A Napa Christchild; and Benicia's Letters

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Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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An evening sky, broken by wandering clouds, which hastening onward toward the north, bear their rich gifts of longed-for rain to the brown meadows, filling the heavens from east to west with graceful lines and swelling bosoms, save, just at the horizon where the sun descended paints a broad, lurid streak of crimson, glowing amid the deepening shadows, a coal in dead, gray ashes.

Darker grows the streak, as a stain of blood, while the clouds about it now assume a purple tinge with gloomier shadings; suddenly in the centre of the lurid field starts out as if that moment born to Earth, with clear, silver light, the Evening Star. The colour slowly fades till all is dead and ashy, and the silver star drops down below the purpled hills, leaving for a moment a soft, trembling twilight; the dense clouds then rolling in between, blot out the last sign of departed day and night is come.

It was Christmas Eve. The winter was late, and rain had fallen during the last few weeks only, so that the fields were just assuming the fresh pea-green colour of their new life, and the long, dead grass still standing above the recent growth gave that odd smokey appearance to the hills and mesas, so familiar to all us Californians also in our olive groves. The night, however, was dark and nothing of hills, or mesas, or gray fields, could be seen as the hurrying bands of clouds joined together in one great company, overspreading the whole sky and clothing all in a dreary shroud of blackness.

The little arroyo, which was dry in the summertime, had now risen, increased by last week's tribute to be quite a large stream, tearing noisely among the rocks and over its old courses, giving friendly greetings of recognition to the old water-marks and dashing a playful wave now and then about the worn roots of the enormous laurel tree whose branches reached high above and far around.

Beneath the tree's protecting limbs, a little cabin, of roughest workmanship, found shelter from the wind, or shade from the intense heat of summer; the house was built almost entirely of logs, excepting the upper part where boards had been used and through which were cut the three windows which served to light the single room it contained.

This Christmas Eve, only the dark form of the cabin was to be seen with the tall adobe chimney built up the outside; the smoke blew, beaten here and there, about the roof till it finally disappeared, a cloud of ghosts, among the swaying branches of the laurel tree.

By day in the sunshine, no pleasanter spot could be found than the little cabin and broad fields of Crescimir the Illyrian, no lovelier view of the rich Napa Valley could be had than from the hill where Crescimir's cattle grazed and no happier home could have been found in all the Californias than his, had he not been so alone, without a friend and far from his native country.

On the very day which opens this story, one might have stood upon the bridge and watched the lazy flowing of the river on whose dull green surface all the spans and bars were shadowed, and on the buttress seen the sunshine in ever changing, trembling glints of gold. Dead thistles were on the bank rustling in the breeze and the long tules by the water-side, some broken, others upright, waved gracefully, moved by both wind and current. To the left hand on both sides of the arroyo which here joined the river, one could have seen Crescimir's fields and the vegetable garden with its whitey-green cabbages, the rich brown heaps of manure and straw, and the beds of beets all crimson and green, then the borders of oaks and the far, blue hills, while myriads of little gray-winged moths hovered over the masses of tangled blackberry vines and giant dock....