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Title: The Bright Shawl
Author: Hergesheimer, Joseph, 1880-1954
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  THE
  BRIGHT SHAWL

  JOSEPH HERGESHEIMER


  NEW YORK
  ALFRED·A·KNOPF
  1922


  COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
  ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC.

  Published, October, 1922

  Second Printing, October, 1922


  Set up and electrotyped by the Vail-Ballou Co., Binghamton, N. Y.
  Paper furnished by W. F. Etherington & Co., New York, N. Y.
  Printed and bound by the Plimpton Press, Norwood, Mass.

  MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


                  For
  Hamilton and Phoebe Gilkyson junior
       in their fine drawing-room
             at Mont Clare



    The Works Of Joseph Hergesheimer

                 Novels

  The Lay Anthony [1914]
  Mountain Blood [1915]
  The Three Black Pennys [1917]
  Java Head [1918]
  Linda Condon [1919]
  Cytherea [1922]
  The Bright Shawl [1922]

            Shorter Stories

  Wild Oranges [1918]
  Tubal Cain [1918]
  The Dark Fleece [1918]
  The Happy End [1919]

                 Travel

  San Cristobal de la Habana [1920]


  New York: Alfred A. Knopf



THE BRIGHT SHAWL


When Howard Gage had gone, his mother's brother sat with his head
bowed in frowning thought. The frown, however, was one of perplexity
rather than disapproval: he was wholly unable to comprehend the
younger man's attitude toward his experiences in the late war. The
truth was, Charles Abbott acknowledged, that he understood nothing,
nothing at all, about the present young. Indeed, if it hadn't been for
the thoroughly absurd, the witless, things they constantly did,
dispensing with their actual years he would have considered them the
present aged. They were so--well, so gloomy.

Yet, in view of the gaiety of the current parties, the amounts of gin
consumed, it wasn't precisely gloom that enveloped them. Charles
Abbott searched his mind for a definition, for light on a subject dark
to a degree beyond any mere figure of speech. Yes, darkness
particularly described Howard. The satirical bitterness of his
references to the "glorious victory in France" was actually a little
unbalanced. The impression Abbott had received was of bestiality
choked in mud. His nephew was amazingly clear, vivid and logical, in
his memories and opinions; they couldn't, as he stated them in a kind
of frozen fury, be easily controverted.

What, above everything else, appeared to dominate Howard Gage was a
passion for reality, for truth--all the unequivocal facts--in
opposition to a conventional or idealized statement. Particularly, he
regarded the slightest sentiment with a suspicion that reached hatred.
Abbott's thoughts centered about the word idealized; there, he told
himself, a ray of perception might be cast into Howard's obscurity;
since the most evident fact of all was that he cherished no ideals, no
sustaining vision of an ultimate dignity behind men's lives.

The boy, for example, was without patriotism; or, at least, he hadn't
a trace of the emotional loyalty that had fired the youth of Abbott's
day. There was nothing sacrificial in Howard Gage's conception of life
and duty, no allegiance outside his immediate need. Selfish, Charles
Abbott decided. What upset him was the other's coldness: damn it, a
young man had no business to be so literal! Youth was a time for
generous transforming passions, for heroics. The qualities of absolute
justice and consistency should come only with increasing age--the
inconsiderable compensations for the other ability to be rapt in
uncritical enthusiasms.

Charles Abbott sighed and raised his head. He was sitting in the
formal narrow reception room of his city house. The street outside was
narrow, too; it ran for only a square, an old thoroughfare with old
brick houses, once no more than a service alley for the larger
dwellings back of which it ran. Now, perfectly retaining its quietude,
it had acquired a new dignity of residence: because of its favorable,
its exclusive, situation, it was occupied by young married people of
highly desirable connections. Abbott, well past sixty and single, was
the only person there of his age and condition.

October was advanced and, though it was hardly past four in the
afternoon, the golden sunlight falling the length of the street was
already darkling with the faded day. A warm glow enveloped the brick
façades and the window panes of aged, faintly iridescent glass; there
was a remote sound of automobile horns, the illusive murmur of a city
never, at its loudest, loud; and, through the walls, the notes of a
piano, charming and melancholy.

After a little he could distinguish the air--it was Liszt's
Spanish Rhapsody. The accent of its measure, the jota, was at once
perceptible and immaterial; and overwhelmingly, through its magic
of suggestion, a blinding vision of his own youth--so different from
Howard's--swept over Charles Abbott. It was exactly as though, again
twenty-three, he were standing in the incandescent sunlight of Havana;
in, to be precise, the Parque Isabel. This happened so suddenly, so
surprisingly, that it oppressed his heart; he breathed with a
sharpness which resembled a gasp; the actuality around him was
blurred as though his eyes were slightly dazzled.

The playing continued intermittently, while its power to stir him grew
in an overwhelming volume. He had had no idea that he was still
capable of such profound feeling, such emotion spun, apparently, from
the tunes only potent with the young. He was confused--even, alone,
embarrassed--at the tightness of his throat, and made a decided effort
to regain a reasonable mind. He turned again to the consideration of
Howard Gage, of his lack of ideals; and, still in the flood of the
re-created past, he saw, in the difference between Howard and the boy
in Havana, what, for himself anyhow, was the trouble with the
present.

Yes, his premonition had been right--the youth of today were without
the high and romantic causes the service of which had so brightly
colored his own early years. Not patriotism alone but love had
suffered; and friendship, he was certain, had all but disappeared;
such friendship as had bound him to Andrés Escobar. Andrés! Charles
Abbott hadn't thought of him consciously for months. Now, with the
refrain of the piano, the jota, running through his thoughts, Andrés
was as real as he had been forty years ago.

It was forty years almost to the month since they had gone to the
public ball, the danzón, in the Tacon Theatre. That, however, was at
the close of the period which had recurred to him like a flare in the
dusk of the past. After the danzón the blaze of his sheer fervency had
been reduced, cooled, to maturity. But not, even in the peculiarly
brutal circumstances of his transition, sharply; only now Charles
Abbott definitely realized that he had left in Cuba, lost there, the
illusions which were synonymous with his young intensity.

After that nothing much had absorbed him, very little had happened. In
comparison with the spectacular brilliancy of his beginning, the
remainder of life had seemed level if not actually drab. Certainly the
land to which he had returned was dull against the vivid south, the
tropics. But he couldn't go back to Havana, he had felt, even after
the Spanish Government was expelled, any more than he could find in
the Plaza de Armas his own earlier self. The whole desirable affair
had been one--the figures of his loves and detestations, the paseos
and glorietas and parques of the city, now, he had heard, so changed,
formed a unity destroyed by the missing of any single element.

He wasn't, though, specially considering himself, but rather the
sustaining beliefs that so clearly marked the divergence between
Howard's day and his own. This discovery, he felt, was of deep
importance, it explained so much that was apparently inexplicable.
Charles Abbott asserted silently, dogmatically, that a failure of
spirit had occurred ... there was no longer such supreme honor as
Andrés Escobar's. The dance measure in the Spanish Rhapsody grew
louder and more insistent, and through it he heard the castanets of
La Clavel, he saw the superb flame of her body in the brutal
magnificence of the fringed mantón like Andalusia incarnate.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had a vision of the shawl itself, and, once more, seemed to feel
the smooth dragging heaviness of its embroidery. The burning square of
its colors unfolded before him, the incredible magentas, the night
blues and oranges and emerald and vermilion, worked into broad peonies
and roses wreathed in leaves. And suddenly he felt again that, not
only prefiguring Spain, it was symbolical of the youth, the time, that
had gone. Thus the past appeared to him, wrapped bright and precious
in the shawl of memory.

No woman that Howard Gage might dream of could have worn La Clavel's
mantón; it would have consumed her like a breath of fire, leaving a
white ash hardly more than distinguishable from the present living
actuality. Women cast up a prodigious amount of smoke now, a most
noisy crackling, but Charles Abbott doubted the blaze within them.
Water had been thrown on it. Their grace, too, the dancing about
which they made such a stir,--not to compare it with La Clavel's but
with no better than Pilar's--was hardly more than a rapid clumsy
posturing. Where was the young man now who could dance for two hours
without stopping on a spot scarcely bigger than the rim of his silk
hat?

Where, indeed, was the silk hat!

Even men's clothes had suffered in the common decline: black satin and
gold, nicely cut trousers, the propriety of pumps, had all vanished.
Charles Abbott recalled distinctly the care with which he had
assembled the clothing to be taken to Cuba, the formal dress of
evening, with a plum-colored cape, and informal linens for the
tropical days. The shirt-maker had filled his box with the finest
procurable cambrics and tallest stocks. Trivialities, yet they
indicated what had once been breeding; but now, incredibly, that was
regarded as trivial.

The Spanish Rhapsody had ceased, and the sun was all but withdrawn
from the street; twilight was gathering, particularly in Charles
Abbott's reception room. The gilded eagle of the old American clock on
the over-mantel seemed almost to flutter its carved wings, the fragile
rose mahogany spinet held what light there was, but the pair of small
brocaded sofas had lost their severe definition. Charles Abbott's
emotion, as well, subsided, its place taken by a concentrated effort
to put together the details of a scene which had assumed, in his
perplexity about Howard, a present significance.

He heard, with a momentarily diverted attention, the closing of the
front door beyond, women's voices on the pavement and the changing
gears of a motor: Mrs. Vauxn and her daughter were going out early for
dinner. They lived together--the girl had married into the navy--and
it was the former who played the piano. The street, after their
departure, was silent again. How different it was from the clamorous
gaiety of Havana.

Not actual sickness, Charles Abbott proceeded, but the delicacy of his
lungs, following scarlet fever, had taken him south. A banking
associate of his father's, recommending Cuba, had, at the same time,
pointedly qualified his suggestion; and this secondary consideration
had determined Charles on Havana. The banker had added that Cuba was
the most healthful place he knew for anyone with no political
attachments. There political activity, more than an indiscretion, was
fatal. What did he mean? Charles Abbott had asked; and the other had
replied with a single ominous word, Spain.

There was, it was brought out, a growing and potent, but secretive,
spirit of rebellion against the Government, to which Seville was
retaliating with the utmost open violence. This was spread not so much
through the people, the country, at large, as it was concentrated in the
cities, in Santiago de Cuba and Havana; and there it was practically
limited to the younger members of aristocratic families. Every week
boys--they were no more for all their sounding pronunciamientos--were
being murdered in the fosses of Cabañas fortress. Women of the
greatest delicacy, suspected of sympathy with nationalistic ideals,
were thrown into the filthy pens of town prostitutes. Everywhere a
limitless system of espionage was combating the gathering of circles,
tertulias, for the planning of a Cuba liberated from a bloody and
intolerable tyranny.

Were these men, Charles pressed his query, really as young as himself?
Younger, some of them, by five and six years. And they were shot by a
file of soldiers' muskets? Eight students at the university had been
executed at once for a disproved charge that they had scrawled an
insulting phrase on the glass door of the tomb of a Cuban Volunteer.
At this the elder Abbott had looked so dubious that Charles hastily
abandoned his questioning. Enough of that sort of thing had been
shown; already his mother was unalterably opposed to Cuba; and there
he intended at any price to go. But those tragedies and reprisals, the
champion of his determination insisted, were limited, as he had begun
by saying, to the politically involved. No more engaging or safer city
than Havana existed for the delight of young travelling Americans with
an equal amount of money and good sense. He had proceeded to indicate
the temperate pleasures of Havana; but, then, Charles Abbott had no
ear for sensuous enjoyment. His mind was filled by the other vision of
heroic youth dying for the ideal of liberty.

He had never before given Cuba, under Spanish rule, a thought; but at
a chance sentence it dominated him completely; all his being had been
tinder for the spark of its romantic spirit. This, naturally, he had
carefully concealed from his parents, for, during the days that
immediately followed, Cuba as a possibility was continuously argued.
Soon his father, basing his decision on Charles' gravity of character,
was in favor of the change; and in the end his mother, at whose
prescience he wondered, was overborne.

Well, he was for Havana! His cabin on the Morro Castle was secured,
that notable trunkful of personal effects packed; and his father,
greatly to Charles' surprise, outside all women's knowledge, gave him
a small derringer with a handle of mother-of-pearl. He was, now, the
elder told him, almost a man; and, while it was inconceivable that he
would have a use for the pistol, he must accustom himself to such
responsibility. He wouldn't need it; but if he did, there, with its
greased cartridges in their short ugly chambers, it was. "Never shoot
in a passion," the excellent advice went on; "only a cool hand is
steady, and remember that it hasn't much range." It was for desperate
necessity at a very short distance.

With the derringer lying newly in his grasp, his eyes steadily on his
father's slightly anxious gaze, Charles asseverated that he would
faithfully attend every instruction. At the identical moment of this
commitment he pictured himself firing into the braided tunic of a
beastly Spanish officer and supporting a youthful Cuban patriot, dying
pallidly of wounds, in his free arm. The Morro Castle hadn't left its
New York dock before he had determined just what part he would take
in the liberation of Cuba--he'd lead a hopeless demonstration in the
center of Havana, at the hour when the city was its brightest and the
band playing most gaily; his voice, sharp like a shot, so soon to be
stilled in death, would stop the insolence of music.

       *       *       *       *       *

This was not a tableau of self-glorification or irresponsible youth,
he proceeded; it was more significant than a spirit of adventure. His
determination rested on the abstraction of liberty for an oppressed
people; he saw Cuba as a place which, after great travail, would
become the haunt of perfect peace. That, Charles felt, was not only a
possibility but inevitable; he saw the forces of life drawn up in such
a manner--the good on one side facing the bad on the other. There was
no mingling of the ranks, no grey; simply, conveniently, black and
white. And, in the end, the white would completely triumph; it would
be victorious for the reason that heaven must reign over hell. God was
supreme.

Charles wasn't at all religious, he came of a blood which delegated to
its women the rites and responsibilities of the church; but there was
no question in his mind, no doubt, of the Protestant theological map;
augustness lay concretely behind the sky; hell was no mere mediæval
fantasy. He might ignore this in daily practice, yet it held him
within its potent if invisible barriers. Charles Abbott believed it.
The supremacy of God, suspended above the wickedness of Spain, would
descend and crush it.

Ranged, therefore, squarely on the side of the angels, mentally he
swept forward in confidence, sustained by the glitter of their
invincible pinions. The spending of his life, he thought, was a
necessary part of the consummation; somehow without that his
vision lost radiance. A great price would be required, but the
result--eternal happiness on that island to which he was taking
linen suits in winter! Charles had a subconscious conception of the
heroic doctrine of the destruction of the body for the soul's
salvation.

The Morro Castle, entering a wind like the slashing of a stupendous
dull grey sword, slowly and uncomfortably steamed along her course.
Most of the passengers at once were seasick, and either retired or
collapsed in a leaden row under the lee of the deck cabins. But this
indisposition didn't touch Charles, and it pleased his sense of
dignity. He appeared, erect and capable, at breakfast, and through the
morning promenaded the unsteady deck. He attended the gambling in the
smoking saloon, and listened gravely to the fragmentary hymns
attempted on Sunday.

These human activities were all definitely outside him; charged with a
higher purpose, he watched them comprehendingly, his lips bearing the
shadow of a saddened smile; essentially he was alone, isolated. Or at
least he was at the beginning of the four days' journey--he kept
colliding with the rotund figure of a man wrapped to the eyes in a
heavy cloak until, finally, from progressing in opposite directions,
they fell into step together. To Charles' delight, the other was a
Cuban, Domingo Escobar, who lived in Havana, on the Prado.

Charles Abbott learned this from the flourishing card given in return
for his own. Escobar he found to be a man with a pleasant and
considerate disposition; indeed, he maintained a scrupulous courtesy
toward Charles far transcending any he would have had, from a man so
much older, at home. Domingo Escobar, it developed, had a grown son,
Vincente, twenty-eight years old; a boy perhaps Charles' own age--no,
Andrés would be two, three, years younger; and Narcisa. The latter,
his daughter, Escobar, unashamed, described as a budding white rose.

Charles wasn't interested in that, his thoughts were definitely turned
from girls, however flower-like; but he was engaged by Vincente and
Andrés. He asked a great many questions about them, all tending to
discover, if possible, the activity of their patriotism. This, though,
was a subject which Domingo Escobar resolutely ignored.

Once, when Charles put a direct query with relation to Spain in Cuba,
the older man, abruptly replying at a tangent, ignored his question.
It would be necessary to ask Andrés Escobar himself. That he would
have an opportunity to do this was assured, for Andrés' parent, who
knew the Abbotts' banking friend intimately, had told Charles with
flattering sincerity how welcome he would be at the Escobar dwelling
on the Prado.

The Prado, it began to be clear, of all the possible places of
residence in Havana, was the best; the Escobars went to Paris when
they willed; and, altogether, Charles told himself, he had made a very
fortunate beginning. He picked up, from various sources on the
steamer, useful tags of knowledge about his destination:

The Inglaterra, to which he had been directed, was a capital hotel,
but outside the walls. Still, the Calle del Prado, the Paseo there,
were quite gay; and before them was the sweep of the Parque Isabel,
where the band played. At the Hotel St. Louis, next door, many of the
Spanish officers had their rooms, but at the hour of dinner they
gathered in the Café Dominica. The Noble Havana was celebrated for its
camarones--shrimps, Charles learned--and the Tuileries, at the
juncture of Consulado and San Rafael Streets, had a salon upstairs
especially for women. Most of his dinners, however, he would get at
the Restaurant Français, excellently kept by François Garçon on Cuba
Street, number seventy-two.

There he would encounter the majority of his young fellow countrymen
in Havana; the Café El Louvre would serve for sherbets after the
theatre, and the Aguila de Oro.... The Plaza de Toros, of course, he
would frequent: it was on Belascoin Street near the sea. The afternoon
fights only were fashionable; the bulls killed in the morning were no
more than toro del aguadiente. And the cockpit was at the Valla de
Gallo.

There were other suggestions as well, put mostly in the form of ribald
inquiry; but toward them Charles Abbott persisted in an attitude of
uncommunicative disdain. His mind, his whole determination, had been
singularly purified; he had a sensation of remoteness from the flesh;
his purpose killed earthly desire. He thought of himself now as
dedicated to that: Charles reviewed the comfortable amount of his
letter of credit, his personal qualifications, the derringer mounted
in mother-of-pearl, in the light of one end. It annoyed him that he
couldn't, at once, plunge into this with Domingo Escobar; but,
whenever he approached that ordinarily responsive gentleman with
anything political, he grew morose and silent, or else, more maddening
still, deliberately put Charles' interest aside. The derringer,
however, brought out an unexpected and gratifying stir.

Escobar had stopped in Charles' cabin, and the latter, with a studied
air of the casual, displayed the weapon on his berth. "You must throw
it away," Escobar exclaimed dramatically; "at once, now, through the
porthole."

"I can't do that," Charles explained; "it was a gift from my father;
besides, I'm old enough for such things."

"A gift from your father, perhaps," the other echoed; "but did he tell
you, I wonder, how you were going to get it into Cuba? Did he explain
what the Spanish officials would do if they found you with a pistol?
Dama de Caridad, do you suppose Cuba is New York! The best you could
hope for would be deportation. Into the sea with it."

But this Charles Abbott refused to do, though he would, he agreed,
conceal it beyond the ingenuity of Spain; and Escobar left him in a
muttering anger. Charles felt decidedly encouraged: a palpable degree
of excitement, of tense anticipation, had been granted him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet his first actual breath of the tropics, of Cuba, was very
different, charged and surcharged with magical peace: the steamer was
enveloped in an evening of ineffable lovely blueness. The sun faded
from the world of water and left an ultramarine undulating flood with
depths of clear black, the sky was a tender gauze of color which, as
night approached, was sewn with a glimmer that became curiously
apparent, seemingly nearby, stars. The air that brushed Charles'
cheek was slow and warm; its warmth was fuller, heavier with potency,
than any summer he had known. Accelerating his imagination it
dissipated his energies; he lounged supine in his chair, long past
midnight, lulled by the slight rise and fall of the sea, gathered up
benignly into the beauty above him.

Later he had to stir himself into the energy of packing, for the
Morro Castle was docking early in the morning. He closed his bag
thoughtfully, the derringer on a shelf. Escobar had spoken about it,
warning him, again; and it was apparent that no obvious place of
concealment would be sufficient. At last he hit on an excellent
expedient--he would suspend it inside the leg of a trouser. He fell
asleep, still saturated with the placid blue immensity without, and
woke sharply, while it was still dark. But it was past four, and
he rose and dressed. The deck was empty, deserted, and the light in
the pilot house showed a solitary intent countenance under a glazed
visor. There was, of course, no sign of Cuba.

A wind freshened, it blew steadily with no change of temperature, like
none of the winds with which he was familiar. It appeared to blow the
night away, astern. The caged light grew dull, there were rifts in
the darkness, gleams over the tranquil sea, and the morning opened
like a flower sparkling in dew. The limitless reach of the water
flashed in silver planes; miniature rainbows cascaded in the spray at
the steamer's bow; a flight of sailing fish skittered by the side. Far
ahead there was a faint silhouette, like the print of a tenuous
green-grey cloud, on the sea. It grew darker, bolder; and Charles
Abbott realized that it was an island.

Cuba came rapidly nearer; he could see now that it wasn't pale; its
foliage was heavy, glossy, almost sombre. The Morro Castle bore to the
left, but he was unable to make out an opening, a possible city, on
the coast. The water regained its intense blue, at once transparent,
clear, and dyed with pigment. The other travellers were all on deck:
Charles moved toward Domingo Escobar, but he eluded him. Undoubtedly
Escobar had the conjunction of the derringer and the Spanish customs
in mind. A general uneasiness permeated the small throng; they
conversed with a forced triviality, or, sunk in thought, said
nothing.

Then, with the sudden drama of a crash of brass, of an abruptly
lifting curtain, they swung into Havana harbor. Charles was
simultaneously amazed at a great many things--the narrowness of the
entrance, the crowded ships in what was no more than a rift of the
sea, a long pink fortress above him at the left, and the city, Havana
itself, immediately before him. His utmost desire was satisfied by
that first glimpse. Why, he cried mentally, hadn't he been told that
it was a city of white marble? That was the impression it gave him--a
miraculous whiteness, a dream city, crowning the shining blue tide.

Every house was hung with balconies on long shuttered windows, and
everywhere were parks and palms, tall palms with smooth pewter-like
trunks and short palms profusely leaved. Here, then, white and green,
was the place of his dedication; he was a little dashed at its size
and vigor and brilliancy.

The steamer was scarcely moving when the customs officials came on
board; and, as the drift ceased, a swarm of boats like scows with
awnings aft clustered about them. Hotel runners clambered up the
sides, and in an instant there was a pandemonium of Spanish and
disjointed English. A man whose cap bore the sign Hotel Telégrafo
clutched Charles Abbott's arm, but he sharply drew away, repeating the
single word, "Inglaterra!" The porter of that hotel soon discovered
him, and, with a fixed reassuring smile, got together all the baggage
for his guests.

Charles, instructed by Domingo Escobar, ignored the demand for
passports, and proceeded to the boat indicated as the Inglaterra's. It
was piled with luggage, practically awash; yet the boatmen urged it
ashore, to the custom house, in a mad racing with the whole churning
flotilla. The rigor of the landing examination, Charles thought
impatiently, had been ridiculously exaggerated; but, stepping into a
hack, two men in finely striped linen, carrying canes with green
tassels, peremptorily stopped him. Charles was unable to grasp the
intent of their rapid Spanish, when one ran his hands dexterously over
his body. He explored the pockets, tapped Charles' back, and then drew
aside. When, at last, he was seated in the hack, the position of the
derringer was awkward, and carefully he shifted it.

An intimate view of Havana increased rather than diminished its
evident charms. The heat, Charles found, though extreme, was less
oppressive than the dazzling light; the sun blazing on white walls, on
walls of primrose and cobalt, in the wide verdant openings, positively
blinded him. He passed narrow streets over which awnings were hung
from house to house, statues, fountains, a broad way with files of
unfamiliar trees, and stopped with a clatter before the Inglaterra.

It faced on a broad covered pavement, an arcade, along which, farther
down, were companies of small iron tables and chairs; and it was so
foreign to Charles, so fascinating, that he stood lost in gazing. A
hotel servant in white, at his elbow, recalled the necessity of
immediate arrangements, and he went on into a high cool corridor set
with a marble flooring. At the office he exchanged his passport for a
solemn printed warning and interminable succession of directions; and
then, climbing an impressive stair, he was ushered into a room where
the ceiling was so far above him that once more he was overcome by
strangeness and surprise.

He unpacked slowly, with a gratifying sense of the mature significance
of his every gesture; and, in the stone tub hidden by a curtain in a
corner, had a refreshing bath. There was a single window rising from
the tiled floor eight or ten feet, and he opened double shutters,
discovering a shallow iron-railed balcony. Before him was a squat
yellow building with a wide complicated façade; it reached back for a
square, and Charles decided that it was the Tacon Theatre. On the
left was the Parque de Isabel, with its grass plots and gravel walks,
its trees and iron settees, gathered about the statue of Isabel II.

Charles Abbott's confidence left him little by little; what had seemed
so easy in New York, so apparent, was uncertain with Havana about him.
The careless insolence of the inspectors with the green-tasseled canes
at once filled him with indignation and depression. How was he to
begin his mission? Without a word of Spanish he couldn't even make it
known. There was Andrés Escobar to consider: his father had told
Charles that he knew a few words of English. Meanwhile, hungry, he
went down to the eleven o'clock breakfast.

       *       *       *       *       *

A ceremonious head waiter led him to a small table by a long window on
the Parque, where, gazing hastily at the breakfasts around him, he
managed, with the assistance of his waiter's limited English, to
repeat their principal features. These were fruit and salads, coffee
flavored with salt, and French bread. Clear white curtains swung at
the window in a barely perceptible current of air, and he had glimpses
of the expanse without, now veiled and now intolerably brilliant. His
dissatisfaction, doubts, vanished in an extraordinary sense of
well-being, or settled importance and elegance. There were many people
in the dining-room, it was filled with the unfamiliar sound of
Spanish; the men, dark, bearded and brilliant-eyed, in white linens,
with their excitable hands, specially engaged his attention, for it
was to them he was addressed.

The women he glanced over with a detached and indulgent manner: they
were, on the whole, a little fatter than necessary; but their voices
were soft and their dress and jewels, even so early in the day, nicely
elaborate. All his interest was directed to the Cubans present; other
travellers, like--or, rather, unlike--himself, Americans, French and
English, planning in their loud several tongues the day's excursions,
or breakfasting with gazes fastened on Hingray's English and Spanish
Conversations, Charles carefully ignored.

He felt, because of the depth of his own implication, his passionate
self-commitment, here, infinitely superior to more casual, to blinder,
journeyings. He disliked the English arrogance, the American clothes,
and the suspicious parsimony of the French. Outside, in the main
corridor of the hotel, he paused undecided; practically no one, he
saw, in the Parque Isabel, was walking; there was an unending broad
stream of single horse victorias for hire; but he couldn't ask any
driver he saw to conduct him to the heart of the Cuban party of
liberty.

The strongest of all his recognitions was the fact that he had no
desire--but a marked distaste--for sightseeing; he didn't want to be
identified, in the eyes of Havana, with the circulating throng of
the superficially curious. In the end he strolled away from the
Inglaterra, to the left, and discovered the Prado. It was a wide
avenue with the promenade in the center shaded by rows of trees
with small burnished leaves. There, he remembered, was where the
Escobars lived, and he wondered which of the imposing dwellings, blue
or white, with sweeping pillars and carved balconies and great
iron-bound doors, was theirs. He passed a fencing school and
gymnasium; a dilapidated theatre of wood pasted with old French
playbills; fountains with lions' heads; and came to the sea. It
reached in an idyllic and unstirred blue away to the flawless
horizon, with, on the rocks of its shore, a company of parti-colored
bath-houses. There was an old fort, a gate--which, he could see,
once formed part of the city wall--bearing on its top a row of
rusted and antiquated cannon. Slopes of earth led down from the
battery, and beyond he entered a covered stone way with a parapet
dropping to the tranquil tide. After an open space, the Maestranza,
he came to a pretty walk; it was the Paseo de Valdez, with trees,
stone seats and a rippling breeze.

Charles Abbott indolently examined an arch, fallen into disrepair,
erected, its tablet informed him, by the corps of Royal Engineers. He
sat on a bench, saturated by the hot vivid peace; before him reached
the narrow entrance of the bay with, on the farther hand, the long
pink wall of the Cabañas. A drift of military music came to him from
the fortress.... A great love for Havana stirred in his heart;
already, after only a few hours, he was familiar, contented, there. It
seemed to Charles that he understood its spirit; the beauty of palms
and marble was what, in the bleak north, all his life he had longed
for. The constriction of his breathing had vanished.

The necessity for an immediate and violent action had lessened; he
would, when the time came, act; he was practically unlimited in days
and money. Charles decided, however, to begin at once the study of
Spanish; and he'd arrange for lessons at the Fencing School. Both of
those accomplishments were imperative to his final intention. He
lingered on the beach without an inclination to move--he had been
lower physically than he realized. The heat increased, the breeze and
band stopped, and finally he rose and returned to the Inglaterra.
There the high cool shadow of his room was so soothing that he fell
into a sound slumber and was waked only by a pounding at his door past
the middle of afternoon.

A servant tendered him a card that bore engraved the name Andrés
Escobar. He would see Mr. Escobar, he sent word, as soon as he could
be dressed. And, choosing his garb in a mingling of haste and
particular care, he was permeated by an indefinable excitement. Facing
Andrés, he had a sensation of his own clumsiness, his inept attitude;
for the other, younger than he in appearance, was faultless in
bearing: in immaculately ironed linen, a lavender tie and sprig of
mimosa, he was an impressive figure of the best fashion. But Andrés
Escobar was far more than that: his sensitive delicately modelled dark
face, the clear brown eyes and level lips, were stamped with a
superfine personality.

His English, as his father had said, was halting, confined to the
merest formal phrases, but his tones were warm with hospitality.

"It was polite of you to come so soon," Charles replied; "and your
father was splendid to me on the steamer."

"How do you like Havana?" Andrés asked.

"I love it!" Charles Abbott exclaimed, in a burst of enthusiasm, but
of which, immediately after, he was ashamed. "I was thinking this
morning," he continued more stiffly, "when I had hardly got here, how
much at home I felt. That's funny, too; for it's entirely different
from all I have known."

"You like it!" Andrés Escobar reflected his unreserved tone. "That's
good; I am very, very glad. You must come to our house, Papa sends you
this." He smiled delightfully.

They were standing, and Charles waved toward the dining-room. "Suppose
we go in there and have a drink." In Havana he continually found
himself in situations of the most gratifying maturity--here he was, in
the dining-room of the Inglaterra Hotel, with a tall rum punch before
him, and a mature looking cigar. He was a little doubtful about the
latter, its length was formidable; and he delayed lighting it until
Andrés had partly eclipsed himself in smoke. But, to his private
satisfaction, Charles enjoyed the cigar completely.

He liked his companion enormously, noticing, as they sat in a
comfortable silence, fresh details: Andrés' hair, ink-black, grew in a
peak on his forehead; the silk case which held his cigars was bound in
gold; his narrow shoes were patent leather with high heels. But what,
above all else, impressed Charles, was his evidently worldly poise,
the palpable air of experience that clung to him. Andrés was at once
younger and much older than himself.

"How are you interested?" Andrés asked, "in ... girls? I know some
very nice ones."

"Not in the least," Charles Abbott replied decidedly; "the only thing
I care for is politics and the cause of justice and freedom."

       *       *       *       *       *

Andrés Escobar gazed swiftly at the occupied tables around them; not
far away there was a party of Spanish officers in loose short
tunics and blue trousers. Then, without commenting on Charles'
assertion, he drank from his glass of punch. "Some very nice
girls," he repeated. Charles was overwhelmed with chagrin at his
indiscretion; Andrés would think that he was a babbling idiot. At
the same time he was slightly impatient: his faith in the dangers of
Havana had been shaken by the city's aspect of profound placidity,
its air of unalloyed pleasure. "You should know my friends," Andrés
went on conversationally; "Remigio Florez, they are great coffee
planters, and Jaime--Jaime Quintara--and Tirso Labrador. They will
welcome you, as I."

Charles explained his intention of learning Spanish, of fencing; and
the other promised his unreserved assistance. He would have a teacher
of languages sent to the hotel and himself take Charles to the Fencing
School. "Tomorrow," he promised. The drinks were finished, the cigars
consumed in long ashes, and Andrés Escobar rose to go. As they walked
toward the Paseo the Cuban said, "You must be very careful, liberty is
a dangerous word; it is discussed only in private; in our tertulia you
may speak." He held out a straight forward palm. "We shall be
friends."

Again in his room, Charles dwelt on Andrés, conscious of the birth of
a great liking, the friendship the other had put into words. He wanted
to be like Andrés, as slender and graceful, with his hair in a peak
and a worldly, contained manner. Charles was thin, rather than
slender, more awkward than not; decidedly fragile in appearance. And
his experience of life had been less than nothing. Yet he would make
up for this lack by the fervor of his attachment to the cause of Cuba.
He recalled all the stories he knew of foreign soldiers heroic in an
adopted cause; that was an even more ideal form of service than the
natural attachment to a land of birth.

He moved a chair out on his balcony, and sat above the extended
irregular roof of the Tacon Theatre, watching the dusk flood the white
marble ways. The lengthening shadows of the Parque blurred, joined in
one; the façades were golden and then dimly violet; the Gate of
Montserrat lost its boldness of outline. Cries rose from the streets,
"Cuidado! Cuidado!" and "Narranjas, narranjas dulces." The evening
news sheets were called in long falling inflections.

What surprised him was that, although he had more than an ordinary
affection for his home, his father and mother, now, here, they were of
no importance, no reality, to him. He never, except by an objective
effort, gave the north, the past, a thought. He was carried above
personal relationships and familiar regard; at a blow his old ties
had been severed; the new held him in the grip of their infinite
possibilities. All the petty things of self were obscured in the same
way that the individual aspects of the city below him were being
merged into one dignity of tone.

Yet, at the same time, his mood had a charming reality--the suaveness
of Andrés Escobar. His, Charles Abbott's, would be a select, an
aristocratic, fate; the end, when it overtook him, would find him in
beautiful snowy linens, dignified, exclusive, to the last. His would
be no pot-house brawling. That was his double necessity, the highest
form of good in circumstances of the first breeding. One, perhaps, to
his æsthetic fibre, was as important as the other. And, dressing for
dinner, he spoiled three shirts in the exact right fixing of his
studs.

In the dining-room, he pressed a liberal sum of American money on the
head waiter, and was conducted to the table he had occupied at
breakfast. Everyone, practically, except some unspeakable tourists,
was in formal clothes; and the conversations, the sparkling light,
were like the champagne everywhere evident. Charles chose a Spanish
wine, the Marquis de Riscal; and prolonged his sitting over coffee and
a cigar, a Partagas, like those in Andrés' silk case. He had never
before tasted coffee with such a rich thick savor, its fragrance
alone, blending with the blue smoke of his cigar, filled him with
pleasure.

The room was long, tiled, and had, against the far wall, a great
mirror which held in reverse the gay sweep of the tables, the heavily
powdered shoulders of women, the prismatic flashes of diamonds and
men's animated faces. The reflections were almost as fascinating as
the reality, and Charles gazed from one to the other.

Drinking, he saw, was universal, but none of the Cubans were drunk;
and for that reason his attention was held by two men at the table
next to his: the waiter had left a bottle of brandy, and the
individual facing Charles, with a sallow face from which depended,
like a curtain, a square-cut black beard, was filling and refilling
his thimble-sized glass. He was watching, with a shifting intentness
of gaze, all who entered; and suddenly, as Charles' eyes were on him,
he put down his half-lifted brandy and a hand went under the fold of
his coat.

Charles turned, involuntarily, and saw a small immaculate Cuban with
grey hair and a ribband in his buttonhole advancing among the tables.
He was a man of distinguished appearance, important it was evident,
for a marked number of people bowed as he passed. When he had gone on,
the bearded individual rose, swaying slightly, and, with his hand
still in his coat rapidly overtook the other.

Charles Abbott had an impulse to cry out; but, oppressed by a sense of
helpless dread, impending disaster, without a sound or power of
movement he followed the course of the second figure. The two were now
at the end of the dining-room, close to the mirror, when the man with
the decoration stopped and turned sharply. There was the sudden
stabbing report of a pistol, and, immediately following, a loud
splintering crash. Charles had the crazy illusion that a man who had
been shot was made of china, and would be found in broken bits on the
floor.

There was an instantaneous hysterical uproar, dominated by the screams
of women; in the panic which rose there was a rush for the entrance, a
swirl of tearing satin and black dress coats. Then, even before he
heard the concerted derisive amazement, Charles realized that, dazed
by the brandy, the intended murderer had fired at the reflection of
his mark in the glass.

What an utterly ridiculous error; and yet his hands were wet and cold,
his heart pounding. Something of the masking gaiety, the appearance
of innocent high spirits, was stripped from the dining-room of the
Inglaterra, from Havana. There was an imperative need for Andrés
Escobar's caution. Charles' equanimity returned: with a steady hand he
poured out more coffee. He was ashamed of his emotion; but, by heaven,
that was the first of such violence he had witnessed; he knew that it
happened, to a large degree its possibility had brought him to Cuba;
yet directly before him, in a square beard and a decorating
ribband!... On the floor were the torn painted gauze and broken ivory
sticks of a woman's fan.

       *       *       *       *       *

The echo of that futile shot followed Charles Abbott to the Escobars',
where, because of the often repeated names of its principals, he
recognized that the affair was being minutely discussed. The room in
which they sat was octagonal, with the high panels of its walls no
more than frames for towering glass doors set in dark wood; above were
serrated openings, Eastern in form, and the doors were supported by
paired columns of glacial white marble. It was entered through a long
corridor of pillars capped in black onyx with wicker chairs, a tiling
laid in arabesques and potted palms; and opposite was the balcony over
the Prado. A chandelier of crystal, hanging by a chain from the remote
ceiling, with a frosted sparkle like an illuminated wedding cake,
unaffected by prismatic green and red flashes, filled the interior
with a chilly brightness. The chairs of pale gilt set in a circle, the
marble pattern of the floor, the dark heads of the Escobars, looked as
though they were bathed in a vitreous fluid preserving them in a hard
pallor forever.

But it was cool; the beginning constant night breeze fluttered the
window curtains and swayed the pennants of smoke from the cigars.
Domingo Escobar finished what was evidently a satirical period with a
decisive clearing of his throat--a-ha! He was a small rotund man with
a gigantic moustache laid without a brown hair misplaced over a mouth
kindly and petulant. His wife, Carmita, obese with indulgent
indolence, her placid expression faintly acid, waved a little hand,
like a blanched almond, indicative of her endless surprise at the
clamor of men. Andrés was silent, immobile, faultless in a severity of
black and white.

Charles had begun to admire him inordinately: above everything,
Andrés possessed a simple warmness of heart, a generosity of emotion,
together with a fastidious mind. Fortunate combination. And his
person, his gestures and flashing speech, his brooding, were invested
by an intangible quality of romance; whatever he did was absorbing,
dramatic and--and fateful. He was a trifle aloof, in spite of his
impulsive humanity, a thought withdrawn as though by a shadow that
might have been but his unfailing dignity.

Charles' gaze wandered from him to Narcisa, who, Domingo Escobar had
said, resembled a flower bud. As she sat in pale yellow ruffles, with
her slim hands clasped and her composed face framed in a wide dense
stream of hair, she was decidedly fetching. Or, rather, she gave
promise of charm; at present, she was too young to engage him in any
considerable degree. Narcisa, he concluded, was fourteen. At very long
intervals she looked up and he caught a lustrous, momentary
interrogation of big black eyes. A very satisfactory sister for Andrés
Escobar to have; and, wondering at the absence of Vincente, the eldest
son, Charles asked Andrés about his brother.

A marked constraint was immediately visible in the family around him.
Vincente, he was informed abruptly, was out of Havana, he had had to
go to Matanzas. Later, on the balcony over the Prado, Andrés added an
absorbing detail. "Vincente, we think, is in the Party of Liberation.
But you must say nothing. I do not know, Vincente will not speak; but
mama has noticed the gendarmes in front of the house, and when she
drives."

"I should like to talk to him," Charles Abbott declared; "you must
arrange it for me. Look here, there's nobody around, I might as well
tell you that's why I came to Cuba, to fight the cursed Spanish.
I'm--I'm serious, there's nothing I wouldn't do; and if I have to be
killed, why, I am ready for that. It's all worked out in my head,
except some petty little details. Cuba ought to be free; this
oppression is horrible, like a spell on you--you're all afraid to more
than whisper--that must be broken. It must! I have a good little bit
of money and I can get more. You've got to help me."

Andrés clasped his hand. "That is wonderful!" His lowered exclamation
vibrated with feeling. "How can you have such nobility! I am given to
it, and Jaime and Remigio Florez and Tirso. But we are going to wait,
we think that is better; Spain shall pay us when the time comes.
Those students, eight of them, who were shot, were well known to us.
They put them against a wall by the prison and fired. You could hear
it clearly. But, when we are ready, the Spanish Volunteers--" hatred
closed his throat, drew him up rigidly. "Not yet," he insisted; "this
shall be different, forever. Perhaps your country will help us then."

Charles was increasingly impatient; he couldn't, he felt, wait, delay
his gesture for freedom. He conceived the idea that he might kill the
Captain-General of Spain in Cuba, shoot him from the step of his
carriage and cry that it was a memorial of the innocent boys he had
murdered. Andrés dissuaded him; it would, he said, only make the
conditions of living more difficult, harsh, put off the other, the
final, consummation.

Below, on the promenade, the rows of gas lamps shone wanly through the
close leaves of the India laurels; there was a ceaseless sauntering
throng of men; then, from the Plaza de Armas, there was the hollow
rattat of drums, of tattoo. It was nine o'clock. The night was
magnificent, and Charles Abbott was choked by his emotions; it seemed
to him that his heart must burst with its expanding desire of heroic
good. He had left the earth for cloudy glories, his blood turned to a
silver essence distilled in ethereal honor; he was no longer a body,
but a vow, a purpose.

One thing, in a surpassing humility, he decided, and turned to Andrés.
"Very well, if you think the other is best. Listen to me: I swear
never to leave Cuba, never to have a different thought or a hope,
never to consider myself at all, until you are free."

The intent face of Andrés Escobar, dim in the gloom of the balcony,
was like a holy seal upon his dedication. A clatter of hoofs rose from
below--the passage of a squad of the gendarmes on grey horses, their
white coats a chalky glimmer in the night. Andrés and Charles watched
them until they vanished toward the Parque Isabel; then Andrés swore,
softly.

Again in his room at the Inglaterra Charles speculated about the
complications of his determination to stay in Cuba until it was
liberated from Spain. That, he began to realize, might require years.
Questions far more difficult rose than any created by a mere immediate
sacrifice; the attitude of his father, for example; he, conceivably,
would try to force him home, shut off the supply of money. Meanwhile,
since the Inglaterra was quite expensive, he would move to a less
pretentious place. And, in the morning, Charles installed himself at
the Hotel San Felipe, kept on Ancha del Norte Street, near the bay, by
a German woman.

His room was on the top floor, on, really, a gallery leading to the
open roof that was much frequented after dinner in a cooling air which
bore the restrained masculine chords of guitars. On the right he could
see the flares of Morro Castle, and, farther, the western coast lying
black on the sea. He had his room there, and the first breakfast, but
his formal breakfast and dinner he took at the Restaurant Français,
the Aguila d'Oro, or the Café Dominica. Late, with Andrés and their
circle, their tertulia, Charles would idle at the El Louvre over
ice-cream or the sherbets called helados in Havana. On such occasions
they talked with a studied audible care of the most frivolous things;
while Charles cherished close at heart the sensation of their
dangerous secret and patient wisdom, the assurance that some day their
sacred resolution would like lightning shatter their pretence of
docility.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet, in spite of the dark texture of their minds, they were, at times,
casually happy, intent, together, on mundane affairs. They were, all
five, inseparable: Jaime Quintara, the eldest, was even more of an
exquisite than Andrés; he imported his lemon-colored gloves by the box
from Paris, where they were made to his measure; and in them, it was
the common jest, he went to bed. He was almost fat, with absurdly
small feet and a perceptible moustache. In addition, he was in love
with a public girl who lived on Gloria Street; altogether he was a man
of the world. Remigio Florez was absolutely different: the son of a
great coffee estate in Pinar del Rio, of limitless riches, he was
still simple and unaffected, short, with a round cheerful face and
innocent lips. Tirso Labrador was tall and heavy, he had the carriage
of a cavalry officer, a dragoon; and, slow mentally, his chief
characteristic was a remarkable steadfastness, a loyalty of
friendship, admiration, for his more brilliant companions. Tirso
Labrador was very strong, and it was his boast, when they were alone,
that he intended to choke a Spaniard slowly to death with his naked
hands.

Except, however, for the evening, Charles was rarely idle; upheld by
his fervor he studied Spanish with an instructor through most of the
morning, and rode or fenced in the sala in the afternoon. His
knowledge of Spanish, supplemented by his friends, grew rapidly; he
had, his teacher declared, a very special aptitude for the language.
Domingo Escobar got great delight from throwing sentences, queries, at
him with inconceivable rapidity, and in pretending that every reply
Charles attempted was senseless.

Narcisa, when he was present, contrived to sit with her gaze on her
hands folded in her ruffled lap and to lift her widely opened eyes for
breathless interrogations. She was, Charles was forced to admit,
notably pretty; in fact, for a little girl, she was a beauty. Now if
she had been thirty he might have had a hopeless passion for her,
hopeless not because she failed to return it, but for the reason that
he was a man without a future--some day, they both knew, he would
desert love for stark death.

They went, Charles and Andrés, Tirso and Remigio and Jaime, to the
Tacon Theatre for every play, where they occupied a box in the first
row, the primer piso, and lounged, between the acts, on the velvet
rail with their high silk hats and canes and boutonnières. At times
there were capital troupes of players and dancers from Andalusia, and
the evening was well spent. They liked, too, the zarzuelas, the
operettas of one act, largely improvised with local allusions. But
they most warmly applauded the dancers.

One, La Clavel, from Seville, had been announced by posters all over
the city; and, at the moment she appeared on the Tacon stage, Tirso
had his heavy arm about Remigio's shoulders, Jaime's gloved hands were
draped over his cane, and Charles was sitting in the rear of the box
with Andrés. The orchestra began a sharply accented dance measure--it
was a jota--and a lithe figure in a mantón of blazing silks and a
raked black felt hat made a sultry bow.

La Clavel was indolent; she tapped a heel and sounded her castanets
experimentally; a reminiscent smile hovered on the sombre beauty of
her face. Suddenly Charles' attention was wholly captured by the
dancer; he leaned forward, gazing over Remigio's shoulder, vaguely
conscious of the sound of guitars and suppressed drums, the insistent
ring of a triangle. She stamped her foot now, and the castanets were
sharp, exasperated. Then slowly she began to dance.

She wove a design of simple grace with her hips still and her arms
lifted and swaying; she leaned back, her eyes, under the slanted brim
of her hat, half closed; and her movements, the rhythm, grew more
pronounced. Through the music Charles could hear the stamp of her
heels, the augmented shrilling of the castanets. Her fire increased;
there were great scarlet peonies on her shawl, and they fluttered as
though they were troubled by a rising wind. La Clavel swept in a
widening circle on her hips, and her arms were now extended and now
thrust down rigidly behind her.

She dominated the cruel colors of her shawl with a savage intensity
that made them but the expressions of her feelings--the scarlet and
magenta and burning orange and blue were her visible moods, her
capriciousness and contempt and variability and searing passion. Her
hat was flung across the stage, and, with her bound hair shaking loose
from its high shell comb, she swept into an appalling fury, a
tormented human flame, of ecstasy. When Charles Abbott felt that he
could support it no longer, suddenly she was, apparently, frozen in
the immobility of a stone; the knotted fringe of her mantón hung
without a quiver.

An uproar of applause rose from the theatre, a confusion of cries, of
Olé! Olé! Anda! Anda! Chiquella! A flight of men's hats sailed like
birds around her. Jaime Quintara pounded his cane until it broke, and,
with the others, Charles shouted his unrestrained Spanish approbation.
They crowded into the front of the box, intent on every movement,
every aspect, of the dancer. Afterwards, at the Tuileries, Andrés
expressed their concerted feeling:

"The most magnificent woman alive!"

Jaime went across the café to speak to a man who had a connection with
the Tacon Theatre. He returned with an assortment of information--La
Clavel was staying at the St. Louis; she would be in Havana for a
month; and she had been seen with Captain Ceaza y Santacilla, of the
regiment of Isabel II. This latter fact cast them into a gloom; and
Remigio Florez so far broke the ban of sustained caution as to swear,
in the name of the Lady of Caridad, at Santacilla and his kind.

Nothing, though, could reduce their enthusiasm for La Clavel; they
worshipped her severally and together, discussing to the last shading
her every characteristic. She was young, but already the greatest
dancer the world had--would ever have, Charles added. And Andrés was
instructed to secure the box for her every appearance in Havana; they
must learn, they decided, if she were to dance in Santiago de Cuba,
in Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Lima, in Cathay. They, if it were
mortally possible, would be present. Meanwhile none of them was to
take advantage of the others in the contingency that she should
miraculously come to love him. That incredible happiness the
individual must sacrifice to his friendship, to his oath above all
other oaths--Cuba. The country's name was not spoken, but it was
entirely understood.

They were seated on the lower floor, by the stairs which led up to the
salon for women; and, sharply, Charles grasped Andrés' arm. Passing
them was a slender woman muffled in a black silk capote, with no hat
to cover the intricate mass of her hair piled against a high comb.
Behind her strode a Spanish officer of cavalry, his burnished scabbard
hooked on his belt against its silver chain; short, with a thick
sanguine neck above the band of his tunic, he had morose pale blue
eyes and the red hair of compounded but distinct bloods.

"La Clavel," Charles whispered; "and it must be that filthy captain,
Santacilla, with her."

       *       *       *       *       *

Seated on the roof of the Hotel San Felipe, the night's trade wind
faintly vibrant with steel strings, Charles Abbott thought at length
about La Clavel. Two weeks had passed since she first danced at the
Tacon Theatre; she had appeared on the stage three times afterward;
and she was a great success, a prodigious favorite, in Havana. Charles
and Andrés, Jaime and Remigio and Tirso Labrador, had, frankly, become
infatuated with her; and it was this feeling which Charles, at
present, was examining. If it endangered the other, his dedication to
an ordeal of right, he had decided, he must resolutely put the dancer
wholly outside his consideration.

This, he hoped, would not be necessary: his feeling for La Clavel lay
in the realm of the impersonal. It was, in fact, parallel with the
other supreme cause. La Clavel was a glittering thing of beauty, the
perfection of all that in a happier world, an Elysium--life and
romance might be. He regarded her in a mood of decided melancholy as
something greatly desirable and never to be grasped. When she danced
his every sensibility was intensified; life, for the moment, was
immeasurably lovely, flooded with lyrical splendor, vivid with
gorgeous color and aching happiness. Charles' pleasure in every
circumstance of being was acutely expanded--his affection for Andrés,
the charm of Havana, the dignity of his impending fate.

Ordinarily he would not have been content with this; he would have
striven to turn such abstractions into the concrete of an actual
experience. But now an unusual wisdom held him intent on the vision;
that, he recognized, was real; but what the reality, the woman
herself, was, who could be sure? No, he wasn't in love with La Clavel
in the accepted sense of that indefinite term; he was the slave of the
illusion, the emotions, she spun; he adored her as the goddess of his
youth and aspirations.

He tried to explain this, in halting and inadequate Spanish, to his
tertulia; and because of his spirit rather than his words, his friends
understood him. They were standing by the marble statue of Ferdinand
VII in the Plaza de Armas, waiting for the ceremony of Retrata, to
begin in a few moments. The square was made of four gardens, separated
by formal walks, with a circular glorieta; and the gardens, the royal
palms and banyans and flambeau trees, were palely lighted by gas lamps
which showed, too, the circling procession of carriages about the
Plaza. The square itself was filled with sauntering men, a shifting
pattern of white linens, broad hats and glimmering cigars, diversified
by the uniforms of Spain.

At eight o'clock a sergeant's guard and the band marched smartly into
position before the Governor-General's palace, where they stood at
rest until the drums of the barracks announced retreat. Then, at
attention, the gun of El Morro sounded, and the band swept into the
strains of Philemon et Baucis.

Jaime Quintara smiled sceptically at Charles' periods: Platonic
sentiments might satisfy Abbott, he declared, but for himself.... At
this, Remigio insisted on their moving out to inspect the carriages.
They were, for the most part, quitrins, drawn with two horses, one
outside the shafts ridden by a calesero in crimson velvet laced with
gold and a glazed hat. The quitrins had two wheels, a leather hood
strapped back, and held three passengers by means of a small
additional seat, called, Andrés explained, la niña bonita, where the
prettiest woman was invariably placed. None of the women wore hats,
but they were nearly all veiled, and the carriages were burdened with
seductive figures in wide dresses of perfumed white waving slow fans.

There was, however, little conversation between the men on foot and
the women carefully cultivating expressions of remote unconcern.
Rarely, if she were accompanied by a masculine member of her family, a
woman came to earth for a short stroll in the gardens. Charles was
absolutely inattentive to them, but his companions, particularly Tirso
and Jaime, noted and, with dismaying freedom, commented on every
feminine detail that struck their fancy. It was Tirso who excitedly
called their attention to one of the new volantas in which sat La
Clavel. Ceaza y Santacilla was not with her; the place at her side was
occupied by the man to whom Jaime had spoken about the dancer in the
Tuileries. Quintara, capturing his attention, spoke in his profoundest
manner. There was a halt in the movement of carriages, and La Clavel
was directly before them.

She wore the high comb and a mantilla of black lace falling in
scalloped folds around the vivid flower of her face--her beauty, at
least to Charles, was so extraordinary, her dark loveliness was so
flaming, that the scarlet camellia in her hair seemed wan. They were,
all four, presented to the dancer; and four extreme bows, four fervid
and sonorous acknowledgments, rose to the grace, the divinity, above.
It seemed to Charles that, perhaps because he was an American, La
Clavel noticed him more than the others: certainly she smiled at him
and the brilliancy of her gaze was veiled, made enigmatic, by the
lowering of her sweeping eyelashes.

The checked restlessness of the horses was again released in a
deliberate progress, but, as La Clavel was carried on, the man with
her added that, after Retreta, they would stop at the El Louvre for an
ice cream, a mantecado. Remigio Florez drew in a deep breath which he
allowed to escape in the form of a sigh; Jaime smoothed the wrists of
his bright yellow gloves; Tirso Labrador settled his guardsman's
shoulders into his coat. "She won't get out of the volanta," Charles
said thoughtfully; "and someone will have to bring out her refresco.
We'd better get there early and stand at the door."

"No hurry," the suave Jaime put in; "no one will leave here until
after tattoo."

At nine o'clock the drums and bugles sounded from various parts of the
city. There was one more tune played directly under the palace
windows, after which the band and its guards left briskly to the
measure of a quickstep. Charles led the way through the crowd to the
Prado and the Parque Isabel. A number of carriages were there before
them, the occupants mostly eating ices, and the café was being rapidly
filled. Waiting keen-eyed at the entrance, they saw the volante with
La Clavel before it drew up, and the calesero had scarcely dismounted
from his horse when the dancer was offered her choice of the available
sweets. She preferred, rather than an ice, an orchata, and sipped it
slowly with an air of complete enjoyment. Her every movement, Charles
Abbott saw, the turn of the hand holding the glass, her chin and
throat against the black film of lace, her slender body's poise, was
utterly and strongly graceful: it was, more than any other quality,
the vigor of her beauty that impressed him. It seemed as though she
must be superbly young, and dance magnificently, forever.

As Charles was considering this he was unceremoniously thrust aside
for the passage of Captain Santacilla with another cavalry officer
whose cinnamon colored face was stamped with sultry ill-humor.
Santacilla addressed the dancer aggressively with the query of why she
misspent her evening with the cursed Cuban negroes.

       *       *       *       *       *

La Clavel made no reply, but tended her empty glass to Andrés; then
she glanced indifferently at the captains. "Their manners," she said,
"are very pretty; and as for the negro--" she shrugged her delectable
shoulders.

"My blood is as pure, as Castilian, as your own," Tirso Labrador began
hotly; but Remigio stilled him with a hand on his arm. In an uncolored
voice he begged the dancer to excuse them; and, sweeping off their
hats, they were leaving when Santacilla's companion stepped forward in
a flash of ungoverned anger like an exposed knife:

"I've noticed you before," he addressed Tirso, "hanging and gabbling
around the cafés and theatres, and it's my opinion you are an
insurrectionist. If the truth were known, I dare say, it would be
found you are a friend to Cespedes. Anyhow, I'm tired of looking at
you; if you are not more retiring, you will find yourself in the
Cabañas."

"Good evening," Remigio repeated in an even tone. With his hand still
on Tirso's arm he tried to force him into the café; but the other,
dark with passion, broke away.

"You have dishonored my father and the name of a heroic patriot," he
said to the officer of cavalry. "In this I am alone." With a
suspicious quickness he leaned forward and his big hands shut about
the Spaniard's throat.

Charles, with a suppressed exclamation, recalled Tirso's determination
to choke one of the enemies of Cuba. The man in the gripping fingers
stiffened and then, grotesquely, lost his aspect of a human form;
suddenly he was no more than a thing of limp flesh and gay fabrics.
Instantly an uproar, a surging passionate excitement grew, at the
heart of which Tirso Labrador was curiously still. Heaving bodies, at
once closing in and prudently scattering, hid from Charles his friend.
There was an onrush of gendarmes, harsh exclamations and oaths; then,
at the flash of steel, a short agonized cry--Tirso's voice at once
hoarse and inhuman with death.

Charles Abbott, hurrying away at Andrés' urgent insistence, caught a
final glimpse of a big young body sunk on the flagging of the Paseo;
he saw a leaden face and a bubbling tide of blood. Beyond the
Montserrat gate they halted, and he was shocked to hear Remigio Florez
curse Tirso as brutally as any Spaniard. Andrés, white and trembling,
agreed. "Here is what I warned you of," he turned to Charles; "it is
fatal to lose your temper. You think that what Tirso did ends with him
in purgatory ... ha! Perhaps he is best out of it among us all. It
might be better for you to go back to America tomorrow and forget
about Cuba."

"Yes," Remigio added, "probably we are all ruined; and certainly the
police spies will be waiting for us at home."

"It would have been better if we had dissipated more," Jaime added:
"we have been entirely too high-minded and unnatural. Young men meet
together only to conspire or find love--the Spaniards know that and we
were fools."

"We haven't been suspected of anything," Andrés pointed out; "and it
may be said that Tirso was killed defending his name. No, the trouble
is to come; and it wasn't our fault. We must see less of each other,
at least in public, and be quite overcome about Tirso; that is another
account I charge to Spain: I knew him when I was a child ... in the
Vuelta Arriba--" Andrés Escobar began to cry wholly and unaffectedly;
he leaned against an angle of the gate, his head in an arm, and
prolonged sobs shook his body. Tears were silently streaming over
Jaime's face, but Charles Abbott's eyes were dry. He was filled by an
ecstasy of horror and detestation at the brutal murder of Tirso. Fear
closed his throat and pinched his heart with icy fingers; but he
ignored, rose above, himself, in a tremendous accession of his
determination to drive injustice--if not yet from the world--from
Cuba.

How little, he thought, anyone knew him who advised a return to
America. Before the cold violent fact of death a great part of his
early melodramatic spirit evaporated; the last possible trace of any
self-glorification left him, the lingering mock-heroics of boyhood
were gone. His emotion, now, was almost exultant; like a blaze of
insuperable white light it drowned all the individual colors of his
personality; it appeared to him almost that he had left the earth,
that he was above other men.

More than anything, he continued, he would require wisdom, the wisdom
of patience, maturity; Tirso had been completely wasted. He was
seated, again, on the roof of his hotel, and again it was night: the
guitars were like a distant sounding of events evolved in harmonies,
and there was the gleam of moonlight on the sea, a trace of the moon
and the scent of mignonette trees.

He was, he felt, very old, grave, in deportment; this detachment from
living must be the mark of age. Charles had always been a little
removed from activity by sickness; and now his almost solitary,
dreaming habit of existence had deepened in him. He thought, from time
to time, of other periods than his own, of ages when such service as
his had been, for gentlemen, the commonplace of living: he saw, in
imagination, before the altar of a little chapel, under the glimmer of
tall candles, a boyish figure kneeling in armor throughout the night.
At morning, with a faint clashing of steel, the young knight under a
vow rode into black forests of enchanted beasts and men and impure
magic, from which he delivered the innocent and the pure in heart.

Charles Abbott recalled the burning of the Protestant Cranmer, and, as
well, the execution of John Felton for posting the Papal bull against
the Queen on the door of London House. They too, like the knights of
Arthurian legend, had conquered the flesh for an ideal. He was carried
in spirit into a whole world of transcendent courage, into a company
who scorned ease and safety in the preservation of an integrity, a
devotion, above self. This gave him a release, the sense that his body
was immaterial, that filled him with a calm serious fervor.

He was conscious, through this, of the ceaseless playing of the guitars,
strains of jotas and malagueñas, laden with the seductiveness, the
fascination, of sensuous warm life. It was, in its persistence,
mocking; and finally it grew into a bitter undertone to the elevation
of his thought: he wanted, like Savonarola, to bring to an end the
depravity of the city; he wanted to cleanse Havana of everything but
the blanched heavenly ardor of his own dedication. The jotas
continued and the scent of mignonette increased. The moon, slipping
over the sea, shone with a vague brightness on the leaves of the
laurels below, on the whiteness of marble walks, and in the liquid
gleam of fountains. A woman laughed with a note of uncertainty and
passion.... It was all infinitely removed from him, not of the
slightest moment. What rose, dwelt, in Charles was a breath of
eternity, of infinitude; he was lost in a vision of good beyond seasons,
changeless, and for all men whomsoever. It must come, he told himself
so tensely that he was certain he had cried his conviction aloud. The
music sustained its burden of earthly desire to which the harsh
whispering rustle of the palm fronds added a sound like a scoffing
laughter.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the Plaza de Toros, the following Sunday afternoon, Charles saw La
Clavel; she was seated on an upper tier near the stand of the
musicians, over the entrance for the bulls; and, in an audience
composed almost entirely of men, she was brilliantly conspicuous in a
flaming green mantón embroidered in white petals; her mantilla was
white, and Charles could distinguish the crimson blot of the flower by
her cheek. The brass horns and drums of the band were making a rasping
uproar, and the crowded wooden amphitheatre was tense with excitement.
Andrés Escobar, beside Charles, was being gradually won from a settled
melancholy; and, in an interested voice, he spoke to Charles about the
espada, José Ponce, who had not yet killed a bull in Cuba, but who was
a great hero of the ring in Spain and South America.

"There is La Clavel," Charles said by way of reply; "she is with
Captain Santacilla, and I think, but I can't be sure, the officer
Tirso tried to choke to death. What is his name--de Vaca, Gaspar Arco
de Vaca."

"Even that," Andrés answered, "wasn't accomplished. La Clavel's
engagement in Havana is over; I suppose it will be Buenos Aires next.
Do you remember how we swore to follow her all over the world, and
how Tirso wanted to drag her volanta in place of the horses? At heart,
it's no doubt, she is Spanish, and yet.... There's the procession."

The key bearer, splendid in velvet and gold and silver, with a short
cloak, rode into the ring followed by the picadores on broken-down
horses: their legs were swathed in leather and their jackets, of ruby
and orange and emerald, were set with expensive lace. They carried
pikes with iron points; while the banderilleros, on foot, with hair
long and knotted like a woman's, hung their bright cloaks over an arm
and bore the darts gay with paper rosettes.

The espada, José Ponce, was greeted with a savage roar of approbation;
he was dressed in green velvet, his zouave jacket heavy with gold
bullion; and his lithe slender dark grace recalled to Charles Abbott
La Clavel. Charles paid little attention to the bull fighting, for he
was far in the sky of his altruism; his presence at the Plaza de Toros
was merely mechanical, the routine of his life in Havana. Across from
him the banked humanity in the cheaper seats à sol, exposed to the
full blaze of mid-afternoon, made a pattern without individual
significance; he heard the quick bells of the mules that dragged out
the dead bulls; a thick revolting odor rose from the hot sand soaked
with the blood and entrails of horses.

At times, half turning, he saw the brilliant shawl of the dancer, and
more than once he distinguished her voice in the applause following a
specially skilful or daring pass. He thought of her with a passionate
admiration unaffected by the realization that she had brought them the
worst of luck: perhaps any touch of Spain was corrupting, fatal. And
the sudden desire seized him to talk to La Clavel and make sure that
her superb art was unshadowed by the disturbing possibilities voiced
by Andrés.

There were cries of fuego! fuego! and Charles Abbott was conscious of
a bull who had proved indifferent to sport. A banderillero, fluttering
his cloak, stepped forward and planted in the beast's shoulder a dart
that exploded loudly with a spurt of flame and smoke; there was a
smothered bellow, and renewed activities went forward below. "What a
rotten show!" Charles said to Andrés, and the latter accused him of
being a tender sentimentalist. José Ponce, Andrés pronounced with
satisfaction, was a great sword. The espada was about to kill: he
moved as gracefully as though he were in the figure of a dance; his
thrust, as direct as a flash of lightning, went up to the hilt, and
the vomiting bull fell in crashing death at his feet.

"Suppose, for a change, we go to the Aguila de Oro," Andrés suggested;
"the air is better there." By that he meant that the café was
relatively free from Spaniards. The throng moved shoulder to shoulder
slowly to the doors; but Charles managed to work his way constantly
nearer the conspicuous figure of La Clavel. He despaired, however, of
getting close to her, when an unforeseen eddy of humanity separated
the dancer from her companions and threw her into Charles' path. She
recognized him immediately: but, checking his formal salutation, she
said, in a rapid lowered voice, that she would very much like to see
him ... at the St. Louis late on the afternoon of tomorrow. They were
separated immediately, leaving in Charles a sense of excited
anticipation. He joined Andrés soon after and told him what had
occurred.

"I suppose it is safe for you," Andrés decided; "you are an American,
no one has yet connected you with the cause of Cuba. But this
woman--What do we know of her?--you'll have to be prudent!"

Andrés Escobar had grown severe in the last week, he had hardened
remarkably; his concentration, Charles felt, his bitterness, even
excluded his friends. Charles Abbott's affection for him increased
daily; his love, really, for Andrés was a part of all that was highest
in him. Unlike the love of any woman, Andrés made no demand on him,
what only mattered was what each intrinsically was: there were no
pretence, no weary protestations, nothing beside the truth of their
mutual regard, their friendship. What Charles possessed belonged
equally, without demand, to Andrés; they had, aside from their great
preoccupation, the same thoughts and prejudices, the same taste in
refrescos and beauty and clothes. They discovered fresh identical
tastes with a rush of happiness.

It was, like the absorbing rest, immaterial, the negation of ordinary
aims and ideas of comfort and self-seeking. Charles would have died
for Andrés, Andrés for Charles, without of a moment's hesitation;
indeed, the base of their feeling lay in the full recognition of that
fact. This they admitted simply, with no accent of exaggeration or
boasting: on the present plane of their being it was the most natural
thing in the world.

At the Aguila de Oro, spinning the paddle of a molinillo, and
individual chocolate mill, Andrés informed Charles that Vincente was
home. "He has told me everything," Andrés Escobar continued with
pride. "We are now more than Escobars--brother Cubans. He has been
both shot and sabred and he has a malaria. But nearly all his friends
are dead. Soon, he says, we, Jaime and Remigio--and, I added,
you--will have to go out. He is to let us know when and how."

"Do the police know he is in Havana?"

"We think not; they haven't been about the house since the investigation
of the de Vaca affair, and our servants are not spies. You must come
and see Vincente this evening, for he may leave at any hour. It seems
that he is celebrated for his bravery and the Spaniards have marked
him for special attention. Papa and mama are dreadfully disturbed,
and not only because of him; for if he is discovered, all of us, yes,
little Narcisa, will be made to pay--to a horrible degree, I can tell
you."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was, apparently, nothing unusual in the situation at the
Escobars' when Charles called in the evening. The family, exactly as
he had known it, was assembled in the drawing-room, conversing under
the icy flood of the crystal chandelier. He found a chair by Narcisa,
and listened studiously to the colloquial Spanish, running swiftly
around the circle, alternating with small thoughtful silences. Soon,
however, Charles Abbott could see that the atmosphere was not
normal--the vivacity palpably was forced through the shadow of a
secret apprehension. Domingo Escobar made sudden seemingly irrelevant
gestures, Carmita sighed out of her rotundity. Only Narcisa was beyond
the general subdued gloom: in her clear white dress, her clocked white
silk stockings, and the spread densely black curtain of her hair, she
was intent on a wondering thought of her own. Her gaze, as usual, was
lowered to her loosely clasped hands; but, growing conscious of
Charles' regard, she looked up quickly, and, holding his eyes, smiled
at him with an incomprehensible sweetness.

He regarded her with a gravity no more than half actual--his mind was
set upon Vincente--and her even pallor was invaded by a slow soft
color. Charles nodded, entirely friendly, and she turned away, so
abruptly that her hair swung out and momentarily hid her profile. He
forgot her immediately, for he had overheard, half understood, an
allusion to the Escobars' elder son. With a growing impatience he
interrogated Andrés, and the latter nodded a reassurance. Then Andrés
Escobar rose, punctiliously facing his father--he would, with
permission, take Charles to the upper balconies, the wide view from
which he had never seen. Domingo was plainly uneasy, displeased; but,
after a long frowning pause, gave his reluctant consent. Charles
Abbott was acutely aware of his heels striking against the marble
steps which, broad, imposing and dark, led above. Vincente, it
developed, without actually being in hiding, was limited to the scope
of the upper hall, where, partly screened in growing palms, its end
formed a small salon.

There was a glimmer of light though sword-like leaves, and a lamp on
an alabaster table set in ormolu cast up its illumination on a face
from which every emotion had been banished by a supreme weariness.
Undoubtedly at one time Vincente Escobar had been as handsome as
Andrés; more arbitrary, perhaps, with a touch of impatience resembling
petulance; the carriage, the air, of a youth spoiled by unrestrained
inclination and society. The ghost of this still lingered over him, in
the movement of his slender hands, the sharp upflinging of his chin;
but it was no more than a memento of a gay and utterly lost past. The
weariness, Charles began to realize, was the result of more than a
spent physical and mental being--Vincente was ill. He had acquired a
fever, it was brought out, in the jungles of Camagüey.

At first he was wholly indifferent to Charles; at the end of Andrés'
enthusiastic introduction, after a flawless but perfunctory courtesy,
Vincente said:

"The United States is very important to us; we have had to depend
almost entirely on the New York Junta for our life. We have hope, too,
in General Grant. Finally your country, that was so successful in its
liberation, will understand us completely, and sweep Spain over the
sea. But, until that comes, we need only money and courage in our, in
Cuban, hearts. You are, I understand from Andrés, rich; and you are
generous, you will give?"

That direct question, together with its hint at the personal
unimportance of his attachment to a cause of pure justice, filled
Charles with both resentment and discomfort. He replied stiffly, in
halting but adequate Spanish, that there had been a misunderstanding:
"I am not rich; the money I have you would think nothing--it might buy
a stand or two of rifles, but no more. What I had wanted to spend was
myself, my belief in Cuba. It seemed to me that might be worth
something--" he stopped, in the difficulty of giving expression to his
deep convictions; and Andrés warmly grasped his hand. He held Charles'
palm and addressed his brother in a passionate flood of protest and
assertion: Charles Abbott, his dear friend, was as good a patriot as
any Escobar, and they should all embrace him in gratitude and welcome;
he was, if not the gold of the United States, its unselfish and
devoted heart; his presence here, his belief in them, was an
indication of what must follow.

"If he were killed," Andrés explained. "That alone would bring us an
army; the indignation of his land would fall like a mountain on our
enemies."

This, giving Charles a fresh view of his usefulness, slightly cooled
his ardor; he was willing to accept it, in his exalted state he would
make any sacrifice for the ideal that had possessed him; but there was
an acceptance of brutal unsentimental fact in the Latin fibre of the
Escobars foreign to his own more romantic conceptions. Vincente wasn't
much carried away by the possibility Andrés revealed.

"He'd be got out of the way privately," he explained in his drained
voice; "polite letters and no more, regrets, would be exchanged. The
politicians of Washington are not different from those of Cuba. If he
is wise he will see Havana as an idler. Even you, Andrés, do not know
yet what is waiting for you. It is one thing to conspire in a balcony
on the Prado and another to lie in the marshes of Camagüey. You cannot
realize how desperate Spain is with the debt left from her wars with
Morocco and Chile and Peru. Cuba, for a number of years, has been her
richest possession. While the Spaniards were paying taxes of three
dollars and twenty some cents, we, in Cuba, were paying six dollars
and sixty-nine. After our declaration of independence at Manzanillo--"
an eloquent pause left his hearers to the contemplation of what had
followed.

"You know how it has gone with us," Vincente continued, almost
exclusively to the younger Escobar. "Carlos Cespedes left his practice
of the law at Bayamo for a desperate effort with less than a hundred
and thirty men. But they were successful, and in a few weeks we had
fifteen thousand, with the constitution of a republican government
drawn. We ended slavery," here, for a breath, he addressed Charles
Abbott. "But in that," he specified, "we were different from you. In
the United States slavery was considered as only a moral wrong. Your
Civil War was, after all, an affair of philanthropy; while we freed
the slaves for economic reasons.

"Well, our struggle went on," he returned to Andrés, "and we were
victorious, with, at the most, fifty thousand men against how many?
One, two, hundred thousand. And we began to be recognized abroad, by
Bolivia and Columbia and the Mexican Congress. The best Cubans, those
like ourselves, were in sympathy with the insurrection. Everything was
bright, the climate, too, was fighting for us; and then, Andrés, we
lost man after man, the bravest, the youngest, first: they were
murdered, as I may be tonight, killed among the lianas, overtaken in
the villages, smothered in small detachments by great forces, until
now. And it is for that I have said so much, when it is unnecessary to
pronounce a word. What do you think is our present situation? What do
you think I left of our splendid effort in the interior? General
Agramonte and thirty-five men. That and no more!

"Their condition you may see in me--wasted, hardly stronger than
pigeons, and less than half armed. What, do you think, one boy
from Pennsylvania is worth to that? Can he live without food more
than half the time, without solid land under his feet, without
protection against the mosquitoes and heat and tropical rains? And
in Havana: but remember your friend, Tirso Labrador! You, Andrés,
have no alternative; but your Charles Abbott he would be a danger
rather than an assistance." Charles, with a prodigious effort at a
calm self-control, answered him.

"You are very thoughtful, and it is right to be cautious, but what you
say is useless. Andrés understands! I'd never be satisfied to be
anything except a Cuban patriot. It isn't necessary for you to
understand that in a minute, an evening. I might be no good in
Camagüey, but I am not as young as Tirso; I am more bitter and
patient. By heaven, I will do something, I will be a part of your
bravery! Not only the soldiers in the field, not only Agramonte, but
sacrifice--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Charles' throat was closed, his words stopped, by the intensity of his
feeling; his longing to be identified, lost, in the spirit of General
Agramonte and the faithful thirty-five burned into a desperation of
unhappiness. Vincente Escobar, it was evident, thought that he wasn't
capable of sustaining such a trust. Still there was nothing to be
gained by protests, hot asseverations; with difficulty he suppressed
his resentment, and sat, to all appearances, calm, engaged with a
cigar and attending Vincente's irregular vehement speech. Andrés was
silent, dark and serious; but the gaze he turned upon Charles was warm
with affection and admiration. Nothing, Vincente insisted, could be
done now; they must wait and draw into their cause every possible
ultimate assistance and understanding. If the truth were known, he
repeated again and again, the world would be at their feet.

Finally, his enthusiasm, his power, ebbed; his yellow pinched face
sank forward: he was so spent, so delivered to a loose indifference of
body, that he might well have been dead. Charles rose with a formal
Spanish period voicing the appreciation of the honor that had been
his.

"We are all worried about Vincente," Andrés proceeded, as they were
descending the vault-like stairs; "there is a shadow on him like bad
luck. But it may be no more than the fever. Our mother thinks he needs
only her love and enough wine jelly." They were again in the
drawing-room with the Escobars; and Charles momentarily resumed the
seat he had left beside Narcisa.

Domingo and his wife were submerged in gloomy reflection, and Andrés
sat with his gaze fixed on the marble, patterned in white and black,
of the floor. Suddenly Narcisa raised her head with an air of
rebellion. "It's always like the church," she declared incredibly.
"Everything has got so old that I can't bear it--Vincente as good as
dead and Andrés resembling a Jesuit father! Must all my life go on in
this funeral march?" The elder Escobars regarded her in a voiceless
amazement; but Andrés said severely:

"You are too young to understand the tragedy of Cuba or Vincente's
heroic spirit. I am ashamed of you--before Charles Abbott."

Narcisa rose and walked swiftly out upon the balcony. They had been,
it seemed to Charles, rather ridiculous with her; it was hard on
Narcisa to have been thrust, at her age, into such a serious affair.
The Escobars, and particularly Vincente, took their responsibility a
little too ponderously. Following a vague impulse, made up both of his
own slightly damaged pride and a sympathy for Narcisa, he went out to
the balcony where she stood with her hands lightly resting on the
railing. Veiled in the night, her youth seemed more mysterious than
immature; he was conscious of an unsteady flutter at her unformed
breast; her face had an aspect of tears.

"You mustn't mind them," he told her; "they are tremendously bothered
because they see a great deal farther than you can. The danger to
Vincente, too, in Havana, spies--"

She interrupted him, looking away so that he could see only a trace of
her cheek against the fragment fall of her hair. "It isn't that, but
what Andrés said about you."

This admission startled him, and he studied Narcisa--her hands now
tightly clasping the iron railing--with a disturbed wonder. Was it
possible that she cared for him? At home, ignored by a maturity such
as his, she would have been absorbed in the trivial activities of
girls of her own age. But Havana, the tropics, was different. It was
significant, as well, that he was permitted to be with her,
practically alone, beyond the sight and hearing of her mother; the
Escobars, he thought, had hopes of such a consummation. It was
useless, he was solely wedded to Cuba; he had already pictured the
only dramatic accident of the heart that could touch him. Not little
Narcisa! She was turned away from him completely: a lovely back,
straight and narrow, virginal--Domingo Escobar had said this--as a
white rose bud, yet with an impalpable and seductive scent. In other
circumstances, a happier and more casual world, she would have been an
adorable fate. An increasing awkwardness seized him, a conviction of
impotence. "Narcisa," he whispered at her ear; but, before he could
finish his sentence, her face was close to his, her eyes were shut and
the tenderness of her lips unprotected.

Charles put an arm about her slim shoulders and pressed his cheek
against hers. "Listen," he went on, in his lowered voice, patching the
deficiencies of his Spanish with English words clear in their feeling
if not in sound, "nothing could have shown me myself as well as you,
for now I know that I can never give up a thought to anything outside
what I have promised my life to. A great many men are quite happy with
a loving wife and children and a home--a place to go back to always;
and, in a way, since I have known you, I envy them. Their lives are
full of happiness and usefulness and specially peace; but, dearest
Narcisa, I can't be like that, it isn't for me. You see, I have chosen
to love a country; instead of being devoted only to you, there are
thousands of women, rich and poor and black and white, I must give
myself for. I haven't any existence, any rights, of my own; I haven't
any money or time or security to offer. I didn't choose it, no, it
chose me--it's exactly as though I had been stopped on the street and
conscripted. A bugle was blown in my ear. Love, you must realize, is
selfish; it would be selfish to take you on a steamer, for myself, and
go north. If I did that, if I forgot what I have sworn, I'd die. I
should seem to the world to be alive, and I'd walk about and talk and
go into the city on some business or other; but, in reality, I should
be as dead as dust.

"There are men like that everywhere, Narcisa, perhaps the most of life
is made up of them. They look all right and are generally respected;
yet, at some time or other, they killed themselves, they avoided what
they should have met, tried to save something not worth a thought. I
don't doubt a lot never find it out, they think they are as good as
ever--they don't remember how they once felt. But others discover it,
or the people who love them discover it for them. And that would
happen to me, to us."

In reply to all this she whispered that she loved him. Her arm slipped
up across his shoulder and the tips of her fingers touched his left
cheek. A momentary dizziness enveloped him at her immeasurable
sweetness: it might be that she was a part of what he was to find, to
do, in Cuba; and then his emotion perished in the bareness of his
heart to physical passion. Its place was taken by a deep pride in his
aloofness from the flesh; that alone, he felt, dignified him, set him
above the mischances of self-betrayal.

Charles Abbott kissed her softly and then took her hands. "You
wouldn't want me, Narcisa," he continued; "if I failed in this, I
should fail you absolutely. If I were unfaithful now I could never be
faithful to you."

She drew her hands sharply away. "It's you who are young and not I,"
she declared; "you talk like a boy, like Andrés. All you want is a
kind of glory, like the gold lace the officers of Isabella wear.
Nothing could be more selfish."

"You don't understand," he replied patiently.

Narcisa, he felt, could never grasp what was such a profound part of
his masculine necessity. Abstractions, the liberty, for example, of an
alien people, would have little weight against her instinct for the
realities in her own heart. Her emotion was tangible, compared with
his it was deeply reasonable; it moved in the direction of their
immediate good, of the happiness, the fullness, of their beings; while
all his desire, his hope, was cloudy, of the sky. In the high silver
radiance of his idealism, the warmer green of earth, the promise of
Narcisa's delicate charm, the young desire in his blood, were, he
felt, far away, dim ... below.

       *       *       *       *       *

The conviction fastened upon him that this chance realization would
determine, where women were concerned, the whole of his life. But that
space, he reminded himself, short at best, was, in him, to terminate
almost at once. All his philosophy of resistance, of strength, was
built upon the final dignity of a supreme giving. His thoughts went
back to Narcisa as he sat in La Clavel's room in the St. Louis,
watching a hairdresser skilfully build up the complicated edifice of
the dancer's hair. Soon, he grasped, it would be ready for the
camellia placed back of the lobe of an ear. A towel was pinned about
her naked shoulders, she had on a black fringed petticoat and dangling
slippers of red morocco leather. La Clavel was faced away from
Charles, but, in the mirror before which she sat, he could see her
features and vivid changing expressions.

The truth was that, close, he had found her disconcerting, almost
appalling. Climbing the long stairs at the message that she would
see him in her room, he had surrendered himself to the romantic
devotion which had overwhelmed the small select circle of his
intimates. This had nothing to do with the admirable sentiment of a
practical all-inclusive love; it was æsthetic rather than social. They
all worshipped La Clavel as a symbol of beauty, as fortunately
unattainable in a small immediate measure; and, bowing inside the
door of her chamber, he had been positively abashed at the strange
actuality of her charm.

La Clavel was at once more essentially feminine than any other woman
he had encountered and different from all the rest. A part of the
impression she created was the result of her pallor, the even
unnatural whiteness under the night of her hair. Her face was white,
but her lips--a carmine stick lay close at her hands--were brutally
red. She hurt him, struck savagely at the idealism of his image;
indeed, in the room permeated with a dry powdered scent, at the woman
redolent of vital flesh, he had been a little sickened. However, that
had gone; and he watched the supple hands in the crisp coarse mass of
her hair with a sense of adventure lingering faintly from his earlier
youth: he was, in very correct clothes, holding his hat and stick and
gloves, idling through the toilet of a celebrated dancer and beauty.

Or, rather, he saw himself objectively, as he had been say a year ago,
at which time his present situation would have surpassed his most
splendid worldly hopes. It was strange, he thought, how life granted
one by one every desire ... when it was no longer valued: the
fragrance, the tender passion, of Narcisa, the preference in La Clavel
singling him out from a city for her interest!

She smiled at him over her shoulder, and, in return, he nodded
seriously, busy with a cigarette; maintaining, in a difficult pass,
his complete air of indifference, of experience. The hairdresser must
have pulled roughly at a strand for, with a sudden harsh vulgarity,
she described him as a blot on the virginity of his mother; in an
instant every atom of her was charged with anger. It was, Charles told
himself, exactly as though a shock of dried grass had caught fire;
ignited gun powder rather than blood seemed to fill her veins.

Her ill-temper, tempestuous in its course, was over as quickly as it
had flared into being. She paid the hairdresser from a confusion of
silver and gold on her dressing-table and dismissed him with a good
nature flavored by a native proverb. Then, bending above a drawer, she
brought out the vivid shawl in which she had danced. La Clavel folded
its dragging brilliancy squarely along its length, laid it across her
breast, brought the fringed ends under and up over her arms, crossed
them in a swift twist, and she was wholly, magnificently, clothed. She
sat on the edge of a bed covered with gay oddments of attire--fans and
slippers with vermilion heels, lace mantillas, a domino in silver
tissue lined in carnation and a knife with a narrow blade and holder
of silk.

Charles offered her his cigarette case, but she declined in favor of
the long pale cigars Andrés and he himself affected. With its smoke
drifting bluely across her pallid face, her eyes now interrogating
him, and now withdrawn in thought, she asked him about Tirso Labrador.
Charles Abbott quickly gathered that his presence was for that sole
purpose.

"I heard all that was said," she warned him; "and I don't want that
repeated. Why did he try to garotte de Vaca with his hands? There was
more in it than appeared. But all Ceaza will say is that he was a
cursed traitor to the Crown. Signor American, I like Cuba, they have
been very good to me here; I like you and your polite friends. But
whenever I try to come closer to you, to leave the stage, as it were,
for the audience, we are kept apart. The Spanish officers who take up
so much of my time warn me that I must have nothing to do with
disaffected Cubans; the Cubans, when I reach out my arms to them, are
only polite.

"Certainly I know that there has been a rebellion; but it is stamped
out, ended, now; there are no signs of it in Havana, when I dance the
jota; so why isn't everyone sensible and social; why, if they are
victorious, are not Gaspar Arco de Vaca and Ceaza y Santacilla easier?
If, as it must be, Cuba is subjected, why doesn't it ignore the
unpleasant and take what the days and nights always offer? There can
be no longer, so late in the history of the world, a need for the old
Inquisition, the stabbers Philip commanded."

Charles Abbott had an impulse to reply that, far from being conquered,
the spirit of liberty in Cuba was higher than ever before; he wanted
to tell her, to cry out, that it was deathless; and that no horrors of
the black past were more appalling than those practiced now by the
Spanish soldiery. Instead of this he watched a curl of smoke mount
through the height of the room to a small square window far up on the
wall where it was struck gold by a shaft of sunlight.

"He was particularly a friend of yours?" she insisted, returning to
Tirso. "You were always together, watching me dance from your box in
the Tacon Theatre, and eating ices at the El Louvre or at the
Tuileries."

He spoke slowly, indifferently, keeping his gaze elevated toward the
ceiling. "Tirso Labrador was a braggard, he was always boasting about
what he could do with his foolish muscles. What happened to him was
unavoidable. We weren't sorry--a thorough bully. As for the others,
that dandy, Quintara, and Remigio Florez, who looks like a coffee
berry from their plantation at Vuelta Arriba, and Escobar, I am very
much in their debt--I bring the gold and they provide the pleasures of
Havana. They are my runners. I haven't the slightest interest in their
politics; if they support the Revolution or Madrid, they keep all that
out of my knowledge."

A prolonged silence followed, a period devoted to the two cigars.
"That Escobar," La Clavel said, "is a very beautiful boy. What you
tell me is surprising; he, at any rate, seems quite different. And I
have seen you time after time sitting together, the two or three or
four of you, with affectionate glances and arms. I am sensitive to
such things, and I think you are lying."

An air of amused surprise appeared on his countenance, "If you are so
taken with Andrés Escobar," he observed, "why did you make this
appointment with me? May I have the pleasure of taking him a note from
you? he is very fond of intrigues."

Leaning forward she laid a firm square palm on his knee. "You have
told me all that I wanted--this Tirso, who was killed, he was your
dear friend and his death an agony; the smaller, the coffee berry, you
are devoted to his goodness and simplicity; beneath Quintara's
waistcoats you find a heart of gold. But Escobar--is it Andrés?--you
love better than your life. They care nothing for your American
dollars; it is evident they all have much more than you. What is it,
then, you are united by? I shall tell you--Cuba. You are patriots,
insurrectionists; Santacilla was right. And neither is your rebellion
crushed, not with Agramonte alive." She leaned back with glimmering
eyes and the cruel paint of her mouth smiling at him.

       *       *       *       *       *

She was, then, Charles Abbott reflected, an agent of Spain's; calmly
he rehearsed all they had said to each other, he examined every
sentence, every inflection of voice. He could not have been more
circumspect; the position he had taken, of a pleasure-loving young
American, was so natural that it was inevitable. No, La Clavel knew
nothing, she was simply adopting another method in her task of getting
information for Santacilla. At this, remembering the adoration of his
circle for her, he was brushed by a swift sorrow. For them she had
been the symbol, the embodiment, of beauty; the fire and grace of her
dancing had intensified, made richer, their sense of life. She had
been the utmost flashing peak of their desire; and now it was clear to
him that she was rotten at the core, La Clavel was merely a spy; what
had engaged them was nothing more than a brilliant flowery surface, a
bright shawl.

"You are wasting your efforts," he assured her, with an appearance of
complete comfort. "Even if you were right, I mean about the others,
what, do you think, would make them confide in me, almost a stranger?
You understand this so much better than I that, instead of questioning
me, you ought to explain the whole Cuban situation. Women like
yourself, with genius, know everything."

She utterly disconcerted Charles by enveloping him in a rapid gesture,
her odorous lips were pressed against his cheek. "You are as sweet as
a lime flower," La Clavel declared. "After the others--" her
expression of disgust was singularly valid. "That is what I love about
you," she cried suddenly, "your youth and freshness and courage. Tirso
Labrador dying so gallantly ... all your beardless intent faces. The
revolt in Cuba, I've felt it ever since I landed at Havana, it's in
the air like wine. I am sick of officers: look, ever since I was a
child the army has forced itself upon me. I had to have their
patronage when I was dancing and their company when I went to the
cafés; and when it wasn't the cavalry it was the gentlemen. They were
always superior, condescending; and always, inside me, I hated them.
They thought, because I was peasant born, that their attentions filled
me with joy, that I should be grateful for their aristocratic
presences. But, because I was what I was, I held them, with their
ladies' hands and sugared voices, in contempt. There isn't one of them
with the entrails to demand my love.

"I tell you I was smothering in the air about me. My dancing isn't
like the posturing of the court, it's the dancing of the people, my
people, passionate like a knife. I am from the Morena, and there we
are not the human sheep who live in the valleys, along the empty
rivers. How shall I explain? But how can you explain yourself? You are
not a Cuban; this rebellion, in which you may so easily be killed
almost before you begin to live, it isn't yours. What drew you into
it? You must make it plain, for I, too, am caught."

"Men are different from women," he replied, putting into words his
newly acquired wisdom; "whatever happened to me would be useless for
you, you couldn't be helped by it." Yet he was forced to admit to
himself that all she had said was reasonable; at bottom it didn't
contradict his generalization, for it was based on a reality, on La
Clavel's long resentment, on indignities to her pride, on, as she had
said, the innate freedom of the mountain spirit. If she were honest,
any possible attachment to Cuba might result from her hatred of
Spain, of Sevilla and Madrid. Hers, then, would be the motive of
revenge.

"You are right about the difference in our experiences," she
agreed; "I was dancing for a living at six; at ten I had another
accomplishment. I have lived in rooms inlaid with gold, and in cellars
with men where murder would have been a gracious virtue. Yes, lime
flower, there is little you know that could be any assistance to
me. But the other, your purity, your effort of nobility, that I must
learn from you."

He explained his meaning more fully to her, and she listened intently.
"You think," she interrupted, "that a woman must be attached to
something real, like your arm or a pot of gold. You know them, and
that at your age, at any age, is a marvel enough in itself. The wisest
men in Europe have tried to understand the first movement of my
dancing--how, in it, a race, the whole history of a nation, is
expressed in the stamp of a heel, the turn of a hip. They wonder what,
in me, had happened to the maternal instinct, why I chose to reflect
life, as though I were a mirror, rather than experience it. And now,
it seems, you see everything, all is clear to you. You have put a
label, such as are in museums, on women; good!"

She smiled at him, mocking but not unkind.

"However," he told her crossly, "that is of very little importance.
How did we begin? I have forgotten already."

"In this way," she said coolly; "I asked if it would be of any
interest to--let us say, your friends, to learn that the United
States, in spite of the Administration, will not recognize a
Republican Cuba. Fish is unchangeably opposed to the insurgents. You
may expect no help there."

"That might be important to the insurgents," he admitted; "but where
are they to be found--in the cabildos of Los Egidos?"

"At least repeat what you have heard to Escobar: is it Andrés or
Vincente?"

The name of Andrés' brother was spoken so unexpectedly, the faintest
knowledge of Vincente on the part of the dancer of such grave
importance, that Charles Abbott momentarily lost his composure.
"Vincente!" he exclaimed awkwardly. "Was that the other brother? But
he is dead."

"Not yet," she replied. "It is planned for tonight, after dinner, when
he is smoking in the little upper salon."

Agitated, at a loss for further protest, he rose. He must go at once
to the Escobars, warn them. "You will admit now that I have been of
use," La Clavel was standing beside him. "And it is possible, if
Vincente Escobar isn't found, and Ceaza discovers that you were here,
that--" she paused significantly. "I am the victim of a madness," she
declared, "of a Cuban fever." But there was no time now to analyse the
processes of her mind and sex.

"I'll be going," he said abruptly.

"Naturally," she returned; "but what about your coming back? That will
be more difficult, and yet it is necessary. Ah, yes, you must pretend
to be in love with me; it will be hard, but what else is there? A
dancer has always a number of youths at her loose heels.

"You will be laughed at, of course; the officers, Santacilla and
Gaspar, will be unbearable. You will have to play the infatuated fool,
and send me bouquets of gardenias and three-cornered notes, and give
me money. That won't be so hard, because we can use the same sum over
and over; but I shall have to read the notes to my protectors in the
army."

"I'll be going," he repeated, gathering his stick and gloves from the
floor. She asked, with a breath of wistfulness, if he could manage a
touch of affection for her? Charles Abbott replied that this was not
the hour for such questions. "The young," she sighed, "are glacial."
But that, she proceeded, was exactly what drew her to them. They were
like the pure wind along the eaves under which she had been born. "I
promise never to kiss you again, or, if I must, solely as the mark of
brotherhood. And now go back to--to Andrés."

She backed away from him, superb in the shawl, and again she was rayed
in the superlative beauty of her first appearance. The woman was lost
in the dancer, the flesh in the vision, the art.

"You could be a goddess," Charles told her, "the shrine of thousands
of hearts." The declaration of his entire secret was on his lips; but,
after all, it wasn't his. There was a possibility that she had lied
about Vincente, and at this second he might be dead, the Volunteers
waiting for him, Charles Abbott, below.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hurrying through the Paseo Isabel to the Prado, Charles, looking at
his watch, found that it was nearly six. Carmita Escobar and Narcisa,
and probably Domingo, were driving perhaps by the sea or perhaps
toward Los Molinos, the park of the Captain-General. At any rate the
women would be away from the house, and that, in the situation which
faced the Escobars, was fortunate. If what La Clavel said were true,
and Charles Abbott now believed her implicitly, the agents of the
Crown would be already watching in the Prado. Vincente must be
smuggled away; how, he didn't yet see; but a consultation would result
in a plan for his escape. The servant who opened the small door in the
great iron-studded double gate, though he knew Charles Abbott well,
was uncommunicative to the point of rudeness. He refused to say who of
the family were at home; he intimated that, in any case, Charles would
not be seen, and he attempted to close him out.

Charles, however, ignoring the other's protests, forced his way into
the arch on the patio. He went up the wide stairs unceremoniously to
the suite of formal rooms along the street, where, to his amazement,
he found the Escobar family seated in the sombreness of drawn
curtains, and all of them with their faces marked with tears.
Surprised by his abrupt appearance they showed no emotion other than
a dull indifference. Then Andrés rose and put his hand on Charles'
shoulder, speaking in a level grave voice:

"My dear Abbott, Vincente, our brother, has made the last sacrifice
possible to men. He died at noon, sitting in his chair, as a result of
the fever."

This was tragic, but, with a deeper knowledge of the dilemma facing
them, Charles was actually impatient. "What," he demanded, "are you
going to do with the body?"

"It is placed in dignity on a couch, and we have sent to Matanzas for
a priest we can trust. He'll be here early in the morning, and then,
and then, we must forget our love."

"You must do that now, without a minute's loss," Charles urged them.
"You can wait for no priest. The Spanish Government knows he is here;
tonight, after dinner, he was to have been taken. The house will be
stood on its roof, every inch investigated. You spoke, once, of
Narcisa, what might horribly swallow you all. Well, it has almost
come."

Andrés' grip tightened; he was pale but quiet. "You are right," he
asserted; "but how did you find this out, and save us?" That, Charles
replied, was of no importance now. What could they do with Vincente's
body? Carmita, his mother, began to cry again, noiselessly; Narcisa,
as frigid as a statue in marble, sat with her wide gaze fastened on
Charles Abbott. "What?" Domingo echoed desperately. It was no longer a
question of the dignity, the blessing, of the dead, but of the
salvation of the living. Vincente's corpse, revered a few minutes
before, now became a hideous menace; it seemed to have grown to
monumental proportions, a thing impossible to put out of sight.

Undoubtedly soldiers were watching, guarding the house: a number of
men in nondescript clothes were lounging persistently under the rows
of Indian laurels below. A hundred practical objections immediately
rose to confront every proposal. Carmita and Narcisa had been sent
from the room, and a discussion was in progress of the possibility of
cutting the body into minute fragments. "If that is decided on,"
Domingo Escobar declared, with sweat rolling over his forehead, "I
must do it; my darling and heroic son would approve; he would wish me
to be his butcher."

Andrés, harder, more mature, than the elder, stopped such expressions
of sentiment. It would make such a mess, he reminded them; and then,
how far could the servants, the hysterical negroes, be depended upon?
They would soon discover the progress of such an operation.

Charles suggested fire, but the Spanish stoves, with shallow cups for
charcoal, were useless, and the ovens were cold; it would create
suspicion to set them to burning so late in the day. "Since we can't
get rid of it," Charles declared, "we must accept it. The body is
there, but whose is it? Did you send a servant to Matanzas?"

Two had gone, riding, once they were beyond Havana, furiously. A
Jamaican negro, huge and black, totally unlike Vincente, and a Cuban
newly in the city, a mestizo, brought in from the Escobars' small
sugar estate near Madriga. Andrés at once appropriated Charles' idea.
Their mother and Narcisa, he proclaimed, must go out as usual for
their afternoon drive, and he would secure some clothes that belonged
to Juan Roman, the servant. No one in the back of the house, luckily,
had seen the riders leave. Judged more faithful than the rest, they
had been sent away as secretly as possible.

"What," Charles Abbott asked, "caused his death?" Andrés faced him
coldly. "This pig of a countryman I killed," he said. "The Spanish
will understand that. They have killed a multitude of us, for
nothing, for neglect in polishing the back of a boot. It will be
more difficult with the servants,--they are used to kindness,
consideration, here; but they, too, in other places, have had their
lesson. And I was drunk."

In spite of Charles' insistence, he was not permitted to assist in the
carrying out of the details that followed. He sat, walked about, alone
in the drawing-room. After an interminable wait he heard the report,
faint and muffled by walls, of a pistol, and then running feet passed
the door. Domingo appeared first, a glass of brandy in his shaking
hand:

"He has gone, in a sack, to be thrown into the sea ... the blood hid
his face. Ah, Jesu! But it was successful--a corporal looked, with the
hundred doblons I pressed into his hand. He kicked the body three
times, thrust a knife into it, and said that there, anyhow, was one
less Cuban." Andrés entered the room and, without speech, embraced
Charles, kissing him on either cheek; and soon Carmita Escobar and
Narcisa, with their parasols and embroidered gloves, returned from
their drive.

They could do nothing but wait for what impended, and Charles Abbott
related to Andrés the entire scene with La Clavel. "I believe in
her," he concluded. Andrés agreed with him. "Her plan is excellent,"
he pronounced; "it will be very hard on you, though. You will be fed
on insults." That, Charles protested, was nothing. "And, worse still,
it will end our companionship. You will be able no longer to go about
with Jaime and Remigio and me. Yes, that, so soon, is over. What was
left of our happiness together has been taken away. We are nothing now
in ourselves. How quickly, Charles, we have aged; when I look in the
glass I half expect to see grey hair. It is sad, this. Why did you
leave your comfort and safety and come to us? But, thank God, you did.
It was you who saved us for the present. And that, now, is enough; you
must go back to the San Felipe. Put on your best clothes, with a rose
in your buttonhole, and get drunk in all the cafés; tell anyone who
will listen that La Clavel is more superb than Helen of the Greeks,
and buy every Spanish officer you see what he may fancy."

As Charles Abbott left the Escobar dwelling a detachment of Cuban
Volunteers on horse, and a file of infantry, their uniform of brown
drilling dressed with red collars and cuffs, had gathered across its
face. "Quien vive?" a harsh voice stopped him. "Forastero," Charles
answered sullenly. He was subjected to a long insolent scrutiny, a
whangee cane smote him sharply across the back. He regarded the men
about him stolidly; while an officer, who had some English, advised
him to keep away from suspected Cubans. But, at last, he was released,
directed to proceed at once to Anche del Norte Street, where his
passport would be again examined. Charles prepared slowly for dinner
at the Dominica; and, when he was ready to go out, he was the pattern
of a fashionable and idle young tourist. But what filled his mind was
the speculation whether or not the Escobars would remember to prevent
the return of Juan Roman with the priest from Matanzas.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nothing, considering the aspirations of Charles Abbott, could have
been more ironical than the phase of life he entered upon the
acceptance of La Clavel into the party of independence. The entire
success of this dangerous arrangement depended on his ability to
create an impression, where he was concerned, of unrelieved vapidity.
He was supposed to be infatuated with the dancer; and he lingered,
not wholly sober, about the fashionable resorts. Charles sent her
flowers; and, sitting in his room on the roof of the San Felipe, he
composed, in a cold distaste, innumerable short variations on the
theme of a fluid and fatuous attachment. In reality, he had been
repelled by the actuality of La Clavel; he had an unconquerable
aversion for her room with its tumbled vivid finery, the powdered
scents mingling with the odors of her body and of the brandy always
standing in a glass beside her. Yet the discrepancy between the woman
herself and the vision she had bred continued to puzzle and disconcert
him.

When they were together it was this he preferred to talk about. At
times she answered his questioning with a like interest; but all,
practically, that she understood about herself, her dancing, had been
expressed in their first conversation upon that topic. The rest, at
best, was no more than a childlike curiosity and vanity. She had an
insatiable appetite for compliment; and, sincere in his admiration for
her impersonal aspect, Charles was content to gratify her; except
when, in spite of her promise, she kissed him ardently. This never
failed to seriously annoy him; and afterwards she would offer him a
mock apology. It detracted, he felt, from his dignity, assaulted,
insidiously, the elevation of his purpose in life.

He cherished a dislike, part cultivated and part subconscious, for
women. All his thoughts and emotions were celibate, chaste. Such a
scene had just ended, La Clavel was at her glass, busy with a rouge
pot and a scrap of soft leather; and Charles was standing stiffly by
the door. She had used, in describing him, a Spanish word about the
meaning of which he was not quite clear, but he had an idea that it
bore a close resemblance to prig. That specially upset him. At the
moment his dislike for her almost broke down his necessary diplomacy.
In an island of men desirous of her least favor--her fame transcended
seas and reached from coast to coast--he only, thinking less than
nothing of his privilege, had an instant unchallenged access to her.

He knew, carefully watched, all her various dependents: Calixto Sola,
the hairdresser, a creature with a sterile face constantly twisted
into painful grimaces; he was an employee in a barbering shop on
Neptune Street, too volatile for any convictions, but because of a
spiteful, injured disposition, not to be trusted. Then there was La
Clavel's maid, Jobaba, a girl with an alabaster beauty indefinitely
tainted by Africa. She was, Charles decided, the most corrupt being he
had ever encountered. Her life away from the St. Louis was incredibly,
wildly, debauched. Among other things, she danced, as the mulata, the
rumba, an indescribable affair; and she had connections with the rites
of brujeria, the degraded black magic of the Carabale in Cuba. She was
beautiful, with a perfection of grace, except for the direct gaze of
her brown eyes, which revealed an opacity, a dullness, like mud. She
was, even more than to La Clavel, the servant of Santacilla; she
reported, the dancer told Charles, every possible act and speech of
her mistress to the Spaniards, who, in return, supplied her with a
little money and a load of biting curses.

The chambermaid who attended La Clavel's room had lost a lover with
the forces of General Agramonte, and was of use to Charles; without
knowledge of the hidden actuality she yet brought him, unread,
communications for the patriotic party; and she warned him of
Santacilla's presence and uncertain humors. The laundress had been, in
her youth, an actress in the cheap local theatres, and, when she was
not sodden with drink, showed an admirable devotion to her famous
patron by the most delicate feats imaginable in ironing. She was
almost purely Spanish and had only a contempt for the Cubeños.

While Charles Abbott's duty was, on the surface, direct and easy, it was
complicated by the need for a constant watchfulness, a wit in countless
small details. Supporting, well enough, the boredom of his public
role, he had to manage with an unfailing dexterity the transmission of
the information that came to the insurrectionists through La Clavel.
These facts she gathered through the unguarded moments of Ceaza y
Santacilla's talk--he was close to the Captain-General and had
important connections at Madrid--and, at prolonged parties, from the
conversation of his intimates. Charles put these communications into
contracted written English sentences; in that way, even as against the
accidental chance of being, at any time, searched, he could better
convey their import; and gave them in carefully planned, apparently
incidental encounters, to any one of a score of correctly gloved and
boutonnièred young men he had come to know by adroitly managed
assurances.

Charles had formed, as well, principally in the Café Dominica, a
superficial familiarity with other Americans in Havana for
banking or commercial purposes. They, regarding him as immensely
rich and dissipated, were half contemptuous and half eager for the
associations, the pleasures, of his mode of life. He went, as often
as it seemed necessary, to the United States Club on Virtudes Street,
where, together with his patriots, but different from them in a hidden
contempt, he gambled, moderately and successfully. His luck became
proverbial, and, coupled with La Clavel's name, his reputation soon
grew into what he intrigued for. Often, alone on the hotel roof,
he regarded himself with an objective amazement: everything was
precisely as he had planned, hoped for, on the steamer Morro
Castle--and entirely different.

It was probable that the death he had not, in imagination, shrunk
from, would crush him at any unexpected moment, an unpredictable slip;
but how could he have foreseen the trivial guise he would wear?
Charles was forced, it seemed to him, to ape every single quality he
hated. The spending of his money, as legitimately as though it were
exchanged for guns, on casual acquaintances and rum punches, on
gardenias that wilted and entertainment that choked him by its vulgar
banality, gradually embittered him. The insincerity of the
compliments he paid, the lying compliments to which he listened with
an ingenuous smile and an entire comprehension of their worthlessness,
steadily robbed his ideal of its radiant aloofness.

His enthusiasm, he discovered, his high ardor, must be changed to
patience and fortitude, the qualities which belonged to his
temperament and years had to give place to those of an accomplished
maturity; the romance of his circumstance deserted the surface to
linger hidden, cherished, beneath all the practical and immediate
rest. He began to perceive the inescapable disappointing difference
between an idea, a conception of the mind, and its execution. The
realization of that, he told himself, the seduction of the lofty, the
aerial, to earth, constituted success, power. The spirit and the
flesh! And the flesh constantly betrayed the highest determinations.
How he resented, distrusted, the mechanics, the traps and illusions,
of an existence on an animal plane!

His fervor, turned in upon itself, began to assume an aspect of the
religious; his imposed revolt from the mundane world turned his
thoughts to an intangible heaven, a spotless and immaterial hereafter.
The white façades of Havana, intolerably gold under the sun and
glimmering in the tropical nights, the procession and clamor of the
Dia des Reyes, the crowded theatres, the restaurants where, with no
appetite, he ate as little as possible--began to appear vague,
unsubstantial. What, so intently, was on every hand being done he
thought meaningless. Where, originally, he had been absorbed in
bringing relief to countless specific Cubans, he now only dwelt on a
possible tranquility of souls, a state, like that promised in the
Bible, without corruption and injustice and tears.

       *       *       *       *       *

These considerations particularly occupied Charles Abbott waiting
inside the door of Santa Clara Church for La Clavel, who was coming to
the eight o'clock morning mass. Outside, the day was still and very
hot, intolerably blazing, but the darkened interior of the church, the
air heavy with incense, was cool. An intermittent stream of people
entered--the white and gilt of a Spanish naval uniform was followed by
gay silks, a priest passed noiselessly, like a shadow; an old woman
with a rippling fire of jewels made her way forward, across the wide
stone floor, with the regular subdued tap of a cane. The impending
celebration of the mass gathered its activity, its white and black
figures, about an altar. Suddenly Charles envied the priests in their
service of an ideal embodied in a spiritual Trinity. Even Cuba
vanished from the foreground of his thoughts at the conception of a
devotion not alone to an island, a nation, but to all the world of
men. His interest, measured with this, was merely temporal, limited.

Compared with the Protestant influences of his birth and experience,
the separation of religion from society, the all-absorbing gesture and
the mysticism of the Roman church offered a complete escape, an
obliteration, of the individual. But, as he dwelt upon this, he
realized that, for him, it was an impossibility. He might be a
Franciscan, begging his way, in brown bagging and sandals, through a
callous world for which he ceaselessly prayed; or one of the heroic
Jesuits of the early French occupation of the Mississippi Valley. Yet
these, as well, were no more than pictures, designs in a kaleidoscope
which, immediately turned, would be destroyed in a fresh pattern. He
was brought back to reality by the swinging of the heavy curtain at
the door; a segment of day, like a white explosion of powder, was
visible, and La Clavel proceeded to the font of holy water. As he
joined her she complained:

"You should have held it for me in your palm; what barbarians the
Americans and English are." She was, characteristically, dressed as
brightly as possible, in a mauve skirt with an elaborately cut flounce
swaying about yellow silk stockings, a mantón of white crêpe de Chine
embroidered with immense emerald green blossoms; her hair piled about
its tall comb was covered with a mantilla falling in scallops across
her brilliant cheeks. In the church, that reduced so much, she was
startling in her bold color and presence.

A negro, whom Charles recognized as a servant at the St. Louis,
followed her with a heavy roll and a small unpainted chair with a
caned seat. Before the altar, under the low pointed arches of the
transept, he spread out a deep-piled Persian rug--where La Clavel
promptly kneeled--and set the chair conveniently for her. Her devotion
at an end, the dancer rose and disposed herself comfortably. The
constant flutter of a fan with sandal wood sticks stirred the edge of
her mantilla. After she had scrutinized the worshippers about them,
she turned to Charles, speaking in a guarded voice.

He listened with an intense concentration, in the careful preliminaries
of a difficult act of memory, asking her, when it could not be
avoided, to repeat facts or names. They were, now, concerned with the
New York Junta, involved tables of costs, and La Clavel was palpably
annoyed by the unaccustomed necessity of a strict mental effort. She
raised her eyebrows, shot an inviting glance at an interested man of
middle age, and shut and opened her fan by an irritable twist of the
wrist. Watching, weighing, her mood, Charles abruptly brought her
recital to an end.

"That is enough for the present," he decided.

"My choice infant," she retorted, "your air of being my director is
comic. And I could wish you were not so immaculate, so unworldly--you
are tiresome more often than not. I could scream with laughing
when I think you are supposed to be my servant of love." The
striking of a silvery bell interrupted her with the necessity for a
reverence. The mutter of prayer was instantly lost in echoless
space. The genuflexions of the priests and acolytes were rapid.
"This secrecy," she went on, "is against my disposition, unnatural.
I am a woman in whom the complete expression of every feeling is
not only a good but a necessity. There are times when I must, it
seems, give way to my hatred of those perfumed captains. I sit beside
Santacilla, with his hand on my knee, and, hidden by my skirt, my
fingers are wedded to the knife in my stocking. A turn, a sweep of
the arm ... there is a tearing cut I learned in the mountains."

The prayers, the Latin invocations, grew louder with the symbolized
miracle of transubstantiation, the turning back of the bread and wine
into the humility and forbearance of Christ.

Charles Abbott was still, pale and remote; and the heat of La Clavel's
words died before the vision of an eternal empire of souls irrevocably
judged. She sank forward again, the knotted fringe of her mantón
spread out beyond the rug, upon the stone. After a little he told her
that her courage, her daring and patience, were magnificent. But she
replied that they were cold virtues. "All virtues are cold," Charles
assured her seriously. If that were so, La Clavel whispered, her cheek
close to his, she was lost to virtue. Anyhow, she didn't believe him,
he could not, at his age, know so much. Yet not, God comprehended,
that he wasn't both virtuous and cold; any other man in the world, not
a heathen, would have flung himself at her. Charles said wearily:

"We have been over this before, and you know that I do not care for
women. What I was a few years ago--"

"A baby," she informed him.

"What I was a few years ago," he repeated with dignity, "is no
longer true of me. I belong body and spirit to the cause of which
you are aware. And if I didn't it would be, in many respects, no
different--science and the liberation of a people are all one,
selfless."

"I left the knife out of my present toilet," she sighed. "It would be
a charity to free you from the shape you hate so dearly."

"I must go back to the San Felipe and write what you told me,"
he proceeded. "I understand that Santacilla has gone out on a
slaughtering party, and I'll have to take you around in the
evening. There are zarzuelas in the Tacon Theatre this evening,
and afterwards, I suppose, dulces upstairs at the Tuileries.
It's no good, though, expecting me for Retreta--I've got to have
some time to recover and sleep: four o'clock last night, with a
pack of imbeciles, and three the night before. The smell of
Jamaica rum and limes makes me sick."

The mass was over, the people scattering, and, once more cheerful, she
laughed at him. "You might wear a hair shirt," she suggested; "they
are splendid for the soul." He handed her, without reply, into the
small victoria, one of the first in Havana, which had taken the place
of her volanta. In the sun, her shawl, her smile, were dazzling. A
knot of men gathered, gazing at her with longing, regarding Charles
Abbott with insolent resentment and wonder; how, their expressions
made clear the thought, could that insignificant and colorless
foreigner, that tepid American, engage and hold La Clavel, the glory
of Cuba and Spain?

She drove away, shielding her eyes with the fan, and Charles returned
slowly, on foot, to the hotel, reaching it in time for the eleven
o'clock breakfast. Bolting his door, closing the high shutters of his
glassless window, he lay down tired and feverish. The vendors of
oranges cried, far off, their naranjes, naranjes dulces. The bed,
which had no mattress, its sacking covered by a single sheet, the
pillow stuffed hard with cotton, offered him little rest. His body,
wet with sweat, twisted and turned continually, and sleep evaded him;
its peace almost within his grasp, it fled before the hot insistence
of his thoughts. The uncomfortable flesh mocked and dragged at the
spirit. It occurred to him suddenly, devastatingly, that he might fail
in his purpose; the armor of his conviction of invincibility fell
from him with the semblance of a loud ringing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of all the disturbing elements in Charles Abbott's present life the
one which, it had seemed, must prove most difficult, Santacilla and
his friends, troubled him least. There was, in their jeering, a
positive quality to be met; his own necessary restraint furnished him
with a sustaining feeling of triumph, stability; in his control, the
sacrifice of his dignity, his actual pride, damaged by La Clavel,
was restored. He acted the part of the infatuated, ubiquitous
youth, he thought, with entire success. It had been hardest at
first--Santacilla, who pretended to find Charles under his feet like
a dog, threatened, if he didn't stay away from the St. Louis, to
fling him down the long flight of stairs descending from the
dancer's room.

This, Charles wholly realized, was not an idle boasting. Seated,
it might be, quietly against the wall, outside the immediate
circle about La Clavel, the officers, the Spanish grandees in
Cuba for pleasure or for the supervision of their copper mines at
Cobra, Charles would watch, study, Ceaza y Santacilla, finding in
him the epitome of the Spain he himself hated. What, principally,
was evident about the officer with the heavy short neck, the
surprising red hair, and small restless blue eyes, was cruelty of
an extraordinary refined persistence. He had, unexpectedly in his
sheer brutal bulk, a tormenting spirit, a mental abnormality,
rather than the to-be-looked-for mere insensate weight of his fist.
He was, Charles discovered, the victim of disordered nerves, his
gaze, his thick hands or shoulders, were never still, and his lips
had a trick of movement as if in the pronunciation of soundless
periods.

He spoke, even to La Clavel, abruptly, mockingly; his tenderest
words, addressed to her with a sweeping disregard of whoever could
overhear, were hasty, introspective rather than generous. More
frequently he was silent, redly brooding. It was evident to the most
casual understanding that Santacilla was, by birth, association and
ideas, an aristocrat of the absolute type fast disappearing. It was
his power that, in a world largely affected by the ideal of
Christianity, he was ruthless; in an era of comparative humanity he
was inhuman. There was, about him, the smell of the slow fires of
the Inquisition, of languid murder, curious instruments of pain.
Charles recalled a story of the Spanish occupation of Cuba--how the
soldiers in armor cut and stabbed their way through a village of
naked, unprepared and peaceable bodies.

That, until he had known Santacilla, had been incomprehensible--a page
of old history; but now Charles understood: he could see the heavy
figure with a darkly suffused face hacking with a sword. He was
insane, Charles Abbott told himself; in other circumstances he'd be
soon convicted of a sensational murder, quickly hanged or put in an
asylum. But in Havana, as an officer of the Crown quartered on a
people he held in less esteem than the cattle whose slaughter he
applauded in the bull ring, nothing, practically, limited his mad
humors. Yes, here, in the West, he was Spain, the old insufferable
despotism, and Charles thought of Santacilla's necessary end as coldly
as though the soldier were no more than a figment of the doomed old
injustice.

La Clavel was seated with Charles Abbott in the upper room of the
Tuileries, when Santacilla slid into an unoccupied chair beside them.
They were eating mantecados, frozen sweetened cream, and Santacilla
dropped a number of battered Cuban coins, small in denomination, into
Charles' half consumed ice.

"If you were a man," he said, "you could break them up with your
teeth."

The other quietly put the plate away and lighted a cigarette. He
smiled, as if in appreciation of his humor, at the officer.

"But I'll bet you twenty doblons you can't break one," he added.

Santacilla replied that he was considering having Charles Abbott
deported.

"You are so dangerous," he explained, with the grimace that served him
as a smile. "I often consult with our Captain-General. 'This Abbott,'
he says; 'Agramonte is nothing, but I am afraid of him. He is wise, he
is deep.' And then we think what can be done with you--a tap on the
head, not too hard and not far from the ear, would make you as gentle
as a kitten. I have had it done; really it is a favor, since then you
would forget all your trouble, the problems of state. You'd cry if I
raised a finger at you." La Clavel interrupted him to swear at his
degraded imagination. "And the figure in the jota!" he turned to her.
"You know that the Spaniards of birth have, as well as their own, the
blood of the Moriscos. What they were, what the East is, with women,
I beg you to remember.

"This new treatment of women is very regrettable. I am a little late
for absolute happiness; too late, for example, to fasten your tongue
with a copper wire to the tongue across the table from you. Lovers,
you see, joined at last." He talked while he ate, in a manner wholly
delicate, minute fragile dulces, cakes, glazed in green and pink, and
ornamental confections of almond paste. Unperturbed, La Clavel found
him comparable to a number of appalling objects and states. Coarse,
was all that he replied.

"You are a peasant, a beast, and what you say is merely stupid. There
this Abbott is your superior--he has a trace, a suspicion, of blood. I
am wondering," he was addressing Charles again. "It seems impossible
that you are as dull as you appear; there is more, perhaps, than meets
the eye. Your friendship with the Escobars broke up very suddenly; and
you never see Floret and Quintara with his borrowed French airs. They
are nothing, it is true, yet they have a little Castilian, they are
better than the avaricious fools at the United States Club. Of course,
if you are in love with this cow gone mad, a great deal is accounted
for." He wiped his fingers first on a serviette and then on a sheer
web of linen marked with a coronet and his cipher.

"Pah!" he exclaimed, looking at the dancer, "your neck is dirty
again."

Sick with disgust, his blood racing with a passionate detestation,
Charles Abbott laughed loudly. But he was relieved that Santacilla's
attention had been shifted from him. Another officer, a major of the
Isabel regiment, tall and dark and melancholy, joined them. He ignored
Charles completely, and talked to La Clavel about her dances--the
Arragonese jota and those of the other provinces of Spain. He had, it
developed, written an opera on the subject of de Gama and a fabulous
Florida. Santacilla grew restive at this and gazed about the room
maliciously. Then, suddenly, he rose and walked to the table where a
young Cuban exquisite was sitting with a girl slender and darkly
lovely. Santacilla leaned over, with his hands planted on their table,
and made a remark that drove the blood in a scarlet tide to the
civilian's face. Then the Spaniard amazingly produced from his sleeve
a ball of lamb's wool such as women use to powder their faces, and
touched the girl's nose lightly. He went to another table and repeated
his act, to another and another, brushing all the feminine noses, and
returned, unchallenged, to his place.

"If I had been with any of those women," he related comfortably, "and
the King had done that, there would have been a new king and a new
infanta."

The musical Spaniard, inappropriately in uniform, remonstrated, "A lot
of them will kill you some night in the Paseo de Valdez or on the
quays."

Santacilla agreed with him. "No doubt it will overtake me--if not
here, then on the Peninsula. A hundred deaths, all distressing, have
been sworn upon me." Charles Abbott's expression was inane, but,
correcting that statement, he said to himself, "A hundred and one."

La Clavel yawned, opening to their fullest extent her lips on superb
teeth and a healthy throat.

"I have, at least, a sponge, a basin of water," she proclaimed
indirectly.

Santacilla replied, "You think nothing can cleanse me, and, in your
chattering way, you are right; except, it may be, that last twist of
steel or ounce of lead. Some of my soldiers are planning to manage it;
I know them well, and I gave one an opportunity today: I stood with my
back to him in the parapet of the Twelve Apostles for three, five,
minutes, while he tramped and fiddled with his musket, and then I put
him in a hole in the stone for a year."

       *       *       *       *       *

The other Spanish officer, Gaspar Arco de Vaca, Santacilla's closest
companion, observed toward Charles an air of profound civility, and
his pretence was more galling than Santacilla's morbid threats and
exposed contempt. De Vaca was, in temperament and appearance, purely
Iberian: he was of middle height, he carried his slender body with an
assured insulting grace, and had a narrow high-boned face, a bigoted
nose and a moustache like a scrolling of India ink on a repressed and
secretive mouth. Charles often encountered him in the Fencing School
on the Prado, across from the Villa Nueva Theatre. The officers of
Isabella congregated there late in the afternoon, where they occupied
all the chairs and filled the bare room with the soft stamp of their
heels and the harsh grinding of engaged buttoned steel. The foils,
however, were not always covered: there had been some fatalities from
duelling in the sala de Armas since Charles Abbott had been in Havana;
a Cuban gentleman past sixty had been slain by a subaltern of
seventeen; two officers, quarreling over a crillo girl, had sustained
punctured lungs, from which one had bled to death.

The Cubans, it was made evident, were there by sufferance, and the
fencing master, Galope Hormiguero, an officer who had been retired
from a Castilian regiment under the shadow of an unprovoked murder,
made little effort to conceal his disdain of the Islanders. Charles he
regarded without interest: he was a faithful student, and made all the
required passes, engaged the other beginning students, with
regularity; but even he saw that he would never be notably skilful
with the foil or rapier or broadsword. Charles had a delicate sense of
touch, he bore himself firmly, his eye was true; he had the appearance
of mastery, but the essence of it was not in him. His heart,
Hormiguero frequently told him, was like a sponge; he wasn't tempered
to the commanding of death.

He agreed, silently, that he wasn't a butcher; and as for his
heart--time would show its material. Meanwhile he kept up the waist
and forearm exercises, the indicated breathing, gaining, if not a
different spirit, a harder and cured body. The room was large, with
the usual high windows on a balcony, and strips of coco-matting over
the tiled floor. A light wooden partition provided dressing space, the
chairs were carried about hither and there, and the racks of foils
against the walls reflected the brightness of day in sudden long
shivers like other and immaterial blades. It had been, originally, a
drawing-room, the cornice was elaborate, and painted on the ceiling
were flying cupids and azure and cornucopias of spilling flowers.

At moments of rest, his chest laboring and arms limp at his sides,
Charles Abbott would stare up at the remote pastoral of love and Venus
and roses. Then the clamor, the wicked scrape of steel, the sharp
breaths, the sibilant cries that accompanied the lunges, would appear
wholly incomprehensible to him, a business in a mad-house; he'd want
to tear the plastron, with its scarlet heart sewn high on the left,
from his chest, and fling it, with his gauntlet and mask, across the
floor; he'd want to break all the foils, and banish Galope Hormiguero
to live among the wild beasts he resembled. He was deep in such a mood
when de Vaca's considerate tones roused him. "Positively," he said,
"you are like one of the heroes who held Mexico on the point of his
sword or who swept the coast of Peru of its gold. And you are idle,
for you see no one who can hold the mat with you."

"In reality," Charles replied, "I fence very awkwardly. But you have
often seen me, I haven't any need to tell you that."

"That can never be established without experience," the Spaniard
asserted; "I should have to feel your wrist against mine. If you will
be patient, if you will wait for me, I'll risk a public humiliation."

Charles Abbott said evenly: "I'd be very glad to fence with you, of
course."

When de Vaca, flawlessly appointed, returned, Charles rose steadily,
and strapped on his mask, tightened the leather of the plastron. A
murmur of subdued amusement followed their walking out together onto
an unoccupied strip--de Vaca was a celebrated swordsman. Charles
saluted acceptably, but the wielding of the other's gesture of
courtesy filled him with admiration. The foils struck together, there
was a conventional pass and parry, and from that moment Charles Abbott
lost control of his steel. At a touch from de Vaca, scarcely
perceptible, his foil rose or fell, swept to one side or the other; a
lunge would end in the button describing a whole arc, and pointing
either to the matting or the winged and cherubic cupids. The laughter
from the chairs grew louder, more unguarded, and then settled into a
constant stream of applause and merriment.

Disengaged, he said in tones which he tried in vain to make steady,
"You have a beautiful hand."

De Vaca, his eyes shining blackly through wire mesh, thanked him in
the politest language known. He began, then, to make points, touches,
wherever he chose--with a remarkably timed twist he tore the cloth
heart from Charles' wadding; he indicated, as though he were a teacher
with a pointer, anatomical facts and regions; de Vaca seemed to be
calling Charles' attention, by sharp premonitory taps, to what he
might have been saying. There were now a number of voices encouraging
and applauding him; he was begged not to be so hard upon Gaspar; and
it was hoped that he was not giving way to the venting of a secret
spite. A nerveless parry in tierce brought out a tempestuous
support--

His arm was as heavy, as numb, as lead, the conventional period had
been ignored, and his torment went on and on. His chest, he thought,
must burst under the strapped plastron, and sweat poured in a sheet
across his eyes. The episode seemed utterly meaningless, undemanded;
the more remarkable because of de Vaca's indifference to him, to all
the trivialities of his Cuban duty. How yellow the face was, the eyes
were like jet, through the mask. Then Charles Abbott grasped what, he
was certain, was the purpose of such an apparently disproportionate
attack. It was the result of a cold effort, a set determination, to
destroy what courage he had. He gazed quickly about, and saw nothing
but Spanish faces; the fencing master was in the far end of the room,
intent upon a sheaf of foils. At any moment de Vaca could have
disarmed him, sent his steel flying through air; but that he forebore
to do. Instead he opposed his skill, his finesse, his strength, in the
attack upon Charles Abbott's fibre.

"If I collapse," Charles told himself, "it will be for eternity."

Any sense of time was disintegrated in a physical agony which required
all his wasting being to combat. But, even worse than that, far more
destructive, was the assault upon his mind. If he crumbled ... he
thought of himself as dust, his brain a dry powder in his skull. The
laughter around him, which had seemed to retreat farther and farther,
had ceased, as though it had been lost in the distance. The room,
widening to an immensity of space, was silent, charged with a
malignant expectancy. Soon, Charles felt, he would fall into
unreckoned depths of corrupt shadows, among the obscene figures of the
hideously lost.

The sweat streaming into his mouth turned thick and salt--blood, from
his nose. There was a tumult in his head: his fencing now was the mere
waving of a reed. Again and again the Spaniard's foil, as cruelly and
vitally direct as at the first pass, struck within Charles' guard. The
face of wood, of yellow wood, the eyes that were bits of coal, behind
the mask, pursued him into the back of his brain. It stirred, there, a
smothering instinct, a dormant memory, and Charles, with a wrenching
effort, in a voice thin like a trickle of water from a spigot, said
again, "--a most beautiful hand."

Sharply, incomprehensibly, it was over. Drooping forward upon his
knees, dropping his foil from paralysed fingers, he saw de Vaca, with
his mask on an arm, frowning.

"Now," Charles Abbott thought luxuriously, "I can faint and be damned
to them."

The cloud of darkness which flowed over him was empty of the vileness
of fear; rather, like the beneficence of night, it was an utterly
peaceful remission of the flesh.

       *       *       *       *       *

His physical exhaustion, the weariness of his mind, continued in a
settled lassitude through the following day. He was to see Andrés
Escobar, give him what information he had had from La Clavel, the next
morning at the baths of the Campos Eliseos; and meanwhile he scarcely
stirred from the San Felipe. Charles, for the time, lacked the bravado
necessary for the sustaining of his pretence. His thoughts, turned in
upon his own acts and prospects, dwelt quietly on his determination.
He had changed appreciably during his stay in Havana; even his
physiognomy was different how, he couldn't say, but he was aware that
his expression had, well, hardened. The cure which had been the
principally hoped-for result of Cuba was complete. In spite of his
collapse in the fencing school, he was more compactly strong than ever
before. It occurred to him that, now, he might be described as a man.

This brought him a certain pleasure, and, in keeping with that state,
he tried to simplify, to comprehend, the idealism which dominated him.
He didn't want to grasp vainly at rosy clouds. His first attitude,
one of hardly more than boyish excitement, had soon become a deep
impersonal engagement--he had promised himself to Cuba. That will was
stronger than ever; but the schooling of the past weeks, together with
the stiffening of his spirit, had bred a new practicality in him,
superior, he felt, to any sheer heroics. He vastly preferred the
latter, he hadn't totally lost the inspiring mental picture of a
glorious sacrifice; but he had come to the realization that it was
more important to stay alive. What, in reality, he was trying to do
was to see himself consecutively, logically.

In this, he recognized, his mind was different from the Escobars',
from the blind fervor of the many Cuban patriots he knew. He could see
that reflected in their manner toward him: no trace of Vincente's
aloofness remained, they had come, forgetting his comparative youth,
his alien blood, to regard him with almost an anxiety of respect.
When it was possible, men of the widest possible activities talked
to him of their plans. In short, Charles Abbott felt that he might
become a power; and this he coolly set himself to bring about. His
heritage was that of success; there were distinguished men, who had
carried alone heavy responsibilities to their justified end, no more
than two or three generations behind him. His mother, he thought
gladly, surveying her in the clearness of a full detachment, had an
astonishing courage of spirit. Charles told himself that he would
have to become a politician; his undiminished idealism, without which
his validity was nothing, must be shut into his heart, held purely
for the communication of its force and for his own benefit.

The simple path of truth, of partisan enthusiasm, must be put aside.
The uncalculating bravery of the men gathered about General Agramonte
was of indispensable value; but undirected, with no brain to make
secure, to put into operation, the fire they created, that would come
to little. He wished that his connection, his duty, with La Clavel was
over, that he could delegate it elsewhere, but, obviously, for the
moment, that was impossible. It merely remained for him, then, to take
no unpondered chances, never again to be drawn into such a situation
as he had faced with Gaspar Arco de Vaca.

Before such a sharp decision, a certain amount of his sheer joy
evaporated: it was less inspiring to be cautious than daring. The
Cubans themselves, always excepting Andrés, had lost an appreciable
amount of their glamour for him. They were, now, units, elements, to
be managed, to be tranquilized, steadied, moved about. All this, of
course, was yet to come; the recognition of him was instinctive rather
than acknowledged. But, he repeated to himself, it was forming,
spreading. That, then, was the shape, the actuality, of his vision--to
establish himself indispensably at the fore of a Cuban liberty,
incipient, dreamed of, and accomplished. All his thoughts dropped,
almost with the audible smooth clicking of meshed steel gears, into
place. The last degree of joy was replaced by a fresh calm maturity.
He would never, it was obvious, be a leader of soldiers, and he had no
desire to become the visible head of government; no, his intention was
other than that of Carlos de Cespedes. He viewed his future self
rather as a powerful source of advice with a house on the Prado. It
was curious how coldly, exactly, he planned so much; and he stopped to
examine his ambition even more closely and to discover if it were
merely absurd.

It struck him that it might be he had lost too much, that already he
had become selfish, ambitious for himself, and he recalled the
religious aspect so quickly gone. No, he decided, his effort was
to bridge that space, already recognized, between desire and
realization. Anyhow, he determined to speak of this as well to
Andrés during their bath. The April temporale lay in an even heat
over the city, and the end of the Paseo Isabel was crowded by the
quitrins of women, the caleseros, in their brilliant livery, sleeping
in whatever shade offered. The Escobars had a private bath, but
Andrés preferred the larger baño publico, where it was possible to
swim, and there Charles found him. The basin had been hollowed from
the coral rock; it was perhaps eighteen or twenty feet square, and
the height of the water, with a passage for a fresh circulation cut
in the front wall, was level with the calm reach of the sea.

The pool, as clear as slightly congealed and cooled air, open to the
horizon, was roofed, with a railed ledge and steps descending into the
water, and Andrés Escobar sat with his legs half immersed. He greeted
Charles conventionally, concealing the pleasure which shone in his
eyes.

"I stopped at your dressing-room," Charles Abbott told him; "anything
might be taken from the pockets of your coat."

The converse of this possibility, that something had been put into a
pocket, he conveyed. Andrés nodded indifferently. The other slid into
the water, sinking and swimming beneath the surface to the farther
end. It was delicious. Swimming was his only finished active
accomplishment; and, with a half concealed pride, he exhibited it in
skilful variations. Even the public bath, he felt, was too contracted
for the full expression of his ability. In addition to this, it was
necessary to talk confidentially to Andrés. And so, with a wave of his
arm, he indicated the freedom of the sea beyond.

Andrés Escobar followed him over the stone barrier, and together they
swam steadily out into the blue. Finally, they rested, floating, and
Charles diffidently related what was in his heart. His friend, less
secure in the water, listened with a gravity occasionally marred by a
mouthful of sea.

"You are right," he agreed, when Charles had finished. "Although you
have put it modestly, I think--many of us admit--that you may be a
strong man in Cuba. Indeed, I have heard it said that you should go
back to America, and put more intensity into the Junta. Naturally I
should regret that, but we must all do what, in the end, is best.
Charles, there is a great deal of water under and around us, and I
should feel better nearer the Campos Eliseos."

"Wait," Charles Abbott replied with a touch of impatience; "you are
quite safe, there is no tide at present." Floating in the calm
immensity, his arms outspread, his face, at once burned by the sun and
lapped by water, turned to the opposed azure above, he drew in
accession after accession of a determination like peace. Nothing
should upset what he had planned. There was a stir beside him--André
Escobar was returning to the shore, and lazily, thoughtfully, he swam
back. The Cuban left immediately, for breakfast; but Charles lingered
in the pool, lounging upon the wooden grilling with a cigarette. One
by one the bathers went away. The sky, the sea, were a blaze of blue.
The clatter of hoofs, the caleseros' departing cries, sounded from the
Paseo. "Charles Abbott," he repeated his own name aloud with an accent
of surprise. What, whom, did it describe? He gazed down over his
drying body. This, then, was he--the two legs, thin but sufficiently
muscular, the trunk in a swimming suit, the arms and hands! His hidden
brain, his invisible mind, was himself as well; and, of the two, the
mind and the body, the unseen was overwhelmingly the more important.
He remembered how, fencing with de Vaca, the body had failed him
utterly; de Vaca, attacking his will, was contemptuous of the other
... and his will had survived. Rising, he felt that he commanded
himself absolutely; he had no sympathy, no patience, for frailty, for
a failure through the celebrated weaknesses of humanity: hardness was
the indispensable trait of success.

       *       *       *       *       *

The whole of reasonably intelligent life, Charles discovered, was
disrupted by the ceaseless clash of two utterly opposed ideas,
emotions. There was, first, the need in the individual to serve,
to justify, himself, to maintain his integrity; and, as well,
there was the duty--at least, it was universally called a duty--of
a self-sacrifice for love. The failures of superior men came largely,
he was certain, in the breaking down of the first through the second.
A man, for example, put into motion the accomplishment of his own
demand, and then was appalled by the incidental price, but more to
others than to himself. Yes, love betrayed men. The Escobars were,
inseparably, Cuba, they were happily merged, lost, in one supreme
cause; yet the superiority of their hearts over the head endangered
their dearest preoccupation. They saw symbols as realities, they
wrongly valued emotion more highly than reasoning.

And further, Charles returned to himself, if he had consulted and
listened to his parents, if his love of home had outweighed his
singular vision, he would be nothing now but an unimportant drifting
figure. His parents had had more knowledge of life than he;
undoubtedly their counsel, in the main, was correct, safe. That word,
safe, was it specially. The instinct of his mother was to preserve, to
spare, him; to win for him as smooth a passage through life as was
procurable. She had her particular feminine idea of what, in her son,
spelled solid accomplishment; and, with all her spirit, it was
material in so far as it was visible: position in a settled community,
the money necessary for an existence both dignified and ornamental, a
"nice" wife--another devoted sheltering soul such as herself--and
well-behaved handsome children. The inner qualities she demanded for
him were faith, honesty, and fidelity.

Her vision of a broad close-cut lawn and grey stone house with pillars
and a port-cochère, his wife, in silks and chaste jewels, receiving a
polite company in the drawing-room, was admirable. In it he would be
gray-haired and, together with an increasing stoutness, of an assured
dignity. His children would worship his wisdom and paternal
benevolence, and the world of affairs would listen to him with
attentive respect. It was, unquestionably, an impressive conception.
Every detail was excellent, but he cared for, revered, none of them.

He didn't want to be safe, to decline softly to a soft old age, a
death smothered in feathers. More than anything else his desire was to
live intensely, to ride, upright, the crest of a thunderous wave. He
hated, now, every phase of a decent suburban smugness. Someone else
was welcome to the girl designated, by his mother, to be his wife.
Someone other than himself might sit across the dinner-table from her,
week after week, month after month, year after year, and watch her
stereotyped face beyond the cut flowers; another might listen to the
interminable gabble about servants and neighbors and dresses and
cards. The children would be differently, more appropriately,
fathered; his, Charles Abbott's, potential children were gathered into
an ideal that was, too, an idea. It must be served, realized, within
the dimensions of his own bone and fibre; it was exclusively his, his
the danger, the penalty and the reward. Charles would not have had it
different, even if, although none existed, he had any choice.

He must, however, prepare himself against the betrayal he was able
to trace so clearly in others; there could be no faltering, no
remorse; he was cut off from the ordinary solaces, the comfortable
compactness, of general living. But, already, temperamentally, he
liked, preferred, this; alone, never for a minute was he lonely.
The inattention to home, primarily the result of a new scene and of
exciting circumstances, had grown into an impersonal fondness for
his family; he failed to miss them, to wish for their presence. The
only element that remained from the past was his love for Andrés
Escobar; he confronted it valorously, deposed it from his mind, but
it clung around his heart. How fortunate it was that Andrés could
not detach him from his resolve; it was unthinkable that one should
stand in the way of the other.

These reflections occupied his mind at various times and places: one
day in the American Consulate on Obispo Street; again at the steamship
office on Mercaderes; over his cigarette and cheese and jelly at the
Noble Havana; strolling along Ricla Street where the principal shops
were congregated; at a dinner party in the Palace of the Conde de
Santovernia. He was aloof. All the activity that absorbed the people
among whom he went was to him trivial, utterly of no consequence.
Sometimes he would walk through the stalls of the Mercado de Cristina,
on the Plaza Vieja, or in through the Honradez factory on Sol Street,
where a handful of cigars was courteously given to any appreciative
visitor. He would return along the Paseo de Valdez to the park where
he had sat when he was first in Cuba, and, as then, the strains of the
military band of the Cabañas drifted across the bay.

The dwelling of the Captain-General, with the Royal Lottery on the
ground floor, had before it sentries in red and white; the Quay de
Caballeria, reached through the Plaza of San Francisco, was tempered
and pleasant in the early dusk, and at the Quay de Machina was a small
garden with grotesque rosy flamingoes and gold-fish in the fountain.
He sat, as well, lonely, considering and content, in the Alameda de
Paula, where, by the glorieta, it was called the Salon O'Donnell. The
moats, filled with earth, truck gardens, the shore covered with sugar
pans, engaged his absent-minded interest. With the improvement of his
Spanish, he deserted the better known cafés and restaurants, the
insolence of the Castilian officers, for modest Cuban places of food,
where he drank Catalan wine, and smoked the Vegueros, the rough
excellent plantation cigars.

This new mood, he was relieved to find, gave his acquaintances as much
amusement as his public dissipation--it was ascribed to the predicted
collapse of his love affair with La Clavel. She was, he was rallied,
growing tired of his attentions; and, in the United States Club, he
was requested not to drown himself, because of the trouble it would
cause his country. Captain Santacilla, however, studied him with a
growing ill-humor; his peculiar threats and small brutalities had
stopped, but his temper, Charles recognized, was becoming dangerous.
He declared frankly, in the Café Dominica, that Charles wasn't the
fool he appeared, and he repeated his assertions of the need for a
deportation or worse.

This was a condition which, sooner or later, must be met, and for
which Charles prepared himself. Both Cubans and Spaniards occasionally
disappeared forever--the former summarily shot by a file of muskets in
a fosse, and the latter, straying in the anonymous paths of
dissipation, quieted by a patriotic or vindictive knife. This, it
seemed to Charles Abbott, would be the wisest plan with Santacilla;
and he had another strange view of himself considering and plotting a
murder. The officer, who had an extraordinary sense of intangible
surrounding feelings and pressures, spoke again to Charles of the
efforts to dispose of him.

"The man doesn't draw breath who will do it," he proclaimed to
Charles, at the entrance to the Valla de Gallo. "It's a superstition,
but I'd back it with my last onza of gold. I've seen it in you very
lately, but give it up. Or don't give it up. Either way you are
unimportant. I can't understand why you are still here, why I permit
you to live. If I remember it I'll speak to my sergeant, Javier Gua:
he performs such an errand to a nicety. I have taken a dislike to you,
very unreasonably, for you are no more than a camarone. I believe, for
all your appearance of money, that La Clavel supports you; it is her
doblons, I am certain, you gamble away and spend for food."

Charles Abbott smiled at the insult:

"On one hand I hear that she has thrown me over and then you say that
she supports me. Which, I wonder, is to be preferred? But neither,
fortunately, is true. I can still buy her a bouquet of camellias and
she will still wear it. As for the money, I never lose at gambling,
Santacilla, I am always successful; the cards are in my favor. If I
bet on the black, it turns up; and when I choose the red, affairs are
red."

Santacilla's uneasy eyes shifted over him suspiciously. "Blood and
death, that is what black and red are," he said. "But you are not the
dispenser of fate." The peak of his cockaded hat threw a shadow over
his sanguine face to the chin. "A camarone," he repeated, "a stalk of
celery. Gua, and I'll remember to tell him, will part you from your
conceit." There was a metallic crowing of roosters as the officer
turned away.

       *       *       *       *       *

La Clavel noticed a marked difference in Charles, but proclaimed that
it was no more than an increase in his natural propensity for
high-mindedness. It fatigued her, she declared, to be with him, made
her dizzy to gaze up at his altitude of mind. He was seated in her
room, the hairdresser was sweating in the attempt to produce an effect
she was describing to him with phrases as stinging as the whip of
foils, while Charles watched her with a degree of annoyance. Her
humors, where he was concerned, were unpredictable; and lately she had
found a special delight in attacks on his dignity. She said and did
things--an air of innocence hiding her malice--indecently ribald that
shook his firmest efforts to appear, to be, unconcerned.

At last, in a volatile rage, she dismissed the servant with his tongs
and pomatum and crimping leads, and swore to Charles Abbott that she
was going to the Argentine by the first boat that offered passage.

"I am sick of Cuba, and I've forgotten that I am an artist, and that
is bad. You are wrapped up in this liberty, and that is very well for
you, an ordinary person. You must have something like that, outside
you, to follow, for you've very little within. But me, I am not an
ordinary person; I am La Clavel. I am more valuable to the world than
pumpkins or republics. I stamp my heel," she stamped her heel, a clear
sharp sound, and her body swept into a line passionate and tense, "and
I create a people, a history." La Clavel secured the castanets lying
on her dressing-table--in answer to their irritable rhythmic clinking
she projected, for an instant, a vision of all desire.

"I can make men forget; I can draw them out of their sorrows and away
from their homes; I can put fever in their blood that will blind them
to memories and duty. Or I can be a drum, and lead them out, without a
regret, a fear, to death. That is more than a naranjada or a cigar or
an election. And, because of what I have given you, I have put that
out of my life; I have been living like the mistress of a bodega. To
be clear, Charles, I am tired of you and Cuba, and I have satisfied my
hatred of the officers with cologne on their handkerchiefs."

"I understand that perfectly," Charles Abbott assured her; "and I
cannot beg you to stay. Whatever your motive was, your value to us has
been beyond any payment. If our movement had a saint, you would fill
that place."

She laughed, "A strange saint in a mantón and slippers with painted
heels."

"Much better," Charles replied, "than many of those in sanctified
robes. I had the feeling, too," he proceeded, "that our usefulness
together was coming to an end." It seemed to him that again she had
become the glorified figure of the stage, his dislike for her
actuality, her flesh, vanished, leaving only profound admiration.

"I am amazed," she said, in a lingering half humorous resentment,
"that you never loved me, I never brought you a regret or a longing or
made any trouble in your heart."

"That was because I put you so high," he explained. She raised her
shoulders and objected that it was late for compliments.

"Be honest--you didn't care for me. You ought to be very successful,
you have things surprising in the so young. Will you," she demanded
suddenly, totally changing the subject, "be my maid?" He hastened to
inform her, vehemently, that he would not. "Jobaba hasn't come today,"
La Clavel continued; "and she wasn't here to dress me for dinner last
evening. That is unusual in her: I have a feeling she is not coming
back."

"Perhaps she has been murdered in one of the brujos cabildos," Charles
suggested. "It is impossible to say where that frenzy stops." A
happening quite different, the dancer told him, was in her mind.

"I could never get into the thoughts of Jobaba," she admitted. "And
there is very little I miss. I suppose it's the negro. She is like
cream, smooth and beautiful to look at, but turned by thunder." If she
were going away, Charles reminded her, there were a number of things
to be discussed and closed. And she told Charles how a Cuban,
ostensibly attached to the national party, but in reality a Spanish
secret agent, had been sent into Camagüey. His name was Rimblas.

Charles Abbott repeated that, and memorized such characteristics as La
Clavel knew. There was an indefinite stir at the door, a short knock,
and he moved to the window as Santacilla entered unceremoniously.

The Spaniard was a model of politeness, of consideration, and he
listened, seated with his hands folded about the head of his officer's
cane, to La Clavel's determination to go to South America. It was an
excellent plan, he agreed; they would welcome her rapturously in
Buenos Aires; but hadn't she put off her intention a little too long?
It was on account of the climate, the season, he hastened to add.
Although, of course, they would open the opera house for her, the
smart world would come in from their estancias.

"But what will our young American do?" he demanded. "How will he live
without his delight? But perhaps he is going to the Argentine with
you. He will have a busy time, and a hatful of challenges there, where
beauty is appreciated to the full."

Charles said, with an appearance of sullenness, that he hadn't been
invited to go farther south; and Santacilla replied that, as a matter
of fact, it might be necessary for him to remain, perhaps forever, in
Havana. He spoke cheerfully, gazing amiably upon them, but a vague
quality of his bearing, his voice, was disturbing, mocking. His words
had the air of an underlying meaning different from their sound. An
uneasiness, as well, was communicated to La Clavel: she watched
Santacilla with an indirect puzzled gaze.

"Jobaba has gone," she announced abruptly.

The trace of a smile hovered about the officer's expression of regret.
"A personable clip of hell," was his opinion of the strayed maid. "Do
you remember the major who composed music?" he addressed La Clavel.
"Well, he was always a little touched in the brain, and he caught this
negro hysteria, he became a brujos. He'd come home in the morning with
his body marked in yellow chalk, and wrung out like a boatman's
sponge; and he let drop a fact or two about your Jobaba screaming to
an African drum rubbed with the fingers. In that state, he said, a
great deal that was curious and valuable could be dragged from her. We
encouraged his madness, at the Cabañas, for what it brought us. But it
was unfortunate for him--he ties bright rags about his ankles and
mumbles, when he thinks he is alone."

Charles Abbott's mind, sifting all that the other said, was abnormally
active, sharp. Something, he couldn't quite grasp what, was acutely,
threateningly, wrong. He had a sense of impending danger, a
premonition of dashing sound, of discord. And, whatever developed, he
must meet it, subdue and conquer it. Ceaza y Santacilla, he saw, was
not visibly armed; but, probably, he would carry a small pistol. The
one his father had given him was in Charles' pocket. The difficulty
was that, in the event of a disturbance, no matter what the outcome
here might happen to be, the dancer and he would bear the weight of
any Spanish fury. And it was no part of his intention to be cut in
half by bullets behind a fortress wall.

He could only delay, discover as soon as possible what was behind
Santacilla's deceiving patience and good humor. Upon that he would
have to act without hesitation and with no chance of failure. The
regiment should, the dancer complained, send her maid back to her.
Manners were very much corrupted beyond the western ocean--in Sevilla
the servant would have been dispatched in a bullock cart deep in
roses. That, he answered, reminded him of another procession, a
different cart; but it was more French than Castilian--the tumbril.

He was seated against a wall at a right angle from the door, and
Charles left the vicinity of the window, lounging across the room. La
Clavel said, "I know you so well, Ceaza, what is it; what is it you
are saying and saying without speaking of? Your mind is like a locked
metal box that shows only the flashes on the surface. But you must
open it for us. It seems as though you were threatening me, and that,
you best should realize, is useless."

His flickering eyes rested first on her and then upon Charles Abbott.
"You will never get to South America now," he asserted; "for you are a
conspirator against your King. Since you have shown such a love of
Cuban soil you are to become a part of it forever."

       *       *       *       *       *

Charles Abbott, now standing by the door, shot in the bolt which
secured it, and, by a fortunate, a chance, twist, broke off the
handle. Santacilla, undisturbed, remained seated, smiling while his
fingers played with the plaited loop of his cane.

"This infatuation," he indicated them with a wave, "while it convinced
Havana, never entirely satisfied me. I have been watching you, Jobaba
has been listening, for days. You were very cunning, but, in the end,
you failed; you were neither skilful nor patient enough. Yet, at the
last, all that you heard were fairy tales--the spy that was sent to
Camagüey, ha!"

La Clavel faced him calmly, but, Charles saw, she was pale. He was
revolving a hundred impractical schemes: they had only one end, the
death of Santacilla, but how that was to be brought about with safety
to Cuba evaded him.

"I am not a traitor in the way you mean," she declared; "what your
conceit never allowed you to note was that, in Spain and here, I have
always detested you; and what I did was the result of that. I struck
at you and not at our country, for the court and church and army are
no longer our strength--if we still have any except the knife and
cord--but our weakness."

"Fools," he asserted, unmoved.

"And now you are the fool," she added.

"No, you are wrong; I am only enjoying myself before the show is over.
I wanted to see you, and your young devotee, twist and turn before the
fact of death. I have killed, and seen executed, a number of people,
men and women; but I was still curious--a great dancer and a rich
young American. That is an unusual day."

It was best, Charles Abbott decided, to bring about as much as
possible with no more delay; the prime necessary act accomplished,
they could face the problems of the immediate future steadily. He
quietly produced his pistol and levelled it. The dry click which alone
followed the pulling of the trigger made the officer aware of the
attempt upon his life. A dark angry surge invaded his face, and then
receded. "No man will ever kill me," he repeated. "It is my star." A
hand left the cane and produced a small gold whistle.

Charles stared dully at the useless weapon, with its mounting of
mother-of-pearl, which he still held.

"The cartridges have been too long in their barrels," Santacilla
explained; "they have dried and shifted. You should have greased them
every week."

La Clavel stood, lost in thought, like a woman in a dream. Her hair,
over which she had spent such time and curses, was an elaborate
silhouette against the light. "Ceaza, Ceaza," she implored, going to
him, "you must let me go and dance in Buenos Aires, they have never
seen me there, it is necessary to my career." She was close beside
him, when he rose suddenly, pushing the chair between them.

"You Andalusian devil!" he cried, and put the whistle to his lips.
Before he could blow, the dancer had flung herself on him, with an arm
bound about his neck, a hand dragging at his throat. The whistle fell,
the chair was brushed aside, and the man and woman, in a straining
desperate grip, swayed into the middle of the floor.

Charles, driven by an inherited instinct to protect La Clavel, to
replace her in such a struggle, caught at either of the locked
shoulders; but, whirling in the passion of their strife, they struck
him aside. He made another effort to pull Santacilla to the floor,
without success; and then, with a small stout chair in his hands, he
waited for an opportunity to bring it crashing on the officer's head.
He was appalled by the fury of the woman silently trying to choke her
enemy; her other hand, grasping the thin glimmer of the knife always
convenient in her stocking, the officer held away from them. Her years
of dancing, her early hardening life in the mountains, had given her a
strength and litheness now tearing at the weight, the masculinity, of
Santacilla. He was trying, in vain, to break her wrist, to close his
fingers into her throat; and, bending, the fragility of her clothes
ripped across her sinuous back. Shifting and evading the thrust of his
power, she was sending the blood in purple waves over his neck and
thick cheeks. Neither of them cried out, spoke; there was only the
sound of hoarse breathing, inarticulate expressions of unendurable
strain. Charles Abbott, raising, holding poised, the chair, and
lowering it, was choked with the grappling horror before him.

La Clavel's face was as blanched as the officer's was dark, her eyes
were wide-open and set, as though she were in a galvanic trance. Again
and again Santacilla tried to tear away her arms, to release himself
from the constriction at his neck. His fingers dug red furrows through
her flesh, they tormented and outraged her. A palm closed upon her
countenance, and blood ran from under it. But there was no weakening
of her force, no slackening in her superb body. She seemed curiously
impersonal; robbed of all traits of women; she was like a symbolical
fate, the figure from a shield, from an emblem, dragging him to
death.

Then, suddenly, in an inadequate muffled voice burdened with a
shuddering echo of fear, he cried for her to release him. It was so
unexpected, he became so inexplicably limp, that La Clavel backed away
instinctively. Charles started forward, the chair lifted high; but he
was stopped by the expression, the color, of Ceazy Santacilla's face.
The officer turned, with his hands at his throat, toward the window.
He took an uncertain step, and then stood wavering, strangely
helpless, pathetically stricken.

"The air," he whispered; "hot as wine." He pitched abruptly face
forward upon the floor.

La Clavel tried to speak against the labored heaving of her breast,
but what she attempted to say was unintelligible. Charles, slipping
back the broken bolt with a finger in its orifice, listened intently
at the door. The Hotel St. Louis was wrapped undisturbed in its
siesta; no alarm had been created. Santacilla lay as he had fallen, an
arm loosely outspread, a leg doubled unnaturally under its fellow. He
bore the laxness, the emptiness, of death. He had spoken truly that it
wasn't in his star to be killed by a man. Finding that he was still
holding the chair, Charles put it softly down. "Well," he said, "the
revolution is through with him."

He glanced suddenly at La Clavel. She was drooping, disheveled and
hideous; her hair lay on her bare shoulders in coarse strands; her
face was swollen with bruises. Now, he realized, she would never see
the Argentine; she would never again hear the shouted olés that
greeted, rewarded, the brilliancy of her jota. His thoughts shifted to
Cuba and himself--if it were a crime of passion that had been
committed in her room, the cause, there, would be freed from
suspicion. He had, as customary, come directly, unostentatiously, to
her room, and he was certain that he had not been observed. A duty,
hard in the extreme, was before him.

"Why did you bring about Santacilla's death?" he demanded. She gazed
at him dully, uncomprehendingly. "It was because he was jealous," he
proceeded; "you must hold to that." She nodded, dazed. "When they come
into the room and find him you must show what he did to you. And,
after all, you didn't kill him. Perhaps that will save you," his voice
was without conviction. "They won't believe you, and they may try
measures to get at the truth; but you will be faithful. You will keep
your secret, and--and I must go. I shall ask for you downstairs, make
them send up a servant, and shout as loudly as any."

She held up her battered countenance dumbly and, with a feeling of
transcendent reverence, he kissed her cut lips. Thrown across the end
of the bed, the shawl she had danced in, blazing with gay color, cast
the reflection of its carmines and yellows on the calcimined wall. It
was like a burst of the music which accompanied her dancing. The
castanets lay on the floor. The blessed saint of Cuban independence!
Then the caution that had become a part of his necessity rode
uppermost: he proceeded silently to the door, and, closing it behind
him, went, meeting no one, to the ground floor, where he pulled
irritably at the wire hanging from a bell under the ceiling. The raw
jangle brought a servant, a rosy-cheeked Gallego boy, heavy with
sleep, who went stumbling up the stairs on Charles' errand.

       *       *       *       *       *

In his own room a wave of physical horror swept over Charles Abbott;
he was obliged to sit down, and the chair, the floor, seemed to rock
at the giddy sickness of the memory of Santacilla, stumbling with a
wine-colored face toward the window in a vain gasping for air, for
life. He recovered slowly: notwithstanding the death of Tirso
Labrador, the wasted shape of Andrés' brother, all the tragedies he
had heard reported, it was not until now that he realized the entire
grimness of the undertaking against Spain. The last possibility of the
spectacular departed, leaving him with a new sense of the imminence of
death. He had considered this, under certain circumstances welcoming
it, or dismissing it with a creditable calmness, many times before;
but then his attitude had been softened by the detachment, the
impersonality, of his view. But at last the feeling of death was
tangibly at his own throat; not today, nor tomorrow, probably; but
inescapably. Well, he assured himself, he wouldn't, at that intense
moment, fail an inner necessity; but his understanding gave him an
additional feeling of the accidental aspects of life and of the Cuban
revolution.

Until then he had, sub-consciously, except for one short depression,
been certain of the ultimate triumph of right; he had thought it must
succeed through its mere rightness; and he had pictured justice as a
condition dropped beneficently from the clouds, wrought with the
thunder of angels' wings. But accomplishment on earth, with men, he
now saw, was neither safe, easy nor assured. It was the result of
bitter struggle, a strife open to the most appalling mischances. A
necessity of the spirit, it must be executed in the flesh, and flesh
was a treacherous, unstable substance; it was capable not only of
traitorous betrayals, but equally of honest, and no less fatal,
failures. With this in his thoughts he went to the door, in answer to
a knock, and received a heavy carefully tied parcel.

He opened it, and, dripping in dazzling color from the wrapping paper,
was La Clavel's mantón, the one in which he had first seen her
insolently dancing the jota. Charles, with a stirred heart, searched
carefully for a note, a scrap of revealing paper; but there was none.
She had sent it to him silently, before she had been taken away, in a
sentiment the delicacy of which deeply moved him. He laid the shawl
over the bed, where its cruel brilliancy filled the white-walled room,
darkened against the heat, with flashes of magenta and orange and
burning blue. La Clavel had worn it dancing, where it emphasized her
grace and perversity and stark passion; it had been, in Charles
Abbott's mind, synonymous with her, with the vision she created; but,
suddenly, it lost that significance, and he saw it as the revealed
outspread pattern of his own existence.

The shawl was a map, a representation, of the country of the spirit
through which he passed; such emotions, such heat, and such golden
roses, all had been, were, his against that background of perilous
endeavor. It seemed to float up from the bed and to reach from coast
to coast, from end to end, of Cuba; its flowers took root and grew,
casting about splendor and perfume; the blue widened into the sky, the
tenderness of the clasping sea; the dark greens were the shadows of
the great ceiba trees, the gloom of the jungles, the massed royal
palms of the plains. And not only was it the setting, the country, its
violent dissonances became cries, victorious or hopeless, the sweep of
reddened swords, the explosions of muskets. There was the blood that
had welled into the Laurel Ditch of Cabañas; and, as well, the sultry
mysterious presence of Africa in the West--the buzzing madness of the
music of the danzón, the hysterics of brujeria.

Charles, at the heart of this, stood enveloped, surrounded, by a drama
like the sharp clash of cymbals. It was easy to be overwhelmed,
strangled, blinded, by the savage color; briefly to be obliterated.
That possibility had been, lately, very much in his mind; and he
wondered, against all his recent change, if, in the surrender of his
idealism, he had lost his amulet, his safety. While he had, to a large
extent, solved, for himself, the philosophy of conduct, cleared the
motives of his acts, a great deal was inexplicable still. He saw,
dimly, that there could be little hope of justice on any island except
as the projection, the replica, of a fundamental universal integrity
of justice. Perfection like that couldn't begin on the rim of being
and extend inward; it must be at the center of all life, obscured,
delayed, but, in an end not computable in the span of human existence,
certain and inevitable. Charles Abbott now had the feeling that,
parallel with the maintaining of his grasp on materialism, his
recognition of the means at his hand, there should be an allegiance to
a supremacy of the immeasurable whole.

That double vision, the acceptance of a general good together with the
possibility of extreme ill to the individual, puzzled him. He was
required to put faith in a power seemingly indifferent to him, to
discharge a responsibility in return for which nothing that he could
weigh was promised. Charles recalled what had overtaken the dancer, La
Clavel, in payment for a heroic effort against an insupportable
oppression. Disaster had met the body, the flesh; what occurred in
the spirit he was unable to grasp; but this, suddenly, breathlessly,
he saw:

La Clavel's bitter defiance, her mountain-born hatred of oppression,
her beaten but undefiled body, had communicated to him something of
her own valor. It was as though she had given him a palm, a shielded
flame, to add to his own fortitude. In all probability she would,
soon, be dead; Charles correctly gauged the Spanish animosity; and yet
she was alive, strong, in him. She would be living; it was Ceaza y
Santacilla who had died, been vanquished; his abnormal refinement
dropping so easily into the bestial, the measure of evil, in him, for
which he stood, had been slain, dissipated, ended. The shawl
contracted, became a thing magnificent but silk, a mantón invested
with a significance brave and surprisingly tender. It was, now, the
standard of La Clavel, the mantle of the saintliness he had
proclaimed. His doubts, his questioning, were resolved into the
conviction that the act of the dancer was her spirit made visible,
created tangibly for a tangible purpose, and that, there, she was
indestructible.

With that conclusion to serve as a stay and a belief, a philosophy of
conduct, he returned from the extra-mundane to the world. Charles
thought of La Clavel's desire to dance in Buenos Aires, for South
America. He wondered how old she was; he had never before considered
her in any connection with age; she had seemed neither old nor young,
but as invested with the timeless quality of her art. She had spoken
often of her girlhood, but no picture of her as a girl had formed in
his mind. It was conceivable that, in more stable circumstances, she
would have grown old, become withered with the peculiar ugliness of
aged Spanish women; but that, too, he could not realize. Somehow, La
Clavel's being was her dancing, and what had gone before, or what
might have followed, were irrelevant, unreal; they were not she. He
understood, now, her protest against being absorbed, involved, in
anything but her profession.

He became conscious of the sustained gravity of his thoughts, how his
activity had been forced from the body to his mind; and that recalled
to him the necessity for a contrary appearance. It would be wise for
him to go to the Café Dominica that evening, in an obvious facile
excitement at his connection, at once close and remote, with the death
of Santacilla in the dancer's room. But, beyond the fact that it was
known he had dispatched the servant upstairs, and the usual wild,
thin speculations, nothing had been allowed to appear. Santacilla, it
was announced, had died naturally. La Clavel wasn't mentioned. She had
spoken to others than Charles of her determination to go to the
Argentine; and it was probable, rumor said, principally in Spanish
mouths, that she would go quietly south. At the United States Club,
the idlers and gamblers surveyed Charles with dubious looks; and, over
a rum punch, he adopted a sullen uncommunicative air. It would not do
to drop his widely advertised habits too suddenly; he could not, in a
day, change from a rake to a serious student of such books as
Machiavelli's Prince; and he prepared, with utter disgust, for his
final bow in the cloak of dissipation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Purely by accident he met, at the Plaza de Toros, Jaime Quintara,
Remigio Florez and Andrés. It was so fortunately, evidently,
haphazard, that they continued together while Charles related the
circumstances of the tragedy in La Clavel's room. The others were
filled with wonder, bravos, at her strength and courage. Someday,
Remigio swore, when Cuba was free, he would put up a monument to her
in India Park. It would be of heroic size, the bronze figure of a
dancer, in a mantón, on a block of stone, with an appropriate
inscription.

"The trouble with that," Andrés objected, "is if we should live and
put up a monument to everyone who deserved it, the parks would be too
crowded with bronzes for walking. All of Cuba might have to be
commemorated in metal."

At Neptuno Street and the Paseo Isabel they parted. Charles proceeded
alone toward the sea; and, with the knowledge that Andrés had not gone
home, but would be evident in public elsewhere, he stopped to see the
other members of the Escobar family. Carmita Escobar had faded
perceptibly since Vincente's death; still riven by sorrow she
ceaselessly regretted the unhappy, the blasphemous, necessity which
made the wearing of mourning for him inadmissible. Domingo Escobar, as
well, showed the effects of continuous strain; his vein of humor was
exhausted, he no longer provoked Charles' inadequate Spanish; he
avoided any direct reference to Cuba. He was, he said, considering
moving to Paris, he was getting old and no one could complain, now,
since--. He broke off, evidently at the point of referring to Vincente
and the Escobar local patriotism.

But Narcisa, Charles was told, had become promised to Hector Carmache,
an admirable gentleman with large sugar interests; luckily, for
Narcisa, unconnected with any political dreams.

"She will be very happy," her mother proclaimed.

Narcisa narrowed her eyes. "He lives on an estancia," she added,
"where there will be banana trees and Haitians to watch; and the
conversation will be about the number of arrobas the mill grinds." She
relapsed again into silence; but, from her lowered countenance, he
caught a quick significant glance toward the balcony. She rose,
presently, and walked out. Charles gazed at Domingo and Carmita
Escobar; they were sunk in thought, inattentive, and he quietly joined
Narcisa.

"Andrés has told me a great deal about you," she proceeded; "I made
him. He loves you too, and he says that you are very strong and
respected everywhere. I have had to hear it like that, for you never
come here now. And I hear other things, too, but from my maid, about
the dancer, La Clavel. You gamble, it seems, and drink as well."

That, he replied, was no more than half true; it was often necessary
for him to appear other than he was. He studied her at length: she
had grown more lovely, positively beautiful, in the past month; the
maturity of her engagement to marry had already intensified her.
Narcisa's skirt had been lowered and her hair, which had hung like a
black fan, was tied with a ribbon.

"How do you like me?" she demanded. But when he told her very much,
she shook her head in denial. "I ought to be ashamed," she added, "but
I am not. Did you realize that, when we were out here before, I made
you a proposal? You ignored it, of course.... I am not ashamed of what
I did then, either. Afterwards, standing here, I wanted to throw
myself to the street; but, you see, I hadn't the courage. It's better
now, that time has gone--I'll get fat and frightful."

"This Carmache," Charles Abbott asked, "don't you like, no, love him?"
She answered:

"He is, perhaps, fifty--I am fifteen--and quite deaf on one side, I
can never remember which; and he smells like bagasse. I've only seen
him once, for a minute, alone, and then he wanted me to sit on his
knees. I said if he made me I'd kill him some night when he was
asleep. But he only laughed and tried to catch me. You should have
heard him breathing; he couldn't. He called me his Carmencita. But, I
suppose, I shall come to forget that, as well. I wanted you to know
all about it; so, when you hear of my marriage, you will understand
what to look for."

"That is all very wrong!" Charles exclaimed.

In reply she said, hurriedly, "Kiss me."

That was wrong, too, he repeated, afterward. Her warmth and tender
fragrance clung to him like the touch of flower petals. She turned
away, standing at the front of the balcony, her arms, bare under elbow
ruffles, resting on the railing. The flambeau trees in the Parque
Isabel were like conflagrations. Her head drooped on her slender neck
until it almost rested, despairingly, on the support before her. "I
hate your northern way of living," her voice was suppressed,
disturbingly mature; "I hate their bringing you into the house, only
to break my heart. Charles," she laid an appealing hand on his sleeve,
"could you do this--help me to run away? We have cousins in New York
who would receive me. If you could just get me on a steamer!"

"No," he said decidedly, "I could not; I wouldn't even if it were
possible. What would Andrés, my friend, think? It would ruin me
here."

"If you had," she admitted, after a little, "as soon as we reached
the street, I would have locked myself about your neck like my crystal
beads. Once when I was supposed to be going with a servant to the sea
baths, I had the quitrin stop at the San Felipe, and I went up the
stair, to the roof, to your room, but you were out. You see, I am a
very evil girl."

He agreed to the extent that she was a very foolish girl. In turn she
studied him carefully.

"You seem to have no heart," she announced finally; "not because you
don't love me, but in affairs generally; but I can tell you a
secret--you have! It's as plain as water. What you think you
are--poof!" She blew across the open palm of her hand.

"I hope not," he returned anxiously. "But you are too young, even if
you are to be married, to know about or to discuss such things. As
Andrés' best friend I must caution you--"

"Why did you kiss me?" she interrupted.

He was, now, genuinely sorry that he had, but he replied that it had
been no more than the salute of a brother. "You had better go in," he
continued; "when they realize we are out here there will be a stir,
perhaps you will be put to bed."

"I might make a scandal," she deliberated, "throw myself on you and
cry as loudly as possible." A smile appeared upon her fresh charming
lips at his expression of dismay. "Then you would have to marry me."

"I'd have to spank you," he retorted.

"I shall never speak directly to you again," she concluded; "so you
must remember what I say, that you are not what you'd like to be."

She was, he thought, in spite of her loveliness, a very disagreeable
little girl. That designation, ludicrously inadequate, he forced upon
himself. With a flutter of her skirts she was gone. The afternoon was
so still that he could hear the drilling of soldiers by the shore, the
faint guttural commands and the concerted grounding of muskets.
Narcisa and her unpleasant prediction faded from his mind. Standing on
the balcony he imagined a vast concourse gathered below with upturned
faces, waiting for him to speak. He heard the round periods, the
sonorous Spanish, he delivered, welcoming, in the name of the people,
their newly gained independence, and extending to them the applause
and reassurances of the United States.

"You have won this for yourselves," he proclaimed, "by your valor and
faith and patience; and no alien, myself least of all, could have
been indispensable to you. What I was privileged to do was merely to
hold together some of the more inglorious but necessary parts of your
struggle; to bring, perhaps, some understanding, some good will, from
the world outside. You have added Cuba to the invaluable, the
priceless, parts of the earth where men are free; a deed wrought by
the sacrifice of the best among you. Liberty, as always, is watered by
blood--" he hesitated, frowning, something was wrong about that last
phrase, of, yes--the watered with blood part; sprinkled, nourished,
given birth in? That last was the correct, the inevitable, form. The
hollow disembodied voice of the drill sergeant floated up and then was
lost in the beginning afternoon procession of carriages.

       *       *       *       *       *

With a larger boutonnière than he would have cared to wear at home, a
tea rose, he was making his way through the El Louvre, when Gaspar
Arco de Vaca rose from a gay table and signalled for him. It was after
Retreta, the trade wind was even more refreshing than customary, and
the spirit of Havana, in the parques and paseos and restaurants, was
high. The Louvre was crowded, a dense mass of feminine color against
the white linen of the men, and an animated chatter, like the bubbles
of champagne made articulate, eddied about the tables laden with
dulces and the cold sweet brightness of ices. He hesitated, but de
Vaca was insistent, and Charles approached the table.

"If you think you can remain by yourself," the Spaniard said
pleasantly, "you are mistaken. For women now, because of the dancer,
you are a figure of enormous interest."

He presented Charles to a petulant woman with a long nose, a seductive
mouth, and black hair low in the French manner; then to a small woman
in a dinner dress everywhere glittering with clear glass beads, and
eyes in which, as he gazed briefly into them, Charles found bottomless
wells of interrogation and promise. He met a girl to whom, then, he
paid little attention, and a man past middle age with cropped grey
hair on a uniformly brown head and the gilt floriations of a general.
A place was made for Charles into which, against his intention, he was
forced by a light insistence. It was, he discovered, beside the girl;
and, because of their proximity, he turned to her.

At once he recognized that she was unusual, strange: he had dismissed
her as plain, if not actually ugly, and that judgment he was forced to
recall. The truth was that she possessed a rare fascination; but
where, exactly, did it lie? She was, he thought, even younger than
Narcisa, yet, at the same time, she had the balanced calm of absolute
maturity. Then he realized that a large part of her enigmatic charm
came from the fact that she was, to a marked degree, Chinese. Her
face, evenly, opaquely, pale, was flat, an oval which held eyes with
full, ivory-like lids, narrow eye brows, a straight small nose and
lips heavily coated with a carmine that failed utterly to disguise
their level strength. Her lustreless hair, which might have been soot
metamorphosed into straight broad strands, was drawn back severely,
without ornament or visible pins, over her shapely skull. She wore no
jewelry, no gold bands nor rings nor pendants; and her dress, cut
squarely open at her slim round throat, was the fragile essence of
virginity. She attracted Charles, although he could think of nothing
in the world to say to her; he was powerless to imagine what
interested her; a girl, she had no flavor of the conceits of her
years; feminine, she was without the slightest indication of
appropriate sentiments, little facile interests or enthusiasms. From
time to time she looked at him, he caught a glimpse of eyes, blue,
grey or green, oblique and disturbing; she said nothing and ate in
infinitesimal amounts the frozen concoction of sapote before her.

Charles Abbott hadn't grasped her name, and in reply to his further
query, she told him in a low voice that it was Pilar, Pilar de Lima.
Yes, she had been born in Peru. No, she had never been to China,
although she had traveled as far as Portugal and London. His
interest in her increased, she was so wholly outside his--any
conceivable--life; and, without words, in a manner which defied
his analysis, she managed to convey to him the assurance that he was
not impossible to her.

He found, at intervals, fresh qualities to engage him: she had
unmistakably the ease which came from the command of money; the
pointed grace of her hands--for an instant her palm had sought
his--hid an unexpected firmness; she was contemptuous of the other
vivacious women at the table; and not a change of expression crossed
the placidity of a countenance no more than a mask for what,
mysterious and not placid, was back of it. Then, in an undertone
during a burst of conversation, she said, "I like you." She was half
turned from him, in profile, and her lips had not seemed to move. Seen
that way her nose was minute, the upward twist of her eye emphasized,
her mouth no more than a painted sardonic curl. She was as slender as
a boy of a race unknown to Charles--without warmth, without impulses,
fashioned delicately for rooms hung in peacock silks and courtyards of
fretted alabaster and burnished cedar.

He wanted to reply that he liked her, but, in prospect, that seemed
awkward, banal; and a lull in the conversation discouraged him.
Instead he examined his feelings in regard to this Pilar from Lima. It
was obvious that she had nothing in common with the women he had
dismissed from his present and future; she was more detached, even,
than La Clavel on the stage. And when, abruptly, she began to talk to
him, in an even flow of incomprehensible vowels and sibilants, he was
startled. Gaspar de Vaca spoke to her in a peremptory tone, and then
he addressed Charles, "She'll hardly say a word in a Christian tongue,
but, when it suits her, she will sail on in Chinese for a quarter of
an hour. It may be her sense of humor, it may be a prayer, perhaps
what she says, if it could be understood, would blast your brain, and
perhaps she merely has a stomach ache." But his remonstrance had the
effect designed; and after an imperturbable silence, she said again
that she liked Charles Abbott.

The General regretfully pushed back his chair, rose, and held out an
arm in formal gallantry, and Charles was left to follow with Pilar.
She lingered, while the others went on, and asked him if, tomorrow, he
would take her driving to Los Molinos. He hesitated, uncertain of the
wisdom of such a proceeding, when her hand again stole into his. What,
anyhow, in the face of that direct request, could he do but agree?
They must have, she proceeded, since he hadn't a private equipage, the
newest quitrin he could procure, and a calesero more brilliant than
any they should pass on the Calzada de la Reina. After all he would be
but keeping up the useful pretence of his worldliness; yet, looking
forward to the drive with her, an hour in the scented shade of the
Captain-General's gardens, he was aware of an anticipated pleasure.

The need for caution was reduced to a minimum, it shrank from
existence; naturally he wouldn't talk to Pilar de Lima of politics, he
could not be drawn into the mention of his friends, of any names
connected in the slightest way with a national independence. It was
possible that she had been selected, thrown with him, for that very
purpose; but there his intelligence, he thought, his knowledge of
intrigue, had been underestimated, insulted. No--Pilar, de Vaca,
Spain, would gain nothing, and he would have a very pleasant, an oddly
stimulating and exciting, afternoon. The excitement came from her
extraordinary personality, an intensity tempered with a remoteness, an
indifference, which he specially enjoyed after the last few
tempestuous days. Being with her resembled floating in a barge on a
fabulous Celestial river between banks of high green bamboo. It had no
ulterior significance. She was positively inhuman.

He met her, with an impressive glittering carriage and rider,
according to her appointment, at the end of the Paseo Tacon, past the
heat of afternoon. She was accompanied by a duenna with rustling silk
on a tall gaunt frame, and a harsh countenance, the upper lip marred
by a bluish shadow, swathed in a heavy black mantilla. Pilar was
exactly the same as she had been the evening before. The diminished
but still bright day showed no flaw on the evenness of her pallor, the
artificial carmine of her lips was like the applied petals of a
geranium, her narrow sexless body was upright in its film of clear
white.

The older woman was assisted into the leather body of the quitrin,
Pilar settled lightly in the niña bonita, Charles mounted to the third
place, the calesero swung up on the horse outside the shafts, and they
rattled smartly into the Queen's Drive. From where he sat he could see
nothing but the sombre edge of the mantilla beside him and Pilar's
erect back, her long slim neck which gave her head, her densely
arranged hair, an appearance of too great weight. On either side the
fountains and glorietas, the files of close-planted laurel trees,
whirled behind them. The statue of Carlos III gave way to the Jardin
Botánico.

       *       *       *       *       *

There he commanded the carriage to halt, and, in reply to Pilar's
surprise, explained that he was following the established course. "We
leave the quitrin here, and it meets us at the gates of the Quinta,
and meanwhile we walk. There are a great many paths and flowers." On
the ground she admitted her ignorance of Havana, and, followed at a
conventional distance by her companion, they entered the Gardens.
There was a warm perfumed steam of watered blossoming plants and
exotic trees; and Charles chose a way that brought them into an avenue
of palms, through which the fading sunlight fell in diagonal bands, to
a wide stone basin where water lilies spread their curd-like
whiteness. There they paused, and Pilar sat on the edge of the pool,
with one hand dipping in the water. He saw that, remarkably, she
resembled a water lily bloom, she was as still, as densely pale; and
he told her this in his best manner. But if it pleased her he was
unable to discover. A hundred feet away from them the chaperone cast
her replica on the unstirred surface of the water, in the middle of
which a fountain of shells maintained a cool splashing.

"I should like one of those," she said, indicating a floating flower.

"It's too far out," he responded, and she turned her slow scrutiny
upon him. Her eyes were neither blue nor gray but green, the green of
a stone.

"That you are agreeable is more important than you know," she said
deliberately. "And de Vaca--" she conveyed a sense of disdain. "What
is it that he wants so much from you? How can it, on this little
island, a place with only two cities, be important? I must tell you
that I am not cheap; and when I was brought here, to see a boy, it
annoyed me. But I am annoyed no longer," her wet fingers swiftly left
their prints on his cheek. "Oporto and the English Court--I understood
that; but to dig secrets from you, an innocent young American," she
relapsed into silence as though he, the subject she had introduced,
were insufficient to excuse the clatter of speech. So far as he was
concerned, he replied, he had no idea of her meaning.

"You see," he went on more volubly, "I was, to some extent, connected
with the death of Santacilla, an officer of the regiment of Isabel,
and they may still be looking for information about that."

She assured him he was wrong. "It is Cuba that troubles them. It's in
their heads you are close to powerful families here and in North
America, and that you are bringing them together, pouring Northern
gold into the empty pockets of the Revolution. I saw at once, before I
met you, that I should waste my time, and I was going away at once ...
until you walked into the restaurant. Now it will amuse me, and I
shall take the doblons I get and buy you a present, a ruby, and, when
you see Captain de Vaca, you will wear it and smile and he will know
nothing."

"You mustn't buy me anything," Charles protested earnestly; "I can at
least understand that, how generous you are. If you are unfamiliar
with Cuba perhaps you will let me inform you. I came to Havana, you
see, for my lungs. They were bad, and now they are good; and that is
my history here. There is no hole in them because I have been careful
to avoid the troubles on the street; and the way to miss them is not
to give them an admission. The reason I am here with you is because
you seemed to me, in yourself, so far away from all that. Your mind
might be in China." He went on to make clear to her his distrust of
women. "But you are different; you are like a statue that has come to
life, a very lovely statue. What you really are doesn't matter, I
don't care, I shall never know. But a water lily--that is enough."

"Are you wise or no deeper than this?" she asked, indicating the
shallow fountain. "But don't answer; how, as you say, can it affect
us? You are you and I am I. We might even love each other with no
more; that would be best--it is the more that spoils love."

"What do you know about that?"

But, relapsing into immobility, she ignored his question. Beyond doubt
his interest in her had increased; it was an attraction without name,
yet none the less potent. Seated close beside him she still seemed to
be fashioned from a vital material other than flesh and blood; she was
like a creation of sheer magic ... for what end? They rose, leaving
the Botanical Gardens, the spotted orchids and air plants and
oleanders, for the Quinta. There they passed into a walk completely
arched over with the bushes of the Mar Pacifico, the rose of the
Pacific, a verdurous tunnel of leaves and broad fragrant pink blooms,
with a farther glimpse of a cascade over mossy rocks.

The stream entered a canal, holding some gaily painted and cushioned
row boats, and a green-gold flotilla of Mandarin ducks. There were
aviaries of doves, about which strollers were gathered, and a distant
somnolent military guard. It was the first time for weeks that Charles
had been consciously relaxed, submerged in an unguarded pleasure of
being. Pilar might be honest about de Vaca and his purpose, or she
might be covering something infinitely more cunning. It would bring
her nothing! The very simplicity of his relationship with her was a
complete protection; he had no impulse to be serious, nothing in his
conversation to guard.

Pilar seemed singularly young here, engaged in staring at and
fingering the flowers, reading the sign boards that designated the
various pleasances--the Wood of the Princess, the Garden of San
Antonio, the Queen's Glade. Her tactile curiosity was insatiable, she
trailed her sensitive hands over every strange surface that offered.
Then, with her airy skirt momentarily caught on a spear of bearded
grass, he saw, below her knee, under the white stocking, the
impression of a blade, narrow and wicked. La Clavel had carried a
knife in that manner, many women, he had no doubt, did; but in Pilar
its stealthy subdued gleam affected him unpleasantly. It presented a
sharp mocking contrast to all that, in connection with her, had been
running happily through his mind.

"I thought you were a moth, soft and white," he told her; "but it
appears that you are a wasp in disguise--I hope it won't occur to you
to sting me."

Serenely she resettled her skirt. "Did you look for a scapular? Young
men's eyes should be on the sky." Then she put an arm through his. "It
was never there for you ... a moth soft and white. But I don't care
for that." Her gliding magnetic touch again passed, like the fall of
a leaf, over his cheek. Affecting not to notice it he lighted a thin
cigar; he'd have to watch Pilar de Lima. Or was it himself who needed
care? The feeling of detachment, of security, was pierced by a more
acute emotion, a sensation that resembled the traced point of her
knife. She asked, nearing the place where they were to meet the
quitrin, when she might see him again; and mechanically he suggested
that evening, after the music in the Plaza de Armas.

Returning to Ancha del Norte Street, his face was grave, almost
concerned, but he was made happy by finding Andrés Escobar in his
room. Andrés, with the window shades lowered, was lounging and smoking
in his fine cambric shirt sleeves. He had a business of routine to
communicate, and then he listened, censoriously, to Charles' account
of his afternoon.

"She is a little devil, of course, with her gartered steel, but she
amuses me. I have the shadow of an idea that she was truthful about de
Vaca; and the ruby would be an excellent joke."

"I cannot approve of any of this," Andrés decided; "it has so many
hidden possibilities--the Spaniards are so hellish cunning. To be
candid with you, I can't understand why they have neglected you so
long. You are, Charles, fairly conspicuous. Perhaps it is because they
hope, in the end, to get information from you. In that case, if we
were in danger, I would shoot you with my own hand. Drop this Chinese
water lily; their stems are always in the mud."

"On the contrary, you must see her," Charles Abbott insisted. "I've
explained that she can't hurt us; and we may get something floated the
other way." He was aware of an indefinable resentment at Andrés'
attitude: his love for him was all that prevented the acerbity of a
voiced irritation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet, when the regimental band was leaving to the diminishing strains
of its quickstep, Andrés joined Charles and Pilar--who had left her
quitrin--strolling through the Plaza. As usual she said practically
nothing; but, in the gloom, she was specially potent, like a
fascinating and ironic idol to innocence; and Charles Abbott was
pleased by Andrés' instant attention. Pilar was reluctant, now, to
return to the carriage, and she lingered between the men, who, in
turn, gazed down addressing remarks to the smooth blackness of her
hair or to the immobile whiteness of her face. Charles dropped behind,
to light a cigar, and when he came up to them again he had the
illusive sense of a rapid speech stopped at his approach. Andrés
Escobar's countenance was lowered, his brow drawn together ... it had
been Pilar de Lima, surprisingly, who had talked. Charles recalled the
manner in which her low, even voice flowed from scarcely moving lips,
with never a shadow of emotion, of animation, across her unstirred
flattened features.

Some Cubans gathered about the table when, later, they were eating
ices; and, gaining Pilar's consent, he left with the indispensable
polite regrets and bows. He was vaguely and thoroughly disturbed,
uneasy, as though a grain of poison had entered him and were
circulating through all his being. It was a condition he was
unfamiliar with, disagreeable in the extreme; and one which he
determined to stamp out. It hadn't existed in his contact with Pilar
until the appearance of Andrés; yes, it came about from the
conjunction of the girl, Andrés and himself; spilled into the clarity
of their companionship, Andrés and his, her influence had already
darkened and slightly embittered it ... had affected it, Charles
added; she was powerless to touch him in the future; he put her
resolutely, completely, from his thoughts.

He was a little appalled at the suddenness with which the poison had
tainted him, infecting every quality of superiority, of detachment, of
reasoning, he possessed. When he saw Andrés again, after the interval
of a week, his heart was empty of everything but crystal admiration,
affection; but Andrés was obscured, his bearing even defiant. They
were at a reception given by a connection of the Cespedes on the
Cerro. Instinctively they had drawn aside, behind a screen of
pomegranate and mignonette trees in the patio; but their privacy,
Charles felt, had been uncomfortably invaded. He spoke of this,
gravely, and Andrés suddenly drooped in extreme dejection.

"Why did you ever bring us together!" he exclaimed. "She, Pilar, has
fastened herself about me like one of those pale strangling orchids.
No other woman alive could have troubled me, but, then, Pilar is not a
woman." Charles Abbott explained his agreement with that.

"What is she?" Andrés cried. "She says nothing, she hardly ever lifts
her eyes from her hands, I can give you my word kissing her is like
tasting a sherbet; and yet I can't put her out of my mind. I get all
my thoughts, my feelings, from her as though they passed in a body
from her brain to mine. They are thoughts I detest. Charles, when I am
away from you, I doubt and question you, and sink into an indifference
toward all we are, all we have been."

"Something like that began to happen to me," Charles admitted; "it was
necessary to bring it to an end; just as you must. Such things are not
for us. Drop her, Andrés, on the Paseo, where she belongs." The other
again slipped outside the bounds of their friendship. "I must ask you
to make no such allusion," he retorted stiffly. Charles laughed, "You
old idiot," he said affectionately, "have her and get over it, then,
as soon as possible; I won't argue with you about such affairs, that's
plain." Andrés laid a gripping hand on his arm, avoiding, while he
spoke, Charles' searching gaze.

"There is one thing you can do for me," he hurried on, "and--and I beg
you not to refuse. The mantón that belonged to La Clavel! I described
it to Pilar, and she is mad to wear it to the danzón at the Tacon
Theatre. You see, it was embroidered by the Chinese, and it is
appropriate for her. Think of Pilar in that shawl, Charles."

"She can't have it," he answered shortly.

Andrés Escobar's face darkened. "It had occurred to me you might
refuse," he replied. "Then there is nothing for me to do. But it
surprises me, when I remember the circumstances, that you have such a
tender feeling for it. After all, it wasn't a souvenir of love; you
never lost an opportunity to say how worn you were with La Clavel."

"No, Andrés, it isn't a token of love, but a banner, yours even more
than mine, a charge we must keep above the earth."

That, Andrés observed satirically, was very pretty; but a mantón, a
woman's thing, had no relation to the cause of Cuban independence.

"Perhaps, but of course, you are right," Charles agreed. "Very well,
then it is only a superstition of mine. I have the feeling that if we
lower this--this standard it will bring us bad luck, it will be
disastrous. What that Pilar, you may think, is to you, the mantón has
always been for me. It is in my blood; I regard it as a sailor might a
chart. And then, Andrés, remember--it protected Cuba."

"I have to have it," the other whispered desperately; "she--she wants
it, for the danzón."

Charles Abbott's resentment changed to pity, and then to a calm
acceptance of what had the aspect of undeviating fate. "Very well," he
said quietly. "After all, you are right, it is nothing but a shawl,
and our love for each other must not suffer. I'll give it to you
freely, Andrés: she will look wonderful in it."

The other grasped his hands. "Be patient, Charles," he begged. "This
will go and leave us as we were before, as we shall always be. It
hasn't touched what you know of, it is absolutely aside from that--a
little scene in front of the curtain between the acts of the serious,
the main, piece. I doubted her honesty, as you described it, at first;
but you were right. She has no interest at all in our small struggle;
she is only anxious to return to Peru."

"I wish she had never come from there!" Charles declared; "whether she
is honest or dishonest is unimportant. She is spoiled, like a bad
lime."

"If you had been more successful with her--" Andrés paused significantly.

"So that," Charles returned, "is what she said or hinted to you!"
Andrés Escobar was gazing away into the massed and odorous grey-blue
mignonette. "Go away before I get angry with you; you are more
Spanish than any Mendoza. The mantón you'll find at home tonight."

He was, frankly, worried about Andrés; not fundamentally--Andrés'
loyalty was beyond any personal betrayal--but because he was aware of
the essential inflammability of all tropical emotion. The other might
get into a rage with Pilar, who never, herself, could fall into such
an error, and pay the penalty exacted by a swift gesture toward the
hem of her skirt. Then he recalled, still with a slight shudder of
delight, the soft dragging feel of her fingers on his cheek. He tied
the shawl up sombrely, oppressed by the conviction of mischance he had
expressed to Andrés, and despatched it.

Pilar de Lima might, possibly, depart for Peru earlier even than she
hoped; boats left not infrequently for Mexico and South America--the
Argentine for which La Clavel had longed--and she was welcome to try
her mysterious arts upon the seas away from Cuba and Andrés. A sugar
bag could easily, at the appropriate moment, be slipped over her head,
and a bateau carry her out, with a sum of gold, at night to a
departing ship. There would be no trouble, after she had been seen, in
getting her on board. And Charles Abbott thought of her, in her silent
whiteness, corrupting one by one the officers and crew; a vague
hatred would spread over the deck, forward and aft; and through the
cabins, the hearts, her suggestions and breath of evil touched. They
would never see Mexico, he decided; but, on a calm purple night in the
Gulf, a sanguine and volcanic inferno of blackened passion would burst
around the flicker of her blanched dress and face no colder in death
than in life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Charles Abbott's thoughts returned continually to Andrés; in the
shadowy region of his brain the latter was like a vividly and singly
illuminated figure. He remembered, too, the occasion of his first
seeing Andrés, at the Hotel Inglaterra: they had gone together into
the restaurant, where, over rum punches and cigars, the love he had
for him had been born at once. It was curious--that feeling; a thing
wholly immaterial, idealizing. He had speculated about it before, but
without coming to the end of its possibilities, the bottom of its
meaning. There was no need to search for a reason for the love of
women; that, it might be, was no more than mechanical, the allurement
cast by nature about its automatic purpose. It belonged to earth,
where it touched any sky was not Charles' concern; but his friendship
for Andrés Escobar had no relation to material ends.

At first it had been upheld, vitalized, by admiration, qualities
perceptible to his mind, to analysis; he had often reviewed
them--Andrés' deep sense of honor, his allegiance to a conduct free of
self, his generosity, his slightly dramatic but inflexible courage,
the fastidious manners of his person. His clothes, the sprig of mimosa
he preferred, the angle of his hat and the rake back, through an
elbow, of his malacca cane, were all satisfying, distinguished. But
Charles' consciousness of these actual traits, details, had vanished
before an acceptance of Andrés as a whole, uncritically. What, once,
had been a process of thought had become an emotion integral with his
own subconscious being.

Something of his essential character had entered Andrés, and a part of
Andrés had become bound into him. This, as soon as she had grown into
the slightest menace to it, had cast Pilar de Lima from his
consideration. It had been no effort, at the moment necessary he had
forgotten her; just as Andrés, faced with the truth, would put her
away from him. The bond between them, Charles told himself, was forged
from pure gold.

This was running through his head on the night of the danzón. He was
seated at the entrance of the United States Club, where the sharp
Yankee accents of the gamblers within floated out and were lost in the
narrow walled darkness of Virtudes Street. It was no more than eleven,
the Tacon Theatre would be empty yet.... Charles had no intention of
going to the danzón, but at the same time he was the victim of a
restless curiosity in connection with it; he had an uncomfortable
oppression at the vision of Andrés, with Pilar in the bright shawl, on
the floor crowded with the especial depravities of Havana.

The Spanish officers had made it customary for men of gentility to go
into the criolla festivities; they were always present, the young and
careless, the drunken and degenerate; and that, too, added to Charles'
indefinable sense of possible disaster. In a way, it might be an
excellent thing for him to attend, to watch, the danzón. If Andrés
were infatuated he would be blind to the dangers, both the political
and those emanating from the mixture of bloods. At this moment the
game inside ended, and a knot of men, sliding into their coats,
awkwardly grasping broad-brimmed hats, appeared, departing for the
Tacon Theatre. A perfunctory nodded invitation for him to accompany
them settled the indecision in Charles Abbott's mind. And, a half hour
later, he was seated in a palco of the second tier, above the dance.

Familiar with them, he paid no attention to the sheer fantastic
spectacle; the two orchestras, one taking up the burden of sound when
the other paused, produced not for him their rasping dislocated
rhythm. He was aware only of floating skirts, masks and dark or light
faces, cigars held seriously in serious mouths. Charles soon saw that
Andrés and Pilar de Lima had not yet arrived. As he leaned forward
over the railing of the box, Gaspar Arco de Vaca, sardonic and
observing, glanced up and saluted with his exaggerated courtesy. He
disappeared, there was a knock at the closed door behind Charles, and
de Vaca entered.

There was a general standing acknowledgement of his appearance; the
visor of his dress cap was touched for every man present, and he took
a vacated chair at Charles' side. "You weren't attracted to my white
absinthe," he said easily. On the contrary, Charles replied, he had
liked Pilar very well, although she had annoyed him by foolish tales
of a Spanish interest in him.

"She is, of course, an agent," de Vaca admitted indifferently. "We
almost have to keep her in a cage, like a leopard from Tartary. She
has killed three officers of high rank; although we do not prefer her
as an assassin. She is valuable as a drop of acid, here, there; and
extraordinary individuals often rave about her. We'll have to garrotte
her some time, and that will be a pity."

There was a flash of color below, of carmine and golden orange, and
Charles recognized Pilar wrapped, from her narrow shoulders to her
delicate ankles, in the mantón. Andrés Escobar, with a protruding lip
and sullen eyes, was at her side. Suddenly de Vaca utterly astounded
Charles; with a warning pressure of his hand he spoke at the younger
man's ear:

"I am leaving at once for Madrid, a promotion has fortunately lifted
me from this stinking black intrigue, and I have a memory ... from the
sala de Armas, the echo of a sufficiently spirited compliment. As I
say, I am off; what is necessary to you is necessary--a death in
Havana or a long life at home. Where I am concerned you have bought
your right to either. You cannot swing the balance against Spain. And
I have this for you to consider. Your friend, Escobar, has reached the
end of his journey. It will accomplish nothing to inform him; he is
not to walk from the theatre. Very well--if you wish to hatch your
seditious wren's eggs tomorrow, if you wish to wake tomorrow at all,
stay away from him. Anything else will do no good except, perhaps, for
us."

Charles Abbott sat with a mechanical gaze on the floor covered with
revolving figures. He realized instantly that Gaspar Arco de Vaca had
been truthful. The evidence of that lay in the logic of his words, the
ring of his voice. The officer rose, saluted, and left. Andrés had
come to the end of his journey! It was incredible. He had not moved
from the spot where Charles had first seen him; he had taken off his
hat, and his dark faultlessly brushed hair held in a smooth gleam the
reflection of a light.

Andrés turned with a chivalrous gesture to Pilar, who, ignoring it
completely, watched with inscrutable eyes the passing men. The shawl,
on her, had lost its beauty; it was malevolent, screaming in color;
contrasted with it her face was marble. How, Charles speculated
desperately, was Andrés to be killed? And then he saw. A tall young
Spaniard with a jeering countenance, in the uniform of a captain in a
regiment not attached at Havana, stopped squarely, with absolute
impropriety, before Pilar and asked her to dance. Andrés Escobar, for
the moment, was too amazed for objection; and, as Pilar was borne
away, he made a gesture of denial that was too late.

He glanced around, as though to see if anyone had observed his
humiliation; and Charles Abbott instinctively drew back into the box.
As he did this he cursed himself with an utter loathing. Every natural
feeling impelled him below, to go blindly to the support of Andrés.
There must be some way--a quick shifting of masks and escape through a
side door--to get him safely out of the hands of Spain. This, of
course, would involve, endanger, himself, but he would welcome the
necessity of that acceptance. Gaspar de Vaca had indicated the price
he might well pay for such a course--the end, at the same time, of
himself; not only the death of his body but the ruin of his hopes and
high plans. Nothing, he had told himself a thousand times, should be
allowed to assail them. Indeed, he had discussed just such a
contingency as this with Andrés. Theoretically there had been no
question of the propriety of an utter seeming selfishness; the way,
across a restaurant table, had been clear.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the box the other Americans maintained a steady absorbed commenting
on the whirling color of the danzón. One, finally, attracted by the
mantón on Pilar de Lima, called the attention of the others to her
Chinese characteristics. They all leaned forward, engaged by the total
pallor of her immobility above the blazing silk. They exclaimed when
she left the Spanish officer and resumed her place by Andrés Escobar's
side. "Isn't that peculiar?" Charles was asked. "You are supposed to
know all about these dark affairs. Isn't it understood that the women
keep to their own men? And that Cuban, Abbott, you know him; we often
used to see you with him!"

"Yes," Charles Abbott acknowledged, "partners seldom leave each other.
That is Andrés Escobar."

He paid no more heed to the voices about him, but sat with his gaze,
his hopes and fears, fastened on Andrés and Pilar. Back again, she
was, as usual, silent, dragging her fingers through the knotted
magenta fringe of the shawl. Andrés, though, was speaking in short
tense phrases that alternated with concentrated angry pauses. She
lifted her arms to him, and they began to dance. They remained,
however, characteristic of the danzón, where they were, turning slowly
and reversing in a remarkably small space. They were a notably
graceful couple, and they varied, with an intricate stepping, the
general monotony of the measure.

Charles had an insane impulse to call down to Andrés, to attract his
attention, and to wave him away from the inimical forces gathering
about him. Instead of this he lighted a cigarette, with hands the
reverse of steady, and concentrated all his thoughts upon the fact of
Cuban independence. That, he told himself, was the only thing of
importance in his life, in the world. And it wasn't Cuba--alone, but
the freedom of life at large, that rested, in part at least, on the
foundation he might help to lay, the beginning solidity of human
liberty, superiority. He forced himself to gaze with an air of
indifference at the dancing below him; but, it seemed, wherever he
looked, the mantón floated into his vision. He saw, now, nothing else,
neither Pilar nor Andrés, but only the savage challenging fire of
silks. The shawl's old familiar significance had been entirely
lost--here he hated and feared it, it was synonymous with all that
threatened his success. It gathered into its folded and draped square
the evil of the danzón, the spoiled mustiness of joined and debased
bloods, the license under a grotesque similitude of restraint.

This was obliterated by a wave of affection for Andrés so strong that
it had the effect of an intolerable physical pressure within his body:
his love had the aspect of a tangible power bound to assert itself or
to destroy him. With clenched hands he fought it back, he drove it
away before the memory of the other. Voices addressed him, but he paid
no attention, the words were mere sounds from a casual sphere with
which he had nothing in common. He must succeed in his endeavor, put
into actuality at this supreme moment his selfless projection of duty,
responsibility. For it was, in spite of his preoccupation with its
personal possibilities, an ideal to which he, as an entity, was
subordinated. He recalled the increasing number of destinies in which
he was involved, that were being thrust upon him, and for which, at
best, he would become accountable. So much more lay in the immediate
future than was promised--justified--in the present.

Here, too, Andrés was at fault--precisely the accident had happened to
him that he was so strict in facing for others. His absorption
wouldn't, as an infatuation, continue; or, rather, it could not have
lasted ... long. But already it had been long enough to finish, to
kill, Andrés. Charles rose uncontrollably to his feet; he would save
his friend from the menace of the whole Spanish army. But de Vaca,
whose every accent carried conviction, had been explicit: he
particularly would not have spoken under any other circumstance. He
had, in reality, been tremendously flattering in depending to such a
degree on Charles' coolness and intellect. Gaspar de Vaca would have
taken no interest in a sentimentalist. The officer without question
had found in Charles Abbott a strain of character, a resolution, which
he understood, approved; to a certain extent built on. He had, in
effect, concluded that Charles and himself would act similarly in
similar positions.

It was, Charles decided, at an end; he must go on as he had begun. A
strange numb species of calm settled over him. The vast crowded floor,
the boxes on either hand, sweeping tier on tier to the far hidden
ceiling, surrounding the immense chandelier glittering with crystal
lustres, were all removed, distant, from him. The Tacon Theatre took
on the appearance of a limitless pit into which all human life had
been poured, arbitrarily thrown together, and, in the semblance of
masquerading gaiety, made to whirl in a time that had in its measure
the rattle of bones, a drumming on skulls. This conception sickened
him, he could, he felt, no longer breathe in a closeness which he
imagined as fetid; and Charles realized that, at least, there was no
need for him to remain. Indeed, it would be better in every way to
avoid the impending, the immediate, catastrophe.

With a hasty incoherent remark he secured his hat and left the box.
Outside, in the bare corridor, he paused and his lips automatically
formed the name Andrés Escobar. In a flash he saw the gathering
disintegration of the Escobar family--Vincente dead, his body
dishonored; Narcisa, ineffable, flower-like, sacrificed to dull
ineptitude; Domingo, who had been so cheerfully round, furrowed with
care, his spirit dead before his body; Carmita sorrowing; and Andrés,
Andrés the beautiful, the young and proud, betrayed, murdered in a
brawl at a negro dance. What disaster! And where, in the power of
accomplishment, they had failed, where, fatally, they had been
vulnerable, was at their hearts, in their love each for the other, or
in the fallibility of such an emotion as Andrés felt for Pilar. He,
Charles Abbott, must keep free from that entanglement. This
reassurance, however, was not new; all the while it had supported
him.

He made his way down the broad shallow steps, passing extraordinary
figures--men black and twisted like the carvings of roots in the garb
of holiday minstrels; women coffee-colored and lovely like Jobaba,
their faces pearly with rice powder, in yellow satin or black or raw
purple, their feet in high-heeled white kid slippers. Where they stood
in his way he brushed them unceremoniously, hastily, aside, and he was
followed by low threatening murmurs, witless laughter. A man, loyal to
the Cuban cause, attempted to stop him, to repeat something which, he
assured Charles, was of grave weight; but he went on heedlessly.

His passage became, against his reasoning mind, a flight; and he
cursed, with an unbalanced rage, in a minor frenzy, when he saw that
he would have to walk through a greater part of the body of the
theatre before he could escape. The dancers had, momentarily, thinned
out, and he went directly across the floor. There was a flame before
his eye, the illusion of a shifting screen of blood; and he found
himself facing Pilar de Lima and Andrés; beyond, the Spanish officer,
tall and lank and young, was peering at them with an aggressive
spite. Charles turned aside, avoiding the tableau. Then he heard
Andrés' exasperated voice ordering the girl to come with him to the
promenade. Instead of that her glimmering eyes, with lights like the
reflection of polished green stones, evading Andrés, sought and found
the officer.

Charles Abbott's legs were paralysed, he was held stationary, as
though he were helpless in a dream. His heart pounded and burned, and
a great strangling impulse shook him like a flag in the wind.
"Andrés!" he cried, "Andrés, let her go, she is nothing! Quickly,
before it is too late. Remember--" There was a surging concentration
so rapid that Charles saw it as a constricting menace rather than the
offensive of a group of men. Pilar stooped, her hand at her knee.
Charles threw an arm about Andrés, but he was dragged, struggling,
away. She was icy in the hell of the mantón. There was a suspension of
breathing, of sound, through which a fragile hand with a knife
searched and searched. Then a shocking blow fell on Charles Abbott's
head and the Tacon Theatre rocked and collapsed in darkness.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sharp closing of a door brought him, a man advanced in middle age,
abruptly to his feet. He was confused, and swayed dizzily, with
out-stretched arms as though he were grasping vainly for the
dissolving fragments of a shining mirage of youth. They left him,
forever, and he stood regaining his strayed sense of immediacy. He was
surprisingly weary, in a gloom made evident by the indirect
illumination of an arc light across and farther up the street.
Fumbling over the wall he encountered the light switch, and flooded
his small drawing-room with brilliance. The clock on the mantle,
crowned by an eagle with lifted gilded wings, pointed to the first
quarter past eleven: when he had sunk into his abstraction from the
present, wandered back into the sunlight of Havana and his days of
promise, it had been no more than late afternoon; and now Mrs. Vauxn
and her daughter, his neighbors, had returned from their dinner
engagement. He wondered, momentarily, why that hour and ceremony had
passed unattended for him, and then recalled that Bruton and his wife,
who kept his house, had gone to the funeral of a relative, leaving on
the dining-room table, carefully covered, some cuts of cold meat, a
salad of lettuce, bran bread and fresh butter, and the coffee
percolator with its attachment for a plug in the floor.

To the rest, he had faithfully told Mrs. Bruton, who was severe with
him, he'd attend. In place of that he had wandered into an amazing
memory of his beginning manhood. The beginning, he told himself, and,
in many ways the end--since then he had done little or nothing. After
the ignominy of his deportation from Cuba--impending satisfactory
negotiations between the United States and Spain, he gathered later,
had preserved him from the dignity of political martyrdom--a drabness
of life had caught him from which he could perceive no escape. Not, he
was bound to add, that he had actively looked for one. No, his
participation in further events had been interfered with by a doubt,
his life had been drawn into an endless question. If he had walked
steadily past Andrés Escobar, left him to a murder which, after all,
he, Charles Abbott, had been powerless to stop, would he have gone on
to the triumph of his ideal?

In addition to this there was the eternal speculation over the
relation, in human destiny, of the heart to the head--which, in the
end, would, must, triumph? There was no necessity in his final
philosophy for the optimism, where men are concerned, that had been
his first stay. He wasn't so sure now--but was he certain of
anything?--of the coming victory of right, of the spreading, from land
to land, of freedom. Did life reach upward or down, or was it merely
the circling of a carrousel, the whirling of the danzón? Nothing, for
him, could be settled, definite. He was inclined to the belief that
the blow of the scabbard on his head.... That, however, like the rest,
was indeterminate. He came back eternally to the same query--had he,
as for so long, so wearily, he had insisted to himself, failed, proved
weak for the contentions of existence on a positive plane? Had he
become a part, a member, of the nameless, the individually impotent,
throng? His sympathies were, by birth, aristocratic rather than
humane; he preferred strength to acquiescence; but there were times
now, perhaps, when he was aging, when there was a relief in sinking
into the sea of humility.

Then his thoughts centered again on Howard Gage; who, before leaving
that afternoon, had unpleasantly impressed Charles Abbott by his
inelasticity, the fixity of his gaze upon the ground. Howard had been
involved in a war of a magnitude that swamped every vestige of the
long-sustained Cuban struggle. And he admitted his relation to this
had been one of bitter necessity:

"I had to go, we all did," Howard Gage had said. "There wasn't any
music about it, any romance. It had to be done, that was all, and it
was. Don't expect me to be poetic."

Yes, the youth of today were, to Charles' way of thinking, badly off.
Anyone who could not be poetic, who wouldn't be if he had the chance,
was unfortunate, limited, cramped. Visions, ideals, were indispensable
for youth. Why, damn it, love was dependent on dreams, unreality. He
had never known it; but he was able to appreciate what it might be in
a man's life. He no longer scorned love, or the woman he was able to
imagine--a tender loveliness never out of a slightly formal beauty.
For her the service parts of the house would have no existence; and,
strangely, he gave no consideration to children.

It wasn't that he minded loneliness; that was not an unmixed evil,
especially for a man whose existence was chiefly spun from memories,
speculations, and conditioned by the knowledge that he had had the
best of life, its fullest measure, at the beginning. He had never
again seen a woman like La Clavel, a friend who could compare with
Andrés, wickedness such as Pilar's, days and players as brilliant as
those of Havana before, well--before he had passed fifty. If the trade
winds still blew, tempering the magnificence of the Cuban nights, they
no longer blew for him. But Havana, as well, had changed.

The piano next door took up, where it had been dropped, the jota from
Liszt's Rhapsody Espagnol. It rippled and sang for a moment and then
ended definitely for the night. Other dancers, Charles reasonably
supposed, continued the passionate art of that lyric passage; he read
of them, coming from Spain to the United States for no other purpose.
He had no doubt about their capability, and no wish to see them. They
would do for Howard Gage. What if he, instead of Charles Abbott, had
been at the Tacon Theatre the night Andrés had died? That was an
interesting variation of the old question--what, in his predicament,
would Howard Gage have done? Walked away, probably, holding his
purpose undamaged! But Andrés could never have loved Howard Gage;
Andrés, for his attachment, required warmth, intensity, the ornamental
forms of honor; poetry, briefly. That lost romantic time, that day in
immaculate white linen with a spray of mimosa in its buttonhole!

There were some flowers, Charles recalled, standing on the table in
the hall, dahlias; and he walked out and drew one into the lapel of
his coat. It was without scent, just as, now, life was unscented; yet,
surveying himself in the mirror over the vase, he saw that the
sombreness of his attire was lightened by the spot of red. Nothing,
though, could give vividness to his countenance, that was dry and
dull, scored with lines that resembled traces of dust. The moustache
across his upper lip was faded and brittle. It was of no account; if
he had lacked ultimately the courage, the stamina, to face and command
life, he was serene at the threat of death.

Suddenly hungry, he went into the dining-room and removed the napkins,
turned the electricity into the percolator. Then, with a key from
under the edge of the cloth on a console-table, he opened a door of
the sideboard, and produced a tall dark bottle of Marquis de Riscal
wine, and methodically drew the cork. Charles Abbott wiped the glass
throat and, seated, poured out a goblet full of the translucent
crimson liquid. It brought a slight flush to his cheeks, a light in
his eyes, and the shadow of a vital humor, a past challenge, to his
lips. He had lifted many toasts in that vintage, his glass striking
with a clear vibration against other eagerly held glasses. More often
than not they--Tirso, the guardsman in statue, Remigio, Jaime, Andrés
and himself--had drunk to La Clavel. He drank to her, probably the
sole repository of her memory, her splendor, on earth, now. "La
Clavel," he said her name aloud. And then, "Andrés."

A sharp gladness seized him that Andrés had, almost at the last, heard
his voice, his shouted warning and apprehension and love. If liberty,
justice, were to come, one life, two, could make no difference; a
hundred years, a hundred hundred, were small measures of time. And if
all were doomed, impossible, open to the knife of a fateful Pilar,
why, then, they had had their companionship, their warmth, a period of
unalloyed fidelity to a need that broke ideals like reeds. Perhaps
what they had found was, after all, within them, that for which they
had swept the sky.


THE END

       *       *       *       *       *





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