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CHRISTMAS AT THE HACIENDA
 DAYS and weeks and months went by and still there was no news of the wanderers. Dona
Teresa worked hard at her washing and cooking, and with the goat's milk and the eggs
managed to get enough to feed the Twins and herself. But the time seemed long and lonely,
and she spent many hours before the image of the Virgin in the chapel, praying for
Pancho's safe return. She even paid the priest for special prayers, and out of her scanty
earnings bought candles to burn upon the altar. At last the Christmas season drew near.
The celebration of Christmas lasts for more than a whole week in Mexico. Every evening for
eight evenings before Christmas all the people in the village met
 together and marched in a procession all round the hacienda. This procession is called the
Everybody marched in it, and when on the first evening they came to the priest's house, he
came out and stood beside his door and gave to each person a lighted candle, which his fat
housekeeper handed out to him.
Then while all the people stood there with the candles shining like little stars, he told
them this story, to remind them of the meaning of the procession:—
"Listen, my children," he said. "Long years ago, just before our Saviour was born, Mary,
his mother, went with Joseph, her husband, from the little town of Nazareth, where they
lived, into Judea. They had to make this journey because a decree had been passed that
every one must be taxed.
"Joseph and the Blessed Mother of our Lord were always obedient to the law, so
 they went at once to Bethlehem in Judea, which was the place where their names had to be
enrolled. My children, you also should obey in all things, as they did. Discontent and
rebellion should have no place in your lives,—as it had no place in theirs.
"When Joseph and Mary reached Bethlehem they found the town so full of people, who had
come from far and near for this purpose, that there was no room for them in the inn. For
eight days they wandered about seeking a place to rest and finding none.
"At last, on the ninth day, they were so weary that they took shelter in a stable with the
cattle, and there on that night our Blessed Saviour was born. They were poorer than you,
my children, for they had no place to lay their heads, and the Queen of Heaven had only a
manger in which to cradle her newborn son. It is to commemorate their wanderings that you
make your Pasada."
When the priest had finished the story the people all marched away carrying their
 candles and singing. Each night they marched and sang in this way until at last it was
Dona Teresa and the twins went to bed early that night because there was to be high mass
in the little chapel at midnight. Dona Teresa slept with one eye open, fearing she might
be late, and a few minutes before twelve she was up again.
She washed the Twins' faces to wake them, and then they all three walked in the starlight
to the little chapel near the Big House. The altar was blazing with lights, and the floor
was covered with the dark figures of kneeling men and women, as the mother and children
went in out of the darkness and found a place for themselves in a corner near the door.
When the service was over, Dona Teresa hurried home to set the house in order and to
prepare the Christmas dinner for the Twins. She had made up her mind that the red rooster
must surely be caught and cooked, because she wanted to keep the
 turkey until Pancho should be at home to share in the feast.
She had planned it all carefully. "It will be quite easy to creep up under the fig tree
while the red rooster is asleep and seize him by the legs," she said to the Twins as they
walked home from the chapel. "Only you must be very quiet indeed or he will wake up and
crow. You know he is a light sleeper!"
They slipped through the gate and into the yard as quietly as they could. They reached the
fig tree without making a single sound and Dona Teresa peered cautiously into the dark
She saw a large shadow at the end of the limb where the red rooster always slept and,
stretching her hand very stealthily up through the branches, she suddenly grabbed him by
the legs—or she thought she did.
But the owner of the legs gobbled loud enough to wake every one in the village, if they
hadn't been awake already!
"It's the turkey, after all," gasped Dona Teresa. Just then there was a loud crow
 from the roof, and they saw the silhouette of the red rooster making all haste to reach
the ridge-pole and fly down on the other side.
Dona Teresa was in despair, but she held on to the turkey. "That rooster is bewitched,"
Just then the turkey stopped gobbling long enough to peck vigorously at Tonio, who came to
help his mother, and Dona Teresa said, "Well, then, we'll eat the turkey, anyway, though I
had hoped to wait until your father gets home. But we must have something for our
Christmas dinner, and there's no telling when we shall see the red rooster again."
"I shouldn't want to eat the red rooster, anyway," said Tita. "He seems just like a member
of the family."
And so the Christmas dinner was settled that way.
The turkey wasn't the only thing they had. There was rice soup first, then turkey, and
they had frijoles, and tortillas, of course, and bananas beside, and all the sweet
 cooked in syrup that they could possibly hold. It took Dona Teresa so long to cook it all
on her little brasero that she didn't go back to bed at all, though the Twins had another
nap before morning.
They had their dinner early, and when they had finished eating, Tita said, "We must give a
Christmas dinner to the animals too."
So Tonio brought alfalfa in from the field on purpose for Tonto, and the red rooster
appeared in time to share with the hens twice as much corn as was usually given them. The
cat had a saucer of goat's milk, and Tonio even found some bones for Jasmin, so every
single one of them had a happy Christmas Day.
At dusk when candles began to glimmer about the village and all the people were getting
ready for the Christmas Pasada, Dona Teresa said to the Twins, "You take your candles and
run along with Pablo. I am going to the chapel." And while all the other people marched
round among the cabins, singing, she stayed on her knees before
 the image of the Virgin, praying once more for Pancho's safe return.
When they reached the priest's house, the priest himself joined the procession and marched
at the head of it, bearing in his hands large wax images of the Holy Family. Behind him
came Lupito, the young vaquero who had taken Pancho's place on the hacienda, with his new
wife, and following them, if you had been there, you might have seen Pedro's wife and
baby, and Rafael and Josť and Dona Josefa, and Pablo and the Twins with Juan and Ignacio
and a crowd of other children and grown people whose names I cannot tell you because I do
not know them all.
As they passed the chapel, Dona Teresa came out and slipped into line behind the Twins. If
she had been looking in the right direction just at that minute she might have seen two
dark figures come out from behind some bushes near the priest's house, and though they had
no candles, fall in at the end of the procession and march with them
 to the entrance of the Big House. But she kept her eyes on her candle, which she was
afraid might be blown out by the wind.
When they reached the doorway every one stopped while Lupito and his new wife sang a song
saying that the night was cold and dark and the wind was blowing, and asking for shelter,
just as if they were
 Joseph and Mary, and the Big House were the inn in Bethlehem.
Then a voice came from the inside of the Big House as if it were the innkeeper himself
answering Joseph and Mary. It was really the mozo's voice, and it said, No, they could not
come in, that there was no more room in the inn.
Then Lupito and his wife sang again and told the innkeeper that she who begged admittance
and had not where to lay her head, was indeed the Queen of Heaven.
At this name the door was flung wide open, and the priest, bearing the images of the
Virgin and Child and Joseph, entered with Lupito and all the others singing behind him.
The priest led the procession through the entrance arch to the patio, and there he placed
the images in a shrine, all banked with palms and flowering plants, which had been placed
in the patio on purpose to receive them.
Then he lifted his hand and prayed, and
 blessed the people, and the whole procession passed in front of the images, each one
kneeling before them long enough to leave his lighted candle stuck in a little frame-work
before the shrine. Senor Fernandez and his wife Carmen watched the scene from one end of
Dona Teresa and the Twins were among
 the first ones to leave their candles, and afterward they stood under the gallery which
ran around the patio, to watch the rest of the procession.
Everything was quiet until this was done, because this part of Christmas was just like a
church service. One by one the people knelt before the images, crossed themselves, and
joined the group under the gallery. Last of all came the two dark figures without any
Up to that moment they had lingered behind the others in the background, and had kept as
much as possible in the shadow, but now they stood right in front of the Holy Family with
all the candles shining directly into their brown faces—and who should they be but
Pancho and Pedro come back from the war?
The moment she saw Pancho, Dona Teresa gave a loud scream of joy, and then she rushed
right by every one—almost
 stepping on the toes of the priest himself—and threw her arms around' his neck,
while the Twins, who got there almost as soon as she did, clasped an arm or a leg, or
whatever part of their father they could get hold of.
At the same time Pedro's wife, with her baby on her arm and Pablo beside her, made a dash
for Pedro, but Pablo got there first because, you remember, his mother was fat. And Pedro
was so glad to see them he tried to hug her and the baby both at once, while Pablo hung
round his neck, only as he was a small man he couldn't begin to reach round, and had to
take them one at a time after all.
Everybody was so glad to see Pancho and Pedro, and so glad for the happiness that had come
to their wives and children on Christmas Day that everybody shook hands with everybody
else, and talked and asked questions without waiting for anybody to answer them, until it
sounded almost like the animals on San Ramon's Day.
After Pancho and Pedro had greeted
 their families, and had said how Pablo and the Twins had grown, and Pedro's wife had told
him that the baby had six teeth, and the baby had bitten Pedro's finger to prove it, he
and Pancho broke away from them and went to pay respects to Senor Fernandez and the
priest, who were standing together, talking in low tones and watching the crowd round the
 Pancho and Pedro had reason to dread what Senor Fernandez and the priest might say to
them. They thought the priest might say, "Is this obedience, my sons?" and they thought
very possibly Senor Fernandez might say something like this: "Well, my men, do you think
you can play fast and loose with your job like that? You'll have to learn a hacienda can't
be run that way. There's plenty of other help, so you may see if you can find work
But as they came before Senor Fernandez and bowed humbly with their sombreros in their
hands, the priest glanced at their ragged clothes and their thin faces and said something
in a low tone to Senor Fernandez, and although Pancho and Pedro listened they couldn't
hear a word of it except "Christmas Day."
Senor Fernandez gazed at them rather sternly for a moment without speaking and then he
said: "Well, Pancho and Pedro, I suppose you've been out seeing the world, and would like
to have your old jobs back
 again, eh? You don't deserve it, you rascals, but I think I can use the men who have taken
your places elsewhere on the hacienda, so if you like you can take your boat again the
first of the year, Pedro; and Pancho, you can begin your rounds next week. Now, go and
enjoy yourselves with your families!"
And if you'll believe me, he never even asked them where they had been! Pancho and Pedro
went back to their wives, who were watching the interview anxiously from the other side of
the patio, and the wives knew the moment they saw the men's faces that everything was all
right and they could be happy once more.
The rest of the people had already gone into the dining-room of the Big House and were
eagerly watching a great earthenware boat that hung from the middle of the ceiling. They
knew that the boat was full of good things to eat. Beside the boat stood pretty Carmen
with a long stick in one hand and a white cloth in the other.
 As Pancho and Pedro with their wives and Pedro's baby came into the room, she was saying:
"Now, I'll blindfold each of you, one at a time, and you must whack the pinata real hard
or nothing at all will happen! I'll begin!"
 She tied the cloth about her own eyes, turned round three times, and then struck out with
the stick. But she didn't come anywhere near the pinata. Instead she nearly cracked Josť's
Everybody laughed, and then it was Lupito's turn. Lupito was a great man at roping bulls,
or breaking wild horses, but he couldn't hit the boat with his eyes covered any better
than Carmen had.
Then Josť tried. He struck the pinata—but it was only a love-pat. The boat swung
back and forth a little, but not a thing dropped overboard.
At last Carmen cried out, "Come, Tonio, see if you have not a better aim than the rest of
Tonio stepped boldly into the middle of the room and Carmen bandaged his eyes, turned him
round and gave him the stick. Tonio knew what was in that boat, and he was bound to get it
out if he could, so he struck out with a kind of sideways sweep and struck the ship whack
on the prow!
 It was made of earthenware on purpose so it would break easily, and the moment Tonio
struck it there was a crashing sound, and then a perfect rain of cakes and candies, and
bananas, and oranges, and peanuts, and other goodies which fell all over the floor, and it
wasn't two minutes before every one in the room had his mouth full and both hands sticky.
Dona Teresa and Pancho watched the fun for a while, and then Dona Teresa whispered to
Pancho: "My angel, when did you eat last? You look hungry."
Pancho at that very moment had his mouth full of banana, but he managed to say: "Last
night I had some tortillas. I have had nothing since until now."
"Bless my soul!" cried Dona Teresa. "Come home with me at once. Thanks be to the Holy
Virgin, you'll share the turkey with us after all! I had to cook him because we couldn't
catch the rooster! Tell the Twins and come right along."
 So while the guitars were tinkling and the rest of the people were still singing and
dancing and having the merriest kind of a merry Christmas, Pancho and his family said
good-night politely to Senor Fernandez and his wife and slipped quietly away to the little
adobe hut under the fig tree.
When they were inside their little home once more, Dona Teresa made a fire in the
 brasero and heated some of the turkey for Pancho, and while he ate, Tonio and Tita stood
on each side of their one chair, in which he sat, and listened with their eyes and mouths
both while their father told about his adventures as a Soldier of the Revolution. And then
they told him all about the night they were lost, and the secret meeting, and he was so
astonished that he could hardly believe they had not dreamed it until Tita told him just
what the Tall Man had said, and what Pedro had said, and about the pebble that rolled
Then he said, "Have you told any one about this?"
And Dona Teresa answered proudly, "Not a soul. Not even the priest."
"You've done well, then," Pancho said. "The Tall Man punishes those who spoil his plans by
talking of them. He has raised an army of two thousand men in such ways. We enlisted for
only four months, and in that time we turned the region to the south of us altogether into
the hands of the
Revo-  lutionists. I intended to return home at the end of the four months, but finally stayed a
month more to finish the campaign."
"I knew you would come some time, my angel," cried Dona Teresa. "I have prayed every day
before the Virgin for your safe return."
"As God wills it," Pancho answered soberly. "I meant at any rate to strike my blow for
freedom, and to try to make things better for us all."
"Well, have you?" asked Dona Teresa.
Pancho scratched his head with the old puzzled expression on his face. "I don't know," he
said at last. "Things are not right as they are,—I know that,—and they never
will be right if no one ever complains or protests or makes any fuss about it. And I know,
too, that these uprisings never will stop until Mexico is better governed, and poor people
have the chance they long for and do not know how to get for themselves. It is something
just to keep things stirred up. Perhaps some time Tonio here can
 think out what ought to be done. He may even be a great general some day."
"Heaven forbid!" cried Dona Teresa. She almost upset Pancho's dish, she was so emphatic.
"There has been enough of going to war in this family!"
"Well," said Pancho, "war isn't very pleasant. I've seen enough of it to know that: but
peace isn't very pleasant either, when your life is without hope and you must live like
the animals—if you live at all."
"Now that I have you at home again, I, for one, am quite content," said Dona Teresa; and
then she went to unroll the mats and put the children to bed.
They were so tired that they went to sleep in their corner in no time at all, and when she
had snuffed the candles before the Virgin, Dona Teresa came back to Pancho and sat with
him beside the embers still glowing in the brasero.
She told him everything that had happened on the hacienda while he was away,
 and Pancho told her all the strange sights he had seen, and the new things he had learned,
and at last he said:
"Anyway, I've made up my mind that Tonio shall have more learning than he can get on this
hacienda, though I don't know yet how it can be brought about. Somehow children must know
more than their parents if things are ever to be better for the poor people of Mexico."
And Dona Teresa answered, "Well, anyway, we have each other and the Twins, so let's take
comfort in that, right now, even if there are many things in the world that can't be set
right yet awhile."
Just then the first streak of dawn showed red over the eastern hills. Out in the fig tree
the red rooster shook himself and crowed, and to Pancho, as he stretched himself on his
own hard bed in his own poor little home once more, it sounded exactly as if he said,
We're glad to see you-oo-oo."