"No, no, Felipe," faintly cried the Senora, from the ground. "It is my wish that you wear them;" and staggering to her feet, with a burst of tears, she rebuckled the old sword-belt, which her fingers had so many times -- never unkissed -- buckled, in the days when her husband had bade her farewell and gone forth to the uncertain fates of war. "Wear them!" she cried, with gathering fire in her tones, and her eyes dry of tears,-- "wear them, and let the American hounds see what a Mexican officer and gentleman looked like before they had set their base, usurping feet on our necks!" And she followed him to the gate, and stood erect, bravely waving her handkerchief as he galloped off, till he was out of sight. Then with a changed face and a bent head she crept slowly to her room, locked herself in, fell on her knees before the Madonna at the head of her bed, and spent the greater part of the day praying that she might be forgiven, and that all heretics might be discomfited. From which part of these supplications she derived most comfort is easy to imagine.
Juan Canito had been right in his sudden surmise that it was for Father Salvierderra's coming that the sheep-shearing was being delayed, and not in consequence of Senor Felipe's illness, or by the non-appearance of Luigo and his flock of sheep. Juan would have chuckled to himself still more at his perspicacity, had he overheard the conversation going on between the Senora and her son, at the very time when he, half asleep on the veranda, was, as he would have called it, putting two and two together and convincing himself that old Juan was as smart as they were, and not to be kept in the dark by all their reticence and equivocation.
"Juan Can is growing very impatient about the sheep-shearing," said the Senora. "I suppose you are still of the same mind about it, Felipe,-- that it is better to wait till Father Salvierderra comes? As the only chance those Indians have of seeing him is here, it would seem a Christian duty to so arrange it, if it be possible; but Juan is very restive. He is getting old, and chafes a little, I fancy, under your control. He cannot forget that you were a boy on his knee. Now I, for my part, am like to forget that you were ever anything but a man for me to lean on."
Felipe turned his handsome face toward his mother with a beaming smile of filial affection and gratified manly vanity. "Indeed, my mother, if I can be sufficient for you to lean on, I will ask nothing more of the saints;" and he took his mother's thin and wasted little hands, both at once, in his own strong right hand, and carried them to his lips as a lover might have done. "You will spoil me, mother," he said, "you make me so proud."
"No, Felipe, it is I who am proud," promptly replied the mother; "and I do not call it being proud, only grateful to God for having given me a son wise enough to take his father's place, and guide and protect me through the few remaining years I have to live. I shall die content, seeing you at the head of the estate, and living as a Mexican gentleman should; that is, so far as now remains possible in this unfortunate country. But about the sheep-shearing, Felipe. Do you wish to have it begun before the Father is here? Of course, Alessandro is all ready with his band. It is but two days' journey for a messenger to bring him. Father Salvierderra cannot be here before the 10th of the month. He leaves Santa Barbara on the 1st, and he will walk all the way,-- a good six days' journey, for he is old now and feeble; then he must stop in Ventura for a Sunday, and a day at the Ortega's ranch, and at the Lopez's,-- there, there is a christening. Yes, the 10th is the very earliest that he can be here,-- near two weeks from now. So far as your getting up is concerned, it might perhaps be next week. You will be nearly well by that time."
"Yes, indeed," laughed Felipe, stretching himself out in the bed and giving a kick to the bedclothes that made the high bedposts and the fringed canopy roof shake and creak; "I am well now, if it were not for this cursed weakness when I stand on my feet. I believe it would do me good to get out of doors."
In truth, Felipe had been hankering for the sheep-shearing himself. It was a brisk, busy, holiday sort of time to him, hard as he worked in it; and two weeks looked long to wait.
"It is always thus after a fever," said his mother. "The weakness lasts many weeks. I am not sure that you will be strong enough even in two weeks to do the packing; but, as Juan Can said this morning, he stood at the packing-bag when you were a boy, and there was no need of waiting for you for that!"
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