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Overland   By: (1826-1906)

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A Novel



Author of "Kate Beaumont," "Miss Ravenel's Conversion," &c.



In those days, Santa Fé, New Mexico, was an undergrown, decrepit, out at elbows ancient hidalgo of a town, with not a scintillation of prosperity or grandeur about it, except the name of capital.

It was two hundred and seventy years old; and it had less than five thousand inhabitants. It was the metropolis of a vast extent of country, not destitute of natural wealth; and it consisted of a few narrow, irregular streets, lined by one story houses built of sun baked bricks. Owing to the fine climate, it was difficult to die there; but owing to many things not fine, it was almost equally difficult to live.

Even the fact that Santa Fé had been for a period under the fostering wings of the American eagle did not make it grow much. Westward ho emigrants halted there to refit and buy cattle and provisions; but always started resolutely on again, westward hoing across the continent. Nobody seemed to want to stay in Santa Fé, except the aforesaid less than five thousand inhabitants, who were able to endure the place because they had never seen any other, and who had become a part of its gray, dirty, lazy lifelessness and despondency.

For a wonder, this old atom of a metropolis had lately had an increase of population, which was nearly as great a wonder as Sarah having a son when she was "well stricken in years." A couple of new comers not a man nor woman less than a couple now stood on the flat roof of one of the largest of the sun baked brick houses. By great good luck, moreover, these two were, I humbly trust, worthy of attention. The one was interesting because she was the handsomest girl in Santa Fé, and would have been considered a handsome girl anywhere; the other was interesting because she was a remarkable woman, and even, as Mr. Jefferson Brick might have phrased it, "one of the most remarkable women in our country, sir." At least so she judged, and judged it too with very considerable confidence, being one of those persons who say, "If I know myself, and I think I do."

The beauty was of a mixed type. She combined the blonde and the brunette fashions of loveliness. You might guess at the first glance that she had in her the blood of both the Teutonic and the Latin races. While her skin was clear and rosy, and her curling hair was of a light and bright chestnut, her long, shadowy eyelashes were almost black, and her eyes were of a deep hazel, nearly allied to blackness. Her form had the height of the usual American girl, and the round plumpness of the usual Spanish girl. Even in her bearing and expression you could discover more or less of this union of different races. There was shyness and frankness; there was mistrust and confidence; there was sentimentality and gayety. In short, Clara Muñoz Garcia Van Diemen was a handsome and interesting young lady.

Now for the remarkable woman. Sturdy and prominent old character, obviously. Forty seven years old, or thereabouts; lots of curling iron gray hair twisted about her round forehead; a few wrinkles, and not all of the newest. Round face, round and earnest eyes, short, self confident nose, chin sticking out in search of its own way, mouth trembling with unuttered ideas. Good figure what Lord Dundreary would call "dem robust," but not so sumptuous as to be merely ornamental; tolerably convenient figure to get about in. Walks up and down, man fashion, with her hands behind her back also man fashion. Such is Mrs. Maria Stanley, the sister of Clara Van Diemen's father, and best known to Clara as Aunt Maria.

"And so this is Santa Fé?" said Aunt Maria, rolling her spectacles over the little wilted city. "Founded in 1581; two hundred and seventy years old. Well, if this is all that man can do in that time, he had better leave colonization to woman."

Clara smiled with an innocent air of half wonder and half amusement, such as you may see on the face of a child when it is shown some new and rather awe striking marvel of the universe, whether a jack in a box or a comet... Continue reading book >>

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