Chapter XV.

Those were two busy months before Prudencia's wedding. Twenty girls, sharply watched and directed by Dona Trinidad and the sometime mistress of Casa Grande, worked upon the marriage wardrobe. Prudencia would have no use for more house-linen; but enough fine linen was made into underclothes to last her a lifetime. Five keen-eyed girls did nothing but draw the threads for deshalados, and so elaborate was the open-work that the wonder was the bride did not have bands and stripes of rheumatism. Others fashioned crepes and flowered silks and heavy satins into gowns with long pointed waists and full flowing skirts, some with sleeves of lace and high to the base of the throat, others cut to display the plump whiteness of the owner. Twelve rebosos were made for her; Dona Trinidad gave her one of her finest mantillas; Chonita, the white satin embroidered with poppies, for which she had conceived a capricious dislike. She also invited Prudencia to take what she pleased from her wardrobe; and Prudencia, who was nothing if not practical, helped herself to three gowns which had been made for Chonita at great expense in the city of Mexico, four shawls of Chinese crepe, a roll of pineapple silk, and an American hat.

The house until within two weeks of the wedding was full of visitors,--neighbors whose ranchos lay ten leagues away or nearer, and the people of the town; all of them come to offer congratulations, chatter on the corridor by day and dance in the sala by night. The court was never free of prancing horses pawing the ground for eighteen hours at a time under their heavy saddles. Dona Trinidad's cooking-girls were as thick in the kitchen as ants on an anthill, for the good things of Casa Grande were as famous as its hospitality, and not the least of the attractions to the merry visitors. When we did not dance at home we danced at the neighbors' or at the Presidio. During the last two weeks, however, every one went home to rest and prepare for the festivities to succeed the wedding; and the old house was as quiet as a canon in the mountains.

Chonita took a lively concern in the preparations at first, but her interest soon evaporated, and she spent more and more time in the little library adjoining her bedroom. She did less reading than thinking, however. Once she came to me and tried for fifteen minutes to draw from me something in Estenega's dispraise; and when I finally admitted that he had a fault or two I thought she would scalp me. Still, at this time she was hardly more than fascinated, interested, tantalized by a mind she could appreciate but not understand. If they had never met again he would gradually have moved backward to the horizon of her memory, growing dim and more dim, hovered in a cloud-bank for a while, then disappeared into that limbo which must exist somewhere for discarded impressions, and all would have been well.