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- Old Mission Stories of California - 5/22 -
work was different from that of the other boys. I was one of the two boys who waited on the padres at meal times, swept the mission rooms and walks, and were ready to do any errands the padres wished. Then, for three years, I was one of the altar boys, until I could play well enough to go into the choir. And that is what I liked better than anything else - to play on my violin. I began to learn when I was twelve years old. I used to listen to the boys of the choir, when they were practicing their mass music, and again on Sundays in the church, and wish I, too, could learn to make that beautiful music. Many times I implored the padre to let me learn, and he would say: 'After a little, my son, when you are old enough; it is a difficult instrument to learn.' I knew he was right, but did not like to wait. At last, however, he told me I was to begin, and the very next day gave me a violin, and sent me to the choir teacher. It was a happy day for me."
"Tell me something about Padre Peyri," I asked.
"Seor, I could talk all day long about that good man. He was so kind and gentle to all, that no one but would have been willing to die for him, if he had asked such a thing. He was not a large man, but was as strong as many of the Indians, and he worked as hard as any one of us. I have heard my mother tell how he helped with his own hands to build the church and the other houses of the mission, and worked all day, so long as it was light, hardly stopping to take time to eat. She said he seemed to think of nothing but to get all the buildings finished, and was unhappy until that was done. She saw him on the day he first came from Mission San Diego with a few workmen and soldiers to start the mission. It was in the afternoon, and the padre and his men passed the time till nightfall in making a few huts for themselves like those of the Indians. The next morning, before he would permit anything else to be done, he made an altar of earth, which he covered all over with the green growing grass, and there offered up a sacrifice to his God. He had with him some children he had brought from San Diego, and after the mass he baptized them. My mother and some of the Indians had been to San Diego, to the mission there, and were not afraid, but nearly all the Indians did not dare come near.
"As soon as the mass was ended, the padre marked out on the ground the lines for the mission buildings, and the men went to work making adobes. After a few days, the Indians began to lose their fear of the cristianos, and it was not long before they were helping in all the work to be done. The padre paid them every day for what they did; he would give them clothes or something to eat, and they were very glad to work for him; and it was only a short time when a great crowd was busy on the buildings. My mother told me all this, Seor, for that was long before I was born, - more than fifteen years. She was a young girl then. My mother told the Indians how good the padres were to them at San Diego, and did all she could to bring them to work for the mission. I was her first child, and, at her wish, the padre named me after himself - Antonio. But all the mission buildings were finished in a few years, and they, have never been changed except by falling into ruins. I have not been to San Luis Rey for a long, long time, for I cannot bear to go there and see the poor old buildings tumbling to the ground - at least that is what they were doing until Padre O'Keefe came from Santa Brbara to live there and take charge of the mission. I am glad it is in his care; but he cannot bring back the old days, for the Indians are nearly all gone now.
"But the Seor wishes to hear about the padre. I think Padre Peyri was nearly fifty years old when I was born, and he had been at the mission all the time since he started it, about fifteen years before. How he did love his mission, and how proud he was of it! And he was right to be proud, for it was the finest mission in the country, and the largest also. Every one who came there praised the padre for the wonders he had done; and that made him very happy. After his day's work was over, he liked to walk about in the neighborhood, looking at, and seeing, everything - the ground, the trees and the sky, listening to the singing of the birds, and watching the sun sink out of sight in the west; but above all else, gazing at the mission, at the beautiful big church, and the building and arches around the patio. Sometimes when I came to him at his bidding, I would see him smiling to himself, as though he was happy to have been able to raise up such a good work to his Lord.
"But alas! Seor, those happy times could not last always. I do not understand very well the trouble that was between the missions and the Governor - it has always been too much for my poor head - but I suppose the Seor knows all about it. The Governor wished the Indians to be taken away from the missions, and live in pueblos of their own; but the Indians did not like it, nor the padres either; and it made trouble for many years. I was too young to think much about it, but I used to hear the Indians talking among themselves of what they heard from time to time. I asked my father why the Governor could take the Indians away from the missions. He told me it was the wish of Mexico that we should not live in the missions any longer, but have our own land, and work for money. 'But must we leave our padre here, and not see him any more?' I asked my father.
"'We may have to go away from here,' he answered, 'but the padre would be our padre still, and we should see him at mass and at other times; but it would not be as it is now.'"
"'I will never leave here,' I said to him, 'as long as the padre stays; I do not want to go off to work for myself.'"
"But the change, Seor, was long in coming, and before it did come, there was another and a greater change at the mission. Well do I remember the day when first I knew, without a doubt, that our old life was at an end. It was a dark and stormy Saturday in early winter. Just before nightfall, a traveler arrived at the mission from the north. Alone and riding slowly a tired horse, which looked as if it had been driven long and hard, he approached, gazing around at the church and all the buildings within sight. I was driving one of the cows home from the pasture to provide milk for the padre's supper, and saw him as he reached the mission. As soon as I came up to him, he asked me:"
"'Is the padre here?'"
"'Tell him Don Manuel wishes to see him at once,' he said, in a commanding tone."
"Calling one of the boys not far away to look after the cow, and to take care of the stranger's horse, I went to the padre's room and knocked. After waiting a moment, and getting no reply, I knocked again. Hearing no sound, I opened the door and went in. The room was empty, but the door leading into a small side room, from which was an entrance into the church for the padre's use, stood open, and I knew he was in the church. At any other time I would have hesitated, but the traveler had spoken so sternly that I dared not delay, so went on into the church. There was the padre kneeling before the altar of our patron saint, San Luis Rey, his rosary of beautiful gold beads and ivory cross in his hands; but so still one would have said he himself was a statue. I waited again, in hopes he would finish his prayer and come away; but the minutes went by and still he did not move. At last I stepped toward him, stumbling a little against one of the seats that he might know some one was there. He heard the sound and, rising slowly, turned and came toward the door near which I stood. When he saw me he asked what was wanted. I told him."
"Is it come at last?' he said, more to himself than to me, and walked slowly, with bowed head, out of the church. I followed, closing the door of the church and of the little side room, and saw once more the traveler, as he rose from his knees, after receiving the padre's blessing. A moment later he followed the padre into his room."
"I did not see them again until supper time, when I had to wait at table. They had been some minutes at supper, but were so occupied with their talk that they had eaten scarcely anything. The stranger was speaking when I went in."
"'But, padre,' he said, 'what will become of your charge here, if you carry out your intention? You know they look up to you as the head and soul of this great mission, and would be, indeed, as sheep without their shepherd, if you - '"
"'My son,' interrupted the padre, with a look toward me, 'we will speak of that another time.'"
"Nothing more was said until after I had left them. I had seen the look the padre sent in my direction. Had not it been at a time when every one was fearing a change of some kind at the mission, I should have thought nothing of it; but at the time, I knew we might expect something to occur almost any day; so that when he interrupted the stranger, it was only after enough had been said to fill me with fear. I knew, from what he said about the sheep being without a shepherd, that we might, in some way, lose our padre. As soon as I was free I hastened out to find Miguel, the boy who had taken the stranger's horse. He had gone to his house, a little way from the church."
"'Miguel,' I asked, 'do you know who is this visitor, Don Manuel, and why he is come?'"
"'He came from Los Angeles, on important business with the padre,' Miguel replied."
"'How do you know he is from Los Angeles, and that his business is important?'"
"'Because, while you were seeking the padre, Don Manuel was so impatient at your delay that he could not stand still, and kept striding up and down the length of the arcade, muttering to himself. Once I caught the words that if the padre but knew the importance of his business, he would make great haste. When I led away his horse, he told me to take good care of it, for it must carry him as far on his way tomorrow as it had to-day from Los Angeles.'"
"'And what is this important business?'"
"'Quien sabe!' answered Miguel, with a shrug of his shoulders."
"This was very little to be sure, and it served only to increase my fear that all was not right."
"But I heard nothing further that night."
"The next day was the Sabbath. Nothing occurred before mass; breakfast was eaten by the stranger, alone in the padres' dining-room, and the padre was not seen by any one until the hour for mass. The other padre was here at Pala to take the place of the fraile who was sick. The beautiful church was crowded, every neophyte casting a glance now and then at Don Manuel, who was seated in front, watching the door by which the padre was to enter. But it was not until all had begun to wonder what was the reason for his delay, and to grow uneasy and whisper softly to each other, looking at the stranger as though they connected him with some trouble about to befall the mission and their padre. For in those days very little was necessary to stir up fears of a change all knew might come suddenly at any time. At last the door opened, and the padre came slowly into the church. He was pale, and looked sad and troubled, but went through the service in his usual manner. But when he came to
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