Chapter III. Builders of the Commonwealth.
 
"Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing
herself like a strong man after sleep and shaking her
invincible locks.  Methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her
mighty youth and kindling her undazzled eye in the full mid-
day beam."--MILTON.

"And from these grounds, concluding as we doe,
 Warres causes diuerse, so by consequence
Diuerse we must conclude their natures too:
 For war proceeding from Omnipotence,
No doubt is holy, wise, and without error;
 The sword, of justice and of sin, the terror."
                        --LORD BROOKE.

It is the fashion now to live for the present but the men of fifty years ago, the men who builded the nation, they reverenced the past, and therefore they could work for the future. As Robert Worth rode through the streets of San Antonio that afternoon, he was thinking, not of his own life, but of his children's and of the generations which should come after them.

The city was flooded with sunshine, and crowded with a pack-train going to Sonora; the animals restlessly protesting against the heat and flies; their Mexican drivers in the pulqueria, spending their last peso with their compadres, or with the escort of soldiers which was to accompany them--a little squad of small, lithe men, with round, yellow, beardless faces, bearing in a singular degree the stamp of being native to the soil. Their lieutenant, a gorgeously clad officer with a very distinguished air, was coming slowly down the street to join them. He bowed, and smiled pleasantly to the doctor as he passed him, and then in a few moments the word of command and the shouting of men and the clatter of hoofs invaded the enchanted atmosphere like an insult.

But the tumult scarcely jarred with the thoughts of his mind. They had been altogether of war and rumors of war. Every hour that subtile consciousness of coming events, which makes whole communities at times prescient, was becoming stronger. "If the powers of the air have anything to do with the destinies of men," he muttered, "there must be unseen battalions around me. The air I am breathing is charged with the feeling of battle."

After leaving the city there were only a few Mexican huts on the shady road leading to his own house. All within them were asleep, even the fighting cocks tied outside were dozing on their perches. He was unusually weary, he had been riding since dawn, and his heart had not been in sympathy with his body, it had said no good cheer to it, whispered no word of courage or promise.

All at once his physical endurance seemed exhausted, and he saw the white wall and arched gateway of his garden and the turrets of his home with an inexpressible relief. But it was the hour of siesta, and he was always careful not to let the requirements of his profession disturb his household. So he rode quietly to the rear, where he found a peon nodding within the stable door. He opened his eyes unnaturally wide, and rose to serve his master.

"See thou rub the mare well down, and give her corn and water."

"To be sure, Senior, that is to be done. A stranger has been here to-day; an American."

"What did he say to thee?"

"That he would call again, Senor."

The incident was not an unusual one, and it did not trouble the doctor's mind. There was on the side of the house a low extension containing two rooms. These rooms belonged exclusively to him. One was his study, his office, his covert, the place to which he went when he wanted to be alone with his own soul. There were a bed and bath and refreshments in the other room. He went directly to it, and after eating and washing, fell into a profound sleep.

At the hour before Angelus the house was as noisy and busy as if it had been an inn. The servants were running hither and thither, all of them expressing themselves in voluble Spanish. The cooks were quarrelling in the kitchen. Antonia was showing the table men, as she had to do afresh every day, how to lay the cloth and serve the dishes in the American fashion. When the duty was completed, she went into the garden to listen for the Angelus. The young ladies of to-day would doubtless consider her toilet frightfully unbecoming; but Antonia looked lovely in it, though but a white muslin frock, with a straight skirt and low waist and short, full sleeves. It was confined by a blue belt with a gold buckle, and her feet were in sandalled slippers of black satin.

The Angelus tolled, and the thousands of Hail Maries! which blended with its swinging vibrations were uttered, and left to their fate, as all spoken words must be. Antonia still observed the form. It lent for a moment a solemn beauty to her face. She was about to re-enter the house, when she saw a stranger approaching it. He was dressed in a handsome buckskin suit, and a wide Mexican hat, but she knew at once that he was an American, and she waited to receive him.

As soon as he saw her, he removed his hat and approached with it in his hand. Perhaps he was conscious that the act not only did homage to womanhood, but revealed more perfectly a face of remarkable beauty and nobility. For the rest, he was very tall, powerfully built, elegantly proportioned, and his address had the grace and polish of a cultured gentleman.

"I wish to see Dr. Worth, Dona."

With a gentle inclination of the head, she led him to the door of her father's office. She was the only one in the Doctor's family at all familiar with the room. The Senora said so many books made her feel as if she were in a church or monastery; she was afraid to say anything but paternosters in it. Isabel cowered before the poor skeleton in the corner, and the centipedes and snakes that filled the bottles on the shelves. There was not a servant that would enter the room.

But Antonia did not regard books as a part of some vague spiritual power. She knew the history of the skeleton. She had seen the death of many of those "little devils" corked up in alcohol. She knew that at this hour, if her father were at home he was always disengaged, and she opened the door fearlessly, saying, "Father, here is a gentleman who wishes to see you."

The doctor had quite refreshed himself, and, in a house-suit of clean, white linen, was lying on a couch reading. He arose with alacrity, and with his pleasant smile seemed to welcome the intruder, as he stepped behind him and closed the door. Antonia had disappeared. They were quite alone.

"You are Doctor Robert Worth, sir?"

Their eyes met, their souls knew each other.

"And you are Sam Houston?"

The questions were answered in a hand grip, a sympathetic smile on both faces--the freemasonry of kindred spirits.

"I have a letter from your son Thomas, doctor, and I think, also, that you will have something to say to me, and I to you."

The most prudent of patriots could not have resisted this man. He had that true imperial look which all born rulers of men possess--that look that half coerces, and wholly persuades. Robert Worth acknowledged its power by his instant and decisive answer.

"I have, indeed, much to say to you. We shall have dinner directly, then you will give the night to me?"

After a short conversation he led him into the sala and introduced him to Antonia. He himself had to prepare the Senora for her visitor, and he had a little quaking of the heart as he entered her room. She was dressed for dinner, and turned with a laughing face to meet him.

"I have been listening to the cooks quarrelling over the olla, Roberto. But what can my poor Manuel say when your Irishwoman attacks him. Listen to her! `Take your dirty stew aff the fire then! Shure it isn't fit for a Christian to ate at all!'"

"I hope it is, Maria, for we have a visitor to-night."

"Who, then, my love?"

"Mr. Houston."

"Sam Houston? Holy Virgin of Guadalupe preserve us! I will not see the man."

"I think you will, Maria. He has brought this letter for you from our son Thomas; and he has been so kind as to take charge of some fine horses, and sell them well for him in San Antonio. When a man does us a kindness, we should say thank you."

"That is truth, if the man is not the Evil One. As for this Sam Houston, you should have heard what was said of him at the Valdez's."

"I did hear. Everything was a lie."

"But he is a very common man."

"Maria, do you call a soldier, a lawyer, a member of the United States Congress, a governor of a great State like Tennessee, a common man? Houston has been all of these things."

"It is, however, true that he has lived with Indians, and with those Americans, who are bad, who have no God, who are infidels, and perhaps even cannibals. If he is a good man, why does he live with bad men? Not even the saints could do that. A good man should be in his home. Why does he not stay at home."

"Alas! Maria, that is a woman's fault. He loved a beautiful girl. He married her. My dear one, she did not bless his life as you have blessed mine. No one knows what his sorrow was, for he told no one. And he never blamed her, only he left his high office and turned his back forever on his home."

"Ah! the cruel woman. Holy Virgin, what hard hearts thou hast to pray for!"

"Come down and smile upon him, Maria. I should like him to see a high-born Mexican lady. Are they not the kindest and fairest among all God's women? I know, at least, Maria, that you are kind and fair"; and he took her hands, and drew her within his embrace.

What good wife can resist her husband's wooing? Maria did not. She lifted her face, her eyes shone through happy tears, she whispered softly: "My Robert, it is a joy to please you. I will be kind; I will be grateful about Thomas. You shall see that I will make a pleasant evening."

So the triumphant husband went down, proud and happy, with his smiling wife upon his arm. Isabel was already in the room. She also wore a white frock, but her hair was pinned back with gold butterflies, and she had a beautiful golden necklace around her throat. And the Senora kept her word. She paid her guest great attention. She talked to him of his adventures with the Indians. She requested her daughters to sing to him. She told him stories of the old Castilian families with which she was connected, and described her visit to New Orleans with a great deal of pleasant humor. She felt that she was doing herself justice; that she was charming; and, consequently, she also was charmed with the guest and the occasion which had been so favorable to her.

After the ladies had retired, the doctor led his visitor into his study. He sat down silently and placed a chair for Houston. Both men hesitated for a moment to open the conversation. Worth, because he was treading on unknown ground; Houston, because he did not wish to force, even by a question, a resolution which he felt sure would come voluntarily.

The jar of tobacco stood between them, and they filled their pipes silently. Then Worth laid a letter upon the table, and said: "I unstand{sic} from this, that my son Thomas thinks the time has come for decisive action."

"Thomas Worth is right. With such souls as his the foundation of the state must be laid."

"I am glad Thomas has taken the position he has; but you must remember, sir, that he is unmarried and unembarrassed by many circumstances which render decisive movement on my part a much more difficult thing. Yet no man now living has watched the Americanizing of Texas with the interest that I have."

"You have been long on the watch, sir."

"I was here when my countrymen came first, in little companies of five or ten men. I saw the party of twenty, who joined the priest Hidalgo in eighteen hundred and ten, when Mexico made her first attempt to throw off the Spanish yoke."

"An unsuccessful attempt."

"Yes. The next year I made a pretended professional journey to Chihuahua, to try and save their lives. I failed. They were shot with Hidalgo there."

"Yet the strife for liberty went on."

"It did. Two years afterwards, Magee and Bernardo, with twelve hundred Americans, raised the standard of independence on the Trinity River. I saw them them{sic} take this very city, though it was ably defended by Salcedo. They fought like heroes. I had many of the wounded in my house. I succored them with my purse.

"It was a great deed for a handful of men."

"The fame of it brought young Americans by hundreds here. To a man they joined the Mexican party struggling to free themselves from the tyranny of old Spain. I do not think any one of them received money. The love of freedom and the love of adventure were alike their motive and their reward."

"Mexico owed these men a debt she has forgotten."

"She forgot it very quickly. In the following year, though they had again defended San Antonio against the Spaniards, the Mexicans drove all the Americans out of the city their rifles had saved."

"You were here; tell me the true reason."

"It was not altogether ingratitude. It was the instinct of self-preservation. The very bravery of the Americans made the men whom they had defended hate and fear them; and there was a continual influx of young men from the States. The Mexicans said to each other: `There is no end to these Americans. Very soon they will make a quarrel and turn their arms against us. They do not conform to our customs, and they will not take an order from any officer but their own.'"

Houston smiled. "It is away the Saxon race has," he said. "The old Britons made the same complaint of them. They went first to England to help the Britons fight the Romans, and they liked the country so well, they determined to stay there. If I remember rightly the old Britons had to let them do so."

"It is an old political situation. You can go back to Genesis and find Pharaoh arguing about the Jews in the same manner."

"What happened after this forcible expulsion of the American element from Texas?"

"Mexican independence was for a time abandoned, and the Spanish viceroys were more tyrannical than ever. But Americans still came, though they pursued different tactics. They bought land and settled on the great rivers. In eighteen twenty-one, Austin, with the permission of the Spanish viceroy in Mexico, introduced three hundred families."

"That was a step in the right direction; but I am astonished the viceroy sanctioned it."

"Apodoca, who was then viceroy, was a Spaniard of the proudest type. He had very much the same contempt for the Mexicans that an old English viceroy in New York had for the colonists he was sent to govern. I dare say any of them would have permitted three hundred German families to settle in some part of British America, as far from New York as Texas is from Mexico. I do not need to tell you that Austin's colonists are a band of choice spirits, hardy working men, trained in the district schools of New England and New York--nearly every one of them a farmer or mechanic."

"They were the very material liberty needed. They have made homes."

"That is the truth. The fighters who preceded them owned nothing but their horses and their rifles. But these men brought with them their wives and their children, their civilization, their inborn love of freedom and national faith. They accepted the guarantee of the Spanish government, and they expected the Spanish government to keep its promises."

"It did not."

"It had no opportunity. The colonists were hardly settled when the standard of revolt against Spain was again raised. Santa Anna took the field for a republican form of government, and once more a body of Americans, under the Tennesseean, Long, joined the Mexican army."

"I remember that, well."

"In eighteen twenty-four, Santa Anna, Victoria and Bravo drove the Spaniards forever from Mexico, and then they promulgated the famous constitution of eighteen twenty-four. It was a noble constitution, purely democratic and federal, and the Texan colonists to a man gladly swore to obey it. The form was altogether elective, and what particularly pleased the American element was the fact that the local government of every State was left to itself."

Houston laughed heartily. "Do you know, Worth," he said, "State Rights is our political religion. The average American citizen would expect the Almighty to conform to a written constitution, and recognize the rights of mankind."

"I don't think he expects more than he gets, Houston. Where is there a grander constitution than is guaranteed to us in His Word; or one that more completely recognizes the rights of all humanity?"

"Thank you, Worth. I see that I have spoken better than I knew. I was sitting in the United States Congress, when this constitution passed, and very much occupied with the politics of Tennessee."

"I will not detain you with Mexican politics. It may be briefly said that for the last ten years there has been a constant fight between Pedraza, Guerrero, Bustamante and Santa Anna for the Presidency of Mexico. After so much war and misery the country is now ready to resign all the blessings the constitution of eighteen twenty-four promised her. For peace she is willing to have a dictator in Santa Anna."

"If Mexicans want a dictator let them bow down to Santa Anna! But do you think the twenty thousand free-born Americans in Texas are going to have a dictator? They will have the constitution of eighteen twenty-four--or they will have independence, and make their own constitution! Yes, sir!"

"You know the men for whom you speak?"

"I have been up and down among them for two years. Just after I came to Texas I was elected to the convention which sent Stephen Austin to Mexico with a statement of our wrongs. Did we get any redress? No, sir! And as for poor Austin, is he not in the dungeons of the Inquisition? We have waited two years for an answer. Great heavens Doctor, surely that is long enough!"

"Was this convention a body of any influence?"

"Influence! There were men there whose names will never be forgotten. They met in a log house; they wore buckskin and homespun; but I tell you, sir, they were debating the fate of unborn millions."

"Two years since Austin went to Mexico?"

"A two years' chapter of tyranny. In them Santa Anna has quite overthrown the republic of which we were a part. He has made himself dictator. and, because our authorities have protested against the change, they have been driven from office by a military force. I tell you, sir, the petty outrages everywhere perpetrated by petty officials have filled the cup of endurance. It is boiling over. Now, doctor, what are you going to do? Are you with us, or against us?"

"I have told you that I have been with my countrymen always-- heart and soul with them."

The doctor spoke with some irritation, and Houston laid his closed hand hard upon the table to emphasize his reply:

"Heart and soul! Very good! But we want your body now. You must tuck your bowie-knife and your revolvers in your belt, and take your rifle in your hand, and be ready to help us drive the Mexican force out of this very city."

"When it comes to that I shall be no laggard."

But he was deathly pale, for he was suffering as men suffer who feel the sweet bonds of wife and children and home, and dread the rending of them apart. In a moment, however, the soul behind his white face made it visibly luminous. "Houston," he said, "whenever the cause of freedom needs me, I am ready. I shall want no second call. But is it not possible, that even yet--"

"It is impossible to avert what is already here. Within a few days, perhaps to-morrow, you will hear the publication of an edict from Santa Anna, ordering every American to give up his arms."

"What! Give up our arms! No, no, by Heaven! I will die fighting for mine, rather."

"Exactly. That is how every white man in Texas feels about it. And if such a wonder as a coward existed among them, he understands that he may as well die fighting Mexicans, as die of hunger or be scalped by Indians. A large proportion of the colonists depend on their rifles for their daily food. All of them know that they must defend their own homes from the Comanche, or see them perish. Now, do you imagine that Americans will obey any such order? By all the great men of seventeen seventy-five, if they did, I would go over to the Mexicans and help them to wipe the degenerate cowards out of existence!"

He rose as he spoke; he looked like a flame, and his words cut like a sword. Worth caught fire at his vehemence and passion. He clasped his hands in sympathy as he walked with him to the door. They stood silently together for a moment on the threshold, gazing into the night. Over the glorious land the full moon hung, enamoured. Into the sweet, warm air mockingbirds were pouring low, broken songs of ineffable melody. The white city in the mystical light looked like an enchanted city. It was so still that the very houses looked asleep.

"It is a beautiful land," said the doctor.

"It is worthy of freedom," answered Houston. Then he went with long, swinging steps down the garden, and into the shadows beyond, and Worth turned in and closed the door.

He had been watching for this very hour for twenty years; and yet he found himself wholly unprepared for it. Like one led by confused and uncertain thoughts, he went about the room mechanically locking up his papers, and the surgical instruments he valued so highly. As he did so he perceived the book he had been reading when Houston entered. It was lying open where he had laid it down. A singular smile flitted over his face. He lifted it and carried it closer to the light. It was his college Cicero.

"I was nineteen years old when I marked that passage," he said; "and I do not think I have ever read it since, until to- night. I was reading it when Houston came into the room. Is it a message, I wonder?--

"`But when thou considerest everything carefully and thoughtfully; of all societies none is of more importance, none more dear, than that which unites us with the commonwealth. Our parents, children, relations and neighbors are dear, but our fatherland embraces the whole round of these endearments. In its defence, who would not dare to die, if only he could assist it?"