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- Old Mission Stories of California - 6/22 -
the sermon, it seemed as if he could not go on. He did not take a text from which to preach, but began at once to talk to us in his earnest, gentle voice, saying we must look to God as our father, as one who loved us and would guide us in all this life. Padre Peyri did not preach to us like the fathers at other missions: he seldom said anything about hell and the punishments waiting for us if we were wicked, but talked to us and preached about the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ, and our duty to them, not from fear of future punishment, but because we owed it to them, as we owed our earthly parents love and respect. This morning he was more than ever solemn, and before the close of his short talk, many of his listeners had tears in their eyes. More than once he had to stop for a moment, to regain control of his voice which, all through his talk, trembled and sometimes was hardly above a whisper. As soon as the service was ended, he left the church, followed quickly by the stranger."
"I hastened from the choir and church to the padre's room to be ready at hand in case he should want anything. He was not there, but I found him in the patio, talking earnestly with Don Manuel, as they walked up and down the cloister. As soon as he saw me, he told me to give orders to have the visitor's horse ready for him immediately after dinner. I did so, and on coming back from the large dining-room, where I told my errand to one of the mozos, found the padre and Don Manuel just sitting down to their own dinner. The padre ate little; but there was nothing else to make me think that anything was wrong, and had not it been for the night before, and the morning's mass, I should have thought nothing of it. But now every little thing was large and important in my eyes; and although nothing was said but what might have been said by any visitor at any time, I grew more and more heavy-hearted. After they had finished eating, which they did very quickly, the stranger prepared to leave. Gathering up his sombrero and zarape, and receiving a small package, which looked like a bundle of letters, from the padre, he strode out to his horse, already waiting for him in front of the building, the padre close behind him."
"I took my place by the horse, and pretended to be looking at the saddle, to see that everything was right, while I tried to hear what the padre and Don Manuel were saying; but they spoke too low for me to make out more than a word now and then. I heard Don Manuel say 'San Diego;' 'the Pocahontas, a small ship but;' 'Spain,' and a few other words of no significance. Padre Peyri said hardly a word, but stood with bowed head, and eyes cast on the ground. At last Don Manuel knelt to receive the padre's blessing, and with a last low sentence, and an 'adios,' spoken aloud, as he sprang to his horse, he dashed off down the hill until he came to the mission road which runs from San Diego into the far north. The padre watched him turn his horse's head toward the south, and disappear behind a hill; a few minutes later he came into sight again as he ascended another hill until at last he stood on the top. With a long look at the rider hurrying away in the distance, the padre turned and, without a word to me, went into the house and shut himself in his room."
"Seor, that was the last time I saw him at the mission. Padre çnzar, who had been at Pala that day, returned to the mission in the afternoon, and I saw him at supper, but Padre Peyri did not come out of his room the rest of the day. Late that night I wandered around the church, so sad and full of fear of what I knew was coming, that I could not sleep. There was a light in the church, and I was sure the padre was in there, but, of course, I could not go in to see, and speak to him. After a little while the light disappeared, and I went back to my bed."
"Although I now felt certain I knew what the padre was going to do, from what I had heard and seen, yet I knew nothing of the time, and did not dream it was so near. But early the next morning I knew all. I was on my way to the padre's house, when I met Miguel coming toward me on the run. As soon as he came near he cried to me:"
"'Antonio, el padre se ha ido (the padre is gone)! His horse is not here, nor his saddle.'"
"My heart stood still. So all that I had feared the day before was come true, and our beloved padre had left us. But how suddenly it had taken place! I thought of 'San Diego' and 'the small ship Pocahontas,' and knew all. I had not seen Miguel since my talk with him two nights before, and he knew nothing of what had occurred. I now told him everything."
"'Dios mio! Our, padre gone away, not to come back? Oh, why did he go? Why did not he stay with us? What shall we do without him?' he exclaimed."
"While Miguel was crying in this manner, I was like one stunned, and knew not what to do. Suddenly a thought came to me."
"Miguel, let us follow him, and, if we can, persuade him to come back. I know he did not go willingly, but was driven to it by the Governor and his people; for you know he has often said that here was his home, and here he intended to stay, until his death.'"
"'But, Antonio, what can we two do? He would not listen to us, and, besides, he must be too far ahead now to be overtaken. And the ship may have left before we get to San Diego. You did not hear when it was to sail?'"
"'No, but we can come up with him, I am sure, before he reaches San Diego, if we waste no time. Come, I am going to tell my father, and get my horse, and be off.' And I started on the run for my father's house, which was not far from the church. I found him just leaving for his work, and told him, in a few words, what had happened. He was not so surprised as I thought he would be, for he was an old man, and knew more of all that was taking place in the country, than was possible for me, a mere boy."
"'Go, Antonio,' he said. 'I shall follow you;' and he turned away into the house."
"I waited not to see what he would do, but darted away, and, catching my horse, was off as hard as I could ride. Before I had gone many rods, I heard a horse's gallop behind me, and, looking back, saw Miguel at full speed. I stopped to permit him to come up with me, and then, without a word, we went on together."
"There are nearly ten leagues between San Luis Rey and San Diego, Seor; and as we were determined to reach there by noon, we said very little during the whole ride, but urged our horses to their utmost. After going a few miles, we came to the shore, and went along by the ocean, sometimes on the beach itself, sometimes on the mesa above. But swiftly as we went, the sun was still quicker, and it was nearly noon when we came in sight of San Diego. We hastened on, past houses, the presidio, and down to the edge of the water, taking no notice of the men, women and children, who gazed wonderingly after us. Out in the bay, not far from the shore, lay a ship with sails spread, ready to start with the first puff of wind, which began faintly to blow as we reached the water. On the deck there were many people, passengers and sailors, and among them we saw our padre, a little apart from the others, and gazing toward the land he was leaving. By his side stood Don Manuel, who had been at the mission the day before, and with them were two of the mission Indians. I envied them, Seor, and wished I could have been there also, for my heart was breaking at the thought of losing my beloved padre. At first he did not notice us, but when, with a cry, we called to him, he started as he saw us standing on the beach, with our arms held out to him. Just at that instant, we heard a distant sound of horses coming hard and fast over the ground toward us. Looking around, we saw a sight that made us thrill: a great throng of men, each one urging on with whip and spur the horse he was riding. We did not at once know what it meant, but, in a second or two, understood. It was a band of Indians from our mission. Madly they dashed down to the shore, sprang from their horses, and fell on their knees - some on the beach, some half in the water, so great was the crowd - imploring, with heartbreaking cries, our padre to have pity on them and not leave them. There were nearly five hundred men, and their lamentations were terrible to hear."
"But the sails had filled with the freshening breeze, and the ship was fast getting under way. The padre gazed at us all, long and sorrowfully, and, with arms raised up to Heaven, in a faltering voice, which we could scarcely hear from the increasing distance, called down the blessing of God on us. With groans and cries we watched the ship sail away, and as it faded into the distance, we saw our beloved padre kneeling on the deck in prayer."
"Seor, there is no more to tell. We waited there on the beach until the ship had disappeared; then slowly, one by one, found each our horse, and set out for the mission. All night we rode, not caring how or when we should get there. When we reached the mission, we found the women and children gathered together, waiting for us. As soon as they saw us they burst out weeping and lamenting, for, by our manner, they knew our padre was gone. Silently we turned loose our horses, and went back to our old life and work, but with sorrow in our hearts. That is all, Seor."
I had listened to the old man with great and constantly increasing interest, and long before he had finished, found myself with brush held idly in my hand. He had told his story with simple earnestness, crossed, now and then, with deep emotion, as his love for the Franciscan father, and sorrow at his loss, came to the surface. After an interval of silence, I asked him if he had ever heard of the padre since that day.
"Only two or three times," he answered. "A few months afterward we had news of him from Mexico; he was then about to return to Spain. Two years after we heard he was at his old home and, a little later, that he was gone to Rome. Some one told us he lived there till his death, but we never knew positively."
Padre Peyri is one of the most picturesque figures in California's mission history: the zeal he showed in calling his mission into existence; the intensity of enthusiasm with which he labored for it; his long career of usefulness; the love the neophytes had for him; his agony at the ruthless destruction of the missions - too great for him to endure, old and feeble as he then was growing; and his dramatic departure, hastening away under cover of the night, to escape the importunities of his devoted flock: all this had been pictured with keen clearness in the old Indian's simple tale.
I thanked him for his story as he rose to go. Wishing me "adios" with grave politeness, he walked slowly away, and left me to dream of the old mission times, full of color and romance, which have given so much to the present day, until the sun sinking behind the hills in the west recalled me to myself and my surroundings.
I fear I shall never again see Pala; but I shall not forget its charm and beauty, the quaint old campanario and near-by buildings, and, above all, Antonio, the Indian, and his tale of mission life in the old days.
Father Zalvidea's Money
Father Zalvidea was in despair! After having lived for twenty years at Mission San Gabriel, devoting himself all that time to bringing the mission to a condition of so great size and wealth that it took its
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