Mistress of Monterey

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About the author:
Virginia Stivers Bartlett was born in Langdon, North Dakota. Later the Stivers moved to California, which became Ginie's home for the rest of her life.

Schooled in Alaska and California, Ginie attended the University of Southern California, writing for college papers, newspapers, and other publications in Los Angeles, Alhambra and Pasadena-including Sunset magazine, Touring Topics for the Automobile Club of Southern California, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. She also wrote for radio broadcasts, and collaborated with her native Californian husband, Lanier Bartlett, on the book Adios!-based on the life and adventures of Joaquin Murrieta. The couple then wrote a screenplay from the book that was made into the Warner Bros. movie "The Lash." ("The film did okay in the States," she said, "and even better overseas.")

When asked how she happened to write Mistress of Monterey, Ginie told of studying a great deal of California history while writing Adios! "Time after time I ran across references to don Pedro Fages and his spitfire wife. All California historians have sentimentalized about Junípero Serra; I wanted to treat him humanly and psychologically."

Her love for the culture of early California contributed to her own lifestyle, and the authenticity of her writings. "I've done a lot of talking and singing of the old Spanish songs for clubs," she wrote. "Made quite a study of the old native music, and educated all my native California children [Charles Noël, Natalie St.Cyr, and Warren Stivers] in the history of their State. Love to wear the Spanish costume, and to cook the Mexican and California cookery as well as to eat it. Large circle of friends among Spanish and Mexicans here."

Ginie also said she'd enjoyed "Very wild and thrilling times in Lower California, being entertained by Mexican generals and other officials, with balls and 'box fights' given in my honor. Haven't seen a bullfight, but hope to."

At the time Mistress of Monterey was first published, Ginie was living in a hillside cabin under a California live oak, and speaking California Spanish. During the War Years, she served in the American Red Cross.

[Provenance: The above information was extracted from the Author's Questionnaire Ginie completed for the initial Bobbs-Merrill publication of Mistress of Monterey.]

Mistress of Monterey

A Story of Lost Romance in Eighteenth Century California

Authored by Virginia Stivers Bartlett
Designed by Joseph Robert Cowles
Introduction by Virginia Bartlett Adams
Edited by Joseph Robert Cowles, Barbora Holan Cowles, Marybel Marks

Eulalia Callis de Fages, a beautiful young woman from Spain, was married to the much older Pedro Fages, the soldier who became the first Governor of California. Leaving a plush life in Mexico City to make an arduous journey over sea and land by ship, mule and foot, she eventually reached Monterey to discover a primitive dusty settlement with buildings made of mud and straw.

* * *

She huddled into as small a bundle as she could as the lancha pulled rapidly away from the unfriendly harbor. Between the oarsmen bent to their long sweeps she could glimpse the warehouses, the ribs of a ship under construction. Her tear-filled eyes watched her lovely coach on the shore. One window sent a glancing wink as a ray of the westering sun struck its glass. The flash blinded her.

She buried her face in her hands and wept for the velvet upholstery, the silver lanterns, the cushions, the twinkling wheels-and the comfort! She'd believed she would ride clear to Monterey. But there it stood on the marshy shore, while she went on in an ill-smelling lancha-only a few boards between her and the darkening dreadful ocean fathoms below. Ay! She must not think of it.

Terrible leagues of her journey lay ahead, to be traversed doggedly, day and night, with heat, dust, thirst, weariness and a numbing fear of the unknown robbing her of rest. At the end of each day's travel, Eulalia lay on her pallet feeling that the blessing of oblivion and release from suffering would requite her. Always at the moment when she seemed slipping into unconsciousness, a rude hand gripped her weary heart and shook it cruelly, until her whole body trembled and sweat.

A sense of desolation is produced upon the sensitive mind by cold, but it is one which fire dispels. Into the coldest atmosphere, a ray of warmth can bring comfort and security against the ravages of frigidity. Against heat there are no defenses. The irresistible sun pours heat where he will, and those subject to it wither and succumb in panting, sweating, helplessness. Eulalia gathered her laces and draperies about her and laughed bitterly.

One night she questioned herself. Why had she been persuaded to come on this journey? She who was born to luxury, soft cushions and luxurious coaches. Why was she here on a pile of blankets before a smoky fire, when she might be in her mother's comfortable house in the City of Mexico-or at the opera, or a ball?

"Beautiful, lovely California, my home," she sneered, then smiled graciously at the young officer come to escort her to quarters in the quadrangle. Within its bare walls she felt she could abandon herself to her weakness, desolation, fear of this strange country, and the dreaded journey before her. She shivered and wrapped her arms about herself. Pedro loved this land where he had been so long. Loved it so, he wanted her with him, to stay, perhaps, the rest of their lives. "Of course it will not be like it is on this journey," she counseled herself. "After all, Monterey is a capital. Perhaps I will like it. A capital is a capital, and always gay. And to be the wife of the governor ... may be like being a queen. But if I do not like it, if it is savage, crude, I can not, I will not stay. Even to be a queen. A queen, hum-m-m-m."

Eulalia braided her hair, absently twisting a few loose hairs from her brush, winding them tightly around the ends of the plaits, then she giggled and slipped them off. She remembered how her husband hated her hair that way when she retired. Many times his clumsy hands had untied her pigtails so her abundant tresses might flood over her pillow.

"Eulalia," she whispered, "be careful. You are going to need help in California. And you do not know who is there to help you. But you do know your beauty has never failed you, so you need it more than ever. Careful, Eulalia, careful." She kissed her reflection in the mirror, blew out the candle and, with a shudder of distaste and apprehension, retired to her pallet.

Publication Date:
1491240393 / 9781491240397
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5" x 11"
Black and White
Related Categories:
Fiction / Historical / General

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