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Full text of "San Isidro"

JNIVERSITY OF CA RIVERSIDE. LIBRARY 




3 1210018387660 



vr , i , /^ -- - : 



SAN ISIDRO 



Mrs. Schuyler Crowninshield 





LIBRARY 

UflfVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
RIVERSIDE 





A 



SAN ISIDRO 



SAN ISIDRO 



BY 






"Mrs. Schuyler Crowninshield 




HERBERT S. STONE &f COMPANY 

CHICAGO & NEW YORK 

MDCCCC 




COPYRIGHT 1899 BY 
HERBERT S. STONE & CO. 



TO 

C. S. C. 

A MEMORY OF "LA MADRUGADA 



SAN ISIDRO* 



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 
the sea. 

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. 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
stay." 

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 
stayed." 

"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, 



SAN ISIDEO 

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 

3 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

4 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 

"Why, mother?" 

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 
me." 

5 



SAN ISIDRO 

"Yes, mother." 

"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 
gently. 

"To San Isidro," Nada had answered from stiff 
lips. 

<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 

6 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Isidro. 

"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 
7 



SAN ISIDRO 

some plain, honest man a man of our peo 
ple, Agueda but do not trust " 

"Who are our people, mother?" the girl had 
interrupted. 

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 
grey eyes. 

"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, 
Nada." 

"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 

8 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
some " 

"Water, Seflor? Yes, I have not forgotten 
that." 

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- 
atriz." 

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 

9 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
his face. 

"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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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- 
ran. 

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- 



SAN ISIDRO 

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!" 

12 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
ber that?" 

"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 

13 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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, 



SAN ISIDRO 

carrying heavy missiles on its strong wings. At 
this Beltran's face showed for the first time some 
uneasiness. 

He was peering out from behind his stone bul 
wark. 

"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. 

16 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

17 



SAN ISIDRO 

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- 
18 



SAN ISIDRO 

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, 

'9 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
betray you." 

30 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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. 



II 



"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 

22 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
bride. 

"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 

23 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

24 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

2 5 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
weight. 

"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 
tell him. 

"Youah neva fin youah roaad in dis yer fawg, " 
squeaked Juana. 

"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 

36 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
loved. 

"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. 

27 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

28 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

29 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
ward. 

"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 
Senor knows." 

3 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
caust. 

"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 
strides. 

"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 
alone." 

"El Caballo Castano, Senorit'," said Natalio, 
suggestively, approaching nearer. 

"Would you saddle him, Natalio?" asked 
31 



SAN ISIDRO 

Agueda, thinking this an excellent change of pro 
gramme. 

"It would give me pleasure, Senorit'," said 
Natalio. 

Agueda turned and began to walk rapidly down 
the hill. 

"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 
off. 

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 

32 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Isidro?" 

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 
San Isidro." 

"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. 

33 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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, 
Agueda?" 

"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 
not? Palmacristi?" 

"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 
the chamber. 

"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 

34 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
again. 

"He has gone," said Raquel, "and I am locked 
in the house alone. All the servants have gone to 
the fair." 

"You can climb down," said Agueda. "It is 
not high." 

"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 
face. 

"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. 

35 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
Agueda. 

"Thank you, dear," she said. "I should like to 
kiss you." 

"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 
out." 

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 
before. 

Agueda rode along her way with quick gait. 
The plantation of Palmacristi was some miles far- 

36 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

37 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

*Cock-fight. 

38 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
beach. 

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 

39 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
dismount." 

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 
sage." 

4 o 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 " 

"To?" 

"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, 
gravely. 

4 1 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 



Ill 

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 

43 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

44 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
blowing it. 

"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 

45 



SAN ISIDEO 

was shaking out its words from the centre of this 
woodland extravaganza. 

"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 
again. 

"What is it, Gremo?" she asked. "I see noth- 
ing." 

"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 
chacho." 

"The hand of a Senor? And what is the hand 

*Lad. 

4 6 



SAN ISIDRO 

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, 
still puzzled. 

"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 
lights?" 

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 

47 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

4 8 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
of loveliness. 

"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 

49 



SAN ISIDRO 

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?" 
asked she. 

"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 

50 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
of speech. 

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 

5 1 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Agueda. 

"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 

52 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Agueda. 

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 
vent " 

"Leave it to me, Senorita. I promise that I will 
attend to it to-morrow. I " 

"And why not to-day?" 
53 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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. 

54 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

55 



SAN ISIDRO 

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- 
keeper?" 

"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?" 

56 



SAN ISIDRO 

. 

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 
longer. 

"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 
countenance. 

* Merchant ship. 

57 



SAN ISIDRO 

^ 

"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?" 

Agueda flushed. 

"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 
58 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 



59 



IV 

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 
60 



SAN ISIDRO 

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, 
Sefiorita?" 

"I told my uncle. He was here but now. Oh! 
dear Ana, I am so tired of this hot house. I long 

61 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
would be. 

"You had better put on your slipper, said the 
prudent Ana. "You will wear out your stockings 
else." 

"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 
62 



SAN ISIDRO 

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." 

Ana arose. 

"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- 

63 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
veranda?" 

"He would let you go anywhere if you would 
promise not to speak to the Sefior Silencio," said 
Ana. 

"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 
Rojas?" 

6 4 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
said. 

"Where is that girl, Raquel?" 

"The Senorita is also here, Senor," answered 
Ana. 

The door was flung open. 

"Pack her duds," said Escobeda. "She leaves 
this by evening." 

65 



SAN ISIDRO 

"/ 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." 

Ana trembled in every limb. She arose to 
obey. Raquel threw herself on the bare floor at 
Escobeda's feet. 

"Oh, uncle!" she said. "What have I done to 
be sent away? Will you not tell me where I am 
going?" 

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 
away!" 

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 
66 



SAN ISIDRO 

game. Get her ready, Ana; we start this after 
noon." 

"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 
summons myself." 

As he was passing through the doorway, Raquel 
said, despairingly: 

"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 

67 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

68 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
pale. 

"She never does, Sefior," she answered, stifling 
her sobs. 

69 



SAN ISIDEO 

"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 
Raquel, scornfully. 

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." 

70 



SAN ISIDEO 

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 
long enough." 

"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." 

71 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
cruel atmosphere. 

"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." 

*Mountebank. 



72 



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 
ing. 

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 

73 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
the veranda. 

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 
horse?" 

"You can go round to the back, where Aneta is, 
then," answered the Senora, without rising. "She 

74 



SAN ISIDRO 

is washing her dishes, and it is not you who shall 
disturb her." 

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," 



75 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Agueda. 

"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 

76 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Agueda. 

"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 
midday meal. 

"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 
explanation. 

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." 
77 



SAN ISIDRO 

Aneta took up the pot to pour out a second 
cup. ^ 

"And who told you that you might give my food 
away?" 

The voice was the fat voice of the Senora. She 
had exerted ^herself sufficiently to come to the 
kitchen door. 

"Pardon, Senora!" said Agueda. Her face 
expressed the astonishment thai she felt. She 
unconsciously continued to eat the round of cas 
sava bread. 

"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 
the Senora. 

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 
the Senora. 

78 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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- 
79 



SAN ISIDRO 

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," 
said Aneta. 

"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. 
80 



SAN ISIDRO 



"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 
double?" 

"Why, Aneta, I suppose he will. I never tried 
him." 

"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 
81 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Agueda. 

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 
estate." 

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?" 

82 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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* 
rancho. 

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 
voice. 

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 
voice again. 

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 

83 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
find her." 

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 
breast. 

Aneta stooped down towards the floor. 

"Have you anything to play with, El Rey?" she 
asked. 

"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. 
8 4 



SAN ISIDRO 

"Would you like to ride the pretty little horse, 
El Rey?" 

The child walked slowly to the door and peered 
wistfully out. 

"El Rey would like to ride; but Roseta might 
come." 

"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 
moist. 

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 
ledge?" 

"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. 

85 



SAN ISIDRO 

If the Senoritas talk I cannot hear if any one 
comes." 

"But must we lock the door?" asked Agueda. 

"Is that what Andres wishes?" asked Aneta. 

"If you please, Senorita; put the key on the 
window ledge." 

"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 
away footstep. 



86 



VI 

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. 
87 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
were married." 

Agueda blushed. 

"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 
ing down. 

"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 

88 



SAN ISIDRO 

to fall in with his own, he took them good- 
naturedly. 

"Do you know, Agueda, " he said presently, 
looking steadily at her, "that you are better born 
than I?" 

"What does the Senor mean?" laughed Agueda. 

"The Senor?" 

"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 
more so? 

"Did the Senor enjoy his sail across the bay?" 
asked Agueda. 

"It was well enough, child. I got the draft 
89 



SAN ISIDRO 

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." 

90 



SAN ISIDRO 

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- 
ingly : 

"A little child? Let me think, Senor." 

"Ah!" 

"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 
91 



SAN ISIDRO 

the bulls, and punting on the river in the flatboat, 
and the little chestnut she can ride Castano, the 
little thing!" 

"Not the chestnut; I trained him for you, 
Agueda, child." 

"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 
affectations, delightful." 

"A little child in the house ! A little child in the 
house, " murmured Agueda over and over to herself. 

92 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Beltran. 

"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!" 



93 



VII 

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 
once." 

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 

94 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 
95 



SAN ISIDRO 

again. A step was heard approaching from an inner 
room. 

"Entra!" called a voice from within, but louder 
than before. 

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 

96 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 



SAN IS1DRO 

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- 
cristi." 

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 
waited. 

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 
98 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
doorway. 

"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 
tiently : 

"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 
said : 

"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 

99 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
outward. 

"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, 



SAN ISIDRO 

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!" 

101 



SAN ISIDRO 

''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." 

"And said?" 

"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?" 

" 'That truhan!' I pray the Don Gil forgive me; 
the Don Gil make me " 

Silencio's face had flushed darkly. 

"Continue." 

Rotiro, embarrassed beyond measure, forgot what 
he had learned by fair means and what by foul, and 
blundered on. 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
of it." 

"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 " 

"Rotiro!" 

103 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

104 



SAN ISIDEO 

that I gave you a ching-ching. I should have said 
No." 

"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 
ner. 

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 
more." 



105 



VIII 

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 
of events. 

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 
help me?" 

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. 

106 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
from fright. 

"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?" 
roared Escobeda. 

"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?" 

107 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
dered. 

"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 
angry tones. 

"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?" 

108 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
much force. 

"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. 
109 



SAN ISIDRO 

"Perhaps I do, uncle. At all events, she is not 
here." 

"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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
her. 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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." 

"Oh, uncle!" 

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. 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
dark " 

"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 " 

113 



SAN ISIDRO 

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, 
the" 

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. ' ' 

u 4 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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." 

"5 



SAN ISIDRO 

At this heavy steps were heard coming along the 
corridor. The door was burst open with a blow of 
Escobeda's fist. 

"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 
Raquel. 

"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," 
said Escobeda. 

"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- 
116 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
the outside. 

"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 
Raquel. 

"Do not ask me, child; just hateful words, that 
is all." 

Raquel put her young arms round Ana's old thin 
shoulders. 

"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- 

117 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
him" 

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 
118 



SAN ISIDRO 

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." 



119 



IX 

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 

120 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
any house? 

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 
Smit'. 

"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. 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
counting-house. 

"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 
this." 

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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
services are." 

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 
re-perusal. 

"It pays me better to sell her to him than to give her to 
you." 

123 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Escobeda." 

"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 

124 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
life. 

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 

125 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

126 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

127 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
entrance. 

"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 
128 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

129 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
exultation. 

"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 

130 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
banana cutting. 

"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?" 
132 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
pose?" 

"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 
133 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
rugated bark. 

"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 
child. 

"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. 



SAN ISIDRO 

"They always tell me that. Mariana, mafiana; 
always 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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

136 



SAN ISIDRO 

of the evening to come mapped out like a plan of 
campaign. 

"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. 

'37 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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. 



'38 



X 

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 
ated. 
"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 
steps. 

"It is too far for him, Andres. Stay with me, 
El Rey." 

The child looked wistfully up at Andres. 

"Andres will carry El Rey. Perhaps we shall 
find Roseta at the place where Andres goes to 
shoot." 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
voice. 

"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 
ocean cliff. 

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 

140 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
himself. 

"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 
once." 

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 

141 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
desirable sleepmate. 

"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 

142 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
typed phrase: 

"Ah! There is the Palmacristi lantern bidding 
us Godspeed." 

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 

43 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
ward. 

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 
man. 

' ' 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." 

144 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Saltona. 

The savory meal was ended. The night was 
warm and close. 

"Let us sit upon the veranda and enjoy our 
cigarillos, padre." 

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 " 

145 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
to hark!" 

"You are restless, Gil." 

"It is this muggy weather. There ! you certainly 
heard something?" 

"Nothing, Gil; nothing but the nightingale yon 
der." 

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." 

146 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
escence. 

"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 
cigarette. 

"How still the night! How far a sound would 
carry on a night like this." The padre had but 



SAN ISIDRO 

just uttered these words when a long, booming 
sound struck upon the listening as well as the 
unexpectant ear. 

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 

148 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
securely. 

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 
vessel. 

"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- 
149 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
itan." 

"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 
ing. 

"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 
them " 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
upon occasion. 

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 
see." 

"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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
death. 

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 

152 



SAN ISIDRO 

ever again, beloved. No, never again! You are 
mine now." 

"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 
before " 

"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, 
'53 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
allow. 

"Bribery, bribery!" said the padre in his thin 
old voice. 

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 

J54 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
her heart. 

"Stay with me, little one; I will be Roseta to 
you." 

El Rey raised his eyes to the sweet, dark face 
above him. 

"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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
red stars." 

"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- 

156 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
come. 

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 
Roseta." 

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. 



SAN ISIDRO 

''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 
propeller blades. 

Ana shrank to the size of an ant as she answered, 
her face blanching: "Indeed! yes, I do hear the 

158 



SAN ISIDRO 

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- 
cristi?" 

"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 
done." 

"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- 
ding." 



159 



XI 

It was two or three days after this that Uncle 
Adan came in toward sunset with a fine piece of 
news. 

"The Senor knows the hacienda of Palmacristi?" 
began Uncle Adan, more as a preface than as a 
question. 

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 
Beltran. 

"Only getting married, Senor," answered the old 
capitas. 

160 



SAN ISIDRO 

"I did not dream that he would do anything so 
sensible," said Don Beltran, with a glance at 
Agueda. 

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 

161 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Senor E'cobeda!" 

"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 
machete. 

"Married fast enough, Sefior Don Beltran. First 
by the padre at the hacienda, and then at the lit- 

162 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 

163 



SAN ISIDRO 

' ' 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 
Sefiora." 

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 

164 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Isidro?" 

"Yes; do you know Agueda?" As Silencio 
spoke he waved his hand to the horseman on the 
bank. 

"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 
day?" 

"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. 

165 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
Silencio, gravely. 

"Is there anything wrong with her?" asked 
Raquel, wonderingly. 

"N no, not that I know of, but she is not of 
your station." 

"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, 

166 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
steamer." 

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. 

167 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
with." 

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 

168 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
scoundrel!" 

"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, 
Beltran?" 

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 

169 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
enough." 



170 



XII 

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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
spun glass. 

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 

172 



SAN ISIDRO 

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, 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
ride abreast. 

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 

174 



SAN ISIDRO 

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, 
and laughed. 

"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 
lantly. 

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. 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 



176 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 rigolo." 

"Tres ha ha!" added Don Noe. 

"Bien ha ha!" nodded Don Beltran, not to be 
left behind. 

"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 

177 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
laughed merrily. 

"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 
ing. 

"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 

.78 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
gone." 

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. 

179 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
return his" 

"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 
her by. 

"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 
cousin." 

And thus chatting, they drew up at the steps of 
San Isidro. 

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 

180 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
moved unconsciously. 

"The diamonds, not the playthings," was her 
verdict. 

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 

181 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
toward her. 

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 

182 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Felisa. 

Beltran started. 

"Servant? Oh, you mean Agueda. She she 
is scarcely a servant, Agueda; she keeps my house 
for me." 

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 
shapely hands. 

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 

183 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
resembled. 

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 

184 



SAN ISIDRO 

can see that there are wooden shutters at the win 
dows. No one has windows on this side of the 
island." 

The tone was perhaps slightly defiant. It was 
as if Agueda had said, "What! Finding fault so 
soon?" 

"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 
speaker. 

"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 

'85 



SAN ISIDRO 

ceiling. A freshly knotted ribbon gathered its 
folds and held them together, thus keeping the 
interior free from the intrusion of annoying or 
dangerous insects. 

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 
door. 

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. 

*Servant. 

1 86 



XIII 

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 
happening now. 

Agueda looked on listlessly as Felisa's large trunk 
and basket trunk and Don Noe's various boxes and 
' 187 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

188 



SAN ISIDRO 

it a sure sign of a gentleman to travel with all the 
small pieces that he and a porter or two could carry 
between them. 

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 
truth. 

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." 

189 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
spots." 

190 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
orously. 

"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 

191 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
reason. 

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 

192 



SAN ISIDKO 

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 
before. 

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 

193 



SAN ISIDRO 

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, 
Dad?" 

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 

194 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
sunshine filtered. 

"Come in here, you wretches, both of you! 
How dare you laugh!" 



SAN ISIDRO 

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." 



196 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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- 

197 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
girl. 

"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 
stood. 

"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 



SAN ISIDRO 

placed it upon hers. It fell to her pretty pink 
ears. 

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 
Beltran. 

When the cousins reached the river, Beltran 
199 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 

200 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
large hat. 

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 

201 



SAN IS1DRO 

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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 

203 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
more sweet!" 

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 

204 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

205 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 



206 



XIV 

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 
whole. 

All had come about as Agueda had planned, 
with the exception that she herself was missing 

207 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
enough. 

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." 

208 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
remorsefully. 

"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 
209 



SAN ISIDEO 

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, 
Beltran, 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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

211 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

213 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 
214 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
head. 

"Are you, then, the father of that little El Rey?" 

Andres nodded. 

"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 



SAN 1SIDRO 

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 
importance." 

"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 
knife. 

216 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
Adan?" 

"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 
tant." 

"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 

217 



SAN ISIDRO 

pitying contempt, it is true, but none the less con 
tempt. 

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 

218 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
tone. 

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 
herself. 

"Where is the Don Beltran?" she asked of 
Palandrez. 

"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 
219 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
volubility: 

"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. 



220 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 



SAN ISIDRO 

that girl of yours, cousin, that Agueda ! What can 
she want?" 

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 
still there. 

"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- 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Agueda 

"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. 



223 



XV 

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 
last forever. 

They had been married now for two weeks, the 
Senor Don Gil and the Senora, and for the first 

224 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
good?" 

"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 

225 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
well." 

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 
beda." 

"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 
home?" 

226 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
offered it. 

"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 " 

227 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
am secure." 

"And I?" 

228 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
breast. 

"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. 

229 



SAN ISIDRO 

"Let us walk round to the counting-house," he 
said. 

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. 

230 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 

231 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
flushed. 

"Who was that, Gil that man? I did not see 
him come." 

"You have seen him go, dear Heart. Is not that 
enough?" 

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 
a pool. 

"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?" 
232 



SAN ISIDRO 

''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 
her trembled. 

"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! 
233 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
further door. 

"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 
his finger. 

"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. 

234 



"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 
nor cheered. 

"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 
her stool. 

"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 
235 



SAN ISIDBO 

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 
asked Raquel. 

"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 
side." 

"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 
able." 

"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 

236 



SAN ISIDRO 

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." 



237 



XVI 

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, 
pouting. 

"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. 

238 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Beltran. 

"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 
again." 

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. 

239 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
me " 

"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 
go to-night." 

"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 

240 



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 
you." 

"But my peons are not cut-throats, Felisa. 
241 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
242 



SAN ISIDRO 

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, 
Beltran?" 

"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 " 

243 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
me." 

A throb of joy flew upward in the heart of 
Agueda, whose nervous ear was awake now to all 
sounds. 

"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." 

244 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
ing^- 

"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. 



245 



XVII 

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 
siege. 

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." 

Raquel pouted. 

246 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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: 

247 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
tones before. 

"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 

248 



SAN ISIDRO 

hastening with all speed toward her master, but a 
point of land on the north hid her completely from 
Raquel's view. 

"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 
honeymoon." 

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' 
camino, Senor." 

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 
coffee." 

249 



SAN ISIDRO 

As he faced about a shot rang out. The bullet 
whistled near his head. 

"Go down, Sefior, for the love of God!" said 
Andres. 

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 
Silencio's sleeve. 

"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 
the Coco! 

250 



SAN ISIDRO 

''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 
kets. 

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. 

25 1 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 



252 



SAN ISIDRO 

place her feet upon a corpse, or lay her fingers on 
the fleshless bones of a skeleton. 

"Courage, my Heart! Courage! Go down! Do 
not delay." 

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 

253 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
ful words. 

"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 
moment here." 

Raquel gathered all her resolution, and without 
further question fled again upon her way. Silencio 

254 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
ened." 

At these words the changeable child again 
regained confidence. 

"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. 
Come!" 

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. 

255 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
Rey's. 

The passage was a long one. Raquel thought 
that it would never end. 

"Have we come more than two miles, Gil?" she 
asked. 

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 
opening. 

"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 
place. 

256 



SAN ISIDRO 

She took the light from him and held it as he 
directed. 

"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 
death. 

"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 

257 



SAN ISIDEO 

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?" 

"What, dearest?" 

"That! Do you not hear it? It sounds like a 
knocking behind us." 

Silencio stood still for a moment, listening to the 
sounds. 

"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 
purpose." 

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 

258 



SAN IS1DRO 

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 
boat!" 

Obeying him, she sped across the sand to the lit 
tle skiff. 

"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 
seen. 

It required a moment for the miscreants to appre 
ciate the fact that the two whom they had thought 

259 



SAN ISIDEO 

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 

260 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
casa. 

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 
much uneasiness. 

As Guillermina turned to leave the room, she 
261 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
her ear. 

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 
hips. 

262 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 

263 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
sible. 

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 
time. 

"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 
has he." 

"Ay, ay, they have flown away, flown to heaven, 
264 



SAN ISIDRO 

the Senores. The good God cares for his own. 
I wonder now who cares for the Senor Esco- 
beda!" 

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 
gentle manner. 

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 
square. 

265 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
wish." 

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 
Escobeda's Walk. 

Sometimes, when Don Gil and the little Senora sit 
and sip the straw-coloured tea at five o'clock of an 

266 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
says: 

"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." 



267 



XVIII 

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 

268 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
time." 

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 
once." 

269 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
eral responder. 

"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 
hill patch." 

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 
cacao, Pablo?" 

"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?" 

270 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
cousin." 

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 

271 



SAN ISIDRO 

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." 

272 



SAN ISIDRO 

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." 
273 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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?" 

274 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 " 

"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" 

275 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
fatuus. 

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. 

276 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 



277 



XIX 

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 
separated them. 

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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

279 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

280 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

281 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

283 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 

283 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

285 



SAN ISIDRO 

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- 

286 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
mination. 

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 

287 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 



288 



XX 

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 
nomenal stillness. 

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 
close. 

"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 
instant. 

"What is it, my Heart? What is it? Do not 
sob so." 

"I am afraid, afraid!" sobbed Felisa. "All is 
so mysterious. There are queer noises in the 

289 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
more." 

"Once more? Why do you say once more, 
cousin?" asked Felisa, apprehensively. A shadow 
had settled again over her face. 

290 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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"," 

he sang. 

Her high soprano answered him: 

" A lucirme y d ver la verbena, 
Y d meterme en la cama despues." 

Beltran resumed: 

" Porque* no has venido conmigo 
Cuando tanto te lo supliqueV' 

" 'Lo sup li que,' " he repeated, with slow 
emphasis. 

Felisa laughed, shook her head coquettishly, and 
answered as the song goes. 

Then, 

"'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 
own. 

"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- 

291 



SAN ISIDRO 

bena with whom I will, if ever I return to Sunny 

Spain." 

" 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 
the other. 

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 

292 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
Agueda. 

"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?" 
293 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
her heart. 

"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 " 

294 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
antagonistic fingers. 

"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." 

295 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 



296 



SAN ISIDRO 

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!" 
ordered Beltran. 

"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 

297 



SAN ISIDRO 

the roof. See how the water is already getting 
deeper." 

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 

298 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

299 



SAN ISIDRO 

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, 
Agueda?" 

"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 
chiminea." 

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 
300 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
repenter. 

Felisa, with a return of her flippant manner, 
laughed shrilly. 

"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 

301 



SAN ISIDRO 

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. 



302 



XXI 

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 
here." 

"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 

303 



SAN ISIDRO 

my foot. Can you not try to catch some tree or 
branch?" 

"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 lip. 

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 
your story." 

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. 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
companions. 

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- 

3S 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 

306 



SAN ISIDRO 

below and the trees and branches as they rolled and 
hastened onward. 

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 
of Felipe!" 

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, 

37 



SAN ISIDRO 

"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 
me!" 

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? 
While I" 

"True," said Agueda. "Will the Senorita take 
her place?" 

Felisa still held to Beltran 's hand. 
308 



SAN ISIDRO 

"I will not go alone," she said. "Come with 
me, dear love! Come with me; I cannot live with 
out you." 

"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 
mortar. 

"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 
death!" 

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 

309 



SAN ISIDRO 

Beltran, nodded her head toward the boat, as if to 
say, "Do as she asks." When she spoke, she 
said: 

"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 
310 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
save you!" 

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 
her presence. 

In that supreme moment Beltran caught the 
3 11 



SAN ISIDRO 

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 
farewell. 



PRINTED BY R. R. DONNELLEY 
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