The Famous Missions of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 49 pages of information about The Famous Missions of California.

They were not an attractive people, these “gentiles” of a country which to the newcomers must itself have seemed an outer garden of Paradise; and Junipero’s first attempts to gain their good will met with very slight encouragement.  During the ceremonies attendant upon the foundation and dedication of the mission, they had stood round in silent wonder, and now they showed themselves responsive to the strangers’ advances to the extent of receiving whatever presents were offered, provided the gift was not in the form of anything to eat.  The Spaniards’ food they would not even touch, apparently regarding it as the cause of the dire sickness of the troops.  And this, in the long run, remarks Palou, was without doubt “singularly providential,” owing to the rapid depletion of the stores.  Ignorance of the Indians’ language, of course, added seriously to the father’s difficulties in approaching them, and presently their thefts of cloth, for the possession of which they developed a perfect passion, and other depredations, rendered them exceedingly troublesome.  Acts of violence became more and more common, and by-and-bye, a determined and organized attack upon the mission, in which the assailants many times outnumbered their opponents, led to a pitched battle, and the death of one of the Spanish servants.  This was the crisis; for, happily, like a thunderstorm, the disturbance, which seemed so threatening of future ill, cleared the air, at any rate for a time; and the kindness with which the Spaniards treated their wounded foes evidently touched the savage heart.  Little by little a few Indians here and there began to frequent the mission; and with the hearty welcome accorded them their numbers soon increased.  Among them there happened to be a boy, of some fifteen years of age, who showed himself more tractable than his fellows, and whom Father Junipero determined to use as an instrument for his purpose.  When the lad had picked up a smattering of Spanish, the padre sent him to his people with the promise that if he were allowed to bring back one of the children, the youngster should not only by baptism be made a Christian, but should also (and here the good father descended to a bribe) be tricked out like the Spaniards themselves, in handsome clothes.  A few days later, a “gentile,” followed by a large crowd, appeared with a child in his arms, and the padre, filled with unutterable joy, at once threw a piece of cloth over it, and called upon one of the soldiers to stand godfather to this first infant of Christ.  But, alas! just as he was preparing to sprinkle the holy water, the natives snatched the child from him, and made off with it (and the cloth) to their own ranchería.  The soldiers who stood round as witnesses were furious at this insult, and, left to themselves, would have inflicted summary punishment upon the offenders.  But the good father pacified them, attributing his failure — of which he was wont to speak tearfully to the end of his life — to his own sins and unworthiness.  However, this first experience in convert-making was fortunately not prophetic, for though it is true that many months elapsed before a single neophyte was gained for the mission, and though more serious troubles were still to come, in the course of the next few years a number of the aborigines, both children and adults, were baptized.

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The Famous Missions of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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