Remember the Alamo by Amelia E. Barr
Chapter XVIII. Under one Flag.
"And through thee I believe In the noble and great, who are gone." "Yes! I believe that there lived Others like thee in the past. Not like the men of the crowd. Who all around me to-day, Bluster, or cringe, and make life Hideous, and arid, and vile, But souls temper'd with fire, Fervent, heroic, and good; Helpers, and friends of mankind." --ARNOLD. "Our armor now may rust, our idle scimitars Hang by our sides for ornament, not use. Children shall beat our atabals and drums; And all the noisy trades of war no more Shall wake the peaceful morn." --DRYDEN.
As the years go on they bring many changes--changes that come as naturally as the seasons--that tend as naturally to anticipated growth and decay--that scarcely startle the subjects of them, till a lengthened-out period of time discloses their vitality and extent. Between the ages of twenty and thirty, ten years do not seem very destructive to life. The woman at eighteen, and twenty-eight, if changed, is usually ripened and improved; the man at thirty, finer and more mature than he was at twenty. But when this same period is placed to women and men who are either approaching fifty, or have passed it, the change is distinctly felt.
It was even confessed by the Senora one exquisite morning in the beginning of March, though the sun was shining warmly, and the flowers blooming, and the birds singing, and all nature rejoicing, as though it was the first season of creation.
"I am far from being as gay and strong as I wish to be, Roberto," she, said; "and today, consider what a company there is coming! And if General Houston is to be added to it, I shall be as weary as I shall be happy."
"He is the simplest of men; a cup of coffee, a bit of steak--"
"San Blas! That is how you talk! But is, it possible to receive him like a common mortal? He is a hero, and, besides that, among hidalgos de casa Solar" (gentlemen of known property)--
"Well, then, you have servants, Maria, my dear one."
"Servants! Bah! Of what use are they, Roberto, since they also have got hold of American ideas?"
"Isabel and Antonia will be here."
"Let me only enumerate to you, Roberto. Thomas and his wife and four children arrived last night. You may at this moment hear the little Maria crying. I dare say Pepita is washing the child, and using soap which is very disagreeable. I have always admired the wife of Thomas, but I think she is too fond of her own way with the children. I give her advices which she does not take."
"They are her own children, dearest."
"Holy Maria! They are also my own grandchildren."
"Well, well, we must remember that Abbie is a little Puritan. She believes in bringing up children strictly, and it is good; for Thomas would spoil them. As for Isabel's boys--"
"God be blessed! Isabel's boys are entirely charming. They have been corrected at my own knee. There are not more beautifully behaved boys in the christened world."
"And Antonia's little Christina?"
"She is already an angel. Ah, Roberto! If I had only died when I was as innocent as that dear one!"
"I am thankful you did not die, Maria. How dark my life would have been without you!"
"Beloved, then I am glad I am not in the kingdom of heaven; though, if one dies like Christina, one escapes purgatory. Roberto, when I rise I am very stiff: I think, indeed, I have some rheumatism."
"That is not unlikely; and also Maria, you have now some years."
"Let that be confessed; but the good God knows that I lost all my youth in that awful flight of 'thirty-six."
"Maria, we all left or lost something on that dark journey. To-day, we shall recover its full value."
"To be sure--that is what is said--we shall see. Will you now send Dolores to me? I must arrange my toilet with some haste; and tell me, Roberto, what dress is your preference; it is your eyes, beloved, I wish to please."
Robert Worth was not too old to feel charmed and touched by the compliment. And he was not a thoughtless or churlish husband; he knew how to repay such a wifely compliment, and it was a pleasant sight to see the aged companions standing hand in hand before the handsome suits which Dolores had spread out for her mistress to examine.
He looked at the purple and the black and the white robes, and then he looked at the face beside him. It was faded, and had lost its oval shape; but its coloring was yet beautiful, and the large, dark eyes tender and bright below the snow-white hair. After a few minutes' consideration, he touched, gently, a robe of white satin. "Put this on, Maria," he said, "and your white mantilla, and your best jewels. The occasion will excuse the utmost splendor."
The choice delighted her. She had really wished to wear it, and some one's judgment to endorse her own inclinations was all that was necessary to confirm her wish. Dolores found her in the most delightful temper. She sat before the glass, smiling and talking, while her maid piled high the snowy plaits and curls and crowned them with the jewelled comb, only worn on very great festivals. Her form was still good, and the white satin fell gracefully from her throat to her small feet. Besides, whatever of loss or gain had marred her once fine proportions, was entirely concealed by the beautifying, graceful, veiling folds of her mantilla. There was the flash of diamonds, and the moonlight glimmer of pearls beneath this flimsy covering; and at her belt a few white lilies. She was exceedingly pleased with her own appearance, and her satisfaction gave an ease and a sense of authority to her air and movements which was charming.
"By Maria's grace, I am a very pretty old lady," she said to herself; "and I think I shall I astonish my daughter-in-law a little. One is afraid of these calm, cool, northern women, but I feel to-day that even Abbie must be proud of me."
Indeed, her entrance into the large parlor made quite a sensation. She could see the quiet pleasure in her husband's face; and her son Thomas, after one glance, put down the child on his knee, and went to meet her. "Mi madre," he whispered with a kiss. He had not used the pretty Spanish word for years, but in the sudden rush of admiring tenderness, his boyish heart came back to him, and quite unconsciously he used his boyhood's speech. After this, she was not the least in awe of her wise daughter-in-law. She touched her cheek kindly, and asked her about the children, and was immeasurably delighted when Abbie said: "How beautiful you are to-day! I wish I had your likeness to send to Boston. Robert, come here and look at your grandmother! I want you to remember, as long as you live, how grandmother looks to-day." And Robert--a fine lad eight years old, accustomed to implicit obedience-- put down the book he was reading, planted himself squarely before the Senora, and looked at her attentively, as if she was a lesson to be learned.
"Well then, Roberto?"
"I am glad I have such a pretty grandmother. Will you let me stand on tiptoes and kiss you?" and the cool, calm northern woman's eyes filled with tears, as she brought her younger children, one by one, for the Senora's caress. The doctor and his son watched this pretty domestic drama with hearts full of pride and happiness; and before it had lost one particle of its beauty and feeling, the door was flung open with a vigor which made every one turn to it with expectation. A splendid little lad sprang in, and without any consideration for satin and lace, clung to the Senora. He was her image: a true Yturbide, young as he was; beautiful and haughty as his Castilian ancestors.
Isabel and Luis followed; Isabel more lovely than ever, richly dressed in American fashion, full of pretty enthusiasms, vivacious, charming, and quite at her ease. She had been married eight years. She was a fashionable woman, and an authority upon all social subjects.
Luis also was wonderfully improved. The light-hearted gaiety, which ten years ago had bubbled over in continual song, was still there; but it was under control, evident only because it made perpetual sunshine on his face. He had taken the doctor's advice--completed his study of English and Mexican law--and become a famous referee in cases of disputed Mexican claims and title deeds. His elegant form and handsome, olive face looked less picturesque in the dull, uncompromising stiffness of broadcloth, cut into those peculiarly unbecoming fashions of ugliness which the anglo-Saxon and anglo-American affect. But it gained by the change a certain air of reliability and importance; an air not to be dispensed with in a young lawyer already aspiring to the seat among the lawmakers of his State.
"We called upon Antonia," said Isabel, "as we came here. Of course she was engaged with Lopez. They were reading a book together; and even on such a day as this were taking, with the most blessed indifference, a minute at a time. They will join us on the Plaza. I represented to them that they might miss a good position. `That has been already secured,' said Lopez, with that exasperating repose which only the saints could endure with patience. For that reason, I consider Antonia a saint to permit it. As for me, I should say: `The house is on fire, Lopez! Will it please you for once to feel a little excited?' Luis says they read, continually, books which make people think of great solemnities and responsibilities. How foolish, when they are so rich, and might enjoy themselves perpetually!"
"Here are the carriages," cried Thomas Worth, "and the ceremony of to-day has its own hour. It will never come again."
"Your mother and I will go first, Thomas; and we will take Abbie and your eldest son. I shall see you in your place. Luis, bring your boy with you; he has intelligence and will remember the man he will see to-day, and may never see again."
On the Plaza, close to the gates of the Alamo, a rostrum had been erected; and around it were a few stands, set apart for the carriages of the most illustrious of the families of San Antonio. The Senora, from the shaded depths of her own, watched their arrival. Nothing could be more characteristic than the approach of her daughters. Antonia and Lopez, stately and handsome, came slowly; their high-stepping horses chafing at the irrestraint. Luis and Isabel drove to their appointed place with a speed and clatter, accentuated by the jingling of the silver rings of the harness and the silver hanging buttons on the gay dress of the Mexican driver. But the occupants of both carriages appeared to be great favorites with the populace who thronged the Plaza, the windows, the flat roofs of the houses, and every available place for hearing and seeing.
The blue flag of Texas fluttered gayly over the lovely city; and there was a salvo of cannon; then, into the sunshine and into the sight of all stepped the man of his generation. Nature has her royal line, and she makes no mistakes in the kings she crowns. The physical charm of Houston was at this time very great. His tall, ample, dignified form attracted attention at once. His eyes penetrated the souls of all upon whom they fell. His lips were touched with fire, and his words thrilled and swayed men, as the wind sways the heavy heads in a field of ripe barley.
He stretched out his arms to the people, and they stretched out their arms to him. The magnetic chain of sympathy was complete. The hearts of his listeners were an instrument, on which he played the noblest, most inspiring, the sweetest of melodies. He kindled them as flame kindles dry grass. He showed them their future with a prophet's eye, and touched them also with the glad diviner's rapture. They aspired, they rejoiced at his bidding; and at the moment of their highest enthusiasm, he cried out:
"Whatever State gave us birth, we have one native land and we have one flag!" Instantly from the grim, blood-stained walls of the fortress, the blessed Stars and Stripes flew out; and in a moment a thousand smaller flags, from every high place, gave it salutation. Then the thunder of cannon was answered by the thunder of voices. Cannon may thunder and make no impression; but the shout of humanity! It stirs and troubles the deepest heart-stream. It is a cry that cannot be resisted. It sets the gates of feeling wide open. And it was while men were in this mood that Houston said his last words:
"I look in this glorious sunshine upon the bloody walls of the Alamo. I remember Goliad. I carry my memory back over the long struggle of thirty years. Do you think the young, brave souls, fired with the love of liberty, who fell in this long conflict have forgotten it? No! No! No! Wherever in God's Eternity they are this day, I believe they are permitted to know that Texas has become part of their country, and rests forever under the flag they loved. The shouting thousands, the booming cannon, that greeted this flag were not all the sounds I heard! Far off, far off, yet louder than any noise of earth, I heard from the dead years, and the dead heroes of these years; the hurrahing of ghostly voices and the clapping of unseen hands!"
"It was like Houston to call the dead to the triumph," said the doctor, as he stood with the Senora in her room. He was unbuttoning her gloves, and her tears dropped down upon his hands.
"He is a man by himself, and none like him. I thought that I should never forgive him for sparing the life of that monster--Santa Anna; but to-day I forgive him even that. I am so happy that I shall ask Holy Maria to excuse me the feeling; for it is not good to permit one's self to be too happy; it brings trouble. But indeed, when I looked at Thomas, I thought how wisely he has married. It is seldom a mother can approve of her daughter-in-law; but Abbie has many excellencies--good manners, and a good heart, and a fortune which is quite respectable."
"And strong principles also, Maria. She will bring up her children to know right and wrong, and to do right."
"That of course. Every good mother does that. I am sure it is a sight for the angels to see Isabel teaching her children their prayers. Did you observe also how great a favorite Luis is? He lifted his hat to this one and that one, and it is certain that the next election will be in his hand."
"Perhaps--I wish Lopez would take more interest in politics. He is a dreamer."
"But, then, a very happy dreamer." Perhaps to dream well and pleasantly is to live a better life. Antonia is devoted to him. She has a blessed lot. Once I did not think she would be so fortunate."
"Lopez was prudent and patient."
"Prudent! Patient! It is a miracle to me! I assure you, they even talk together of young Senor Grant! It is satisfactory, but extremely strange."
"You had better sleep a little, Maria. General Houston is coming to dinner."
"That is understood. When I spoke last to him, I was a woman broken-hearted. To-night I will thank him for all that he has done. Ah, Roberto! His words to-day went to my, soul--I thought of my Juan--I thought of the vision he showed me--I wondered if he knew--if he saw--and heard--" she leaned her head upon her husband's breast, and he kissed away the sorrowful rain.
"He was so sweet! so beautiful! Oh, Roberto!"
"He was God's greatest gift to us. Maria! dear. Maria! I love you for, all the children you have given me; but most of all, for Juan!"