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- Their Mariposa Legend - 3/12 -
tell me of a Spaniard, one Cabrillo, son to that arch pirate of Spain, who, since his father's death, still sails upon these waters? To him I bear a message," - again he paused while the heart of Wildenai beat in sudden panic beneath her fawnskin tunic; but Torquam's face remained blank as a page unwritten, - "a message from our queen," added Drake. The last words were uttered with significance.
The Indian slowly shook his head.
"The noble white chief asks what is unknown to any man," he answered. "The young Cabrillo once landed, 'tis true, on Punagwandah. Many moons ago it was. Where he is now, how should Torquam know?"
In his bitter disappointment the hand of the Englishman sought the hilt of his sword. Instantly a ring of warriors closed darkly about the chief.
"Nay then, 'tis but by chance I asked thee, thinking thou mightst tell me. It matters not. The gift I promised thee will come, as I said, tonight."
He turned to go and young Harold rose to follow. Then, perceiving the dark eyes of the princess fixed wistfully upon him, he hesitated and, obeying a sudden impulse, he stepped hastily to her side.
"When they return with the gift for thy father," he whispered, "I will come with them," he smiled into her soft eyes shining with pleased surprise, "and I will bring a gift to thee as well, oh Wildenai, fairest of maidens!"
Drake gave a sharp command. His followers sprang to their feet, and without further ceremony the party passed quickly down the beach to their boat.
But the princess Wildenai did not leave the feasting ground. Hidden by deepening shadows she watched the ship's lights glimmer across the water. Glad indeed was she of the darkness, for a warm flush glowed in her cheeks and her heart throbbed with a strange new pleasure, a pleasure bordering close on fear, yet wholly sweet.
But when, at length, the quiet of sleep had descended upon the village, once again she sought her father. He, too, within the open doorway of his lodge, watched intently the distant ship. Without surprise he saw his daughter enter and, as she knelt upon the blanket beside him, he stretched a hand and drew her close.
"It grows cold. The wind is rising. 'Twere best to wait inside." He spoke in the musical Indian tongue. For a moment he stroked her hair in silence, then -
"What think'st thou by now of the English, Wildenai, my little wild rose?" he asked.
But the princess seemed not to have heard his question.
"My father," she began after another short silence, "I have a favor to ask of thee."
"And what may that be, my daughter?" he returned gravely.
But again the young girl made no answer and for many minutes they watched the tremulous paths of light in the wake of the vessel.
After a time he felt her hand tighten upon his arm.
"It is but the old boon over again, my father." Her voice was low as the sighing of the wind among the oak trees. "I would be freed from my promise to wed with Don Cabrillo."
An Indian is not given to caresses. Much more used was Torquam's hand to wield the war-club or the hatchet. Yet it was with fingers gentle as any woman's that he stroked the smooth black head at his knee.
"Doubtest thou then, my motherless one, the judgment of him who loves thee?" he asked.
"I doubt it not, my father," answered his daughter. "Yet would I not wed with the Spaniard," she added stubbornly.
"The blue-eyed senor from England" - there was a hint of humor in his tone, - "he it is who steals thy fancy! Is it not so, my Wildenai?"
Then, after a moment: "Right well knowest thou my only wish is to make thee happy." Again his voice, though gentle, grew serious almost to sadness. "No mere whim it is that counsels me to wed thee to Cabrillo. "There is something - " He paused, continuing with effort, - "a reason I have never told thee why it seems most fitting. Now I will tell thee. That reason is because, because, my Wildenai, thou art Spanish born thyself."
The princess drew a hasty breath. In the darkness he felt rather than saw her startled eyes upon him.
"My father!" The exclamation, filled with pain as well as astonishment, touched him to the quick. Tenderly he drew her to him. Then briefly, as was the Indian way, yet with the pictured phrasing which caused each scene to spring into vivid life before the young girl's eyes, he told her of the day, already more than eighteen years gone by, when, in the wake of a long midwinter storm, the first sailing vessel ever beheld by his people had fled for refuge to their bay; and of the little girl carefully brought to shore by her old nurse in the first boat to touch the beach. A mere baby she was, too young to know aught of her misfortune, yet a princess royal, rudely dispossessed of her right to the throne of Spain, and smuggled aboard the adventurer Cabrillo's ship to be dropped in some out-of-the-way corner of the western world. Even then, he made it clear, she might have perished, - since little recked the Spanish explorer what should happen, well knowing that upon his return no questions would be asked, - had it not been for his Indian wife. She, lacking children of her own, had taken an instant fancy to the dark-eyed little girl, a fancy so strong that nothing would do but they must adopt her as their own daughter into the tribe to belong forever, according to their law, she and her children, to the Mariposa.
"Nor, because thy mother - for ever was she a true mother to thee - thought that it might grieve thee, have any of my people ever given thee cause to doubt that thou wert native born," he finished proudly. "Loyal have they been, doing all they could to make thee happy. But now that thy Indian mother is dead, and I myself grow old, I thought to wed thee, knowing his desire, to the son of that same Cabrillo who brought thee to us, for I long to be sure, when at length I go, that thou art safe, - at home."
He waited then and in the silence only the low weeping of the girl was heard. At length the old chief spoke again, and now in his voice love conquered disappointment.
"Much do I desire it, but that matters not. I would not have thee unhappy. I myself will tell the senor that what he hopes for cannot be."
Slowly Wildenai bent her head until it touched his feet. Then she nestled close against him.
"I thank thee, oh my father!" she cried, and all her voice was music because of her joy. "And thou art still my father," she added, earnestly. "What care I to go to Spain? I will stay always with thee."
"For a time, it may be. Yet have a care, little wild rose," he cautioned, smiling, "Let not the Englishman lure thee away! He, too, may not be all that thou thinkest."
And even as he spoke, in mocking confirmation of his words, there came to them suddenly from across the water, the distant creaking of ropes, the snapping of sails flung hastily to the wind. Before their unbelieving eyes the vessel swung about and put slowly out to sea. Dumb with amazement they watched until the last faint light flickered into darkness. Not until the remotest chance of a mistake was past did the old chief rise, trembling with rage, to his feet.
"See'st thou now what I meant, my daughter? The English pale-faces know not the meaning of honor, - no, nor of gratitude either!"
He lifted his long spear from the ground and shook it fiercely.
"The words of the Mariposa are few," he cried, "but their revenge is sure. Let but an Englishman set foot again on Punagwandah and, swifter than the arrow leaves the bowstring, he dies!"
And at once, without answer, in the silence of suffering which only the wild things of the earth understand, Wildenai crept from the lodge, her heart heavy with its own bitter disappointment. Noiselessly she passed among the tepees where her father's people slept. Not one of them should ever know how far dwelt slumber from her own eyes that night. Up the steep trail beyond the Bay of Moons she climbed and flung herself weeping on the bed of skins within the cavern.
"Oh, thou false one," she moaned, "why did'st thou promise then, when never did'st thou mean to keep it?"
Yet nothing had been farther from the young Englishman's thoughts when he left her than faithlessness to his word. On reaching the ship again he had gone directly to his cabin. Here he took from its small but richly embroidered case a slender chain of gold, threaded so closely with garnets that even in the dim light of the one flaring lantern, the only illumination the room could boast, it glowed, a glancing stream of crimson, in his hand. This he carried to the light and as he examined it under the lantern he smiled.
"Never saw the little maid such jewels before, I'll warrant me! Yet, beshrew my heart, but she deserves them. Indian though she be, still is she, nevertheless, the loveliest woman that ever mine eyes have looked upon!"
Then, stowing the necklace carefully away in his belt, he went at once in search of the commander.
But at this point an unexpected difficulty had presented itself. He found Sir Francis in close conversation with his pilot.
"Marry, Sir, an it fit n'er so ill with thy wish," the keen-eyed old mariner was saying. "I still maintain it were a shame to lose this wind. Gift or no gift, I've sailed these latitudes before, my lord, and by heaven I swear we're not like to have such another breeze, no, not till the change of the moon, and that you know yourself, sir, is a good fortnight hence."
Sir Francis, striding back and forth within the narrow confines of the
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