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Our dwelling-place in all generations.--Psalms xc, 1.
 They are wonderful to me still--those few brief days that followed. While Esmond Clarenden was forcing his business transactions to a speedy climax, he was all the time foreseeing Santa Fé under the United States Government. He had not come here as a spy, nor a speculator, but as a commerce-builder, knowing that the same business life would go on when the war cloud lifted, and that the same men who had made the plains commerce profitable under the Mexican flag would not be exiled when the Stars and Stripes should float above the old Palace of the Governors. Belief in the ethics of his calling and trust in manhood were ever a large part of his stock in trade, making him dare to go where he chose to go, and to do what he willed to do.
 But no concern for commerce nor extension of national territory disturbed our young minds in those sunlit days, as Mat and Beverly and I looked with the big, quick-seeing eyes of youth on this new strange world at the end of the trail.
 We were all together in the deserted dining-room on our first evening in Santa Fé when the man whom I had seen on the Plaza strolled leisurely in. He sat down at one of the farthest tables from us, and his eyes, glistening like blue-black steel, were fixed on us.
 Once at Fort Leavenworth I had watched in terror as a bird fluttered helplessly toward a still, steel-eyed snake holding it in thrall. And just at the moment when its enemy was ready to strike, Jondo had happened by and shot the snake's head off. The same terror possessed me now, and I began half-consciously to long for Jondo.
 In the midst of new sights I had hardly thought of him since he had left us out beyond the big arroyo. He had come into town at dusk, but soon after supper he had disappeared. His face was very pale, and his eyes had a strange look that never left them again. Something was different in Jondo from that day, but it did not change his gentle nature toward his fellow-men. During our short stay in Santa Fé we hardly saw him at all. We children were too busy with other things to ask questions, and everybody but Rex Krane was too busy to be questioned. Having nothing else to do, Rex became our chaperon, as Uncle Esmond must have foreseen he would be when he measured the young man in Independence on the day we left there.
 To-night Esmond Clarenden, smiling and good-natured, paid no heed to the sharp eyes of this stranger fixed on him.
 "What's the matter now, little weather-vane? You are always first to sense a coming change," he declared.
 "Uncle Esmond, I saw that man watching us like he knew us, out there on the Plaza to-day. Who is he?" I asked, in a low tone.
 "His name is Ferdinand Ramero. You will find him watching everywhere. Let that man alone as you would a snake," my uncle warned us.
 "Is that his boy?" I asked.
 "What boy?" Uncle Esmond inquired.
 "Marcos, the boy I pitched endways out of the church. He's bigger than Bev, too," I declared, proudly.
 "Gail Clarenden, are you crazy?" Uncle Esmond exclaimed.
 "No, I'm not," I insisted, and then I told what had happened at the church, adding, "I saw Marcos with that man in the Plaza, and they went away together."
 Esmond Clarenden's face grew grave.
 "What kind of a looking child was she, Gail?" he asked, after a pause.
 "Oh, she had yellow hair and big sort of dark eyes! She could squeal like anything. She wasn't a baby girl at all, but a regular little fighter kind of a girl."
 I grew bashful all at once and hesitated, but my uncle did not seem to hear me, for he turned to Rex Krane and said, in low, earnest tones:
 "Krane, if you can locate that child for me you will do me an invaluable service. It was largely on her account that I came here now, and it's a god-send to have a fellow like you to save time for me. Every man has his uses. Your service will be a big one to me."
 The young man's face flushed and his eyes shone with a new light.
 "If any of you happen to see that girl let me know at once," my uncle said, turning to us, "but, remember, don't act as if you were hunting for her."
 "I know now right where she lives. It's up a crooked street by that church. I saw her run in there," I insisted.
 "Every hut looks like every other hut, and every little Mex looks like every other little Mex," Beverly declared.
 Uncle Esmond smiled, but the stern lines in his face hardly broke as he said, earnestly, "Keep your eyes open and, whatever you do, stay close to Krane while Bill helps me here, and don't forget to watch for that little girl when you are sight-seeing."
 "There's not much to see, as Bev says, but the outside of 'dobe walls five feet thick," Rex Krane observed. "But if you know which wall to look through, the lookin' may be easy enough. Seein' things is my specialty, and we'll get this princess if we have to slay a giant and an ogre and take a few dozen Mexican scalps first. The plot just thickens. It's a great game." The tall New-Englander would not take life seriously anywhere, and, with our trust in his guardianship, we could want no better chaperon.
 That night Beverly Clarenden and I were in fairyland.
 "It's the princess, Bev, the princess we were looking for," I joyously asserted. "And, oh, Bev, she is beautiful, but snappy-like, too. She called me a 'big brown bob-cat', and then she apologized, just as nice as could be."
 "And this little Marcos cuss, he'll be the ogre," Beverly declared. "But who'll we have for the giant? That priest, footing it out by that dry creek-thing they call a 'royo?"
 "Oh no, no! He and Jondo made up together, and Jondo's nobody's bad man even in a story. It will be that Ferdinand Ramero," I insisted. "But, say, Bev, Jondo wrote a new name on the register this evening, or somebody wrote it for him, maybe. It wasn't his own writing. 'Jean Deau.' I saw it in big, round, back-slanting letters. Why did he do that?"
 "Well, I reckon that's his real name in big, round, back-slanting letters down here," Beverly replied. "It's French, and we have just been spelling it like it sounds, that's all."
 "Well, maybe so," I commented, and when I fell asleep it was to dream of a princess and Jondo by a strange name, but the same Jondo.
 The air of New Mexico puts iron into the blood. The trail life had hardened us all, but the finishing touch for Rex Krane came in the invigorating breath of that mountain-cooled, sun-cleansed atmosphere of Santa Fé. Shrewd, philosophic, brave-hearted like his historic ancestry, he laid his plans carefully now, sure of doing what he was set to do. And the wholesome sense of really serving the man who had measured his worth at a glance gave him a pleasure he had not known before. Of course, he moved slowly and indifferently. One could never imagine Rex Krane hurrying about anything.
 "We'll just 'prospect,' as Daniel Boone says," he declared, as he marshaled us for the day. "We are strangers, sight-seein', got no other business on earth, least of all any to take us up to this old San Miguel Church for unholy purposes. 'Course if we see a pretty little dark-eyed, golden-haired lassie anywhere, we'll just make a diagram of the spot she's stand'n' on, for future reference. We're in this game to win, but we don't do no foolish hurryin' about it."
 So we wandered away, a happy quartet, and the city offered us strange sights on every hand. It was all so old, so different, so silent, so baffling--the narrow, crooked street; the solid house-walls that hemmed them in; the strange tongue, strange dress, strange customs; the absence of smiling faces or friendly greetings; the sudden mystery of seeking for one whom we must not seem to seek, and the consciousness of an enemy, Ferdinand Ramero, whom we must avoid--that it is small wonder that we lived in fairyland.
 We saw the boy, Marcos, here and there, sometimes staring defiantly at us from some projected angle; sometimes slipping out of sight as we approached; sometimes quarreling with other children at their play. But nowhere, since the moment when I had seen the door close on her up that crooked street beside the old church, could we find any trace of the little girl.
 In the dim morning light of our fifth day in Santa Fé, a man on horseback, carrying a big, bulky bundle in his arms, slipped out of the crooked, shadow-filled street beside the old church of San Miguel. He halted a moment before the structure and looked up at the ancient crude spire outlined against the sky, then sped down the narrow way by the hotel at the end of the trail. He crossed the Plaza swiftly and dashed out beyond the Palace of the Governors and turned toward the west.
 Aunty Boone, who slept in the family wagon--or under it--in the inclosure at the rear of the hotel, had risen in time to peer out of the wooden gate just as the rider was passing. It was still too dark to see the man's face distinctly, but his form, and the burden he carried, and the trappings of the horse she noted carefully, as was her habit.
 "Up to cussedness, that man is. Mighty long an' slim. Lemme see! Humph! I know _him_. I'll go wake up somebody."
 As the woman leaned far out of the gate she caught sight of a little Indian girl crouching outside of the wall.
 "You got no business here, you, Little Blue Flower! Where do you live when you _do_ live?"
 Little Blue Flower pointed toward the west.
 "Why you come hangin' 'round here?" the African woman demanded.
 "Father Josef send me to help the people who help me," she said, in her soft, low voice.
 "Go back to your own folks, then, and tell your Daddy Joseph a man just stole a big bunch of something and rode south with it. He can look after that man. We can get along somehow. Now go."
 The voice was like a growl, and the little Indian maiden shrank back in the shadow of the wall. The next minute Aunty Boone was rapping softly on the door of the room whose guest had registered as Jean Deau. Ten minutes later another horseman left the street beside the hotel and crossed the Plaza, riding erect and open-faced as only Jondo could ride. Then the African woman sought out Rex Krane, and in a few brief sentences told him what had been taking place. All of which Rex was far too wise to repeat to Beverly and me.
 That afternoon it happened that we left Mat Nivers at the hotel, while Rex Krane and Beverly and I strolled out of town on a well-beaten trail leading toward the west.
 "It looks interestin'. Let's go on a ways," Rex commented, lazily.
 Nobody would have guessed from his manner but that he was indulgently helping us to have a good time with certain restriction as to where we should go, and what we might say, nor that, of the three, he was the most alert and full of definite purpose.
 We sat down beside the way as a line of burros loaded with firewood from the mountains trailed slowly by, with their stolid-looking drivers staring at us in silent unfriendliness.
 The last driver was the tall young Indian boy whom I had seen standing in front of Little Blue Flower in the crowd of the Plaza. He paid no heed to our presence, and his face was expressionless as he passed us.
 "Stupid as his own burro, and not nearly so handsome," Beverly commented.
 The boy turned quietly and stared at my cousin, who had not meant to be overheard. Nobody could read the meaning of that look, for his face was as impenetrable as the adobe walls of the Palace of the Governors.
 "Bev, you are laying up trouble. An Indian never forgets, and you'll be finding that fellow under your pillow every night till he gets your scalp," Rex Krane declared, as we went on our way.
 Beverly laughed and stiffened his sturdy young arms.
 "He's welcome to it if he can get it," he said, carelessly. "How many million miles do we go to-day, Mr. Krane?"
 "Yonder is your terminal," Rex replied, pointing to a little settlement of mud huts huddling together along the trail. "They call that little metropolis Agua Fria--'pure water'--because there ain't no water there. It's the last place to look for anybody. That's why we look there. You will go in like gentlemen, though--and don't be surprised nor make any great noise over anything you see there. If a riot starts I'll do the startin'."
 Carelessly as this was said, we understood the command behind it.
 Near the village, I happened to glance back over the way we had come, and there, striding in, soft-footed as a cat behind us, was that young Indian. I turned again just as we reached the first straggling houses at the outskirts of the settlement, but he had disappeared.
 It was a strange little village, this Agua Fria. Its squat dwellings, with impenetrable adobe walls, had sat out there on the sandy edge of the dry Santa Fé River through many and many a lagging decade; a single trail hardly more than a cart-width across ran through it. A church, mud-walled and ancient, rose above the low houses, but of order or uniformity of outline there was none. Hands long gone to dust had shaped those crude dwellings on this sunny plain where only man decays, though what he builds endures.
 Nobody was in sight and there was something awesome in the very silence everywhere. Rex lounged carelessly along, as one who had no particular aim in view and was likely to turn back at any moment. But Beverly and I stared hard in every direction.
 At the end of the village two tiny mud huts, separated from each other by a mere crack of space, encroached on this narrow way even a trifle more than the neighboring huts. As we were passing these a soft Hopi voice called:
 "Beverly! Beverly!" And Little Blue Flower, peeping shyly out from the narrow opening, lifted a warning hand.
 "The church! The church!" she repeated, softly, then darted out of sight, as if the brown wall were but thick brown vapor into which she melted.
 "Why, it's our own little girl!" Beverly exclaimed, with a smile, just as Little Blue Flower turned away, but I am sure she caught his words and saw his smile.
 We would have called to her, but Rex Krane evidently did not hear her, for he neither halted nor turned his head. So, remembering our command to be quiet, we passed on.
 "I guess we are about to the end of this 'pure water' resort. It's gettin' late. Let's go back home now," our leader said, dispiritedly. So we turned back toward Santa Fé.
 At the narrow opening where we had seen Little Blue Flower the young Indian boy stood upright and motionless, and again he gave no sign of seeing us.
 "Let's just run over to that church a minute while we are here. Looks interestin' over there," Rex suggested.
 I wondered if he could have heard Little Blue Flower, and thought her suggestion was a good one, or if this was a mere whim of his.
 The church, a crude mission structure, stood some distance from the trail. As we entered a priest came forward to meet us.
 "Can I serve you?" he asked.
 The voice was clear and sweet--the same voice that we had heard out beyond the arroyo southeast of town, the same face, too, that we had seen, with the big dark eyes full of fire. Involuntarily I recalled how his hand had pointed to the west when he had pronounced a blessing that day.
 "Thank you, Father--" Rex began.
 "Josef," the holy man said.
 "Yes, thank you, Father Josef. We are just looking at things. No wish to be rude, you know."
 Rex lifted his cap and stood bareheaded in the priestly presence.
 Father Josef smiled.
 "Look here, then."
 He led us up the aisle to where, cuddled down on a crude seat, a little girl lay asleep. Her golden hair fell like a cloud about her face, flowing over the edge of the seat almost to the floor. Her cheeks were pink and warm, and her dimpled white hands were clasped together. I had caught Mat Nivers napping many a time, but never in my life had I seen anything half so sweet as this sleeping girl in the beauty of her innocence. And I knew at a glance that this was the same girl whom I had seen before at the door of the old Church of San Miguel.
 "Same as grown-ups when the sermon is dull. Thank you, Father Josef. It's a pretty picture. We must be goin' now." Rex Krane dropped some silver in the priest's hand and we left the church.
 At the door we passed the Indian boy again, and a third time he gave no sign of seeing us. I was the only one who was troubled, however, for Rex and Beverly did not seem to notice him. As we left the village I caught sight of him again following behind us.
 "Look there, Bev," I said, in a low voice. Beverly glanced back, then turned and stared defiantly at the boy.
 "Maybe Rex knows about Indians," he said, lightly. "That's three times I found him fooling around in less than an hour, but my scalp is still hanging over one ear."
 He pushed back his cap and pulled at his bright brown locks. Happy Bev! How headstrong, brave, and care-free he walked the plains that day.
 The evening shadows were lengthening and the peaks of the Sangre-de-Christo range were taking on the scarlet stains of sunset when we raced into town at last. Rex Krane went at once to find Uncle Esmond, and Beverly and I hurried to the hotel to tell Mat of all that we had seen.
 Her gray eyes were glowing when she met us at the door and led us into a corner where we could talk by ourselves.
 "Uncle Esmond has sold everything to that Mexican merchant, Felix Narveo, and we are going to start home just as soon as he can find that little girl."
 "Oh, we've found her! We've found her!" Beverly burst out. But Mat hushed him at once.
 "Don't yell it to the sides, Beverly Clarenden. Now listen!" Mat dropped her voice almost to a whisper. "He's going to take that little girl back with us as far as Fort Leavenworth, and then send her on to St. Louis where she has some folks, I guess."
 "Isn't he a clipper, though," Beverly exclaimed.
 "But what if the Indians should get us?" I asked, anxiously. "I heard the colonel at Fort Leavenworth just give it to Uncle Esmond one night for bringing us."
 "You are safe or you are not safe everywhere. And if we got in here I reckon we can get out," Mat reasoned, philosophically. "And Uncle Esmond isn't afraid and he's set on doing it. We aren't going to take any goods back, so we can travel lots faster, and everything will be put in the wagons so we can grab out what's worth most in a hurry if we have to."
 So we talked matters over now as we had done on that April day out on the parade-ground at Fort Leavenworth. But now we knew something of what might be before us on that homeward journey. Thrilling hours those were. It is no wonder that, schooled by their events, young as we were, we put away childish things.
 That night while we slept things happened of which we knew nothing for many years. There was no moon and the glaring yellow daytime plain was full of gray-edged shadows, under the far stars of a midnight blue sky, as Esmond Clarenden took the same trail that we had followed in the afternoon. On to the village of Agua Fria, black and silent, he rode until he came to the church door. Here he dismounted, and, quickly securing his horse, he entered the building. The chill midnight wind swept in through the open door behind him, threatening to blot out the flickering candles about the altar. Father Josef came slowly down the aisle to meet him, while a tall man, crouching like a beast about to spring, rather than a penitent at prayer, shrank down in the shadowy corner inside the doorway.
 The merchant, solid and square-built and fearless, stood before the young priest baring his head as he spoke.
 "I come on a grave errand, good Father. This afternoon my two nephews and a young man from New England came in here and saw a child asleep under protection of this holy sanctuary. That child's name is Eloise St. Vrain. I had hoped to find her mother able to care for her. She--cannot do it, as you know. I must do it for her now. I come here to claim what it is my duty to protect."
 At these words the crouching figure sprang up and Ferdinand Ramero, his steel-blue eyes blazing, came forward with cat-like softness. But the sturdy little man before the priest stood, hat in hand, undisturbed by any presence there.
 "Father Josef," the tall man began, in a voice of menace, "you will not protect this American here. I have confessed to you and you know that this man is my enemy. He comes, a traitor to his own country and a spy to ours. He has risked the lives of three children by bringing them across the plains. He comes alone where large wagon-trains dare not venture. He could not go back to the States now. And lastly, good Father, he has no right to the child that he claims is here."
 "To the child that is here, asleep beside our sacred altar," Father Josef said, sternly.
 Ferdinand Ramero turned upon the priest fiercely.
 "Even the Church might go too far," he muttered, threateningly.
 "It might, but it never has," the holy man agreed. Then turning to Esmond Clarenden, he continued: "You must see that these charges do not stand against you. Our Holy Church offers no protection, outside of these four walls, to a traitor or a spy or even an unpatriotic speculator seeking to profit by the needs of war. Nor could it sanction giving the guardianship of a child to one who daringly imperils his own life or the lives of children, nor can it sanction any rights of guardianship unless due cause be given for granting them."
 Ferdinand Ramero smiled as the priest concluded. He was a handsome man, with the sort of compelling magnetism that gives controlling power to its possessor. But because I knew my uncle so well in after years, I can picture Esmond Clarenden as he stood that night before the young priest in the little mud-walled church of Agua Fria. And I can picture the tall, threatening man in the shadows beside him. But never have I held an image of him showing a sign of fear.
 "Father Josef, I am willing to make any explanation to you. As for this man whom you call Ramero here--up in the States he bears another name and I finished with him there six years ago--I have no time nor breath to waste on him. Are these your demands?" my uncle asked.
 "They are," Father Josef replied.
 "Do I take away the little girl, Eloise, unmolested, if you are satisfied?" Esmond Clarenden demanded, first making sure of his bargain, like the merchant he was.
 Ferdinand Ramero stiffened insolently at these words, and looked threateningly at Father Josef.
 "You do," the holy man replied, something of the flashing light in his eyes alone revealing what sort of a soldier the State had lost when this man took on churchly orders.
 "I am no traitor to my flag, since my full commerical purpose was known and sanctioned by the military authority at Fort Leavenworth before I left there. I brought no aid to my country's enemy because my full cargo was bargained for by your merchant, Felix Narveo, before the declaration of war was made. I merely acted as his agent bringing his own to him. I have come here as a spy only in this--that I shall profit in strictly legitimate business by the knowledge I hold of commercial conditions and my acquaintance with your citizens when this war for territory ends, no matter how its results may run. I deal in wholesome trade, not in human hate. I offer value for value, not blood for blood."
 Up to this time a smile had lighted the merchant's eyes. But now his voice lowered, and the lines about his mouth hardened.
 "As to the guardianship of children, Father Josef, I am a bachelor who for nearly nine years have given a home, education, support, and affection to three orphan children, until, though young in years, they are wise and capable. So zealous was I for their welfare, that when word came to me--no matter how--that a company of Mexicans were on their way to Independence, Missouri, ostensibly to seek the protection of the United States Government and to settle on the frontier there, but really to seize these children in my absence, and carry them into the heart of old Mexico, I decided at once that they would be safer with me in New Mexico than without me in Missouri.
 "In the night I passed this Mexican gang at Council Grove, waiting to seize me in the morning. At Pawnee Rock a storm scattered a band of Kiowa Indians to whom these same Mexicans had given a little Indian slave girl as a reward for attacking our train if the Mexicans should fail to get us themselves. Through every peril that threatens that long trail we came safely because the hand of the Lord preserved us."
 Esmond Clarenden paused, and the priest bowed a moment in prayer.
 "If I have dared fate in this journey," the merchant went on, "it was not to be foolhardy, nor for mere money gains, but to keep my own with me, and to rescue the daughter of Mary St. Vrain, of Santa Fé, and take her to a place of safety. It was her mother's last pleading call, as you, Father Josef, very well know, since you yourself heard her last words and closed her dead eyes. Under the New Mexican law, the guardianship of her property rests with others. Mine is the right to protect her and, by the God of heaven, I mean to do it!"
 Esmond Clarenden's voice was deep and powerful now, filling the old church with its vehemence.
 Up by the altar, the little girl sat up suddenly and looked about her, terrified by the dim light and the strange faces there.
 "Don't be afraid, Eloise."
 How strangely changed was this gentle tone from the vehement voice of a moment ago.
 The little girl sprang up and stared hard at the speaker. But no child ever resisted that smile by which Esmond Clarenden held Beverly and me in loving obedience all the days of our lives with him.
 Shaking with fear as she caught sight of Ferdinand Ramero, the girl reached out her hands toward the merchant, who put his arm protectingly about her. The big, dark eyes were filled with tears; the head with its sunny ripples of tangled hair leaned against him for a moment. Then the fighting spirit came back to her, so early in her young life had the need for defending herself been forced upon her.
 "Where have I been? Where am I going?" she demanded.
 "You are going with me now," Uncle Esmond said, softly.
 "And never have to fight Marcos any more? Oh, good, good, good! Let's go now!"
 She frowned darkly at Ferdinand Ramero, and, clutching tightly at Esmond Clarenden's hands, she began pulling him toward the open door.
 "Eloise," Father Josef said, "you are about to go away with this good man who will be a father to you. Be a good child as your mother would want you to be." His musical voice was full of pathos.
 Eloise dropped her new friend's hand and sprang down the aisle.
 "I will be good, Father Josef," she said, squeezing his dark hand between her fair little palms. Then, tossing back the curls from her face, she reached up a caressing hand to his cheek.
 Father Josef stooped and kissed her white forehead, and turned hastily toward the altar.
 "Esmond Clarenden!" It was Ferdinand Ramero who spoke, his sharp, bitter voice filling the church.
 "By order of this priest Eloise St. Vrain is yours to protect so long as you stay within these walls. The minute you leave them you reckon with me."
 Father Josef whirled about quickly, but the man made a scoffing gesture.
 "I brought this child here for protection this morning. But for that sickly Yankee and two inquisitive imps of boys she would have been safe here. I acknowledge sanctuary privilege. Use it as long as you choose in the church of Agua Fria. Set but a foot outside these walls and I say again you reckon with me."
 His tall form thrust itself menacingly before the little man and his charge clinging to his arm.
 "Set but a foot outside these walls and _you_ will reckon with _me_."
 It was Jondo's clear voice, and the big plainsman, towering up suddenly behind Ferdinand Ramero, filled the doorway.
 "You meant to hide in the old Church of San Miguel because it is so near to the home where you have kept this little girl. But Gail Clarenden blocked your game and found your house and this child in the church door before our wagon-train had reached the end of the trail. You found this church your nearest refuge, meaning to leave it again early in the morning. I have waited here for you all day, protected by the same means that brought word to Santa Fé this morning. Come out now if you wish. You dare not follow me to the States, but I dare to come to your land. Can you meet me here?" Jondo was handsome in his sunny moods. In his anger he was splendid.
 Ferdinand Ramero dropped to a seat beside Father Josef.
 "I have told you I cannot face that man. I will stay here now," he said, in a low voice to the priest. "But I do not stay here always, and I can send where I do not follow," he added, defiantly.
 Esmond Clarenden was already on his horse with his little charge, snugly wrapped, in his arms.
 Father Josef at the portal lifted his hand in sign of blessing.
 "Peace be with you. Do not tarry long," he said. Then, turning to Jondo, he gazed into the strong, handsome face. "Go in peace. He will not follow. But forget not to love even your enemies."
 In the midnight dimness Jondo's bright smile glowed with all its courageous sweetness.
 "I finished that fight long ago," he said. "I come only to help others."
 Long these two, priest and plainsman, stood there with clasped hands, the gray night mists of the Santa Fé Valley round about them and all the far stars of the midnight sky gleaming above them.
 Then Jondo mounted his horse and rode away up the trail toward Santa Fe.