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A Napa Christchild; and Benicia's Letters

The Christchild still lived with him


With

the help of some of the rancheros the bodies were carried to the house.

"They may be the parents of the little one," said Jovita's mother. "We will bring him here and see if he recognizes them; it seems cruel but it is the only way."

They brought the Christchild to the room where the bodies lay. When the little fellow saw them, he clung to Crescimir and uttering a moaning sound, yet seeming half like a laugh, he hid his eyes and would not look again.

"Are these thy parents little one?" asked Crescimir tenderly; the Christchild shook his head negatively and broke into hysterical sobs.

Though the Christchild had denied that these were the bodies of his parents, both Jovita, her mother and Crescimir felt certain that they were.

Crescimir remained that night at the Tulucay hacienda and early next morning the bodies were taken to the village and given burial in consecrated ground, as the cross which the woman wore and a medal of silver which the man carried showed them to be of the true church.

After the burial Crescimir returned to the rancheria. "I will be thy father now, little Christchild," said he as they stood at the well with Jovita, who had been filling the little olla for her mother's night drink.

The child looked up with a pleased

smile and then turning to Jovita, asked with his bright eyes a question which words could not better have expressed.

Jovita replied softly as she looked down at the strange, wistful face, and felt the touch of Crescimir's hand on her own, "And I thy mother."

[Illustration: Scroll]

[Illustration: Scroll]

IV.

By the beginning of summer Crescimir's place had all been restored and the house rebuilt on the summit of the knoll, far away from any danger of another flood.

It was a pretty cottage now, in the new, American style with a trellis-porch over which passion vines spread in the profusion of first growth. The flower garden and the long lines and square beds of the vegetable garden looked fresh and bright down by the arroyo.

The house had been completed by the middle of January and Crescimir by careful and steady work had brought back his fields to their former state. The Christchild still lived with him, always as merry as the day was long. He was, as on the night of his arrival, still dressed in his little, white frock or shirt of strange texture, and he would wear nothing else, not even shoes.

Jovita's mother had, however, once made for him a suit, but when she tried to have him put it on, he objected so strenuously that the project had to be abandoned, for not even Crescimir's will, which usually was all that was needed on such occasions, had not in this case any power at all; so he ran quite wild about the gardens, the same pretty, little elf as ever.


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