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قراءة كتاب Dust of the Desert
تنويه: تعرض هنا نبذة من اول ١٠ صفحات فقط من الكتاب الالكتروني، لقراءة الكتاب كاملا اضغط على الزر “اشتر الآن"
Dust of the Desert
against roving Apaches; Indian maids on mule back to serve the needs of their mistresses, regally mounted on ponies of the Cortez strain; baggage porters, cooks, roustabouts. Fully a hundred of the clan O’Donoju and satellites on pilgrimage over the Road of the Dead Men.
All of the O’Donoju were there but one, El Rojo—the Red One. The “Red One” was he because of the throw-back to the red Irish strain of his fighting ancestor Don Miguel. Red with the pugnacious red of Donegal was his hair; his cheeks had none of the sallow tan of the Spanish but were dyed with the stain of Irish bog winds; his eyes were blue lamps of the devil. A fatherless grandson of old Don Padraic, El Rojo had played the wild youth in the City of Mexico with only occasional visits of penance to the Casa O’Donoju in the desert country of the north until, when the tang of youth still was his, he had tainted his name with scandal. Followed his formal expulsion from the clan at the hands of the old aristocrat, his grandfather, and the closing of all doors of his kindred in Papagueria against him. El Rojo had ridden out to the wide world of sand and mountains an outcast but with a laugh on his lips; this a full year before the gathering of the family at the Mission of the Four Evangelists.
When El Rojo had turned lone wolf, a sadness that was not the sadness of shame settled upon the heart of one of the O’Donoju. Frecia Mayortorena, a cousin, one of the flowers of girlhood that caused old Hermosillo to be named the Little Garden, sat behind her barred windows on many a night with heart wild to hear once more the love song only El Rojo knew how to sing. Frecia Mayortorena, all fire under the cold ice of her schooled and decorous features, knew that the reckless devil with the flame-blue eyes had but to come and strum a love call on his guitar; she would go with him into banishment and worse. So on this pilgrimage to the shrine of the four holy men the girl, who rode with her father and brothers, allowed her imagination to frame the figure of a phantom horseman on every ragged mountain top. At each camp fire along the Road of the Dead Men, when the vast sea of desert round about was stilled under the stars, Frecia Mayortorena sat with tiny pointed chin cupped in a propping palm and seemed to hear in the clink of a mule’s hobble chain the opening chord of that song of songs,
The heart of him who sings.
The cavalcade came to the mission with the firing of guns and with shouts. The reed-and-mud huts of the Sand People beyond the cloisters disgorged their shouting savages to welcome the travellers. Padre Felice, a gaunt man with the face of an ascetic above the folds of his rough brown cowl, hurried out from the doors of the new sanctuary to meet and give embrace to his father, Don Padraic, and then in turn to all his next of kin; behind him followed his two novitiate priests who were, with Padre Felice, the only white men in all the stretch of Papagueria from the Rancho del Refugio westward to the Sea of Cortez. Five days’ travel were they from the nearest of their kind, and to west and north stretched unguessed leagues of the desert. Only the Road of the Dead Men linked them with the first of the Californian missions thirty days over the western horizon.
Missionary to the Sand People was Padre Felice—to that branch of the Papago tribe of tractable Indians who lived about the east shore of the Sea of Cortez and on eastward throughout the desert of Altar. The rebuilt mission stood in the middle of a small oasis which was fed by a stream down out of the burnt mountains not a mile behind; one of those rare and furtive desert trickles of water which hides in the sand most months of the year. The diminutive mission building, with its rounded dome of sun-burned brick, lifted in sharp outlines above the vivid and water-fed greenery of the oasis mesquite and palo verde; but the whole—oasis and house of God—was dwarfed by the bleak immensity of the flanking mountains leaping sheer from the plain to push their fire-scarred summits against the sky.
Before the choir of Indian voices intoned the opening prayer of the dedication service the packs of the O’Donoju caravan yielded precious things. There was a monstrance of heavy gold studded at its tips with precious gems; this was the personal offering of old Don Padraic to the shrine of the Four Evangelists. A chalice of gold, a great altar crucifix of gold inlaid with mother-of-pearl, a pair of candelabra wrought of chased silver and a communion service of the same metal represented the pious contributions of the rest of the clan O’Donoju.
But most precious of all the altar treasures was that double string of the pearls of the Virgin which by a miracle had been saved from plunder of the Apaches when the savages from the north had come burning and murdering fifty years before. For a half-century the lucent rope of moonbeam green had lain in the treasure vaults of the Franciscan College in the City of Mexico awaiting this hour of restoration. Green pearls fetched from the shell beads of the Sea of Cortez by Indian converts. Pearls hinting of caves of ocean by their shimmering, changeful lustre. Pearls to fire the lust of covetousness even from their hallowed place about the throat of the Virgin.
Padre Felice held the glinting rope of lights high in dedication, and as reverently he draped them upon the bosom of the sacred effigy the clan O’Donoju and all the dark-skinned children of the mission sang a gloria.
An untoward incident jarred the merriment of the feasting that followed the re-dedication of the mission. When whole beeves were being lifted from the roasting pits and the skins of wine and tequila were passing from table to table beneath the flowering mesquite trees a column of dust strode across the desert from the east and spawned two horsemen upon the oasis. One, a naked Indian of the stature of a giant, reined in his horse at the far fringe of the mesquite as befitting a servant. The second rode boldly into the circle of the tables. Silver clinked from bridle and stirrup leathers of his magnificent white thoroughbred. The rider’s silver-trimmed hat came off with a sweeping bow to include all there, and the red of his hair was like molten copper in the sun.
“El Rojo!” was the startled cry on every lip. Men scrambled to their feet as if to combat some overt move of an enemy.
“God be with you all,” came the Red One’s speech of polite greeting, made all the more ironical by the reckless upturn of his lips in a grin and the steely lights that flashed from his blue eyes.
“—And God, or his gentle vicar, Padre Felice, give me place at table with my noble kin,” El Rojo added lightly. “I have travelled far to have my cup here on this day of celebration.”
The laughing horseman let his eyes dance over the circle of faces until they came to rest for just an instant upon one. He saw cheeks flaming, eyes filled with wonder and full lips parted to give a heart its song. Frecia Mayortorena was seeing a vision in the life. Quickly El Rojo’s glance leaped on as if to shield the girl from contamination. The venerable Don Padraic, head of the clan O’Donoju, was on his feet now and trembling.
“We know you not, sir! We must ask you to begone!”
El Rojo caused his horse to rear perilously. Before hoofs touched the ground hardly two paces from the old man the rider again had made his full-armed bow. He spoke with mock respect.