Puslapio vaizdai

thing; but this man, too. I could see him, with those stiff eyes, standing with folded arms to see men drown. For Germany? Was that it? I thought of secret wireless. Maybe he had it. I don't know. I am trying to give the strange, incomprehensible, shivery atmosphere of the house, with its marble floors, its immensely high ceilings, its watchful servants, its air palpitating with secrets in a city of impenetrable depths of misery and suffering.

"He does n't mean that," called Doña Ana quickly from the kitchen.

"I do!"

He disappeared through the trapdoor. I went to my room. Doña Ana came a few minutes later.

"You did n't understand my husband. He does n't want anybody to discover his goodness. That would make him very angry. He is going to play to a sick neighbor who is fond of music. She lives next door. He plays on the roof so she can hear. A stranger would n't understand. We never follow him, or speak of the kind deeds he does. His kindness and fineness end just this side of stupidity, I tell him; but sometimes they go beyond."

A rough ladder fixed at the end of a marble hall has an odd appearance. Ordinarily, there would have been stairs, of stone, perhaps, used by the servants going up to hang clothes on the roof, or by the family in the evening for a lounge or a promenade. There would be a fine view from a three-story roof. Not here. It seemed like something put up in a hurry and then let stay because of an instinctive feeling that it fitted its use, if not its place.

One day when Doña Ana was out, I came back to the house for some paints I had forgotten. I was never given a key to the casa, always had to ring; but this time I happened to go in with one of the servants. For the second and last time until the night I went up it I saw the ladder in use. A horrible cld hag was ascending it with a tray of food. She turned her face toward me. It was gray-brown, like dried earth, and she was so bowed and shriveled with wretchedness and

age that there was nothing womanly left to her but her turban and her dress. One eye was filmed and hard like a blinded chicken's eye; the other gazed at me with a dreadful and profound intimacy.

I turned into my room. I thought, "If she 's there when I go out, I'll never come back." She was gone.

But I painted no more that day. Here it was now in the house-the grievousness from outside. I can't tell, I can't express, how it affected me. It was always on the street. I might be standing in a store; a touch as light as a fly's wing would brush my arm. I would turn to meet the terrible begging gaze in the eyes of some child-some sin of the fathers that should never have been born. Everywhere were beggars and the wretched, and all with eyes, as if in the scum drifted aside from the foot of the great waterfall of life eyes should peer out, watching, watching, with a horrible magnetism, the bubble that I was, drifting nearer.

A FORTNIGHT later I went to my room in the evening feeling pretty blue. Doña Ana was having a birthday. It was like Christmas-lots of presents on her bed, table set all day with cakes and wine, automobiles coming and going. I was lonesome and homesick.

I lay in bed listening to the voices, the laughter, music. My thoughts went round without getting anywhere.

Doña Ana had a new bird for her birthday, a nightingale fresh from the mountains. How the little drab thing, I thought, its long, slender body built for flight, beats its wings against the cage! It does n't sing. Why should it? Now and then it gives a plaintive chirp. The boy came to the door this afternoon with a letter from his sick mother. "Blessing of the Mother of God and all the saints on Don Pablo if he would send by the boy twentyfive centavos. We are starving."

"Worse than it used to be," said Don Pablo. "Now it 's all Red Cross,-Red Cross all over the world, and there 's so much less for the poor people." Pablino and his father are cornering rice, the food of the poor people.

"Where will you sell it, to the Allies?"


"No, no; here. They 've got to have it here."

How hot it was! I could hardly lift my bound, heavy, aching legs.

I go about like a child in a strange place, without being able to tell what it means; or like one who has lost his memory and is constantly struggling to find some word, some sentence which will give the clue to the meaning of the life by which he is surrounded, something to satisfy the blank questioning. But these sights-the beggars, the children, the caged birds, the bone-boxes of nags on the street which hold just life enough to haul their burden these sights don't stir me any more. I look at them without love, without hate, without pity, as if they were passing shadows in a nightmare, but with what aversion! These shades, brothers of mine-but I can think of nothing else. No hope. Each will go on just this way till he dies.

How hot it was! Fever. When I went to sleep I dreamed. Suddenly a word seemed to float near, as if I were drowning, and that word were a straw. I struggled for it mightily. At last it rushed toward me and exploded like a thunder-clap-"Cuidado!"

In my semi-delirium it nearly took my head off. I came to myself, crouched on an elbow, staring up. There was a hole in the ceiling! It was about as big as two hands laid together. I could see a faint light through it. Just as I looked, a shadow seemed to pass it, quickly, like a wraith, a fancy.

I shut my eyes. I was afraid to look. Perhaps it was a cat over a ventilator, which had been closed before. Again I looked. Now there was no hole.

I got on my feet, turned on every light. Not a mark on the ceiling but marks of age and of cobwebs too high to reach. Dawn was breaking. I padded the floor until my legs gave way, then sat in the window. A big monkey on the roof across the street padded, too. He padded the length of his chain, then sprang, and was jerked back. Back and forth he roved, sinuous tail curling and uncurling, and every time, at the end of his chain, he sprang, and was jerked back.

Later in the morning Doña Ana and I had a bit of conversation. I was in bed then.

"Is there a spy-hole in the ceiling of this room, Doña Ana?"

"Delirium, Miss Mary? You should let me send for a doctor."

"It was right up there, Señora, over the bed. I saw a faint light."

"A reflection. That ceiling is the roof, Miss Mary, brick and plaster two feet thick."

"Yes? Somebody called through the hole, 'Cuidado!' That means beware, take care, does n't it? A ghost, do you suppose? Too bad it did n't stay. I might have asked it what it meant and if it lived up there."

"Nobody lives up there. There's a mirador on the roof, three little rooms, all empty, closed up. Nobody can get in from the outside unless they go up from here."

"Nobody' likes food."

"What do you mean, Miss Mary?" "Another dream, Señora. I dreamed I saw a tray of food carried up the other day."

Doña Ana walked to the window and began pulling dead leaves from the vines. I did not care what she did. I turned my head away. I heard her go back and forth with a pitcher of water; she had beautiful plants all over the house. By and by she was by the bed again.

"You are a very intelligent young woman, Miss Mary. I like you. I can see that in other circumstances you could be my very dear friend. You should think of what I told you-as long as you are my friend I am your friend. If you don't want to be that-and discreet, the door stands open. I never forgive. I'm going to be frank with you. There was an opening in the ceiling of this room long ago. There are conditions in a hot country-you could n't understand. It was necessary; the hole was closed up. I thought Don Pablo and I were all who knew of it. If it was opened last night, I know who did it - Quintilla. Little devil! she pries and spies and fears nothing. Would I have that child of Satan in the house? But what can I do? She amuses my son. He hires

her. One fool makes a hundred. If you will trust me, I will see that you are not molested again while you are here. I'll speak to my husband. Impudent servants! I'll send them all away."

It was easy to imagine it, the story of "long ago," Doña Ana's eye at the secret hole, spying with the scrutiny of hatred on the unhappy creature whom she meant to "squeeze," who must have once had my room. "When it was found out, when this woman could n't hide her disease any longer-" oh, yes.


And yet I admired Doña Ana. do still, with her calm and bitter selfpossession, her hair in damp ringlets over her smooth forehead like a child's. She was like a vigorous, conscious plant which sees its flowering head flawy, or like the author of a grand drama who sees it working out on the boards as she never intended. But still the play goes on, and she plays with it, new and hated lines, to another climax.

QUINTILLA disappeared for several days. Pablino was in a state of excitement, sullen or angry, during which he told me one nice little lie. He had offered to show me a miniature, "painted by the best artist in South America," if I would call at his office. I called.

He beamed, he brought out catalogues. Did I want silk stockings, shoes, waists? Caramba! he would get them for me at wholesale prices. I declined. Was n't he going to show me the miniature?

He sat on his desk, crossed his legs jauntily, and smiled down at me. Five girls, sitting near at type-writers, keys silent, work stopped, bent their lusterless gaze our way, as if I were trying to take their cake.

"To tell the truth," said Pablino, "it's a portrait of Niña's mother, which I had painted to pique mama. Paid a thousand pesos for it. I hung it under her portrait in the sala-oh, rather good sport! She would n't go into the room. It was two weeks before I let papa take it down. It's a beautiful picture, though."

I stood up, with a yawn behind my

hand. I was afraid to let him know how much I wanted to see it. Unfortunate, unhappy creature! And how powerful! Her very name could still evoke what passion, what consternation in the family! A sinister shade, she crept through the house.

"Well, I must go. I had hoped to see the painting."

He looked me straight in the eye, the frankest look.

"Oh, it's locked up in the safe, and my partner, who has the key, is away to-day."

I got out on the street. I was stunned. Such an unnecessary, stupid lie! Did he expect me to believe it? Was he showing his contempt for me or for my mind?

Months after, I mentioned the incident to an American of experience.

"Of course he expected you to believe it," said he. "Why, for ever so long we had been believing everything the Germans told us, had n't we?"

A DAY or two after, Pablino came home late to dinner. Without looking to right or to left, he passed around the table to where his father sat. He bent his head down.

"Papa, Papa, feel my head!"

Don Pablo was carving. He kept his hands extended over the roast, with carving-knife and fork, and looked up with his kind, inquiring smile. Pablino reached for the knife and sent it flying. He knelt, and held his father's hand on his head.

"Feel! feel! How hot!"

He trembled. His arms, hands, the muscles of his neck quivered as flesh does when it is afraid. Doña Ana continued serving, but a flicker on her lips as she glanced sidewise at her son seemed to say, "Baby!" Don Pablo spoke in German, then Pablino began to talk. He started on his knees, got to his feet, and ended by haranguing the whole table in a rush of German. Doña Ana explained dryly,

"My son says he saw a leper seized on the street to be taken to the leper island."

"Oh," cried Pablino, beginning all over again, this time in English, "oh, I sav her! I was ten feet away. Oh,

she fought! Her ear came off! I saw it! It fell on the pavement! Oh,


Papa!" His solicitude - what was seemed as incongruous as flowers springing from hot lava.

"You want to be careful," he said to me, and when I said nothing, he became terribly in earnest, features working, arms motioning. "Sure! You don't know who they are! Keep in the middle of the street! She sat down here on the street in a doorway,-you must have seen her,-big head like a man, big stick. She'd strike if you came near. Around her head and shoulders, bunched, was an old striped rag-an old flag. Sure, an American flag. If it had been a German flag or a Spanish flag, she 'd have been arrested long ago, put in prison. Then she 'd have been found out. Americans don't care."

"Oh, there's no fear for contagion," said Don Pablo, soothing his son.

Pablino went off, had a bath, and presently reappeared in a bath-robe, roaming up and down the hall, still in intense excitement. His father went to him. The two men kissed each other on the mouth like school-girls, then with arms about each other's waists they paced the hall, talking, talking. Once I caught them examining me with a contemplative scrutiny, instantly shifted.

As I rose from the table, Pablino stepped up. He threw back his shoulders and struck himself a good blow on the chest.

"Hit me! Hit hard!"

"Why should I hit you?

He seized my hand and struck himself again. "Hit! hit hard!” It was like striking steel plate.

"Strong, eh? And natural. It 's natural. I never did anything to increase my strength. I'm naturally strong, perfectly well. Father says it was the heat."

"Come, Miss Mary," called Doña Ana. "Come, I want to show you a flower."

An end of the balcony off the sala, which faced the ocean, was full of her roses. What a perfume! Don Pablo came out, too, with a pancake sneaked from the table in his hand,

eating it like a boy while he jounced Niña on his back. Her tiny hands clutched his neck. They laughed together.

"It was the heat," explained Don Pablo. "He was out two hours-two hours!-in the sun in the middle of the day. Ah, you can't do so here. You must take a siesta. Me-I don't feel hot. But every day after lunch I lie down, if it 's just to close my eyes. Then all right. Work all the time, no. Play, dance." He began a fantastic two-step, bowing and bending. "We all go to the casino ball Friday. Miss Mary, too!" He shook his finger at me. "Oh, interesting! Only the best people. It 's an exclusive cloob. And every lady behind a fan-b-z-z-Z. Sounds like a lot of bees."

"I was going to ask her," said Pablino.

His father laughed. His whole face lit up as a speaker's does when he sways his audience. Ah, he was an artist, and a mighty clever afterdinner speaker, so I heard. He finished his pancake.

"I tell you a story. In the village where my father was born there lived a pastor who was very fond of pancakes; and especially the border of the pancake he thought was simply divine. One day he was explaining the love of Unser Gott, and says he, 'It is so sweet So sweet- So sweet as the border of a pancake.' Ha! ha!"

A GARDEN lay on three sides of the casino building. In the moonlight it seemed dark, thick, tall like a jungle, with narrow paths jutting here and there. Flowers lifted strange, wide faces, pale in the moon-rays, as if they, too, were enameled like the ladies' faces behind fans. Deep in the foliage dark flowers crouched, and there were glimpses of shining dresses, with black shadows alongside.

Pablino was showing me the place. He stopped in the open where a treefern raised its stem ten feet above a little marble pool, then bursting at the top like a fountain, sent its fronds whirling up, to bend and curve to the ground and the white pool.

It was just at the edge of the gar

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