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Love in the Padre's Garden
It was five years since I had seen my old chum, Dick Trevgern, back in Boston, while Mrs. Trevgern I had never seen at all. So when, last winter, I found myself at Santa Bárbara, where they lived, one of the first things I did was to trace them in the telephone book and call up Dick. The result was an urgent invitation to dinner that evening. I was quite keen to meet my friend's wife, and all the more so, since Dick, who is one of the finest fellows in the world, is, or used to be, also one of the oldest-fashioned, and had seemed to be destined for bachelor joys; so I wondered what could be the special charms that had subjugated him.
I found them as cozy as a married couple of two years' standing has a right to be, in a rose-embowered cottage on one of the hill streets near the Mission. Mrs. Trevgern I found to be a very pretty, vivacious, and in every way attractive girl, - she was only twenty, - and as they were evidently very fond of each other I rejoiced at Dick's good sense and good fortune. It was a very jolly little dinner, and altogether as pleasant an evening as I have ever passed. At some indirect reference to the topic (it is hard to find a name for it that is agreeable to every one, but I will use a well-worn phrase) the emancipated woman, I had an opportunity of seeing that the lady clearly was of the affirmative party, whereas I knew, from recollection of old times, and anyway because Dick was Dick, that his view on the question was a decided No. This raised an interesting little speculation in my mind, and when, about eleven o'clock, Mrs. Trevgern declared that she was going to leave us two together for a good confabulation over old days, and retired for the night, I made some half-joking reference to the matter, and asked Dick how it happened that he, of all men, had chosen a wife out of the emancipation camp.
"Oh, well," he replied, "she is a dear good girl" - I hastened to say that I was sure of it - "and we have lots of fun out of our different ideas on little things like that. The odd thing is, though, that it was Kitty's fad for woman's rights and that sort of thing that is responsible for her being Mrs. Trevgern - I mean, that was what you might call the exciting cause. Pull your chair up to the fire and I'll tell you all about it. It was really quite a joke."
"No doubt it will be news to you that I used to know Kitty years ago, before either you or I came to California. All the time that you fellows were ragging me about being an old bachelor, I knew my own mind and meant to marry Kitty some day. I don't think you knew her people, the Draytons. They lived down at Quincy, close to us, and our families were old friends. At the time that I got this appointment out here she was only sixteen, but before I came away from Boston I told her I loved her, and that when I had got on my feet I was going to ask her to marry me. I didn't want her to promise then, for it didn't seem square to ask her; but I had a pretty good idea that she liked me, and I figured that in two or three years I could be so placed that I might fairly ask her, and, as young as she was, she would hardly have fallen in love with any one else. After I came to California I wrote to her now and then, not often, and no spooning, you know, but just to keep myself in her mind; and she answered with good, sensible, newsy letters."
"She was always a particularly bright girl, with a good idea of what was going on in the world and a mind of her own about it. In one of her letters she said she had been going to a set of lectures by some confounded Englishwoman, on The Woman of To-morrow, or the Day after To-morrow, or something, and asked me what I thought about what she called Woman's Awakening. I dare say you remember how we used to argue all that stuff in our old Debating Club - didn't we just! - and how I always got sat upon for being a back number and not lining up with the hatchet brigade? Well, I hadn't changed my mind - haven't yet, for that matter - but I didn't suppose she cared two hairpins about it, and I replied with some old joke or other, and let it go. From other letters, though, I soon saw that Kitty had got really keen on the suffrage business, and that she knew I was a heretic: but we both had sense enough not to let the subject get on the argumentative line."
"It ran on that way until two years ago, and then her people came to spend the winter in California. In the early spring they came up to Santa Bárbara, and I saw Kitty again. I hadn't weakened at all in my loving her, and she was prettier than ever - almost as pretty as she is now, bless her. - Yes, I knew you'd think so, old man. - By that time I was doing quite well, and prospects were good enough so that I felt I could ask her to marry me. One day, on a drive round by Montecito, I asked her. She wouldn't promise: said she liked me as much as ever, and didn't care about any one else, but didn't think she ought to marry me, and so on. I couldn't get her to say why for a long time, but at last it came out. Some one, that idiotic Englishwoman, I suppose, had put it into the dear girl's head that it was her duty not to ally herself with 'a reactionary' (I think that was the word) and in this case that meant poor harmless me. I argued till I must have been blue in the face, but I couldn't get her to give in: she says now that she thought she would make me give in. And so it had to stay, but my consolation was that I knew she really cared for me. It was just head against heart, and though I knew, as I said, that Kitty's head was as good as anybody's, I thought her heart was better yet. I told her, though, that I shouldn't let it rest like that for long."
"A day or two later I had an engagement to go up with them to look at the Mission. One of the Fathers showed us through, a dozen or more people altogether, regular tourist style, and we had seen about everything there was, when some one asked if we couldn't go into the sacred garden. You know what I mean? There's a private garden that most people don't get to see, and which, as the story goes, no woman is allowed to enter. The priest said he was sorry, but it was only by special permission that any visitor saw that garden and that permission was never given for ladies to see it. Kitty pricked up her ears at that."
"'Do you mean to say,' she said to me, as we walked on, 'that there is a part of the Mission where men may go and women mustn't?' 'I don't mean to say so,' I told her, but the Padre here does, and I'm afraid that settles it.' 'Indeed, it doesn't,' she said. 'What does he mean? Is there something horrid there that is not nice for women to see?' 'No,' I replied; 'it's nice enough, just a garden. They call it sacred, but I don't know why.' 'Oh, I see,' remarked Kitty, 'sacred from women, no doubt. That's just like these monks: they think this is the Middle Ages still. I suppose you think so too. You may go anywhere, because you are a man, but a woman is to be shut out of this and that - they're sacred!' I could see she was pretty much excited, and I tried to calm her down. 'Now, Kitty,' I said, 'you know very well that as far as I'm concerned there's nothing on earth that I want so much as for you and me to be together always and everywhere. Let them keep their old garden: anyway, if it's too sacred for you it would certainly kill me on the spot.' 'It's all very well to make fun,' she returned, 'but it's the principle that has to be fought. It's absurd, it's - it's mediaeval! And you're mediaeval too,' she wound up. 'Well,' I said, 'I always knew I was a bit old-fashioned, but I was never called a regular antique before.' That made her laugh, and we forgot all about the old garden till we got back to the house."
"At least, I thought she had forgotten, but when I said good-bye she came with me to the door, and said, 'Dick, I'm going to see that garden at the Mission. It isn't that I care about the garden, but I do care about the principle. I'm going to get in somehow, and I want to know, will you help me?' 'My dear Kitty,' I answered, 'I'm your man: at least you know I want to be. The only thing is, how do you mean to do it?' 'That's for you to arrange,' she said. 'You men think you can do things better than women, so here's a chance to show what you can do.' 'Well,' I remarked, 'it looks like a burglar's job, and I've not done much in that line: but you know what I said, that I want to go everywhere you go, and if that means jail, I'm game.' She looked a bit serious when I talked about jail, for she thought I was in earnest: but she didn't back down, and I said I would see what plan I could think up."
"I easily found out whereabout the garden was, and the only way I could see to get Kitty in there was by climbing over the wall some evening after dark. It was an adobe wall, and not very high. I could easily get over it myself, but for Kitty we ought to have a ladder. There was a bright little Mexican chap I knew, whom I had met one day up by the Mission. He lived near there, and one day I had seen him haunting about and got him to pose in a picture. After that we'd had chats now and then. It occurred to me that Julio could find a short ladder and bring it to the place: and I had an idea - old-fashioned, you see, as usual - that he would make a kind of chaperon, too, to save a little bit of the respectabilities. I told Kitty my plan, and she thought it was all right, jumped at it, in fact; so we set the time for two days after the next full moon. We figured that as it was sundown soon after five o'clock, we could do our wall-climbing when it got dark, say about half past six, before the moon came up. It would rise about seven, and we should have plenty of light to investigate the garden. Kitty did pretty much as she liked at home, as regards being in or out, so all she would need to tell her people was that she was going to be with me that evening."
"Well, I arranged it with Julio. He was a mischievous little rascal, and it looked like a good joke to him; and a couple of dollars was good pay for a joke. When the evening came, I called for Kitty about six o'clock. I had told her to dress in some kind of color that would not show too much by moonlight, so she had on a big gray cloak of her mother's that covered her all up. It had a hood, too, so she didn't need a hat. For fun I had drawn a large placard, with 'Votes for Women' on it in big letters. I meant to tack it to a tree or something if I got a chance, but Kitty didn't know anything about this."
"When we got to the place, Julio was there with his ladder. It is very quiet round there at night, and there was not much danger of any one coming past. I got up first on the wall to make sure the coast was clear. There were lights shining from two or three windows, but no one was moving, so I beckoned Kitty to come, and she climbed up and sat on the wall while Julio came up. Then I quietly pulled up the ladder and lowered it on the garden side. I went down first, and then Kitty. She was a bit excited, I could see, but as game as ever. I had told Julio to wait up on the wall by the ladder till we came back."
"It was about seven o'clock and nearly moonrise when we started on our tour. I took Kitty's hand. She was rather trembly, but she said she meant to see everything there was in this precious garden. I did, too, now we were in. We went along a path by the wall and found a seat. There was no reason for hurrying, so we sat down to wait till the moon was up. It was certainly pretty especially with Kitty there; there were tall black cypresses, and climbing roses, and orange trees just coming into bloom; and when the moonlight touched the old belfries, and there came the murmuring sound of chanting from some place within the Mission, Kitty whispered to me that the garden really was almost sacred, and I quite agreed with her."
"After a few minutes we went on. The garden is laid out in beds of shrubs and flowers, with winding walks between. We kept in the shade as much as we could, as there were several windows that look on the garden, and some one might see us if we made ourselves conspicuous. But there were lots of trees, and we skirmished about from one to another and had no end of a good time. Kitty was enjoying it immensely, and it did seem a pretty good joke to be dodging about in the old garden right under their noses, for we could see them now and then through the windows. We were standing under a big cypress that had been trimmed up to ten feet or so above the ground, when I remembered my placard. I unfolded it and showed it to Kitty, and then fixed it on the tree with thumb-tacks. Kitty was dancing about with joy at the placard, and almost clapping her hands, but I made her stop for fear some one would hear her."
"We had nearly been all round the garden, taking it easily, and sitting down now and then. We were laughing and joking under our breath, and I was thinking that this would be a good place to propose to her again; rather romantic, you know, to pop the question under those circumstances. It was getting time to clear out, but we sat down again for a few minutes before we went. Kitty threw the cloak off, and in her white dress and by the moonlight in that old garden, she looked - well, you can imagine - no, you can't, though, no one could who didn't see her. So I up and told her all I wanted to say. The darling took it like an angel, but just out of mischief - I know, for she has said so herself since then she hummed and hawed and began to talk about different points of view and stuff like that. Well, at that very moment, a door opened and a man, one of the priests, came out. We were sitting in the shadow, but the door was right opposite, and I suppose the bright light coming through the doorway shone on Kitty's white dress. Perhaps he heard us, too, for I guess we had forgotten about talking under our breath: I know I had. Anyhow, he spotted us. We saw him stop for a second and heard him say something to himself, and then he came right toward us. I saw we were in for it, so I caught Kitty by the hand and we ran. I heard the Father, or Brother or whatever they call themselves, coming after us: we could hear his skirts flapping about and I think he must have been a fat man from the way he puffed."
"We were right at the other end of the garden from where the ladder was. Kitty is a good runner, and we had a good lead and were nearly there when suddenly Kitty almost stopped and exclaimed, in a horrified voice, 'The cloak, Dick! we've left it behind, and it has mother's name on it!' Whew! that's a bad mess, I thought. It must be got, that was certain. 'You run on,' I told her, 'and get up the ladder. Do you see it?' 'Yes,' she said, 'but what about you?' 'I'm going back for the cloak,' I answered. 'You get up the ladder and wait for me. I'll stop him following you. Quick, Kitty, hurry up!' I watched her get to the ladder and then started back. I didn't know just where the priest was, as we had lost him somewhere among the trees, but I ran back, got the cloak, and started again cautiously for the ladder. When I was halfway there I caught sight of him staring at the placard. I can't understand to this day why he hadn't raised a racket. I think that placard must have hypnotized him. Well, he saw me and called to me to stop. As he was between me and the place where the ladder was, I saw I couldn't get past him, so I ran back to the other end of the garden again, and he came running after me. When he came to the door I saw him stop a moment and then go in, evidently to get help. That was my time. I sprinted back as fast as I could, for it was getting rather too interesting. Kitty was there all right, sitting on the wall, but I couldn't see Julio nor any ladder. 'Dick!' she called down to me, 'I've let the ladder drop down on the other side. Can you get up without it?' 'How on earth did you do that?' I asked. 'I was afraid that horrid monk might come along and see me, and take the ladder away to keep you from getting up,' Kitty said: 'so I pulled it up after me, and then it slipped and went down the other side.' 'Never mind,' I replied, 'I can climb up: but where is Julio?' 'I haven't seen him,' she said: 'but never mind him, come along up.'"
"I threw the cloak up to her, and then jumped at the wall to clamber up. I caught the top all right, but the rotten adobe bricks came away, and I tumbled down with half a dozen of them on top of me, and in falling, by the worst kind of luck, I sprained my foot. I tried to get up, but found I couldn't stand on the hurt foot. 'What's the matter, Dick?' asked Kitty. 'Sprained foot,' I said. 'I don't see how I'm going to climb up that wall now. I can't jump high enough with one foot, and the adobes would most likely come down again, anyhow. Confound that imp, Julio! he would have saved all this mess if he had done as I told him. I guess we're trapped, I am, anyway.'"
"Every moment I expected to see the Mission people coming, and there was the chance of some one coming along the road, too, and finding Kitty playing Humpty-Dumpty. The poor little thing was nearly crying. 'Oh, Dick,' she said, 'does it hurt much? Oh, I know it must, and it's all my fault. What will they do to us, Dick?' 'Well,' I answered, 'they can't skin us and eat us, you know. I shouldn't mind about myself, only that it makes a fellow look like a fool. You ought to marry me now, Kitty, for no one else will,' I added, severely. 'Don't you think so?' 'Oh, I suppose so, Dick,' she said, half laughing and half crying, 'No one else will marry me, either, for that matter. I wonder you want to, after my getting you into this fix.' 'All right, darling,' I said: 'it's a bargain, mind. They have n't got us yet, anyhow,' I went on. 'Here they come, though,' as half a dozen petticoated figures issued from the door. I saw them go toward the other end of the garden, where I had last been seen, and begin searching about. 'Now, Kitty,' I told her, 'when they come this way you just let yourself down the other side as far as you can, and then drop. You are lighter than I, and I think the bricks will hold. Then run home as quickly as you can, and lie low.' 'Dick,' the little trump replied, indignantly, 'do you suppose I'm going to run away and let you stand the blame? Do you think I'm one of those putty kind of girls?' I tried to argue with her but - well, you know what suffragists are; she wouldn't budge. 'Dick,' she exclaimed at last, 'what am I thinking of? I can drop down, as you said, and get the ladder over to you.' I'd thought of that, of course, but I couldn't stand the idea of her falling and perhaps getting hurt. 'You mustn't do it, Kitty,' I declared. 'If you get hurt as well, we shall be in a worse hole than ever.' My mind was working like lightning, and suddenly I thought of the cloak. 'Kitty' I said, 'throw the cloak down to me.' It was a good old-fashioned cloak, with yards and yards of stuff in it. I twisted it into a sort of rope, and then stood up against the wall on my good foot and threw the end over as far as I could. 'How far does it reach?' I asked. 'Plenty far enough,' she answered. I didn't need to say any more. She took hold of it and let herself down, and I heard her drop to the ground. In another moment she was up on the wall and puffing the ladder after her. It made an awful row, and I saw some of the people stop and listen. It was touch and go then, I could see. Kitty lowered the ladder, and in half a jiffy I was up. As we were pulling the ladder up, they saw us and began to come on the run, but they were just about half a minute too late. I sent Kitty down and then scrambled down myself. Just then, along came that young scamp Julio, as innocent as you please. 'Take the ladder and run that way,' I ordered, 'and let it drag so as to make lots of noise.'"
"Kitty was shaking all over, what with excitement and fright, and pity for my foot. We sat down against the wall and listened to the chaps inside calling us awful names in Spanish, Irish, German, and about everything else. My foot was pretty painful, and so swollen that I could hardly get my shoe off. Kitty produced a bandage from somewhere and bound the foot so as to keep it stiff, and then I got up and with the help of the wall and Kitty's arm I hobbled off with her in the opposite direction from that in which Julio had gone, while the sounds in the garden got fainter and fainter, showing that he was drawing the enemy's fire, as I expected."
"Of course the thing got into the papers somehow, but luckily the names didn't, for Julio didn't get caught. And as you see, Kitty lived up to her bargain."
The Riverside Press