CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN Continued.
Butterfly and Carla decided they needed certain items for the long journey ahead. Both possessed a small hoard of copper coins as well as a couple of minor things to trade; Butterfly’s were four small stones of blue with silver and gold lines woven within them, Carla had a couple of handwoven blankets. They knew turquoise was sought after for adornments set in worked silver. The market stood between the presidio and the waterfront. A small crowd wandered through several lines of stalls selling a variety of wares.
“These fruits and vegetables are not fresh.” Carla wrinkled her nose, another quirk she had learned from Timothy.
“Some of this pottery is well-crafted with bright colors,” Butterfly said. Both knew they were too fragile to take along.
A number of stalls had woven goods, mostly wool as cotton had not adapted well to the local soil. Several stalls selling baskets and other containers made of woven willow or reed caught their attention. Two small coppers earned each a basket to perch atop their heads. They also bought two multi-colored shawls to replace their plain ones.
However, the main purpose of their shopping came into their view in a stall selling leather goods. Boots. For riding and for walking.
Carla examined them. While Timothy’s feet had toughened aboard ship and the walking on land he had since done, he still needed protection for the rocky trails ahead. And from the spines of cactus plants. There had been few cacti around La Paz. “The prickly pear, yucca and cholla will grow thicker as we go north. He is going to need protection.”
Butterfly nodded her agreement.
Carla selected two pairs of boots to be secured around his calves to protect them from cactus needles.
Butterfly bought a heavy pair of leather sandals for Jaime.
They also bought sandals for themselves. Three of Butterfly’s turquoise stones sealed the deal.
They left the market to return to the mission.
“Stop where you are. You will come with me.” The brusque order came from the shifty individual who had shadowed them. Four soldiers stood behind him, muskets ready. They were from neither the presidio nor part of the governor’s guard.
Neither woman argued. Nor were they about to go with him. Both had hunting knives hidden beneath their robes. Yet, they knew it would be difficult, if not impossible to get free of their situation.
A commotion caused them to spin. A man on horseback raced up the road towards them. A scarf covered the lower half of his face. Butterfly and Carla leaped out of his way and turned to watch as he tried to run over the functionary.
Ratface just managed to mover a little bit, the horse’s shoulder passing within inches of him.
The soldiers broke ranks, two of them dropping their muskets.
The two broke into an awkward run due to the baskets balanced atop their heads. They could run faster unburdened but were not going to leave their purchases.
They reached a corner and turned in the direction of the mission, slowed by a crowd of women and children. As Butterfly and Carla neared, the crowd parted to let them through, closing ranks behind them. At the next corner, a woman pointed left down another street, this filled with ropes hung with washing to dry in the sun.
Ratface and soldiers struggled through the crowd, falling behind.
Carla and Butterfly turned toward the mission, moving at as fast a pace as possible. But, they were not yet safe. In addition to the usual mission sentries, four soldiers in the same uniform stood outside the gates. As they watched from a side street, Ratface ran up, panting from the exertion, and said something to the soldiers.
“Come! This way.” A woman urged them to follow her into a house where they were given new clothes. They covered their mouths and lower faces with the scarves they had just purchased. “We have all heard how Señor Ocio has vowed to take the White Pirate into his custody. He even vows a trial and a public hanging.”
A group of twenty women walked up the street towards the mission, chatting like a flock of crows. Their benefactor shoved Carla and Butterfly into the crowd, joining in herself. Ratface and the soldiers were at a loss. They were outnumbered. And by an adversary they could not defy. The women strode through the gates into the compound, all sighing as the mission sentries closed and barred it behind them.
The women from the pueblo left by the other gate, allowing Butterfly and Carla to reach their temporary quarters. The two lowered their burdens and turned to face one another. They did something alien to their nature, embracing with tears of relief on their cheeks.
Timothy and Jaime returned from the carpenter shop to find the women going about things as if nothing had happened.
“Do either of you know what the big commotion was about?” Neither answered so Timothy walked over to get some water from the big clay pitcher. He noticed the new boots by the bed. “Where did those come from?”
“I bought them for you in the market, my man. You will need them for the long journey ahead. The land will be full is many prickly things and sharp stones.”
“You went into town to the market?”
Carla nodded and responded, “It was nothing. Butterfly and I decided there were things we needed before departing.”
Jaime and Butterfly entered. Jaime had Butterfly tell Timothy what she had told him of their trip and escape back into the mission compound.
“This will stop right now. I will not allow you to be in danger because of me.” Timothy turned and started to walk to the door. “I will give myself up to that flabby-faced son of a pig.”
He did not get far as a strong woman’s arms wrapped around his waist. Carla’s strength surprised him.
A shadow appeared in the door. “You are under my protection and that of the Holy Church of Rome. You and your companions will not be taken by anybody without my word.”
The four stared at Father President Serra. Padres Gregorio and Martin stood behind him, four armed soldiers behind them. “I ask you to stay here in the mission until we depart. If you need something from the market, please let one of the brothers know and they will gather it for you.”
“T-thank you, sir. I just cannot let these who mean much to me be in danger on my behalf.”
Serra laid a hand on Timothy's shoulder. “That is first-rate of you, Señor Oceloto Blanco. But, this is no longer a simple matter. It has become a challenge to the right of the church and the authority given me by the archbishop and viceroy.” With that, Serra turned and left, charging the two friars to be more vigilant.
Padre Gregorio in turn dismissed the soldiers. “You will be safe here in the mission.” He then grinned. “You, Mister White Ocelot.”
All grinned at Jaime’s name for Timothy confirmed by Father President Serra.
The next two days passed. While the working day of mission members was six hours with Sunday off for prayer, everybody volunteered more time to prepare for the long trip. Mules and horses were gathered from surrounding ranches and the hills to the west and north. A small herd of cattle was assembled, along with pigs to be brought in a special wagon and woven cages to hold chickens. The caged animals would need food, so that meant another wagon.
Some of Father President Serra’s journals and writing things were packed on the back of a donkey Ernesto was to lead. Once more, it was clear the friar chose to walk instead of ride. His two pack mules went into the train as they carried holy items for future missions.
Timothy learned from Padre Martin that those holy items included some gathered from the closed missions. “Padre Palóu was, as usual, meticulous in gathering and cataloging them. He was even able to write down the origin on them in Mexico and Spain.” Timothy then learned all of the beautifully sewn items had been gifts from ladies of the Spanish court specifically for the missionaries to use in the New World.
As they sat in the mission plaza in the evening cool, an unusual figure came through the gate and walked toward them.
“May I have a few moments of your time, Timothy?”
Timothy rose and took Harris’ proffered hand.
Harris noted his puzzled look and smiled. “I just have a few words of caution I wish to impart to you.”
Carla pushed Timothy to go with Harris to a table not too far away. Once they were seated, she hurried up with two steaming cups of chocolate.
Harris thanked her.
“So, what wise words do you have for me?” Even though Harris was several years his elder, Timothy had come to think of himself as a man - and the equal of anybody in this new world.
“My good friend, Don Fernando, is a complicated man. As you will be dealing with him at some length, I thought it advisable to tell you a little about him.” When Timothy nodded, Harris went on to explain, “He held a position of great authority for many years here in California under the Jesuits and the previous viceroy. While he does not outwardly show it, being passed over by Don Gaspar to be lieutenant governor upset him greatly.” Harris further explained, “But, he somewhat expected it. He is, after all, a Criollo and, as such does not have the same high ranking as other members of the Spanish ruling faction.”
Timothy nodded. “In many ways, the Spanish do not seem that different from my English countrymen. It is not so much a matter of one’s merit but birthright.” He then added, “So that will be a factor in Don Fernando’s actions?”
“Not at all, young friend! He is dedicated to expanding the role of Spain here in the Californias. He will do everything in his power to assist Don Gaspar and Father President Serra.”
They paused when Carla returned to refill their cups.
“Muchas gracias, Señora,” Harris said before continuing. “I also wish to explain his attitudes and values. You have taken an Indian woman to be your companion and have made close friends with the carpenter and his woman.” When Timothy nodded, he went on. “That is something Don Fernando would never do.” He stressed the word “never.”
“Why is that?”
“Because to him and the other Spanish-born, they are but children and do not have the capacity to be their equals.”
“In spite of the skills they show? Such as my friend’s exceptional ability at carving life-like figures?”
“They are manual and not intellectual skills, Timothy. As you may have seen, they recite the Apostle’s Creed, The Ten Commandments and various prayers. But, do they understand them? The intricate concepts behind them that make up Cannon Law and Catholic beliefs?”
“So, what are you telling me, Don Antonio?”
“I am trying to tell you that people like my friend Fernando and Don Gaspar will often be at odds with the friars when it comes to the treatment of the Gentiles, as they call unbaptized Indians. And there are great differences even among the Spanish as to their standings within the Spanish community.”
Timothy sighed. “I am not unaccustomed to such differences, Don José. Our own people see such distinctions between peoples of our own lands.”
Harris nodded. “My father told me of such differences between the English, Scots, Welsh and Irish. It seems to run through European society.”
The two men spoke for a little longer, breaking up when the bell rang to tell all in the mission it was time to seek their beds.