At last a gong sounded from the big house.
The gong was the signal for the procession to start, and the moment they heard it, the people began pouring out of their cabins, and getting their animals together to drive toward the place where the blessing was to be.
Dona Teresa and Tita threw their rebozos over their heads, and Tonio put on his sombrero. Then Dona Teresa untied the turkey's legs and took him in her arms; and though his head was still tied in the cloth, he gobbled like everything.
Tita took the little white hen on one arm, and her kitten on the other, and Tonio led the donkey, with Jasmin following behind.
They were all ready to start, when Dona Teresa cried out, "Upon my soul! We nearly forgot the goat! Surely she's needing a blessing as much as the worst of them."
She hurried back to the fig tree and untied the goat with one hand, because she was still carrying the turkey with the other. When the goat felt herself free, she gave a great jump and nearly jerked the rope out of Dona Teresa's hand; then she went galloping toward the gate so fast that poor Dona Teresa was all out of breath keeping up with her.
"Bless my soul, but that goat goes gayly!" she panted, as she joined the Twins at the gate. "If I led her about much I should have no chance to get fat."
Already there were crowds of people and animals going by. It was a wonderful procession. There were horses and cows all gayly decorated with garlands and colored streamers. There were donkeys and pigs and guinea-fowls and cats and dogs and birds in cages, and so many other creatures that it looked very much like the procession of animals going into Noah's ark.
Dona Josefa, who lived in a hut near the river, was driving two ducks and two white geese,—only she had dyed the geese a bright purple,—and José's wife had painted stripes of red clear around her pig. She was having a dreadful time keeping the pig in the road, for all the little boys, and all the little dogs—and there were a great many of both—frisked and gamboled around the procession and got in the way, and made such a noise that it is no wonder the creatures were distracted and tried to run away.
It was not a very great distance to the large corrals back of the big house where the people were to meet, and as they drew near the grounds Tonio and Tita could see Pancho dashing about on Pinto after stray cows, and other cowboys rounding up the calves and putting them in a corral by themselves.
The bulls were already safely shut away in another inclosure, and all the open space around the corrals was filled with horses, and donkeys, and sheep, and goats, and dogs, and cats, and fowls of all kinds, all dressed in such gay colors and making such a medley of sounds that the Fourth of July, fire-crackers and all, would have seemed like Sunday afternoon beside the celebration of San Ramon's Day in Mexico.
Senor Fernandez, looking very grand in his black velvet suit and big sombrero, sat on his fine horse and watched the scene. Beside him, on their own horses, were Dona Paula, his wife, and pretty Carmen, their daughter.
The servants of the big house were grouped around them, and all the rest of the people passed back and forth among the animals, trying to make them keep still and behave themselves until the priest should appear.
It was not long before the priest came out of his house, with a small boy beside him carrying a basin of holy water.
Dona Teresa and all the people knelt on the ground when they saw him coming. The priest walked among them chanting a prayer and sprinkling drops of holy water over the animals and over the people too. Of course the people behaved very well, but I am sorry to have to tell you that when he felt the drops of water fall on the rag that his head was tied up in, the turkey gobbled just exactly as if it were Tita—or Dona Teresa—instead of the priest!
And the cat stuck up her tail and arched her back, in a most impolite way. Perhaps that was not to be wondered at, because we all know that cats can never bear water, not even holy water.
But when Tonto, who should have known better, and who was used to being out in the rain
even, stuck his nose up in the air and let out a
Only the red rooster, the little white hen, the goat, and the Twins behaved as if they had had any bringing up at all! However, the priest didn't seem to mind it. He went in and out among the people, sprinkling the water and chanting his prayer until the basin was empty. Then he pronounced the blessing.
When he had finished, the people drove their creatures back to their homes, or to the fields.
Pancho came riding along and took Tita and the white hen up on Pinto's back with him. Tonio rode Tonto and carried the rooster. Tita had to put the cat down to get up on the horse, and when Tonio's dog saw her he barked at her, and she ran just as fast as she could and got to the cabin and up on the roof out of reach.
Dona Teresa walked along with Dona Josefa, and talked with her about her rheumatism and about how badly the animals behaved, and how handsome Dona Josefa's purple geese were, until she turned in at their own gate.
When she was in their own yard once more, she set the turkey down and untied his head. Tonio let the rooster go, and Tita set the little white hen free, and they all three ran under Tonto's shed as if they were afraid they might get blessed again if they stayed where they could easily be caught. And they never came out until they had torn the tissue paper all to pieces and left it lying on the ground.
Tonio got the goat back to pasture by walking in front of her, holding a carrot just out of reach, and Pancho took Pinto and the donkey down to the river for a drink, while Tita and her mother went into the cabin to get the second breakfast ready. When people get up so very early they need two breakfasts.
Dona Teresa was just patting the meal into cakes with her hands and cooking them over the brasero, when Pancho came in the cabin door with dreadful red streams running down his head and face and over his white cotton clothes!
When Dona Teresa saw him, she screamed and flew to his side. "What is it, my Pancho?" she cried. "You are hurt—you are killed, my angel! Oh, what has happened?"
She asked so many questions and poured out so many words that Pancho couldn't get one in edgewise; so he just took off his hat, and there was the dish of chile sauce and tortillas broken all to bits, and the chile sauce spilled all over his face and clothes!
"It was that foolish Tonto that did it," he said, when he could say anything at all. "I
was just putting him back in his shed when he cried,
Dona Teresa sat down heavily with her hand on her heart. "If anything had happened to you, my rose, my angel," she said, "I should have died of sorrow! Tonto is indeed a very careless beast. It would seem as if the padrecito's blessing might have put more sense into him. It must be the will of God that there should be a great deal of foolishness in the world, but without doubt donkeys and goats have more than their share."
Just then she smelled the tortillas burning and ran back to attend to them, while Pancho washed himself at the trough, and mopped the chile sauce off his clothes.
In a little while the Twins and their father and mother were all sitting about on the stones under the fig tree, eating their second breakfast. And when they had all had every bit they could hold, it was almost noon.