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The Beautiful Eyes of Ysidria   By: (1861-1897)

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Press of Commercial Publishing Co. 34 California St., S. F.


Madame Emma Baudouin of Luebeck, this little story of Californian life is given in token of her unmerited kindness to the writer, and in admiration of one who makes the world happier by her every word and act.

CHARLES A. GUNNISON, Xmas, 1894. In the Embarcadero, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, California

The Beautiful Eyes of Ysidria.


Have you seen the magnificent slope of our beloved Tamalpais, as it curves from the changing colour of the bay, till touching the fleecy fog rolling in from the Pacific, it passes from day to rest? If you have not, I hope you may, for the sooner you have this glorious picture on your memory's walls, the brighter will be your future, and you will have a bit of beauty which need not be forgotten even in heaven itself.

There is one who, though passing his life beneath its shadow, enjoying the scented wind from its forests and the music of its birds and waterfalls and sighing madroƱos, does not see it, yet calls it his God, and believes it to be the Giver of all good, as we who have never seen our God feel that One who bestows blessings so bountiful must be beautiful beyond words.

Many walks, miles in extent, have my Quito and I taken. I say my Quito, for he is my son, my only son; and beneath the thick shade of laurels, beside the roadside troughs, we have rested and spoken, he to me of the unheard, I to him of the unseen.

Come back with me to the days of my youth, those merry days of California before the gold was about her dear form like prisoner's chains; before the greed of the States and England had forced us into the weary drudgery of the earth, and made us the slaves of misbegotten progress.

We had our church then and dear old Padre Andreas at San Anselmo, and, my dear friends from the States, we also had cockles from Tomales, which were eaten with relish on the beach at Sausalito, just where George the Greek's is now, though then there was only a little hut kept by a man whom we called Victor and we had feasts and fasts so well arranged, that dyspepsia was unknown.

One day when I had been on a long tramp through the woods, gathering mushrooms, I came home tired and hungry, and found our old housekeeper, Catalina, smiling complacently, as she sat on the stepping block by the kitchen door, rolling tamales for supper. "Oh! Master Carlos," she cried, "we have had much to worry us to day. Look at those poor, little ducks all dead and the mother hen also."

"Who killed them, Catalina?" I asked in astonishment, as I saw my pet brood of ducks and their over careful mother lying dead in the grass.

"I did," she replied, "and it was time that something was done. Madre Moreno has been busy again. The cows gave bloody milk last Friday, and to day, while I was sorting some herbs, the hen and her brood began to act mysteriously, to tumble about as Victor might, after too much wine. All at once I saw the cause, Madre Moreno had bewitched them, and in three minutes I had cut all their throats and have given the wicked woman a lesson."

"Catalina! Catalina!" I cried, "how can you be so cruel and superstitious?" Her face lighted up with supreme contempt for me, but she said nothing more. On the ground about her were bits of leaves which I recognized as nightshade and henbane, which could well account for the actions of the late hen and ducklings.

"What are these?" I asked.

"Little Pablo brought them for dinner; he thought they were mustard, but they were not, so I threw them away."

"Poor ducks and poor Catalina," was all that I could say, and went laughing into the house, while she muttered to herself about the ignorance of the new generation.

My home was, and is a beautiful one, low and long, with all the rooms opening on the broad veranda; it is part of adobe and part of wood, the sides being covered with a network of fuchsia, heliotrope and jasmine reaching to the eaves of the brown tile roof; a broad, branching fig tree is in the little court before it, and a clump of yuccas and fan palms to the right, while down to the road and along the front stretches a broken hedge of Castilian roses, which we Californians love as the gift of old Spain, our first good nurse, we must always have a nurse it seems, England, Spain, Mexico and our present, very dry one but let us be content, our majority will come... Continue reading book >>

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