The Valiant Runaways by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Roldan opened his eyes. His brain was heavy; he was conscious only of an intense warmth. His arms appeared to be bound to his sides, his whole body in a vise. He kicked out with a vigorous return of the instinct of independence. The action shook his brain free and he understood: he was tightly wrapped in a blanket, and there were other blankets upon him. He raised his head. The room was one of familiar lineaments,--whitewashed walls, a mat by the iron bed, an altar in the corner, linen with elaborate drawn-work on bureau and washstand. The blood poured upward to the young adventurer's face. Was this his room? Had he been ill and dreamed strange happenings? He freed his arms and sat up. No; there was no room in his father's house exactly like this, monotonous as were the furnishing and architecture of the time.
He took his head between his hands and thought; the events of the past weeks marched through his brain in rapid and precise succession--up to a certain point: his senses had been frozen in the Sierras. From a raging snowstorm to this blistering bed all was blank.
He disencumbered himself, slipped to the floor, and opened the door, then scrambled back to bed as best he could; his legs felt as if they had been boned. He was also one vast desire for food and drink. But that glimpse through the door had raised his spirits. He was in a great adobe house surrounding a court in which a fountain splashed among ferns and little orange-trees. It was the house of a grandee, but there was none like it in the neighbourhood of the Rancho de los Palos Verdes.
He waited with what patience he could muster until his open door should attract attention, listening to the murmur of the fountain, inhaling the fragrance of orange and magnolia, wondering if Adan, too, were safe, angrily resenting his weakness.
The door cautiously opened wide, and a woman, stout, brown, but of exceeding grace and elegance, entered and bent over him.
"Good-day, senora," said Roldan, politely. "I am very hungry. Where am I? And is Adan here?"
The lady smiled and patted his cheek with a shapely and flashing hand.
"He is well and sleeping, my son, and you are both in the Casa of Don Tiburcio Carillo, of the Rancho Encarnarcion, in a great valley many, many leagues from the Sierras and the snow--Madre de dios! Pobrecitos! So cold you must have been, so frightened--and you the sons of great rancheros, no?"
Roldan modestly named his fortunate status, then sat up and kissed her hand, as he had seen his gallant brothers kiss the hands of lovely young donas. The lady looked much pleased and drew a chair beside the bed. Roldan wondered if he should ever satisfy his raging appetite, but was too polite to mention the subject again, and determined to satisfy his curiosity instead.
"Senora, tell me how we came here," he asked. "My head will burst until I know."
"Our bell mare, the most valuable on our rancho, strayed far the day before yesterday. All that day and the next six vaqueros looked for her. One traced her to the Sierras and went on in spite of the storm. He found her, and, just afterward--you. He thought you were dead, but poured aguardiente down your throats. You swallowed but did not awaken, although he shook you and pounded you. Then he strapped your friend-- Adan, no? upon the back of Lolita, took you in his arms, and galloped for home--you were almost at the foot of the mountain. Ay! but I was frightened when you came. Gracias a dios that you are well and not frozen. Bueno, I go to send you a good breakfast. Hasta luego."
She went out, and Roldan lay wondering if the breakfast were already cooked. The door opened again. Roldan sat up. But it was Adan. He wore a long nightgown and dug his knuckles into his eyes. His knees, too, were shaky.
"Hist, Roldan," he whispered loudly. "Are you there, or do I dream?"
"Come into my bed and have breakfast--breakfast, Adan!"
Adan gathered his remaining energies, bolted across the room, and climbed into bed.
"Dios de mi alma, Roldan," he gasped. "Where are we, and why are we sweltered like sick babies? This is a fine place. Ay! may I never see snow nor a redwood again!"
Roldan told what he knew of the beginning of their new chapter, and soon after he finished two Indian servants entered with trays, set them on the bed, and retired.
"Ay! this looks like home," cried Adan, almost in tears. "Chocolate! Tortillas! Chicken with yellow rice!" He crossed himself fervently and attacked the fragrant meal.
It was not a large breakfast, for it was many hours since they had eaten before; they left not a grain of rice nor a shred on a bone. But half- satisfied, although very comfortable, they made up their minds to dress. On the chair was a complete outfit, suitable for a young don. Roldan concluded it had been thoughtfully placed at his disposal that he might not appear in the sala of Casa Carillo garbed like a coyote. How he hated the memory of that ugly and infested garment.
"I, too, have a silk jacket and breeches by my bed," said Adan, "and a lace shirt and silk stockings, and shoes with buckles. There must be those of our age in the Casa Carillo, my friend. Bueno! I go to make a caballero of myself. Hasta luego."
He opened the door and peered out, then ran hastily down the corridor to his room. Who knew but there might be girls at the Casa Carillo? Horrible thought!
The boys met a half hour later on the corridor, still weak, but magnificent to look upon. Roldan's head was very high, despite his protesting knees: he felt himself again.
"It is the hour of siesta," he said. "Let us lie in these hammocks and wait. Ay! but it is warm, and the sky is blue, and the sun looks like the copper lamp of my mother--the one that came from Boston. Who--even an Indian--would live in the mountains when the valleys are so big and warm?"
They extended themselves in two hammocks swung across the corridor and watched the many doors on the several sides of the court. All were closed, and the forest had hardly been more quiet than the Casa Carillo in its hour of siesta. Through the arch of the gateway they could see the green of fields, a corner of a vineyard, and rolling hills. On either side of the entrance was a large magnolia-tree with broad shining leaves and bunches of cream-white fragrance. The oranges were very yellow, the palms very stately, the red tiles on the sloping roofs above the white walls looked very fresh and red. There was colour and beauty everywhere; and the boys were quite at peace, and content to be so. Their appetite for adventure was dulled for the moment.