Chapter V. A Famous Barbecue.
 
    "So when fierce zeal a nation rends,
        And stern injustice rules the throne,
     Beneath the yoke meek virtue bends,
        And modest truth is heard to groan.
     But when fair Freedom's star appears,
     Then hushed are sighs, and calmed are fears.
     And who, when nations long opprest,
        Decree to curb the oppressor's pride,
     And patriot virtues fire the breast,
        Who shall the generous ardor chide?
     What shall withstand the great decree,
     When a brave nation will be free?

It is flesh and blood that makes husbands and wives, fathers and children, and for the next few days these ties were sorely wounded in Robert Worth's house. The Senora was what Rachela called "difficult." In reality, she was angry and sullen. At such times she always went early to mass, said many prayers, and still further irritated herself by unnecessary fasting. But there are few homes which totally escape the visitations of this`pious temper in some form or other. And no creed modifies it; the strict Calvinist and strict Catholic are equally disagreeable while under its influence.

Besides, the Senora, like the ill-tempered prophet, thought she "did well to be angry." She imagined herself deserted and betrayed in all her tenderest feelings, her husband a rebel, her home made desolate, her sons and daughters supporting their father's imprudent views. She could only see one alternative before her; she must choose between her country and her religion, or her husband and children.

True, she had not yet heard from her sons, but she would listen to none of Rachela's hopes regarding them. Thomas had always said yes to all his father's opinions. How could she expect anything from John when he was being carefully trained in the very principles which everywhere made the Americans so irritating to the Mexican government.

Her husband and Antonia she would not see. Isabel she received in her darkened room, with passionate weeping and many reproaches. The unhappy husband had expected this trouble at the outset. It was one of those domestic thorns which fester and hamper, but to which the very best of men have to submit. He could only send pleasant and affectionate messages by Rachela, knowing that Rachela would deliver them with her own modifications of tone and manner.

"The Senor sends his great love to the Senora. Grace of Mary! If he would do a little as the most wise and tender of spouses wishes him! That would be for the good fortune of every one.

"Ah, Rachela, my heart is broken! Bring me my mantilla. I will go to early mass, when one's husband and children forsake them, who, then, is possible but the Holy Mother?

"My Senora, you will take cold; the morning is chill; besides, I have to say the streets will be full of those insolent Americans."

"I shall be glad to take cold, perhaps even to die. And the Americans do not offend women. Even the devil has his good points."

"Holy Virgin! Offend women! They do not even think us worth looking at. But then it is an intolerable offence to see them standing in our streets, as if they had made the whole land."

But this morning, early as it was, the streets were empty of Americans. There had been hundreds of them there at the proclamation; there was not one to be seen twelve hours afterwards. But at the principal rendezvous of the city, and on the very walls of the Alamo, they had left this characteristic notice:

"To SANTA ANNA:

If you want our arms-take them.

TEN THOUSAND AMERICAN TEXANS.

Robert Worth saw it with an irrepressible emotion of pride and satisfaction. He had faithfully fulfilled his promise to his conscience, and, with his rifle across his shoulder, and his revolvers and knife in his belt, was taking the road to his office with a somewhat marked deliberation. He was yet a remarkably handsome man; and what man is there that a rifle does not give a kind of nobility to? With an up-head carriage and the light of his soul in his face, he trod the narrow, uneven street like a soldier full of enthusiasm at his own commission.

No one interfered with his solitary parade. He perceived, indeed, a marked approval of it. The Zavalas, Navarros. Garcias, and other prominent citizens, addressed him with but a slightly repressed sympathy. They directed his attention with meaning looks to the counter-proclamation of the Americans. They made him understand by the pressure of their hands that they also were on the side of liberty.

As he did not hurry, he met several officers, but they wisely affected not to see what they did not wish to see. For Doctor Worth was a person to whom very wide latitude might be given. To both the military and the civilians his skill was a necessity. The attitude he had taken was privately discussed, but no one publicly acted or even commented upon it. Perhaps he was a little disappointed at this. He had come to a point when a frank avowal of his opinions would be a genuine satisfaction; when, in fact, his long-repressed national feeling was imperious.

On the third morning, as he crossed the Plaza, some one called him. The voice made his heart leap; his whole nature responded to it like the strings of a harp to the sweep of a skilful hand. He turned quickly, and saw two young men galloping towards him. The foremost figure was his son--his beloved youngest son--whom he had just been thinking of as well out of danger, safe and happy in the peaceful halls of Columbia. And lo! here he was in the very home of the enemy; and he was glad of it.

"Why, Jack!" he cried; "Why, Jack, my boy! I never thought of you here." He had his hand on the lad's shoulder, and was gazing into his bright face with tears and smiles and happy wonder.

Father, I had to come. And there are plenty more coming. And here is my other self--the best fellow that ever lived: Darius Grant. `Dare' we call him, father, for there is not anything he won't venture if he thinks it worth the winning. And how is mi madre and Antonia, and Iza? And isn't it jolly to see you with a rifle?"

"Well, Dare; well, Jack; you are both welcome; never so welcome to Texas as at this hour. Come home at once and, refresh yourselves."

There was so much to tell that at first the conversation was in fragments and exclamations, and the voices of the two young men, pitched high and clear in their excitement, went far before them as if impatient of their welcome. Antonia heard them first. She was on the balcony, standing thoughtful and attent. It seemed to her as if in those days she was always listening. Jack's voice was the loudest, but she heard Dare's first. It vibrated in midair and fell upon her consciousness, clear and sweet as a far-away bell.

"That is Dare's voice-- here."

She leaned forward, her soul hearkened after the vibrations, and again they called her. With swift steps she reached the open door. Rachela sat in her chair within it.

"The Senorita had better remain within," she said, sullenly; "the sun grows hot."

"Let me pass, Rachela, I am in a hurry."

"To be sure, the Senorita will have her way--good or bad."

Antonia heeded her not; she was hastening down the main avenue toward the gateway. This avenue was hedged on each side with oleanders, and they met in a light, waving arch above her head. At this season they were one mass of pale pink blossoms and dark glossy leaves. The vivid sunshine through them made a rosy light which tinged her face and her white gown with an indescribable glow. If a mortal woman can ever look like an angel, the fair, swiftly moving Antonia had at that moment the angelic expression of joy and love; the angelic unconsciousness of rapid and graceful movement; the angelic atmosphere that was in itself a dream of paradise; rose-tinted, divinely sweet and warm.

Dare saw her coming, and suddenly ceased speaking{.??} He was in the midst of a sentence, but he forgot what he was saying. He forgot where he was. He knew nothing, felt nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing but Antonia. And yet he did not fall at her feet, and kiss her hands and whisper delightful extravagances; all of which things an Iberian lover would have done, and felt and looked in the doing perfectly graceful and natural.

Dare Grant only clasped both the pretty hands held out to him; only said "Antonia! Antonia!" only looked at her with eyes full of a loving question, which found its instant answer in her own. In that moment they revealed to each other the length and breadth, the height and the depth of their affection. They had not thought of disguising it; they made no attempt to do so; and Robert Worth needed not the confession which, a few hours later, Grant thought it right to make to him.

When they entered the house together, a happy, noisy group, Rachela had left her chair and was going hurriedly upstairs to tell the Senora her surmise; but Jack passed her with a bound, and was at his mother's side before the heavy old woman had comprehended his passing salutation.

"Madre! Mother, I am here!

The Senora was on her couch in her darkened room. She had been at the very earliest mass, had a headache, and had come home in a state of rebellion against heaven and earth. But Jack was her idol, the one child for whose presence she continually pined, the one human creature to whose will and happiness she delighted to sacrifice her own. When she heard his voice she rose quickly, crying out:

"A miracle! A miracle! Grace of God and Mary, a miracle! Only this morning, my precious, my boy! I asked the Holy Mother to pity my sorrows, and send you to me. I vow to Mary a new shrine. I vow to keep it, and dress it for one whole year. I will give my opal ring to the poor. Oh, Juan! Juan! Juan I am too blessed."

Her words were broken into pieces by his kisses. He knelt at her knees, and stroked her face, and patted her hands, and did all with such natural fervor and grace, that anything else, or anything less, must have seemed cold and unfilial.

"Come, my beautiful mother, and see my friend. I have told him so much about you; and poor Dare has no mother. I have promised him that you will be his mother also. Dare is so good--the finest fellow in all the world; come down and see Dare, and let us have a real Mexican dinner, madre. I have not tasted an olla since I left you."

She could not resist him. She made Rachela lay out her prettiest dress, and when Jack said "how beautiful your hair is, mother; no one has hair like you!" she drew out the great shell pins, and let it fall like a cloud around her, and with a glad pride gave Rachela the order to get out her jewelled comb and gilded fan and finest mantilla. And oh! how happy is that mother who has such pure and fervent admiration from her son; and how happy is that son to whom his mother is ever beautiful!

Jack's presence drove all the evil spirits out of the house. The windows were thrown open; the sunshine came in. He was running after Isabel, he was playing the mandolin; his voice, his laugh, his quick footstep, were everywhere.

In spite of the trouble in the city, there was a real festival in the house. The Senora came down in her sweetest temper and her finest garments. She arranged Jack's dinner herself, selected the dishes and gave strict orders about their serving. She took Jack's friend at once into her favor, and Dare thought her wonderfully lovely and gracious. He sat with her on the balcony, and talked of Jack, telling her how clever he was, and how all his comrades loved him for his sunny temper and affectionate heart.

It was a happy dinner, lengthened out with merry conversation. Every one thought that a few hours might be given to family love and family joy. It would be good to have the memory of them in the days that were fast coming. So they sat long over the sweetmeats, and fresh figs, and the pale wines of Xeres and Alicante. And they rose up with laughter, looking into each others' faces with eyes that seemed to bespeak love and remembrance. And then they went from the table, and saw not Destiny standing cold and pitiless behind them, marking two places for evermore vacant.

There was not much siesta that day. The Senora, Isabel and Jack sat together; the Senora dozed a little, but not enough to lose consciousness of Jack's presence and Jack's voice. The father, happy, and yet acutely anxious, went to and fro between his children and his study. Antonia and Dare were in the myrtle walk or under the fig-tree. This hour was the blossoming time of their lives. And it was not the less sweet and tender because of the dark shadows on the edge of the sunshine. Nor were they afraid to face the shadows, to inquire of them, and thus to taste the deeper rapture of love when love is gemmed with tears.

It was understood that the young men were going away in the morning very early; so early that their adieus must be said with their good-nights. It was at this hour that the Senora found courage to ask:

"My Juan, where do you go?

"To Gonzales, mi madre."

"But why? Oh, Juan, do not desert your madre, and your country!

"Desert you, madre! I am your boy to my last breath! My country I love with my whole soul. That is why I have come back to you and to her! She is in trouble and her sons must stand by her."

"Do not talk with two meanings. Oh, Juan! why do you go to Gonzales?"

"We have heard that Colonel Ugartchea is to be there soon, and to take away the arms of the Americans. That is not to be endured. If you yourself were a man, you would have been away ere this to help them, I am sure."

"Me!! The Blessed Virgin knows I would cut off my hands and feet first. Juan, listen to me dear one! You are a Mexican."

"My heart is Mexican, for it is yours. But I must stand with my father and with my brother, and with my American compatriots. Are we slaves, that we must give up our arms? No, but if we gave them up we should deserve to be slaves."

"God and the saints!" she answered, passionately. "What a trouble about a few guns! One would think the Mexicans wanted the wives and children, the homes and lands of the Americans. They cry out from one end of Texas to the other."

"They cry out in old England and in New England, in New York, in New Orleans, and all down the Mississippi. And men are crying back to them: `Stand to your rifles and we will come and help you!' The idea of disarming ten thousand Americans!" Jack laughed with scornful amusement at the notion. "What a game it will be! Mother, you can't tell how a man gets to love his rifle. He that takes our purse takes trash; but our rifles! By George Washington, that's a different story!"

Juan, my darling, you are my last hope. Your brother was born with an American heart. He has even become a heretic. Fray Ignatius says he went into the Colorado and was what they call immersed; he that was baptized with holy water by the thrice holy bishop of Durango. My beloved one, go and see Fray Ignatius; late as it is, he will rise and counsel you.

"My heart, my conscience, my country, my father, my brother, Santa Anna's despotism, have already counselled me."

"Speak no more. I see that you also are a rebel and a heretic. Mother of sorrows, give me thy compassion!" Then, turning to Juan, she cried out: "May God pardon me for having brought into this world such ingrates! Go from me! You have broken my heart!

He fell at her feet, and, in spite of her reluctance, took her hands--

"Sweetest mother, wait but a little while. You will see that we are right. Do not be cross with Juan. I am going away. Kiss me, mother. Kiss me, and give me your blessing."

"No, I will not bless you. I will not kiss you. You want what is impossible, what is wicked."

"I want freedom."

"And to get freedom you tread upon your mother's heart. Let loose my hands. I am weary to death of this everlasting talk of freedom. I think indeed that the Americans know but two words: freedom and dollars. Ring for Rachela. She, at least, is faithful to me."

"Not till you kiss me, mother. Do not send me away unblessed and unloved. That is to doom me to misfortune. Mi madre, I beg this favor from you." He had risen, but he still held her hands, and he was weeping as innocent young men are not ashamed to weep.

If she had looked at him! Oh, if she had but once looked at his face, she could not have resisted its beauty, its sorrow, its imploration! But she would not look. She drew her hands angrily away from him. She turned her back upon her suppliant son and imperiously summoned Rachela.

"Good-by, mi madre."

"Good-by, mi madre!"

She would not turn to him, or answer him a word.

"Mi madre, here comes Rachela! Say `God bless you, Juan.' It is my last word, sweet mother!"

She neither moved nor spoke. The next moment Rachela entered, and the wretched woman abandoned herself to her care with vehement sobs and complainings.

Jack was inexpressibly sorrowful. He went into the garden, hoping in its silence and solitude to find some relief. He loved his mother with his strongest affection. Every one of her sobs wrung his heart. Was it right to wound and disobey her for the sake of--freedom? Mother was a certain good; freedom only a glorious promise. Mother was a living fact; freedom an intangible idea.

Ah, but men have always fought more passionately for ideas than for facts! Tyrants are safe while they touch only silver and gold; but when they try to bind a man's ideals--the freedom of his citizenship--the purity of his faith--he will die to preserve them in their integrity.

Besides, freedom for every generation has but her hour. If that hour is not seized, no other may come for the men who have suffered it to pass. But mother would grow more loving as the days went by. And this was ever the end of Jack's reasoning; for no man knows how deep the roots of his nature strike into his native land, until he sees her in the grasp of a tyrant, and hears her crying to him for deliverance.

The struggle left the impress on his face. He passed a boundary in it. Certain boyish feelings and graces would never again be possible to him. He went into the house, weary, and longing for companionship that would comfort or strengthen him. Only Isabel was in the parlor. She appeared to be asleep among the sofa cushions, but she opened her eyes wide as he took a chair beside her.

"I have been waiting to kiss you again, Juan; do you think this trouble will last very long?"

"It will be over directly, Iza. Do not fret yourself about it, angel mio. The Americans are great fighters, and their quarrel is just. Well, then, it will be settled by the good God quickly."

"Rachela says that Santa Anna has sent off a million of men to fight the Americans. Some they will cut in pieces, and some are to be sent to the mines to work in chains."

"God is not dead of old age, Iza. Santa Anna is a miraculous tyrant. He has committed every crime under heaven, but I think he will not cut the Americans in pieces."

"And if the Americans should even make him go back to Mexico!"

"I think that is very possible."

"What then, Juan?"

"He would pay for some of his crimes here the rest he would settle for in purgatory. And you, too, Iza, are you with the Americans?"

"Luis Alveda says they are right."

"Oh-h! I see! So Luis is to be my brother too. Is that so, little dear?"

"Have you room in your heart for him? Or has this Dare Grant filled it?"

"If I had twenty sisters, I should have room for twenty brothers, if they were like Dare and Luis. But, indeed, Luis had his place there before I knew Dare."

"And perhaps you may see him soon; he is with Senor Sam Houston. Senor Houston was here not a week ago. Will you think of that? And the mother and uncle of Luis are angry at him; he will be disinherited, and we shall be very poor, I think. But there is always my father, who loves Luis."

"Luis will win his own inheritance. I think you will be very rich."

"And, Juan, if you see Luis, say to him, `Iza thinks of you continually.'"

At this moment Rachela angrily called her charge--

"Are you totally and forever wicked, disobedient one? Two hours I have been kept waiting. Very well! The, Sisters are the only duenna for you; and back to the convent you shall go to-morrow. The Senora is of my mind, also."

"My father will not permit it. I will go to my father. And think of this, Rachela: I am no longer to be treated like a baby." But she kissed Juan `farewell,' and went away without further dispute.

The handsome room looked strangely lonely and desolate when the door had closed behind her. Jack rose, and roughly shook himself, as if by that means he hoped to throw off the oppression and melancholy that was invading even his light heart. Hundreds of moths were dashing themselves to death against the high glass shade that covered the blowing candles from them. He stood and looked at their hopeless efforts to reach the flame. He had an unpleasant thought; one of those thoughts which have the force of a presentiment. He put it away with annoyance, muttering, "It is time enough to meet misfortune when it comes."

The sound of a footstep made him stand erect and face the door.

It was only a sleepy peon with a request that he would go to his father's study. A different mental atmosphere met him there. The doctor was walking up and down the room, and Dare and Antonia sat together at the open window.

"Your father wants to hear about our journey, Jack. Take my chair and tell him what happened. Antonia and I will walk within hearing; a roof makes me restless such a night as this"; for the waning moon had risen, and the cool wind from the Gulf was shaking a thousand scents from the trees and the flowering shrubs.

The change was made with the words, and the doctor sat down beside his son. "I was asking, Jack, how you knew so much about Texan affairs, and how you came so suddenly to take part in them?"

"Indeed, father, we could not escape knowing. The Texan fever was more or less in every young man's blood. One night Dare had a supper at his rooms, and there were thirty of us present. A man called Faulkner--a fine fellow from Nacogdoches--spoke to us. How do you think he spoke, when his only brother, a lad of twenty, is working in a Mexican mine loaded with chains?"

"For what?"

"He said one day that `the natural boundaries of the United States are the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.' He was sent to the mines for the words. Faulkner's only hope for him is in the independence of Texas. He had us on fire in five minutes--all but Sandy McDonald, who loves to argue, and therefore took the Mexican side."

"What could he say for it?"

"He said it was a very unjustlike thing to make Mexico give her American settlers in Texas two hundred and twenty-four millions of acres because she thought a change of government best for her own interests."

"The Americans settled in Texas under the solemn guarantee of the constitution of eighteen twenty-four. How many of them would have built homes under a tyrannical despotism like that Santa Anna is now forcing upon them?" asked the doctor, warmly.

"McDonald said, `There is a deal of talk about freedom among you Americans, and it just means nothing at all.' You should have seen Faulkner! He turned on him like a tornado. `How should you know anything about freedom, McDonald?' he cried. `You are in feudal darkness in the Highlands of Scotland. You have only just emigrated into freedom. But we Americans are born free! If you can not feel the difference between a federal constitution and a military and religious despotism, there is simply no use talking to you. How would you like to find yourself in a country where suddenly trial by jury and the exercise of your religion was denied you? Of course you could abandon the home you had built, and the acres you had bought and put under cultivation, and thus make some Mexican heir to your ten years' labor. Perhaps a Scot, for conscience' sake, would do this.'"

"And what answer made he?" He said, `A Scot kens how to grip tight to ten years' labor as well as yoursel', Faulkner; and neither man nor de'il can come between him and his religion; but--' `but,' shouted Faulkner; `there is no but! It is God and our right! God and our right, against priestcraft and despotism!'"

"Then every one of us leaped to our feet, and we swore to follow Faulkner to Texas at an hour's notice; and Sandy said we were `a parcel of fools'; and then, would you believe it, father, when our boat was leaving the pier, amid the cheers and hurrahs of thousands, Sandy leaped on the boat and joined us?"

"What did he say then?"

"He said, `I am a born fool to go with you, but I think there is a kind o' witchcraft in that word Texas. It has been stirring me up morning and night like the voice o' the charmer, and I be to follow it though I ken well enough it isna leading me in the paths o' peace and pleasantness!'"

"Did you find the same enthusiasm outside of New York?"

"All along the Ohio and Mississippi we gathered recruits; and at Randolph, sixty miles above Memphis, we were joined by David Crockett."

"Jack!"

"True, father! And then at every landing we took on men. For at every landing Crockett spoke to the people; and, as we stopped very often, we were cheered all the way down the river. The Mediterranean, though the biggest boat on it, was soon crowded; but at Helena, Crockett and a great number of the leading men of the expedition got off. And as Dare and Crockett had become friends, I followed them."

"Where did you go to?"

"We went ostensibly to a big barbecue at John Bowie's plantation, which is a few miles below Helena. Invitations to this barbecue had been sent hundreds of miles throughout the surrounding country. We met parties from the depths of the Arkansas wilderness and the furthest boundaries of the Choctaw nation coming to it. There were raftsmen from the Mississippi, from the White, and the St. Francis rivers. There were planters from Lousiana and Tennessee. There were woodsmen from Kentucky. There were envoys from New Orleans, Washington, and all the great Eastern cities."

"I had an invitation myself, Jack."

"I wish you had accepted it. It was worth the journey. There never was and there never will be such a barbecue again. Thousands were present. The woods were full of sheds and temporary buildings, and platforms for the speakers."

"Who were the speakers?"

"Crockett, Hawkins, General Montgomery, Colonel Beauford, the three brothers Cheatham, Doc. Bennet, and many others. When the woods were illuminated at night with pine knots, you may imagine the scene and the wild enthusiasm that followed their eloquence."

"Doc. Bennet is a good partisan, and he is enormously rich."

"And he has a personal reason for his hatred of Mexico. An insatiable revenge possesses him. His wife and two children were barbarously murdered by Mexicans. He appealed to those who could not go to the fight to give money to aid it, and on the spot laid down ten thousand dollars."

"Good!"

"Nine other men, either present or there by proxy, instantly gave a like sum, and thirty thousand in smaller sums was added to it. Every donation was hailed with the wildest transports, and while the woods were ringing with electrifying shouts, Hawkins rallied three hundred men round him and went off at a swinging galop for the Brazos."

"Oh, Jack! Jack!"

In another hour, the rest of the leaders had gathered their detachments, and every man had turned his face to the Texan prairies. Crockett was already far advanced on the way. Sam Houston was known to be kindling the fire on the spot; and I suppose you know, father," said Jack, sinking his voice to a whisper, "that we have still more powerful backers."

"General Gaines?"

"Well, he has a large body of United States troops at Nacogdoches. He says they are to protect the people of Navasola from the Indians."

"But Navasola is twenty-nine miles west of Nacogdoches."

"Navasola is in Texas. Very well! If the United States feel it to be their duty to protect the people of Navasola, it seems they already consider Texas within their boundary."

"You think the Indians a mere pretext?"

"Of course. Crockett has with him an autograph letter from President Jackson, introducing him as `a God-chosen patriot.' President Jackson already sees Texas in the Union, and Gaines understands that if the American-Texans should be repulsed by Santa Anna, and fall back upon him, that he may then gather them under his standard and lead them forward to victory--and the conquest of Texas. Father, you will see the Stars and Stripes on the palaces of Mexico."

"Do not talk too fast, Jack. And now, go lie down on my bed. In four hours you must leave, if you want to reach Gonzales to-night!"

Then Dare was called, and the lovers knew that their hour of parting was come. They said nothing of the fears in their hearts; and on Antonia's lifted face there was only the light of love and of hope.

"The fight will soon be over, darling, and then!"

"And then? We shall be so happy."