Puslapio vaizdai

Besides Don Pablo and his wife, when I sat down, there was the fair little child. She was five or so, a delicate little thing, almost transparent, with white cheeks, and rose-madder hollows under her eyes. Her nurse, a plump girl of fourteen or fifteen, was kept busy picking up things that the child threw to the floor. Don Pablo, who was a spare, alert man, with kind blue eyes set far apart in a broad, square head, extended his forefinger and shook it. "No, no; no, no, palomita mia.”

With a wail, the child brushed plate and all to the floor and reached out her arms to him. He took her on his knee. She wore nothing but an elaborate, soiled slip, but her hair was neatly brushed, and tied with a ribbon. began to smooth her hair, saying over and over, "So white, so white, so white like a pigeon," as of a color he admired.


Strange eyes looked out from the pinched, tiny face-large, dark, oblong eyes, with a peculiar and tragic luster, as if an ill fate had marked her already. The hair, too, was strange, with its top strands of yellow, red, and tow, and its duskiness underneath. Doña Ana paid no attention at all to the child. She looked through or beyond her, never at her. I wondered, and pitied the little thing.

"Your child?" I murmured to Don Pablo.


"My son's child," said Doña Ana. "I call her Palomita-little pigeon, little dove," said Don Pablo.

"She's called Niña," said Doña Ana, calmly.

Niña-girl-was general enough. I began to hear the rattle of something gone wrong in the family machine. It was vague, but certainly there, something discomposed, raucous. It was even in the glances of the servants. Their eyes roved continually from one to another seated at the table, and in them was something difficult to define, almost a lurking sniff, as if to say, "We know, we know!" If a smile could be without outward expression, internal only, there was constantly a sarcastic smile in those roving, dull-shining eyes. Now and then Doña Ana clapped her hands to bring them to attention.

The second course was on the table when the hall door was flung open, and Pablino, the son, burst in.

He was in fresh linens, with hat slightly on the side of his head, and he sparkled with a cold, bright mirth. He stood an instant, taking in the others at a glance, like the chief actor coming on the stage.. He shied his hat anywhere, ripped off his coat as he came to the table, hung it on the back of his chair, and talked all the while; talked to me, taking for granted an introduction no one had been able to give. He had seen me,-had n't I been several weeks in the city?-every day for two weeks he had seen me pass his office. Yesterday I had worn a hat with a blue ribbon; and so forth. He tore off his collar and tossed it at one of the servants, tasted his soup and all but flung that at a servant. "Cold! Take it away!" he said, smiling all the time, casting his cold mirth about like sparkling snow.

A fresh plate of soup was brought. He held it up that all might see the steam issuing from it, and set it off as far as he could reach. "Expect me to eat that a day like this!" He jumped up, and started the electric fan, which he put behind his elbow. His shirtsleeves puffed in and out, his facial muscle jerked spasmodically, as if he had difficulty in getting out his words. He talked all the time, and his eyes sparkled under that jerking brow with cold mirth.

He was rather a handsome fellow, under thirty, with cleaner-cut features than his father, and deep-blue eyes under a shelf of a brow. The brow was high and bony, with thick auburn hair clustering about it. His shifting, danc-' ing eyes, never still a second, now opened wide under lifted brows, now retreated into his head, hiding under bent brows. They fascinated, piqued curiosity, like some mysterious creature advancing and retreating in a dark doorway. The man was as muscular as a bull, and his crape-silk shirt and his hands were immaculate. I learned afterward that he had a passion for bathing several times a day It was rather remarkable down there, and born in the country. Altogether, he looked

oh, how German he looked! He was a rakish fellow, a devil-may-care German. He had been educated in Germany.

Having displayed himself, Pablino proceeded to exhibit others. He thrust his feet out to one side of his chair and began calling in a singsong tone:

"Quin-til-la! Quin-til-la!"

"Servant's name," he explained, pointing backward with his thumb toward Niña's nurse, who had gone to the kitchen. "Means poem-five verses. "She's a poem. Oh, she's a devil."

The girl stood at the bend of the hall, looking at us from under her half-open lashes. A thick, long braid of glossy black hair came over her shoulder and lay across her torn yellow dress. The skin on her beautiful neck and around her temples was pure orange. She had the colors of a handsome hornet, and a malicious smile trembling at one corner of her mouth seemed to promise the sting of one.

"Dame usted mis chinelas," ordered Pablino, without looking at her. "Slippers," he translated, twinkling as though to say, "Just wait!"

Quintilla brought the slippers, and dropping to the floor beside the man, she sat flat, took his feet in her lap, and, bending her head over them, began unlacing his shoes.

"Good to-day," said Pablino, looking bored. "Sometimes she won't touch "'em." But when the girl lingered over his feet,-it looked to me as if she was caressing them,-his twinkle came back. He leaned down with a growl. "Get out!" he exclaimed, tossed his shoes aside, and thrust his feet into his slippers.

"You ought to see her with her hair down," he exclaimed as she carried his shoes away. "Dios! she could hide herself in it, and fine as silk. Mother hates her, don't you, Mother?"

"I don't hate anybody. I don't think they 're worth it."

Doña Ana's cool voice rose and fell like a tossed ball. She continued to direct the dinner, sending the servants here and there; but there was a constraint. Don Pablo spoke a sentence now and then, and looked at his son with apprehension. Moisture began to break out on his forehead.


Pablino reached over and pinched his mother's chin.

"Mother 's quite remarkable woman. She was born in Spain, educated in an Italian convent by French nuns, married in Germany, and she speaks five laguages."

He gave her chin a final shake, as a puppy might drop a bone. Her face had remained impassive, but a sidelong gleam shot from her lowered lids.

"Father's a poet. You want to get him to show you his book of poems, published in German and Spanish. Father thought he could make a writer of me. After I came from school in Germany, he set me at a desk in his office sheets of paper, box of pencils. Oh, I did n't know what to do with my hands!" He spread out his smooth, white hands, each adorned with a diamond ring. "I'd get up, run up and down; and now he 's my partner, we 're partners, commission business," he grinned slyly at his father, "and if the business goes, as it will,-got to, -we 've put everything in," he made an ample gesture,-"there 'll be enough. Eh, Papa! Oceans. Won't there,


He leaned toward his mother, and with a show of great care laid a crust on her head. When she tipped her head just enough to make the crust fall, he rubbed her arm, mockingly soothing, and put another crust in her hair.

"Pablino!" admonished his father.

Pablino's roguish wag seemed to say, "Is n't she funny!" He felt in his pocket and brought out a small box, which he slapped on the table under his hand. He peeped at his mother, then at his child, and threw his bomb. "Belen!" he ejaculated.

There was dead silence. The child started, and looked around the table in a confused way, her lip put up to cry. Doña Ana, with her fork trembling in her hand half-way to her mouth, remained as if astounded. Don Pablo drew a sharp breath.

Pablino's smile went out slowly, like a light when the current is turned off. He said with careful distinctness,

"It 's her name, no?" He repeated it. "Belen! Belen, say papa."

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Doña Ana's hand moved swiftly in the sign of the cross, dropped to the table. Don Pablo passed his palm over his moist forehead and spoke rapidly in German. Pablino turned from one to the other and exclaimed violently in Spanish:

"What ails you?"

Two or three furious German sentences followed, then Doña Ana's voice lifted:

"Papa, Papa, say something! Miss Nelson, say something to him!"

I said nothing. It made no difference to me if the man contracted to a point, as he seemed in the way of doing. His whole face had tightened; his eyes had sunk into his head until they were almost invisible under the brow, which was drawn above his nose into one perpendicular fold. What interested me was to see what he would do next. He was an unknown character in action. He scowled at the table-cloth and looked capable of anything, of hurling a knife. German, German. He had got the latest German education.

Don Pablo extended his hand, palm up, across the table.

"Come, Pablino!"

Pablino glared at the extended hand

as if he would like to spit into it. "Come, Pablino! Come, my son!" At last Pablino's hand went out reluctantly. It was clasped and released.

Instantly, as if a magic word had been pronounced, suspended breaths and action returned. Servants shuffled, Niña struck her spoon smartly on the table, saying, "Papa, Papa, Papa." Doña Ana dished the dessert.

Pablino's anger lasted through dinner. He put the little box back into his pocket, buried his nose in a paper, and said nothing more until we started to leave the table; then he jumped up.

"Don't go," he cried to me; "don't go. Wait; I want to show you something."

He went off, and came back in a moment with his arms full of puzzles, Japanese, American, German. He sat down, and his immaculate fingers wove in and out.

"You can't do this. Do this one. Ha! ha! Now watch me."

He was an expert at tricks, too. He could balance a glassful of water on the edge of a plate.

NEXT morning after the men had gone, Doña Ana came to my room. She sat down. Her hands dropped one each

side of her, and there they stayed. I admired her, yes; I admired her selfcontrol. There was none of Pablino's jerkiness, disconnection of mind and muscles, about her. And, now I think of it, I never heard her laugh. She seemed always quietly watching. She saw everything that went on, and then pursued her own path. She spoke evenly now, without the slightest hesitation, with a sort of measured cadence, and almost without expression. Then her lips would close, and the faintest shade of disdain would come to her face. I felt that secretly she disdained me and everybody, including herself.

"You don't understand about that child," she said. "She's not my grandchild. She 's no relation to me or to my husband; no relation at all, no more than one of the servants. My son is her father, you understand, but she 's not white. Yes, her skin looks white, but you never can tell. Those eyes, sure; and her hair, the way it's coming in under. Yes, she has good features. She gets that from her father. Her mother was n't black, of course, but she was n't white. My son never meant to marry her mother, you understand; but when there was the child, so white, he thought, well, for the sake of the child. My son is a fool.

"There are just two classes in this country, two, only two, the high and the low. And there's no passing from the low to the high-not to a Spanish lady. My son brought the woman here after he married her. She was-she had a disease. She hid it; nobody knew. I thought: 'What shall I do? I'll kill them both. Oh, I will. Oh, yes; I'll shoot them both; and if I have n't a revolver, I'll squeeze her. I-I don't know what I'll do. I 'll squeeze her. I'm afraid of a revolver. First I'll punish them, I'll punish her, and then my son will be dead to me.'

"I never forgive and I never forget. My mother used to say we should forgive. But not me. If any one does me a kindness, I never forget it, and I'll feel I can't do enough to repay it. And if any one does me an unkindness, that person is dead to me. He is n't in the world to me any more. When it was found out, when this woman

could n't hide her disease any longer, they took her away. She died. The child was named for her. That name I've never spoken. My son never spoke that name before. since the woman died. That's what you could n't understand last night. I'm telling you this for your own information."

"She must have had a hard time." I seemed to see the woman moving up and down the passageways of the house, with her child, despised.

"She! She brought suffering and unhappiness on us. It 's three years. Don't think because I don't say anything that I don't see anything.


I think there are different minds in the world, and different people, and I believe in letting everybody think and do just as he likes. If he wants to be a fool, let him be a fool. I don't care. Don't think I would bring up a child like this one. This one is five years old and just like a puppy. But I don't care. My son hires a nursegirl to take care of it, to do everything for it. He thinks that is right. My child always had a bath every morning when he got up; and at night, every night, a nice warm bath, and he never slept in the same clothes he wore in the daytime. This one, if it has its hair combed- Let it go. If I said a word, my son-he has a hot temper-would say something to me, and then all over. You never see us together except at table. He has his apartment, and I have mine.


"My husband is a gentleman through and through, quiet. But that one! They're just as different. You don't see my husband come to the table without a coat and collar, or have a servant take his shoes off at the table. cans do that here. They would n't do it at home, they would n't do it in the States, but they do it here. Every night my husband carries this child to bed. I tell him sometimes his kindness and fineness end just this side of stupidity. Well, he says, he can't help it. We've been happy together. You can see we 've been happy together." She stood up. Her unbound curves billowed outward in front, and she leaned slightly backward to balance herself. She was perfectly balanced

on her neat little feet, thrust bare into slippers. Her smooth face showed no emotion. It was calm, perfectly controlled. Behind her, past the open door, went servants, barefoot, without a sound, appearing and disappearing as if crossing the back of a stage. One who carried food was in a ragged bathrobe of Doña Ana's, its hugeness gathered around her armpits with a cord. At one side I could see the brown legs and feet of Quintilla, flat on the floor, with the baby and a mopping-pail, making sly and spiteful digs at the passers with her bare toes.

"A woman sees things when she is in a house," said Doña Ana, "and it 's best to know, not guess." She was going out the door when she paused and added a sentence, as if to herself, "I take everything, I swallow everything, and then I can't stand a touch."

FOR a month-I was in the house only six weeks-I saw very little of Pablino, and was glad of it. I never saw him in the morning. He would have his bath and up and away. In the evening he and his father would come home to dinner, another bath for Pablino, and then very likely on with their hats and off again. "Oh, so much business at the office." Twice in the month Pablino was away on long automobile trips. He would go in the night and come back in the night. I saw him go off once. He carried a blanket rolled carefully, and fastened with safety-pins, and just as he went out the door the corner of my eye caught the glint of a revolver pulled from his hip-pocket and slipped back. An undercurrent of excitement, of preparation, and perhaps of apprehension preceded these trips and continued until Pablino was home again. I don't know what it was. Usual German work, I suppose. Don Pablo explained: "My son goes to see a man on business far along the coast. beautiful coast; oh, romantic!" He showed me a map of the road.


Mystery and things hidden were here. I thought it strange they had me there. Did they think I had no eyes? However, I might as well have been without ears. I understood Span

ish only if spoken carefuly in little words, and German not at all. You 've no idea how suspicious people were of strangers and of one another in that country at that time. "Spies, civil service, indiscreet"-you heard the words whispered behind the hand.

When my letters did not come, Don Pablo would smile and say: "Ah, the censor. They think you are a spy, maybe." He went to the post-office himself and got them for me more than once. I have an idea about that now, but I liked him then. He used to race me up-stairs, going two steps at a time, when I could hardly lift my feet in that heat, and laugh when he beat me. After dinner, if he stayed home, he might bring out his violin. He would bow in his mock-virtuoso manner. "Now let us have it, some moosic." Dear! he was an artist! How his stubbled old gray cheek caressed the cheek of the violin as it sang with the voice of the Lorelei! Doña Ana would be in bed, barefoot, bare-armed, immense, a light at her head, swallowing books-novels. "That's what makes her so fat," laughingly declared Don Pablo. lies in bed and reads till three o'clock in the morning."


"I read," said Doña Ana, "when I can't sleep."

There was a ladder at the end of the hall not far from my room, and near the kitchen door, which led to a trap-door in the high ceiling. Once as I came out of my room, I saw Don Pablo carrying his violin up there.

"I go to play on the roof," said he. "Ah, let me be audience?"

I thought that would be lovely-violin in the blue night, with undertone of the ocean, panacea for loneliness. I put my foot on the ladder. He looked down. I'll never forget-there was an electric light on the ceiling, which shone right in his face-the eyes of this mild and gentle man staring, wideopen, with a hard, stiff, angry look. Sweat broke out on his face. He threw out an arm.

"I'd kill any one who followed me!" he said.

I was too astounded to move. The "perfect gentleman" was a madman. I had thought the son capable of any

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