, but was not favored with much company until the second afternoon, when, after I had passed an hour or so in the campo santo, an old Indian slowly appeared and greeted me. He must have been nearly eighty years old, and he was obliged to use a cane to assist his slow and faltering steps. Several times during the two days I had seen him, sitting in the sun on the rough porch of a house close by, or ambling slowly about, and had been struck with his appearance. Although bent with his years, he was tall, and, in his younger days, must have had a graceful, as well as powerful, figure, traces of it remaining still, in spite of his decrepitude. But his face was the most noticeable thing about him. Notwithstanding the dimness of age, there was a wonderful amount of intelligence and animation in his expression, and the deep, black eyes could hardly have been brighter and more piercing at the age of forty than they now appeared. His long straight hair was still thick, but very grey. He wore the ordinary dress of the poor man. He was, in fine, a specimen of what the missions could do with the Indians when working on the best material to be found among them.
"Buenos dias, Seor," he said gravely, as he came near.
"Will the Seor be disturbed if I stay here awhile and watch him work?" he continued in Spanish, which he spoke rather slowly, but with as much ease and correctness as a Mexican.
I answered I should be glad to have him remain so long as he pleased, and, in return, after he had seated himself beside me on an old ruined adobe wall, asked if he had lived long here.
"For over sixty years, Seor."
"And where did you spend your early years, for I think you have seen many more than sixty?" I asked.
"Si, Seor, I am eighty-one now. Until I was about twenty, I lived at Mission San Luis Rey, twenty miles from here. Has the Seor ever seen San Luis Rey?"
I nodded, continuing with my sketch.
"Ah! that was a beautiful mission sixty years ago," the old man said, in a tone of sad retrospect.
"Tell me about it," I said. "In those days, sixty years ago, the mission must have been perfect, with no ruins to mar its beauty. And were there not many neophytes at that time?" I added.
"Seor, San Luis Rey was the largest mission in California. So much larger than this place, although Pala had many more Indians in those days, before the padres were driven away, that it seemed to me like a city. There were more than two thousand Indians, and all worked busily from morning until night, the men plowing and planting in the fields, or making adobes for building houses, and the women weaving and sewing and cooking. Every one had something to do, and knew it must be done, and all were willing and glad to do it; for we all dearly loved the padre, he was so good, and it was a happiness to do what he demanded of us."
"You speak of Padre Peyri, do you not?" I asked.
"Si, Seor. Padre Peyri was the head of the mission, and no one could do anything unless he had the padre's consent. There was almost always a second padre there, but this second padre never stayed long, and when one went away, another would come in his place; but Padre Peyri was there all the time, and never left the mission until he went back to Mexico."
"And what," I asked, "did you do in those days, before you were large enough for a man's work?"
"I worked with the children, for the children had their own work to do just the same as the grown people. We had to go to school at the mission every day, to learn to speak Spanish, and to say the doctrina cristiana, to read and write; but not all the children could get so far as to write, for it was hard for them to learn, and only the brightest ones were ever able to write more than their names. But it was not so hard for me, for I wished to learn, and the padres liked to teach me. Then, after school, we had other work - to fetch wood for the fires; to drive the cows to the fields; to feed and water the horses at the mission, and all such things that boys can do. There were a hundred boys or more in the country around, and many of them seldom came to the mission except for school and Sunday mass; but there were always enough, and more than enough, to do all the work, and they had plenty of time for play. But my
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