Puslapio vaizdai


VOL. 87

MARCH, 1914



Author of "John of God, the Water-Carrier," "The Emotions of Maria Concepción," etc.


No. 5


OVERNOR FERNANDO ARRIOLA and his amiable señora were confronted with a critical problem in hospitality it was nothing less than the entertaining of American ladies, who by all means must be given the most favorable impressions of Mexican civilization.

Hence some unusual preparations. On the backs of men and beasts were arriving magnificent quantities, requisitioned from afar, of American canned soups, fish, meats, sweets, hors-d'œuvres, and nondescripts; ready-to-serve cereals, ready-todrink cocktails, a great variety of pickles, and much other cheer of American manufacture. Even an assortment of can-openers had not been forgotten. Above all, an imperial call had gone out for ice, and precious consignments of that exotic commodity were now being delivered in various stages of dissolution, to be installed with solicitude in cool places, and kept refreshed with a continual agitation of fans in the hands of superfluous servants. By such amiable extremities it was designed to insure the ladies Cherry against all

danger of going hungry or thirsty for lack of conformable aliment or sufficiently frigid liquids.

The wife and daughter of that admirable Señor Montague Cherry of the United States, who was manipulating the extension of certain important concessions in the State of which Don Fernando was governor, and with whose operations his Excellency found his own private interests to be pleasantly involved, their visit. was well-timed in a social way, for they would be present on the occasion of a great ball to be given by the governor. For other entertainment the Arriola family would provide as God might permit. Leonor, the only unmarried daughter, was practising several new selections on the harp, her mama sagaciously conceiving that an abundance of music might ease the strain of conversation in the event of the visitors having no Spanish. And now Próspero, the only son, aged fourteen, generally known as Popo, blossomed suddenly as the man of the hour; for, thanks to divine Providence, he had been studying English, and could say prettily, although slowly, "What o'clock it is?" and "Please you this," and "Please you that," and doubtless much more if he were put to it.

Copyright, 1914, by THE CENTURY CO. All rights reserved.

Separately and in council the rest of the family impressed upon Popo that the honor of the house of Arriola, not to mention that of his native land, reposed in his hands, and he was conjured to comport himself as a true-born caballero. With a heavy sense of responsibility upon him, he bought some very high collars, burned much midnight oil over his English "method," and became suddenly censorious of his stockinged legs, which, accompanying him everywhere, decoyed his down-sweeping eyes and defied concealment or palliation. After anxious consideration, he put the case to his mama.

"Thou amiable companion of all my anguishes," he said tenderly, "thou knowest my anxiety to comport myself with credit in the view of the honored Meesees Cherry. Much English I have already, with immobile delivery the most authentic and distinguished. So far I feel myself modestly secure. But these legs, Mama-these legs of my nightmares-"

"Chist, chist! Thou hadst ever a symmetrical leg, Popo mine," expostulated Doña Elvira, whose soul of a young matron dreaded her boy's final plunge into manhood.

"But consider, little Mama," he cried, "that very soon I shall have fifteen years. Since the last day of my saint I have shaved the face scrupulously on alternate mornings; but that no longer suffices, for my maturing beard now asks for the razor every day, laughing to scorn these legs, which continue to lack the investment of dignity. Mother of my soul, for the honor of our family in the eyes of the foreign ladies, I supplicate thy consent that I should be of long pantaloons!"

Touched on the side of her obligations as an international hostess, Doña Elvira pondered deeply, and at length confessed with a sigh:

"It is unfortunately true, thou repose of my fatigues, that in long pantaloons thou wouldst represent more."

And it followed, as a crowning graciousness toward Mrs. Montague Cherry and her daughter, that Popo was promoted to trousers.

WHEN the visitors arrived, he essayed gallantly to dedicate himself to the service of the elder lady, in accordance with Mexican theories of propriety, but found

his well-meaning efforts frustrated by the younger one, who, seeing no other young man thereabout, proceeded methodically to attach the governor's handsome little son to herself.

Popo found it almost impossible to believe that they were mother and daughter. By some magic peculiar to the highly original country of the Yanquis, their relation appeared to be that of an indifferent sisterliness, with a balance of authority in favor of the younger. That revolutionary arrangement would have scandalized Popo had he not perceived from the first that Alicia Cherry was entitled to extraordinary consideration. Never before had he seen a living woman with hair like daffodils, eyes like violets, and a complexion of coral and porcelain. It seemed to him that some precious image of the Virgin had been changed into a creature of sweet flesh and capricious impulses, animate with a fearless urbanity far beyond the dreams of the dark-eyed, demure, and now despised damsels of his own race. His delicious bewilderment was completed when Miss Cherry, after staring him in the face with a frank and inviting smile, turned to her mother, and drawled laconically:

"He just simply talks with those eyes!"

There was a moon on the night of the day that the Cherrys arrived. There was also music, the bi-weekly serenata in the plaza fronting the governor's residence. The band swept sweetly into its opening number at the moment when Don Fernando, with Mrs. Cherry on his arm, stepped out upon his long balcony, and all the town began to move down there among the palms. Miss Cherry, who followed with Popo, exclaimed at the romantic strangeness of the scene, and you may be sure that a stir and buzzing passed through the crowd as it gazed up at the glittering coiffure and snowy shoulders of that angelic señorita from the United States.

Popo got her seated advantageously, and leaned with somewhat exaggerated gallantry over her chair, answering her vivacious questions, and feeling as one translated to another and far superior planet. He explained as well as he could the social conventions of the serenata as unfolded before their eyes in a concerted coil of languid movement-how the la

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ment of salutes, he did not really recognize those familiar and astonished faces, for his head was up somewhere near the moon, while his legs, in the proud shelter of their first trousers, were pleasantly afflicted with pins and needles as he moved on tiptoe beside the blonde Americana, a page beside a princess.

Miss Cherry was captivated by the native courtliness of his manners. She thought of a certain junior brother of her own, to whom the business of "tipping his hat," as he called it, to a lady occasioned such extreme anguish of mind that he would resort to the most laborious manoeuvers to avoid occasions when the performance of that rite would be expected of him. As for Próspero, he had held the tips of her fingers lightly as they had descended the marble steps of his father's house, and then with a charming little bow had offered her his arm, which she with laughing independence had declined. And now she perused with sidelong glances the infantile curve of his chin, the April fluctuations of his lips, the occasional quiver of his thick lashes, and decided that he was an amazingly cute little cavalier.

With a deep breath she expelled everything disagreeable from her mind, and gave up her spirit to the enjoyment of finding herself for a little while among a warmer, wilder people, with gallant gestures and languorous smiles. And the aromatic air, the tantalizing music, the watchful fire that glanced from under the sombreros of the peons squatting in colorful lines between the benches-all the ardor and mystery of that unknown life caused a sudden fluttering in her breast, and almost unconsciously she took her escort's arm, pressing it impulsively to her side. His dark eyes flashed to hers, and for the first time failed to flutter and droop at the encounter; this time it was her own that lost courage and hastily veiled themselves.

"That waltz," she stammered, "is n't it delicious?"

He told her the name of the composer, and begged her to promise him the privilege of dancing that waltz with her at the ball, in two weeks' time. As she gave the promise, she perceived with amusement, and not without delight, that he trembled exceedingly.

Mrs. Cherry was a little rebellious when she and Alicia had retired to their rooms that night.

"Yes, I suppose it 's all very beautiful and romantic," she responded fretfully to her daughter's panegyrics, "but I'm bound to confess that I could do with a little less moonlight for the sake of a few words of intelligible speech."

"One always feels that way at first in a foreign country," said Alicia, soothingly, "and it certainly is a splendid incentive to learn the language. You ought to adopt my plan, which is to study Spanish

very hard every moment we 're here.” "If you continue studying the language," her mother retorted, "as industriously as you have been doing to-night, my dear, you will soon be speaking it like a native."

Alicia was impervious to irony. Critically inspecting her own pink-and-gold effulgence in the mirror, she went on:

"Of course this is also a splendid opportunity for Próspero to learn some real English, which will please the family very much, as they 've decided to send him to an American college. I do hope it won't spoil him. Is n't he a perfect darling?"

"I don't know, not having been given. a chance to exchange three words with'Sh-h! Did you hear a noise?"

It had sounded like a sigh, followed by a stealthy shuffle. Alicia went to the door, which had been left ajar, and looked out upon the moonlit gallery just in time to catch a glimpse of a fleeting figure, as Próspero raced for his English dictionary, to look up the strange word "darling.”

"The little rascal!" she murmured to herself. "What a baby, after all!" But to her mother she only said, as she closed the door, "It was nothing, dear; just one of those biblical-looking servants covering a parrot's cage."

"Even the parrots here speak nothing but Spanish," Mrs. Cherry pursued fretfully. "Of course I am glad to sacrifice my own comfort to any extent to help your dear father in his schemes, although I do think the syndicate might make some graceful little acknowledgment of my social services; but I'm sure that papa never dreamed of your monopolizing the only member of this household to whom it is possible to communicate the most primitive idea without screaming one's head

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