JNIVERSITY OF CA RIVERSIDE. LIBRARY
vr , i , /^ -- - :
Mrs. Schuyler Crowninshield
UflfVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
"Mrs. Schuyler Crowninshield
HERBERT S. STONE &f COMPANY
CHICAGO & NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT 1899 BY
HERBERT S. STONE & CO.
C. S. C.
A MEMORY OF "LA MADRUGADA
People wondered why Don Beltran remained in
the casa down by the river. He had been warned
by his prudent neighbors, who lived anywhere from
two to six miles away, that some time a flood,
greater than any that the valley had yet known,
would arise and sweep house and inmates away to
Don Beltran laughed at this. He was happy as
he was, and content. There had always been
floods, and they had sometimes caused the river to
overflow so as to wash across his potreros, but the
cacao and bananas were planted on gentle elevations
where the water as yet had never reached. Then,
too, there was always the Hill Rancho, though
neither so large nor so comfortable as the casa.
Why borrow trouble? At the first sign of danger
the cattle and horses had always betaken themselves
to the grove on the hill, there to browse and feed,
* Pronounced E-see-dro.
until the shallow lake which stretched across the
plains below them had subsided. Once Don Bel-
tran, Adan, his faithful serving-man, and Adan's
niece, Agueda, had been belated. Adan had
quickly untied the bridle of the little brown horse
from the tethering staple at the corner of the casa,
and mounting it, had swum away for safety.
' ' That is right, ' ' said Don Beltran ; "he will swim
Mexico" Don Beltran said Mayheco "to the ris
ing ground, and save the young rascal. As for us,
Agueda, the horse had stampeded before I noticed
the cloud-burst. It seems that you and I must
Agueda made no answer, but she thought it no
hardship to remain.
"There is no danger for us, child; we can go up
to the thatch and wait."
"The peons have gone," said Agueda, shyly.
"They were within their rights," answered Don
Beltran. "All must go who are afraid. I have
always told them that. For me, I have known
many floods. They were always interesting, never
dangerous. Had I my choice, I should have
"And I," said Agueda. She did not look at
Don Beltran as she spoke. The lids were drooped
over her grey eyes.
Agueda turned away and entered the comidor,
leaving Don Beltran looking up the valley: not
anxiously merely as one surveys a spectacle of
interest. Once in the comidor, Agueda busied her
self opening cupboards and closets. She took
therefrom certain articles of food which she placed
within a basket. She did not move nervously, but
quickly, as if to say, ' ' It may come at any moment ;
we have not much time, perhaps." She recalled,
as she lightly hurried about, the last time that the
flood had overtaken them at the casa. Nada, her
mother, had prepared the basket then. Nada,
Adan's sister, who had kept Don Beltran's house,
after she had been left alone on the hillside Nada,
sweet Nada, who had died six months ago of no
malady that the little Spanish doctor could discover.
Don Beltran prized his Capitas, Adan, above all
the serving-men whom he had ever employed, and
nothing was too good for Adan's sister Nada so
young, so fair-looking, so patient, her mouth set
ever in that heartrending smile, which is more bit
ter to look upon than a fierce compression of the
lips, whose gentle tones wring the heart more cru
elly than do the wild denunciations of the revenge
ful and vindictive. The little Spanish doctor,
who, like the Chinese, had never forgotten any
thing, as he had never learned anything, had
ordered a young calf slain and its heart brought to
where Nada lay wasting away. Warm and almost
beating, it had been opened and laid upon the spot
where she felt the gnawing pain ; but as there is no
prophylactic against the breaking of a heart, so for
that crushed and quivering organ there is no
remedy. And Nada, tortured in every feeling,
physical and mental, had suffered all that devotion
and ignorance could suggest, and died.
Agueda knew little of her mother's history, and
remembered only her invariable patience and gen
tleness. She remembered their leaving Los Alamos
to come to the hacienda down by the river. She
remembered that one day she had suddenly awak
ened to the fact that Don Jorge was at the casa no
longer, that her mother smiled no more, that she
paid slight attention to her little daughter's ques
tionings, that Nada was always robed in black now,
that there had been no funeral, no corpse, no
grave! Don Jorge was not dead, that she knew,
because the old Capitas, Rafael, was always order
ing the peons about, saying, "The Seflor wills it,"
or "The Seflor will have it so." Then there had
come a day when the bull-cart was brought to the
door the side door which opened from their apart
ment. In it were placed her little trunk, which
Nada had brought her from Haldez, when she went
to the midwinter fair, and her mother's American
chair, which Don Jorge had brought once when he
returned from the States; she remembered how
kindly he had smiled at her pleasure. In fact, all
that in any way seemed to be part and parcel of the
two was placed in the cart, not unkindly, by Juan
Filipe, and then the vehicle awaited Nada's pleas
ure. She remembered how Nada had taken her by
the hand and led her through the rooms of the
large, spreading, uneven casa. They had passed
through halls and corridors, and had finally come to
a pretty interior, which Agueda remembered well,
but in which she had not been now for a long time.
The walls were pink, and on the floor was a pink
and white rug, faded it is true, but dainty still.
Here Nada had looked about with streaming eyes.
She had gone round behind the bed, and Agueda
had looked up to see her standing, her lips pressed
to the wall, and whispering through her kisses,
' ' Good by, good by ! " Then she had taken Agueda
by the hand.
"Look at this room well, "Gueda," she had said.
But Nada did not speak. Her lips trembled.
She could not form her words. She stood for a
moment, her eyes devouring that room which she
should never see again. Her tears had stopped;
her eyes were burning.
She stooped down by her daughter.
"Agueda," she said, "repeat these words after
"Say, 'All happiness be upon this house.' '
"No, no! mother, I will not. This casa has
made you cry. I will not say it."
"Agueda!" Nada's tone was almost stern. "Do
as I tell you, child, repeat my words 'All happi
ness come to this house.' '
But Agueda had pressed her lips tightly together
and shaken her head. She had closed the grey
eyes so that the curled lashes swept her round
brown cheek. Nada had lifted the child in her
arms and carried her through the corridors and out
to the side veranda. She had set her in the cart
and got in beside her.
"Where to, Seflora?" Juan Filipe had asked
"To San Isidro," Nada had answered from stiff
<l Aaaaaiiieee!" 1 Juan Filipe had shouted, at the
same time flourishing the long lash of his whip
round the animals' heads. They, knowing that
they must soon move, had tossed their noses stub
bornly. Another warning, the wheels had creaked,
turned round, and they had passed down the hill.
Agueda never forgot that ride to San Isidro. Had
it not been for her mother's tears, she would have
been more than happy. She had always wished to
ride in the new bull-cart; Juan Filipe had promised
her many a time. Now he was at last keeping his
promise. This argued well. If she could take one
ride, how many more might she not have? All the
time during that little trip to San Isidro, Agueda
was asking herself mental questions. There was
no use in speaking to her mother. She only looked
far away toward Los Alamos, and answered "Yes"
and "No" at random. Agueda remembered with
what delight she had seen the patient bulls turn the
creaking cart into the camino which led to San
"Oh," she said, clapping her hands, "we are
going to Uncle Adan's!"
For was not this Uncle Adan's casa, and did not
Don Beltran live with Uncle Adan? She was not
sure. But when she had been there with her
mother, she had seen that splendid tall Don Beltran
about the house with the dogs, or with his bulls in
the field, or in his shooting coat with his gun slung
across his shoulder, or going with his fishing-tackle
to the river. Yes, she was sure that Don Beltran
lived at Uncle Adan's house.
Agueda's thoughts sped with the rapidity that
reminiscence brings, and as she placed some rounds
of cassava bread in the basket she saw her mother
doing the same, as if it were but yesterday, and
saying between halting breaths:
"Never trust a gentleman Agueda marry
some plain, honest man a man of our peo
ple, Agueda but do not trust "
"Who are our people, mother?" the girl had
Aye, who were their people?
Nada had not answered. She had lain her thin
arms round Agueda's unformed shoulders, turned
the girl's head backward with the other hand laid
upon her brow, and gazed steadily into the good
"My little Agueda," she had said stopped
short, and sighed. It was hopeless. There was no
escape from the burden of inheritance. Agueda
had not understood the cause of her mother's sigh
and her halting words. She had been ill to death
that she knew. Then came long years of patience,
as Agueda grew to girlhood. Could it be only six
months ago that she had lost her?
"My sweet Nada," she whispered, as she laid a
napkin over the contents of the basket, "I do not
know what you meant, but I do not forget you,
"Hasten, Agueda! There is no danger, but
there is no need of getting a wetting."
Agueda turned to see Don Beltran standing in
the doorway of the comidor. He was smiling. His
face looked brown and healthful against the worn
blue of the old painted door. His white trousers
were tucked within the tops of his high boots, and
he wore a belt of tanned leather, with the usual
accompaniment of a pistol-holder, which was empty,
the belt forming a strap for a machete, and hold
ing safely that useful weapon of domesticity or
menace. His fine striped shirt hung in loose folds
partly over the belt; the collar, broad, and turned
down from the brown throat, being held carelessly
in place by a flowing coloured tie. He had an old
Panama hat in his brown hand. His wavy hair
swept back from his forehead, crisp and changeable
in its dark gold lights. His brown eyes looked
kindly at the girl, but more particularly at the
basket which she filled.
"Have you some glasses?" he asked, "and
"Water, Seflor? Yes, I have not forgotten
Don Beltran laughed merrily.
"I fancy that we shall have water enough,
'Gueda, child. Get my flask and fill it with rum.
The pink rum of the vega. Here, let me get the
demijohn. Run for the flask, child. Perhaps I
should have listened to the warning of old Emper-
There were other warnings which Beltran had not
taken into account. The sultry day that had
passed, the total absence of breeze, the low-flying
birds, the stridulous cry of the early home-flying
parrots, the dun-colored sky to the south and east,
the whinneying and neighing of the horses. The
old grey, who knew the signs of the times, had torn
his bridle loose and raced across the pasture-land to
the hill where stood the rancho. He was the
pioneer; the others had followed him, and the little
roan had galloped away last of all, with Adan to
guide and reassure him. The bulls, leaping and
plunging with heads to earth and hind hoofs raised
in air, with shaking fringe of tail and bellowed
pleading, had asked, as plainly as could creatures
to whom God gave a soul, to be allowed to flee to
the mountain. Adan, in passing, had unclasped
and thrown wide the gate, and they had raced with
him for certain life from the death which might be
imminent. Emperatriz had whined and had
pounded her tail restlessly against the planks of the
floor. Then she had arisen, and stood with her
great forepaws resting upon Beltran's shoulder,
gazing with anxiety that was almost human into
"Caramba Hombre!" Beltran had said, as he
threw the great beast away from him. Then he
had laughed. "I am like the peons, who address
even the women so. It does mean a storm, Em
peratriz, old girl, but I do not care to go."
He had opened the outer door. The great
hound had darted through, leaped from the veranda
to the ground, and fled toward the south, barking
as she ran at the encroaching enemy. She had cir
cled round the casa, nose in air, her whimpering
cries ascending to the sky, which shone, as yet, blue
overhead. Then back she had torn to the steps,
and bounding up and in at the door, had crouched
at her master's feet, her nose upon the leather of
his shoe, her flanks curved high. Then she had
leaped upon him again. She had taken his sleeve
gently between her teeth as if to compel him to
safety, then crouched again, flapping her great tail
upon the floor, her eyes raised to his, her whine
pleading like the tones of a human voice. Beltran
had shaken the dog away.
"I am not going, Emperatriz," he had said,
impatiently. "Be off with you!"
A few more circlings round the casa, a few more
appealing cries, a backward glance and a backward
bark, and Emperatriz had started for the rancho,
and none too soon. The potrero had become a
shallow lake, through which she splashed before
she had placed her forefeet upon the rise.
"Hasten, Agueda! Come! Come!" called Belt-
Agueda ran to the ladder, which was ever ready
for just such surprises. It was the expected which
usually did not happen at San Isidro, but the lad-
der was always there, fastened secure and firm,
rivetted to the floor and roof alike. It could move
but with the house. Agueda stepped lightly upon
the rungs, one after the other. She raised the bas
ket up to Don Beltran's down-reaching grasp. He
took it, placed it upon the gently sloping roof, and
held out a kindly hand to the girl, but Agueda did
not take it at once. She descended the ladder a
round or two, and from a nail in a near-by beam
seized a coat which Don Beltran wore sometimes
when the nights were cool, and the trade winds
blew up too freshly from the sea. When she
climbed again to the opening in the thatch, Don
Beltran was leaning against the old stone chimney,
which raised its moss-grown head between the casa
and cocina. He had forgotten the girl. His hori
zontal palm shaded his eyes from the ray of the level
sun. There was no sign of fear visible upon his
face ; he appeared rather like an interested observer,
which indeed he was, for he felt secure and safe, for
himself, his people, and his cattle.
"See the commotion among the forests up there,
near Palmacristi, Agueda! It may be only a slight
storm and quickly over, but if we do have a flood
like the last one, I have no wish that Garcia and
Manuel Medina shall float in at my front door in
their dugouts and carry off all things movable. It
is so easy to lay everything to the flood!"
"The men have been moving the furniture for an
hour past, Seflor. I think there is little that can
be carried away."
Don Beltran gave a sudden start.
"Where is the cross, Agueda? Did you remem
"I have it here, Seflor." Agueda laid her hand
upon the bosom of her gown. "And the Sefior's
little cart, that is locked within the inner cupboard.
It cannot go unless the casa goes also."
"And in that case I should want it no more in
this world, Agueda. You are thoughtful, child.
The two souvenirs of my mother! Ah, see!" As
he spoke there was a stir among the treetops far
over to the westward. There, where yellow-brown
clouds hung massed and solid as a wall over the rift
below, a strange agitation was visible.
"It is a dance, 'Gueda. Do you see them, those
fairies? Watch that one advancing there, to the
southward. She approaches the lady from the east.
See them skip and whirl and pass as if in a qua
drille. It is a pretty sight. You will see that once
in a lifetime not oftener. They call it the trompa
marina at sea."
Agueda raised her eyes and looked smiling
towards the spot to which he nodded. There white
and twisting spirals danced and swayed against that
lurid background, and above the deep bay, which
was hidden by the hills. They advanced, they
retreated, they dipped like sprites from palm tuft
to palm tuft. Sometimes they skipped gaily in
couples, again one was left to follow three or four
that had their heads close together, like school
children telling secrets. It was all so human and
everyday-like, that Agueda laughed gaily and
gazed fascinated at the antics of these children of
the storm. The long, ragged-edged split in the
angry clouds disclosed a blood-red glow behind,
which sent its glare down through the valley and
across the woods, where it flecked the tree trunks.
From Beltran's vantage point the palm shafts stood
black as night against the glare. When he turned
and looked behind him, unwilling to lose a single
bit of this latest painting from the brush of nature,
he found that she had dashed every tree trunk with
one gorgeous splash of ruddy gold.
Agueda lifted her basket and carried it to the
chimenea unaided. Beltran was so absorbed in the
grand sight that he had forgotten to be kind.
There was usually no thought of gallantry in what
he did for the girl, but even the natural kindliness
of his manner was in abeyance. Agueda set the
basket behind the great stone wall. She remem
bered what he had said the last time they had
sought shelter from the water. "It is ridiculous,
that great chimney," he had said: "but even the
absurd things of life have their uses." She remem
bered how she had crouched in her mother's arms
the whole long day, but beyond a few drops there
had been no cloud-burst, no flood that came higher
than the top step of the veranda. They had de
scended at night dry and unharmed.
"It may be like the last one," she ventured to
say. But her sentence was drowned. There came
a rustling and swaying sound from afar, growing
louder as it approached. Beltran noted the ruth
less path which it indicated, and then, "there came
a rushing, mighty wind from Heaven." It fell
upon the tall lilies as if they were grass, bent them
to the earth, and laid them prostrate. Some of
them, denizens of the soil more tenacious of their
hold than others, clung to Mother Earth with the
grip of the inheritor of primogeniture. But the
struggle was brief.
"I was certain that those I planted upside down
would stand," said Beltran to Agueda. "I allowed
twelve-inch holes, too." But there comes a time
when precaution is proven of no avail. The mas
sive stalks were torn from their holdings like so
much straw, and laid low with 1 heir weaker brothers.
As they began to fall in the near field, "It is upon
us!" shouted Beltran. He seized Agueda's wrist
and drew her behind the chimney. And there they
cowered as the wind raved past them on either side,
carrying heavy missiles on its strong wings. At
this Beltran's face showed for the first time some
He was peering out from behind his stone bul
"There goes Aranguez's casa, " he said, regret
fully. "I had no thought of that. I wish I had
sent you to the rancho, child."
They crouched low behind the chimney. He
clung to one of the staples mortared in the inter
stices of the stone- work, against just such a day as
this, and braced his foot beneath the eaves. Again
he peered cautiously out. A whistling, rustling
sound had made him curious as to its source.
The river, which had been flowing tranquilly but
a few minutes before, now threw upward white
and pointed arms of foam. They reached to the
branches, which threshed through open space, and
swayed over to meet their supplication, then
straightened a moment to bend again to north, to
east, to west. The floods had fallen fiercely upon
the defenceless bosom of the gentle Rio Frio, had
beaten and lashed it and overcome it, so that it
mingled perforce with its conqueror, while raising
appealing arms for mercy. It grieved, it tossed, it
wept, it wailed, but its invader shrieked gleefully as
he hurried his helpless prize down through the
savannas to that welcoming tyrant, the sea.
The water crept rapidly up toward the foundation
of the casa. It washed underneath the high floor
ing. It lapped against the pilotijos. It carried
underneath the house branches and twigs which it
had brought down in its mad rush toward the low
lands. As it rose higher and higher, it wove the
banana stalks and wisps of straw which it bore
upon its bosom in and out between the trunks and
stems of trees. With the skill of an old-time
weaver, it interlaced them through the upright
growth which edged the bank. One saw the vege
table fabric there for years after, unless the sun and
rain had rotted it away, and another flood had
replaced within the warp a fresher woof.
Beltran arose and took a few cautious steps upon
the roof, but the wind, if warm, was fierce, and
thrust him back with violence. He barely escaped
being dashed to the new-made lake below. He
caught at the chimenea, and edging slowly round,
seated himself again by Agueda. She had been
calling to him, and had stretched out her hand. Her
eyes showed her fear, and also the relief which his
presence gave her. When she felt that he was safe
beside her she made no further sign.
Beltran had laid his hand on Agueda's shoulder
as he would have done upon the chimney itself.
By it he steadied himself in taking his seat. She
raised her eyes and shyly offered him his coat. He
shook his head with a smile. His lips moved, but
she could hear no word for the noise of the wind
and water. Don Beltran put his hand to his mouth
and placed his lips to Agueda's ear.
"Do not be afraid," he shouted. "There is
really no danger."
She shook her head and glanced up at him again,
dropping almost at once the childish eyes to the
hands in her lap. She moved a little nearer to
their dividing line, and called in answer:
"I am not afraid."
He saw her lips move, and guessed at the words,
though her look of confidence would have answered
him. Why had he never noticed those eyes before?
Was it because she had always kept them cast
down? What slim hands the girl had! What
shapely shoulders ! He looked at them as they rested
against the weather-beaten stones of the chimney.
Agueda turned her head backward and clutched
quickly at the light handkerchief which confined
the waves of her short hair. She laughed and
looked upward at Don Beltran from under her
sweeping lashes. Her soul went forth to meet his
gaze, unconscious as a little child that she had a
secret to tell ; unconscious that the next moment
she had told it. How can one tell anything except
by word of mouth?
Beltran drew sharply back, as far as the con-
tracted space would allow. He leaned over the
edge of the roof, and saw that the water was now
sweeping through the casa, flowing more slowly as
it spread over a greater space. It glided in at the
doors and out at the windows, which he had left
open purposely, not dreaming, it is true, that this
flood would be greater than others of its kind, but
that in case it should be, the resistance might be
less. Glancing down stream, he saw a chair and
some tin pans bobbing and courtesying to each
other as they drifted across the potrero where the
cattle usually browsed.
The sun declined, the dusk came creeping down,
and with the approach of night the wind subsided.
Fortunately there was no rain. The clouds had
been carried in from the sea at right angles with the
stream, and had broken in the mountains and
poured out their torrents there.
Still the rushing of the river drowned all other
sounds. It grew quite dark. Beltran "leaned back
against the chimenea. The slight creature at his
side rested, also, in silence. The darkness became
intense. The chimenea was needed no longer as a
protection from the wind, but the utter absence of all
light made the slightest motion dangerous. A chill
mist crept up from the sea. The night began to grow
cold, as do the tropic nights of midwinter. Beltran
shivered. Something was pushed against his hand,
He reached down and felt another hand, a hand
slim and cold. He took it within his own, but it
was at once withdrawn, and a rough and heavy
article thrown across his knees. He felt some but
tons, a pocket which held papers, a collar. Ah ! It
must be his woollen coat, which she had had the
forethought to bring. Feeling for the sleeve, he
threw the coat round his shoulders, and with a
resolve born in a moment, reached out toward
Agueda. His groping fingers fell upon her sweet
throat and the tendrils of her boyish hair, the great
dark rings, which, now that he could not see them,
he suddenly remembered. Throwing his arm around
her, he drew the damp and shivering figure close.
Then he grasped the sleeve of his coat, and drew it
towards him, forcing her head down upon his breast.
He sought the other hand, and later found the
tremulous lips. He held his willing prisoner close,
and so they sat the whole night through.
Many and strange thoughts rushed through
Agueda's brain during those blissful hours. Life
began for her then, and she found it well worth liv
ing. She awoke. Her child's heart sprang into
full being, to lie dormant never again. Nada's
words came back to her. She did not wish to
recall them, but they forced themselves upon her:
"Never trust a gentleman, Agueda; he will only
"I should think much of your warning, Nada,"
thought Agueda, "if I saw other gentlemen. I
never do see them. If I do, he will protect me."
The danger had not arrived. It could never come
now. She had found her bulwark and her defence.
"When the flood has subsided," Agueda had
said to herself, "all will be as before. But stay!
Would anything ever be as before? Well, what
matter? Who would go back? Shall we not trust
those whom we love? Life is the better for it.
This was life. Life was all happiness, all joy. The
future? There was to be no future but this. This
life of hers and his should be the same until death
claimed the one or the other. God grant that they
might go together, rather than that one should be
left behind. Let them go in a greater flood, per
haps, than the one which they had outspent upon
the thatched roof in the shelter of the old chimenea.
Agueda knew not the meaning of those words of
calculation "the world." She had never known
the world, she had never seen the world. She
found herself living as many did about her. Only
that they had heart-burnings, jealousies, disappoint
ments, and sorrows. She was secure, and she
pitied them that their lots had not been cast within
so safe a fold as hers. Her nature, if ignorant, was
undefiled and undepraved ; and noble, in that she
found no sacrifice too great for this splendid young
god who claimed her. What else was her mission in
life but to make his life as near Heaven as earthly
existence could become? She stretched out her
young arms to the sky with a glow of happiness
that asked nothing further of God. There were
the mountains, the fields, the forests, the planta
tions, the river, and the rambling, thatched casa.
These made for her the world.
Sometimes she thought of and pitied Aneta at
El Cuco. Poor Aneta, who had thought that a
life-long happiness was hers, when suddenly one
day Don Mateo had returned from the city with a
"Poor Aneta!" Agueda used often to say, with
a pitying smile through which her own contentment
broke in ripples of joy. How could she trust a
man like Don Mateo? As Agueda sat and thought,
she mended with anxious but unskilled fingers the
pile of linen which old Juana had brought in from
the ironing room. Juana had clumped along the
back veranda and set the basket down with a heavy
thump. There were table linen and bed linen,
there were the Seller's striped shirts of fine material
from the North, and his dainty underwear, and
Agueda's neat waists and collars keeping company
with them in truly domestic manner. Agueda had
never done menial work; Uncle Adan's position as
manager of the plantation had secured something
better for his niece.
If Uncle Adan knew the truth, he made no sign.
The lax state of morals in the country had always
been the same. In reality he saw no harm in it.
Besides which, had he wished to, what change
could he make he, a simple manager and farming
man, against the owner of the hacienda, a rich and
powerful Sefior from Adan's point of view.
Suddenly Agueda remembered that she had not
seen Aneta for a long time. She would go now,
this very minute, and pay the visit so long over
due. She arose at once. With characteristic care
lessness she dropped the sheet upon which she had
been engaged on the floor, took from its peg the
old straw hat, and clapped it over her boyish curls.
The hat was yellow, it had a peaked crown, and
twisted round the crown was a handkerchief of pale
blue. Agueda made no toilet; she hardly looked
at her smiling image in the glass. From the corner
of the room she took a time-worn umbrella, which
had once been white, and started towards the door.
A backward glance showed her the confusion of the
room. For herself she did not care, but the Sefior
might come in perhaps before her return. He had
gone to the mail-station across the bay ; the post-
office and the bank were both there. He was
bringing home some bags of pesos with which to
pay his men. Possibly he would bring a letter or
two from the fruit agents, or the merchant to whom
he sold the little coffee that he raised; but the
pesos were more of a certainty than the letters. If
he returned home before her, the sitting-room
would have a disorderly appearance, and he dis
liked disorder. His mother, the Dona Maria, had
been a very neat old lady.
There are some persons to whom order and neat
ness are inborn. With a touch of a deft finger
here or there, an apartment becomes at once a place
where the most critical may enter. To others it is
a labor to make a room appear well cared for. It
may be immaculate in all that pertains to dust or
the thorough cleanliness of linen or woodwork, but
the power to so impress the beholder is lacking.
Agueda was one of these. She sighed as she gazed
at the unkempt appearance of the room. There
was not much the matter, and yet she did not know
how to remedy it. She re-entered the room and
picked up the sheet from the floor, together with a
pillow-slip whose starched glossiness had caused it
to slide down to keep the sheet company. Folding
these, not any too precisely, she laid them upon
the chair where she had lately sat. Then she
glanced around the room again. Its careless air
still offended her, but time was flying, and she had
a long walk before her. Suddenly she put her
hand to her ear and took from behind it the rose
that had been there since early morning. It was
the first that she had struggled to raise, and it had
repaid her efforts, in that hot section of the coun
try, by dwining and dwindling like a puny child.
Still, it was a rose. She laid it on the badly folded
sheet; it gave an air of habitation to the room.
She smiled down at this, her messenger. She gave
the linen a final pat and went out, closing the door
softly. It was as if a young mother had left her
sleeping child to be awakened by its father, should
he be the first to return.
"It is something of me," thought Agueda. "It
will be the first to greet him."
Agueda stepped out on the broad veranda. The
loose old boards creaked even under her slight
"Juana!" she called, "I'm going to see Aneta at
El Cuco." She made no other explanation. He
would ask as soon as he returned, and they would
"Youah neva fin youah roaad in dis yer fawg, "
"The fog may lift," laughed Agueda.
The river, forgetful of its past turbulence, smiled
and glanced and beckoned as it slipped tranquilly
onward, but Agueda did not answer the summons.
She turned abruptly to the right and crossed the
well-known potrero path. This led her for a quar
ter of a mile through the mellow pasture-land,
where horses were browsing. The grey was not
there sure sign of his master's absence, but the
little chestnut was in evidence, and farther along,
beyond the wire fence, were the great bulls, which
had not been driven afield with the suckers. There
stood Csesar, the big brown bull with the great, irreg
ular white spots. Agueda went close to the fence,
and picked a handful of sweet herbs, such as Caesar
"Caesar," she called, "Caesar, it is I that have
the sweet things for you."
Caesar threw up his head quickly, tossing long
strings of saliva into the air. He stood for a mo
ment with hesitant look, then perceiving that it
was Agueda, trotted, tail held stiff, to where she
waited, her hand held out to him. He extended
his thick neck, holding his wet, pink nostrils just
over the barrier, wound his dripping tongue round
the dainty, and then withdrew his head that he
might eat with ease.
"Too bad, poor Caesar, that the horses get all the
sweets, and you none." With awkward arm held
high, that she might not catch her sleeve upon the
topmost wire, she patted the animal's nose; then
thrust one more bunch of grass into the ready
cavity, and turning, ran along toward the rise.
When Agueda had closed the rickety potrero
gate, she started up the elevation which confronted
her. Here the young bananas were just showing
above the ground. She had deplored the fact that
this pretty hill-forest had been sacrificed to banana
culture, and had hated to see the great giants which
she had known from childhood cut and slashed.
At the fall of each one of them she had felt as if
she had lost a friend. "I shall never sit under the
gri-gri again," she had thought, "and eat my
guavas as I look down on the river"; or, "I shall
never again play house beneath the old mahogany
that stood up there at the edge of the meadow."
The face of nature was changed for her in this par
ticular. It was the only thing that she had to
make her unhappy. Who among us would think
the world a sadder place because of the felling of a
tree! The stumps stood even with Agueda's shoul
der, for Natalio, that African giant, was the axe
man of the hacienda. His ringing - strokes struck
hip high. It was less work to cut through the
trunk some distance above its spreading roots.
There was no clearing up nor carrying away of
branches or limbs. With all their massive foliage,
the branches were hacked from the parent stem,
and left to dry in the tropic sun. They were then
placed in great piles about the mother tree, lighted,
and left to burn. Sometimes these fallen denizens
of the wood, whose life had seen generations of
puny men fade and wither, and other generations
spring up and die while they stood splendid and
vigourous, refused to be annihilated. The fallen
trunk remained for years, proof of the vandalism of
man. More often, a long line of ashes marked the
spot where the giant had blazed, then smouldered
sullenly, to become wind-blown, intangible. This
great woodland crematory having been made ready
by death for the life that was to spring up through
its vanquishment, the peons came with their
machetes and dug the graves in which the bulbs,
teeming with quiescent life, were to be planted, each
sucker twelve feet from any one of its neighbors,
there to be warmed and nurtured in the bosom of
Mother Earth. Because exposed upon a windy hill
side, the bulbs had been placed in their graves head
and sprouting end downward, and at the depth of
ten inches. This was a provision against hurri
canes, which, with all their power, find it difficult
to uproot so securely planted a stalk.
And now the field which she had helped to
"avita" for one gives in when the tide of circum
stances flows too strong the waste whose seed-
graves she had seen dug, whose bulbs she had seen
buried from sight, had suddenly become a field of
life once more. Pale green spears were springing up
in every direction a light, wonderful green with a
tinge of yellow. The spatulated leaves were hand
somest, Agueda thought, when spotted or marked
with brown, or a rich chocolate shade. In their
tender infancy they were the loveliest things on
earth, she thought, as she ran about the damp, hot
hillside, comparing one with another; and as she
again returned to the path, she nearly stumbled
against the ebony giant, who, standing just at the
edge of the field, was watching her.
"It is wonderful, Natalio," she said, "how
quickly they have sprouted." She smiled up
"Si, Sefiorit'," said Natalio, smiling down. "It
is the early rains that bring the life. Perhaps the
good God may be thanked a little, too, but it is
the good soil, and the rains most of all."
He stooped his great height, and took some of
the earth in his fingers. "It is the caliche so the
Seftor says." He rubbed the disintegrated gravelly
mass between his fingers. Some of it powdered
away. The fine bits of stone that it contained
dropped in a faint patter upon his feet.
"I never heard the Seflor say that," said Agueda,
with the air of one who would know what were the
Sefior's favourite convictions, "but of course he
knows, the Senor. "
"Bieng, " said Natalio. "It is certain that the
Agueda moved on up the hill. She felt, crunch
ing beneath her feet, the shells of the circular grub
which had lost life and home in this terrific holo
"It seems hard," mused Agueda, "that some
things must die that other things may be created."
She smiled as she said this. She need not die that
other things might live. It had no personal appli
cation for her. At least it would not have for sixty
or eighty years, and that was a whole lifetime. She
might not be glad to die even then ! Agueda had
reached the summit of the hill. She turned to look
back at Natalio. He was standing gazing after her.
When he saw her turn he expanded his handsome
lips into a smile, showing his white teeth. Then
he uncovered his head, and swept the ground with
his ragged Panama hat. He called ; Agueda could
not hear at first what he said.
"Que es eso?" she called back in answer.
Natalio approached a few feet with his great
"I asked if theSenorit' would not ride the bull?"
"Pablo is away," said Agueda. "I cannot go
alone. The Sefior will not have me to ride the bull
"El Caballo Castano, Senorit'," said Natalio,
suggestively, approaching nearer.
"Would you saddle him, Natalio?" asked
Agueda, thinking this an excellent change of pro
"It would give me pleasure, Senorit'," said
Agueda turned and began to walk rapidly down
"The small man's saddle, Natalio," she called.
"I will be ready in a moment." Agueda ran down
the hill, keeping ahead of the giant, and sped
across the potrero. She flew to her room. There
lay the rose as she had left it upon the chair, but
she had no time for sentiment. The horse would
be at the door in a moment, and indeed, before she
had changed her skirt for the cotton riding garment
that she usually wore, and which our ladies have
imported of late under the name of a divided skirt,
Natalio was at the steps. Agueda buckled on her
spur, and was out on the veranda in the twinkling
of an eye. Uncle Adan was coming up from the
river. He saw her stand upon the second step and
throw her leg boy-fashion over the saddle, seize the
whip from Natalio, and canter away again toward
the hill. To his shout of "Where are you going?"
she flung back the words, "To Aneta's," and was
Her easy seat astride the animal gave her a sense
of freedom and independence. The top of the hill
reached, she struck off toward Troja, on the other
side of which lived Aneta, at El Cuco. Agueda
galloped along the damp roads, and then clattered
through the streets of the quiet little West Indian
town. Arrived upon its further outskirts, she
allowed the chestnut to walk, for he was warm and
tired. She was passing at the back of Escpbeda's
casa, through a narrow lane shaded with coffee
trees. The wall of the casa descended abruptly to
this lane, the garden being in front, facing the
broad camino. Agueda heard her name softly
called. She halted and looked towards the casa.
A shutter just at the side of the balcony moved
almost imperceptibly, then was pushed open a trifle,
and she saw a face, the face of Raquel, the niece of
Escobeda. Raquel had her finger upon her lips.
Agueda guided her horse near, in as cautious a man
ner as could be. When she was well under the
opening, Raquel spoke again.
"It is Agueda, is it not? Agueda from San
Raquel whispered her words. Agueda, seeing
that there was need for secrecy, also let her voice
fall lower than was usual.
"Yes," she smiled, "I am certainly Agueda from
"Ah! you happy girl," said Raquel, in a cautious
tone, "to be riding about alone." Agueda's head
was almost on a level with Raquel's.
"I am a prisoner, Agueda," said Raquel. "My
uncle has shut me up here. He means to take me
away in a short time. It's a dreadful thing which
is to happen. Can you carry a note for me,
"I will carry a note for you," said Agueda. "Is
it ready, Senorita?"
"I will write it in a moment. Agueda, good girl,
you know the plantation of the Silencios, do you
"I can find it," said Agueda. "It is down by
the sea. It is not much out of my way."
"If it were miles and miles out of your way,
Agueda, dear, you must take my letter.'
"Give it to me, then," said Agueda.
There was a noise inside the room, at the door of
"Ride on to the clump of coffee bushes where
the roads meet," whispered Raquel. "The fog will
help hide you, too. I will drop the note."
As she tried to guide the chestnut softly over the
turf, Agueda heard a loud call from within. It was
a man's coarse voice. She heard Raquel answer
drowsily, "In a moment, uncle; I was just asleep.
Wait until I "
Agueda halted for some minutes behind the con
cealment of the coffee bushes. She grudged this
delay, for she had still some distance to travel, and
must make a detour because of Raquel's request.
"But," she argued, "had I walked, I should have
been much longer on the way." She watched the
window at the back of Escobeda's house, then, pres
ently, from the front, saw a man mount and ride
away in the opposite direction. Then, as she still
awaited the fluttering of the note, the shutter was
flung wide, and an arm encased in a yellow sleeve
beckoned desperately. Agueda struck her spur
into the chestnut, and was soon under the window
"He has gone," said Raquel, "and I am locked
in the house alone. All the servants have gone to
"You can climb down," said Agueda. "It is
"Where should I go then, Agueda?" asked
Raquel. "No, he would only bring me back.
Now I will write my note, and I will ask you to
take it to Don Gil." As Raquel said this name
her voice trembled. She coloured all over her
"You are lovely that way," said Agueda.
"What does he do to you, Senorita? the Senor
Escobeda. Does he starve you? Does he ill
treat I could tell the Sefior Don Beltran "
"You do not blush when you speak of him," said
Raquel, who had heard some rumours.
"I have no cause to blush," said Agueda, with
dignity. "But come, Senorita, the note!"
Raquel withdrew into the room. She scribbled
a few words on a piece of blue paper, folded it, and
encased it in a long thin envelope. This she sealed
with a little pink wafer, on which were two turtle
doves with their bills quite close together. She
leaned out and handed the missive down to
"Thank you, dear," she said. "I should like to
"I should like much to have you," said Agueda.
"Perhaps I can stand up." Agueda spurred her
horse closer under the window. She raised herself
as high as she could. The chestnut started.
"He will throw you," said Raquel. "I will lean
Raquel stretched her young form as far out of
the window as possible. She could just reach
Agueda' s forehead. She kissed her gently.
"I thank you, Senorita," said Agueda. She felt
the kiss upon her forehead all the way to the plan
tation ; it seemed like a benediction. She did not
reason out the cause of her feeling, but it was true
that no one of Raquel's class had ever kissed her
Agueda rode along her way with quick gait.
The plantation of Palmacristi was some miles far-
ther on, and she wished still to see Aneta. On her
way toward Palmacristi, and as she mounted the
slope leading to the casa, she met no one. Arrived
at that splendid estate by the sea, she spurred her
horse over the hill and round to the counting-
house. This was the place, she had heard, where
the Senor was usually to be found. She had seen
the Senor at a distance. She thought that she
would know him.
At that same hour the Senor Don Gil Silencio-
y-Estrada sat within his counting-house. The
counting-house was constructed of the boards of the
palm, the inner side plain, the outer side curved, as
the tree had curved. The bark had not been
removed. The roof of the building was also made
of palm boards ; it was thickly thatched with yagua.
Since the days of the old Don Gil the finca had
enlarged and improved. The counting-house stood
within its small enclosure, its back against the side
of the casa, and though it communicated with the
interior of the imposing mahogany mansion, it
remained the same palm-board counting-house
that is, to the outside world that the estate of
Palmacristi had ever known.
Two tall palms stood like sentinels upon either
side of the low step before the doorway. The palm
trees were dead. They had been topped by no green
plume of leaves since before the death of the old
Don Gil. Now, as then, the carpenter birds made
their homes in the decaying shaft. The round beak-
made holes, from root to treetop, disclosed num
berless heads, if so much as a tap were given the
resounding stem of the palm.
No one wondered why Don Gil still used the
ancient structure as a counting-house. No one ever
wondered at anything at Palmacristi; everything
was accepted with quiescence. "The good God
wills it," a shrug of the shoulders accompanying
the remark, made aln\e, if a tornado unroofed a
house or a peon died of the wounds received at
the last garito.*
The changes which had taken place at Palmacristi
had nothing to say to the condition of the counting-
house, or it to them, except that it acceded, some
what slowly in some cases, to the payment of bills.
Since his father's day Don Gil had added much to
the estate. Upon the right he had bought more
than twenty caballerias from Don Luis Salas land
which marched with his own to the seashore. This
included a tall headland, with a sand spit at its
base, which pushed itself a half mile out into the
sea. This sand spit curved in a hook to the left,
and formed a pleasant and safe harbour for boating.
To the north of his inheritance Don Gil had
taken in the old estates of La Flor and Prove-
dencia, and at the back of the casa, which already
stood high up on the slope, he had extended his
possessions over the crest of the hill. Had the
original owner of Palmacristi returned on a visit to
earth, he would have found his old plantation
the center of a magnificent estate, with, however,
the same shiftless, careless ways of master and ser
vant that had obtained in his time. This would
probably grow worse as his descendants succeeded
each other in ownership.
The casa was built upon a level, where the hill
ceased to be a hill just long enough to allow of a
broad foundation for Don Gil's improvements. At
the edge of the veranda the hill sloped gently again
for the distance of a hundred yards, and then
dropped in a short but steep declivity to the sand
The old habitation had been built entirely of
palm boards, but in its place, at the bidding of Don
Gil, had arisen a new and more modern erection,
whose only material was mahogany. Pilotijos,
escaleras, ligazones, verandas, techos, all were hewn
and formed of the fine red mahogany. The boards
were unpolished, it is true, but dark and rich in
tone. They made a cool interior, where, coming
from the white glare outside, body and eye alike
were at once at rest. The covering of the techos
was the glazed tile of Italy. Perhaps one should
speak of the roofs as tejados, as they were covered
with tiles. This tiling proved a beacon by day, as it
glittered in the blazing light of the sun of the tropics.
Agueda guided her horse up the path between
the two dead palm trees, and rapped with the stock
of her whip upon the counting-house door, which
stood partly open.
"Entra, " was the reply. She rapped again.
"It is I who cannot enter, Sefior, " she called in
her clear, young voice. "I have not the time to
An inner door was opened and closed. A fine-
looking young fellow stepped across the intervening
space and appeared upon the threshold of the outer
door. He raised his brows; he did not know
Agueda. Don Beltran made various pretexts for
her absence when he had visitors.
Agueda held out the note. It was crumpled and
dusty from being held in her hand.
"I am sorry," she said; "the day is hot, and my
Castafio is not quiet."
Don Gil gazed with interest at the boyish-looking
figure riding astride the little chestnut. "What a
handsome lad she would make!" he thought.
"And you are from "
"It makes no difference for me. I bring a mes
Silencio took the note which she reached out to him.
"You will dismount and let me send for some
fruit, some coffee?"
"I thank you, Sefior, I must hasten; I am going
to El Cuco."
"That is not so far," said Don Gil, smiling.
"No, but I then have to ride a long way back
"To San Isidro."
"The Senorita takes roundabout ways. Is she
then carrying messages all about the country?"
"Oh, no, Sefior," said Agueda, smiling frankly.
"When I go back to San Isidro I go to my home.
I live there."
"Ah!" What was there imperceptible in Don
Gil's tone? "You live there? Is the Senorita per
haps the niece of the manager, Sefior Adan?"
"Si, Senor, " answered Agueda, flushing hotly,
she knew not why.
She wheeled Castafio and paced down between
the palm trees.
"And you will not take pity on my loneliness?"
Don Gil was still smiling, but there was some
thing new, something of familiarity, it seemed to
Agueda, in his tone.
"I cannot stop, Sefior. A Dios!" she said,
As Agueda rode out of the enclosure the day
seemed changed. Why was it? She had been so
happy before she had delivered the note! Now she
felt sad, depressed. The sun was still shining,
though there were occasional showers of rain, and
the birds were still singing. Nothing in nature had
changed. Ah, stay! There was a cloud over
there, hanging low down above the sea. It was
coming to the westward, she thought. She hoped
that it would come, and quickly. She hoped that it
would burst in rain upon her, and make her ride
for it, and struggle with it. Anything to drive
away that unhappy impression.
Had Silencio been asked what he had said or
done to cause this young girl to change suddenly
from a thoughtless, happy creature to one who felt
that she had reason for uneasiness, he could not
have told.. He had heard vague rumours of the girl,
Adan's niece, who lived over at San Isidro. But
that he had allowed any such impression to escape
him in intonation or gesture he was quite unaware.
At all events, he was entirely oblivious of Agueda
the moment that she had ridden away, for he
opened the little blue note that she had brought,
and was lost in its contents.
When Agueda left the Casa de Caboa she turned
down the trocha towards the sea. Although the sea
was not far from San Isidro as the crow flies, the
dwellers at the hacienda rarely went there. In the
first place, there was the river to cross, and then
the wood beyond the river was filled with a thick,
short growth of prickly pear. This sort of under
brush was unpleasant to pull through. Don Belt-
ran had tried to buy it from Escobeda up at Troja,
but Escobeda seemed to have been born to annoy
the human race in general, and Don Beltran and
Silencio in particular. He would not sell, and he
would not cultivate, so that the sea meadow, as
they called it at San Isidro, was an eyesore and a
cause of heart-burning to Don Beltran.
Agueda chirruped to her horse, and was soon
skirting the plantation of Palmacristi. The chest
nut was a pacer, and Agueda liked his single foot,
and kept him down to it at all hazards.
She felt as if she were in Nada's American chair,
the motion was so easy and pleasant. The beach
was rather a new experience to the chestnut, but
after a little moment of hesitancy he started on with
a nod of the head.
"Ah!" said Agueda, with a laugh, "it is you,
Castano, who know that I never lead you wrong."
She shook the bridle, and the horse put forth his
best powers. They took the wet sand just where
the water had retreated but a little while before.
It was as hard and firm as the country road, but
moist and cool.
"How I should like to plunge into that sea," said
Agueda to Castano. Castano again nodded an
acquiescent head. A salt-water bath was a novelty
to these comrades.
After a few moments of pacing, Agueda came to
the sand spit which ran out from the plantation
into the sea. Here was the boat-house which Don
Gil had built, and Agueda noticed that it was placed
upon a high point, with ways leading down on
either side into the water. She looked wistfully at
the boat-house. "How I should love to sail upon
that sea," thought Agueda. "No water, however
high, could frighten me." Then she recalled with
a flash the flood which had brought her happiness.
She smiled faintly, for with the thought the un
pleasant feeling which Don Gil's words had called
up returned, she knew not why. Agueda was
pacing towards the south. Upon her right stood up
tall and high the asta of Palmacristi, the staff from
which hung the lantern that, she had heard, sent
forth its white ray each night to warn the seafarers
on that lonely coast.
"What harm for a ship to run on the sand,"
thought Agueda. "I have heard that rocks are
cruel. But the sand is soft. It need hurt no one."
She struck spurs to Castano, and covered several
miles before she again drew rein. And now the
bank grew high, and Agueda awoke to the fact that
she was alone upon the beach, screened from
the eyes of every one. Again the thought came
to her of a bath in the sea, and she was about to
rein the chestnut in when she heard a shout from
the plateau above her head. She stopped, and
tipping back her straw hat, she looked upward.
All that she could discover was a mass of flowers in
motion. "They are the air-plants, certainly," said
Agueda to herself, "but I never saw them to grow
like that." She looked to right and to left, but
there was no human being in sight along the yellow
bank outlined by sand and overhanging weeds.
"Who calls me?" she cried aloud, holding her
hair from her ears, where the wind persisted in
"Caramba, muchacho! Can you not see who it
is? It is I, Gremo."
There was a violent agitation of the mass of
blooms, and Agueda now perceived that a head
was shaking out its words from the centre of this
"I can hardly see you, Gremo," said Agueda.
"What do you want with me, Gremo?"
"And must I make brains for every muchacho*
between here and the Port of Entry? Do you not
know there are the quicksands just beyond?"
"Quicksands, Gremo! Yes, I had heard of
quicksands, but I did not think them here. Can I
get up the bank, Gremo?"
"No," answered Gremo, from his flower screen.
"You must ride back a long way." He wheeled
suddenly toward the south at least, the mass of
flowers wheeled, and a hand was stretched forth
from the centre. A finger pointed along the sand.
Agueda turned in the saddle and shaded her eyes
"What is it, Gremo?" she asked. "I see noth-
"Then you do not see that small thing over which
the vultures hover?"
"I see the vultures, certainly," said Agueda.
"Some bit of fish, perhaps."
"No bit of fish or fowl, but foul flesh, if you
will, hombre. It is the hand of a Senor, mu
"The hand of a Senor? And what is the hand
of a Senor doing, lying along there on the
shore ?' '
"It lies there because it cannot get loose.
Caramba, muchacho! Do I not know?"
"Cannot get loose from what?" asked Agueda,
"From the Senor himself, muchachito. He lies
below there, and his good horse with him. Do you
not see a hoof just over beyond where the big bird
Agueda turned pale. She had never been near
such death before. Nada had passed peacefully
away with the sacred wafer upon her lips, and in
her ears the good padre's words of forgiveness for
all her sins, of which Agueda was sure she had com
mitted none. Hers was a sweet, calm, sad death.
One thought of it with relief and hope, but this was
tragedy. There, along the beach, beneath the
smiling sand, whose grains glistened in a million,
million sparkles, lay the bodies of horse and rider,
overtaken by this placid sea.
"I suppose he was a stranger," said Agueda.
"There was no one to warn him." Suddenly she
felt faint. A strong whiff of air reached her from
the direction of the birds. She turned the chestnut
rapidly, and struck the spur to his side.
"Wait, Gremo, wait!" she cried, "I am coming!
Do not leave me here alone." The chestnut paced
as never horse paced before, and after a few min
utes Agueda found a little cleft in the bank where
a stream trickled down. Into this opening she
guided Castano, and with spur and whip aided him
in his scramble up the bank. She galloped south
ward again, and neared the place where Gremo
stood. She was guided by the mass of bloom.
As she advanced she saw the blossoms shaking, but
as yet perceived nothing human. Tales of the for
est suddenly came back to her. Could it be that
this was a woodland spirit, who had lured her here
to this high headland, to throw her over the cliff
again to keep company with the dead man yonder
and the birds of prey? She had half turned her
horse, when Gremo, seeing her plan, thrust himself
further from his gorgeous environment.
"Ah! It is the little Agueda! Do not be afraid,
Agueda, little Senorita. It is I, Gremo."
Agueda's cheek had not as yet regained its colour.
"It is Gremo, muchachito."
"What terrible thing is that down there, Gremo?
And to see you looking like this frightened me!"
It was a curious sight which met Agueda's eyes.
Gremo, the little yellow keeper of Los Santos light,
was standing not far from his signal pole. He held
a staff in each hand. The staves were crooked and
uneven. They were covered with bark, and
scraggy bits of moss hung from them here and
there. The strange thing about them was that each
blossomed like the prophet's rod. At the top of
the right-hand staff there shot out a splendid
orange-coloured flower, with velvety oval-shaped
leaves. Near the top of the left-hand staff was a
pale pink blossom, large also, not wilted, as plucked
flowers are apt to be, but firm and fresh. But
these were not all the prophet's rods which Gremo
carried. Across his back was slung an old canvas
stool, opened to its fullest extent, and laid length
wise across this were many more ragged staves, and
on each and all of them a flower of some shade or
colour bloomed. Then there were branches held
under his arms, whose protruding ends blossomed
in Agueda's very face, and quite enclosed the yel
low countenance of Gremo. The glossy green of
the leaves surrounding each bloom so concealed
Gremo that he was lost in his vari-coloured burden
"So it is really you, Gremo! Do they smell
sweet, those air-plants?"
Gremo shifted from one leg to the other. One of
Gremo 's legs was shorter than the other. He gen
erally settled down on the short one to argue.
When he was indignant he raised himself upon his
long leg and hurled defiance from the elevation.
The mass of bloom seemed to exhale a delicate
aroma. So evanescent was it that Gremo often
said to himself, "Have they any scent after all?"
And then, in a moment, a breeze blew from left to
right, across the open calix of each delicate flower,
and Gremo said, "How sweet they are!"
"I sometimes think they are the sweetest things
on God's earth," said Gremo. "That is, when the
Senorita is not by," he added, remembering that
his grandfather had brought some veneer from old
Spain; "and then again I ask myself, is there any
perfume at all?"
"Oh, now I smell it, Gremo!" said Agueda,
sniffing up her straight little nose. "Now I smell
it! It is delicious!"
"It is better than the perfume down below
there," said Gremo, with a grimace. Agueda
turned pale again.
"And what do you do with them, Gremo?"
"I take them to the Port of Entry, Senorita.
I get good payment there. Sometimes a half-dol
lar, Mex. They stick them in the earth. They
last a long, long time."
"Were you going there when you called me
from from down there?"
"Si, Senorita. I was walking along the bank.
I had just come from my casa" Gremo gestured
backward with a dignified wave of the hand "when
I heard El Castano's hoofs on the hard sand there
below." He turned and looked along the beach to
where the noisome birds hovered. "I was too late
to warn the Senor. Had I been here, I should
even have laid down my plants and have run to the
edge of the cliff" Gremo jerked his head towards
the humped-up pit of sand "and called, 'Ola!
Porque hace Usted eso? It is Gremo who has
the kind heart, muchacho.' '
"I am not a boy, Gremo," said Agueda, glan
cing down at her riding costume.
"It is the same to me, Sefiorita, " said Gremo,
who in common with his fellows had but one gender
Agueda was looking at the hand which thrust
itself out from the sand of the shore. It seemed
as if the fingers beckoned. She shuddered.
"They should put up a sign," she said, quickly.
"I shall tell the Senor Don Beltran. He will put
up a notice a warning."
"Caramba, hombre! And why must you inter
fere? No people in this part will go that way.
They all know the danger as well as the birds. I
live here in this part. Why not leave it to me?"
"But will you, Gremo?"
"What? Put up the sign? I most certainly shall,
Senorita. Some day when I have not the air-plants
to gather, or the lanterna to clean, or when I am
not down with the calentura, or there is no fair at
Haldez, or no cock-fight at Saltona. The Senorita
does not know how long I have thought of this I,
Gremo! Why, as long ago as when the Sefior Don
Gil bought the sand spit I had the board prepared.
That is now going on four years, if I count aright.
I told the Sefior Don Gil that I would get a board,
and I have."
'He thinks it there now, I am sure," said
"Well, well! He may, he may, our Don Gil!
J am not disputing it, Senorita. I am only wait
ing for the padre to come and put the letters on it."
"Have you told him, Gremo?" said Agueda,
bending forward anxiously.
"Caramba, Senorita!" said Gremo, raising up on
his long leg, "where do you suppose I am to find
the time to tell the padre? If I should take a half-
day from my work when I am at San Isidro, and
walk over to the bodega, the padre might be away
at the cock-fight at Saltona, or the christening at
Haldez. The Don Beltran is a gentle hombre, but
he would not pay me for half a day when I did not
earn it. If I could know when the padre was at
home, I would go, most certainly."
"You must have seen him many times in the last
three years," said Agueda.
"I will not deny that I have seen the padre,"
answered Gremo, rising angrily on the tips of
his knotted brown toes. "But would you have
me disturb a man like our padre when he was
watching the shoemaker's black cock from Troja,
to see if his spurs were as long as the spurs of the
cock of Corndeau? that vagamundo!"
Agueda reined Castano round, so that his head
pointed in the general direction of the bodega, as
well as homeward.
''I can tell the padre, Gremo," she said, and
then added with determination, "It must not be
left another day."
Gremo settled down upon his short leg.
"Now, Sefiorita, " he said argumentatively, "do
not interfere. It is I that have this matter well
within my grasp. There is no one coming this way
to-day along the beach, I mean."
"How do you know, Gremo?" questioned
Gremo shrugged his shoulders.
"It is not likely, muchacho. Our own people
never come that way, and there are so few stran
gers not three in as many years. We cannot now
help the Sefior who lies there, can we, Sefiorita?"
"No," said Agueda, sadly; "but we can pre
"Leave it to me, Senorita. I promise that I will
attend to it to-morrow. I "
"And why not to-day?"
"Because, you see, muchacho, I must take the
air-plants to the Port of Entry. I am on my way
there now. I but stopped to warn the Sefiorita,
and I pay well for my kindness. Now I shall not
be able to return to-night. As the Senorita has
detained me all this long while, will she be so good
as to stop at my casa and tell Marianna Romando
to come over and light the lantern on the signal-
staff at an early hour? This, you know, is my
lighthouse, little 'Gueda. This is Los Santos."
"Have I come as far as Los Santos head?"
asked the girl.
Agueda looked upwards at the place where the
red lantern hung against the staff.
"How can a woman climb up there?" she said.
"She will bring the ladder, the Marianna
Romando," said Gremo, moving a step onwards.
"I do not think I know Marianna Romando. Is
she your wife, Gremo?"
"Well, so, so," answered Gremo. "But she
will do very well to light the lantern all the same."
Aguedo sat her horse, lost in thought. When
she raised her eyes nothing was to be seen of
Gremo. An ambulating mass of bloom, some dis
tance along on the top of the sea bank, told her that
he was well on his way toward the Port of Entry.
This was the best way, Gremo considered, to put
an end to discussion.
Agueda did not know just where the casa of the
light-keeper lay. Seeing that a well-worn path
entered the bushes just there, she turned her
horse's head and pushed into the tall undergrowth.
After a few moments she came out upon a well-
defined footway. Her path led her through acres
of mompoja trees, whose great spreading spatules
shaded her from the scorching sun. She had
descended a little below the hill, and once out of
the fresh trade breeze, began to feel the heat. She
took off her hat as she rode, and fanned herself.
Five or six minutes of Castano's walking brought
her to a hut ; this hut was placed at a point where
three paths met. It stood in a sort of hollow,
where the moisture from the late rains had settled
upon the clay soil. The hut was thatched with
yagua. It was so small that, Agueda argued, there
could be but one room. There was a stone before
the doorway sunk deep in the mud. Before the
opening, where the door should be, hung a curtain
of bull's hide. A long ladder stood against the
house. Its topmost rung was at least an entire
story in height above the roof, and Agueda won
dered why it was needed there. The only signs of
life about the place were three or four withered
hens, which ran screaming, with wobbling bodies
and thin necks stretched forward, at the approach
of the stranger. Their screams brought a yellow
woman to the door. If Gremo looked like a with
ered apple, this was his feminine counterpart. Her
one garment appeared to be quite out of place. It
seemed as if there could be nothing improper in
such a creature going about as she was created.
The slits in the faded cotton gown were more sug
gestive than utter nakedness would have been.
This person nodded at the chickens where they were
disappearing in the bush.
"They are as good as any watch-dog," said she.
"There is no use of thieves coming here."
Agueda rode close.
"I am not a thief," said Agueda. "Can you
tell me where is the casa of Gremo, the light-
"And where but here in this very spot?" said the
piece of parchment, smiling a toothless smile and
showing a fine array of gums. "But had you said
the casa of Marianna Romando, you would have
come nearer the truth."
Agueda had not expected the casa of which
Gremo spoke with such pride to look like this, or
to belong to some one else.
"Well, then, I have come with a message from
your hus from Gremo."
"The Senorita will get off her horse and come in?
What will the Senorita have? Some bread, an
egg a little ching-ching?"
The woman smiled pleasantly all the time that
she was speaking. Agueda had difficulty in
understanding her, for the entire absence of teeth
caused her lips to cling together, so that she articu
lated with difficulty. Still she smiled. Agueda
shook her head at the hospitable words.
''I have no time, gracias, Sefiora. You will see
that I have been wet with the showers, ' ' she said ;
"and I have been delayed twice already. Gremo
asked me to tell you that he would come to the
Port of Entry too late to return and light the lan
tern. He asks that you will do it for him."
For answer the woman hurriedly pulled aside the
bull's-hide curtain and entered the hut. She reap
peared in a moment with an old straw hat on her
head. She was lifting up her skirt as she came,
and tying round her waist a petticoat of some faded
grey stuff. Her face had changed. She smiled no
"It is that fat wife of the inn-keeper at the sign
of the 'Navio Mercante.'* She it is who takes my
Gremo from me." She entered the hut again,
and this time reappeared with a coarse pair of
native shoes. She seated herself in the doorway,
her feet on the damp stone, and busily began to put
on the shoes, her tongue keeping her fingers in
* Merchant ship.
"As if I did not know why my Gremo goes to
the Port of Entry! He will sit in the doorway all
the day! She will give him of the pink rum! He
will spend all the pesos he has made! His plants
will wither! Oh, yes, it is that fat Posadera who
has got hold of my Gremo."
Agueda turned her horse's head.
"How do I go on from here?" she asked.
"Where is the Senorita going?"
"To San Isidro, but first to El"
"Aaaamieee/" said the woman, standing in the
now laced shoes, arms akimbo. "So this is Don
Beltran's little lady?"
"I live with my uncle, the Senor Adan, at San
Isidro." She pushed into the undergrowth.
"The Senora is going wrong," said the woman.
"Senorita," said Agueda, sharply, correcting the
word. "Which way, then?"
Getting no answer, she turned again. She now
saw that the woman had gone to the side of the
house and was taking the long ladder from its
position against the wall. She bent her back and
settled it upon her shoulders. Agueda looked on
in astonishment while this frail creature fitted her
back to so awkward a burden. Marianna Romando
looked up sidewise from under the rungs.
"I go to light the sefiale now," she said. "It
may burn all day, for me. What cares Marianna
Romando? Government must pay. Then, when
it is lighted I shall hide the ladder among the mom-
poja trees. He did not dare to tell me that he
would remain away. He knows that I do not like
that fat wife of the inn-keeper. I shall lead him
home by the ear at about four o'clock of the morn
ing. There are ghosts in the mompoja patch, but
they will not appear to two."
All through this discourse Marianna Romando
had not raised her voice. She smiled as if she con
sidered the weaknesses of Gremo amiable ones.
She started after him as a mother would go in
search of a straying child ; like a guardian who
would protect a weak brother from himself.
"I have only this to say to you, Senorita, " she
called after Agueda, turning so that the ladder
swished through the low bushes, cutting off some
of the tops of the tall weeds, both before and
behind her. "Keep the Senor well in hand. When
they go away like that, no one knows whom they
may be going after."
Agueda closed her ears. She did not wish to
hear that which her senses had perforce caught.
She pushed along the path that Marianna Romando
had indicated, and in twenty minutes saw the white
palings of Don Mateo's little plantation, El Cuco.
When Raquel had given Agueda the note and the
kiss, and had seen her ride rapidly away, she closed
the shutter. She made the room as dark as pos
sible. She could not bear to have the sun shine on
a girl who had written to a man to come to her suc
cour. It could mean nothing less than marriage,
and it was as if she had offered it. But what else
remained for her but to appeal to Don Gil? If the
few words that he had spoken meant anything,
they meant love. If the beating of her heart, when
she caught ever so distant a glimpse of him, meant
anything, it meant love. She had received a note
from him only a week back. She would read it
again. Her uncle had searched her room only yes
terday for letters, and she was thankful that she
had had the forethought to conceal Silencio's mis
sive where he would not discover it. He had
ordered old Ana to search the girl's dresses, and
Ana, with moist eyes and tender words, had carried
out Escobeda's instructions. She had found noth
ing, and so had told the Senor Escobeda.
"And when does the child get a chance to
receive notes from the Senores?" asked Ana, indig
nant that her charge should be suspected. It was
the reflection upon herself, also, that galled her.
"I guarded her mother; I can guard her, Senor, "
said the old woman, with dignity.
"Do you not know that the young of our nation
are fire and tow?" snarled Escobeda. "I shall put
it out of her power to deceive me longer."
With that he had flung out of the casa and rid
den away. It was then that Raquel had beckoned
to Agueda, where she loitered under the shelter of
the coffee bushes. After Agueda had gone,
Raquel seated herself upon a little stool which had
been hers from childhood. She raised one foot to
her knee, took the heel in her hand, and drew off
the slipper. Some small pegs had pressed through
and had made little indentations in the tender foot.
But between the pegs and the stocking was a thick
piece of paper, whose folds protected the skin. She
had just removed it when the door opened, and
Ana entered. Raquel started and seemed con
fused for a moment.
"You frightened me, Ana," said Raquel. "I
thought that you had gone to the fair. So I told "
"You told? And whom did you have to tell,
"I told my uncle. He was here but now. Oh!
dear Ana, I am so tired of this hot house. I long
for the woods. When do you think that he will
let me go to the forest again?"
Ana drew the girl toward her. Her lips trembled.
"I am as sorry as you can be, muchachita; but
what can I do? What is that paper that you hold
in your hand, Raquel?"
Raquel blushed crimson. Fortunately Ana's
eyes were fixed upon the paper.
"I had it folded in my shoe," said Raquel. She
threw the paper in the scrap basket as she spoke.
"See, Ana." She held up the slipper. "Look at
those pegs! They have pushed through, and my
heel is really lame. I can hardly walk." Raquel
limped round the room to show Ana what suffering
was hers, keeping her back always to the scrap-bas
ket. "If he would allow me to go to the town and
buy some shoes!" said Raquel Ana's espionage
having created the deceit whose prophylactic she
"You had better put on your slipper, said the
prudent Ana. "You will wear out your stockings
"But how can I put on my slipper with those
pegs in the heel?" asked Raquel.
"You had the paper."
"It was punched full of holes."
"Let me see it," said Ana.
"I threw it away," said Raquel. "Get me
another piece of paper, for the love of God, dear
Ana. My uncle does not allow me even a journal.
I am indeed in prison."
"I will take the scrap-basket with me," she said.
"Not until you have brought the paper, Ana.
I shall tear up some other pieces."
When Ana had closed the door Raquel pounced
upon the waste-basket. She took the folded paper
from the top of the few scraps lying there. This
she opened, pulling it apart with difficulty, for the
pegs had punched the layers together, as if they
had been sewn with a needle. She spread the
paper upon her knee, but first ran to the door and
called, "Ana, bring a piece of the cottonwool, also,
I beg of you."
"That will keep her longer," said Raquel, smil
ing. She spoke aloud as lonely creatures often do.
"She must hunt for that, I know." She heard
Ana pulling out bureau drawers, and sat down again
to read her letter.
"Dearest Senorita," it ran. "I hear that you
are unhappy. What can I do? I hear that you
are going away. Do not go, for the love of God,
without letting me know.
"Your faithful servant, G."
"I have let you know, Gil," she said. "I am
not going away, but I am unhappy. I am a pris-
oner. I wonder if you will save me?" Ana's
heavy tread was heard along the corridor. Raquel
hastily thrust the note within the bosom of her
dress. When the cotton had been adjusted and
the slipper replaced, Ana took up the scrap-basket.
"Dear Ana, stay a little while. I am so lonely.
Don't you think he would let me sit on the
"He would let you go anywhere if you would
promise not to speak to the Sefior Silencio," said
"I will never promise that, Ana," said Raquel,
with a compression of the lips.
She laid her head down on Ana's shoulder.
"I am so lonely," she said. The tears welled
over from the childish eyes. The lips quivered. "I
wonder how it feels, Ana, to have a mother. ' ' Ana's
eyes were moist, too, but she repressed any show
of feeling. Had not the Sefior Escobeda ordered
her to do so, and was not his will her daily rule?
Suddenly Raquel started her hearing made sen
sitive by fear.
"I hear him coming, Ana," she said.
"You could not hear him, sweet; he has gone
over to see the Sefior Anecito Rojas. "
"That -dreadful man!" Raquel shuddered.
"Why does he wish to see the Sefior Anecito
"I do not know, Senorita." Ana shook her
head pitifully. It seemed as if she might tell some
thing if she would.
Suddenly she strained her arms round the girl.
"Raquel! Raquel!" she said, "promise me that
you will sometimes think of me. That you will
love me if we are separated. That if you can, if
you have the power, you will send for me "
"Ana! Ana!" Raquel had risen to her feet and
was crying. Her face was white, her lips bloodless.
"Tell me what you mean. How can I send for
you? Where am I going that I can send for you?
Am I going away, Ana? Ana, what do you know?
Tell me, Ana, dear dear Ana, tell me!"
But Ana had no time or reason to answer. There
was a sound of horse's hoofs before the door, a
man's heavy foot alighting upon the veranda, the
throwing wide of the outer door, and Escobeda's
voice within the passage.
"Ana!" it shouted, "Ana!"
Ana arose trembling. "I am here, Senor, " she
"Where is that girl, Raquel?"
"The Senorita is also here, Senor," answered
The door was flung open.
"Pack her duds," said Escobeda. "She leaves
this by evening."
"/ leave here?" Raquel had arisen, and was
standing supporting herself by Ana's shoulder.
"I suppose you understand your mother tongue.
It is as I said ; you leave here this evening. ' '
"Oh, uncle! Where where am I to go?"
"That you will find out later. Pack her duds,
Ana trembled in every limb. She arose to
obey. Raquel threw herself on the bare floor at
"Oh, uncle!" she said. "What have I done to
be sent away? Will you not tell me where I am
The girl cried in terror. She wept as a little
child weeps, without restraint. "I am so young,
uncle. I have no home but this. Do not send me
Escobeda looked down at the childish figure on
the ground before him, but not a ray of pity entered
his soul, for between Raquel's face and his he saw
that of Silencio, whose father had been his father's
enemy as well as his own. He felt sure that soon
or late Silencio would have the girl. He spoke
his thoughts aloud.
"I suppose he would even marry you to spite
me," he said.
"Who, uncle? Of whom do you speak?"
"You know well enough; but I shall spoil his
game. Get her ready, Ana; we start this after
"There is a knocking at the outer door," said
Ana. "I will go "
"You will pack her duds," said Escobeda, who
was not quite sure of Ana. "I will answer the
As he was passing through the doorway, Raquel
"Uncle, wait a moment. You went to the Senor
Anecito Rojas. How did you get back so soon "
"And who told you that I was going to him?
Yes, I did start for the house of Rojas, but I met
him on the way, so I was saved the trouble."
"Are you going to send me to him, uncle?"
asked Raquel. The girl's face had again become
white, her eyes were staring. There was some
unknown horror in store. What could it be?
"Send you to him? Oh, no! Why should I
send you to him? I have a better market for you
than that of Rojas. He is only coming to aid me
with those trusty men of his, in case your friend
Silencio should attempt to take you from me. He
had better not attempt it. A stray shot will dis
pose of him very quickly."
"Am I to remain on the island, uncle?"
"Yes and no," answered Escobeda. "We take
the boat to-night for the government town. When
we arrive, it will be as the governor says he must
see you first."
Raquel understood nothing of his allusions. Ana
cried silently as she took Raquel's clothes from the
drawers and folded them.
"I cannot see what the governor has to do with
me?" said Raquel.
"You will know soon enough," said Escobeda.
His laugh was cruel and sneering.
Raquel turned from Escobeda with an increased
feeling of that revulsion which she had never been
able entirely to control. She had felt as if it were
wrong not to care for her uncle, but even had he
been uniformly kind, his appearance was decidedly
not in his favour. She glanced at his low, squat
figure, bowed legs, and thick hands. She had time
to wonder why he always wore earrings some
thing which now struck her as more grotesque than
formerly. Then she thrust her hand within the
bosom of her gown, raised it quickly, and slipped
something within her mouth.
Escobeda caught the motion of Raquel's arm as
he raised his eyes. She backed toward the wall.
He advanced toward her threateningly. He seized
her small shoulder with one hand, and with a quick,
rough motion he thrust the thick forefinger of the
other between her lips, and ran it round inside her
mouth, as a mother does in seeking a button or
some foreign substance by which a child might be
endangered. Raquel endeavoured to swallow the
paper. At first she held her teeth close together,
but the strength of Escobeda's finger was equal to
the whole force of her little body, and after a mo
ment's struggle Silencio's note was brought to
light. He tried to open it.
"It is pulp! Nothing but pulp!" he said, shak
ing the empty hand at her. Raquel stood outraged
and pale. What was the matter with this man?
He had suddenly shown himself in a new light.
''How dare you treat me so?" she gasped.
"You have hurt her, Sefior," said Ana, reproach
fully. "Does it pain you, sweet?" Ana had run
to the girl, and was wiping her lips with a soft hand
kerchief. A tiny speck of blood showed how less
than tender had been this rough man's touch.
"If it pains me? Yes, all over my whole body.
How dare he! Anita, how dare he!"
Escobeda laughed. He seated his thick form in
the wicker chair, which was Raquel' s own. It trem
bled with his weight. He laid the paper carefully
upon his knee, and tried to smooth it.
"I thought you said she received no notes from
gentlemen," he roared. Ana stood red-eyed and
"She never does, Sefior," she answered, stifling
"And what is that?" asked Escobeda, in a grat
ing voice. He slapped the paper with the back of
his hand into the very face of Ana. "Do you
think that I cannot read my enemy's hand aye,
and his meaning? Even were it written in invisible
ink. ' Gil!' Do you see it? 'Gil!' ' He slapped
the paper again, still thrusting it under Ana's nose.
"There may be more than one Gil in the world,
Sefior," sniffed the shaking Ana.
"Do not try to prevaricate, Ana. You know
there is not more than one Gil in the world," said
Ana, in danger from the second horn of her
dilemma, stood convicted of both, and gasped.
"There is only one Gil in the world for me.
That is Don Gil Silencio-y- Estrada. That is his
note which you hold, uncle. It is a love letter. I
have answered it this very day."
Raquel, now that the flood of her speech had
started to flow, said all that she could imagine or
devise. She said that which had no foundation in
fact. She made statements which, had Silencio
heard them, would have lifted him to the seventh
heaven of bliss.
"He wants me to go away with him. He knows
that I am imprisoned. He implores me to come
to him. Be sure," said Raquel, her eyes flashing,
"that the opportunity is all that I need."
Ana stood aghast. She had never seen Escobeda
defied before. All the countryside feared to anger
him. What would become of the two helpless
women who had been so unfortunate?
Escobeda was livid. His eyes rolled with rage;
they seemed to turn red. He arose from the chair,
leaving it creaking in every straw. He clenched
his fist, and shook it at the woman and girl alter
nately. His ear-rings danced and trembled. He
seemed to be seized with a stuttering fit. The
words would not pass the barrier of his brown teeth.
He jerked and stammered.
"We we shall see. We shall s s see.
This this eve evening.
Raquel, her short spurt of courage fled, now
stood with drooped head. Escobeda's anger seemed
to have left him as suddenly as it had appeared.
He threw Silencio's note on the floor.
"Ah! bah!" he said, contemptuously. "It
sounds very fine. It is like hare soup: first catch
your hare. Silencio shall not catch you, my little
hare. His horses are not fleet enough, nor his arm
"All the same, I think that he will catch me," said
Raquel, again defiant, with a fresh burst of courage.
Escobeda turned on his heel.
"Go to the door, Ana," he said, "and see who
keeps up that thumping."
When Ana had shuffled along the passage,
Raquel turned to Escobeda. "It may be a mes
senger from the Sefior Silencio, " she said. "I sent
him a letter some hours ago."
"And by whom, pray?"
"That I will not tell. you. I do not betray those
who are kind to me. You told me early this morn
ing that I was to be taken away. You will see
now that I, too, have a friend."
Ana's steps interrupted this conversation.
"Well?" asked Escobeda. "The messenger is
will you speak?"
"It is the man Rotiro from Palmacristi, " said
Ana, in a low voice.
Raquel gave a quick little draw of her breath
inward. The sound made a joyous note in that
"It will do you no good," said Escobeda. "Go
and tell him that I will see him presently. I will
lock you up, my pretty Senorita, that you send no
more notes to that truhan.* You have now but a
few hours to make ready. Put in all your finery;
though, after all, your new master can give you
what he will, if you please him."
It was an unthrifty-looking place, El Cuco very
small, as its name implied. How Don Mateo had
asked any woman to marry him with no more to
give her than the small plantation of El Cuco, one
could not imagine. The place was little more than
a conuco, and Don Mateo, through careless ways
and losses at gambling, selling a little strip of field
here and some forest land there, was gradually
reducing the property to the size of a native hold
The lady who had inveigled Don Mateo into
marrying her sat upon the veranda, fat and hearty.
Her eyes were beginning to open to the fact that
Don Mateo had not been quite candid with her.
He had said, "My house is not very fine, Senorita,
but I have land ; and if you will come there as my
.wife, we will begin to build a new casa as soon as
the crops are in and paid for." The crops had
never come in, as far as the Senora had discovered;
and how could crops be paid for before they were
gathered? There had grown up within the house
hold a very fine crop of complaints, but these Don
Mateo smoothed over with his ready excuses and
kindliness of manner.
Agueda leaned down to the small footpath gate
to unfasten the latch. She found that the gate was
standing a little way open and sunk in the mud,
but that there was no room to pass through.
"Go round to the other side," called a voice from
A half-dozen little children, of all shades, came
trooping down the path. Then, as she turned to
ride round the dilapidated palings, they scampered
across the yard, a space covered by some sort of
wild growth. They met her in a troop at the large
gate, which was also sunk in the ground through
the sagging of its hinges. Fortunately, it had
stood so widely open now for some years that
entrance was quite feasible.
Agueda struck spur to Castano's side, and he
trotted round to the veranda. They stopped at
the front steps, and throwing her foot over the sad
dle, Agueda prepared to dismount.
"What do you want here?" asked a fat voice
from the end of the veranda.
"I should like to see Aneta, Senora," said
Agueda. "May one of the peons take my
"You can go round to the back, where Aneta is,
then," answered the Senora, without rising. "She
is washing her dishes, and it is not you who shall
Agueda looked up with astonishment. The last
time that she had come to El Cuco, Aneta had sat
on the veranda in the very place where the stranger
was sitting now. That chair, Don Mateo had
brought over from Saltona once as a present for
Aneta. It was an American chair, and Aneta used
to sit and rock in it by the hour and sing some
happy song. Agueda remembered how Aneta had
twisted some red and yellow ribbons through the
wicker work. Those ribbons were replaced now
by blue and pink ones.
Without a word Agueda rode round the house.
Arrived at the tumble-down veranda which jutted
put from the servants' quarters, she heard sounds
which, taken in conjunction with the Senora's
words, suggested Aneta's presence. When Aneta
heard the sound of horse's hoofs she came to the
open shutter. Agueda saw that her eyes were red
and swollen. A faint smile of welcome overspread
Aneta's features, which was succeeded at once by
a shamefaced look that Agueda should see her in
this menial position.
"Dear Agueda!" said she; "how glad I am to
see you! But this is no place for you."
"I wish that you could come down to the .river,"
said Agueda. "I have so much to ask you. Who
is the Senora on the veranda, Aneta?"
"Do you not know then that he is married?"
asked Aneta, the tears beginning to flow again.
"Married!" exclaimed Agueda, aghast. "To
the Senora on the veranda?"
Aneta nodded her head, while the salt tears
dropped down on the towel with which she was
slowly wiping a large platter. Agueda was guilty
of a slight bit of deceit in this. She had heard
that Don Mateo was married, but it had never
occurred to her that things would be so sadly
changed for Aneta. Somehow she had expected to
find her as she had always found her, seated on
the veranda in the wicker chair, the red and yellow
ribbons fluttering in the breeze, and in her lap the
embroidery with which she had ever struggled.
"Can you come down by the river?" asked
"I suppose that I must finish these dishes," said
Aneta, through her tears. "Oh, Agueda, you
have had nothing to eat, I am sure. You have
come so far. Let me get you something."
"Yes, I have come far, Aneta. I should like a
little something." It did not occur to Agueda to
decline because of the Sefiora's rudeness. She had
never heard of any one's being refused food at any
hut, rancho, or casa in the island. The stranger
was always welcome to what the host possessed,
poor though it might be.
"I will not dismount," said Agueda. "Perhaps
you can hand me a cup of coffee through the win
dow." Agueda rode close to the opening. Aneta
laid her dish down on the table, and went to the
stove, from which she took the pot of the still hot
coffee. She poured out a cupful, and handed it to
"Some sugar, please," said Agueda, holding the
cup back again. Aneta dipped a spoon in the sugar
bowl which was standing on the table in its pan of
water. It was a large pan, for "there are even some
ants who can swim very well," so Aneta declared.
Agueda took the cup gratefully, and drained it as
only a girl can who has ridden many miles with no
"I hoped that I should be asked to breakfast,
Aneta," said Agueda, wistfully. She remembered
the time when she had sat at the table with Aneta,
and partaken of a pleasant meal.
"I can hand you some cassava bread through the
window, Agueda," said Aneta, with no further
She took from the cupboard a large round of the
cassava and handed it to Agueda. Agueda broke
it eagerly and ate hungrily.
"That is good, Aneta. Some more coffee, please."
Aneta took up the pot to pour out a second
"And who told you that you might give my food
The voice was the fat voice of the Senora. She
had exerted ^herself sufficiently to come to the
"Pardon, Senora!" said Agueda. Her face
expressed the astonishment thai she felt. She
unconsciously continued to eat the round of cas
"You are still eating?"
Agueda looked at the woman in astonishment.
"Does the Senora mean that I shall not eat the
bread?" asked she.
"We do not keep a house of refreshment," said
Agueda handed the remainder of the cassava
bread to Aneta.
"I see you do not, Senora. Come, Aneta, come
down to the river."
Aneta looked hesitatingly at the Senora.
"You need not mind the Senora, Aneta. She
does not own you."
At this Aneta looked frightened, and the Senora
as angry as her double chin would allow.
"If the girl leaves, she need not return," said
"My work is nearly done," said Aneta, with a
fresh flood of tears.
"Crying, Aneta! I am ashamed of you. Come,
I will help you finish your dishes."
Agueda rode around to the veranda pilotijo and
dismounted. She tied Castafio there, as is the cus
tom, taking care that she chose the pilotijo furthest
removed from the main post, where several machetes
were buried with a deep blade stroke.
The Senora was too heavy and lazy to object to
Agueda' s generosity. She seated herself in the
doorway and watched the process of dish-washing.
When the girls had finished, the worn towels
wrung dry and hung on the line, Aneta took from
the veranda nail her old straw hat.
"On further thought, you cannot go," said the
Senora. "I need some work done in my room."
Agueda put her arm round Aneta.
"I bought her off," she said. "Come, Aneta,
I have so little time."
At these words the Senora had the spirit to rise
and flap the cushion of a shuffling sole on the floor
in imitation of a stamp of the foot.
"You cannot go," she said.
For answer the two girls strolled down toward
the river, Castano's bridle over Agueda's arm,
Aneta trembling at her new-found courage.
Aneta was a very pretty, pale girl, with bronze-
coloured hair, although her complexion was thick
and muddy, showing the faint strain of blood which
made her, and would always hold her, inferior to
the pure Spanish or American type. Her eyes
were of a greenish cast, and though small, were
sweet and modest. She was perhaps twenty-three
at this time. It is sad to have lived one's life at
the age of twenty-three.
"I have so many years before me, Agueda,"
"Why do you stay here?" asked Agueda.
"Where have I to go?" asked Aneta.
"That is true," assented Agueda.
"My father will not have me back. He says
that I should have been smart and married Don
Mateo ; but I never thought of being smart, 'Gueda ;
I never thought of anything but howl loved him."
A pang of pity pierced the heart of Agueda, all
the stronger because she herself was so secui
The two girls walked down toward the shining
river. Castafio followed along behind, nibbling and
browsing until a jerk of the bridle caused him to
raise his head and continue his march.
The river was glancing along below the bank.
Low and shallow, it had settled here and there into
great pools, or spread out thinly over the banks of
gravel which rose between.
"Can we bathe, Aneta?" asked Agueda.
"I suppose so," said Aneta, mournfully.
"Smile, Aneta, do smile. It makes me wretched
to see you so sad."
Aneta shook her head.
"What have I left, Agueda?"
Agueda hung Castano's bridle on a limb, and
seeking a sheltered spot, the two girls undressed
and plunged into the water, a pool near the shore
providing a basin. One may bathe there with per
fect seclusion. The ford is far below, and no one
has reason to come to this lonely spot. The water
was cool and delicious to Agueda's tired frame.
"Agueda," said Aneta, as they were drying
themselves in the sun, "will Castano carry
"Why, Aneta, I suppose he will. I never tried
"I promised El Rey to come to see him one day
soon. That was weeks ago. You know that
Roseta has gone. The little creature is alone. If
I should go there by myself the Senora would say
bad things about me. She would say that I had
gone for some wrong purpose. God knows I have
no wrong purpose in my heart."
"Yes, I will go with you," said Agueda. "But,
we must hasten. I have been away so long already.
What time should you think it is, Aneta?"
Aneta turned to the west and looked up to the
sky with that critical eye which rural dwellers who
possess no timepiece acquire.
"Perhaps three o'clock, Agueda, perhaps four.
Not so very late."
"So that I am home by six it will do," said
She reproached herself that she should think of
the happiness that awaited her at home while Aneta
was so sad.
When they were again dressed, Agueda mounted
Castafio, and riding close to an old mahogany
stump, gave her hand to Aneta, aiding her to spring
up to the horse's flank. Castafio was not over-
pleased at this addition to his burden, but he made
no serious demonstration, and started off toward
the ford. The ford crossed, Agueda guided Cas
tafio along the bank of the stream.
"Is this the Brandon place?" asked Agueda.
"No," said Aneta. "It is part of the Silencio
Again Agueda felt the flush arise which had made
her uncomfortable in the morning.
"I have never been this way," said Agueda, who
was following Aneta's directions. "I was there
this morning, but I rode down the gran' camino."
"You went there?"
"Yes; to carry a note."
"To the Senor?"
"Am I going right, Aneta?"
"Yes," said the easily diverted Aneta. "Fol
low the little path. They live on the river bank
below the hill." In a few moments a thatched
roof began to show through the trees.
"There it is," said Aneta; "there is Andres*
When they arrived at* the rancho they found that
the door was closed. Agueda rapped with her whip.
"They are all away, I think," said she.
"Oh! then, they are not all away," piped a little
voice from the inside. "Take the key from the
window, and I will let you open my door."
Agueda laughed. Aneta slid off the horse, and
Agueda rode to the high window, from whose ledge
she took a key.
"My Roseta, is that you?" called the child's
Aneta looked up at Agueda and shook her head
with a pitying motion. The child's sorrow had
effaced her own for the time.
"No, El Key," she called; "it is Aneta, and I
bring Agueda, from San Isidro."
"You are welcome, Sefioritas," piped the little
By this time Aneta had inserted the key in the
lock and opened the door. A small, thin child
was sitting on the edge of a low bed. He arose to
greet them with a show of politeness which strug
gled against weariness.
"Andres and Roseta are away," he said.
"Andres said that he would bring her if he could
Agueda had heard of El Rey, but she had never
seen the child before.
"I should think he would surely bring her,"
said she in a comforting tone. She was seeing
much misery to-day. She felt reproached for being
so happy herself, but she looked forward to her
home-coming as recompense for it all.
"Would you like to come to San Isidro some
time, El Rey?" she asked.
"Does Roseta ever come there?" asked the child.
"She has never been yet, but she may come
some day," answered Agueda, with that merciful
deceit which keeps hope ever springing in the
Aneta stooped down towards the floor.
"Have you anything to play with, El Rey?" she
"El Rey has buttons. El Rey has a book that
the Sefior at Palmacristi gave him, but he is tired
of those. When will Roseta come?"
Agueda turned away.
"I cannot bear it," she said.
El Rey looked at her curiously.
"Would you like to ride the pretty little horse,
The child walked slowly to the door and peered
"El Rey would like to ride; but Roseta might
"We will not go far," said Agueda. "Come,
let me lift you up." El Rey suffered himself to be
lifted to the horse's back, but his eyes were ever
searching the dim vista of the woodland for the
form that did not appear.
"I cannot enjoy it, Sefiora," said he, politely.
"El Rey would enjoy the Sefiora's kindness if
Roseta could see him ride."
"I must go, Aneta, " said Agueda, her eyes
She lifted the child down from Castano's back.
He at once entered the casa. He turned in the
doorway, his thin little figure occupying small space
against the dark background.
"Adios, Sefioritas," said the child. "Oh!
will the Sefioritas please put the key on the window
"We cannot lock you in, El Rey," said Agueda.
"Do you mean that we are to lock you in, El
Rey?" asked Aneta at the same time.
"Will the Sefioritas please not talk," said the
child. "I cannot hear. I sit and listen all day.
If the Senoritas talk I cannot hear if any one
"But must we lock the door?" asked Agueda.
"Is that what Andres wishes?" asked Aneta.
"If you please, Senorita; put the key on the
"I shall not lock him in," said Aneta. "I can
not do it. I will stay a while, El Rey, " she said.
Aneta sat down in the doorway, her head upon
her hand. She belongs not to the detail of this
story. She is only one of that majority of suffer
ing ignorant beings with whom the world is rilled,
who make the dark background against which hap
pier souls shine out. Agueda rode back to the
ford. She galloped Castafio now. At the entrance
of the forest she turned and threw a kiss to Aneta.
The girl was still in the doorway, but El Rey was
not to be seen. Agueda fancied him sitting on the
low bed, his ear strained to catch the fall of a far
The shadows were growing long when Agueda
cantered down the path that ran alongside of the
banana walk. She crossed the potrero at a slow
pace, for Castafio was tired and warm. As she
slowly rounded the corner of the veranda, a figure
caught her eye. It was Don Beltran, cool and
immaculate in his white linen suit. He was smok
ing, and seemed to be enjoying the sunset hour.
"Ah! are you here at last, child! I was just
about to send your uncle to look for you. Have
you had dinner?"
"Not a mouthful," laughed Agueda, at the
remembrance of the Senora at El Cuco. It was
cruel to laugh while Aneta wept, but it was so hard
not to be happy.
"Tell Juana to bring you some dinner. There
was a san coche, very good, and a pilauf of chicken.
Did you see Don Mateo?"
"No, Senor," said Agueda, looking down.
"Why will you persist in calling me Senor,
Agueda? I am Beltran. Say it at once Beltran !"
"Beltran," said Agueda, with a happy smile.
Poor Aneta ! Poor everybody in the world who did
not have a Beltran to love her!
As Agueda told Beltran the history of her long
day, he listened with interest. When she spoke of
Aneta's changed life, "The brute!" said Beltran,
"the damned brute!"
While Agueda was changing her dress for the
dark blue skirt and white waist, Beltran sat and
thought upon the veranda. When she came out
again, he spoke.
"Agueda," said he, "it is time that you and I
"I see no cause for haste," said Agueda.
"It is right," said Beltran, "and why should we
wait? What is there to wait for? I want you for
my wife. I have never seen any one who could
take me from you, and there is no such person in
all the world. All the same, you must be my
wife. ' '
"I think the padre is away," said Agueda, look
"He will be back before long, and then, if the
river is still low, we will go to Haldez some fine
morning and be married. Your uncle can give you
away. He will be very glad, doubtless!" Don
Beltran laughed as he spoke. He was not uncon
scious of Uncle Adan's plans, but as they happened
to fall in with his own, he took them good-
"Do you know, Agueda, " he said presently,
looking steadily at her, "that you are better born
"What does the Senor mean?" laughed Agueda.
"Well, then, Senor Beltran. What do you
mean by that?"
"I mean what I say, Agueda. Your grandfather,
Don Estevan, is a count in his own country in old
Spain. That is where you get your pretty slim
figure, child, your height, and your arched instep.
You are descended from a long line of noble ladies,
Agueda. I have seen many a Spanish gran' Senora
darker than you, my Agueda. When shall our
wedding-day be, child?"
Agueda shook her head and looked down at the
little garment which she was stitching. She had
no wish to bind him. That was not the way to
treat a noble nature like his. Agueda had no cal
culation in her composition. Beltran could never
love her better were they fifty times married. She
was happy as the day. What could make her
"Did the Senor enjoy his sail across the bay?"
"It was well enough, child. I got the draft
cashed, and, strange to say, I found a letter at the
post-office at Saltona."
"From the coffee merchant, I suppose, Sefior?"
"No, not from the coffee merchant, Senora, "
Beltran laughed, teasingly. "Guess from whom,
Agueda; but how should you be able to guess? It
is from my uncle, Agueda. My mother's brother.
You know that he married in the States."
"I have heard the Sefior say that the Sefior his
uncle married in the es-States," said Agueda,
threading her fine needle with care, and making a
tiny knot. Beltran drew his chair close. He
twitched the small garment from her hands. She
uttered a sjight exclamation. The needle had
pricked her finger. Beltran bent towards her with
remorseful words, took the slender finger beween
his own, and put it to his lips. His other hand lay
upon her shoulder. She smiled up at him with a
glance of inquiry mixed with shyness. Agueda had
never got over her shy little manner. The pressure
of his fingers upon her shoulder thrilled her. She
felt as ever that dear sense of intimacy which usage
had not dulled.
Beltran again consulted the letter which he held.
"Uncle N6e will arrive in a week's time," he
said. "He is a very particular gentleman, is my
Uncle N6e. Quite young to be my uncle. Look
at my two grey hairs, Agueda."
She released her hand from his, and tried to twist
her short hair into a knot. It looked much more
womanly so. She must try to make it grow if a
new grand Senor was coming to San Isidro. Don
Beltran was still consulting the letter.
"He brings his child his little daughter. Now,
Agueda, how can we amuse the little thing?"
Agueda, with work dropped, finger still pressed
between her small white teeth, answered, wonder-
"A little child? Let me think, Senor."
"Well, then, again I say Beltran, if you will.
We have not much." How dear and natural the
plural of the personal pronoun! "We have not
much, I fear. There is the little cart that the
Senora gave the Senor when he was muchachito.
That is a good little plaything. I have cleaned it
well since the last flood. The water washed even
into the cupboard. Then there is there is ah,
yes, the diamond cross. She will laugh, the little
thing, when it flashes in the sunshine. Children
love brilliant things. I remember well that the lit
tle Cristina, from the conuco, up there, used to
love to see the sparkle of the jewels. But the little
one will like the toy best."
"That is not much, dear heart."
"And then and then there may be rides on
the bulls, and punting on the river in the flatboat,
and the little chestnut she can ride Castano, the
"Not the chestnut; I trained him for you,
"And why should not the little one ride him,
also? We can take her into the deep woods to
gather the mamey apples, and to the bushes down
in the river pasture to gather the aguacate. Only
the little thing must be taught to keep away from
the prickly branches, and sometimes, Don Bel-
tran, we might take the child as far as Haldez, if
some acrobats or circus men should arrive. We
have not been there since Dondy-Jeem walked the
rope that bright Sunday. Oh, yes! we shall find
something to amuse her, certainly. A little child !
We are to have a child in the house!" It was
always a happy "we" with Agueda. "How old is
the little thing?"
"I have not heard from my uncle for many years.
I do not know when he married; but he is a young
man still, Uncle N6e. Full of affectation, speak
ing French in preference to Spanish and English,
which are equally his mother tongues I might say
his mother and father tongue but with all his
"A little child in the house ! A little child in the
house, " murmured Agueda over and over to herself.
Now it was all bustle at the casa. San Isidro
took on a holiday air. There was no more talk of
marriage. Not because Don Beltran did not think
of it and wish it, but because there was no time.
A room down the veranda must be beautified
for the little child. She was to be placed next her
father, that if she should want anything at night,
he could attend her.
"Where shall we put the nurse?" said Don
"I am afraid the nurse will have to sleep in the
rancho, Beltran. These two rooms take all that
we have." Agueda looked up wistfully. "I won
der how soon she will come," she said. "The lit
tle thing! the little thing!"
So soon as Agueda had disappeared down the
trocha which leads to the sea, Silencio called for
Andres. Old Guillermina came with a halt and a
shuffle. This was caused by her losing ever and
anon that bit of shoe in which she thought it
respectful to seek her master, or to obey his sum
mons. She agreed with some modern authorities,
although she had never heard of them or their
theories, that contact with Mother Earth is more
agreeable and more convenient (she did not know
of the claim that it is more healthful) than encasing
the foot in a piece of bull's hide or calf's skin.
"Where is Andres?" asked Don Gil, impatiently.
"Has the Senor forgotten that the Andres has
gone to the Port of Entry?"
"He has not gone there," said Silencio; "that
I know, for I sent Troncha in his place. See where
he is, and let me know. I need a messenger at
As Guillermina turned her back, Don Gil bit his
lip. "Then I am helpless," he said aloud, "if
Andres is not here." He arose and started after
Guillermina, calling impatiently: "Do not wait for
Andres; get some one, any one. I must send a
message at once."
While Guillermina shuffled away, Silencio sat
himself down at his desk and wrote. He wrote
hurriedly, the pen tearing across the sheet as if for
a wager. As its spluttering ceased, there was a
knock at the counting-house door.
"Entra!" called Silencio, rising.
It was a moist day in May. The June rains
were heralded by occasional showers, an earnest of
the future. The dampness was all-pervading, the
stillness death-like. No sound was heard but the
occasional calling of the peons to the oxen far afield.
The leaves of the ceiba tree hung limp and motion
less; the rompe hache* had not stirred a leaf for
two days past. No tender airs played caressingly
against the nether side of the palm tufts and
swayed them in fan-like motion. The gri-gri stood
tall and grand, full of foliage at the top. Its num
berless little leaves were precisely outlined, each
one, against the sky. One might almost fear that
he were looking at a painting done by one of the
artists of the early Hudson River school, so dis
tinctly was the edge of each leaf and twig drawn
against its background of blue.
Rotiro stood and waited. Then he knocked
* Literally, hatchet breaker.
again. A step was heard approaching from an inner
"Entra!" called a voice from within, but louder
Rotiro obeyed the permission. He entered the
outer room to find Don Gil just issuing from the
inner one that holy of holies, where no profane
foot of peon, shod or unshod, had ever penetrated.
Rotiro touched his forelock by way of salutation,
drew his machete from its yellow leathern belt,
swung it over his shoulder, and brought it round
and down with a horizontal cut, slashing fiercely
into the post of the doorway. It sank deep, and
he left it there, quivering.
Silencio was moistening the flap of an envelope
with his lip as Rotiro entered. After a look at
Rotiro, Don Gil thought it best to light a taper,
take a bit of wax from the tray and seal the note.
He pressed it with the intaglio of his ring. The
seal bore the crest of the Silencios. When he had
finished he held the note for a moment in his hand,
to dry thoroughly. As he stood, he surveyed the
machete of Rotiro, which still trembled in the door
post. The post was full of such gashes, indicating
it as a common receptacle for bladed weapons. It
served the purpose of an umbrella-stand at the
north. Don Billy Blake had said: "We don't
carry umbrellas into parlours at the No'th, and I
bedam if any man, black or shaded, shall bring his
machett into my shanty."
Don Billy was looked upon as an arbiter of fash
ion. This fashion, however, antedated Don Billy's
advent in the island.
Rotiro unslung his shotgun from his shoulder
and stepped inside the doorway. He leaned the
gun against the inner wall.
"Buen' dia', Seno'," he nodded.
"Set that gun outside, Rotiro."
"My e'copeta very good e'copeta, Sefio' Don Gil.
It a excellent e'copeta. It is, however, as you
know, not much to be trusted ; it go off sometimes
with little persuasion on my part, often again with
out much reason."
' ' Following the example of your tongue. Listen !
Rotiro. I wish to do the talking. Attend to what
I say. Here is a note. I wish you to take it up
back of Troja, to the Sefior Escobeda. "
"But, Seno', I thought"
"You thought! So peons think! On this sub
ject you have no need to think. Take this note up
to Troja, and be quick about it. I want an answer
within an hour. Waste no time on thoughts or
words, and above all, waste no time in going or
returning. See the Sefior Escobeda. Hand him
the note, see what he has to say, and bring me word
as soon as possible. Notice how he looks, how he
speaks, what "
"But the Sefio' may not "
"Still talking? Go at once! Do you remember
old Amadeo, who was struck by lightning? I
always believed that it was to quiet his tongue. It
certainly had that effect. But for the one servant
I have had who has been struck by lightning, I
have had twenty who ought to have been. There
was a prince in a foreign land who was driven crazy
by his servants. He said, 'Words! words! words!'
I wonder very much what he would have said could
he have passed a week on the plantation of Palma-
As the Devil twists Scripture to suit his purpose,
so Silencio was not behind him in his interpretation
of Shakespeare, and Rotiro prepared for his jour
ney, with a full determination to utter no unneces
sary word during the rest of his life. In dead
silence he withdrew his machete from its gash in
the doorpost, tied the letter round his neck by its
cord of red silk, swung his apology for a hat upon
his head, and was off. Meanwhile Don Gil sat and
The hour ended as all hours, good or bad, must
end. Don Gil kept his eyes fixed upon the clock.
Ah! it was five minutes past the hour now.
"If I find that he has delayed one minute beyond
the necessary possibly Escobeda has held him
there, taken him prisoner prisoner! In the nine
teenth century! But an Escobeda is ready for any
thing; perhaps he has " There was a step at the
"Entra!" shouted Don Gil, before one had the
time to knock, and Rotiro entered. He had no
time to say a word. He had not swung his arm
round his head, nor settled the machete safely in
the post of the door, before Don Gil said, impa
"Well! well! What is it? Will the man never
speak? Did you see the Senor Escobeda? Open
that stupid head of yours, man ! Say something ' '
Rotiro was breathless. He set his gun in the
corner with great deliberation. At first his words
would not come; then he drew a quick breath and
"I saw the Seno' E'cobeda, Don Gil. He is a
fine man, the Seno' E'cobeda. Oh! yes, he is
a very fine man, the Seno' !"
"Ah!" said Don Gil, dryly, "did he send me a
message, this very fine man?"
Rotiro thrust his hand into the perpendicular slit
that did duty for a legitimate opening in his shirt.
He was dripping with moisture. Great beads
stood out upon his dark skin. He pulled the faded
pink cotton from his wet body and brought to light
a folded paper. This he handed to Don Gil. The
paper was far from dry. Don Gil took the parcel.
He broke the thread which secured it the thread
seemed much shorter than when he had knotted it
earlier in the day and discovered the letter which
he sought. The letter was addressed to himself.
Don Gil opened this missive with little difficulty.
The sticky property of the flap had been impaired
by its contact with the damp surroundings. Don
Gil read the note with a frown.
"Caramba hombre! Did you go up back of
Troja for this?"
Rotiro raised his shoulders and turned his palms
"As the Sefio' see."
If Rotiro had gone "up back of Troja" for noth
ing, it was obviously the initial occasion in the his
tory of the island. The natives, as well as the
foreigners, seemed to go "up back of Troja" for
every article that they needed. They bought their
palm boards back of Troja. They bought their
horses back of Troja. They bought their cattle
back of Troja. Back of Troja was made the best
rum that was to be had in all the island. Back of
Troja, for some undiscovered reason, were found
the best guns, the best pistols, the sharpest
"colinos," smuggled ashore at the cave, doubtless,
and taken in the night through dark florestas,
impenetrable to officers of the law. Many a wife,
light of skin and slim of ankle, had come from back
of Troja to wed with the people nearer the sea.
The region back of Troja was a veritable mine, but
for once the mine had refused to yield up what the
would-be prospector desired.
"He'll get no wife from back of Troja," thought
Rotiro, whose own life partner, out of the bonds
of wedlock, had enjoyed that distinction.
"Whom did you see back of Troja?"
"The Seno' E'cobeda, Seno'. The Seno'
E'cobeda is a ver "
"Yes, yes, I know! How you natives will
always persist in slipping your 's, ' except when it
is superfluous! How did Escobeda look?"
"Much as usual, Seno'. He is a very fi "
"Was he pleasant, or did he frown?"
"In truth, Seno' Don Gil, I cannot say for one,
how he look. I saw but the back of the Seno'
E'cobeda. He look "
"As much of a cut-throat as ever, I suppose?"
"Si, Seno'. The Seno' was seated in his oficina.
He had his back to me. I saw nothing but his
ear-rings and the very fine white shirt that he wore."
"Well, well! He read the 'note, and
"He read the note, Seno', and and he read
the note, and he read the n "
"Well, well, well!"
''And shall I tell the Seno' all, then?"
"Will you continue? or shall I " Don Gil's
tone was threatening.
"If the Seno* will. He laugh, Seno' Don Gil.
He laugh very long and very loud, and then I hear
a es-snarl. It es-sound like a dog. Once he reach
toward the wall for his 'colino.' I at once put
myself outside of the casa, and behind the pilotijo.
When he did not advance, I put an eye to the crack,
all the es-same."
"And it was then that he wrote the note?"
"Si, Seno' ; it was then that he wrote the answer
and present it to me."
"He said, oh! I assure the Seno' it was nothing
worthy to hear; the Seno' would not "
"He said ?" There was a dangerous light in
Don Gil's eye.
"And I must tell the Seno'? He said, 'Here!
give this to that that ' "
" 'That truhan!' I pray the Don Gil forgive me;
the Don Gil make me "
Silencio's face had flushed darkly.
Rotiro, embarrassed beyond measure, forgot what
he had learned by fair means and what by foul, and
"He did not say whether the Senorit' had go to
the Port of Entry; he "
"And who told you to enquire whether the
Senorita had gone to the Port of Entry or not?"
Rotiro perceived at once that he had made a
gigantic slip. When Don Gil next spoke, Rotiro
was busy watching the parjara bobo which loped
along within the enclosure. The bird, stupid by
name and nature alike, came so close that Rotiro
could almost have touched it with his hand.
"Do you hear my question?"
Rotiro started at the tones of thunder.
"No one inform me, Seno'. I had heard talk
"Two fools in one enclosure! The bird is as
clever as you. Do not try to think, Rotiro. Have
you never heard that peons should never try to
think? Leave the vacuum which nature abhors in
its natural state." Rotiro looked blankly at Don
Gil, who often amused himself at the expense of
the stupid. Just now he was angry, and ready to
say something harsh which even a wiser peon than
Rotiro could not understand. Rotiro's vacuum
was working, however, as even vacuums will.
"Decidedly, I have made a very grand mistake of
some kind ; but when a letter will not stick, it is so
easy the thing, however, is not to let him "
The peon started. Don Gil stood facing him.
His eyes were blazing. Rottro's arm twitched with
the desire to reach for his machete.
"If I ever find you " Don Gil spoke slowly
and impressively, his forefinger moving up and
down in time with his words "if ever I find you
opening a letter of mine, either a letter that I send
or one that I receive, I will send you to Saltona,
and I shall ask the alcalde to put you in the army."
Rotiro's knees developed a sudden weakness. He
would much rather be led to the wall outside the
town, turned with his face towards its cold grey
stone, and have his back riddled with bullets. At
least, so he thought at the moment.
"The Seno' will never find me opening a letter,
either now or at any other time. ' ' (Nor will he.
Does he think that 1 should be so stupid as to open
them before his face? Or ivithin two and a half
miles of the Casa de Caobaf)
"Very well, then. Be off with you. Take your
gun out of my counting-house and your colino out
of my doorpost, and yourself out of my sight."
"The Seno' Don Gil allow that I accommodate
myself with a little ching-ching?"
"Always ching-ching, Rotiro. Bieng, bieng!
Tell Alfredo to give you a half-glass, not of the
pink rum that is not for such as you. You
remember, perhaps, what happened the last time
that I gave you a ching-ching. I should have said
"I assure the Sefio' that Garcito Romando was
a worthless man. O, yes, Seno', an utterly
worthless man an entirely useless man. He could
not plant the suckers, he could not plant the cacao,
he could not drive four bulls at a time; there was
no place for Garcito Romando either in heaven or
in hell. Marianna Romando was weary of him.
Purgatory was closed to him, and the blessed island
was too good for him. He stole three dollars Mex.
of me once. My e'copeta did, perhaps, go off a
little early, but the Sefio' should thank me. He
has on his finca one bobo the less, and the good
God knows "
Rotiro was not only fluent, he was confluent.
He ran his words together in the most rapid man
Don Gil raised his hand as if to ward off the
storm of words. "He was certainly a fool to tam
per with a man whose gun shoots round the corner.
Come! Be off with you! Three fingers, and no
There are days which are crowded with events;
days so bursting with happenings that a single
twenty-four hours will not suffice to tell the tale.
There are other days so blank and uneventful that
one sighs for very weariness when one thinks of
them. It is not well to wish time away, but such
days are worse than useless. It is, however, of one
of the former that this chapter relates. To a little
community like that surrounding San Isidro and
Palmacristi, to say nothing of Troja, the day on
which Agueda carried the note for Raquel was full
When Escobeda went from Raquel's room, slam
ming the door after him, the terrified girl dropped
on her knees before Ana. All her courage seemed
to have flown. She bent her head and laid it in
Ana's lap, and then tears rained down and drenched
Ana's new silk apron.
"Ana," she whispered, "Ana, who is there to
Ana sighed and sniffed, and one or two great
drops rolled off her brown nose and splashed down
on the back of Raquel's dark head.
"There is no one but you and God, Ana."
"Holy Mother! child, do not be so irreverent."
"Can you steal out into the corridor and down
the two little steps, and into the rum room, Ana,
and hear what is being said?"
"I am too heavy; that you know, Senorita. The
boards creak at the very sound of my name. I am
tall, my bones are large. Such persons cannot trip
lightly; they tip the scales at a goodly number of
pounds. Holy Mother! If he should catch me at
it!" and Ana shivered, her tears drying at once
"You could very well do it if you chose. Listen,
Ana. If he takes me away, I shall die. Now I
tell you truly, Ana, I will never go to that govern
ment house alive; that you may as well know. Get
me my mother's dagger, Ana."
Ana arose and went to a bureau drawer. The
drawer squeaked as she pulled at the knobs.
A far door was heard opening. "What is that?"
"I am packing the child's trunks, Senor. How
can I pack them unless I may open the drawer?"
There was a sound of retreating footsteps and the
closing of the door. Raquel looked at Ana, who
was kneeling upon the floor, searching in the drawer.
"Ah! here it is," said Ana. "But you will not
use it, sweet?"
"Not unless I must," said Raquel. She sighed.
"Not unless I must. I do not want to die, Ana.
I love my life, but there is a great horror over
there." She nodded her head in the direction of
the Port of Entry. "When that horror comes very
near me, then I " Raquel made as if she would
thrust the dagger within her breast. Ana shud
"I shall not see it," she said. "But I advise it,
all the same, if you must."
She drew the girl up to her, and cried helplessly
upon her neck.
"Can't you think a little for me, Ana? It is hard
always to think for one's self."
"No," said Ana, shaking her head, "I never have
any fresh thoughts. I always follow."
"Then, dear Ana, just tiptoe down and listen.
It is the last thing that I shall ever ask of you, Ana.
Ana, her eyes streaming with tears, took her
slippers those tell-tale flappers from her feet,
and went to the door. She turned the knob gently
and pushed the door outward without noise. As
she opened it she heard Escobeda's voice, raised in
"Go now! now! while he is scolding, " whispered
Raquel. "He will not hear you. I must know
what he is saying to that man. Do you think it is
the Senor Silencio's messenger?"
Ana nodded and put her finger to her lip. She
crept noiselessly along the passage. Raquel, listen
as she would, heard nothing of Ana's footsteps, for
Escobeda was still swearing so loudly as to drown
every other sound.
Raquel went to the bureau, and took from the
drawer a piece of kid. She seated herself and
began to polish her weapon of defence. "Of
death," said Raquel to herself. "If I am forced "
She peeped out, but Ana had turned the corner,
and was hidden from sight. Ah! she must be in
the rum 'room now, where she could both peer
through the cracks and hear all that was said on
either side. Suddenly a far door was violently
wrenched open, and Raquel heard Escobeda' s steps
coming along the corridor. Where was Ana, then?
Raquel's heart stood still. Escobeda came on
until he reached the door of Raquel's chamber.
The girl did not alter her position, and but for her
flushed cheeks there was no sign of agitation. She
bent her head, and rubbed the shining steel with
"Where is that lazy Ana?"
Raquel raised her innocent eyes to his.
"Did you call, uncle? Well, then, she must
have gone to the kitchen."
"You lie," said Escobeda.
Raquel's cheeks reddened still more.
"Perhaps I do, uncle. At all events, she is not
"What have you there?"
Escobeda had stooped towards the girl with hand
outstretched, but she had sprung to her feet in a
moment, and stood at bay, the dagger held, not in
a threatening attitude, but so that it could be
turned towards the man at any moment.
"It is my mother's dagger, uncle."
"What are you doing with it?"
"Polishing it for my journey, uncle."
"Give it to me."
"Why should I give it to you, uncle?"
"Because I tell you to."
Raquel's hair had fallen down; she was scantily
clothed. Her cheeks were ablaze. She looked like
a tigress brought to bay.
"Do you remember my mother, uncle?"
"I remember your mother; what of her?"
"Do you know what she said to me at the last
at the last, uncle?"
"I neither know nor care," said Escobeda.
"Hand me the knife."
"My mother told me," said Raquel, still polish
ing the blade and changing its direction so that the
point was held towards Escobeda "my mother told
me to keep this little thing always at hand. It has
always been with me. You do not know how
many times I have had the thought to turn it upon
you" Escobeda started and paled "when your
cruelties have been worse than usual. Sometimes
at night I have thought of creeping, creeping along
the hall there, and going to the side of your bed "
"You murderess!" shouted Escobeda. "So you
would do that, would you? It is time that you
came under the restraint that you will find over
there in the government town. Do you hear?
Give me the knife. It was like that she-dev "
"I can hear quite well with it in my hand," said
Raquel. "You may say whatever comes into your
head, only about my mother. That I will not bear.
Speak of her gently, I warn you I warn you "
"Do you know who the man was who came to
me just now?"
"The Senor Silencio?" said Raquel, breathless,
her eyes flashing with a thousand lights.
"No, it was not the Senor Silencio." Raquel's
eyelids drooped. "But it was the next thing to it.
It was that villain, Rotiro. I could have bought
him, as well as Silencio. A little rum and a few
pesos, and he is mine body and soul. But I do not
want him. I have followers in plenty "
"Those who follow you for love?" said Raquel,
with sly malice in her tone.
Escobeda flashed a dark and hateful look upon
"It makes no difference why they follow me.
They are all mine, body and soul, just as you are
mine, body and soul."
"Are you going to tell me why Rotiro came here
to-day?" asked Raquel.
"Yes, that is what I came to tell you. I came
purposely to tell you that. The Senor Silencio
sent me a letter by the villain Rotiro."
"For me?" asked Raquel, breathless. "Oh,
uncle! Let me see it, let me "
"No, it was to me. But I will tell you its con
tents. I will tell you gladly. He offers you his
hand in marriage."
The girl's eyes were dancing. She blushed and
paled alternately ; then drew a long sigh, and waited
for Escobeda to speak further.
"From your appearance, I should judge that you
wish me to accept him for you."
"Oh, uncle!" Again the girl drew short, quick
breaths. She gazed eagerly into Escobeda's face.
"Can you think anything else? Now I need not
go away. Now I need not be longer a burden upon
you. Now I shall have a home! Now I shall
be " The girl hesitated and dropped her voice,
and then it died away in a whisper. But one meaning
could be drawn from Escobeda's cunning screwed-
up eyes, his look of triumph, his smile of wickedness.
They stood gazing at each other thus for the
space of a few seconds, those seconds so fraught
with dread on the one side, with malice and tri
umphant delight on the other.
"Your mother hated me, Raquel. Perhaps she
never had the kindness to tell you that. I found
her when she was dying. You remember, perhaps,
when she asked you, her little girl, to withdraw
for a while, that she might speak with me alone?"
"I remember, uncle," said Raquel, panting.
' ' It was not to be wondered at that she preferred
your father to me. She had loved me first. She
was my father's ward. But when he came, with
his handsome face and girlish ways, she threw me
aside like a battered doll. She said that I was
cruel, but she never discovered that until she fell in
love with your father. She ran away with him one
night when I was at the city on business for my
father. The doting old man could not keep a
watch upon them, but I followed their fortunes.
She never knew that it was I who had him fol
lowed to the mines, where he thought he had dis
covered a fortune, and killed him in the cold and
"Are you a devil?" asked Raquel.
"His bones, you can see them now, Raquel;
they were never buried they lie up there on the
floor of the old "
The dagger slipped from Raquel's fingers, and
she slid to the floor.
"No, I did not tell her that I should take out my
vengeance upon her child. I knew my time would
come. Silencio's offer is of as much value as if
written in the sand down there by the river,
Ana came in at the doorway. Escobeda stooped
and picked up the dagger. "She will hardly need
this," he said, as he stuck it in his belt.
When Raquel opened her eyes Ana was bending
over her, as usual in floods of tears, drenching the
girl alternately with warm water from her tender
eyes and cold water from the perron.
Raquel sat up and looked about her as one dazed.
She clutched at the folds of her dress. The piece
of kid lay in her hand.
"Oh, Ana!" she sobbed, "he has taken it away.
All that I had. My only protection."
Ana arose and quietly closed the door.
"Sweet," she said, "I have good news for you."
"What is it?" asked Raquel, sitting up, all inter
est, her dull eyes brightening.
"I crept along the hall," said Ana, "and when
I reached the rum room I slipped in and closed the
door softly, and listened through the cracks. When
he came here, I slipped out to the kitchen, and
there I have been ever since. ' '
"But the good news," asked Raquel. "Quick!
Ana, tell me."
"He was sitting at his desk, the Senor Escobeda,
his back to the door, so unlike any other gentle
man. If they must rage, they stand up and do it.
But there he sat, swearing by all the gods at some
thing. I saw that that man Rotiro from Palma-
cristi had run out of the counting-house, and was
peeping in at the door; and I listened, hoping to
find out something, and I have, sweet, I have."
"Well! well! Ana, dear Ana, hasten! hasten! "
"I have found out that the Senor Don Gil asks
your hand in marriage."
Raquel sank down again in a heap on the floor.
"Is that all, Ana?" she said.
"All! And what more can the Sefiorita want than
to have a gentleman, rich, handsome, devoted, offer
her his hand in honourable marriage?"
"I only want one thing more, Ana dear, " said
Raquel, sadly, "the power to accept it."
"The power to accept it?" said Ana, question-
ingly. "Is the child mad?"
"He twits me with it. He says that I shall not
accept him, the Senor Don Gil. He says that I
shall go in any case to the government town. He
has taken away my dagger. I cannot even kill
myself, Ana. Oh! what am I to do? Gil! Gil!
Come and save me."
At this heavy steps were heard coming along the
corridor. The door was burst open with a blow of
"You need not scream or call upon your lover,
or on anybody else. You have no one to aid you."
"No one but God, and my dear Ana here," said
"One is about as much use as the other," said
Escobeda, laughing. "Call as loud as you will,
one is quite deaf and the other helpless."
Raquel rose to her feet.
' ' Will you leave my room ?' ' she said with dignity.
"I will leave your room, because I have done all
that I came to do."
"You have broken the child's heart, Sefior, " said
Ana, with unwonted courage, "if that is what you
came to do."
"If I can break her spirit, that is all I care for,"
"You will never break my spirit," said Raquel.
She stood there so defiant, the color coming and
going in her face, her splendid hair making a veil
about her, that Escobeda looked upon her with the
discriminating eye of fresh discovery.
"By Heaven," he said, "you are more beautiful
than ever your mother was! If I had not promised
the Governor ' '
"Spare her your insults," said Ana, her indig-
nation aroused. She pushed the door against his
thick figure, and shot the bolt. They heard Esco-
beda's laugh as he flung it back at them. What
shall we do now?" asked Raquel. "Shall I drop
from the window and run away? There must be
some one who will aid me."
Ana approached the closely drawn jalousies.
She put her long nose to a crack and peered down.
The slight movement of the screen was seen from
"It is you that need not look out, Anita Maria,"
came up to her in Joyal's rasping voice. "This is
not the front door."
"He has been quick about it," said Ana. "No
matter, sweet, we must pack. Some one must
help us. When the Sefior Silencio gets that
devilish message he must do something."
"What was the devilish message, Ana?" asked
"Do not ask me, child; just hateful words, that
Raquel put her young arms round Ana's old thin
"Promise me one thing, Ana," she said.
"Promise! Who am / to make promises, sweet?
All that I can, I will. That you must know."
"When I am gone, Ana" Raquel looked
searchingly at Ana and repeated the words sol-
emnly "when I am gone, promise that you will
go to the Sefior Silencio. Say to him "
"But how am I to get there, sweet? I should
have to wear my waist that I keep for the saints'
days. I "
"Get there? Do you suppose if you asked me I
would not find a way? My uncle Escobeda will be
gone. Remember he will be gone, Ana! There
will be no one to watch you, and you talk of
clothes! You will not wear them out in one after
noon, and when I am Senora" Raquel halted in
her voluble speech and blushed crimson "he, my
uncle, would be glad to have you go and say that
he has taken me away. Nothing would please him
better. Now, promise me that when I am gone
you will go to the Sefior Silencio, and tell him
where he has taken me. Tell him that I accept
his offer. Tell him that if he loves me, he will
find a way to save me. Tell him that I sent him a
note by that pretty Agueda from San Isidro "
"You should not speak to such as she "
"She seemed sweet and good. She carried my
note, Ana. I must always be her friend. Tell
A loud thud upon the door.
Escobeda had stolen up softly, and was chuck
ling to himself outside in the passage.
"Ana has my permission to go and tell him all
about how you love him, Muchacha. That will
make it even more pleasant for me. I thank you
for helping me carry out my plans, but for the
present, Ana had better pack your things, and
quickly. The sun is getting over to the west,
and you must start within two hours' time."
Raquel threw her arms round Ana and strained
her to her childish breast.
"You will go, dear Ana, you promise me, do you
not? You will go?"
"I will," said the weeping Ana, "even if I must
go in my Sunday shoes."
When the voluble Rotiro had vanished round
the end of the counting-house, Silencio retired to
his inner sanctum and closed and locked the door.
The contrast between this room and the bare front
office was marked. Here cretonne draped the
walls, its delicate white and green relieving the
plain white of the woodwork. Coming from
the outer glare, the cool coloring was more than
grateful to the senses. The large wicker chairs
with which the room was furnished were painted
white, their cushions being of the same pale green
whose color pervaded the interior. The white
tables, with their green silken cloths, the white desk,
the mirrors with white enameled frames, the white
porcelain lamps with green shades, all of the same
exquisite tint, made the sanctum a symphony of
delicate color, a bower of grateful shade. Pull one
of the hangings aside, ever so little, and a fortress
stared you in the face a fortress known of, at the
most, to but two persons in the island.
It is true that the more curious of the peons had
wondered somewhat why Don Gil had brought
down from the es-States those large sheets of iron
with clamps and screws; but the native is not
inquisitive as a rule, and certainly not for long.
All seiiors do strange things, things not to be
accounted for by any known rule of life, and the
Sefior Don Gil was rich enough to do as he liked.
What, then, was it to a hard-working peon, what a
grand senor like the Don Gil took into his mahog
The man who had come down in the steamer
with the sheets of iron had remained at Palmacristi
for a month or more. He had brought two work
men, and when he sailed for Nueva Yorka no one
but the owner of the Casa de Caoba and the old
Guillermina knew that the inner counting-house
had been completely sheathed with an iron lining,
whose advent the peons had forgotten.
"This is my bank," said Don Gil to Don Juan
"It may become a fort some day, who knows?"
answered the Don Juan Smit', "if those rascally
Spaniards come over here and create another rum
pus." Strange to say, Don Gil did not resent this
remark about the nation which had produced his
ancestors. But, then, Don Gil was a revolutionist,
and had fought side by side with the bravest gen
erals of the ten years' Cuban war.
"It is a very secure place to detain a willing cap
tive," smiled Don Gil.
"Well, I guess!" assented the Senor Don Juan
Smit', with a very knowing wink of the eye, which
proved that he had not understood his employer's
meaning in the very slightest.
Old Guillermina, who had reared Don Gil's
mother, was the only person allowed within the
"A very fine place for the black spiders to hide,"
remarked Guillermina, as she twitched aside the
green and white hangings, and exposed the iron
sheathing. "There is no place they would prefer to
When Don Gil had locked the door, he seated
himself and took Escobeda's note from his pocket.
He examined the flap of the envelope; it was badly
soiled and creased. He was morally certain that
Rotiro had possessed himself of the contents of the
letter. He had told Rotiro that peons should not
think, but they would think, semi-occasionally, and
more than that, they would talk. When a peon
was found clever enough to carry a message, he
also possessed the undesirable quality of wishing to
excite curiosity in others, and to make them feel
what a great man he was to be trusted with the
secrets of the Senor. By evening the insolence of
Escobeda would be the common property of every
man, woman, and child on the estate, and, what
Silencio could bear least of all, the insulting news
as to the ultimate destination of Raquel would be
gossiped over in every palm hut and rancho far and
near. All his working people would know before
to-morrow the message which had been brought to
him by Rotiro, and it was his own rum that would
loosen Rotiro's tongue and aid materially in his
undoing. His face grew red and dark. His brow
knotted as he perused the vile letter for the fourth
time. Escobeda's handwriting was strong, his
grammar weak, his spelling not always up to par.
The letter was written in Spanish, into which some
native words had crept. The translation ran:
"To THE SENOR DON GIL SILENCIO-Y-ESTRADA.
" Senor: You are forbidden to set foot in my house. You
are forbidden to try to see or speak to the Senorita Raquel. I
do not continue the farce of saying my niece; she is not
more than a distant relative of mine. But in this case, might
makes right. I control her and she is forever lost to you. You
refused me the trocha farm for a fair price. See now, if it
would not have been better to yield. The Sefiorita Raquel
starts for the Port of Entry this afternoon. She sails to-night
for the government town. The Governor desires her services.
Knowing the Governor by repute, you may imagine what those
Silencio struck the senseless sheet with his
clenched fist. His ring tore a jagged hole in the
paper, so that he had difficulty in smoothing it for
"It pays me better to sell her to him than to give her to
Wild thoughts flew through the brain of Silencio.
He started up, and had almost ordered his horse.
He was rich. He would offer all, everything that
he possessed, to save Raquel from such a fate, but
he sadly resumed his seat after a moment of reflec
tion. Escobeda hated him, there had been a feud
between the families since the old Don Gil had
caused the arrest of the elder Escobeda, a lawless
character; and the son had made it the aim of his
life to annoy and insult the family of Silencio.
Here was a screw that he could turn round and
round in the very heart of his enemy, and already
the screwing process had begun. Don Gil took up
the mutilated letter and read to the end :
"We start for the coast this afternoon. Do not try to rescue
her. I have a force of brave men who will protect me from
any number that you may bring. We have colinos and esco-
petes in plenty. Your case is hopeless. You dare not attack
me on land; you cannot attack me on the water."
Don Gil dashed the paper on the floor and ground
savagely beneath his heel the signature "Rafael
"It is true," he said, shaking his head. "It is
true; I am helpless!"
With a perplexed face and knitted brow he
went into the outer room, closed the entrance door
and took a flat bar of iron from its resting-place
against the wall. This he fitted into the hasps
at each side of the door, which were ready to
receive it. Then he returned to the inner room,
and secured the iron-sheathed door with two sim
ilar bars. After this was done, he looked some
what ruefully at his handiwork. "The cage is
secure," he said, "if I but had the bird."
Silencio opened the door which connected the
office with the main part of the house. He closed
and locked it behind him, and proceeded along
a passage so dark that no light crept in except
through the narrow slits beneath the eaves. When
he had traversed this passage, he opened a further
door and emerged at once into the main part of the
house. Here everything was open, attractive, and
alluring. . Here spacious apartments gave upon
broad verandas, whose flower boxes held blooms
rare even in this garden spot of the world. Here
were beauty and colour and splendour and glowing
Don Gil threw himself down in a hammock which
stretched across a shady corner. Through the
opening between the pilotijos, he could see the
wooded heights in the distance, those heights
beyond which Troja lay, Troja, which held his
heart and soul. What to do? To-night she would
set sail for the government town in the toils of
Escobeda, her self-confessed betrayer and bar-
terer set sail for that hateful place where her
worse than slavery would begin. The person to
whom she was to be sold none the less sold be
cause the price paid did not appear on paper was
possessed of power and that might of which Esco-
beda had spoken in his letter that might which
makes right. He could give countenance to specu
lators and incorporators, he could grant concessions
for an equivalent; into such keeping Escobeda,
with his devil's calculation, was planning to deliver
her his Raquel, his little sweetheart. That she
loved him he knew. A word and a glance are
enough, and he had received many such. A note
and a rose at the last festin, where she had been
allowed to look on for a while under the eye of her
old duenna! A pressure of her hand in the crowd,
a trembling word of love under her breath in
answer to his fierce and fiery ones!
The cause for love, its object does not know
nor question. The fact is all that concerns him,
and so far Silencio was secure. And here was this
last appeal from the helpless girl ! They had started
by this time perhaps. Don Gil looked at the
ancient timepiece which had descended from old
Don Oviedo. Yes, they had started. It was now
twenty minutes past six; they needed but two
hours to ride to the Port of Entry. The steamer
would not sail until between nine and ten o'clock.
Very shortly Escobeda' s party would cross the
trocha, which at that point was a public highway.
It ran through the Palmacristi estate, and neared
the casa on the south. Could he not rescue her
when they were so near? There were not three men
within the home enclosure. The others had gone
direct to their huts and ranches from their work in
the fields. He could not collect them now, and if
he could, of what use a skirmish in the road?
Escobeda was sure to ride with a large force, and a
stray shot might do injury to Raquel herself. No,
no! Some other way must be thought of.
Silencio arose, passed quickly through the casa
and entered the patio. He ran up the stairs which
ascended from the veranda to the flat roof above.
He stood upon the roof, shading his eyes with his
hand, and straining his vision to catch the first
sight of Escobeda and his party of cut-throats. He
was none too early. A cloud of dust on the near
side of the cacao grove told him this, and then he
heard the jingling of spurs and the sound of voices.
A group of some thirty horsemen swept round the
curve and came riding into full view. In their center
rode a woman. She was so surrounded that by
no effort of hers could she break through the deter
mined-looking throng. One glance at those cruel
faces, and Silencio's heart sank like lead.
The woman was gazing with appealing eyes at
the Casa de Caoba. Silencio was not near enough
to distinguish her features, but her attitude was
hopeless and appealing, and he knew that it was
Raquel the moment that he discovered her.
Suddenly she drew a handkerchief from her
bosom and waved it above her head. There was
something despairing and pitiable in her action.
Silencio whirled his handkerchief wildly in the air.
He was beside himself! Escobeda turned and
struck the girl, who dropped her signal hand and
drooped her head upon her breast.
Silencio put his hands to his mouth and shouted :
"Do not fear; I will save you!" He shook his
clenched hand at Escobeda. "You shall pay for
that! By God in Heaven! you shall pay for that!"
Yes, pay for it, but how? How? Oh, God!
how? He was so helpless. No one to aid him, no
one to succour.
At this defiance of Silencio' s there came an order
to halt. The men faced the Casa de Caoba, Esco
beda placed his rifle to his shoulder, but as he fired,
Raquel quickly reached out her hand and dashed
the muzzle downward. A crash of glass below
stairs told Silencio where the shot had found
"And for that shot, also, you shall pay. Aye,
for twenty thousand good glass windows. " Glass
windows are a luxury in the island.
A burst of derisive laughter and a scattering
flight of bullets were thrown back at him by the
motley crew. They reined their horses to the right,
turned a corner, and were lost in their own dust.
Silencio descended the stairs, how he never knew.
He ran through the patio and the main rooms, and
out on to the veranda, from which the path led
toward the gate of the enclosure. He was beside
himself. He seized his gun from the rack; he
cocked it as he ran.
"He said that I could not reach him upon the
water; I can reach him upon the land. Piombo,
my horse! Do not wait to saddle him, bring him
at once. No, I cannot reach him upon the water "
A sound of footsteps. A head bound in a ragged
cloth appeared above the flower boxes which edged
the veranda, and pushed its way between the leaves.
A body followed, and then a man ascended slowly
to a level with Don Gil Silencio. Over his shoul
der was slung a shotgun ; in his leathern belt, an
old one of his master's, was thrust a machete; from
his hand swung a lantern with white glass slides.
This man was stupid but kindly. He pattered
across the veranda with bare and callous feet, and
came to a halt within a few paces of Don Gil.
There he stopped and leaned against the jamb of
the open door.
At night Andres hung a lantern upon the asta at
the headland yonder, more as a star of cheer than
as a warning. The red lantern on Los Santos,
some miles further down the coast, was the beacon
for and the warning to mariners. The ray from its
one red sector illumined the channel until the morn
ing sun came again to light the way. When the
white pane changed the ray of red to one of white,
the pilot shouted, "Hard over." With a wide and
foaming curve, the vessel swept round and out to
sea, thus avoiding the sand spit of Palmacristi.
Silencio's eyes fell upon the lantern in the hand
of Andres, and in that moment the puzzle of the
hour was solved. So suddenly does the bread of
necessity demand the rising of the yeast of inven
tion. The expression of Don Gil's face had
changed in a moment from abject gloom to radiant
"Bien venido, Andres! Bien venido!"
No dearest friend could have been greeted with
a more joyous note of welcome. Andres raised his
eyes in astonishment to the face of the young
Senor. He had expected to meet with Guiller-
mina's reproaches because he had forgotten to
lower the lantern from the asta that morning, and
had left it burning all the long day, so that now it
must be refilled. Here was a very different recep
tion. He had been thinking over his excuses. He
had intended to say at once how ill El Rey had been
all night, and how he had forgotten everything but
the child; and here, instead of the scolding of the
servant, he was greeted with the smiles of the mas
ter. Truly, this was a strange world ; one never
knew what to expect.
"I come for oil for the lantern, Don Gil. It is
a very good farol de senales, but it is a glutton ! It
is never satisfied! It eats, and eats!"
"Like the rest of you." Don Gil laughed aloud.
Andres gazed at him with astonishment. "That
blessed glutton! Let us feed it, Andres! Give it
plenty to eat to-night, of all nights. I will hoist it
upon the headland myself to-night." At Andres's
still greater look of astonishment, "Yes, yes, leave
it to me. I will hoist the blessed lantern myself
to-night upon my headland."
"The Senor must not trouble himself. It is a
dull, dark night ! The Senor will find the sendica
rough and hard to climb."
"What! that little path? Have not I played
there as a child? Raced over it as a boy? I could
go there blindfold. How is the little king,
Andres?" Andres's face fell.
"He is not so well, Senor. That is why I forgot
the lantern. He was awake in the night talking
to her. I have left him for barely an hour to fill
the lantern and return it again to the asta. He
talks to her at night. Sometimes I think she has
returned. He begged me to leave the door
unlocked; he thinks she may come when I am
gone." Andres turned away his heavy face, and
brushed his sleeve across his eyes.
"You shall go home early to-night, Andres; as
I said, I will hoist the lantern."
The dull face of Andres lighted up with a tender
smile, a smile which glorified its homely linea
ments that smile which had always been ready to
appear at the bidding of El Rey. Poor little El
Rey, who had never ceased to call, in all his waking
hours for Roseta, Roseta who had found the charms
of Dondy Jeem, with his tight-rope and his red
trunk-hose and his spangles and his delightful wan
dering life, much more to be desired than the palm-
board hut down on the edge of the river, with El
Rey to care for all day, and Andres to attend when
he returned at night from the sucker planting or
"How is the sea, Andres?"
"It is quiet, Sefior, not a ripple."
"And we shall have no moon?"
"As the Sefior says, not for some weeks past
have we had a moon."
Don Gil laughed. He could laugh now, loud
and long. His heart was almost light. What bet
ter tool and confidant could he procure than a peon
who knew so little of times and seasons as Andres?
"And it is low tide at ten o'clock to-night?"
"As the Sefior says."
Had Don Gil asked, "Is the sea ink?" Andres
would have replied, "As the Sefior says."
"At about what time is the red lantern lighted
on Los Santos?"
"At about six o'clock, Sefior. I heard old Gremo
say that he lights it each evening at six o'clock."
"He does not live near it now?"
"As the Sefior says. The old casa fell quite to
pieces in the last hurricane, and now Gremo lives
at the Romando cannuca."
"He must start early from the conuco?"
"As the Sefior says. At half after five. It is a
long way to carry a ladder there and back.
Gremo is afraid of the ghosts who infest the mom-
poja patch. If one but thrusts his head at you,
you are lost. Marianna Romando says that Gremo
is not much of a man, but far superior to Garcito
Romando. The few pesos that he gets for lighting
the lantern keep the game cock in food."
"And no one can tamper with the light, I sup
"As the Sefior says. The good God forbid ! The
cords by which it is lowered hang so high that no
one can reach them not even Natalio, who, as all
know, is a giant."
"And you could not get that ladder, Andres?"
"As the Sefior says, when Gremo carries it a mile
away, and puts it inside the enclosure. He is a
good shot, though so old. There is only one bet
ter in all the district. Besides, there are ghosts
between the asta and the cannuca. "
Don Gil stood for a moment lost in thought.
"I suppose El Rey needs you at home, Andres.
I should not keep "
"That is quite true; I do, very much, Senor."
The thin little voice came from behind the giant
ceiba round which the circular end of the veranda
had been built.
"You here, El Rey?"
A slight, childish figure emerged slowly from
behind the giant trunk and leaned against its cor
"El Rey becomes weary staying down there in
the palm hut, Senor. There is nothing to do but
watch the pajara bobo, and the parrots, and listen
to river, going, going, going! Always going! Has
Roseta been here, Senor?"
Don Gil shook his head. He gazed sadly at the
"When do you think she will come, Senor?"
"I know not, little one; perhaps to-morrow.'
The boy raised his hand and smoothed down his
thin hair. The hand trembled like that of an old
man. His cheek was sunken, his lips colourless.
He lifted his large eyes to Don Gil's face.
"They always tell me that. Mariana, mafiana;
He sighed patiently, looking at the Sefior, as if
the great gentleman could help him in his trouble.
Andres turned away his head. He gazed across
the valley toward the hills beyond which lay Troja.
That was where they had gone to see Dondy Jeem,
he and his pretty Roseta Roseta, who had tossed
her head and shaken the gold hoops in her ears
when Dondy Jeem had kissed his hand to the spec
tators. He had turned always to the seats where
Roseta and Andres, stupid Andres he knew that
now sat. Then Roseta had given El Rey to the
ever-willing arms of Andres, and fixed her eyes on
Dondy Jeem and watched his graceful poise, the
white satin shoes descending so easily and securely
upon the swaying rope, the long pole held so
lightly in the strong hands. It had been before
those days that Roseta used to call the child her
king. Poor El Rey! He looked a sorry enough
little king to-day, a dethroned little king, with his
pinched face and trembling fingers and wistful
eyes, searching the world in vain for the kingdom
which had been wrested from him.
"How did you get out of the rancho, El Rey?"
"That Sefiorita from El Cuco, she let me out."
"You should be in bed, muchachito."
"But it is lonely, Sefior, in that bed. That is
Roseta's bed. I turn that way and this way. It
is hot. I look for Roseta. She is not there. A
man look in at the door once; he frighten me.
To-day a hairy beast came. He push back the
shutter. When he was gone, I ran. I stumble,
I fell over bajucos. I caught my foot in a root.
That would not matter if I could find Roseta. I
would rather be here with the Senor than at the
river. ' '
El Rey pushed a confiding little hand into Don
Gil's palm. Don Gil sat down and took the child
between his knees.
"Andres, do you shoot as well as of old?"
"I shoot fairly well, Senor."
The Senor laughed. He had seen Andres at only
the last fair, less than a year ago, shoot, at eighty
yards, a Mexican dollar from between the fingers of
Dondy Jeem. The scene recurred to Andres.
"Had it been but his heart!" he muttered, dully.
And then, with a look at Don Gil, "There are few
who cannot do one thing well, Senor."
"You are far too modest, Andres."
Don Gil glanced again at the lantern which
Andres had set down upon the veranda rail. When
he had first caught sight of that lantern in Andres's
hand his difficulty had vanished like the morning
mist. With a flash of thought, rather of many
thoughts in one train, he had seen the proceedings
of the evening to come mapped out like a plan of
"Will you do something for me, Andres?"
"The good God knows; anything that I can,
Senor. But what I should prefer would be a night
when the moon shines. He could not then see me
behind the old ironwood, and I could distinguish
him better when there is a little light. Is it the
Senor E'cobeda, Senor?"
Don Gil laughed again. He put El Rey gently
from him, and arose. He walked to the corner of
the veranda and back again. Andres took El Rey
tenderly up in his arms, the child laid his hot head
on Andres's shoulder.
"When will Roseta come?" he whispered. With
the unreason and trustful selfishness of childhood,
he did not see that if his heart was breaking, the
heart of Andres had already broken.
"No, Andres; it is not Escobeda. I do not hire
assassins, even for such a villain as he. But I need
a servant as faithful and as dumb as if that were
my custom. I want something done at once,
Andres, and I truly believe that you are the only
one upon all the colonia whom I can trust. Come
in here with me. No! Set the child down; he
will listen and repeat."
"El Rey will not listen at nothing, Senor," said
the child. He clung tightly to Andres's neck.
"Come in, then, both of you."
Andres, with El Rey in his arms, followed Don
Gil across the large living-room. Don Gil turned
as he unlocked the door at the end of the passage.
"I have something to say to you," he said,
"which must not be overheard."
Andres, the pioneer of his race, followed the
Senor into the spring-like privacy of the sanctum.
"Now don't worry your brain, Andres. Listen
to what I shall ask of you, and go and do it. You
know it has always been my theory that a peon
should not try to think, and why? Simply because
he has no brain, Andres."
"As the Senor says," assented Andres.
When Andres issued from the counting-house of
Palmacristi he was examining critically the trigger
of a gun. That fine Winchester it was which had
been the wonder and delight of the natives since
the Sefior Don Juan Smit' had brought it down
from the es-States. When the Sefior Silencio had
asked the Senor Don Juan Smit' if the gun would
shoot straight, the Senor Don Juan Smit' had
laughed softly, and had answered, "Well, I guess!"
and the Sefior Don Juan Smit' had not exagger
"And El Rey?"
"El Rey will go with Andres, Senor," answered
the thin voice.
"The muchachito will do as he chooses, Senor."
The child was following close upon his father's
"It is too far for him, Andres. Stay with me,
The child looked wistfully up at Andres.
"Andres will carry El Rey. Perhaps we shall
find Roseta at the place where Andres goes to
"I will carry him, Senor. His weight is nothing.
Dear God! nothing!"
Andres swung the child up to his hip, where he
sat astride, securely held by Andres's strong arm,
and descended the veranda steps.
"Come and tell me when it is done," Silencio
called after them.
"Si, Senor. Buen' noch', Senor."
"Buen' noch', Senor," echoed El Key's piping
"Here, Andres." From his height on the
veranda floor Don Gil tossed a key to Andres.
"Open the boat-house, and run the boat out upon
the southern ways. The southern ways, do you
hear? Those nearest the Port of Entry."
Andres looked up wonderingly.
"Ah! you are trying to think. Do not try. It
is useless. Obey! that is all."
Blindly faithful, Andres, having caught the key,
turned away with an "As the Senor says," and dis
appeared down the camino which led toward the
When he reached the headland of Palmacristi he
suddenly diverged from the cliff path and ran hur
riedly down the bank. The boat-house stood upon
a safe eminence in the middle of the sand spit, with
ways running down to the water on either side.
Andres set El Rey down in the warm sand, and
unlocked the boat-house door. He then pushed the
boat to the end of the ways. The tide was still
falling; it was nearly low water. He laid the oars
ready; then he arose and looked southward along
the coast. Ah ! There shone the signal upon Los
Santos headland. Old Gremo was at his post,
then. Andres raised his shoulders to his ears,
turned the palms of his hands outward, and said:
"Thy labour is of no use to-night, Gremo." He
then took El Rey up from his nest in the warm
sand, swung the child again to his hip, and
remounting the bank, proceeded on his way.
So soon as Andres had departed Don Gil entered
the comidor, and going to the table, struck a bell
hanging above it. Jorge Toleto lounged to the
doorway, against the side of which he propped
"Tell Piomba to go over to the bodega at once,
and ask the padre to dine with me this evening.
Piomba has little time. Tell him to be off at
Jorge Toleto shuffled away, with the remnant of
what in his youth had been a respectful bow.
When he was gone Don Gil crossed the living-room,
passed through two long passages, and entered a
door at the end of the second. Here was a sort of
general storeroom. When he emerged he carried
in one hand a lantern, in the other he held a flat
parcel. "A new lantern will burn more brightly,"
he said to himself.
It was growing dusk now. Don Gil descended
the veranda stair and followed in the footsteps of
Andres. As he crossed the rough grass beyond
the veranda, old Guillermina espied him from a
further window. She was engaged in opening the
Senor's bed for the night, searching among the
snowy linen to make sure, before tucking the rose-
coloured netting beneath the mattress, that no black
spider had hidden itself away, to prove later an
unwelcome bedfellow to her adored Don Gil. For
your tarantula will ensconce itself in unexpected
corners at times, and is at the best not quite a
"And for the love of the saints, where is our
Don Gil departing to at this hour of the night?
The dinner nearly ready, old Otivo watching the
san coch' to see that it does not burn ! The table
laid, everything fine enough for a meal for the holy
apostles! Aie! aie! for our Don Gil is one who
will have it as fine for himself as for the alcade,
when pouff! off he goes, and we breaking our
hearts while we wait. Ay de mi! ay de mi!"
The Sefior, unconscious that he had been ob
served, passed hurriedly along the camino, and
shortly struck into the little path or sendica which
Andres had traversed but a short time before. As
Don Gil glanced over the cliff, he saw that the sea
was still ; almost calm. Even the usual ocean swell
seemed but a wavelet, as it reached weakly up the
beach, expending itself in a tiny whirl of pebbles
and foam whose force was nil, and lapsed in a
retreat more exhausted than its oncoming.
A walk of ten minutes brought Silencio to the
headland which bounded his property on the south.
It was growing so dark that he could hardly distin
guish the staff upon which it had been Andres's cus
tom to hang each night his lanterna de senales, to
send forth its white beam of cheer across the sea.
When, after passing the red light of Los Santos
Head, the pilot steered for the open ocean, the
remark to the captain was always the same stereo
"Ah! There is the Palmacristi lantern bidding
It is a sad thing when the habit of years must be
changed. When a custom, fixed as the laws of the
Medes, must be broken, chaos is often the result.
Thus thought Silencio, as he reached the foot of
the asta. It is, however, not necessary to say that
his hand was not retarded by the thought. He
groped for the cords which dangled from the top,
and found them. He lighted a fusee and searched
for and found the red slide, which he had laid on
the ground. This was all that he wanted. By
feeling, almost entirely, he removed the white pane
from the lantern and replaced it by the red one,
which he took from its wrapping. He then lighted
the lantern, passed the cords through the metal
hasps, and drew the signal to the top of the staff.
The cords were so arranged as to permit of no sway
ing of the lantern. The light was fixed, and now
from the top of the staff a red beam shone south
When Don Gil mounted the steps of his veranda
at Palmacristi a tall, thin figure arose to greet him.
"Ah, padre, I am glad that Piomba succeeded in
finding you. My dinners are lonely ones."
The padre laughed in the cracked voice of an old
' ' Better is the stalled ox where love is, than a
dinner of herbs and poverty therewith."
"Just enough learning to misquote," quoted
Don Gil, laughing also, but in a preoccupied manner.
"Perhaps it would be better to say 'just enough
appetite.' My dinners are bad enough, since
Plumero left me."
"Better to have him leave you, even if under a
guard of soldiers, padre, than to let him put you
where you can eat no more dinners. What was
that, padre? Did you hear anything?"
"Nothing, my boy, but Jorge Toleto calling us
to dinner. The willing ear, you know."
Don Gil ushered the old man into the comidor.
His tall figure was bent and thin. The shabby
black coat, whose seams shone with a generation's
wear, flapped its tails about the legs of his scant
white trousers. The good priest's figure was one
in which absurdity and dignity were inextricably
combined. The padre showed his years. He had
never quite recovered from the attack made upon
him by his trusted servant Plumero, the Good
Plumero, who now languished in the cep' over at
The savory meal was ended. The night was
warm and close.
"Let us sit upon the veranda and enjoy our
Silencio seemed unlike himself. He was ner
vous, ill at ease. He had no sooner seated himself
than he arose and paced the long veranda, the
spark of his cigarette, only, showing his where
abouts. He looked often out to sea, and often in
the direction of the lanterna de senates, whose ray
was hidden from sight by the near hill.
"Do you hear anything, padre? Anything like
a cry or a ' '
"No, nothing! my boy. And as I was saying,
there was my poor fighting cock lying in the corner,
worse maltreated than he had ever been in any
garito, and when I awoke "
"That was certainly a gun. You are not rising
to leave, padre; why, your cigarillo is not even
half finished. I expect you to stay the night. No,
no! I will take no denial. Guillermina, prepare
the western room for the Padre Martinez."
"You know my weaknesses, muchacho mio.
Very well, then, I will." But Silencio was down
the steps and some feet away in the darkness,
straining his ear for the sound which he knew must
come. He took out his watch, and by the light of
the veranda lantern noted the time. "Early yet,"
he muttered under his breath.
"Pardon, my son, you spoke to "
"I was but saying that the moon is very late
"You are restless, Gil."
"It is this muggy weather. There ! you certainly
"Nothing, Gil; nothing but the nightingale yon
A cuculla flew into the padre's face. He
brushed it gently away. It returned to wander over
the long wisps of grey hair which straggled over
the collar of the hot, dignified coat. The padre
took the cuculla in his fingers, and placed it gently
upon the leaves of the bougainvillia vine.
"I certainly think that the sweetest songsters I
ever heard are the nightingales in this enclosure."
A footstep sounded on the graveled pathway
which ran close to the veranda.
"Buen' noch', Senor."
Silencio started nervously.
"Ah! It is you, Andres? Buenas noches."
Silencio raised his hand with a warning gesture.
Andres's stolid face expressed as stolid acqui
"Buen' noch', Senor. We did not find her at
the asta de lanterna, Senor. ' '
"Andres, take the child home; he is weary."
The tone was curt, unlike the kindly Don Gil.
It was as if he had laid his hands on Andres's
shoulders and were pushing him along.
"I should like to remain here, Senor. Perhaps
she may come to-night. Who knows? Perhaps
the good God will send her. He knows that I
cannot bear it, I can not bear " The child's
voice broke in a sob.
Silencio' s kindly nature was touched. "Take
him round to Guillermina, Andres, and get dinner;
both of you."
The two disappeared in the darkness.
Then Piombo brought a flaring Eastern lamp, at
which Don Gil relighted his often extinguished
"How still the night! How far a sound would
carry on a night like this." The padre had but
just uttered these words when a long, booming
sound struck upon the listening as well as the
Silencio bounded from his chair. He caught up
a cloak which was lying conveniently ready.
"A steamer ashore!" he shouted. The old
padre struggled to his feet. "Do not come. Go
round to the quarters. Send the men to help. It
must be at the sand spit. Follow me to the head
land," and he was gone in the darkness. The
padre wondered somewhat at Silencio's suspecting
at once the locality of the stranded steamer, if that
were the cause of the gun of distress. As he won
dered, it spoke again, and gathering his wits
together, he hastened round to the quarters.
Silencio bounded along the camino and up the
cliff pathway. His feet seemed winged. The
familiar local knowledge of childhood stood him in
good stead at this crucial moment. He reached
the staff. It was short work to release the cord
and lower the lantern, extinguish the light, replace
the red slide with a white one, and hoist the dark
ened signal in place again. Then he turned and
ran quickly down the sandy bank.
"Now the light has simply gone out," he said
to himself as he ran. His boat was where Andres
had left it, the rising water making it just awash.
A glance seaward showed to Silencio a steamer's
lights. There came to him across the water
bewildered shouts, the sounds of running feet, and
evidences of confusion. He pushed his boat into
the water, and bent to the oars. The steamer was,
at the most, not more than a quarter of a mile
distant. He pulled with desperation. He heard
the sound of the foam as the propeller turned over,
and he feared that with every revolution the vessel
would back off into deep water. When he rowed
alongside he was not noticed in the dark and con
fusion of the moment. He held his long painter
in his hand, and as he climbed up over some con
venient projections of the little vessel, fastened it
He drew himself up hurriedly to the taffrail, and
slid down to deck, mixing with the crew. He
looked about now for the bewitching cause of the
disaster. Some dark forms were standing by the
companion door, and going close he discovered her
whom he sought. He laid his hand on her arm to
draw her away. At first she started fearfully, but
even in darkness love is not blind, and she hur
riedly withdrew with him to the side of the
"Stand here for a moment, Raquel," he whis
pered. "I am afraid that I cannot get you over
the side without aid."
She stood where he placed her, and he ran for-
ward with much bustle and noise, seeking the cap
tain, calling him by name.
"Ah! the saints preserve us! Is that you,
Sefior Silencio? Where are we, Senor? There is
no light anywhere to be seen. Where are we, for
the love of God?"
"I am afraid that you have run aground on my
sand spit, Senor Capitan."
"On your sand spit, Senor! Where, then, is
Los Santos Head?"
"Some miles further down the coast, Sefior Cap
"Ay de mi! I knew that pilot was no good.
This is the first light that we have seen, and now
that has gone out. This was a red light, Sefior."
' ' Red light ? You are dreaming, Senor Capitan. ' '
The captain took this rejoinder in its literal mean
"It is true that I was dreaming, Senor. I beg of
you not to mention it at the port. I have suffered
with a fearful toothache all day. The pilot said
that he was competent; we have never had any
trouble." Silencio cut him short.
"I am here to offer my services, Sefior Capitan.
Can I be of any use? You may have a storm from
the southward. To-day has been a weather-breeder.
I think you have women on board. I could take
"Gracias! gracias! my kind Senor Silencio. That
will help me above all things."
"And if the wind does not rise, Senor Capitan,
the tide will. Keep your engines backing, and
there will be no harm done. I will take whom I
can, and send for the others." Which proves that
love, if not blind, may, however, be untruthful
How Silencio got Raquel over the side he never
knew. Some one aided him at the captain's order,
but he realized at last the blessed fact that she was
there beside him, and that they were gliding from
the vessel's hull as fast as he could impel the boat.
"Some miscreant has done this,." roared the cap
tain above the noise, as he leant over the side and
strained his eyes after Silencio. "I beg you, Senor,
to look for him, and when you have caught him,
hand him over to me."
"I shall remember your words, Senor Capitan."
"I will have him shot in the market-place of the
Port of Entry, and send for all the natives to
"I will remember your words, Senor Capitan,
you may be sure of that, when I catch him "
But the last words of Don Gil were lost in the
renewed efforts of the engineer to back the steamer
from the sand spit.
No words passed at first between Raquel and her
rescuer. If love is not always blind and sometimes
not truthful, he is apt to be silent. Raquel needed
no explanation. As the boat glided through the
darkness, Silencio dropped the oars. He took her
hands in his. His lips were pressed to hers. What
question should she ask? What more did she crave
to know? Here were life and liberty and love, in
exchange for slavery, pollution, and worse than
When he lifted her slight form from the boat, he
did not release her at once, but held her in his
arms for a moment. He could hardly believe that
his daring act had met with the one result for which
he had hoped.
"Your uncle, where is he?"
"Escobeda? In the cabin, ill. There is a slight
swell. He is always ill. I had not noticed it, the
swell, on board the steamer. But he is not my
uncle, Senor. "
"I have proof of it in his own written words,
dear heart. But uncle or not, he shall never sepa
rate us now."
"When can they get the steamer off the sand
spit, Senor? I heard you say that the water is
rising. ' '
"They will float off by twelve o'clock to-night,
Sweetheart. I hope they will forget you. But
whether they do or not, they shall not have you
ever again, beloved. No, never again! You are
"He has none of those men with him," said
Raquel. "They went back to Troja. But, Senor,
he will come back from the capital, and then
Senor then "
"We will reckon with that question when it
arises, dear one. At present, let us not think of
Escobeda and his crew."
Half-way up the sandy slope they met the tall
form of the padre descending. Silencio said shortly
what he chose. Explanations were not in order,
for, whatever had happened, and whatever might
happen, this young girl could not remain unmar
ried in the house of her lover. "You must marry
us this evening, padre ; and we will go to the little
church at Haldez to-morrow," said Don Gil, "if
that will salve your conscience."
"My conscience needs no salving, my son.
Yours rather. Perhaps, if you have anything to
confess, I had better receive your confession
"Ah, padre, what a tempter you are! So holy
a man, too! No, let them do their worst. I have
nothing to confess. I have won my stake ; now let
them come on." But he regarded the beautiful
girl at his side with some uneasiness as he spoke.
"You must let me give you a chime of bells,
Padre," said Raquel. The moon was struggling
forth, and Silencio noticed her shy look as she raised
her eyes to his. "That is, if if the Senor will
"Bribery, bribery!" said the padre in his thin
Silencio put his arm round Raquel, and they
stepped to the edge of the cliff. With her head
pressed close to his shoulder, together they
watched the dancing lights upon the steamer, and
listened to the hoarse orders and shouts which,
mingled with the foaming spray under the vessel's
stern, came to them across the water. They had
forgotten the padre, for love adds another to her
many bad qualities, that of ingratitude. The
padre had just promised to perform for them the
greatest service that it was his to give, and they
had become oblivious of him, and of everything in
the world but each other. They stood so, and
watched the steamer for a little space, and then
Silencio gathered the girl to his breast.
"Come home! dear Heart, come home!" he whis
pered, and she followed him down the path, her
hand in his.
As they neared the Casa de Caoba they saw that
a man was sitting upon the veranda steps. He had
a child in his arms. The man was sleeping heavily,
the slumber of the labouring peon. As Raquel came
up the steps of her new home, the child raised his
large eyes wistfully to hers.
"When El Rey saw it was a Sefiora, El Rey
thought it might be Roseta. When will Roseta
come, Senor? When? When?"
Raquel stooped and lifted the boy tenderly from
Andres's nerveless arms. She asked no question.
With the instinct of the motherhood lying dormant
within her, she knew that here was a motherless
child, and that it suffered. At that moment she
loved all the world. She pressed the boy close to
"Stay with me, little one; I will be Roseta to
El Rey raised his eyes to the sweet, dark face
"Roseta was not gran', Sefiora," he said he
scanned her face critically "but she was more
pretty than the Sefiora. The Sefiora will pardon
me if I say that Roseta's gown was much more
handsome than the one the Sefiora wear."
At the word "sefiora" the young girl stooped
and laid her lips upon the child's head.
"It was a gown of red. It had green spots
oh, such little green spots, small, small spots. El
Rey used to count them. There were some little
half-spots up there on the shoulder. Roseta said
it was where the sewing came. Roseta did not
have shiny drops in her ears. The Senora's drops
are like the bits of glass that Andres shot from the
top of the asta to-night. He had a gun, the
gun of the Sefior. "
Raquel looked inquiringly at Silencio.
"It is true," he admitted.
"At Los Santos?"
"At Los Santos."
"They came down in showers, Sefior, like little
"You are a poet, El Rey."
"Rather," said Silencio, smiling down at the
child, where he stood leaning against Raquel,
"El Rey is a little story-teller. He promised not
to say a word ' '
"It is a Senora who may know everything, all
things. She has the good eyes."
"You are right, El Rey."
"The rings in Roseta's ears were round. They
were big and round. She used to shake them when
we went to the circus, so!" The tired head
shook slowly. Andres stirred uneasily. He
opened his dull, sad eyes and looked at El Rey. He
had felt the touch on the wound even in his sleep.
"I often put my finger round them, so! Often
and often I did."
Raquel took the little fingers between her own.
She put them between her lips and bit them play-
fully. Her white teeth made tiny indentations in
the tender skin* El Rey smiled faintly, a promise,
Raquel hoped, of a brighter day of forgetfulness to
Silencio stood looking on. He loved to see her
so, the child leaning against her knee. Across the
water came the sounds of shouts and hurried orders
which disturbed no one. Raquel stroked the
thin, straight hair over and over. She ran her soft
fingers down the angular little face and neck. Tiny
tremors of affection ran gently through the child's
veins. El Rey laid his head upon the knee to
which she drew him. His wasted hand shook as
he laid it upon hers.
"You are good," said the child. "You are
beautiful, you are kind, kind to El Rey." His
tone was patient and old and full of monotony.
"But oh ! the Sefiora will pardon me? You are not
There was one other person at the wedding of
Don Gil and Raquel, besides the padre, who united
them, and old Guillermina and Andres.
"Who will give you away?" asked Silencio.
"I myself," said she. Silencio laughed. "That
cannot be," he said. As he spoke there was a
humble knocking at the door of the salon. Raquel
looked up and bounded from her seat.
''Oh, you dear old thing!" she said. She was
fondling and kissing the bony creature, who stood
aghast before her, who in turn was crying and beg
ging the saints to have mercy upon her.
"And for the good God's sake, tell me how you
got here, Senorita, and will the Sefior allow me to
sit down? My Sunday shoes have killed me,
nearly. Is there anything that I could wear in
stead " Ana stopped abashed at the sight of so
fine a man as Silencio.
"How did the Sefior rescue you, my Sweet? Is
the Sefior Escobeda dead, then?" Ana looked
about her as if she expected to see the bodies of
Escobeda and his followers over there on the edge
of the trocha.
"I have been shipwrecked, Ana," said Raquel,
smiling down upon the old woman.
"Ship the holy saints pres and you are not
even wet and where, then, is the Sefior Escobe "
"You seem very much worried about the Sefior
Escobeda, Ana," said Don Gil, who at once made
Raquel's friend his own. "Do you not hear him
off there now, cursing as usual?"
Ana listened. She heard distant cries, and the
sound of the water as it churned underneath the
Ana shrank to the size of an ant as she answered,
her face blanching: "Indeed! yes, I do hear the
Senor, Senor. I have heard the Sefior like that,
Sefior, many a time. And does the Senor think
that the Senor can come here to the casa of Palma-
"Not for some time, I think, Ana," said Don
Gil, smiling, though a faint wrinkle was discernible
on his brow.
"It always seems to me as if the Senor Esco-
beda could get anywhere, Senor," said Ana, simply.
"He has only to wish, the Sefior, and the thing is
"That would be bad for us," said Silencio.
"Ana, will you give this lady to me?"
"I? And what does the Senor think that I have
to do with it?"
"Is the Senor Escobeda a nearer relative than
you are, Ana?"
"Indeed, no! Senor," said Ana. "I was her
mother's own cousin once removed, while the
Senor Es "
"Very well!" said Silencio, "that is all that I
want. Come! padre, let us prepare for the wed-
It was two or three days after this that Uncle
Adan came in toward sunset with a fine piece of
"The Senor knows the hacienda of Palmacristi?"
began Uncle Adan, more as a preface than as a
Don Beltran laughed. He had known the
hacienda of Palmacristi as long as he had known
anything; he had known the old Don Gil well, who,
indeed, had been a distant relative of his own, and
he had seen the young Don Gil grow up to man
hood. Beltran was ten years older than Silencio.
He had often envied the young fellow his indepen
dence and freedom in the way of money. He
thought him hot-headed and likely to get into
trouble some day, and now, from Uncle Adan's
account, that day had arrived. He did not think
it necessary to say this ; Adan knew it as well as he.
"What has he been doing now?" asked Don
"Only getting married, Senor," answered the old
"I did not dream that he would do anything so
sensible," said Don Beltran, with a glance at
Agueda bent her eyes low and blushed. How
dear it was of him to think of her first of all, and
always in that connection. But what was the haste?
He loved her, of that she was sure. He would
always love her. When he was ready, she would
be, but it was not a pressing matter.
"The Senor E'cobeda does not think it so sen
sible, Senor Don Beltran."
"Aaaah! it was the little Sefiorita Raquel,
then. Wise man, wise man!" Agueda looked up
suddenly "to marry the girl of his choice. But
how did he get her, Adan? It was only three
weeks ago that he wrote me a line, begging that I
would aid him in an effort to carry her off."
"And the Senor answered ?"
"I told him that I would come whenever he
called upon me. I have no liking for Escobeda.
He will not sell me the lowlands between the river
and the sea. He is an unpleasant neighbour, he "
"He is a devil," said Adan.
"I think that it must be I who made that mar
riage hasten as it did," said Agueda, smilingly.
"The Senor remembers the day last week when I
came home and found the Senor with the letter
from the Senor Don Noe saying that he would
make a visit at Palmacristi with the little child? It
was on that day that I carried the note from the
Senorita to Don Gil."
"And that was the very day of the marriage,"
broke in Adan, willing enough to interrupt his
niece, though not his master. "It was the very
day. There was a shipwreck, and somehow the
young Sefior got the Senorita from the vessel.
Como no, hombre! When one wants a thing he
must have it if he is gran' Senor. The padre was
there, and he married them, and now they have to
reckon with the Sefior E'cobeda."
"Where was the precious rascal all this time?"
asked Don Beltran.
1 "Some say that he was on board the ship, Sefior,
and that he was carried on to the government town.
They say he knew nothing of the grounding of the
vessel; he was always sick with the sea, that Sefior
E'cobeda. Caramba! / should like to see him
sick with the sea, or with the bite of a black spider,
or with anything else that would kill him that
"I cannot see what he can do, Adan," said Don
Beltran. ' ' If she is married, he cannot change that.
Adan nodded, and scratched his ankle with his
"Married fast enough, Sefior Don Beltran. First
by the padre at the hacienda, and then at the lit-
tie church at Haldez. I cannot see what rights he
has over the young Senora now."
"None at all," said Don Beltran. "Does the
lad want me over there the Senor Silencio?"
"I have heard nothing from him, Senor Don
Beltran. Juan Rotiro told me many things, but
the Senor knows what Juan Rotiro is when the pink
rum gets into his judgment. He says that the
Senor E'cobeda will soon return, and that there
will be fighting, but it seems to me that the Senor
Don Gil can hold his own. Como no! when he
has the law on his side."
"Law," Beltran laughed. "Do you suppose
rascals like Escobeda care for law? Besides, he has
the Governor on his side. He pays large sums for
so-called concessions; that I know, and the Gover
nor winks both eyes very fast at anything that
Escobeda chooses to do. Did you hear anything
about his getting that band from Troja together?"
"Caramba! yes, Senor Don Beltran! It was
spoken under the breath, and just from one peon to
the other. They did not know much."
Don Beltran arose. "I think I will ride over to
Palmacristi, Agueda; get me my spur. Would you
like to come, child?"
Agueda shook her head, and ran into the sitting-
room to hide her confusion. Her face was a dull
crimson as she took the spur down from the nail.
' ' The espuela is dusty ; shall I brighten it, Sefior ?' '
"Call old Juana. I will not have you soil your
pretty hands, child, on my spur. The grey,
Pablo," he shouted toward the rambling structure
that was dignified by the name of stable.
"And why not come with me, Agueda?"
Agueda bent over her stitching.
"I am much too busy to-day, Sefior," she said.
"Far too busy," she thought, "to go over there,
not sure of my welcome." Things had changed at
Palmacristi, and remembering the slight inflection
in Silencio's tone when last she saw him, she knew
that henceforth Raquel was quite out of her reach.
"I was good enough to take her note for her
when she was Senorita, " thought Agueda, "but I
am not good enough to visit her now that she is
Agueda's sensitive and delicate nature had
evolved this feeling out of an almost imperceptible
glance, a faint, evanescent colouring of tone in the
inflection of Silencio's voice, but it told her, as
memory called it up, that the front door of Palma
cristi would henceforth be closed to her. She
would not hamper Beltran. He was thoughtless,
and might suffer more from a slight to her than
from one to himself; or else he might become angry
and break his pleasant friendship with Silencio, a
friendship which had existed between the families
for generations. No, she had better remain at
home. Again, when Beltran asked her, she shook
her head and smiled, though a drop of water lay
near the surface of her eye, but Beltran did not see,
and rode away gaily, waving his hand.
Arrived upon the height where stood the Casa de
Caoba, he rode the grey down to the bank, because
on the calm sea he had discovered Silencio and
Raquel, in the little skiff in which Raquel had been
rescued. He heard Silencio say, "There is Beltran;
let us go in and see him."
"I do not know that Don Beltran," said Raquel.
"Does not the girl Agueda live there, at San
"Yes; do you know Agueda?" As Silencio
spoke he waved his hand to the horseman on the
"Bien venido," he shouted. And then to Raquel,
"Where did you see the girl Agueda?"
"I have often seen her," said Raquel. "She is
very handsome. She looks like a young boy.
She is really no darker than I am. Have you for
gotten that she brought my note to you that
"No," said Silencio; "I have not forgotten it.
She has perhaps more good Spanish blood in her
veins than either of us," continued he, as he bent
to the oars.
"Such things are very sad," said Raquel. "She
is so above her station. I should like to have her
come here and live with us."
"That would not do at all, Raquel," returned
"Is there anything wrong with her?" asked
"N no, not that I know of, but she is not of
"And yet you say that she has better ancestry
than either you or I," argued Raquel, as the boat
grounded. "I am sure her uncle is a great deal
more respectable than mine."
Silencio waved his hand to Beltran. "We were
looking to see if there was any sign of the yacht,"
he called. "I sent her round to Lambrozo to be
repaired. We may need her now any day. Oh ! I
quite forgot you do not know my wife, Beltran.
I must introduce you."
Raquel bowed and walked onward to order
refreshments for the visitor.
"Let me congratulate you," said Beltran, when
Silencio had thrown the painter to Andres, who
was standing near and had scrambled up the bank.
"I was surprised by your very charming news."
"Hardly more than I was myself."
"How did you manage, Gil?"
"The gods were with me," answered Silencio,
laughing, though Beltran noticed that his brow
clouded over almost immediately. His laughter
sounded false. "It is true that I have what I
wished, Beltran," he continued "the dearest bless
ing that any man, were he prince or noble, could
ask." ("She is not half so beautiful as my Ague-
da," thought Beltran, while nodding acquiescence.)
"I have her, she is mine; but there is Escobeda
still to be reckoned with."
"Where is he?" asked Beltran.
"I wish he were in hell," said Silencio, fiercely.
"You are not singular in that, but the result is
not always the offspring of the desire. It would
indeed be a blessing to send him there, but unfor
tunately, my boy, there is law for him in this land,
though very little of it when it comes to the wrongs
that you and I suffer. The question is, where is
he, and when do you expect him here?"
"He went on to the government town with the
Beltran threw his leg over the saddle and
dropped to the ground, walking beside his young
friend. He heard all that there was to tell.
"He was very ill when the steamer ran on the
sand spit that night." Silencio looked narrowly at
his friend. He wished to see if his share in the
decoying of the steamer had been noised abroad,
Beltran listened without a flicker of the eyelash.
"The doctor had given him something strong a
new thing down here, called, I believe, chloral."
"Como no!" burst forth Beltran, "if they only
gave him enough."
"They gave him enough for my purpose, "said
Silencio. "He was utterly stupid. Was I going
to awake him and ask permission to run away with
his niece? Caramba, Beltran! I should think not!
He was stupid, I imagine, all the way to the gov
ernment town. When he called for the bird whose
wings he thought he had clipped, behold, the little
thing had flown, and with me, the dreaded enemy."
Don Beltran laughed long and heartily.
"You are a clever boy, Gil; but how about the
future? As you say, you have that still to reckon
The darkening of Silencio' s face recalled to Bel
tran that antiquated simile of the sweeping of a
cloud across the brightness of the sun. But not all
old things have lost their uses.
"I know that," said Silencio; "that is the worst
of it. I have taken Her from him to protect her,
and now and now if I should fail =-' '
"I rode over to-day for that very thing, Gil, to
ask if I could help. I will come over with all my
people if you say so, whenever you send for me.
My uncle, Don Noe Legaspi, comes within a day
or so, to stay with me at San Isidro. He brings
his little child, a motherless little thing, with him,
but I can come all the same. I think that it was
never said of my house that we deserted a friend or
a kinsman in trouble."
"I see what you are afraid of," said Silencio.
"You think he will attack me."
"I do," answered Beltran; "but we can stand
him off, as the Yankees say. You have the right
to shoot if he attacks you, but I hope that it will
be my bullet that takes him off, the double-dyed
"You will take some refreshment, Beltran?"
"No, it is late; my breakfast is waiting. A' Dios,
Gil, a' Dios."
As they were about to part, Silencio called after
his friend :
"I will send you word as soon as I receive
the news myself. You will come at once, eh,
Don Beltran paused in mounting the grey, and
turned his head to look at his friend. Silencio's
fingers were nervously opening and closing around
one of the fence palings.
"For myself I should not care; that you know,
Beltran ; but for her, it would kill me to have her
fall into his hands again. It would be death to me
to lose her. She will die if she thinks that she can
be taken from me, and by that villain. Do you
know what they meant to do with her, Beltran?
They meant they meant "
Silencio's voice sank to a whisper. His face had
become white, his lips bloodless. His eyes seemed
to sink back in his head and emit sparks of fire.
In the compression of the mouth Beltran saw the
determination of certain death for Escobeda should
he come within range of Silencio's weapon.
Beltran was in the saddle now. He turned and
surveyed his friend with some anxiety.,
"Be careful, Gil," he said; "don't come within
reach of the villain. Discretion is much the better
part in this matter. Keep yourself under cover.
They will pick you off, those rascals. Send for me
the night before you know that he is coming, and
I will ride over with ten of my men. We can gar
rison at your house?"
"I shall make ready for you," said Silencio.
"My only fear is that I shall not have warning
Beltran rode down to the coast to meet his young
uncle and the child. He started early in the morn
ing, riding the black. The groom led the roan for
Uncle Noe's use, Pablo rode the spotted bull, and
those peons who could be spared from the cacao
planting walked over the two miles to the boat land
ing, to be ready to carry the luggage that the strange
Senor and the little girl would bring.
As Dulgado's fin-keel neared the shore, Beltran
could not distinguish the occupants, for the sail hid
them from view; but when the boat rounded to
alongside the company's landing, and a sprightly
old gentleman got out and turned to assist a young
girl to climb up to the flooring of the wharf, Bel
tran discovered that Time had not broken his rule by
standing still. On the contrary, he had broken his
record by outstripping in the race all nature's win
ners, for the young uncle had become a thin little
old man, and the child a charming girl in a very
pronounced stage of young ladyhood.
"I should have known that my cousin could not
be a little child," thought Beltran, as he removed
his old panama, wishing that he had worn the new
one. His dress was careless, if picturesque, and he
regretted that he had paid so little attention to it.
Notwithstanding his somewhat rough appear
ance, Beltran raised the perfumed mass of ruffles
and lace in his strong arms. He seated the girl in
the chair, fastened firmly to the straw aparejo on
the back of the great bull. At Agueda's sugges
tion, he had provided a safe and comfortable seat
for the little one, to whose coming Agueda was
looking forward with such unalloyed pleasure.
The girl filled it no more completely than Bel-
tran's vision of her younger self would have done,
though her billowy laces overlapped the high arms
of her chair. Her feet, scarce larger than those of a
child, rested upon the broad, safe footboard which
Beltran had swung at the side of the straw saddle.
Her delicate face was framed in masses of fair
hair pale hair, with glints here and there like
Beltran could hardly see her eyes, so shaded was
her face by the broad hat, weighted down by its
wealth of vari-colored roses. To many a Northern
man, to whom style in a woman is a desideratum,
Felisa would have looked like a garden-escape.
She had a redundant sort of prettiness, but Beltran
was not critical. What if her eyes were small, her
nose the veriest tilted tip, her nostrils and mouth
large? The fluffy hair overhung the dark eyebrows,
the red lips parted to show white little squirrel
teeth, the delicate shell-like bloom on cheek and
chin was adorable. It brought to Beltran's mem
ory the old farm in Vermont where he had passed
some summers as a lad, and the peach trees in the
orchard. His environment had not provided him
with a strictly critical taste. How fair she was!
What a contrast to all the women to whom he had
been accustomed ! There was nothing like her in
that swarthy land of dingy beauties. Her light and
airy apparel was a revelation. Unconsciously Bel-
tran compared it with the plain, straight skirts and
blouse waists which he saw daily, and to its sudden
and undeniable advantage. He was expecting to
greet a little child, and all at once there appeared
upon his near horizon a goddess full-blown. He
had seen nothing in his experience by which he
could gauge her. She passed as the purest of coin
in this land of debased currency.
Her father, Uncle Noe\ bestrode the roan which
Eduardo Juan had brought over for him. When
Don Noe was seated, Eduardo Juan gave him the
bridle, and took his own place among the carriers
of the luggage, which was greater in quantity than
Don Beltran had expected. Eduardo Juan disap
peared with a sulky scowl in answer to Pablo's con
tented grin, which said, "I have only to walk home,
guide the bull, and see that the Sefiorita does not
slip, while you "
Pablo waited with patient servility, rope in hand,
until the Sefiorita was safely seated in her chair.
There was a good deal of sprightly conversation
among the Senores. There was more tightening of
girths and questions as to the comfort of his guests
by Don Beltran. Then the cavalcade started,
Pablo leading the bull, which followed him docilely,
with long strides. The animal, ignorant as are the
creatures of the four-footed race, with regard to his
power over its enemy, man, was obedient to the
slightest twitch of the rope, to which his better
judgment made him amenable. The long rope was
fastened to the ring in his pink and dripping nos
trils. He stretched his thick legs in long and steady
strides, avoiding knowingly the deeper pools which
he had heretofore aided his kind to fashion in the
plastic clay of the forest path.
Beltran rode as near his cousin as the path would
allow. It was seldom, however, that they could
It was the southern spring, and flowers were
beginning to bloom, but Felisa looked in vain for
the tropical varieties which one ever associates with
that region. The bull almost brushed his great
sides against the tree trunks which outlined the
sendica. When she was close enough Felisa
stretched out her hand and plucked the blackened
remains of a flower from the center of a tall plant.
It had been scorched and dried by the sun of the
summer that was passed. She thrust the withered
stems into the bull's coarse hair, turned to Beltran,
"If I remain long enough, there will be flowers
of all colors, will there not, cousin? Flowers of
blue and red and orange."
"You will remain, I hope, long after they have
bloomed and died again," answered Beltran, gal
They had not been riding long before Felisa sent
forth from her lips an apprehensive scream. Bel
tran spurred his horse nearer.
"What is it, cousin? Is the silla slipping?"
Felisa looked up from under her cloud of spun
silk, and answered :
"No, I am wondering how I am to get round
that great tree."
Beltran, to whom the path was as well known as
his own veranda at San Isidro, had no cause to turn
his eyes from the charming face at his side.
"Oh! the trunk of the old mahogany? That has
lain across the path for years. Do not be afraid,
little cousin. Roncador has surmounted that diffi
culty more times than I can remember."
They were now close upon the fallen trunk.
Felisa closed her eyes and clutched at the bull's
shaggy neck. She screamed faintly.
Pablo turned to the right and pulled at the lead
ing rope, but the bull, with no apparent effort, stub
born only when he knew that he was in the right,
turned to the left, and Pablo perforce followed. It
was a case of the leader led. When Roncador had
reached the point for which he had started, a bare
place entirely denuded of branches, he lifted one
thick foreleg over, then the other. The hind legs
followed as easily, a slight humping of the great
flanks, and the tree was left behind. Suddenly
Felisa found that they were in the path again.
"Ze bull haave ze raight, " commented Pablo.
"Ah endeavo' taike de Senorit' roun' de tre*. Bull
ain' come. He know de bes' nor me." Don Bel-
tran leaped his horse over the tree trunk, and Don
Noe was taken over pale and trembling, whether or
no, the roan following Don Beltran's lead. Beltran
smiled openly at Pablo's discomfiture, and some
what secretly at Uncle No6's fear.
"A good little animal, that roan, Uncle Noe\
How does he suit you?" Uncle Noe looked up
and endeavoured to appear at ease, releasing his too
tight clutch on the bridle.
"II est rigolo, bien rigolo!" said Don Noe", gaily,
between jerks occasioned by the liveliness of the
roan. He glanced sidewise at his nephew to see if
the Paris argot which he had just imported had had
any effect upon him. He owed Beltran something
for his superior horsemanship. Beltran never hav
ing heard the new word, was, however, not willing
to give Don Noe" a modicum even of triumph. He
was bending over, securing a buckle on his bridle.
Without raising his figure, he answered, "C'est
vrai, mon oncle, c'est tout a fait vrai, il est tres,
"Tres ha ha!" added Don Noe.
"Bien ha ha!" nodded Don Beltran, not to be
"What wretched French Beltran speaks!" said
Don Noe" to his daughter, later.
Uncle No6 belonged to that vast majority, the
great army of the unemployed. He loved the
gaieties of the world, the enjoyments that cities
bring in their train. But sometimes nature calls a
halt. Nature had whispered her warning in Don
No6's ear, and he at once had thought of the plan
tation of San Isidro as the place to rest from a too
lavish expenditure of various sorts. He had come
to this remote place for a purpose, but he yawned
as they rode along.
Beltran, proud of the beauties of San Isidro,
pointed out its chief features as they proceeded.
He turned, and said, still in French, to please
Uncle No6, and perhaps to show him that even at
San Isidro all were not savages:
"There is much to be proud of, Uncle Noe. It
is not a small place, when one knows it all."
"C'est vrai," again acquiesced Uncle Noe. "A
la campagne il y a toujours beaucoup d'espace, beau-
coup de tranquillity, beaucoup de verdure, et
The rest of the sentence was lost on Beltran, but
was whispered in the pink ear of Felisa, who
"At what is my cousin laughing?" asked Beltran,
turning, with a pleased smile. Uncle Noe did not
answer. The words with which he had finished his
sentence were, " et beaucoup d 1 ennui "
"You wanted to come," said Felisa, still laugh
"Did you ever see such a God-forsaken place?"
returned her father. "I had really forgotten how
bad it was. Look at those ragged grooms. Ima
gine them in the Champs Elyse"es!"
"There can be no question of the Champs Elyse'es.
How stupid you are, papa."
"And down in this valley! Just think of put
ting a house I say, Beltran, who ever thought of
putting your house down here in the valley?"
"It was my mother's wish," said Beltran. "I
suppose that it was a mistake, but the river was
further away in those days. It has changed its
course somewhat, and encroached upon the casa,
but we have never had any serious trouble from it.
I shall build a house on the hill next year. The
foundations are already laid." Don Beltran had
said this for some years past. "Not that I think
that I shall ever need it. When we have floods,
the water makes but a shallow lake. It is soon
As they entered the broad camino, Felisa saw a
man coming toward them. He was mounted upon
a fine stallion ; the glossy coat of the animal shone
in the sun. The rider wore an apology for a hunt
ing costume, which was old and frayed with use.
The gun, slung carelessly across his shoulder, had
the appearance of a friend who could be depended
upon at short notice, and who had spent a long life
in the service of his owner. The stock was indented
and scratched, but polished as we polish with lov
ing hands the mahogany table which belonged to
our great-grandmother. The barrel shone with the
faithfulness of excellent steel whose good qualities
have been appreciated and cared for. The man was
short and dark. As he passed he removed his old
panama with a sweep. Beltran gave him a surly half-
nod of recognition, so curt as to awaken surprise in
the mind of Felisa. The contrast between the
greetings of the two men was so great that her slits
of eyes noticed and compared them.
"Who is that man, cousin?"
"Don Mateo Geredo."
"Why do you not speak to him?"
"I nodded," said Beltran.
"You did not return his salute. I am sure it was
a very gracious one, cousin. Why did you not
"Because he is a brute," said Beltran, shortly.
Felisa had not been oblivious of the glance of
admiration observable in the man's eyes as he passed
"Jealous so soon," she thought, with that vanity
which is ever the food of small minds. Aloud she
said, "He seems to have a pleasant face, cousin."
"So others have thought," said Beltran, with an
air which said that the subject was quite worn out,
threadbare. Then, changing his tone, "See, there
is the casa! Welcome to the plantation, my little
And thus chatting, they drew up at the steps of
Agueda came joyfully out to meet them. Ah!
what was this? Where was the little child of whom
she and Beltran had talked so much? Agueda had
carefully dusted the little red cart. She had fas
tened a yellow ribbon in the place from which the
tongue had long ago been wrenched by Beltran
himself. The cart stood ready in the corner of the
veranda, but Agueda did not bring it forward. She
caught sight of a glitter of bracelets and rings
against a snow-white skin, as Felisa was lifted down
from the aparejo in her cousin's arms. Her lips
"The diamonds, not the playthings," was her
As Agueda came forward, the surprise that she
felt was shown in her eyes. She bowed gravely
to the Senorita, who condescended to her graciously.
"Shall I show the Senorita to her room?" asked
Agueda of Beltran.
With that wonderful adaptability which is the
inalienable inheritance of the American woman,
Agueda had accepted in a moment the change from
the expected child to the present Senorita. It is
true that Agueda's mother, Nada, had been but a
pretty, delicate octoroon, but Agueda's father had
been a white gentleman (God save the mark !) from
a northern state, and Nada's father a titled gentle
man of old Spain. From these proud progenitors
and the delicate women of their families had
Agueda inherited the natural reserve, the refine
ment and delicacy which were so obvious to all
with whom she came in contact. She inherited
them just as certainly as if Nada had been a white
woman of the purest descent, just as certainly as if
the gentle Nada had been united in wedlock to the
despoiler of her love and youth and life, George
Waldon, for there ran in Agueda's veins a heritage
of good old blood, which had made the daughters
of the house of Waldon famous as pure and beau
tiful types of womanhood.
As Agueda asked her hospitable question, Bel-
tran's square shoulders were turned toward her. He
was busying himself with the strap of the aparejo.
Agueda, who knew him as her own soul, perceived
an embarrassed air, even in the turn of his head.
"If you please," said Beltran, without looking
The Sefiorita loitered. She asked Don Beltran
for her bag. He lifted the small silver-mounted
thing from the pommel of his saddle and handed it
to Felisa with a smile. He seemed to look down at
her indulgently, as if humouring a child. Agueda
noticed the glittering monogram as it flashed in the
sun. Beltran's hand touched Felisa's. A gentle pink
suffused her features. Agueda caught the sudden
glance which shot from Beltran's eyes to those of
his cousin. A sickening throb pulsed upward in
her throat. She shivered as if a cold wind some
thing that she had seldom felt in that tropic land
had blown across her shoulders.
Suddenly Aneta came into her thoughts, Aneta
of El Cuco. Her lips grew white and thin. It is
moments like these, with their premonitions, which
streak the hair with grey. Agueda did not look
at Beltran again. She drew her breath sharply,
and said :
' ' If the Senorita permit, I will show her the way. ' '
< "In a moment, my good girl," said Felisa, care
lessly, and lingered behind, bending above the
flower boxes which lined the veranda's edge, flow
ers which Agueda had planted and tended.
"What a pretty servant you have, cousin," said
"Servant? Oh, you mean Agueda. She she
is scarcely a servant, Agueda; she keeps my house
Felisa turned and gazed after Agueda. The girl
had walked the length of the broad veranda and
stood waiting opposite a door, lithe and upright.
She looked back, her face grave and serious. She
was taller by several inches than Felisa. Her
figure, slender as Felisa' s own, was clothed in a
pale blue cotton gown, fresh and clean, though
faded with frequent washings, a spotless collar and
cuffs setting off the statuesque throat and the
Felisa tick-tacked down the long veranda, her
ruffles and billowy laces bouncing with her impor
tant little body. She uttered a subdued scream of
surprise as she reached the open doorway and
caught sight of the fresh, cool-looking room, with
its white furniture and bare floors, its general air of
luxurious simplicity. The wooden shutter in the
wall opposite the door was flung wide, and one was
conscious of a tender tone of yellow green, caused
by the rays of sunlight shining through and over
the broad banana leaves. Great lilac and yellow
pods hung from the shafts of greenery; some of the
large oval leaves had fallen upon the veranda.
Felisa noted them when she crossed the room to
inquire further into her surroundings.
A ragged black was sitting on the veranda edge,
swinging his legs over the six feet of space. "Hand
me that leaf," said Felisa. The boy arose at once,
and picking up the lilac leaf of the banana flower,
held it out to her with a bow and the words in
Spanish, "As the Sefiorita wishes."
Felisa took the leaf, but threw it down at once.
She had expected to find a soft thing which would
crumple in her hand. The leaf was hard and tough
as leather. She could no more crush or break it
with her small fingers than if it had been made of
india-rubber, which, but for its color, it strongly
She turned and looked at Agueda.
"And do you have no curtains at the windows?"
"We have no curtains, and windows we do not
have, either," answered Agueda. "The Sefiorita
can see that there are wooden shutters at the win
dows. No one has windows on this side of the
The tone was perhaps slightly defiant. It was
as if Agueda had said, "What! Finding fault so
"Eet haave glaass obe' at de ceety; Ah see eet
w'en Ah obe' deyah."
Felisa started. The voice came from the corner
of the room, which was concealed by the open
door. She peered into the shadow, and faced the
shriveled bit of brown flesh known as Juana.
Felisa laughed, as much at the words as at the
"Sen 'it' t'ink Ah don' haave yaas been aat
de ceety. Ah been aat ceety. Eet haave, yaas,
peepul." The tone implied millions.
Felisa was standing in front of the dressing-table,
taking the second long silver pin out of her hat.
"What does she say?" she asked through the hat
pin which she held horizontally between her teeth.
She removed the open straw, and ran the pins, one
after the other, through the crown.
"She says that they have the glass that is, the
windows at the city."
Still staring at Juana, Felisa seated herself upon
the small white bed. Agueda pushed back the rose-
coloured netting which hung balloon-like from the
ceiling. A freshly knotted ribbon gathered its
folds and held them together, thus keeping the
interior free from the intrusion of annoying or
Felisa reached down with one plump hand, and
drew the ruffled skirt upward, disclosing a short
little foot, which she held out toward Agueda.
Agueda did not move. She looked at Felisa with a
slight arch of the eyebrows, and moved toward the
Juana hobbled up.
"De li'l laidy wan' shoe off? Ole Juana taake.
Dat ain' 'Gueda business. Don Be'tra' don' laike
haave 'Gueda do de waak. "
"And why not, I should like to know?'
Juana chuckled down in the confines of her black
and wrinkled throat.
Agueda went out to the veranda. She stood look
ing over toward the river, her arm round the pilotijo,
her head leant against it. Her thoughts were appre
hensive ones. She paid no heed to Juana's words.
"She Don Be'tra' li'l laidy, 'Gueda is. She ain'
no suvvan,*ain' 'Gueda. She 'ousekeep', 'Gueda."
By this time Juana, with stiff and knotted fingers,
had unlaced the low shoes. She took the small feet
in her hand, and twisted them round, and Felisa
with them, to a lying posture upon the low couch.
The casa at San Isidro had verandas running on
either side of its long row of rooms. This row
began with the kitchen, store and sleeping rooms,
and ended with the comidor and sitting-room. The
verandas ran the entire ninety feet in a straight line
until they reached the comidor. There they turned
at right angles, making thus an outer and an inner
corner. These angles enclosed the dining and liv
ing rooms. The inner veranda was a sheltered
nook when the rain swept up from the savannas
down by the sea, the outer one a haven of delight
ful coolness when the sun glowed in the west and
threw its scorching beams, hot and melting, into
the inner corner. Here were the steps leading
down the very slight incline into the yard and flower
garden. Here, to this inner corner, were the bulls
and horses driven or led, for mounting or dismount
ing ; here the trunks and boxes of visitors were car
ried up and into the house ; and this was what was
Agueda looked on listlessly as Felisa's large trunk
and basket trunk and Don Noe's various boxes and
portmanteaus were deposited with reproachful
thumps upon the floor. The peons who had carried
them, shining with moisture, dripping streams of
water, wiped their brows with hardened forefingers,
and snapped the drops from nature's laboratory off
on to the ground They had carried the luggage
slung upon poles across country. For this duty six
or eight of them were required, for there was no cart
road the way that they must come, as the broad
camino ran neither to the boat landing, nor extended
to the plantation of San Isidro.
The men stood awkwardly about. One could see
that they were expectant of a few centavos in pay
ment for this unusual labour. Don Noe" kept himself
religiously secluded upon the corner of the outer
veranda. He well knew that the luggage had
arrived. The struggle up the steps, the shuffle of
men's feet, the scraping sort of hobble from callous
soles, reached his ear. The heavy setting down of
boxes shook the uncarpeted bare house, but Don
Noe was consciously oblivious of all this. He had
come to pay a long visit, and thus redeem a
depleted bank account. Should he begin at the
first hour to throw away money among these shift
less peons? Beltran had doubtless plenty of them.
Such menial work came within the rule of the gen
eral demand. To be sure, he had brought many
small boxes and portmanteaus. Don Noe" thought
it a sure sign of a gentleman to travel with all the
small pieces that he and a porter or two could carry
A good-sized trunk would easily have held Don
Noe"'s wardrobe, but there was a certain amount of
style in staggering out of a car or off a steamer,
loaded down with a parcel of canes, fishing-rods,
and a gun-case, while the weary servant, who did
not care a fig for glory, stumbled along behind with
portmanteaus, bags, and hat boxes. It is quite
true, as Felisa sometimes reminded Don Noe", that
he had never caught a fish or shot a bird. Style,
however, is a sine qua non, and reputation, how
ever falsely obtained, if the methods are not
exposed, stands by a man his whole life long.
Self-valuation had Uncle No6. From his own
account, he was a very remarkable man. And as
he usually talked to those who knew nothing of his
past, they accepted his statements, perforce, as the
The dripping peons hung about the steps. Their
shirts clung to their shoulders, but those the sun
would dry. Don Noe" sat quiet as a mouse upon
the angle of the outer veranda.
Agueda came toward the lingerers.
"It is you that need not wait, Eduardo Juan,
nor you, Garcia Garcito. The Don Beltran will see
that you get some reward."
"A ching-ching?" suggested the foremost, slyly.
"I suppose so," said Agueda, wearily.
She retraced her steps along the veranda, the
men trooping after. Past all the long length of
the sleeping-rooms went Agueda, until she reached
the storeroom. The door of this she opened with
a key which hung with the bunch at her waist. She
entered, and beckoned to Garcia Garcito to follow.
"Lift down the demijohn, you, Garcia Garcito,
and you, Trompa, go to Juana for a glass."
Garcia Garcito entered, and raising his brawny
arms to the shelf overhead, grasped the demijohn
and set it upon the table. Trompa returned, with
the glass. Agueda measured out a drink of the
rum for each as the glass was emptied by his pred
ecessor. The men took it gratefully. Each as
his turn came, approached the filter standing in
the corner, watered his dram, and drank it off,
some with a "Bieng," others those of the better
class with a bow to Agueda, and a "Gracia."
Eduardo Juan, more careless than the rest, snapped
the drops from his drained glass upon the spotless
floor, instead of from the edge of the veranda to
the grass, as the others had done.
"Eduardo Juan, you know very well that that
rudeness is not allowed here. Go and ask Juana
for a cloth that is damp, that you may wipe those
Eduardo Juan smiled sheepishly, and loped off to
the wash-house. He returned with the damp cloth,
got down upon his knees, and rubbed the floor vig
"De Senora 'Gueda maake de Eduardo Juan pay
well for his impertinences," laughed the peons.
"Bastante! Bastante!" said Agueda.
Eduardo Juan obeyed as if Agueda were the
house mistress. Such had been Don Beltran's
wish, and the peons were aware of it. Then Edu
ardo Juan jumped to the ground, and followed the
other peons where they had disappeared in the
direction of the stables.
When he no longer heard the scuffle of feet, Don
No tiptoed. down the veranda, and entered the
room which had been assigned to him. He aroused
Felisa from a waking doze on that borderland where
she hovered between dreams and actuality.
She was again seated upon the aparejo. The bull
was plunging through the forest, or with long
strides crossing some prone giant of the woods.
Beltran was near; his kind eyes gazed into hers.
His arm was outstretched to steady her shaking
chair. His voice was saying in protecting tones,
"Do not be afraid, little cousin; you are quite
safe. ' ' A pleasurable languor stole through Felisa's
frame, a supreme happiness pervaded her being.
She felt that she had reached a safe haven, one of
security and rest. Her father had never troubled
himself very much about her wishes. She had been
routed out of this town, that city, according to his
whims and the shortness or length of his purse.
A dreamy thought floated through her brain that
he could not easily leave this place, so difficult of
access, more difficult of egress; so hospitable, so
free! The sound of Don Noe's short feet stamp
ing about in the adjoining room aroused Felisa
from her lethargy. The absence of a carpet made
itself obvious, even when an intruder tried to con
ceal the knowledge of his presence. Felisa now
heard, in addition to the noise of tramping feet,
the voice of Don Noe", fiercely swearing, and
scarcely under his breath.
"Ten thousand damns," was what he said, and
then emphasized it with the sentence, "Ten thou
sand double damns." This being repeated several
times, the number mounted rapidly into the billions.
Ah! This was delightful! Don No6 discomfited!
She would, like a dutiful daughter, discover the
Felisa sprang from her bed, a plump little figure,
and ran quickly to the partition which separated
her father's room from her own. This partition did
not run up all the way to the roof. It stopped short
at the eaves, so that through the open angle
between the tops of the partition boards and the
peak of the roof one heard every sound made in an
adjoining room. She placed her eye to a crack, of
which there were many. The boards had sprung
apart in some places, and numerous peep-holes were
thus accorded to the investigating.
A scene of confusion met Felisa's gaze. All of
Don Noe's portmanteaus were open and gaping
wide. They were strewn about the floor, alter
nately with his three hat boxes, the covers of which
had been unstrapped and thrown back. From each
one shaking masses of bright and vari-colored flow
ers revealed themselves.
"That dam' girl!" said Don No, under his breath.
Felisa chuckled. Her only wonder was that by
replacing her father's belongings with her own, and
transporting her numerous gay shade hats thus
sumptuously, her methods had not been discovered
At each change of consequence, from boat to
train, from horseback to carriage, Don No had
suggested unpacking a change of headgear for him
self. Felisa had, with much prudent forethought,
flattened an old panama and laid within it a travel
ling cap. These, with filial care, she had placed in
the top of her own small steamer trunk. With one
excuse or another, she had beguiled Don Noe into
using them during the entire trip. At Tampa it
had been a secret joy to her to see the poor man
struggling out of the train laden with the hat boxes
in which her own gorgeous plumage reposed unin
jured. In crossing to the island, in taking the
train to the little town where the small steamer
was waiting to carry them to their goal, and again,
during their debarkation and stowing away in the
little schooner which carried them across the bay
to the spot where Don Beltran was to meet them,
she had seen with supreme satisfaction the care
with which her millinery was looked after, while
Don Noe"s assortment of hats was crowded into a
small space in her own Saratoga.
"I knew it, I knew it," whispered the chuckling
Felisa. And then, aloud, "What's the matter,
Don Noe" answered not. He was impatiently and
without discrimination hauling and jerking the
clothes from an open portmanteau. Each shirt,
pair of trousers, necktie, or waistcoat was raised in
air, and slapped fiercely down on the floor with an
oath. Don Noe" was not a nice old man, and his
daughter relished his discomfiture.
"Oh, damn!" he said, for the twentieth time, as
he failed of jerking a garment from the confines of
a tray, and sat down with precision in an open hat
box. Some pretty pink roses thrust their heads
reproachfully upward between his knees. There
was discernible, from the front, a wicked look of
triumph in Don No's small eyes. He revelled in
the feeling that he was sinking, sinking down upon
a bed of soft and yielding straw.
"So I say," concurred Felisa, as the last excla
mation left Don Noe's lips. She sprang away from
the partition and flew out of the doorway, along
the veranda, and into her father's room.
"Get up at oncej" she said. "Dad, do you
hear? Get up at once. That is my very best, my
fascinator! Get up! Do you hear me?"
She stamped her stockinged foot upon the bare
floor. The pain of it made her the more angry.
Don No6 sank still further, smiling and helpless.
"Get up at once!"
Two of the peons had returned along the outer
veranda. They still hoped to receive a reward for
their work of the morning. They lounged in at the
shutter opening, and looked on with a pleased grin.
The disordered room spoke loudly of Don Noe's
rage ; the crushed flowers and the stamp of the foot,
of the Senorita's fury.
Felisa raised her eyes to the ebony faces framed
between the lintels. She could not help but note
their picturesque background, the yellow green of
the great banana spatules, through which the tropic
"Come in here, you wretches, both of you!
How dare you laugh!"
Eduardo Juan thrust a bony hand inside and
unbuttoned the lower half door. He pushed through,
and Paladrez followed him. They entered with a
shuffle, and stood gazing at Don Noe. He, in turn,
grinned at them. He was paying Felisa double
aye, treble-fold for packing his hats in some close
quarter, where, as yet, he knew not. Perhaps she
had left them behind. A crack of the hat box!
He was sinking lower.
"If you don't care for my best hat, Dad, I
should think you would not wish to ruin your own
hat box." Then, turning to Eduardo Juan, "Pull
him out at once!"
Don Noe, certain that he had done all the dam
age possible, stretched out appealing hands. The
men seized upon those aristocratic members with
their grimy paws, and pulled and tugged his arms
nearly out of their sockets. They got him partly
to his feet, the box and flowers rising with him.
Felisa saw that there was no chance of resurrection
for the hat, the ludicrous side of the situation
overcame her, and she laughed unrestrainedly.
"Knock it off, confound you!" screamed Don
Noe, in a sudden access of rage. Felisa's return of
good temper made him furious. She danced round
him, taunting and jibing. "The biter bit," she
sang, "the biter bit."
"Take something, anything, knock it off!"
shouted Don Noe again.
Palandrez, with a wrench, tore off the cover of
the hat box and released the prisoner.
"You've ruined my hat!" "You've ruined my
hat box!" screamed father and daughter in unison.
He shook his fist in her face.
"Get out of my room, every man jack of you!"
The gentle peons fled, a shower of garments, boots,
and brushes following them. The room looked like
the wreck of all propriety and reserve.
"Don't you think you've made spectacle enough
of yourself?" asked Felisa, and with this parting
fling she flew from her father's presence, and fell
almost into the arms of Don Beltran, chance having
thus favoured him. He held her close for a moment
before he released her. She was pink and panting
from these two contrasting experiences.
"He is often like that." She spoke fast to cover
her embarrassment. "Did you ever know him
before, cousin? If you did, I wonder that you
asked us here."
Beltran smiled. He did not say that the visit
had been self-proposed on Don Noe's part. His
smile contracted somewhat as a heavy walking-shoe
flew out through the open doorway and knocked
the panama from his head. As Beltran stooped
and recovered the hat, Felisa glanced at him shame-
facedly. She noticed the wet rings of hair, streaked
faintly with early grey, which the panama had
pressed close to his forehead.
"I remember hearing that Uncle Noe was a
young man with a temper," he said. "The family
called it moods." He recalled this word from
the vanishing point of the dim vista which memory
flashed back to him at the moment. As Beltran
spoke he glanced apprehensively at the open square
in the palm-board exterior of the casa.
"Let us run away," he said, smiling down at the
"Until he is sane again," agreed Felisa. She
plunged into her room and caught up the discarded
shoes; then springing from veranda to the short
turf below, she ran with Beltran gaily toward the
river. A bottle of ink shot out through the open
ing, and broke upon the place where they had
"He is a lunatic at times," said Felisa, with a
heightened colour. There was a drop upon her
eyelash which Beltran suddenly wished that he
dared have the courage to kiss away.
"I shall hurt my feet," she said, stopping sud
denly. She dropped the shoes upon the ground,
thrust her feet into them, and started again to run,
her hand in Beltran' s. The sun was scorching.
He took his broad panama from his head and
placed it upon hers. It fell to her pretty pink
She laughed, his laughter chimed with hers, and
thus, like two happy children, they disappeared
within the grove which fringed the river bank.
Agueda saw them as they crossed the hot, white
trocha. She saw them as they entered the grove.
"And that is the little child," she said aloud,
"the little child." Then, with a sudden painful
tightening at the heart, "I wonder if he knew."
So quickly does the appearance of deceit excite dis
trust which has no foundation to build upon.
Beltran had known no more certainly than Ague-
da herself the age of this unknown cousin. He
was guiltless of all premeditation, but to say that
he was not conscious of an unmistakable joy when
he found this charming young girl at the landing,
and knew that she would live under the same roof
with him for an indefinite period, would be to say
that which is not true. Beltran was a victim of
circumstances. He had not desired a change. He
had not asked for it, yet when it came he accepted
it, welcomed it perhaps. Had the choice between
the known and the imagined been give/i him, he
would have sought nothing better than his, until
now, happy environment. "It is fate," thought
When the cousins reached the river, Beltran
parted the branches for Felisa, and she slipped out
of the white heat into a soft-toned viridescence of
shade. A path ran downward to the river shore.
It was cut parallel with the water's flow. The path
was overshadowed by thick branches. Mangoes,
mamey trees, and mahoganies were there. The
tall palm crowned all in its stately way. The
young palms spread and pushed fan-like across
the path, in intimate relation now with human
kind. The time would come when no one would
be able to lay a finger tip upon their stiff and glossy
sprays, when their lofty tufts would look down
from a vantage point of eighty or a hundred feet
upon the heads of succeeding generations.
Felisa ran down the sloping path and seated her
self, all fluff and laces, upon the slope of the bank.
She sank into a bed of dry leaves, through which
the fresh green of new-born plants was springing.
"Not there, not there!" cried Beltran, sharply.
"You never know what is underneath those foot-
deep leaves. Come down here, little cousin. I
have a bench at the washing-stone."
They descended still lower. Her hand was still in
the one by which he had raised her from the bank.
"You have closed the bench quite off from the
river, cousin, with those hateful wires. I cannot
get at the water or even at the broad stone there."
Felisa spoke petulantly.
Beltran gazed down into the pretty face. The
eyes, though not large, held the dancing light of
youth. The upturned little nose and the broad
mouth would not serve to make a handsome older
woman, but the red lips pouted over white and
even teeth, a rose flush tinted the ear and cheek,
colourless curly tendrils escaped from under the
Felisa's clothes, that most important factor in a
man's first attraction toward a woman, were new and
strange, and of a fashion that Beltran knew must
be a symptom of modernity. He was utterly
unconscious that a certain fascination lay in those
wonderful great figures of colour sprawling over a
gauzy ground of white. He would have denied
that the ribbon knot at the waist, and its counter
part upon the left shoulder, had any particular
charm for him, or that the delicate aroma of the
lavender of an old-fashioned bureau, which ema
nated from those filmy ruffles with every motion of
the restless little body, had anything to do with his
being so drawn toward her.
Felisa seated herself and stretched out her feet,
encased in a black silk mystery of open work and
embroidery. He knelt and tied the silken laces.
When he had finished this absorbing task he bent
suddenly lower and pressed his lips to the instep
above. Felisa withdrew it quickly, blushing. She
knew nothing of such vigourous love-making as
this. The northern birds were more wary.
"My hat," she said, "please get me one."
Beltran turned and ran up the path.
"I did not dream that I should like him so
much," said Felisa softly, as she gazed after him.
Beltran ran swiftly to the casa and bounded up
on to the veranda. Felisa's door reached, he hesi
tated. Agueda stood within the room, holding a
hand-glass before her face. She was gazing at her
reflection. At the well-known step she started.
What hopes arose within her breast ! He was com
ing back, the first moment that he was free, to tell
her that she must not mind his attentions to his
cousin, that they were necessary. She would meet
him with a smile, she would convince him that that
hateful jealousy, which had been tearing at her
vitals for the past hour or two, had no part
within her being. Ah! after all her suspicion of
him, she was still his first thought ! She started
and dropped the glass. She turned toward him, a
smile of welcome parting her lips.
Beltran hardly looked at Agueda.
"A hat! a bonnet, anything!" he said. "Give
me something quickly!"
She took from the table the gay hat in which
Felisa had arrived, and placed it in his outstretched
hand, but she did not look at him again. He
almost snatched it from her. Was not Felisa wait
ing bareheaded down there by the river? He
sprang to the ground and hastened across the
trocha. After he had entered the grove, he buried
his face among the flowers, which exhaled that faint,
evanescent fragrance which already spoke to him
of her. Agueda sighed and placed the silver-backed
mirror upon the table. Had one asked her what
she had been searching for in its honest depths,
she could hardly have told. Perhaps she had been
wondering whether with such aids to beauty as
Felisa had, she would not be as attractive. Per
haps looking to see if she had grown less sweet, less
lovable in these few short hours.
"Juana," she called. "Juana!" The old crone
hobbled forth quickly from the kitchen at Agueda's
sharp tone. It was new to her.
"Make this room tidy," ordered Agueda. Juana
wondered at the harsh note in Agueda's voice.
The girl herself was unconscious that she had
spoken differently than she had been wont to do,
but she was filled with a defiant feeling, a fear that
now the others would not treat her with the respect
which Don Beltran had always demanded of them.
That new pain was accountable. At the sharp note
in her voice, Juana had looked inquiringly, but
Agueda raised a haughty head and passed along the
veranda to her own room.
Felisa heard Beltran returning. Her quick ear
noted every movement, from the hurried run across
the potrero and the trocha to his pushing back with
impatient hand the low-sweeping branches and his
hasty footfall down the path. She wondered if
this new blossoming in her heart were love? She
had never felt so since those first early days of ado
lescence, when as a young girl her trust had been
deceived, ensnared, entrapped, and left fluttering
with wounded wings. Should she love him? Was
it worth her while? Her first word was a com
plaint. Experience had taught her that complai
sance is a girl's worst enemy.
"Why did you place those wires there, cousin?"
For answer Beltran came close and looked down
upon her shining head. Suddenly he took her in
his arms and kissed her. She struggled, for she
was really somewhat indignant.
"And may not cousins kiss?" asked Beltran.
"Those wires were placed there to prevent the little
child whom we I expected from falling into the
river. You are scarce larger than the little child
whom we I pictured, but oh! how infinitely
He twisted one long brown finger in the ring of
hair which strayed downward nearly to her eyes.
Felisa withdrew her head with a quick motion.
She was experiencing a mixture of feelings. She
had come here to San Isidro with a purpose, and
now, within two short hours of her arrival, she
found that her purpose marched with her desires.
Don Noe had said, "Felisa, do you remember your
Cousin Beltran, your mother's nephew?"
"No, papa, how could I remember him? I never
saw him. I have seldom heard of him."
"Ah, yes, I know," returned Don Noe, with the
sudden awakening of the semi-centenarian to the
fact that he is communing with a second genera
tion. "Well, that wretched old grandfather of
yours, old Balatrez, cut your mother off because
she married me!"
"Had he seen the hat boxes?" asked Felisa, who
had a humour of her own.
"Don't be impertinent. All that fine property
has gone to Beltran, just because your mother mar
ried me! She was sister to Beltran's mother, your
aunt, as you know. Now, Felisa, I intend to have
that fortune back."
"How, papa? Do you intend to call upon my
cousin to stand and deliver?"
"I intend you to do that, Felisa."
"I am tired of being poor, too, papa."
Felisa considered a shrinkage from eighteen to
eight new gowns a summer a distinct sign of pov
erty. When Don Noe drew in his horns as to
expenditures, the young foreign attache who had
all but proposed to him for the hand of Felisa
relaxed his attentions. Felisa had hoped to be a
countess, but a title is no guarantee of perennial
or even annual bread and butter, and those indis
pensable articles some one must provide. At the
close of Don Noe's remarks, which were too
extended to be repeated, Felisa had said, "I am
quite ready for your cousin-hunt, papa."
A feeling akin to shame swept through her as she
sat there and recalled this conversation, and real
ized what this new intimacy with Beltran meant to
her what it might mean in the days to come,
for that he loved her at once and irrevocably her
vanity gave her no chance to doubt, and she knew
now that she was beginning to find this impetuous
lover more than attractive. One who knew Felisa
thoroughly would have said that she was beginning
to care for him as much as it was in her nature to
care for any one but herself.
Agueda saw all the plans which they had made
together for the coming of the little child carried
out by Beltran alone. She could not accompany
Don Beltran and his cousin upon their different
expeditions; she could not go as an equal, she
would not go as an inferior. Besides which, there
was never any question as to her joining them.
The bull rides, the search for mamey apples, the
gathering of the aguacate pears, all of which she
had suggested, were taken part in by two only; so
was the lingering upon the river, until Agueda
shuddered to think of the miasmata which arise
after nightfall and envelop the unwary in their
unseen though no less deadly clutches. The walks
in the moonlight, ending in a lingering beneath the
old mahogany tree for a few last confidences before
the return to the home-light of the casa, left no
place for a third member, because of the close
intimacy which naturally was part and parcel of the
All had come about as Agueda had planned,
with the exception that she herself was missing
from plain, hill, and river. She had heard Beltran
say: "Yes, I will take you down to the potrero,
little girl, to gather the aguacates, but you must
not approach the bushes, for the thorns would sting
your tender hands. ' ' Agueda recalled the day when
she had suggested this as one of the cautious pleas
ures open to the little thing for whom they two
were looking; but she, Agueda, who was to have
been the central figure, she, the one to whose fore
thought had been entrusted the planning and carry
ing out of these small amusements, was excluded.
As the days passed by, Beltran and Agueda seldom
met, except in the presence of others. She ad
dressed him now in the third person, as "If the Don
Beltran allow," or "If the Don Beltran wishes."
When by chance the two stumbled upon one
another, neither could get out of the way quickly
It was on a day when she was forced to speak to
him as to the disposition of some furniture, that her
utter dejection and spiritless tone appealed to him.
As he glanced at her, he noticed for the first time
how large her eyes were, what hollows showed
beneath them, how shrunken and thin was her cheek.
"What is it, Agueda? You treat me as a culprit."
"No, oh, no!" She shook her head sadly; then
threw off the feeling apparently with a quick turn
of the head. "The Senor is within his rights."
Beltran's heart was touched. He drew near to her,
and laid his arm about her shoulder, as he had not
done now for a long time. She stooped her fine
height, and drew her shoulder out from under his
arm. She had no right now to feel that answering
thrill; he was hers no longer. A sob, which she
had tried to smother in her throat, struck him
"They will soon be gone, Agueda; then all will
be as before."
"Nothing can ever be as before, Senor. I see it
now, either for you or for me."
The wall within which she had encased herself,
that dignity which silence under wrong gives to the
oppressed, once broken, the flood of her words
poured forth. The terrible sense of injustice over
whelmed and broke down her well-maintained
reserve. She looked up at Beltran with reproach
in her eyes, interrogation shining from their depths.
"Why could you not have told me, warned me,
cautioned me? Ah, Nada! Nada knew." Her
helplessness overcame her. Beltran had been her
salvation, her teacher, her reliance. She felt
wrecked, lost; she was drifting rudderless upon an
ocean whose shores she could not discern. Where
could she turn? Her only prop and stay with
drawn, what was there to count upon?
"I do not know^the world, Beltran. My people
never know the world. I have never known any
world but this but this." She stretched out her
despairing arms to the grey square which she had
called home. "Ah! Nada, dear Nada, you knew,
you knew! I never dreamt that she meant you,
Hark! It was Felisa's voice calling to him.
Soon she would be here. She would see them ; she
would suspect. Beltran shrugged his shoulders,
he pursed out his lips. The Agueda whom he had
known was ever smiling, ever ready to be bent to
his will. This girl was complaining, reproachful;
besides which, her looks were going. How could he
ever have thought her even pretty? He contrasted
her in a flash with the little white thing, all soft
filmy lawn and laces, and turned away to rejoin
that other sweeter creature who had never given
him a discontented look.
It had come to this then! Her misery could
wring from him nothing more than a careless shrug
.of the shoulders!
She stood gazing afar off at the hillside, where
the bulls were toiling upward with their loads of
suckers for the planting. Some fields were yet
being cleared, and the thin lines of smoke arose and
poured straight upward in the still atmosphere. A
faint odor of burning bark filled the air. Near by
the banana leaves drooped motionless. There were
no sounds except the occasional stamp of a hoof in
the stable. The silence was phenomenal. Sud
denly a shrill voice broke the stillness.
"Cousin, are you coming?"
A welcome summons! He would go to the hills
with Felisa, as he had promised. She should see
the fields "avita"-ed. He would forget Agueda's
reproaches in the light of Felisa's smiles. He
shook his tall frame, as if to throw off something
which had settled like a cloud upon him ; he hurried
along the veranda with a quick stride. The excur
sion to-day was to be to the palm grove upon the
hill. Uncle Noe was to be one of the party. The
peons were to burn the great comahen nest, for in
this remote quarter of the world such simple duties
made amusement for the chance guest at the colonia.
Agueda had prepared a dainty basket over-night.
The old indented spoons, the forks with twisted and
bent tines, but bearing the glory and pride of the
Balatrez family in the crest upon the handle, were
laid in the bottom of the basket. Nothing was
forgotten, from the old Senora's silver coffee pot,
carefully wrapped in a soft cloth, to the worn nap
kins on the top with the crest in the corner, which
was wearing thin and pulling away from the foun
dation linen. The coffee, planted, raised, picked,
dried, roasted, and ground upon the plantation of
San Isidro, was ready for the making; the cassava
bread was toasted ready for heating at the wood
land fire ; the thick cream into which it was to be
dipped was poured into the well-scoured can; the
fresh-laid eggs were safely packed in a small basket ;
the mamey apples and the guavas would be picked
by the peons upon the ground, and the san-coche
was still bubbling in the oven. Juana, like one of
Shakespeare's witches, bent over the fragrant stew,
and ever, when no one was looking, she put the
pewter spoon to her withered and critical lips.
Where is the cook who does not taste in secret?
Palandrez would start an hour hence, taking the
fast little roan, to get to the hill in time to serve
the san-coche hot and savory.
Castano, the horse which it had been Don Bel-
tran's pleasure to break for Agueda, stood at the
foot of the veranda steps. Agueda' s saddle was
upon its back ; no other would fit Castano. Indeed,
there was no other. But there was no sentiment
to Agueda about the lady's saddle. She had
always ridden like the boy that she looked.
Agueda walked with dragging step to her solitary
chamber; she would not remain to witness
Felisa's hateful affectations. She could bear it no
longer; she could be neither generous nor chari
table. She had seen and heard so much of Felisa's
clinging to Beltran's arm, her little cries of fear,
Beltran's soothing responses, that her heart was
sick. She closed her door to shut out the sounds,
and threw herself into her low sewing chair by the
window. They would be gone presently, and then
she would wander forth in an opposite direction,
down by the river perhaps, or over to where?
Where could she go?
A large pile of linen lay in the basket. She had
not touched it of late. Ah, no! There was no
one now to make the duty a pastime, no one to
come in with ringing step, and lay upon the wel
coming shoulder a kindly hand no one to twitch
the tiresome sewing impatiently from her grasp,
and bid her come away, to the river or to the
potrero ; no one to stoop and kiss the roughened
finger. It was as if she had emerged into a strange
and horrible land, a land of dreams whose name is
nightmare, and had left behind her in that other
dim world all that had been most dear. She could
not awake, no matter how hard she tried.
She sat looking dully out to where the flecks of
sunshine touched here and there the tropic shadows.
She saw nothing. Nature was no longer a book
whose every leaf held some new beauty, each page
printed with ink from the great mother's alembic,
telling a tale of joy that never palls.
Suddenly Agueda turned from the scene and
clasped her hands over her eyes, for into her land
scape had passed two figures. She had thought
that they would go by the river path, but they were
passing along the winding way which ran through
the banana walk, one seated delicate and graceful
upon the accustomed chestnut, shrinking somewhat
and swaying a little as if in fear, the other bent
close to her and gazing into her eyes as if he could
never look his fill. The old story, her story, the
part of heroine played by a fresher, newer actress,
the leading personality unchanged. They made a
picture as they rode, one which an artist would love
to paint ; the flanks of the brave grey side by side
with the little chestnut, the handsome lover lean
ing toward the pretty bundle of summer draperies,
the red parasol held in his hand and shading her
form from the sun making the one bit of brilliant
colour in the picture. It was worthy of Vibert, but
Agueda had never heard of Vibert, and the pic-
turesqueness of the scene did not appeal to her.
"This way?" questioned the high voice. "It is
the longest way, cousin, so you said this morning."
"Yes," was Beltran's answer. How plainly she
heard it as the breeze blew toward the casa. "The
longest way to others, but " He bent his head
and spoke lower. One had to imagine the rest.
Agueda closed the shutter and threw herself upon
the bed, as if she could as easily forget the picture
as she could shut out the shrill voice of Felisa.
The day passed, as such days do, like an eternity.
At noon-time a stranger rode down the hill toward
the casa. He brought a letter for Don Beltran.
"The Senor is up in the woods," said Agueda.
"I will give it to him when he returns."
"It is from the Senor Silencio. He hopes that
the Senor will read it at once. The message
admits of no delay."
"Do you know the palm grove up on the far hill,
on the other side of the grand camino?"
"I think that I might find it," said Andres, for
it was he, "but I have matters of importance at
home. My little boy El Rey "
Andres turned away his head. Stupid Andres!
Only one thing could make him turn away his
"Are you, then, the father of that little El Rey?"
"Give me the letter," said Agueda. "I will
send it to the palm grove."
Not waiting to see Andres depart, Agueda hur
ried to the home potrero. There Uncle Adan was
keeping tally at the sucker pile.
"Uncle Adan," she said, "is there a man who
can take a message to the Senor?"
"I cannot spare another peon, Agueda that the
good God knows. What with Garcia Garcito and
the Palandrez off all the morning at the palm grove,
and Eduardo Juan hurrying away but a half-hour
ago with the san-coche, I am very short of hands.
What is it that you want? Do not load the little
white bull so heavily, Anito ; it is these heavy
weights that take the life out of them. What is it
that you want, Agueda, child?"
"It is a message for the Sefior, Uncle Adan. It
comes from the Sefior Silencio. It may be of
"Very well, then; it is I who cannot go. The
Sefior should be at home sometimes, like other
Senors. Since these visitors came I cannot get a
word with him."
"The Sefior is not always away, Uncle Adan,"
protested Agueda, faintly.
"It is true that he is not always away," said
Uncle Adan, tossing a sprouted sucker into a waste
pile, "but his head is, and that is as bad. He
seems to take no interest in the colofiia nowadays,
and I am doing much for which I have no warrant. "
Agueda recalled the many times when she had
seen her uncle approach Beltran with some request
to make, or project to unfold, and his shrug of the
shoulders, and the answer, "Don't bother me now,
Adan, there's a good fellow; some other time
some other time." Agueda stood with her eyes
downcast. She knew it all but too well. Every
word of Uncle Adan's struck at her heart like a
"But the Sefior must have the letter, Uncle
Adan," she persisted.
"Very well, then, child, carry it yourself. There
is no one else to go."
"Is there anything that I can ride, Uncle
"Caramba! muchacha! Castano, certainly. Can
you saddle him your or, no! I forgot. No,
Agueda; there is nothing."
"The brown bull? The letter may be impor
"The brown bull has gone to the Port of Entry
for tobacco for the Sefior Don Noe. No, there is
nothing, child; you must walk if you will go. For
me, I would leave the letter on the table in the
Sefior's room. That would be best."
Agueda went quickly back to the house. She
took the old straw from its peg in her closet, put it
upon her head without one glance at the little
mirror on the wall, and ran quickly down the
veranda steps. The way seemed long to her. She
was not feeling strong; an unaccustomed weight
dragged upon her health and spirits. All at once
she saw, as if a picture had been held up to her
view, that future which must be hers, toward which
she was so quickly hastening. A few months ah,
God ! Was it, then, to be with her as with all those
others whom she had held in partial contempt a
pitying contempt, it is true, but none the less con
The distance seemed long to her. Time had
been when she would have thought a run over to
the palm grove a mere nothing, but now every
step was a penance to both body and mind.
When Agueda reached the hill, she walked
slowly. The day was hot, as tropical days in the
valley are apt to be. She moved languidly up the
hill. Arrived at the top, there was nothing to
reward her gaze but the form of Don Noe, asleep
under a tree ; Palandrez sitting by, waving a large
palm branch to keep the insects away. At a little
distance the dying embers of the picnic fire paled
in the sun. The place was otherwise bare of peo
ple or servants. Under the shade of some coffee
bushes stood the grey and the chestnut, but of their
riders nothing was to be seen. When Palandrez
saw Agueda coming he put his finger on his lip.
She approached him and held out the letter. He
made a half motion to rise, but did not spring to
his feet, as he formerly would have done at the
approach of the house mistress.
"I have a letter for the Senor, Palandrez," said
Agueda. "I wish that you take it to him at once."
"It is I that would oblige the Senorita, " answered
Palandrez, sinking back hastily into his lounging
attitude, when he saw that action was required of
him, "but I was ordered by the Sefior Don Beltran
to stay here, and not leave the Don Noe, unless,
indeed, an earthquake should come."
"But it is a letter of importance," urged Agueda.
"You must take it for me, Palandrez."
"And am I to obey the Sefior or the Senorita?"
asked Palandrez, in a half-defiant, half-impudent
For answer Agueda turned away. She had
thought of offering to keep the buzzing insects
from Don No's bald head, but her spirit revolted
at the thought of this menial service, and perhaps
a slight curiosity as to where the main actors in the
drama had gone, and how they were employing
themselves, caused her to resolve to find Beltran
"Where is the Don Beltran?" she asked of
"I have not seen them this half-hour, Senorita.
When the feast was over the old Don laid himself
down "to sleep, and the Don Beltran and the new
Senorita disappeared very suddenly. They went
down there, in the direction of the little brook."
Palandrez waved his hand toward the further
slope of the hill, and again returned to the duty
of keeping Don No6 asleep, so long as he himself
could remain awake.
As Agueda began to descend the slope she heard
a complaining voice. She turned. Palandrez had
stolen away to the edge of the hill. He had left
Don Noe sleeping with the branch stuck upright
beside him in the soft earth of the hilltop. The
breeze waved the branch. "So," had thought
Palandrez, "it will do as well as if I was there fan
ning El Viejo." But all in a moment the branch
had fallen across Don Noe's face, and he had awak
ened with a start. He belaboured Palandrez well
with his sharp old tongue.
"I will tell your master, the Senor. Yes, I will
tell him the very moment that I see him."
Palandrez bowed his tattered form and scraped his
horny sole upon the ground, and exclaimed, with
"It was but muchachado,* Senor. I have the
honour to assure the Senor that it was but mucha-
chado, no more, no less."
Palandrez, in fear of what his own particular
Senor would say of his treatment of the Senorita
Felisa's father, returned hurriedly to his fanning,
and Don Noe, pretending to sleep, and weary with
resting, kept one eye open, so 'to speak, to catch
him again at his muchachado.
Agueda descended the hill. When she came to
the brook, she saw an old log across which some one
must have lately travelled, for it was splashed with
*A boyish trick.
wet, and there were footmarks in the clay on the
shore. She crossed, and walked quickly along the
further plain, and soon heard the distant sound of
voices, Felisa's high treble mingled with Don Bel-
tran's deeper, pleasant 'tones. The beauty of his
voice had never been so marked as now, when the
thin soprano of Felisa set it off by contrast.
Following the sound of the voices, Agueda again
ascended a slight rise, and before long saw in the
distance the light frills of Felisa's gown showing
through the trees. She knew the pastime well
enough, the pastime which caused Felisa to sit upon
a level with Agueda's head, and to wave up and
down as if in a swing or high-poised American chair.
She knew well, before she came near them, that
Beltran had given Felisa the pleasure that had often
been hers; that he had bent an elastic young tree
over to the ground ; that among its branches he had
made a safe seat for Felisa, and that he was letting
it spring upward, and again pressing it back to
earth with regular motion, so that Felisa might ride
the tree in semblance of Castafio's back; only Bel
tran was closer to her than he could be were they on
horseback, and Felisa's nervous little screams and
cries gave him reason to hold her securely and to
reassure her in that ever kind and musical voice.
When Felisa saw Agueda coming along the path
bordered with young palms, she said, "Here comes
that girl of yours, cousin, that Agueda ! What can
Beltran turned with some surprise. Agueda had
never dogged his footsteps before. She had left
him to work his own will, independent of her
claims claims which had no foundation, in fact.
All at once he remembered those claims imagined,
and he wondered if at last she had come to de
nounce him before Felisa.
As Agueda came onward, hurrying toward
them, Beltran ceased his motion of the tree, and
leaned against its trunk, touching Felisa familiarly
as he did so. It was as if he arrayed himself with
her against Agueda. The two seemed one in spirit.
Beltran's voice, as he questioned Agueda, showed
some irritation, but its musical note, a physical
thing, which he could not control if he would, was
"Why have you come here? What do you want
with me?" He did not use her name.
Agueda stopped and leaned against a tree. She
put her hand within the bosom of her dress, brought
forth the letter in its double paper, tied round with
a little green cord, and held it out to Beltran. She
did not speak.
"Very well, bring it to me," he said. He could
not let go his hold on the tree, for fear of harm
coming to Felisa, and he saw no reason why Ague-
da, having come thus far, should not cover the few
steps that remained between himself and her. She
pushed herself away from the tree with her hand,
as if she needed such impetus, and walking un
evenly, she came near to Beltran and laid the letter
in his hand. "The messenger said that it was
important. It was Andres who brought it," said
"Ah! from Silencio," said Beltran, awkwardly
breaking the seal, because of the necessity of hold
ing the tree in place.
He perused the short note in silence. When he
raised his eyes from the page, Agueda had turned
and was walking away through the vista of young
palms. Her weary and dispirited air struck him
somewhat with remorse.
"Agueda," he called, "stop at the hill yonder
and get some coffee and rest yourself." His words
did not stay her. She turned her head, shook it
gravely, and then walked onward.
Don Gil Silencio and the Senora sat within the
shady corner of the veranda. In front of the
Senora stood a small wicker table. Upon the table
was an old silver teapot, battered in the side, whose
lid had difficulty in shutting. This relic of the past
had been brought from England by the old Senora
when she returned from the refuge she had obtained
there, in one of her periodical escapes from old
Don Oviedo. The old Senora had brought back
with her the fashion of afternoon tea; also some of
the leaves from which that decoction is made. The
teapot, as well as the traditionary fashion of tea at
five o'clock, had been left as legacies to her grand
son, but of the good English tea there remained
not the smallest grain of dust. The old Senora
had been prodigal of her tea. She had on great
occasions used more than a saltspoonful of the
precious leaves at a drawing, and every one knows
that at that rate even two pounds of tea will not
They had been married now for two weeks, the
Senor Don Gil and the Senora, and for the first
time in her young life the Senora was happy. Sad
to have reached the age of seventeen and not to
have passed one happy day, hardly a happy hour!
Now the girl was like a bird let loose, but the Senor,
for a bridegroom, seemed somewhat distrait and
dejected. As he sipped his weak decoction he
often raised his eyes to the wooded heights beyond
which Troja lay.
"What is the matter, Gil? Is not the tea
"As good as the hay from the old potrera, dear
Heart. And cold? One would imagine that we
possessed our own ice-machine."
The Senora looked at Don Gil questioningly.
His face was serious. She smiled. These were
virtues, then! The Senora did not know much
about the English decoction.
"Be careful, Raquel. That aged lizard will fall
into the teapot else; he might get a chill. Chills
are fatal to lizards." Don Gil was smiling now.
Raquel closed the lid with a loud bang. The
lizard scampered up the allemanda vine, where it
hid behind one of the yellow velvet flowers.
"But you seem so absent in mind, Gil. What
is it all about? You look so often up the broad
camino. Do you expect any any one Gil?"
Don Gil dropped over his eyes those long and
curling lashes which, since his adolescence, had
been the pride and despair of every belle within
the radius of twenty miles.
"You do expect some one, Gil; no welcome
guest. That I can see. Oh ! Gil. It is my un
it is Escobeda whom you expect."
Don Gil did not look up.
"I think it is quite likely that he will come," he
said. "I may as well tell you, Raquel; the
steamer arrived this morning. He must have
waited there over a steamer." Had Silencio
voiced his conviction, he would have added, "Esco-
beda's vengeance may be slow, but it is sure as
The Senora's face was colourless, her frightened
eyes were raised anxiously to his. Her lips hardly
formed the word that told him of her fear.
"When?" she asked.
"Any day now. But do not look so worried,
dear Heart. I think that we need not fear Esco
"But he will kill us, Gil. He will burn the casa."
"No. He might try to crush some poor and
defenceless peon, but hardly the owner of Palma-
cristi. Still, all things are possible, all cruelties
and barbarities, with a man like Escobeda. His
followers are a lawless set of rascals."
"And he will dare to attack us here, in our
The Senora's hands trembled as she moved the
cups here and there upon the table.
"An Englishman says, 'My house is my castle.'
If I cannot say that; I can say, 'My house is my
fort.' I will try to show you that it is, when the
time comes, but look up! Raquel. Smile! dear
one. I know that my wife is not a coward."
With an assumption of carelessness, the Senora
took a lump of sugar from the bowl and held it out
to the penitent lizard. It came haltingly down the
stem of the vine, stretching out its pointed nose to
see what new and unaccustomed dainties were to be
"He has sent you a message, Gil?"
"Who, Escobeda? Yes, child. He sent me a
letter under a flag of truce, as it were. The letter
was written at the government town."
"And he sent it "
"Back by the last steamer, Raquel. His people
are not allowed to enter our home enclosure, as you
know. I allowed one of the peons to take the let
ter. He brought it to the trocha. Any one can
come there. It is public land."
Raquel dropped the sugar; it rolled away.
"Gil, Gil!" she said, "you terrify me. What
shall we do?" She arose and went close to him
and laid her hands upon his shoulders. ' ' Escobeda !
with his cruel ways, and more cruel followers "
"He is Spanish."
"So are we, Gil, we are Spanish, too."
"Yes, child, with the leaven of the west inter
mingled in our veins, its customs, and its manners."
"Gil, dearest, I can never tell you what I suf
fered in that house. What fear! What overpow
ering dread! Whenever one of those lawless men
so much as looked at me I trembled for the moment
to come. And no one knows, Gil, what would
have hap happened unless he had been reserv
ing me for for a fate worse than " Her face
was dyed with shame; she broke off, and threw
herself upon her husband's breast. Her words be
came incoherent in a flood of tears.
Silencio held his young wife close to his heart, he
pressed his lips upon her wet eyelids, upon her dis
ordered hair. He soothed her as a brave man must,
forgetting his own anxiety in her terror.
"My peons are armed, Raquel. They are well
instructed. They are, I think, faithful, as much
so, at least, as good treatment can make them.
Even must they be bribed, they shall be. I have
more money than Escobeda, Raquel. Even were
you his daughter, you are still my wife. He could
not touch you. As it is, he has no claim upon you.
I am not afraid of him. He may do his worst, I
"Child! Are not you the first with me? But
for you I should go out single-handed and try to
shoot the coward down. But should I fail and he
is as good a shot as the island boasts Raquel, who
would care for you? I have thought it all out,
child. My bullets are as good as Escobeda's; they
shoot as straight, but I hope I have a better way;
I have been preparing for your coming a long time,
dear Heart, and my grandfather before me."
Raquel looked up from her hiding-place on his
"Your grandfather, Gil, for me?"
Silencio smiled down upon the upraised eyes.
"Yes, for you, Raquel, had he but known it.
Come! child, come! Dry your tears! Rest easy!
You are safe." As Silencio spoke he shivered.
"Your tea has gone to my nerves."
He took the pretty pink teacup from the veranda
rail, where he had placed it, and set it upon the
table. He looked critically at the remains of the
pale yellow decoction.
"Really, Raquel, if you continue to give me such
strong drinks, I shall have to eschew tea altogether."
"I am so sorry. I put in very little, Gil."
Silencio had brought a smile to her face. There
is bravery in success of this kind, bringing a smile
to the face of a beloved and helpless creature when
a man's heart is failing him for fear.
"Let us walk round to the counting-house," he
He laid his arm about her shoulder, and together
they strolled slowly to the side veranda, traversed
its lengths, and descended the steps. They walked
along the narrow path which led to the counting-
house, and turned in at the enclosure. At the door
they halted. Silencio took a heavy key from his
pocket. Contrary to custom, he had kept the
outer door locked for the past fortnight.
"Our Don Gil is getting very grand with his
lockings up, and his lockings up," grumbled
Anicito Juan. "There were no lockings up, the
good God knows, in the days of the old Senor."
"And the good God also knows there were no
lazy peons in the days of the old Senor to pry and
to talk and to forget what they owe the family.
When did the peon see meat in the days of the old
Senor? When, I ask? When did you see fowl in
a pot, except for the Senores? And now the best
of sugar, and bull for the san-coche twice a week.
And peons of the most useless can complain of such
a master! Oh! Ta-la!"
A storm of words from the family champion,
Guillermina, fell as heavily upon the complainant
as a volley of blows from a man. Anicito Juan
ducked his head as if a hurricane were upon him,
and rushed away to cover.
Silencio tapped with his key upon the trunk of
the dead palm tree which arose grand and straight
opposite its mate at the side of the doorway.
"Now watch, Raquel, " he said.
The tall trunk had sent back an answering echo
from its hollow tube. Then there was a strange
stir within the tree. Raquel looked upward.
Numberless black beaks and heads protruded from
the holes which penetrated the sides of the tall
stem from the bottom to the top, as if to say,
"Here is an inquisitive stranger. Let us look out,
and see if we wish to be at home."
Raquel laughed gleefully. She took the key from
her husband's fingers, crossed the path, and tapped
violently upon the barkless trunk of the second palm
tree. As many more heads were thrust outward as
in the first instance. Some of the birds left their
nests in the dead tree, flew a little way off, and
alighted upon living branches, to watch for further
developments about the shell where they had made
their homes. Others cried and chattered as they
flew round and round the palm, fearing they knew
not what. Raquel watched them until they were
quiet, then tapped the tree again. As often as
she knocked upon the trunk the birds repeated their
manoeuvres. She laughed with delight at the result
of each recurring invasion of the domestic quiet of
the carpenter birds.
So engaged was Raquel that she did not perceive
the entrance of a man into the small enclosure of
the counting-house, nor did she see Silencio walk
to the gate with the stranger. The two stood there
talking hurriedly, the sound of their voices quite
drowned by the cries of the birds.
As Raquel wearied of teasing the birds, she
dropped her eyes to earth to seek some other
amusement. A man was just disappearing round
the corner of the paling. Silencio had turned and
was coming back to her along the path which led
from the gate to the door of the counting-house.
She met him with smiles, her lips parted, her face
"Who was that, Gil that man? I did not see
"You have seen him go, dear Heart. Is not that
Silencio spoke with an effort. His face was paler
than it had been ; Raquel's face grew serious. His
anxiety was reflected in her face, as the sign of a
storm in the sky is mirrored in the calm surface of
"Tell me the truth, Gil. You have had a mes
sage from Escobeda?"
"Not exactly a message, Raquel. That was one
of my men. A spy, we should call him in warfare. ' '
"And he brings you news?"
''Yes, he brings me news."
"What news, Gil? What news? I am horribly
afraid. If he should take me, Gil! Oh! my God!
Gil, dear Gil! do not let him take me!"
She threw herself against his breast, white and
trembling. This was a horror too deep for tears.
Silencio smiled, though the arm which surrounded
"He shall never take you from me, never! I am
not afraid of that. But your fears unman me! Try
to believe what I say, child. He shall never take
you from me. Come! let us go in."
He took the key from her hand, and unlocked
and opened the outer door of the counting-house.
He pushed her gently into the room, and followed
her, closing and locking the door behind him.
Then he opened the door of the second room, and
ushered her into this safe retreat. While he was
fastening the door of this room, Raquel was gazing
about her with astonishment. Her colour had
returned; Silencio's positive words had entirely
reassured her. "I never knew of this pretty room,
Gil. Why did you never tell me of it?"
"I have hardly become accustomed to your being
here, Raquel. There is much yet to learn about
Palmacristi. Wait until I show you "
Silencio broke off with a gay laugh.
"What! What will you show me, Gil? Ah!
that delicate shade of green against this fresh, pure
white! A little boudoir for me! How good you
are to me! You have kept it as a surprise?"
Silencio laughed again as she ran hither and
thither examining this cool retreat. He wondered
if she would discover the real nature of those walls.
But the delicacy of Raquel prevented her from
touching the hangings, or examining the articles
in the room except with her eyes.
"I spoke to you of my fortress, dear Heart."
"Oh! Are you going to show me your fortress?
Come! come! Let us go!"
She took him by the arm and urged him to the
"We need not go to seek it, child; it is here."
Silencio drew back the innocent-looking hangings
and disclosed the steel plates which the Senor Don
Juan Smit' had brought down from the es-States
and had set in place. Silencio tapped the wall with
"It is bullet-proof," he said.
At the sight of this formidable-looking wall
Raquel's colour vanished, as if it were a menace and
not a protection, but not for long. Her cheek
flushed again. She laughed aloud, her eyes
sparkled. She was like a little child with a new
toy, as she ran about and examined into the secrets
of this innocent-looking fortress.
"Gil! Gil!" she cried, "what a charming prison!
How delightful it will be to hear Escobeda's bul
lets rattling on the outside while we sit calmly here
drinking our tea."
"Perhaps we can find something even more at
tractive in the way of refreshment." Silencio had
not forgotten the cup which had neither inebriated
"I see now that you have no windows. At first
I wondered. How long should we be safe here?
Could .he break in the door?"
Silencio bit his lip.
"Not the outer door. And the door leading into
the house well, even Escobeda would hardly I
may as well tell you the truth, Raquel. Sit down
there, child, and listen."
The young wife perched herself upon the tall
stool that stood before the white desk, her lips
parted in a delicious smile. The rose behind her
ear fell forward. She took it in her fingers, kissed
it, and leaping lightly from her seat, ran to Silencio
and thrust it through the buttonhole of his coat.
Then she ran back and perched herself again upon
"Go on," she said, "I am ready." And then,
womanlike, not waiting for him to speak, she asked
the question, "Is he coming to-night, Gil?"
"I only wish that he would, for the darkness is
our best friend. Escobeda expects an ambush, and
my men are ready for it, but he will be here bright
and early to-morrow. But be tranquil, I have sent
for Beltran, Raquel. He will surely come. He
never deserted a friend yet."
"How many men can he muster, Gil?" anxiously
"Ten or twelve, perhaps. The fact that we are
the attacked party, the men to hold the fortress, is
in our favour. I still hope that the Coco will arrive
in time. I hardly think that Escobeda will dare
to use absolute violence certainly not when he
sees the force that I can gather at Palmacristi, and
recognises the moral force of Beltran 's being on my
"Oh, Gil! Why did you not send for the yacht
before this?" Raquel descended from her perch
and crossed the floor to where Silencio stood.
"Child! I had sent her away to Lambroso to
prepare for just such a moment as this. It was the
very day that your note came. She should be
repaired by now. I cannot think what keeps her.
I am sure that the repairs were not so very formid
"Do you think that Escobeda could have stopped
the Coco, delayed her ?"
"No, hardly, though he may have seen the yacht
over there. But after all, Raquel, we may as well
go to the root of the matter now as later. It may
be as well that the yacht is not here. If we should
run away, we might have the fight to make all over
again. However, we must act for the best when
the time comes. Have no fear, Raquel, have no
fear. ' '
But as Don Gil looked down at the little creature
at his side, a horrible fear surged up within his own
heart, and rose to his throat and nearly choked
him. She still raised her eyes anxiously to his.
"And your friend, your relative, that Don Bel-
tran. You are sure that we may trust him, Gil?"
"Beltran?" Silencio laughed. "I wish that I
were as sure of Heaven as of Beltran's faithfulness.
He will be here, never fear. He never deserted a
friend yet. If you awake in the night at the sound
of horses' hoofs, that will be Beltran coming over
the hill; do not think of Escobeda. Go to sleep,
and rest in perfect security. If you must think at
all, let your thoughts be of my perfect faith in my
friend, who will arrive before it is light. I wish
that I were as sure of Heaven."
When Felisa had seen Agueda disappear below
the hillside she turned to Beltran.
"What is it, cousin?" asked Felisa, leaning
heavily upon his shoulder.
He put his arm round her.
"You must get down, little lady. I have a sum
mons from a friend; I must go home at once."
"But if I choose not to go home?" said Felisa,
"All the same, we must go," said Beltran.
"But if I will not go?"
"Then I shall have to carry you. You must go,
Felisa, and I must, at once."
For answer Felisa leant over and looked into
the eyes that were so near her own. She laid her
arm round Beltran's shoulders, the faint fragrance
that had no name, but was rather a memory of care
fully cared for lingerie, was wafted across his nos
trils for the hundredth time. One could not
imagine Felisa without that evanescent thing that
was part of her and yet had no place in her con
trivance, hardly any place in her consciousness.
Beltran took her in his arms and lifted her to the
ground. The tree, released, sprang in air.
"Ah! there goes my stirrup. You must get it
for me, Beltran."
The gay scarf, having been utilized as a stirrup,
had been left to shake and shiver high above them,
with the tremors of the tree, which was endeavour
ing to straighten its bent bark and wood to their
normal upright position.
"I can send for that; we must not wait," said
"Send for it, indeed! Do you know that I got
the scarf in Naples, cousin? that a Princess
Pallavicini gave it to me? Send for it, indeed!
Do you think that I would have one of your
grimy peons lay his black finger upon that scarf?
You pulled the tree down before, bend it down
For answer, Beltran leaped in air, trying to seize
the scarf. He failed to reach it. Then he climbed
the tree, and soon his weight had bent the slight
young sapling to earth again. Felisa sat under
neath a ceiba, watching Beltran's efforts. At each
failure she laughed aloud. She was obviously
regretful when finally he released the scarf and
handed it to her.
Beltran urged haste with Felisa, but by one pre
text or another she delayed him.
"Sit down under this tree, and tell me what is in
that letter, cousin."
Beltran stood before her.
"It is from my old friend, Silencio; he needs
"I cannot hear, cousin; that mocking-bird sings
so loud. Sit down here and tell me "
"It is from my friend, Silen "
"I cannot hear, cousin. You must sit here by
me, and tell me all about it."
Beltran threw himself upon the ground with a
sigh. She forced his head to her knee, and played
with the rings of his hair.
"Now tell me, cousin, and then I shall decide the
question for you."
Beltran lay in bliss. Delilah had him within her
grasp ; still there was firmness in the tone which said :
"I have already decided the question, Sweet. I
promised him that I would go to him when he
should need me. The time has come, and I must
"And leave me?" said Felisa, her delicate face
clouding under this news. "And what shall I do if
we are attacked while you are away?"
"There is no question of your being attacked,
little cousin. Silencio has an enemy, Escobeda,
who, he thinks, will attack him to-morrow at day
light. In fact, Felisa, you may as well hear the
entire story. Then you will understand why I
must go. Silencio is a sort of cousin of mine.
He has married the niece of as great a villain as
ever went unhung, and he, the uncle, Escobeda,
will attack Silencio to recover his niece. He is
clearly without the law, for Silencio is married as
fast as the padre can make him. But there may
be sharp work; there is no time to get government
aid, and I doubt if under the circumstances it would
be forthcoming. So I must go to Silencio's help."
Beltran made a motion as if to rise.
Felisa now clasped her fingers round his throat.
It was the first time that she had voluntarily made
such a demonstration, and Beltran's pulses quick
ened under her touch. He relaxed his efforts,
turned his face over in her lap, and kissed the folds
of her dress.
"Vida mia, vida mia! you will not keep me," he
murmured through a mass of lace and muslin.
"Indeed, that will I! Do you suppose that I
am going to remain at that lonely casa of yours,
quaking in every limb, dreading the sound of each
footstep, while you are away protecting some one
else? No, indeed! You had no right to ask us
here, if you meant to go away and leave us to
your cut-throat peons. I will not stay without
"But my peons are not cut-throats, Felisa.
They will guard you as their own lives, if I tell
them that I must be gone."
"Do you mean to go alone?"
"No, I mean to take half a dozen good men with
me, and leave the rest at San Isidro. There is no
cause to protect you, Felisa, little cousin ; but
should you need protection, you shall have it."
"I shall not need it, for I will not let you leave
me, Beltran. Suppose that dreadful man, Esco-
beda, as you call him, becomes angry at seeing
you on the side of your friend, and starts without
your knowledge, and comes to San Isidro. He
might take me away in the place of that niece of
his, to force you to get the Senor Silencio to give
his niece back to him."
"What nonsense are you conjuring up, Felisa,
child! That is too absurd ! Escobeda's quarrel is
with Silencio, not with me. Do not fear, little one."
"And did I not hear you say that this Senor
Escobeda hated your father, and also hated you?"
"Yes, I did say that," admitted Beltran, reluc
tantly, as he struggled to rise without hurting her;
"but he will be very careful how he quarrels openly
with me. My friends in the government are as
powerful as his own."
"Well, you cannot go," said Felisa, decisively,
"and let that end the matter."
They went homeward slowly, much as they had
come, Felisa delaying Beltran by some new pretext
at every step. She kept a watchful eye upon him,
to see that he did not drop her bridle rein and can
ter away at the cross roads.
When they reached the picnic ground they found
that Uncle Noe had departed, and Beltran must,
perforce, see his cousin safely within the precincts
of San Isidro. She did not leave the veranda after
dismounting, but seated herself upon the top step,
which was now shaded from the sun, and watched
every movement of master and servants. Beltran
had disappeared within doors, but he could not
leave the place on foot. After a while he emerged
from his room; behind him hobbled old Juana,
carrying a small portmanteau. As he came toward
the steps, Felisa arose and stood in his way.
"Why do you go to-night?" she said.
"Because he needs me at daybreak."
"I need you more." Felisa looked out from
under the fringe of pale sunshine "You will not
leave me, Beltran cousin?"
"It is only for a few hours, dear child."
"Is this Silencio more to you than I am, then,
"Good God! No, child, but I shall return before
you have had your dip in the river."
"I do not like to be left here alone, cousin.
I want you "
"I must go, and at once, Felisa. Silencio
depends upon me. Good by, good by! You will
see me at breakfast. ' '
Felisa arose. The time for pleading was past.
"You shall not go," said she, holding his sleeve
with her small fingers.
"I must!" He pulled the sleeve gently away.
She clasped it again persistently. Then she said,
resolutely and with emphasis, "So sure as you do,
I take the first steamer for home."
"You would not do that?"
"That is my firm intention."
"But Silencio needs me."
"I need you more."
Felisa withdrew her small hands from his sleeve
and started down the veranda, toward her room.
Her little shoes tick-tacked as she walked.
He called after her, "Where are you going?"
"To pack my trunks," said Felisa, "if you can
spare that girl of yours that Agueda to help
A throb of joy flew upward in the heart of
Agueda, whose nervous ear was awake now to all
"Do you really mean it, Felisa?"
"I certainly do mean it," answered Felisa. "If
you go away from me now, I will take the first
steamer home. To-morrow, if one sails."
"And suppose that I refuse you the horses, the
conveyance, the servants "
Felisa turned and looked scornfully at Beltran.
"I suppose that you are a gentleman first of all,"
she said. "You could not refuse."
"No, I could not."
"And you will remain?"
Beltran dropped his head on his breast.
"I will remain," he said.
Beltran drew his breath sharply inward.
"It is the first time," he added.
"The first time?" She looked at him question
"Did I speak aloud? Yes, the first time, Felisa,
that I was ever false to a friend. He counts on
me; I promised "
"Men friends, I suppose. What about women?
I count on you, you have promised me "
Agueda threw herself face downward on her bed
and stopped her ears with deep buried fingers.
Silencio passed the night in wakeful watching and
planning. Raquel slept the innocent sleep of a
careless child. Gil had promised that all would
come out well. She trusted him.
Very early in the morning the scouts whom
Silencio had placed along the boundaries' of his
estate were called in, and collected within the patio
of the casa. The outer shutters of the windows
were closed and bolted ; the two or three glass
windows, which spoke of the innovation which civ
ilization brings in its train, were protected by their
heavy squares of plank. The doors were locked,
and the casa at Palmacristi was made ready for a
Silencio awakened Raquel as the first streak of
dawn crept up from the horizon. Over there to
the eastward trembled and paled that opalescent
harbinger which told her that day was breaking.
She looked up with a child's questioning eyes.
"It is time, sweetheart. Now listen, Raquel.
Pack a little bag, and be ready for a journey."
"Cannot Guillermina pack my bag?"
"No, not even Guillermina may pack your bag.
When it is ready, set it just inside your door. If
you do not need it, so much the better. You may
open your windows toward the sea, but not those
that look toward Troja."
Silencio flung wide the heavy shutter as he spoke.
Raquel glanced out to sea.
"Oh, Gil! where is the Coco?"
"I wish I knew. She should be here."
"Are we to go on board, Gil?"
"Unfortunately, even should she arrive now, she
is a half-hour too late. Now hasten, I will give
you fifteen minutes, no more."
"We might have gone out in the boat, Gil. Oh!
why did you not call me?"
Silencio pointed along the path to the right.
Some of Escobeda's men, armed with machetes and
shotguns, stood just at the edge of the forest, where
at any moment they could seek protection behind
the trees. They looked like ghosts in the early dawn.
"And where is your friend, Beltran?"
Silencio shook his head.
"He cannot have received my message," he said.
"And are the men of Palmacristi too great cow
ards to fight those wretches?"
Silencio started as if he had been struck. He did
not answer for a moment; then he said slowly:
"Raquel, do you know what we should be doing
were you not here? I and my men?"
He spoke coldly. Raquel had never heard these
"We should be out there hunting those rascals to
the death, n$ matter how they outnumber us; but
I dare not trust you between this and the shore.
My scouts tell me that they have kept up picket duty
all night. Escobeda expected the Coco back this
morning; at all events, he was ready for our escape
in that way. The orders of those men are to take
you at any cost. Should I be killed, your protec
tion would be gone. I am a coward, but for you
only, Raquel, for you only."
The young wife looked down. The colour
mounted to her eyes. She drew closer to her hus
band, but for once he did not respond readily to
her advances. He was hurt to the core.
"Get yourself ready at once," he said. "I will
give you fifteen minutes, no more. We have
wasted much time already."
Raquel hardly waited for Silencio to close the
door. She began to dress at once, her trembling
fingers refusing to tie strings or push the buttons
through the proper holes. As she hurriedly put on
her everyday costume, she glanced out of the win
dow to see if in the offing she could discover the
Coco. The little yacht was at that very moment
hastening with all speed toward her master, but a
point of land on the north hid her completely from
"Although he will not own it, he evidently
intends to carry me away in the yacht." Raquel
smiled. "So much the better; it will be another
When Silencio left Raquel, he ran out to the
patio. On the way thither he met old Guillermina
with a tray on which was her mistress's coffee.
Upon the table in the patio veranda that used by
the servants a hasty meal was laid. Silencio
broke a piece of cassava bread and drank the cup
of coffee which was poured out for him, and as he
drank he glanced upward. Andres was standing
on the low roof, on the inner side of the chimney
of stone which carried off the kitchen smoke. He
turned and looked down at Don Gil.
"The Senor Escobeda approaches along the gran'
Silencio set down his cup and ran up the escalera.
He walked out to the edge of the roof, and shaded
his eyes with his hand.
"Yes, Andres; it is true. And I see that he has
some gentlemen with him." He turned and called
down to the patio.
"Ask Guillermina if her mistress has had her
As he faced about a shot rang out. The bullet
whistled near his head.
"Go down, Sefior, for the love of God!" said
The company of horsemen were riding at a quick
pace, and were now, within hearing.
Silencio waved his arm defiantly.
"Ah! then it is you, Senor Escobeda! I see
whom you have with you. Is that you, Pedro
Geredo? Is that you, Marcoz Absalon? You two
will have something to answer for when I report
this outrage at the government town."
Escobeda had ridden near to the enclosure. His
head was shaking with rage. His earrings glittered
in the morning sun, his bloodshot eyes flashed fire.
He raised his rifle and aimed it at Silencio.
"You know what I have come for, Sefior. Send
my niece out to me, and we shall retire at once."
"How dare you take that name upon your lips?"
Silencio was livid with rage. Another shot was
fired. This time it ploughed its way through
"Shall I kill him, Senor?" Andres brought his
escopeta to his shoulder; he aimed directly at Esco
beda. "I can kill him without trouble, Senor, and
avoid further argument. It is as the Senor says!"
Silencio looked anxiously seaward. No sign of
''Not until I give the word, Andres." And then
to Escobeda, "I defy you! I defy you!"
Shots began to fall upon the casa from the guns
of Escobeda's impudent followers. Escobeda leaped
his horse into the enclosure; his men followed suit.
Silencio saw them ride in lawless insolence along
the side of the building, and then heard the hollow
ring of the horses' hoofs upon the veranda. He
ran down the escalera. The mob were battering
at the front door with the butt ends of their mus
Raquel appeared in the patio, pale and terrified.
"Gil! Gil!" she cried, "they are coming in!
They will take me!"
"Coward! Come out and fight," was the cry
from the outside.
"I am a coward for you, dear." He seized her
wrists. "To the counting-house!" he whispered,
"to the counting-house!" As they ran she asked,
"Is there any sign of the Coco?"
"None," answered Silencio; "but we could not
reach her now."
Together they flew through the hallways, across
the chambers, where the blows were sounding loud
upon the wooden wall of the house, upon the shut
ters, and the doors. They ran down the far pas
sage and reached the counting-house door. Silen
cio stumbled over something near the sill.
"Ah! your bag," he said. "I told Guillermina
to set it there."
He opened the door with the key held ready, and
together they entered. Silencio tore the rug from
the middle of the room, and disclosed to Raquel's
amazed eyes a door sunken in the floor. He raised
it by its heavy ring. A cold blast of air flowed
upward into the warm interior. Raquel had
thought the room cool before; now she shivered as
if with a chill. Silencio pushed her gently toward
the opening. "Go down," he said.
Raquel gazed downward at the black depths.
"I cannot go alone, Gil." She shuddered.
"Turn round, dear Heart; put your feet on the
rungs of the ladder, so! Ah! what was that?"
Silencio glanced anxiously toward the open door
way. A heavy cracking of the stout house-door
showed to what lengths Escobeda and his followers
were prepared to venture.
"Go, go! At the bottom is a lantern; light it
if you can, while I close the trap-door."
Raquel shrank at the mouth of this black open
ing, which seemed to yawn for them. The damp
smell of mould, the cold, the gloom, were sudden
and dreadful reminders of the tomb which this
might become. She imagined it a charnel house.
She dreaded to descend for fear that she should
place her feet upon a corpse, or lay her fingers on
the fleshless bones of a skeleton.
"Courage, my Heart! Courage! Go down! Do
At the kindness of his tone, Raquel, taking cour
age, began to descend. Terrible thoughts filled
her mind. What if Escobeda and his men should
discover their retreat, and cut off escape at their
destination? What that destination was she knew
not. Her eyes tried vainly to pierce the mysteri
ous gloom. It was as if she looked into the black
ness of a cavern. She turned and gazed for a
moment back into the homelike interior which she
was leaving, perhaps for all time. The loud blows
upon the house-door were the accompaniment of
her terrified thoughts.
Raquel descended nervously, her trembling limbs
almost refusing to support her. She reached the
bottom of the ladder, and by the aid of the dim
light from above, she found the lantern and the
matches, which Silencio's thoughtful premonition
had placed there, ready for her coming. As she
lighted the lantern she keard a terrific crash.
Silencio, with a last glance at th'e open door of
the counting-house, which he had forgotten to
close, now lowered the trap-door, and joined
Raquel in the dark passage. He stood and listened
for a moment. He heard a footstep on the floor
above, and taking Raquel's hand in his, together
they sped along the path which he hoped would
lead her to safety.
"Oh, child!" he said, in sharp, panting words,
as they breathlessly pursued the obscure way, "for
the first time I have given you proof of my love."
Raquel turned to look at him. She saw his dark
face revealed fitfully by the flashes of the lantern
swinging from his hand.
"Here am I flying from that villain, when I ache
to seize him by the throat and choke the very
breath of life out of him. Here am I running
away, running away! do you hear me, Raquel?
while they, behind there, are calling me coward.
But should he take you "
Raquel stumbled and almost fell at these dread
"Gil, Gil, dearest! do not speak of it; perhaps
he is coming even now behind us."
At the dreadful suspicion she fell against the
wall, dragging him with her. She clung to him in
terror, impeding his progress.
"This is not the time to give way, Raquel."
Silencio spoke sternly. "Call all your will to your
aid now. Run ahead of me, while I stand a
Raquel gathered all her resolution, and without
further question fled again upon her way. Silencio
waited a moment, facing the steps which they had
just descended, and listened intently. But all
that he heard was the sound of Raquel's flying feet.
When he was convinced that no one was following
them, he turned again and ran quickly after Raquel.
He easily gained upon her.
"I hear nothing, Raquel. Do not be so fright
At these words the changeable child again
"You have heard of a man building better than
he knew," he said. He waved the lantern toward
the sides of the tunnel. "There were wild tales of
smuggling in the old days "
The colour had returned to Raquel's cheek. She
laughed a little as she asked :
"Did your grandfather smuggle, Gil?"
"He was no better and no worse than other men ;
who knows what we will talk later of that.
He took her hand in his, and again together they
fled along the passage. As no sound of pursuing
feet came to their ears, confidence began to return.
They were like two children running a race. Silen-
cio laughed aloud, and as they got further from the
entrance to the passage he whistled, he sang, he
shouted ! The sound of his laughter chilled the
heart of Raquel with fear.
"Gil," she pleaded, "they will hear you. They
will know where we have gone." She laid her
ringers on his lips as they ran, and he playfully bit
them, as he had seen her close her teeth upon El
The passage was a long one. Raquel thought
that it would never end.
"Have we come more than two miles, Gil?" she
Raquel was not used to breathless flights in the
dark Silencio laughed.
"Poor little girl! Does it seem so long, then?
When we have reached the further end we shall
have come just three hundred feet."
At last, at last! the further door was reached.
Silencio unlocked it and pushed it open. This was
rendered somewhat difficult by the sand which had
been blown about the entrance since last he had
brushed it away. A little patient work, and the
two squeezed themselves through the narrow
"Hark! I hear footsteps," whispered Raquel,
her face pale with renewed terror.
Silencio stood still and listened.
"You are right," he said; "they are behind us.
Take the lantern and hold it for me close to
the keyhole." He began pushing the door into
She took the light from him and held it as he
"Hold it steady, child. Steady! Do not trem
ble so! I must see! I must! steady!"
Raquel's hand shook as if with a palsy.
The footsteps came nearer. To her they
sounded from out the darkness like the approach of
"Hasten!" she whispered, "hasten!" She held
the lantern against the frame of the solid door and
pressed her shoulder against it, that her nervous
ness should not agitate the flame, whispering
"Hasten!" the while to Silencio, whose trembling
fingers almost refused to do this most necessary
work. At last, with a bang and a sharp twist of
the key, the heavy door was closed and locked.
"Do you see an iron bar anywhere, Raquel, in
the bushes there on the left?"
She ran to the side of the tunnel, which still
arched above them here. Silencio was close to
her, and at once laid his hand upon the strong piece
of metal. He sprang back to the door, and slipped
the bar into the rust-worn but still faithful hasps.
Then he turned, seized her hand again, and led
her hurriedly along between the high banks. It
was still dark where they stood, so overgrown was
the deep cut, but Silencio knew the way. He
took the lantern from Raquel's hand, extinguished
it, and set it upon the ground. "We shall need
this no more," he said.
The trees and vines growing from the embank
ment, which nearly closed overhead, were inter
woven like a green basket-work, and almost shut
out the daylight. Silencio took Raquel's hand in
his and led her along the narrow path. The light
became stronger with every step.
Suddenly Raquel stopped short.
"What was that, Gil?"
"That! Do you not hear it? It sounds like a
knocking behind us."
Silencio stood still for a moment, listening to the
"Yes," he said at last, "I do hear it. It is some
of those villains pursuing us. Hasten, Raquel.
When they find the door is closed, they will return
to the casa to cut off our retreat."
Raquel found time to say:
"And the poor servants left behind, will they "
"They are safe, child. You are the quarry they
seek. Escobeda does not exchange shots to no
A few more steps, and Silencio parted the thicket
ahead. Raquel passed through in obedience to his
commanding nod, and emerged into the blinding
glare of a tropical morning. Beneath her feet was
the hot, fine sand of the seashore. A few yards
away a small boat was resting, her stern just washed
by the ripples. Raquel turned and looked back
ward. The mass of trees and vines hid the bank
from view, the bank in its turn concealed the casa.
As she stood thus she heard again a slow knocking,
but much fainter than before. It was like the dis
tant sound of heavy blows.
"Thank God! they are knocking still," said
Silencio. "Run to the boat, child, quickly."
Raquel shrank with fear.
"They will see me from the house," she said.
"You cannot see the beach from the casa; have
you forgotten? Run, run! For the boat! the
Obeying him, she sped across the sand to the lit
"The middle seat!" he cried.
He followed her as swiftly, and with all his
strength pushed the light weight out from the
shore, springing in as the bow parted with the
beach. The thrust outward brought them within
sight of the house. For a moment they were not
discovered, and he had shipped the oars and was
rowing rapidly toward the open sea before they were
It required a moment for the miscreants to appre
ciate the fact that the two whom they had thought
hidden in the house had escaped in some unknown
way. Then a cry of rage went up from many
throats, and one man raised his rifle to his shoulder,
but the peon next him threw up the muzzle, and
the shot flew harmless in the air.
It is one thing to fire at the bidding of a master,
on whose shoulders will rest all the blame, and
quite another to aim deliberately at a person who
is quite within his rights you peon, he gran*
Senor. Escobeda was nowhere to be seen. There
was no one to give an order, to take responsibility.
The force was demoralized. The men formed in a
small group, and watched the little skiff as it shot
out to sea, impelled by the powerful arm and will
of Silencio. As he rowed Silencio strained his
eyes northward, and perceived what was not as yet
visible from the shore. He saw the Coco just
rounding the further point distant, it is true, but
safety for Raquel lay in her black and shining hull.
When old Guillermina saw Don Gil and the
Senora retreat from the patio and cross the large
chamber, she knew at once their errand. Had she
not lived here since the days of the old Don
Oviedo? What tales could she not have told of
the secret passage to the sea! But her lips were
sealed. Pride of family, the family of her master,
was the padlock which kept them silent. How
many lips have been glued loyally together for that
same reason !
As Guillermina crossed the large chamber she
heard the blows raining upon the outer shutters
and the large door. She heard Escobeda's voice
calling, "Open! open!" as he pounded the stout
planking with the butt end of his rifle. The firing
had ceased. Even had it not, Guillermina knew
well that the shots were not aimed at her. She had
withstood a siege in the old Don Oviedo's time,
and again in the time of the old Don Gil, and from
the moment that Silencio had brought his young
wife home she had expected a third raid upon the
Guillermina walked in a leisurely manner. She
passed through the intervening passages, and found
the counting-house door open. This she had
hardly expected. She joyously entered the room
and closed the door. Then her native lassitude
gave way to a haste to which her unaccustomed
members almost refused their service. She quickly
drew the rug over the sunken trap-door, smoothed
the edges, and rearranged the room, so that it
appeared as if it had not lately been entered. It
was her step overhead which Don Gil and Raquel
had heard at first, and which had caused them so
As Guillermina turned to leave the room, she
heard a crash. Escobeda, having failed to break
in the great entrance door, had, with the aid of
some of his men, pried off a shutter. The band
came pouring into the house and ran through all
the rooms, seeking for the flown birds. As Guil-
lermina opened the door of the counting-house to
come out, key in hand, she met Escobeda upon
the threshold. His face was livid. He held his
machete over his head as if to strike.
"So this is their hiding-place," he screamed in
He rushed past her, and entered the counting-
house. Its quiet seclusion and peaceful appearance
filled him with astonishment, and caused him to stop
short. But he was not deceived for long. He
tore away the green hangings, hoping to find a
door. Instead a wall of iron stared him in the
face. He ran all round the room, feeling of the
panels or plates, but nowhere could he discover
the opening which he sought. Each plate was
firmly screwed and riveted to its neighbour. He
turned and shook his fist in Guillermina's face.
"You shall tell me where they have gone," he
howled, in fury, and then poured forth a volley of
oaths and obscenities, such as no one but a Span
iard could have combined in so few sentences.
Guillermina faced him, her hands on her fat
"The Senor should not excite himself. It is
bad to excite oneself. There was the woodcutter
over at La Floresta ' '
"To hell with the woodcutter! Where is that
Truhan?" Then Escobeda began to curse Guil-
lermina. He cursed her until he foamed at the
mouth, his gold earrings shaking in his ears, his
eyes bloodshot, his lips sending flecks of foam upon
her gown. He cursed her father and her mother,
her grandfather and her grandmother, her great
grandfather and great-grandmother, which was quite
a superfluity in the way of cursing, as Guillermina
had no proof positive that she had ever possessed
more than one parent. He cursed her brothers and
sisters, her aunts, her uncles, her cousins, her
nephews and nieces.
"The Senor wastes some very good breath,"
remarked Guillermina in a perfectly imperturbable
manner. "I have none of those people."
Escobeda turned on her in renewed frenzy. The
vile words rolled out of his mouth like a stream
over high rocks. He took a fresh breath and
cursed anew. As he had begun with her ancestors,
so he continued with her descendants, the children
whom she had borne, and those whom she was
likely to bear. .
'The good God save us!" ejaculated old Guiller
mina. And still Escobeda cursed on, his fury now
falling upon her relationships in all their ramifica
tions, and in all their branches.
"Ay de mi! The gracious Senor wastes his
time. If the gracious Senor should rest a little,
he could start with a fresh breath."
As Guillermina spoke, she rearranged the curtain
folds, smoothed and shook the silken pillows, and
laid them straight and in place. She kept her sta
tion as near the middle of the sunken door as pos
Again he thundered at her the question as to
where the fugitives had found refuge. Guillermina,
brave outwardly, was trembling inwardly for the
safety of her beloved Don' Gil. The young Senora
was all very well, she might grow to care for her in
time, but her little Gil, whom she had taken from
the doctor's arms, whom she had nursed on her
knee with her own little Antonio, who lay under
the trees on the hillside yonder she must gain
"Does not the Senor know that the Senor Don
Gil Silencio-y-Estrada and the little Senora have
gone to heaven?"
Escobeda stopped short in his vituperation.
"Dead? He was afraid, then! He killed her."
Escobeda laughed cruelly. "If I have lost her, so
"Ay, ay, they have flown away, flown to heaven,
the Senores. The good God cares for his own.
I wonder now who cares for the Senor Esco-
With the scream of a wild beast he flew at her,
and she, fearing positive injury, sprang aside.
Escobeda's spur caught in the rug and tore it from
its place on the floor. He stumbled and fell, pull
ing the green and white carpet after him. Conceal
ment was no longer possible; the trap-door was
laid bare. With a fiendish cry of delight he flew
at the ring in the sunken door
' ' To hell ! to hell ! " he shouted. ' ' That is where
they have gone; not to heaven, but to hell."
Escobeda had heard rumours all his life of the
secret passage to the sea the passage which had
never been located by the curious. At last the
mystery was solved. He raised the door, and
without a word to Guillermina, plunged into the
black depths. The absence of a light was lost sight
of by him in his unreasoning rage. Almost before
his fingers had disappeared from view, Guillermina
had lowered the trap-door into its place in the most
If one is performing a good action, it is best to
make as little noise about it as possible. As she
fitted the great iron bar across the opening, there
came a knocking upon the under side of the iron
"Give me a light! A light! you she-devil! A
light, I say."
Guillermina went softly to the door of the count
ing-house and closed it to prevent intrusion. She
could hear Escobeda's followers running riotously
all over the casa. Her time would be short, that
she knew. She knelt down on the floor and put
her lips close to the crack in the trap-door.
"And he would curse my mother, would the
Sefior! And my little Antonio, who lies buried on
the hill yonder."
"A light!" he shouted, "a light! she-devil, a
light, I say!"
"May the Sefior see no light till he sees the
flames of hell," answered Guillermina. "The
Sefior must pardon me, but that is my respectful
She smoothed the innocent-looking carpet in
place, replaced the chairs, and went out, locking the
door after her.
"Let us hope," said she quietly, "that my
muchacho has barred the door at the further end of
the passage." Looking for a wide crack, she found
it, and dropped the key through it.
This is why the disused passage is always called
Sometimes, when Don Gil and the little Senora sit
and sip the straw-coloured tea at five o'clock of an
afternoon, the teapot, grown more battered and
dingy, the lid fitting less securely than of yore, the
Senora sets down her cup, and taking little Raquel
upon her knee, holds her close to her heart, and
"Do you hear that knocking, Gil? There is cer
tainly a rapping on the counting-house floor."
"I hear nothing," answers Silencio, as he gives
a large lump of sugar to the grandso'n of the brown
lizard. And for that matter, there is an ancient
proverb which says that "None are so deaf as those
who will not hear."
Uncle Adan had been taken ill. He was suffer
ing from the exhalations of the swamp land through
which he must travel to clear the river field. He
had that and the cacao patch both on his mind.
There was a general air of carelessness about the
plantation of San Isidro which had never obtained
before since Agueda's memory of the place. The
peons and workmen lounged about the outhouses
and stables, lazily doing the work that was abso
lutely needed, but there was no one to give orders,
and there was no one who seemed to long for
them. It appeared to be a general holiday.
Uncle Adan lay and groaned in his bed at the
further end of the veranda, and wondered if the
cacao seed had spoiled, or if it would hold good for
another day. When Agueda begged him to get
some sleep, or to take his quinine in preparation
for the chill that must come, he only turned his
face to the wall and groaned that the place was
going to rack and ruin since those northerners had
come down to the island. "I have seen the Senor
plant the cacao," said Agueda. "He had the
Palandrez and the Troncha and the Garcia-Garcito
with him. He ordered, and they worked. I went
with them sometimes." Agueda sighed as she
remembered those happy days.
Uncle Adan turned his aching bones over, so
that he could raise his weary eyes to Agueda's.
"That is all true," he said. "The Sefior can
plant, no Colono better. But one cannot plant the
cacao and play the guitar at one and the same
Agueda hung her head as if the blame of right
belonged to her.
"You act as if I blamed you, and I do," said
Uncle Adan, shivering in the preliminary throes of
his hourly chill. "You who have influence over
the Sefior! You should exert it at once. The
place is going to rack and ruin, I tell you!"
Agueda turned and went out of the door. She
was tired of the subject. There was no use in
arguing with Uncle Adan, either with regard to the
quinine or the visitors. She went to her own
room, and took her hat from the peg. When again
she came out upon the veranda, she had a long
stick in one hand and a pail in the other. Then
she visited the kitchen.
"Juana, " she said, "fill this pail with water and
tell Pablo and Eduardo Juan that I need them at
She waited while this message was sent to the
recalcitrant peons, who lounged lazily toward the
house at her summons.
"De Senorit* send fo' me?" asked Pablo.
"I sent for both of you," said Agueda. "Why
have you done no cacao planting to-day?"
"Ain' got no messages," replied Pablo, who
seemed to have taken upon himself the role of gen
"You know very well that it is the messages that
make no difference. Bring your machetes, both of
you," ordered Agueda, "and come with me to the
For answer the peons drew their machetes lazily
from their sheaths.
"I knew that you had them, of course. Come,
then! I am going to the field. Where is the
"Wheah Ah leff 'em," answered Pablo.
"And where is that?"
"In de hill patch, Seno'it'."
"And did some one, perhaps, mix the wood
ashes with them?"
Pablo turned to Eduardo Juan, open-mouthed,
as if to say, "Did you?"
Agueda also turned to Eduardo Juan. "Well!
well!" she exclaimed impatiently, "were the wood
ashes mixed, then, with the cacao seeds?"
Eduardo Juan shifted from one foot to the other,
looked away at the river, and said, "Ah did not
ogsarve. ' '
"You did not observe. Oh, dear! oh, dear!
Why can you never do as the Senor tells you?
What will become of the plantation if you do not
obey what the Senor tells you?"
"Seno* ain' say nuttin'," said Eduardo Juan,
with a sly smile.
Agueda looked away. "I am not speaking of
the Senor. I mean the Senor Adan," said she.
"You know that he has charge of all; that he had
charge long before come, then! let us go."
As Agueda descended the steps of the veranda,
she heard Beltran's voice calling to her. She
turned and looked back. Don Beltran was stand
ing in the open door of the salon. His pleasant
smile seemed to say that he had just been indulg
ing in agreeable words, agreeable thoughts.
"Agueda," said Beltran, "bring my mother's
cross here, will you? I want to show it to my
Agueda turned and came slowly up the steps
again. She went at once to her own room and
opened the drawer where the diamonds lay in their
ancient case of velvet and leather. The key which
opened this drawer hung with the household bunch
at her waist. The drawer had not been opened for
some time, and the key grated rustily in the lock.
Agueda opened the drawer, took the familiar thing
in her hand, and returning along the veranda,
handed it to Beltran. Then she ran quickly down
the steps to join the waiting peons. But Felisa's
appreciative scream as the case was opened reached
her, as well as the words which followed.
"And you let that girl take charge of such a
magnificent thing as that! Why, cousin, it must
mean a fortune."
"Who? Agueda?" said Beltran. "I would trust
Agueda with all that I possess. Agueda knew my
mother. She was here in my mother's time."
The motherly instinct, which is in the ascendant
with most women, arose within the heart of Agueda.
"Come, Palandrez, come, Eduardo Juan," said
she. They could hardly keep pace with her. If
there was no one else to work for him while he
dallied with his pretty cousin, she would see that
his interests did not suffer.
"Why, then, do you not go up there in the cool
of the evening, Palandrez? You could get an
hour's work done easily after the sun goes behind
the little rancho hill."
"It is scairt up deyah," said Palandrez. "De
ghos' ob de ole Senora waak an' he waak. Ain'
no one offer deyah suvvices up on de hill when it
git 'long 'bout daak."
Agueda went swiftly toward the hill patch, the
peons sulkily following her. They did not wish to
obey, but they did not dare to rebel. Arrived at
her destination, she turned to Pablo, who was in
advance of Eduardo Juan.
"Where, then, is the pail of seed, Pablo?"
Pablo, without answer, began to send his eyes
roaming over and across the field. Eduardo Juan,
preferring to think that it was no business of his,
leaned against a tree-trunk and let his eyes rest on
the ground at his feet. As these two broken reeds
seemed of no practical use, Agueda began to skirt
the field, and soon she came upon the pail, hidden
behind a stump.
' ' Here it is, Eduardo Juan, ' ' she called. ' ' Begin
to dig your holes, you and Pablo, and I will oh!''
This despairing exclamation closed the sentence,
and ended all hope of work for the day. Agueda
saw, as she spoke, that the pail swarmed with ants.
She pushed her stick down among the shiny brown
seed, and discovered no preventive in the form of
the necessary wood ashes. The seed was spoiled.
"It is no use, Pablo," she said. "Come and see
these ants, you that take no interest in the good of
the Senor. " She turned and walked dejectedly
down the hill. Pablo turned to Eduardo Juan.
He laughed under his breath.
"De Seno' taike no intrus' in hees own good."
"Seed come from Palmacristi; mighty hard git
seed dis time o' yeah," answered Eduardo Juan,
with a hopeful chuckle. If no more seed were to
be had, then no more planting could be done.
Later in the evening, as Agueda went toward
the kitchen, she passed by Felisa's doorway. A
glimpse was forced upon her of the interior of the
pretty room and its occupant. Felisa was seated
before the mirror. She had donned a gown the
like of which Agueda had never seen. The waist
did not come all the way up to the throat, but was
cut out in a sort of hollow, before and behind, for
Agueda saw the shoulders which were toward her,
quite bare of covering, and in the mirror she
caught the reflection of maidenly charms which in
her small world were not a part of daily exhibit.
Agueda stopped suddenly.
"Oh, Senorita!" she exclaimed under her breath.
"Does the Senorita know that her door is open?
Let me close it, and the shutter on the other side.
I will run round there in a minute. Some one
might see the Senorita; people may be passing along
the veranda at any moment."
Felisa gave a shrill and merry laugh.
"People might see! Why, my good girl, don't
you know that is just why we wear such gowns,
that people may see? Come and fasten this thing.
Isn't it lovely against my neck?"
Agueda could not but admit to her secret soul
that it was lovely against Felisa's neck. But she
coloured as she entered and closed the door care
fully behind her. She had seen nothing like this,
except in those abandoned picture papers that came
sometimes from the States, or from France, to
Don Beltran, and then, as often as not, she hid them
that she might not see him looking at them. She
could not bear to have him look at them. She felt
"Open the door, that's a good girl! There!
Are you sure that the catch is secure? These
beauties were my aunt's. See how they become
me. I would not lose them for the world. Oh !
had I only had them before."
"Are are they has the ^Sefior given them
perhaps to to ' '
"Well, not exactly, Agueda, good girl; but
some day, who knows there!" Felisa made a
pirouette and sank in a low curtsey on the bare
floor, showing just the point of a pink satin toe.
"See how they glitter, even in the light of these
candles. Imagine them in a ball-room Agueda,
and me in them! Now I must go and show my
cousin. Open the door. Do you not hear open
"The Senorita is never going to show herself to
the Sefior in such a gown as that! What will the
Sefjor say? The Senorita will never"
But Felisa had pushed past Agueda, and was
half-way down the veranda.
The thoughts that flashed through Agueda's
mind were natural ones. She had honestly done
her best to keep the Sefiorita from disgracing her
self in the Senor's eyes, but she would have her
way. She had gone to her own destruction. There
was a quickening of Agueda's pulses. Ah! Now
he would turn to her again. He could not bear
any sign of immodesty in a woman. He had often
said to Agueda that that was her chief charm, her
modesty. He had called her "Little Prude," and
laughed when she blushed. Was it to be won
dered at that Agueda rejoiced at Felisa's coming
defeat, at her imminent discomfiture, the moment
that Beltran should see her? She stood in the
doorway of Felisa's room, watching the fairy-like
figure as it lightly danced like a will-o'-the-wisp
down the dark veranda's length, flashing out like
a firefly as it passed an opening where there was a
light within, going out in the darkness between the
doors, still keeping up its resemblance to the ignis
Before Felisa reached the salon Beltran came out
to discover why his charmer had absented herself
for so long a time. Agueda caught the look in his
eyes, as he stood, almost aghast at the meretri
cious loveliness of the little creature before him.
He gazed and gazed at her. Was it in disgust?
Alas! no. PoorAgueda! Rapture shone from his
eyes. He opened his arms. But Felisa eluded
him and danced round the corner of the veranda.
"You pretty thing! You pretty, you lovely,
you adorable thing!" she heard Beltran exclaim,
as utterly fascinated, he followed the small siren
in her tantalizing flight.
That succession of events designated as Time
passed rapidly or slowly, as was the fate of the
beneficiary or the sufferer from its flight or its
delay. In some cases the milestones seemed
leagues apart, in others but a short foot of space
To Beltran the hours of the night dragged slowly
by, when, as was often the case, he lay half awake
in a delirious dream of joy, longing for dawn to
break the gloom that he might come again within
the magic of that presence which had changed the
entire world for him.
To Agueda the hours of the night flew on wings.
As she heard the crowing of the near and distant
cocks answering each other from colonia or river
patch, or conuco, she sighed to herself. "It is
nearly four o'clock, soon it will be five, then six,
and the next stroke, oh, God! seven!" For then
would the cheery voice which could no longer wait
call from the veranda, "How are you this morning,
little cousin?" and the answer from that dainty
interior would be, "Quite well, Cousin Beltran, if
the cocks could be persuaded not to roost directly
under the floor of my room, and keep me awake
half the night."
Then Agueda must attend to the early breakfast.
Trays must be sent to the rooms of the visitors,
and for two hours wduld the Sefior impatiently pace
the veranda or the home enclosure, awaiting the
reappearance of his goddess.
There was no sign of the wearing effect of sleep
lessness on the shell-like face when that important
little lady appeared upon the veranda, clothed in
some wonderful arrangement of diaphanous mate
rial, which was to Beltran's vision as the stage man
ager's dream of the unattainable in costume. With
the joyous greeting there was offered a jasmine or
allemanda flower or bougainvellia bracht for the
girdle bouquet, which often Beltran assisted in
arranging, as was a cousin's right; and in return, if
Felisa was very good-natured, there followed the
placing of a corresponding bud or blossom in Bel
tran's buttonhole by those small, plump fingers,
loaded down with their wealth of shining rings.
It was at this time that Agueda received a shock
which, as a preliminary to her final fate, more than
all conveyed to her mind how things were going.
It was early morning. Juana had brought to
Agueda's room the fresh linen piled high in the old
yellow basket. Together they laid the articles on
chairs and table, selecting from the pile those that
needed a few stitches. Agueda sat herself down
by the window to mend. She took up her needle
and threaded it, then let her hands fall in her lap,
as had become her custom of late. Her head was
turned to the grove outside, and her gaze rested
among the leaves and penetrated their vistas without
perceiving anything in grove or trocha.
She had heard Beltran moving about in his room,
but he had thrown the door wide and gone
whistling down the veranda toward that latest goal
of his hopes. She heard the gay greeting, and the
distant faint response, then a laugh at some sally
of fun. Agueda looked wearily at the pile of
starched cleanliness, and took up her work again.
How hateful the drudgery seemed ! Before this
in other days time was when
It was a homely bit of sewing, a shirt of the
Sefior's, which needed buttons. This recalled to
Agueda that the last week's linen had been neg
lected by her. It had been put away as it came
from Juana's hands. With sudden decision she
determined now to face the inevitable, to accept
the world as it had become to her, all in a moment,
as it were.
Agueda arose and dropped the linen from her
lap to the floor. She had never been taught care
ful ways. All that she knew of such things had
come to her by intuition, and her action showed
the dominant strain of her blood not the exact
ness of a trained servant, but the carelessness of a
petted child of fortune. She stepped over the
white mass at her feet and went to the door that
led from her room to Beltran's. She walked as
one who has come to a sudden determination. Of
late she had not been there, except to perform some
such service as the present moment demanded.
She seized the knob in her hand, and turned it
round, pressing the weight of her young body
against the door. Instead of bursting hurriedly
into the room, as was her wont, she found the door
unyielding. Again she tried it, twisting the knob
this way and that.
She was about to call upon one of the men to
come to her aid, as the door had stuck fast, when
suddenly she stopped, standing where the exertion
had left her. Her colour fled, her lips grew blood
less, she leaned dizzy and sick against the door.
On the floor, at her feet, she had caught sight of a
small shaving that had pushed itself through the
crack underneath. She put her hand to her side
as if a physical pain had seized her. She ran to
the door of her room which opened upon the outer
and more secluded veranda. Passing through this,
she walked with trembling steps to the doorway of
Beltran's room. She could hear his gay badinage
down at the end of the house, where she knew
that Felisa was sipping her chocolate inside her
room, while he called impatiently to know when
she would be ready for the excursion of the day.
Agueda entered Beltran's room and walked
swiftly to the communicating door. Ah! it was
as she had feared. Some shavings upon the floor,
and a new bolt, put there she knew not when, per
haps when she was up in the field on the previous
day, attested to the verity of her suspicion. What
did Beltran fear? That, remembering the old-time
love and confidence, she should take advantage of
it and of her near proximity, and when all the
colonia slept, go to him and endeavour to recall
those past days, try to rekindle the love so nearly
dead? Nearly dead! It must be quite so, when
he could remind her thus cruelly, if silently, that a
new order of things now reigned at San Isidro.
Agueda appreciated, now perhaps for the first
time fully, that her life had changed, that she had
become now as the Nadas and the Anetas of this
world. She closed her lips firmly as this thought
came to her. Well, if it were so, she must bear it.
Like Aneta, she had not been "smart," but unlike
the Anetas of this life, she would learn something
from her misfortune, and be henceforth self-respect
ing, so far as this great and overwhelming blow
would allow. Never again should Beltran feel that
he had the right to bestow upon her a touch or a
caress, however delicate, however gentle. They
were separated now for good and all. She saw it
as she had never seen it before. All along she had
been hoping against hope. She had constantly
remembered Beltran's words that first week of
Felisa's stay: "They will be going home soon, and
then all will be as before." She saw now that
Beltran had deceived himself, even while he was
deceiving her. He could not turn them out, as he
had once said to her, but he had now no wish to
turn them out, nor did they wish to go. He was
lost to her, but even so, with the memory of what
had been, Beltran should respect her. He should
find that, as she was not his chattel, she would not
be his plaything while he made love to that other
respectable girl, who would tolerate no advances
which were not preceded by a ceremony and the
blessing of the church. Foolish, foolish Agueda!
Had she been "smart," she might have welcomed
Felisa as her cousin, instead of appearing as the
slighted thing she now felt herself to be. And
then, again, her soul rebelled at such a view of the
case. His wife! What humiliation were hers to
be Beltran's wife, and see what she saw now every
day, the proof of his love for this fair-haired cousin
of his, while she, his wife, looked on helpless.
Then, indeed, would she have been in his power.
Now she was free free from him, free to respect
herself, even in her shame.
As Felisa has been likened to a garden escape in
point of looks, so might one liken Agueda to a
garden escape in point of what people designate as
morals. Agueda had never heard of morals as
such. She had had no teaching, only the one
warning which Nada had given her, and that, she
considered, she had followed to the letter.
Agueda had stood intrenched within a garden
whose soil was virtue. She did not gaze with curi
osity, nor did she care to look, over the palings into
the lane which ran just outside. She stood tall and
splendid as a young hollyhock, welcoming the sun
and the dew that Heaven sent down upon her proud
young head. But though fate had surrounded her
with this environment, whose security she had
never questioned, her inheritance had placed her
near the palings. Those other great white flowers
that stood in the middle of the garden could never
come to disaster. But Agueda, unwittingly, had
been thrust to the wall. Love's hand had pushed
itself between the palings of the fence that sur
rounded her garden and had bent the proud stalk
and drawn it through into the outer lane. While
Beltran showed his love for her, she did not feel
that she had escaped from her secure stand inside.
Her roots were strong and embedded in the soil of
virtue, and wanton love would never find a place
within her thoughts or feelings. She did not realise
the loss of dignity. "All for love," had been her
text and creed. The remedy, if remedy were
needed, had been close at hand. It had been
offered her. She had only to stretch out her hand
and take it, and draw back within her garden,
showing no bruise or wound, but happy in that she
could still rear herself straight and proud among the
company of uninjured stalks. But though the
remedy had been at hand, Agueda had not grasped it
with due haste. Unmindful of self, she had allowed
the opportunity to escape her, and now she could
not spring back among those other blooms whose
freshness had never been tarnished. Alas! She
found herself still in the muddy lane. She had
been plucked and worn and tossed down into the
rut along the roadside, where she must forever lie,
limp and faded.
What boots it to dwell upon the sufferings of a
breaking heart? Hearts must ache and break, just
as souls must be born and die, for thus fate plans,
and the world goes on the same.
Things went on the same at the plantation of San
Isidro. Don No6 made no motion to leave it, and
Felisa was happier than she had ever been, and so
for once was in accord with her father. Beltran
dreaded from day to day the signal for their depar
ture, but it did not come.
Uncle Adan moved among all these happenings
with a soul not above cacao seed and banana suck
ers. He kept tally at the wagon-train or in the
field, and if he thought of Agueda at all it was with
a shrug of the shoulders and the passing reflection :
"She is as the women of her race have been. It is
their fate." For she was surely of that race,
though only tradition and not appearance was wit
ness to the fact.
As for Agueda, no one about her could say what
she felt or thought. She remained by herself.
What she must see, that she saw. That which she
could keep from knowing, she dulled her mind to
receive, and refused to understand or to accept.
She endeavoured to become callous to all impres
sions. One would have said that she did not care,
that her passing fancy for Beltran, as well as his
for her, had died a natural death. And yet, so
contradictory is woman's nature, when placed in
such straits as those which now overwhelmed her,
that sometimes a fierce curiosity awoke within her,
and then she would pass, to all appearance on some
household errand bent, within the near neighbour
hood of Beltran and his cousin. They, grown care
less, as custom encourages, always gave her some-
thing to weep over. Then for a time she
avoided them, only to return again to her foolish
habit of inquiry.
Agueda grew deathly in pallor, and thin and
weary looking. Her face had lost its brightness.
Gaze where she would, she saw nothing upon her
horizon but dark and lowering clouds. Sometimes
she opened her drawer to look for a moment at the
sewing, discarded now these many weeks, but she
did no more than glance at it. "It will not be
needed," she said to herself, with prophetic deter
She might have said with Mildred: "I was so
young. I loved him so. I had no mother. God
forgot me, and I fell." As for pardon, Agueda
did not think of that. Consciously she had com
mitted no sin.
Not that she ever argued the matter out with
herself. She would never have thought of continu
ing Mildred's plaint, and saying, "There may be
pardon yet," although she felt, if she did not give
expression to the feeling in words, "All's doubt
beyond. Surely, the bitterness of death is past."
There could be no "blot on the escutcheon" of
Agueda. She had no escutcheon, as had Brown
ing's heroine, though perhaps some drops of blood
as proud coursed through her veins. She was not
introspective. She did not reason nor argue with
herself about Beltran's treatment of her. It was
only that suddenly the light had become darkness,
the sun had grown black and cold. There was no
more joy in life, everything had finished for her.
Truly, the bitterness of death was past.
There came an evening when there were mutter-
ings up among the hills. The lightning pranked
gayly about the low-hanging clouds. Occasionally
a report among the far-distant peaks broke the phe
Felisa lounged within the hammock which swung
across the veranda corner. It was very dark, the
only lights being those gratuitous ones displayed by
the cucullas as they flew or walked about by twos
or threes. At each succeeding flash of lightning
Felisa showed increased nervousness. Her hand
sought Beltran's, and he took it in his and held it
"See, Felisa! I will get the guitar, and we will
sing. We have not sung of late."
Felisa clasped her hands across her eyes and burst
into tears. Beltran was kneeling at her feet in an
"What is it, my Heart? What is it? Do not
"I am afraid, afraid!" sobbed Felisa. "All is
so mysterious. There are queer noises in the
ground! Hear those hissing, rushing sounds!
Cousin! cousin! What is it?"
"You are nervous, little one. We often have
such storms in the mountains. It may not come
this way at all. See, here is the guitar."
He patted the small fingers lying within his own,
then stretched out his hand for the guitar, hanging
near. He swept his fingers across the strings.
"What shall we sing?" he asked, with a smile in
his voice. Volatile as a child, believing that which
she wished to believe, Felisa sat upright at the first
strain of music. She laughed, though the drops
still stood upon her cheeks, and hummed the first
line of "La Verbena de la Paloma. "
"I will be Susana," she said, "and you shall be
Julian. Come now, begin! 'Y a los toros de cara-
banchel,' " she hummed.
The faint light from the lantern hanging in the
comidor showed to Felisa the look in Beltran's eyes
as he bent toward her.
"I do not like you, my little Susana," he said,
bending close to her shoulder, "because you flout
me, and flirt with me, and break my poor heart all
to little bits. Still, we will sing together once
"Once more? Why do you say once more,
cousin?" asked Felisa, apprehensively. A shadow
had settled again over her face.
"Did I? I do not know. Come now, begin."
His voice was lowered almost to a whisper, as he
sang the first lines of the seductive, monotonous
little Spanish air. The accompaniment thrilled
softly from the well-tuned strings.
" Donde vas con manton manila,
Donde vas con vestido chine","
Her high soprano answered him:
" A lucirme y d ver la verbena,
Y d meterme en la cama despues."
" Porque* no has venido conmigo
Cuando tanto te lo supliqueV'
" 'Lo sup li que,' " he repeated, with slow
Felisa laughed, shook her head coquettishly, and
answered as the song goes.
"'Quien es ese chico tan guapo,'
sang Julian. Who is he, little Felisa? Is there any
whom I need fear?" He dropped his hand from
the strings, and seized the small one so near his
"I know a great many young men, cousin, but I
will not own that there is a guapo among them.
And this I tell you now, that I shall go to la Ver-
bena with whom I will, if ever I return to Sunny
" Y a los toros de carabanchel,"
she sang again defiantly, her thin head-notes rising
high and clear. Was there no memory in Bel-
tran's mind for the contralto voice which had
sung the song so often on that very spot a voice
so incomparably sweeter that he who had heard
the one must wonder how Beltran could tolerate
Agueda was seated half-way down the veranda
alone. She could not sit with them, nor did she
wish to, nor was she accustomed to companionship
with the serving class. She endeavoured to deafen
her ears to the sound of their voices. She would
have gone to her own room and closed the door, but
it was nearer their seclusion than where she sat at
present, and then the air of the room was stifling
on this sultry night. She glanced down toward
the river, where the dark water rolled on through
savannas to the great bay a sea in itself. She
could distinguish nothing; all was black in that
blackest of nights. She dared not go forth, for she
felt that the storm must soon burst. She sat, her
head drooped dejectedly, her hands lying idly in
her lap. Uncle Adan joined her, the lantern in his
hand showing her dimly his short, dark form. The
manager looked sourly at his niece, and cast an
angry glance in the direction of the two at the cor
ner of the casa. He had suddenly awakened to the
fact that Agueda's kingdom was slipping from her
grasp, and if from hers, then from his also. Should
this northern Sefiorita come to be mistress here at
San Isidro, what hold had he, or even Agueda her
self, over its master? He spoke almost roughly to
"Go you and join them," he said. "Go where
by right you belong."
Agueda did not look at him. She shook her
head, and drooped it on her breast. A sudden
flash of lightning made the place as bright as day.
Uncle Adan caught a glimpse of that at the further
corner which made him rage inwardly.
"Did you see that?"- he whispered.
"No," said Agueda. "I see nothing."
"I have no patience with you," said Uncle
Adan. He could have shaken her, he was so angry.
"Had you remained with them, as is your right,
some things would not have happened."
He left her and went hurriedly toward the
stables. Presently he returned. Agueda was
aware of his presence only when he touched her.
"The storm will be here before long, " he said.
"Can you get him away without her? Anything
to be rid of those northern interlopers."
"What do you mean?"
"Call him away, draw him off. Tell him to
come to the rancho that I wish to see him about
preparations as to their safety. Get him away on any
pretext. Leave the others here with no one to ' '
"It is not necessarily a flood, " said the girl, with
a strange, new, wicked hope springing up within
"It will be a flood," said Uncle Adan. "It is
breaking even now at Point Galizza. "
For answer Agueda arose.
"Good girl! You are going, then, to tell him "
"Yes, to tell him "
"Call him away! .1 will saddle the horses. I
will have the grey at the back steps in five minutes.
Tell him that Don Silencio has need of him."
"If the Don Silencio's own letter would not "
"The grey can carry double. You can ride with
him. I will go ahead. The flood is coming. It
is near. I know the signs."
Agueda drew away from the hand which Uncle
Adan laid upon her wrist.
"Let me go, uncle," she said.
Uncle Adan released her.
"The flood will last but a day or two," he whis
pered in her ear, "but it will be a deep one. All
the signs point to that. We have never had such
a one ; but after Agueda, after there will be no
one to interfere with you with me, if "
Agueda allowed him to push her on toward the
end of the veranda, where the two were still sing
ing in a desultory way.
"I shall warn them," she said.
"Him!" said Uncle Adan, in a tone of dictation.
"I shall warn them," again said Agueda, as if
she had not spoken before.
"Fool!" shouted Uncle Adan, as he dashed
down the veranda steps and ran toward the stables.
"And the forest answered 'fool!' '
Agueda heard hurrying footsteps from the inner
side of the veranda. Men were running toward
the stables. She drew near to Beltran. The faint
light of the lantern in the comidor told her where
the two forms still sat, though it showed her little
else. She laid her hand upon his shoulder, but she
laid it also upon a smaller, softer one than her own.
The hand was suddenly withdrawn, as Felisa gave
an apprehensive little scream.
"What do you want?" asked Beltran impatiently,
who felt the warring of two souls through those
"You must come at once," said Agueda, with
decision. "The storm will soon burst."
"Nonsense! We have had many sultry nights
like this. Where do you get your information?"
"My uncle Adan says that the storm will soon
burst. He has gone to saddle the horses."
Felisa gave a cry of fear.
Beltran turned with rage upon Agueda. A flash
of lightning showed her the anger blazing in his
eyes. It also disclosed to her gaze Felisa cowering
close to him.
"How dare you come here frightening the child?
Your uncle has his reasons, doubtless, for what he
says. As for me, I am perfectly convinced that
there will be no storm that is, no flood."
"I beg of you, come!" urged Agueda.
"Oh, cousin! What will become of us? Why
does that girl fear the storm so?"
"There will be no storm, vida mia, and if there
is, has not the casa stood these many years?
Agueda knows that as well as I."
Agueda withdrew a little, she stood irresolute.
She heard the sound of horses' feet, she heard
Uncle Adan calling to her. She heard Don Noe"
calling to Eduardo Juan to bring a light, and not
be so damned long about it. Old Juana called,
"'Gueda, 'Gueda, honey! come! Deyse deat' in
de air! 'Gueda!"
There was a sudden rush of hoofs across the
potrero, and then the despairing wail from Palan-
drez, "Dey has stampeded!" She heard without
hearing. She remembered afterward, during that
last night that she was to inhabit the casa, that all
these sounds had passed across almost unheeding
ears. She ran again to Don Beltran.
"Come! Come, Beltran, dear Beltran," she said.
"The river is upon us!"
She wrung her hands helplessly. It seemed to
her as if Beltran had lost his power of reasoning.
"How dare she call you Beltran?" said Felisa.
There came a crash which almost drowned the
sound of her voice, then a scream from Felisa,
intense and shrill. Agueda heard Beltran's voice,
first in anger, then soothing the terrified girl again,
shouting for horses, and above it all, she heard the
water topple over the embankment, and the swash
of the waves against the foundations of the casa.
She ran hurriedly and brought the lantern which
hung within the comidor. When Felisa opened her
eyes, and looked around her at the waste of waters,
she shrieked again.
"How dare you bring that light? Put it out!"
"We must see to get to the roof," answered
Agueda, with determination.
"The roof! The water is not deep. See, Felisa,
it is only a foot deep. The grey can carry you and
me with safety."
"Does not the Senor know that the horses have
stampeded?" said Agueda. "Our only hope of
safety now lies upon the roof. We must get to
the roof. See how the water is already getting
And now, Agueda, her listlessness gone, ran into
the casa and seized upon what she knew was neces
sary for a night in the open air. Beltran followed
her into the hall. He laid his hand upon her
shoulder, and shook her angrily. His judgment
seemed to have deserted him.
"Why did you not warn us?" he said. "Was it
a part of your plan to to ' '
"My plan!" said Agueda. "Have I not begged
you? I could have gone Uncle Adan told me '
Beltran seized the lantern and ran out and along
the veranda to where Felisa stood clinging to the
pilotijo. She was crying wildly.
As Beltran approached, the light of his lantern
revealed to Felisa more fully the horror of her sur
roundings. A fierce wind had arisen in a moment,
and was beating and threshing the trees, flail-like,
downward upon the encroaching river. Felisa
turned upon Beltran in fury. She pointed with
tragic earnestness to the waters which now sur
rounded the casa, and which had assumed the pro
portions of a lake. A thin stream was reaching,
reaching over from the edge of the veranda; its
searching point wetted her shoe.
"You should have told me that such things hap
pen in this barbarous place! You pretend to love
me, and to keep me with you, you keep me ignorant
of my danger, and now I must die. I must be
drowned far away from my home in a savage land,
all because you pretend that you love me! Oh,
God! I am so young to die! So young to die!"
Beltran enfolded the girl in his arms.
"You shall not die. There is no danger of dying.
We will go up on the roof. See! here are the
steps. You will behold a wonderful sight to-night.
You will laugh at your fears to-morrow."
Beltran urged her toward the ladder as he spoke.
"Agueda and I have spent more than one night
up there, have we not, Agueda? She will tell you
that there is nothing to fear. Agueda, tell my
cousin that there is nothing to fear."
"I did not know what there was to fear," said
Agueda in a low voice.
Felisa was crying bitterly, as Beltran aided her
up the lower steps of the ladder. Agueda followed
Beltran and Felisa. She carried some heavy
wraps, and struggled up the steep incline unaided.
Arrived upon the roof, she found the cousins stand
ing together, Beltran' s arm cast protectingly round
the trembling girl, her eyes hid against his breast.
"My cousin is nervous," said he, in a half apolo
getic tone ; for though his intimacy with Felisa had
passed the highest water-mark, where cousinship
ends and love begins, he had not obtruded his
actions or words upon Agueda's notice. But now
as he felt the shaking of Felisa's young form against
his own, suddenly he seemed to throw off all reserve.
"Vida mia!" he said. "Vida mia! look up,
speak to me. Do look. See that faint light in
the east ! The moon will soon rise. It is a beau
tiful sight. The water will go down in a few hours.
You will laugh at your fears to-morrow, child.
These floods do not last long, do they, Agueda?
When was the last one? Do you remember,
"Yes, I remember," answered Agueda.
"Come, then, and tell her. You can comfort
her if you tell her how little there is to fear."
"I do not think that I shall comfort her," said
Agueda. She glanced at the refuge behind the
chimney, and then back at Beltran. "It was one
long year ago," she said.
He turned away. "Come, Felisa, " he said.
"There is shelter from this wind behind the old
He guided her along the slight slope of the roof.
The wind was rising higher with every moment.
It howled down from the hills; it bent and slashed
at the treetops; it caught Felisa's filmy gauzes and
whirled them upward and about her head.
Beltran half turned to Agueda.
"Give me the cloak," he said. He took it from
her and enveloped Felisa in it, then led her to the
safe shelter of the broad old chimney. Behind it
was a figure upon his knees. It was Don Noe\ He
was praying with the fervour of the death-bed
Felisa, with a return of her flippant manner,
"The truly pious are also unselfish, papa. Give
us a little shelter from this searching wind."
"Oh, do not! Do not! If I move, I shall fall!
You will push me off!" and Don Noe continued
petitioning Heaven in his own behalf.
Agueda was left standing in the centre of the
roof. Palandrez and Eduardo Juan, who had fol
lowed the Sefiores to this their only refuge, were
lying flat upon their faces. They held a lantern
between them a doubtful blessing, in that it illu
mined with faint ray the gloom and horror below,
but it told so little that the possibility seemed more
dreadful than the reality was at the moment.
"Lay down, Seno'it' 'Gueda, " called Eduardo
Juan. "Lay yo' body down."
A sudden gust of wind forced Agueda to run.
She guided herself to the chimney, and was held
against it. Her garments fluttered round its cor
ners, striking Beltran in the face with sharp slaps
and cracks. She could not intrude upon that shel
ter. Her place was now upon the hither side. She
threw herself flat upon her face, as Palandrez had
suggested, her head above the ridge pole, her feet
extended down the slight incline, and clutched at a
staple in the roof, placed securely there for just
such a night as this.
There were no stars; there was no moon. Yet
it must rise soon.
Suddenly the lantern was overturned and its light
extinguished, making more ominous the sound of
water rising, rising, rising! It lapped and played
about the pilotijos. It must be half-way up the
veranda posts by now. It eddied round the corners
of the casa. It forced its way through the weak
places. One could hear it tearing and ripping at
unstable portions of the house, as it flowed through
the interior. Grinding noises were heard, as great
roots and trunks of trees were borne and swayed
by the flood against the walls. They piled them
selves up at the southern end, remaining thus for a
short, unsteady moment, and then, overpowered
by the rush and force of water, they parted com
pany, some to hasten along on one side of the casa,
and some on the other.
Suddenly Agueda was conscious of something
creeping against her foot. It was cold! Good
God! It was wet! The sole of her shoe was
soaked; the river had reached even there. She
heard the licking of those hungry lips which
were ready to drink in the helpless souls stranded
at their mercy. This was indeed a sudden rising!
Then there was no hope. She wondered how
long it would be before Beltran would learn the
fact, and what he would do when the truth came
to him. She drew herself up by the iron staple
and curled her body half way round the chimney.
Her ear touched the ruffles of Felisa's gown.
She heard a tender voice speaking much as it had
to her a year ago.
"Come closer," it said. "Do not fear. I am
"Beltran!" she called. "Beltran!"
"Who calls me?" came his voice from out the
blackness. "You, Agueda?"
"Yes, it is I, Agueda. The river is rising very
high. It has come up quickly. I felt it against
my foot. Can you not try to catch some tree or
"Oh, God! Oh, God! Save me!" It wasFelisa's
voice. "Why did I ever come to this accursed
island? Why, oh, why? How dared you tell me
that I was safe! Safe with you? Oh, my God!
Safe with you! Are you greater than God? If He
cannot save me, can you?"
As Felisa shrieked these words, which were
almost drowned by the sound of the swiftly
rushing waters, she raised her small fist and
struck at Beltran. The jewels on her fingers cut
His musical voice, patient and still tender, an
swered as if to a naughty child.
"Careful! you will throw yourself off! Agueda,
why must you come here frightening my cousin?
When the moon rises she will see the falseness of
As if to convict him out of his own mouth, the
moon suddenly shone through a rift in the black
clouds which edged the horizon. It discovered to
Agueda Felisa clasped to a resting-place that was
her own by right. It showed her Beltran holding
the little form in his arms, as once he had held her
own. It showed her Beltran covering the blonde
head with passionate kisses, as once he had covered
her darker one.
Agueda clutched the chimney for support. Death
was no worse than this.
Felisa opened her trembling lids and gazed
abroad on the expanse of waters. Wail after wail
issued from her white lips and mingled with the
wind that blew wantonly the tendrils of her hair.
She struck Beltran in the face again, she pushed
him from her with the fury of a maniac.
Great trees and branches were pounding against
the roof. The peons had climbed to the highest
point, and now, as a trunk came tearing down
toward them, with a pitying glance at those they
left behind, and a chuckle at their own presence of
mind, they caught at it, and were whirled away to
death or to succour.
Don Noe", ever on the watch, with face thin and
fierce, with nostrils extended and eyes wild and
staring, peered round the chimney where he hung
in prayerful terror. His resolution was made in
one of those sudden moments of decision that
come to the weakest. Watching his chance, he
sprang and clutched at the giant as it came bobbing
and wobbling by, and in company with Palandrez
and Eduardo Juan, he floated away from his late
Agueda, left alone upon her side of the roof,
crouched, looking ever toward the south, searching
for a cask, a boat, a tree, a plank, a piece of house-
hold furniture, anything by which she might hold
and save her life and Beltran's. Not Felisa's; that
she could not do, even though Beltran loved her.
Until now Agueda had thought that she longed
for death; but the instinct of self-preservation is
strong, and she could hardly comprehend her newly
awakened desire to seize upon some sort of floating
thing which might mean safety for herself. She
stood gazing over the broad expanse of water. It
had become a sea. The face of nature was changed.
The position of the river bank was discernible only
from the waving line of branches which testified
where their trunks stood. There were one or two
oases whose tops showed still above the surface of
the stretching, reaching flood. Agueda thought
that she could discern some one in a treetop near
the hill rancho. She wondered if it could be Uncle
Adan. She thought that she heard a shout. She
tried to answer, but the weak sound of her voice
was forced back into her throat. It would not
carry against the force of the wind. No other land
nearer than the heights of Palmacristi was to be
seen. The horses and cattle must have perished.
It had indeed become, as Uncle Adan had warned
her, a greater flood than the country had ever
known. To add to the unspeakable gloom of the
scene, the clouds parted wider and allowed the
moon to sparkle more fully upon the boiling water
below and the trees and branches as they rolled and
As Agueda stood and gazed up the stream, sud
denly, from out the perspective of the moon-flecked
tide, a little craft came sailing down a tiny thing
that seemed to have been set upon the waste of
waters by some pitying hand. She watched it
with eager eyes, as it floated onward. Her body
swayed unconsciously with each change in its course
or pointing of its bow to right, to left, as if she feared
that it would escape her anxious hand. Fate
drifted it exactly across the thatch at the south end
of the roof. On it came, and was driven to her
very feet. Here was succour! Here was help! She
could save herself, unwatched, unknown, of those
others behind the shelter there, and float away to
the chance of rescue. Agueda stepped ankle-deep
in the water, and stooping, held in frenzied clutch
this gift of the gods.
"The little duck boat of Felipe," she exclaimed,
as she drew it toward her. "The little duck boat
Beltran had arisen as he heard the boat grate
against the roof. He stepped cautiously out from
behind the chimney, Felisa leaning upon him.
Agueda raised her eyes to them. She shook as if
with a chill. She was drawing the boat nearer, and
battling with the flood to keep her treasure in hand,
"Agueda," called Beltran. "Take her with you.
Her weight is slight."
Felisa raised her head from his shoulder, and cast
a terrified look about her. Beltran looked at
Agueda, and then down at Felisa.
"She will save you," he said.
"I will not go without you, Beltran," sobbed
Felisa. "I dare not go without you. Oh! come
with me ! That girl of yours, that Agueda, I dare
not go with her! She hates me! She will kill
When Beltran had said, "She will save you,"
Agueda had begun to draw the skiff nearer to him.
She moved with great care, that the flood might
not wrench from her this treasure trove.
"It is true that I hate you," said Agueda, in a
hard, cold voice, as she brought the boat to Felisa's
feet, "but I will not kill you." She pushed the
tiny craft nearer to Felisa. "Take your place,"
said she. "I will hold it steady."
"I will not go without you," again shrieked
Felisa, turning to Beltran. "I dare not go with
out you. Oh, Agueda! dear Agueda! You do
not care to live. What have you to live for?
"True," said Agueda. "Will the Senorita take
Felisa still held to Beltran 's hand.
"I will not go alone," she said. "Come with
me, dear love! Come with me; I cannot live with
"There is not room for all," said Beltran, glan
cing, as he spoke, at Agueda. "At least, Felisa, we
can die together."
Ever changeable, and suddenly angered at this,
Felisa again struck at Beltran, and tried with her
small strength to thrust him aside, so that his foot
ing was imperilled. Agueda turned pale as she
saw his danger. Beltran laughed nervously, and
seized with firmer grasp the staple buried in the
"And do you think that will compensate me?"
screamed Felisa. "Do you think that I shall wel
come death because I may die in your company?
I tell you, I will not die. I love all the pleasant
things of life I love myself, my pretty self. I am
meant for life and love and warmth, not cold and
death. There is not a human being who could
reconcile me to death. Oh, my God! and such a
Felisa screamed hysterically. She sobbed and
choked, and amid her shrieks were heard the dis
jointed words, "I will not die!"
In her frenzy the fastening at her throat gave
way, and Agueda caught sight of the. diamond
pendant at her neck. Agueda, with her eyes on
Beltran, nodded her head toward the boat, as if to
say, "Do as she asks." When she spoke, she
"I will hold it steady, as steady as I can."
Felisa cast another horrified look around her upon
the moonlit, shoreless sea.
"Oh, God!" she sobbed, as holding frantically to
Beltran' s hand, she stepped into the boat. She
drew him toward her, so that he could with diffi
culty resist the impelling of her hand. Beltran
tried to release his fingers from the grasp of Felisa.
He turned to Agueda, and motioned toward the
one hope of succour.
She shook her head.
"I cannot hold it long," she said.
"Beltran! Beltran!" sobbed Felisa.
The boat pulled and jerked like a race horse.
Even Felisa's slight weight made a marked differ
ence in its buoyancy.
Agueda's position was made the more unstable
by her skirt, which fluttered in the wind.
"I can hold it but a second more," she said.
She was still stooping, holding the boat in as firm
a grasp as her footing would allow.
Beltran stood irresolute, wavering.
"I cannot leave you here, Agueda, to die per
haps for her for me."
"I died long weeks ago," she muttered, more to
herself than to him, and motioned again with her
head toward the boat.
The water was rushing past them. It was ankle-
deep now. Agueda steadied herself more firmly
against the chimney.
Felisa, shivering with fright, stretched out her
arms appealingly to Beltran, her cheeks streaming
with tears. Beltran glanced at Agueda, with a look
that was half beseeching, half apologetic, as if to
forestall the contempt which he knew that she must
feel for him, and stepped into the boat. His
weight tore it from Agueda's grasp. It began to
float away, but before it had passed a span from
where Agueda stood alone, he turned and shouted,
"Come! Agueda, come! Throw yourself in, I can
Ah! that was all that she cared to hear. It
was the old voice. It sank into her heart and gave
her peace. For in that flash of sudden and over
whelming remorse which is stronger than death,
Beltran had seen that which he had not noticed
before, the sad change in her girlish figure. Felisa
clung to him, threatening to upset the skiff. He
thrust her from him. "Come!" again he shouted,
"Come!" He stretched out his arms to Agueda,
but as the words left his lips he was whirled from
In that supreme moment Beltran caught the
motion of her lips. "My love!" they seemed to
say, and still holding to the staple with one hand,
she raised the other toward him, in good-by
perhaps perhaps in blessing.
Agueda kept her gaze fixed upon the little speck,
shrinking involuntarily when she saw some great
trunk endanger its buoyancy.
The boat was drifting swiftly along in the waters
now, and in that mad rush to the sea Beltran
strained his eyes ever backward to catch the faint
motion of that fluttering garment in its wave of
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