A Miracle by Mollie Evelyn Moore Davis
IT was the Fourteenth of July. Dolly Lammitt came out on the gallery
and looked at the bit of tricolor which floated from a tall staff on
the lawn. The glories wreathed about the pillars, and, running along
under the wide eaves, made a sort of frame for her slender young figure
in its white gown.
Such glories! You would never dream of insulting them by placing
before them such limiting adjectives as “morning” and “evening.” For
they bloom—the glories at San Antonio—all day and all night; great
blue disks that sway in the wind and laugh in the sun's face, and call
the honey-bees to their hearts with an almost audible murmur.
The green lawn sloped imperceptibly from the one-storied yellow
adobe house to the river—the opalescent river San Antonio—which
here made one of its unexpected curves, and then rippled away in the
direction of the old Mission of San Jose, half a mile below.
The yuccas which hedged the lawn were in bloom, their tall
white-belled spikes glistening in the sunlight; a double thread of
scarlet poppies marked the path to the river; the jalousied porch which
jutted from one end of the house was covered by a cataract of
yellowish-pink roses, whose elusive “tea” scent filled the morning air.
But Dolly's eyes came back from all this blossoming to dwell once
more on the glories. She loved them; she was even proud of them, as,
indeed, she had a right to be. Did not her own grandfather—or was it
her grandmother—But wait a bit; the story is worth telling.
It was away back in the early fifties. The Eclipse swung her
way clear of the overhanging mustang grape-vines on Buffalo Bayou, and
shoved her nose against the muddy landing at the foot of Main Street.
The little town of Houston lay as if asleep in the gray fog of early
morning. But at the shrill, prolonged sound of the Eclipse's
whistle everybody, it would seem, came hurrying down the black,
slippery bluff to watch the landing of Count Considérant and his
The chattering sallow-faced strangers thronged the guards and the
upper deck, gazing down with curious eyes until the gang-plank—amid
the lusty whoops of the negro deck-hands—was pushed out; then they
The crowd on the bluff and along the single straggling street had
increased, and there was a faint, questioning cheer when the French
émigrés came marching up the slope, keeping step, two and two, men
At the head of the column walked Monsieur le Comte himself—a
commanding figure in his velvet coat and cocked hat, with his long hair
floating over his shoulders. He carried a naked sword in his hand. The
tricolor of France, borne by one of his lieutenants, waved above his
head, mingling its folds with the stars and stripes. Madame la Comtesse
stepped daintily along beside him. As he set foot on the soil of Texas
he lifted his sword, and the self-exiled band burst with one voice into
the “Marseillaise.” The echoes of the unknown tongue arose, piercing,
powerful, resonant, on the strange air, and sped away to die in the
silences of the wide prairies.
“Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité!” said Monsieur le Comte,
bowing right and left to the curious, silent, unresponsive American
citizens and citizenesses.
Near the tail end of the procession walked, arm in arm, Achille
Lemaître and Étienne Santerre. They fell a little silent when the song
ceased. It was very deep, that sticky black mud, and their faces
expressed a profound if momentary disgust for the free and untrammelled
soil of the New Paradise. Both were young—mere lads, in fact. But
both “came from somebody.” Achille's grandmother, old Margot Lemaître,
had spat in the Queen Marie Antoinette's face as she ascended the
guillotine with her hands tied behind her; and Étienne was the grandson
of the famous “tall, sonorous Brewer of the Faubourg St.-Antoine”—the
formidable Santerre of the French Revolution.
“One has the head quite dizzy after all those days on shipboard,”
remarked Achille presently. “But behold us at last in the Promised
Land!” He repeated between his teeth a snatch of the “Marseillaise.”
“How that was glorious,” he exclaimed—“that time of our grandfathers,
when the blood spouted from the mouth of Mother Guillotine!”
Étienne shivered a little, and Achille laughed. “You were ever a
chicken-heart, Étienne,” he said, with good-natured contempt, “and
afraid of the very smell of blood. For myself—”
Étienne was not listening. They had come up the bluff, and halted on
its brow while Monsieur le Comte made his little speech to the
Maire. There was a brown, weather-beaten cottage on their right;
the magnolias shading it were full of blooms—white, mysterious cups,
like those whose petals had dropped all night long on the deck of the
Eclipse, where the lads lay a-sleeping. A girl leaned over the low
gate, staring with blue, wide-open eyes at the émigrés. Étienne
gazed at her like one in a dream; when they moved on he blushed and
sighed, pressing the arm of his companion.
And when, a week later, the Fourierists started on their long,
crawling journey to found their phalanstère at Réunion, Jenny
Lusk, the blue-eyed girl, who had in the meantime become Citoyenne
Santerre, accompanied her husband.
Monsieur le Comte, ever restless, ever dreaming lofty Utopian dreams
which never came true, left the phalanstère at Réunion before it
was fairly established. Achille Lemaître, taking a dramatic leave of
Citizen Santerre and his wife, followed the Fondateur to San
He was very lonesome—Achille—the morning after his arrival in
the old Mexic-American town. He wandered about the quaint,
river-thridded streets, with the sound of strange speech in his ears,
ready to cry, between wishing himself back at Réunion with Étienne and
thinking of his old mother in France.
Suddenly, at a turn of the street—it was that Flores Street where
the acequia rushes limpid and musical by the low adobe houses,
and lithe, beautiful women swing in their hammocks on latticed
balconies—he met Dolores Concha and her weazened, leather-colored old
“But you are much too young,” said Monsieur le Comte, frowning,
when, cap in hand, and blushing all over his round young face, Achille
presented himself, a few weeks later, to ask the Fondateur's
permission to marry. “You are nothing but a boy.”
“Pardon, M'sieu le Comte,” stammered Achille, “I am nearly twenty. I
am the youngest of the six sons of my father. The others all married
before they were nineteen; and my father himself, Jean Lemaîitre—”
“Never mind Jean Lemaître.” The Count cut him short, and he promised
the necessary papers. “Since the Señorita is an orphan, and has a
dot,” he added. “But I am sorry you do not marry an American. A
“Ah! but when you see Dolores, M'sieu le Comte!” cried Achille.
And M'sieu le Comte, when he saw Dolores, admitted that it truly
made a difference.
It was to the yellow adobe house—bought with her dot—
whose yucca-hedged garden sloped down to the river's edge, that Achille
took his wife the day after their marriage—at which Monsieur le Comte
“assisted” in the old Cathedral on the Plaza.
A propriétaire in his own right! A land-owner! Monsieur
Achille Lemaitre's socialistic theories vanished into the soft air
perfumed by his own roses. He continued to sing the “Marseillaise,” and
to talk fiercely about the charms of La Mère Guillotine; and he
planted a flag-staff on his lawn, whence floated on each successive
anniversary of the taking of the Bastille ce brave étendard, the
tricolor of the republic. But he no longer dreamed of sharing his
worldly possessions with a Fourierist phalanstère. No more,
however, did Monsieur le Comte in his fine mansion Just across the
One morning, some months after Achille became husband and
propriétaire in one day, he came into the room where his young wife
was sitting. His face wore a pleased expression; his lips parted in a
smile beneath his budding mustache.
“Soul of my Soul!” cried Dolores, in the mixed Spanish and French
which they employed in their intercourse with each other, “why, then,
do you smile?”
“It is, Angel of my Life,” replied Achille, “that I have planted a
seed by my front doorstep.”
“In the soft little spot on the right, by the pillar?” demanded his
wife, with lively interest.
“Ah,” cried Dolores, triumphantly, “I have myself planted a seed in
that very spot this morning.”
Achille looked a little vexed. “But, my Soul's Love—” he began.
“It came from Monterey,” she continued, “from a vine which grew over
my mother's doorway. I remember it quite well. It has white flowers,
like little silver trumpets, and the smell of them is heavenly.”
“The seed I have planted,” said her husband, “came from a vine on my
grandmother's balcony at Auteuil. It has big red flowers—oh, red as
the blood of Marat in his bath-tub.”
“My mother's vine,” murmured Madame Lemaître, dreamily, with her
large dark eyes fixed on the ceiling, “has a long slim leaf that
glistens in the sun.”
“The vine of Margo Lemaîitre,” remarked the propriétaire,
looking out of the window, “has a leaf round as a saucer.”
A coolness which lasted several minutes followed these
reminiscences; but it melted in a couple of kisses.
Both planters, however, during the next week, inspected frequently—
and surreptitiously—the flower bed under the edge of the veranda.
They surprised each other there one morning before the sun was up. Both
drew back, blushing guiltily; but both sprang forward again with a cry,
for there, in very truth, was a little vinelet, with trembling, pale
green twin leaves.
The leaves were heart-shaped.
“It is the vine of my mother,” Dolores said, thoughtfully. “I now
remember that the leaves were like hearts.”
“It is Margot Lemaître's vine!” roared Achille. “I can see the
leaves with my eyes shut. They were precisely of this fashion.”
Upon this they quarrelled. Monsieur stamped his foot and swore, and
madame fled to her own bedchamber, where she remained weeping, and
refusing to come out even to dinner. Then they made up. But only for a
The vine crept up and up, catching hold of the pillar and spreading
out its heart-shaped leaves and shaking them in the wind. And Achille
and Dolores watched it, and disputed over it, and berated each other in
French and Spanish, and even in very imperfect “American.”
“The flowers will be white, like little silver trumpets,” cried the
“The flowers will be red as the blood of Marat in his bath-tub,”
blustered the husband, “and if I have a son he shall receive under
those red flowers his name of Maximilien Robespierre!”
“Ay de mi! Santa Maria Purissima!” wailed Dolores. “I will
not bear a son to be called after a bloody monster! My son shall have
the name of the good St. Joseph!”
It was a terrible time!
But one morning Achille came out of his house, where in the early
dawn a night-light was still burning. His face was swollen with
weeping, and he staggered as he walked, like a man in liquor.
He crossed the garden to the little gate which opened upon the river
steps, and stopped, putting his hands out blindly to grasp the railing.
“She will die!” he whispered hoarsely, looking around with blurred eyes
which saw nothing. “Mother of God, she will die, never knowing how much
I love her! And I, who have made her weep, brute that I am! Oh, if she
will only live! But she will die, she will die!” And he shook the
railing with such fury that a loose piece at the end fell into the
river and swirled around on the dimpling eddy.
“Señor!” It was the shrill voice of the old nurse calling him from
But he durst not turn his head.
He heard her come pattering down the path, and his knees became as
“Señor,” said Marta, “come and see your son.”
His son! He shook from head to foot, staring at her with
dazed eyes. “Dolores?” he stammered.
“Santa Maria!” said Marta, impatiently. “Do you think your wife is
such a fool that she cannot bring a man-child into the world without
“I will tear down that monster of a vine before the red flowers bud
upon it,” he said within himself, following her, and wiping the glad,
foolish tears from his eyes. He glanced up, from habit, at the subject
of all their childish quarrels.
He stopped, open-mouthed.
The vine, in one unheeded night, had burst into bloom. The blossoms
of it were not white, like little silver trumpets, nor red, like the
blood of Marat in his bath-tub. A row of great heavenly blue disks
starred the lintel like a crown.
He reached up and plucked one of these miracles, and tiptoed into
the hushed and darkened room.
“Heart of my Body!” he sobbed, falling on his knees by the bedside,
“our vine has blossomed!” and he laid the glory on her white bosom.
Dolores smiled—an adorable, weak, young-mother smile. “Life of my
Soul!” she said, uncovering the little bundle which lay on her arm,
“behold your son! He shall be called Maximilien Robespierre.”
“But no!” said Achille, solemnly; “we will name our son
Such was the mysterious origin of the blue glories which to-day riot
over every house in San Antonio. They may wish to tell you a different
story down there, but it would be foolish to listen even, since this is
the true one.
Achille Lemaître was killed in a charge at the battle of Shiloh, and
his wife, dying shortly after of grief at his loss, left her young son
in the care of Monsieur le Comte, his godfather.
And by the time Jesus-Mary had reached the age convenable for
a Lemaitre to enter the holy estate of matrimony, and had fetched his
American wife to the yellow adobe house by the river, he had become,
through persistent mispronunciation and the American fashion in initial
letters, Mr. J. M. Lammitt.
Dolly, baptized Dolores in memory of her beautiful grandmother,
continued to look with unnatural intentness at the glories, blushing,
but pretending not to see Mr. Steven Santer, who had fastened his
little skiff at the landing and was coming up the poppy-bordered walk.
He took off his straw hat as he approached.
“Good-morning, Miss Lammitt,” he said, boldly, though inwardly
quaking at his own audacity.
They sat down on the steps together.
Mr. Steven Santer was a good-looking blond young man from somewhere
near the East Fork of the Trinity. He had come to San Antonio some
weeks earlier on account of business, and stayed on account of Dolly
“What is that?” he asked, suddenly starting up from his seat, for a
puff of wind had caught the pennant fastened to the staff on the lawn
and unfurled it.
“That,” replied Dolly, “is a French flag. My father always puts it
out on the Fourteenth of July. The Fourteenth of July,” she explained,
with condescension, “is the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille.”
“I know,” said Santer. “My father,” he added, as if apologizing for
his own acquaintance with the subject—“my father always runs up a
French flag on the Fourteenth of July.”
“My grandfather,” said Dolly, “came over from France with Count
Considérant to the phalanstère at Réunion.”
“So did my father! Why, they must have sailed together in the
“What an unheard-of coincidence!”
And so Dolly presently related the history of the glories, or as
much of it as Jesus-Mary himself knew. She twirled one of the heavenly
blue blossoms in her fingers while she talked; and when she had
finished she stretched out her hand to pluck another, but got a
splinter instead, which tore the delicate white flesh of her thumb.
She turned pale and bit her lip, drawing in her breath, while Steven
Santer wiped away the blood with his handkerchief.
“The sight of blood always makes me ill,” she murmured, closing her
Shade of great-great-grandmother Margot Lemaître!
And the great-grandson of Santerre the Sonorous, having thus
strategically possessed himself of her hand, kept it in his own.