Monday, February 25, 2013

The Men from Across the Sea

The following is an excerpt from a novel-in-progress about the history of Southern California.

On the bough of a great sailing ship, the latest in Spanish seafaring technology, stood two men.  Both were straining their eyes as the coastline appeared on the horizon.  The ocean on which they sailed had been christened by Magellan as Pacifico, peaceful.  The journey from Spain had not been peaceful or easy (they’d lost ten good men and two slaves).  But now the waters on which they sailed, and the soft ocean wind and the endless beaches upon which their eyes gazed did suggest a certain earthly paradise, a New World.
            
The man who was dressed as a soldier thought, The first eyes of civilization are gazing on this land.  He thought of rivers and mountains packed with gold, the riches he would carry back to Spain in glory, of the praises and valor at the end of his journey.  I shall claim this land for Spain, thought Gaspar de Portola, the soldier.  He imagined vast cities, new cities filling this barren land and its mysterious interior, great houses and roads and centers of commerce.  The light of civilization.
           
The man who stood beside the soldier was dressed in humbler clothes, the robes of a Franciscan friar.  He clutched, by habit, the small wooden cross that hung about his neck, and prayed for fortitude.  He was not dreaming of material gold, but of treasures in heaven that would be his reward for a life of service to the Church and to Christ. 
            
The missionary, Geronimo de Boscana, was afraid.  He’d read tales of other missionaries killed by the heathen savages who did not know the light of God or civilization.  Spare me, O Lord, from the darkeness of the Lord of the Earth, Satan and his devils.  Grant that I might be a light in darkness, establishing the city on a hill of which your apostles spoke.  Grant me courage, O Lord, for whatever comes my way.  And then his thoughts drifted elsewhere, to Rome, and as he knelt before the Holy Father, he would say in Latin, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”


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