Puslapio vaizdai

a certain comfort in a mere physical companionship that made no social demands upon him, and when at last he went to his room he fell asleep quickly. But long before day he awoke, and could not again call up sleep. A return of his old restlessness drove him to rise long before the hour at which he was to take his train. He went down to the patio, deserted and still in disorder after the revelry of the night, and leaving orders that his luggage be sent at once to the train, he passed through the stone archway to the street and wandered forth into the city, scarcely aware of any leading as to his direction. But when presently he came in sight of the twin towers of the church of the St. Michael rising dark against the brightening eastern sky, he knew that he had continued to cherish a hope that he had not acknowledged even to himself.

Inside the church, which after a momentary hesitation he had entered, a single candle was burning in the chancel. In the faint suffusion of light from the coming dawn it made more intense the shadowless gloom of the interior, and for a long time he stood at the door peering keenly about before a kneeling figure at the far eastern end of the church gradually took shape as merely a darker blotch on the dark stonework of the wall.

With his heart in his throat, he walked quickly toward it; but as he drew near, it rose and passed out. It was only a man in the dress of a muleteer, and with a quick falling away of all his hope, Caxton, too, went out to the porch. The figure of a woman was coming slowly across the plaza

a woman in the dress of the common people. Over her head and shoulders fell a striped rebozo, which she held close over her mouth with the native's precaution against breathing the night air; but as she drew near to the place where Caxton stood idly watching her approach, she let the rebozo fall to her shoulders. He saw a fair, delicate face, a slender, rounded neck, a small, well-shaped head carried proudly. Her eyes were downcast, and something in the rigidity of her carriage, her set lips, and the nervous tension of

her fingers as they clasped a fold of her rebozo struck him at once as signs of extreme emotion. As she slowly mounted the steps of the porch, she turned her eyes up to his face. Instantly he sprang to her side.

"You, Señorita! You!" he exclaimed. "No inglés," she said in a hoarse little voice.

He shook his head impatiently.

"Is it a time for that now?" he cried. "I know you, Señorita. I would know you at the end of the world. Speak to me!"

"No inglés," she repeated, and moved to pass him; but he caught her hand.

"Señorita," he pleaded, "I am going away in half an hour. Would you let me go without one word?"

At that she cast all pretense aside.

"Oh, the señor said he would know me, and he did!" she exclaimed, with wondering awe in her voice. "It is very wonderful. But now that he has seen my face, perhaps-perhaps-" she hesitated, looked down, and sighed deeply.

"It matches your eyes-the most wonderful eyes in the world," he declared. "Did I not say they would?"

"I came to the church alone, the first time in my life," she said hurriedly. "And like this!" She glanced down at her attire with a look half-shocked, half-mischievous. "Oh, my father is going to be angry if he hears! Perhaps he will send me to a convent. I shall know all soon. Already I am frightened."

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

He had not expected so ready a yielding, and for an instant was at a loss as all the difficulties suddenly rose to confront him. Then he laughed, facing them down. "Then come, dear Señorita," he said, "for we have n't a minute to lose."

They hurried across the plaza, taking the road to the station. Here and there an early riser had begun to appear, and Caxton knew that they were noticeable. She, too, seemed suddenly aware of this, and nervously drew her rebozo more closely about her face as she said in a low voice:

"Señor, I am frightened."

"It will soon be over," he told her. "Once on the train, we shall surely be safe. I shall take you to dear friends of mine in Havana, and they will take you to the States, where we can marry at once; or even in Havana, perhaps, though of that I am not sure. The laws-"

"The señor will know best," she said. They entered the train almost unnoticed. Francisco, the waiter, was there with Caxton's luggage.

"Francisco," said Caxton, anxiously, "if

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

the tail of his eye Caxton saw her form shrink back in the apprehension he also felt. But no one came to disturb them, and presently, with a járring clank of the couplings, the frail little car began its leisurely journey out into their new world. Their eyes met.

"Señor," she whispered, "you will be good to me? Say that you will be good to me?"

"Always, dear," he promised.

"Then nothing else matters," she said"nothing."

"Dear Señorita," he said after a long silence, "do you know, I have never even learned your name—your given name."

"Nor I the señor's," she replied. "We have much to learn."

"But it was right," he said; "there was no other way."

She looked up and smiled.

"Last night," she said, "again I could not sleep for unhappiness. It is better to die than to marry where you hate; but, Señor, I am very young and afraid to die. What was there, then, to do? And at last I knew. Do you remember how I said I could not pray in the church because I knew that the Holy Mother would not come down and lead me away with her, and nothing less would help me?" "I remember," he answered.

"It was wrong not to pray, and wicked to doubt the Holy Mother. She has her own way. I thought that this morning, and so came again to the church, but alone. And all the way I prayed for a sign. And, Señor, you were waiting there, and when you said I should go with you, I was glad, having my answer. The Holy Mother might not come herself,—she has her own way, as I said,-but was it not as if she had sent St. Michael?"



A Belgian postal card

"Chantons, Belges! Chantons!"


Author of "Young Hilda at the Wars," "Les Travailleurs de la Guerre,” etc.

ERE at home I am in a land where the wholesale martyrdom of Belgium is regarded as of doubtful authenticity. We who have witnessed widespread atrocities are subjected to a critical process as cold as if we were advancing a new program of social reform. I begin to wonder if anything took place in Flanders. Is n't the wreck of Termonde, where I thought I spent three days, perhaps a figment of the fancy? Was the bayoneted girl child of Alost a pleasant dream creation? My people are critical and indifferent, generous and neutral, but yonder several races are living at a deeper level. In a time when beliefs are held lightly, with tricky words tearing at old values, they have recovered the ancient faiths of the race. Their lot, with all its pain, is choicer than ours. They at least have felt greatly and thrown themselves into action. It is a stern fight that is on in Europe, and few of our countrymen realize it is our

fight that the Allies are making on all those trench-threaded fields of the Old World.

Europe has made an old discovery. The Greek Anthology has it, and the ballads, but our busy little merchants and our clever talkers have never known it. The best discovery a man can make is that there is something inside him bigger than his fear, a belief in something more lasting than his individual life. When he discovers that, he knows he, too, is a man. It is as real for him as the experience of motherhood is for a woman. He comes out of it with self-respect and gladness.

The Belgians were a soft people, pleasure-loving little chaps, social and cheery, fond of comfort and the café brightness. They had no pride of race, because they lacked the intensity of blood of unmixed single strains. They were cosmopolitan, often with a command over three languages and snatches of several dialects. They were easy in their likes. They

"made friends" lightly. They did not have the reserve and arrogance of the English, the spiritual pride of the Germans. Some of them have German blood, some French, some Dutch. Part of the race is gay and volatile, many are heavy and inarticulate; it is a mixed race of which any iron-clad generalization is false. But I have seen many thousands of them under crisis, seen them hungry, dying, men from every class and every region; and the mass impression is that they are affectionate, easy to blend with, open-handed, trusting, immature.

This kindly, haphazard, unformed folk were suddenly lifted to a national selfsacrifice. By one act of defiance Albert made Belgium a nation. It had been a mixed race of many tongues, selling itself little by little, all unconsciously, to the German bondage. I saw the marks of this spiritual invasion on the inner life of the Belgians-marks of a destruction more thorough than the shelling of a city. The ruins of Termonde are only the outward and visible sign of what Germany has attempted on Belgium for perhaps two generations.

Wherever I turned in Belgium, I found traces of this clever, silent German invasion. My Flemish driver, when we were surrounded by Uhlans, suddenly broke into voluble German, expressing his abject friendliness for them. At a hotel in Ghent the proprietor, believing me to be a neutral, told me he was a German with German sympathies. He had been living in Ghent for many years, making his money out of the town, but looking forward to this day of his own people. In Melle an officer pointed out to me the house of their German spy. I talked with the man. At a café in Ghent, while the enemy was still distant, the proprietor entertained the Belgians, and took their money, announcing to all, as he announced to me, that he was a Swiss. Now that the Germans have taken possession, he has bloomed out into a full-blooded German, and with pride daily presides over his café filled with German officers. Nightly back of our Pervyse line some spy signaled to

[merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small]

"And that past is, the señor thinks-is -is-" Her eyes searched him questioningly.

"Very beautiful," he promptly responded.

She laughed then; but suddenly she leaned forward impetuously, and said with a little quaver of excitement in her voice: "Listen, Señor! In all my life nothing so exciting as this has ever before happened to me. So very beautiful like that it has been! The great dullness-that is how I call it. And now I am very much frightened, me. You think that is very funny, Señor, to be frightened because of the speaking to some man?"

"Not funny," he gravely answered. "I should be very sorry to think I had made you unhappy in any way."

"Oh, but not unhappy, Señor!" she has tened to reassure him. "Frightened-only a little frightened. Sufficient to make the heart beat with rapidity, you understand, but not to cause some unhappiness. Au contraire, Señor."

"Then I am glad that I stopped at your window and stared," he declared.

"Yes, Señor," she said meekly.

"I did not know it was your windowany one's window," he continued. "You see, I was very lonely. I have been ill, and to-day I felt restless, and could not stay in my room; but when I had come this far I realized that I was still too weak to be hurrying through your streets at this hour. I felt a little ill, and stopped here in the shade. Then, curiously indeed, I felt you were near, and turned. Perhaps that is why I stared at first, because I felt a little ill."

[ocr errors]

"Señor! You been ill, yet walk at this hour in the sun!" she cried. "You want to get dead? Señor!"

"It was very foolish, I know," he confessed.

"It was wicked," she declared, "very wrong."

"Yet I am glad," he said; "for now I have seen you."

"You must walk very slow to your house, and keep very still for the longest time," she told him with tender severity.

"Yes, I suppose I must go now," he replied sadly. His feet, however, appeared to consider the question debatable; they made no move to depart.

"Now, in the yet so great heat!" she exclaimed. "Señor, you crazy? No one shall come here at this hour. You think I am so wicked to desire anybody to walk in the hot sun now?"

"You wicked!" he exclaimed. "I have seen only your eyes, but I know you are good and-beautiful. I know." He looked up into her face like one who has burned all his bridges behind him. "Señorita, do you believe in fate?" he asked suddenly. "Fate?" she repeated. "You mean She paused expectantly.

[ocr errors]

"Yes," he said, "some power, I don't know what, that brings people together, surely, inevitably, and perhaps from the very corners of the earth; and when they at last stand face to face, it is as though nothing else could have possibly happened. Two months ago I had never heard of Camagüey. I had been working too hard and had to rest, and by the merest chance, it seemed, wandered down here- here in Camagüey. Did any one ever before start out for a walk in Camagüey in the hour of the siesta? Well, I did to-day. And, Señorita, have you often looked out of this window at this hour?"

She shook her head.

"I do not remember ever looking," she replied. "To-day I was restless. Something-" she paused.

"But you looked to-day," he said eagerly, "and I stared up into your face. You see? Something has brought it strangely about-fate. It had to be."

"Certainly it seems very strange, Señor," she replied. She seemed impressed, but suddenly she looked up with a little laugh as she went on: "And now you will go away, and when next I look out the window I shall see only the empty street, as before. That fate is very funny, I think-to take so great trouble for so little thing."

"Not little," he protested. "I have seen you. I no longer care to go away."

"It would be very funny for the señor

« AnkstesnisTęsti »