THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY AND THE TWENTIETH
It was the second day after Pesquiera’s challenge that his rival was called to Santa Fe, the capital of the State, to hold a conference with his lawyers about the progress of the suit of ouster against those living on the Moreno grant. Gordon knew how acute was the feeling of the residents of the valley against him. The Corbetts, whose homestead was not included in either the original Valdes or Moreno grant, reported daily to him whatever came to their ears. He could see that the impression was strong among the Mexicans that their champion, Dona Maria as they called her, would be worsted in the courts if the issue ever came to final trial.
To live under the constant menace of an attack from ambush is a strain upon the best of nerves. Dick and his friend Davis rode out of the valley to meet the Santa Fe stage with a very sensible relief. For a few days, anyhow, they would be back where they could see the old Stars and Stripes flutter, where feudal retainers and sprouts of Spanish aristocracy were not lying in wait with fiery zeal to destroy the American interloper.
They reached the little city late, but soon after sunup Gordon rose, took a bath, dressed, and strolled out into the quaint old town which lays claim to being the earliest permanent European settlement in the country. It was his first visit to the place, and as he poked his nose into out of the way corners Dick found every step of his walk interesting.
Through narrow, twisted streets he sauntered, along unpaved roads bounded by century-old adobe houses. His walk took him past the San Miguel Church, said to be the oldest in America. A chubby-faced little priest was watering some geraniums outside, and he showed Dick through the mission, opening the door of the church with one of a bunch of large keys which hung suspended from his girdle. The little man went through the usual patter of the guide with the facility of long practice.
The church was built, he said, in 1540, though Bandelier inaccurately sets the date much later. The roof was destroyed by the Pueblo Indians in 1680 during an attack upon the settlement, at which time the inhabitants took refuge within the mission walls. These are from three to five feet thick. The arrows of the natives poured through the windows. The senor could still see the holes in the pictures, could he not? Penuelo restored the church in 1710, as could be read by the inscription carved upon the gallery beam. It would no doubt interest the senor to know that one of the paintings was by Cimabue, done in 1287, and that the seven hundred pound bell was cast in Spain during the year 1356 and had been dragged a thousand miles across the deserts of the new world by the devoted pioneer priests who carried the Cross to the simple natives of that region.