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On the Frontier

over the rounded hills, dropped into the bosky recesses of a hidden
valley beyond the coast range.
It was here that the refectory windows of the Mission of San Carmel
had for years looked upon the reverse of that monotonous picture
presented to the sea. It was here that the trade winds, shorn of
their fury and strength in the heated, oven-like air that ros e from
the valley, lost their weary way in the tangled recesses of the
wooded slopes, and breathed their last at the foot of the stone
cross before the Mission. It was on the crest of those slopes that
the fog halted and walled in the sun-illumined plain below; it was
in this plain that limitless fields of grain clothed the fat adobe
soil; here the Mission garden smiled over its hedges of fruitful
vines, and through the leaves of fig and gnarled pear trees: and it
was here that Father Pedro had lived for fifty years, found the
prospect good, and had smiled also.
Father Pedro’s smile was rare. He was not a Las Casas, nor a
Junipero Serra, but he had the deep seriousness of all disciples
laden with the responsible wording of a gospel not their own. And
his smile had an ecclesiastical as well as a human significance,
the pleas antest ob ject in his prospect being the fair and curly
head of his boy acolyte and chorister, Francisco, which appeared
among the vines, and his sweetest pastoral music, the high soprano
humming of a chant wit h which the boy accompani ed his gardening.
Suddenly the acolyte’s chant changed to a cry of terror. Running
rapidly to Father Pedro’s side, he grasped his sotana, and even
tried to hide his curls among its folds.
”’St! ’st!” said the Padre, disengaging himself with some
impatience. ”What new alarm is this? Is it Luzbel hiding among
our Catalan vines, or one of those heathen Americanos from
Monterey? Speak!”
”Neither, holy father,” said the boy, the color struggling back
into his pale cheeks, and an apologetic, bashful smile lighting his
clear eyes. ”Neither; but oh! such a gross, lethargic toad! And
it almost leaped upon me.”
”A toad leaped upon thee!” repeated the good father with evident
vexation. ”What next? I tell thee, child, those foolish fears are
most unmeet for thee, and must be overcome, if necessary, with
prayer and penance. Fright ened by a toad! Blood of the Martyrs!
’Tis like any foolish girl!”
Father Pedro stopped and coughed.
”I am saying that no Christian child should shrink from any of
God’s harmless creatures. And only last week thou wast disdainful
of poor Murieta’s pig, forgetting that San Antonio himself did
elect one his faithful companion, even in glory.”
”Yes, but it was so fat, and so uncleanly, holy father,” replied
the young acolyte, ”and it smelt so.”
”Smelt so?” echoed the father doubtfully. ”Have a care, child,
that this is not luxuriousness of the senses. I have noticed of
late you gather overmuc h of roses and syringa, excellent in their
way and in moderation, but still not to be compared with the flower
of Holy Church, the lily.”
”But lilies don’t look well on the refectory table, and against the
adobe wall,” returned the acolyte, with a pout of a spoilt child;
”and surely the flowers cannot help being sweet, any more than
myrrh or incense. And I am not frightened of the heat hen