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Title: Under the Southern Cross
Author: Robins, Elizabeth, 1862-1952
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Under the Southern Cross" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



UNDER THE SOUTHERN CROSS

by

Elizabeth Robins

Author of "The Magnetic North,"
"The Open Question" etc.

Illustrated & Decorated by John Rae



[Illustration: "FRUITS AND FLOWERS WERE SHOWERED UPON US"--_Page 3_]



New York
Frederick A. Stokes Company
Publishers

Copyright, 1907, by
Frederick A. Stokes Company
October, 1907



_Contents_


                                                             PAGE
  I. OUR AGREEABLE FELLOW PASSENGER                             1

 II. MY INTERPRETER AT MAZATLAN                                39

III. I AM LECTURED                                             65

 IV. I DRINK COCOANUT MILK AND GO FISHING FOR PEARLS          101

  V. THE BARON IS CRAZY WITH MADNESS                          133

 VI. THE BARANCA                                              165

VII. THE INCA EYE                                             199



_Illustrations_


"FRUITS AND FLOWERS WERE SHOWERED UPON US"       _Frontispiece_

"LOOK, SEÑORITA!"                                _Facing page_    48

"THE BARON HAS FOUND A PEARL!"                       "     "     112

"YOU MUST TAKE ME BACK!"                             "     "     210



CHAPTER I

[Illustration: Chapter One]

OUR AGREEABLE FELLOW PASSENGER


In the same spirit in which a solicitous mamma or benevolent
middle-aged friend will sometimes draw forth from the misty past some
youthful misdeed, and set the faded picture up before a girl's eyes,
framed in fiery retribution--for an object lesson and a terrible
example--so will I, benevolent, if not middle-aged, put before the
eyes of my sisters a certain experience of mine. I expect my little
act of self-abasement for the instruction of my sex to have this
merit: the picture I will show you is not dim with age, and not cut
and cramped to fit the frame of a special case. The colours are hardly
dry, and both picture and tale are quite unvarnished.

I am a plain American girl of twenty. I am not so plain, as I come to
think of it, as one or two others I know--not being distinguished even
by unusual or commanding ugliness. I spent last winter in San
Francisco with relatives, and intended returning home as I
came--overland. But the invalid friend who was asked to chaperon me
back to New York, was advised by her physicians to take the trip by
sea _via_ Panama, for health's sake, and I was easily induced to
change my arrangements and bear her company.

It was on a sunny April morning that our friends met us at the wharf
of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company to bid us God-speed on our
month's voyage from the Golden Gate to the harbour of New York.

Fruits and flowers, boxes of salted almonds and Maskey's best bonbons,
as well as books, from Prescott's "Conquest of Mexico" to the latest
novels, were showered upon us, with the understanding that it was to
be a long and tedious voyage, and we should need all the comfort
obtainable to support existence, with the knowledge that if we
survived, we might be the better for the journey. The signal for
visitors to leave the ship had been given, and Major Sanford, turning
to go, stood face to face with a tall, foreign-looking young man, who
smiled with quick recognition, showing small white teeth like a
woman's.

"You raimembair me, Major?"

Major Sanford did "raimembair," and, turning to me, presented "Baron
de Bach."

"--he knows all our good friends, was here four years ago on his way
round the world in his steam yacht--glad to think you'll have such
good company. Good-bye!" And Major Sanford was the last to run down
the gangway. How little he knew what entertainment he was providing in
coupling my farewell to him with "hail" to Baron de Bach!

Slowly we moved away from the dense crowd that covered the wharf. In
the cloud of fluttering handkerchiefs, our friends' faces grew dim and
slowly faded; the fair city at our Western portal looked like
dreamland in a haze.

"You air not sorry dthat you go?" says a voice over my shoulder.

"No," I say, without turning; "I'm always glad of a change. You must
have had a good time in that yacht of yours, going where you liked,
and getting up steam the moment you had seen enough."

"Yes," says the new acquaintance meditatively, coming forward to the
side of the vessel where I can see his face, "_Mais je suis très
fatigué._ I am glad dthat I now go home."

"You are young to be tired." I look sideways at the boyish face. He is
German, I think to myself, making a mental note of his complexion,
strangely fair for a yachtsman the eyes--heavily fringed blue
eyes--the full-lipped, sensuous mouth, shapely of its kind, shadowed
by a curling blond moustache.

"You are going home round Robin Hood's barn, aren't you?"

"Robeen Hoohd? Pardon, vill you tell me who is he _en français_?"

"No, I'm not proud of my French, and if mistakes must be made I would
rather you made them. I meant isn't this a curious way to go to
Germany, if you are tired of travel and in haste to get home?"

"I lif not in Jhermany, how could you dthink----"

"Oh, I fancied the name was German, and----"

"Yes--yes, dthe name, but----"

"And you look a little German."

"Ah, mademoiselle, look at me more, I am in nodthing like Jhermans."

I could see the tall young stranger was a bit distressed that his
Teutonic cast betrayed him.

"My fadthur was Jherman--my modthur is Castilian, my home is Lima, I
am Peruvian, but I am educate in France. I am _cosmopolite_. And
you--air Frainch?"

"I wonder where Mrs. Steele is?" I say, and turn away to find my
friend standing at the stern, with the tears streaming down her
handsome, care-worn face, and her great hollow eyes fixed on the
fading outlines of the San Franciscan harbour. The Baron has followed,
but I turn my back and devote myself to diverting Mrs. Steele.

"We must arrange our stateroom before we are ill," she says presently,
in a state of hopeful anticipation, and we retire to No. 49 in the
Steamship _San Miguel_, which all who have taken this journey know to
be the best double room on the "crack" steamer of the line. We put up
hangers, divide pockets and racks, and prepare for a three weeks'
occupancy. Having finished our work, we go to the stern to get a whiff
of the stiff breeze blowing from the southeast. The air is sweet and
sun-laden, the rhythmic rise and fall of the little steamer seems a
bit of caressing pastime between ship and sea--"the whole world is
shining and exultant," think I, "and the contagion reaches me."

"Mademoiselle ees fery happy for somedthing," says the Baron's deep,
low voice.

"Yes, I'm always happy, but especially just now. Mrs. Steele--Baron
de Bach, a friend of Major Sanford."

For half an hour the young Peruvian devotes himself making a good
impression on Mrs. Steele. He carries her chair about until a place is
discovered sufficiently sheltered from the sun and yet not too cold;
he puts all our wraps and rugs on and about "Madame," who watches him
with quiet amusement until I ask:

"And now, pray, what am I to do for a rug?"

"You need not a rug; you vill valk dthe deck, vill you not?"

To tell the truth, walking the deck is much more in my line than being
swathed and pinioned in a chair, but----

"Yes, my dear, it will do you good--bring me a book, and then you may
explore if you like."

So Madame is left with her French romance, and up and down in the
sunshine I walk with our new acquaintance at my side.

"You air not Frainch?" he asks with a scrutinising side glance out of
his fine eyes.

"I am happy to say that I am an American, and so are my ancestors for
three hundred years."

"Naixt to dthe Frainch, dthe American ladies air most beautiful,
charmante and clevair, but you haf chic, and more dthings; you might
be angry I vould say. Vhen I stood at dthe ship and see you coming
_abord du San Miguel_ I vas so happy, for I haf fear for a dull
voyage."

"H'm! You fancy then I may entertain you?"

"_Mademoiselle!_"

Very reproachful is the droop of the long lashes.

"It ess my gude hope ve may be friends, and if I succeed to amuse
_you_, I am content _à présent_."

"And what office do you aspire to in the future? Shall you instruct,
perhaps?"

"Dthat ees more your rôle, for if you pairmeet me to listen to your so
beautiful Eenglish, I must learn much. But you will let me spik to you
a leedle in Frainch, mademoiselle? Dthere air zome dthings I cannot
say in Eenglish."

We stop at the vessel's side, and in a glance across to Mrs. Steele I
see her looking with wide-eyed amusement and a dash of concern at my
companion. I turn in time to catch a queer, earnest look in the boyish
face, as he stands with one hand grasping the rope ladder and his head
bent down to mine.

"Anything clever or graceful that occurs to you in French, you may say
to Madame Steele if you like, but you must speak English to me.
There's the gong for dinner."

At the table I am placed at the Captain's right. My friends had given
him special charges about me, and in a rough, kind-hearted way he
shows me every attention. On my right sits a Guatemalan, Señor José
Noma, then Mrs. Steele, and beside her, Baron de Bach. Opposite is an
army officer, Captain Ball, and his wife, and several Mexicans. I feel
a little unsteady and disinclined to eat, but the Baron sends me, by
the Chinese waiter, a glass of champagne frappé--and my courage and
interest in life return.

The Guatemalan proves to be a rich coffee planter exiled from home for
political reasons, and returning now after an absence of several years
to make his peace with the government. Señor José Noma is a clever,
entertaining person, and one thing about him I am not likely to
forget. He ate more chili-peppers, more mustard, more pickled
chow-chow, more curry, and more cayenne pepper than I would have
believed any mortal could dispose of and live.

I used to wonder whether his diet had any share in making him such a
flaming firebrand of rebellion that he must needs be sent North to
cool off! I am convinced, at least, that had he not drunk a generous
amount of wine he must inevitably have been scorched to a cinder. He
was always passing me his favourite dainties and urging upon me
garlic, and some particularly awful and populous cheese. I was
especially impressed in this, my first intercourse with a
Spanish-speaking race, by their invincible habit of paying
compliments, and yet their inability to convince even an
unsophisticated person like myself that they meant one word they were
saying.

The afternoon I devote to Mrs. Steele in our airy, pleasant stateroom.
She is not exactly ill, but wants to lie down and to be read to. So we
begin the "Conquest of Mexico." Towards evening I emerge from
retirement, and Baron de Bach drops from somewhere at my side.

"Gude-efening, Mademoiselle. You haf us long deserted."

I explain that my friend is not well.

"But she vill make you ill vhen you stay inside. I vill tell her."

"In French it may be safe, but don't attempt it in English."

He looks mystified.

"Pardon, Mademoiselle, you look efer as if you laugh at me, but I am
not sure."

"No, it's only my natural buoyancy that gives me a smiling aspect,"
and I turn the conversation to Mexico. "We shall go ashore at Mazatlan
and dine at a native hotel and see the people."

"May I accompany you?" says the Baron.

"Mrs. Steele makes all the arrangements; you must see her about
that."

"Ah, but you spik not Spanish, and you must haf intairpretair. Madame
Steele!" he says, as my friend appears, looking refreshed from her
long rest, "desire you not an intairpretair at Mazatlan, or spik you
Spanish?"

Mrs. Steele does not "spik Spanish," and accepts his offices. In some
way the Peruvian has secured the confidence and goodwill of my friend
in a very brief acquaintance. He is decidedly agreeable, but his
slight knowledge of English puts him at constant and amusing
disadvantage.

The next evening as we stand at the vessel's side, watching the
marvellous display of phosphorescence that plays about the prow of the
_San Miguel_, Mrs. Steele is joined by Señor Noma, and the Baron
urges me to come a little further away from the light--"ve can see
dthe yelly fishes viel besser." I move away unsuspectingly out of the
shine of the ship's lanterns, and the Baron, folding his arms on the
railing beside me, begins quite low to recite a Spanish sonnet,
liquid, musical, impassioned. I look out over the waters well-named
Pacific, and yield my luxurious sense a moment to the charm of the
dusky beauty stretching away endless in the night, listening half in a
dream to the lapping of the weirdly lit water against the side of the
_San Miguel_, and to the sweet, low music of the Spanish tongue. The
spell is broken when the Peruvian begins in a rapid, excited French a
sentimental declaration.

"I'm afraid I don't quite follow you," I interrupt. "Are you telling
me about jelly fish or the Peruvians?"

"_Sacre!..._"

A low, repressed volley of Castilian followed by a few words in
German.

"_Seit jenem Tage wo ich zum ersten Male in deinen schönen Augen
geblickt habe, habe ich dich grenzenlos geliebt._"

"I'm sorry I can understand nothing but English," I say, turning to
see if I can catch a glimpse of Mrs. Steele.

"Señorita!"

The Peruvian holds my finger tips fast to the rail with a hand that
trembles a little.

"Señorita, I must gif you anodther proof dthat I am not Jherman, and
am unlike your--how you say--practi_cal_ countrymen. I haf know you
two days, yust so long haf I loaf you, and being Peruvian, I must die
if I tell you not."

"Blanche, where are you?" It is Mrs. Steele's voice, and I call out:

"Do come here, the jelly fish are simply resplendent on this side."

The Peruvian moves out of range of recognition, into the darkness
beyond, while Mrs. Steele joins me on the other side.

"Where is Baron de Bach? I thought he was with you."

"So he was, but he's just gone daft--I mean aft."

"What is the matter?" says my friend; "have you disagreed about
something?"

"Yes," I say, "we've disagreed, and he has the best of it, for he can
argue his point with four tongues and I've only one."

Mrs. Steele is curious; she slips her arm through mine.

"Has he been overpolite to you, my dear?"

"Mrs. Steele," I say, thoughtfully, "I'm a little amused and still
more perplexed by this man. Will you allow me the American girl's
privilege of taking care of herself and promise not to interfere if I
tell you how matters go?"

"Yes," says Mrs. Steele quickly, "I need no convincing that you can
take care of yourself, but I rather like that big Peruvian with all
his worldly experience and boyish heart. I hope he hasn't been
translating into broken English the eloquence of his face. If you're
wise, you'll keep him on friendly ground till near the end of the
voyage at least; he will make an agreeable third in our excursions on
shore. His knowledge of Spanish and Mexican customs will be useful,
but if you allow him to make a goose of himself, there's an end to all
friendly intercourse."

She pauses a moment and then adds hopefully:

"But still we've known him only two days; I merely warn you in time
for future need."

"It's too late," I say, leaning far over the railing to watch the
phosphorescence gleam and darken. "He has just been making furious
love in four languages. Let's go in, dear."

That night I wake out of some unpleasant dream to hear Mrs. Steele
saying:

"You sleep like the dead; we shall all go to the bottom and you will
never find it out till the fish begin to nibble."

I realise sleepily there's a great commotion without; hurried feet
fly about the decks; loud orders are shouted under our window, and
with a mighty trembling and throbbing, the ship's engine seems to stop
suddenly. Mrs. Steele is scrambling into her _robe de chambre_, and
has her head out of the porthole, while I, hardly awake even yet, lean
in a bewildered way over the side of my berth to listen.

"What has happened?" Mrs. Steele calls out.

"Man overboard," answers one of the sailors; "we're lowering a boat."

"Dthere ees no fear, Madame," says the Peruvian's voice outside.

I am so sleepy I gladly take his word for it, and am off again to the
Land of Nod. Mrs. Steele's voice comes to me from afar off, with some
question about a pistol, but the real soon mixes with a dream, and I
know no more.

The next morning I hear that for two hours the whole ship was in a
commotion. A drunken passenger of the intermediate class had tumbled
overboard, been sobered by his bath, and swam valiantly till the
ship's engine could be reversed and a boat lowered to his rescue. This
occupied so much time that he was sinking from exhaustion when finally
the sailors pulled him in. The passengers were in a panic during the
outcry and subsequent stoppage of the machinery. Many believed the
last hour was at hand, and appeared on deck in ascension robes, and
faces by no means expressive of joy at the immediate prospect of
Heaven. It was great fun hearing the various experiences at breakfast.
Every one had some joke on his neighbour--only the Peruvian was quiet
and rather pale. As we sat on deck in the later morning sunshine, he
said to me in German:

"You face danger bravely. I heard Madame Steele cry out last night,
but no word from you."

"Good reason for that; I was asleep nearly all the time."

"Asleep!" he repeats. "Impossible!"

"But quite true; I only heard you say there was no fear, and then I
turned over and went on with my dream."

"Ah!" he says, making the German words rumble and bristle with
emphasis, "I am happy that assurance from me could so calm and comfort
you."

"Yes," I say hypocritically, "the effect was magical; but were you
frightened?"

"Yes, I admit it. Very much. But not for myself, I hardly need
say----"

"What was that I heard about a pistol?" I interrupt, "or did I dream
it?" A faint flush passes over the Peruvian's face.

"Did you hear? I was looking to see if it was in order when Madame
Steele opened her window. I was waked very suddenly, you see, and my
neighbour was shrieking that the boiler had broken and in a moment we
would all be in Eternity. I thought of you, Fräulein----"

"In English, please," I say, "I can't follow you in German."

He stops an instant, eying me doubtfully; a moment longer he
hesitates, and then, seeing that Mrs. Steele is busily talking of the
terrors of the night to a group of passengers, he continues in a lower
tone:

"I dthought about you, it is needless dthat I zay. I hurry on mit my
long ofercoat and hold mine pistol deep in mine--mine--how you zay?"

"Pocket."

"Yes, in mine pawket, and I come dthree steps by a time up here to
your door."

"Heavens!" I say, "did you want to shoot me?"

"No, I vould safe you!"

"What was the pistol for?"

"You zee a Peruvian vill dthink qvick by a time like zo--he vill zay:
'I must safe dthe life of Señorita--dthere vill be boats, but dthere
vill be many to crowd in and all vill be lost. So I vill take von
leedle boat and I put dtherein Madame Steele and Señorita; if any
people try to growd in, I hold dthem back; if any inseest, I shoot
dthem dead, and safe Señorita.'"

"Very humane of you.--Señor Noma," I call out suddenly, as that fiery
gentleman is passing by, "I want to hear how heroic _you_ were last
night."

"Ah, mees," says the Guatemalan deprecatingly, as he stops before us,
"I did sit one meeserable quarter-hour by the rail with two life
presairvairs and try to raimember _one_ Ave Maria."

Acting on Mrs. Steele's wise suggestion, I keep the Peruvian at bay as
much as possible; but this is not so easy as it might seem, and my
best safeguard is to stay with Mrs. Steele every moment and insist I
understand only English. Baron de Bach observes a day or two after
this:

"Señorita's knowledge of French and Jherman ees better zome days dthan
odthers. But it ees gude for me that I vill learn spik zo beautiful
Eenglish."

"Forgif me, Señorita," he says, beginning afresh after a pause, "but
_vhat_ blue eyes you haf!"

"You are colour blind, Baron," observes Mrs. Steele, with a quiet
smile. The Peruvian starts slightly. Had he forgotten her?

"Madame----" he begins.

"Hush!" I say, with uplifted finger, "I hear the bells of San Blas."

Mrs. Steele shades her eyes with one little grey-gloved hand, and
looks intently towards the undulating outline of the coast. The flood
of sunshine that bathes the world is flung back ceaselessly from the
shimmering sea, till the poor eyes of mortals are dazed and blinded
with the shifting splendour.

Beyond, the rugged coast of misty purple has rest and charm for the
dazzled vision. There is a sympathetic interest in Mrs. Steele's
beautiful face, and I knew her fancy, like my own, had restored the
ancient Jesuit mission to the far-off headland, and the legend of
consecrated bells--that still ring out from a tower long since
crumbled--is fresh and vivid in her memory.

"I really believe I hear the bells, don't you, Mrs. Steele?" She puts
the grey-gloved hand over her eyes as if she were tired.

"I could hear them, dear, if I were twenty."

"Vhat bells ees dthat?" The Peruvian turns away his fine head to
listen. "I hear nodthing."

"You are the only one that hears them, Blanche; tell us what they
say."

"Even Longfellow can't do that," I answer, "and his sense was so acute
and fine he heard them half across the world."

I look out to the misty coast line and repeat:

    "What say the Bells of San Blas
    To the ships that outward pass
    To the harbour of Mazatlan?
    To them it is nothing more
    Than the sound of surf on the shore--
    Nothing more to master or man.
    But to me, a dreamer of dreams,
    To whom what is and what seems
    Are often one and the same,
    The Bells of San Blas to me
    Have a strange wild melody,
    And are something more than a name."

"Ah, vas I not right, Madame Steele? I vill learn zo beautiful
Eenglish on dthis voyage."



CHAPTER II

[Illustration: Chapter Two]

MY INTERPRETER AT MAZATLAN


On the fifth day out from San Francisco we make the harbour of
Mazatlan, on the Mexican coast. The courtesy of the Captain secures us
a good view from "the bridge" as we approach our first port. A great
white rock juts up in the bay like a fragment of some Titan's
fortress; a lighthouse stares out to sea from a cliff at the harbour's
entrance; the tall cocoa palms wave their fern leaves in the blinding
sunshine, and red-roofed houses huddle below the dome of the Cathedral
rising white above the town.

The harbour soon swarms with the countless boats of the natives coming
with fruit and wares to sell or hoping to earn a few _reales_ by
rowing the curious to the wharf.

Señor Noma engages the largest of these boats and invites as many as
it will hold to go ashore with him. He helps in Mrs. Steele, Baron de
Bach brings me, and we are soon followed by Captain Ball and his wife,
and Miss Rogers, a pretty girl with her photographic camera and her
mamma, who is an Episcopal clergyman's wife, and so proud of the
circumstance that the gentlemen have dubbed her "The Church of
England."

The Mexican oarsmen make one think of comic opera brigands, except
that they look rather dirtier and their speech is music without song.
We land at a rude wharf in the low sea wall and pass through groups of
dark-skinned natives who eye us with sleepy interest. Through narrow
streets we troop one after another towards the heart of Mazatlan.

It is oppressively warm, and Captain Ball begs us all to come into a
restaurant and get some cooling drink. Mrs. Steele and I have limes
and Apollinaris, while Señor Noma, true to his red-hot appetite,
tosses off a glass of mezcal, the fire-water of the Mexicans, the
most scorching beverage ever concocted.

"How would you like a true Megsican dinair, Mees?" says Señor Noma,
blinking a little as the liquid fire pours down his throat. "It ees
not bad."

"I should fancy it might be very interesting," I say.

"Well, then, if Madama Steele and the ladies and zhentlemen present
will do me so much honour I will await them at the Hotel Nacional at
seven o'clock. I must now see a friend. _Adios!_"

While the rest are taking leave Baron de Bach bows to me with his
glass of Rhine wine held out to touch mine. With a comparatively
serene face he mutters:

"You talk to efery one but me; I vould like to shoot dhem all."

"It mightn't do," I say, "even in Mexico."

He turns away with a frown between his fine, straight brows.

"Madame, vill you and Señorita come to drive? I know dthe place and
vill be intairpretair?"

"Yes," says Mrs. Steele. "I intend sending for a carriage; we can get
over more ground in that way, and we have so little time."

The Peruvian gives an order to the servant and shortly a vehicle
stands at the door. It is a lumbering old open carriage that has
evidently been grand in its day--with two white horses that match it
in age and decrepitude. In the best of spirits we drive off. The Baron
talks Spanish with the driver and answers all our million inquiries.

We learn that the best houses are built round a hollow square called a
_patio_, and the occasional glimpses through the opening of massive
doors into these courts reveal a sun-shiny garden of tropical fruits
and flowers. Roses everywhere fill the afternoon with fragrance, and
the strong aroma of ripening bananas and pines makes the hot air
heavy.

"Ees it like vhat you dthought?" asks the Peruvian.

"Much better in some respects," I say, "but the houses look
dreadfully dreary outside; they are more like prisons than homes, with
their great blank walls and here and there an arched and grated
window."

"And there's not a pane of glass in the town," says Mrs. Steele,
"lattices inside and wooden shutters without."

"Yes, and I've noticed ever so many pairs of bright eyes peering
through those lattices. Poor things!" I say feelingly, "I suppose a
Mexican girl of good family must have a very stupid time."

"Not in dthe slightes'," says the Peruvian with decision. "Vomans air
much better take care off; dthey air fery happy, I 'sure you," and
turning to me--"You vould like it yourself after a leedle."

"Indeed I shouldn't! And neither would the unfortunates who had charge
of me."

We pass a Catholic graveyard with high adobe wall and are at the
Hospital Municipal, our objective point. A dark young man in
ill-fitting clothes receives us and shows us about this primitive
refuge. The floors are tiled and all the appointments are rude, but
very clean.

Baron de Bach distributes his Mexican dollars so generously the dark
young man is quite overcome. He asks some question with solemn black
eyes fixed on me. The Peruvian laughs with slight confusion and I
catch "_Si_" in his reply. The dark young man puts another query.

"What's it all about?" says Mrs. Steele; "you promised to interpret."

"Oh, yes, if I must. Dthis zhentleman ask if dthis young lady ees my
wife and if she like roses."

"Oh, let us see the roses," says Mrs. Steele, calmly ignoring the
wretch's prevarication, for I know to the first question he said
"Yes." With my nose in the air I follow the rest into the rose garden
of the hospital, where all is so lovely I quite forget I am offended.

Oh, the rose trees and the wilderness of bloom!

The dark young man gathers for Mrs. Steele and the Baron de Bach for
me.

"You ask me vonce vhat kind was a Castilian rose. Look, Señorita, so
_weich so süss, so fein, wie die Castilien Frauen_," and he hands me a
pale pink rose, loose-petalled, fragile, and very fragrant. With great
bunches in our hands we leave the hospital garden, and I notice with
irritation that the dark young man in bidding me good-bye, long life
and happiness, salutes me as "Señora."

It is six o'clock and we drive towards the town. The narrow streets
are full of idlers in every attitude of picturesque languor. Mrs.
Steele sympathises deeply with the lean and patient little burros
with wooden racks on their backs holding on either side a clay jar
filled with water.

[Illustration: "LOOK, SENORITA!"--_Page 48_]

"Efery yar ees two media, about twenty-five cent your money. Vater ees
more dearer dthan vine," explains our interpreter.

We find all the rest of the company assembled at the Hotel Nacional in
the gallery on the ground floor that looks into the _patio_. Mrs.
Steele and I are shown by a native servant (half Indian, I should
think) into a room across the court, where we make a primitive toilet.
This is the very best hotel of Mazatlan, but the guest chamber is
guiltless of carpet or rug; the one high window, grated and latticed,
looks into the narrow street. A bed heavily draped with coarse
curtains stands in one corner, and under a cracked glass giving forth
a freckled and bilious reflection stands the deal toilet-table. A tin
pan does duty for bowl, a delightful old clay carafe holds the water,
and an abalone shell contains a bit of yellow laundry soap.

With these aids to beauty we reappear refreshed and ready for the dinner
that is spread in the half-open gallery. Only a trellis thickly mantled
with grape vines is between us and the garden; indeed, over the top of
this screen I can see, as I sit at the table, the vine-leaves rise and
fall in the soft air, and the more ambitious tendrils daintily
pencilled against the red sky of that lovely Mexican evening. An odd
dinner it is; but Señor Noma makes a most courteous host, and the dishes
are certainly rare and interesting--generally peppery beyond words to
describe and most of them liberally seasoned with garlic. But the
luscious fruits, the "_vino blanco_," and champagne cool our smarting
palates and reconcile us to our gastronomic ventures. At the beginning
of the meal, out of the meditative mood that has overtaken him, Baron de
Bach rouses himself to enter into earnest conversation with the little
Mexican boy who is helping to serve us. I notice the boy's snapping
black eyes and fine oval face, and how he nods with an added gleam as
he says "_Si! si!_" to every remark of the Baron's, and finally
disappears. In a few minutes he returns and presents a large bunch of
lovely orchids to Mrs. Steele. Then he exchanges a few words with the
Baron and is off again like a shot.

"Yust to show you dthat flowers can grow here _out_ of a hospital
garden," explains the Baron, bowing across the table to my friend and
adding under his breath:

"I haf send for odthers for you, Señorita."

Towards the end of this curious dinner the Mexican boy returns with a
great round native basket piled high with roses and strange rare
flowers I have never seen before--such wonderful fantastic conceits in
bloom that I can only look and clasp my hands about the dainty store.
Mrs. Steele recalls Hernando Cortes' wonder and delight at the flowery
surprises of the new world three hundred years ago.

"Ah, yes," says Señor Noma, who has caught the remark, "you see we haf
something worth your notice in this dark corner of America. If you
stay here longer you will find we haf many things you would like."

Baron de Bach is strangely quiet all the evening, but the unfailing
good temper of our host and the gaiety of the others keep us at the
table till the pale crescent of the new moon looks in over the vine
trellis to warn us of the waning hours.

"We must remember the Captain's caution to be back by eleven," says
Captain Ball, consulting his watch.

"Yes, but it ees scarce nine o'clock," says Señor Noma. "Mrs. Steele,
will you accept my escor'?" And our clever host, having won over the
only possible objector, leads the way out into the dim, mysterious
street.

"Vill you haf zome Eendian dthings, _en souvenir_?" asks the Baron,
offering me his arm.

"Indian things!" I echoed, delighted. "I should like to see them
immensely, wouldn't you, Mrs. Steele?" and I explain. The notion is
received with enthusiasm, and Baron de Bach takes us to a little shop,
where some sinister-looking men and women show us glazed clay mugs
rudely decorated and often adorned with some Spanish name in scrawling
script. There are carafes with cups to match, pipes, whistles, and
animals in clay and little dishes of every description. The Baron buys
a great tray full of these things, and hires a barefooted "moso" to
carry them down to the wharf. We go on to the garden-planted Plaza
that had so attracted us by day. Now it is a blaze of light and
resonant with the strains of a Mexican band. Dark-visaged idlers
lounge on the long seats about the garden, and a constantly shifting
throng moves up and down on every side.

Affecting to show me a white flower that thrust its dainty head
through the garden's iron fence and filled the air with heavy, strange
perfume, Baron de Bach separates me a few moments from my friends.

"At last," he says, with a deep breath, looking around and seeing that
the others have passed on, "I haf you a moment alone. I haf been in
torture dthese seven hours."

"Very polite speech," I answer, peering through the garden's iron
palings, "seeing that you have been with me these seven sad hours."

"Ah, Señorita, it ees no use dthat I egsplain, you air zo fery
heartless. I do not find myself possible to make you out. You haf
pairhaps had too many tell you 'I loaf you'--you care not any more. I
haf travel dthe vorld ofer, many beautiful and clevair vomans haf loaf
me. I haf seen nefer a voman like you for not to care. Efery body loaf
you, you loaf nobody, and vhen a man say 'You air charmante,' you say
'Vill ve feeshe to-day?' If a man say 'You haf eyes wie die Sternen im
Himmel' you ask 'Hear you dthose bells of San Blas?' and vhen a man
say 'I loaf you to deestraction' you tell him 'I do so like dthose
qveer Megsican Eendians.'" The Baron strikes the pavement violently
with his stick. "Vill you marry von qveer Megsican Eendian, Señorita?"
I laugh at the funny conclusion and the Peruvian's excited face.

"Monsieur," I say, "I'm told that nearly every man says 'I love you'
to an average of eighteen women in a lifetime; he perhaps really cares
at various times for three, and the rest do well to let the mistake
pass unchallenged and soon forgotten. I am not especially
strong-minded myself, and I don't object to your talking a little
nonsense, for I find you very entertaining; but I won't deceive you
so far as to let you think I believe you."

A low volley of French so quick and excited that I cannot follow it is
the Peruvian's reply. I am a little bit uneasy at the look in his
face; the glow of ruddy health runs out like a fast-ebbing tide, and
although I have not understood his French, with the intuition of my
sex I comprehend his face, and I look around for the rest of the
party. He catches the glance and seems to struggle for self-control.

"Señorita, take my arm; ve shall valk. I vill hope to teach Señorita
zome day dthat Peruvians air no liars."

"Ah, Baron," I say deprecatingly, "I never meant that, you didn't
understand me--I----"

"No," he interrupts--"I know dthat often I understand you not and
zometimes it ees my so bad Eenglish dthat ees to blame. If I could
tell you all in Spanish you _must_ believe," and before all the people
in the Plaza he lifts the hand that lies on his arm and kisses it.

I flash a horrified look around, but no one seems to have noticed.

"Like you dthe Spanish tongue?" he asks quite unconcerned.

"Yes, very much," I say, glad to get him on some impersonal subject,
"it is the most musical in the world, I believe."

"You vould soon learn it," he says, "you understand many words now, I
know by your face. Can you say my name, I vondair; try! Federico
Guillermo."

"Federico Guillermo," I repeat imperfectly--"what a beautiful name!"

"Dthen Blanca vill call me 'Guillermo.' I like not 'de Baron de Bach'
from her lips. Besides ve use not titles in Peru."

Mrs. Steele and Señor Noma call us from the corner of the Plaza as we
approach.

"We've been round four times hunting for you; where in the world have
you been?" says Mrs. Steele, looking disapproving and a little out of
breath.

"Walking about here looking for you! I couldn't imagine where you
were," I say.

The others come up and we turn our faces towards the harbour. The
dusky oarsmen are waiting for us, and we are soon skimming over the
dark water--I with my hoard of flowers in my lap and my eyes fixed on
the great dim hulk of the _San Miguel_ anchored out in the bay.



CHAPTER III

[Illustration: Chapter Three]

I AM LECTURED


"Blanche," says Mrs. Steele the next morning as she brushes out the
lovely waves of prematurely grey hair, "what are you going to do about
t h e Baron?"

"Do?" I repeat innocently. "What's the matter with him?"

"Now, Blanche, you said if I would promise not to interfere you would
be frank. I'm not sure I am wise to adhere to my side of the bargain
under any circumstances. I never thought you the kind of a girl to go
on letting a man fall more and more in love knowing all the while you
would never be able to give him more than a passing interest."

"How do you know that? Perhaps I'm disguising all sorts of fierce and
fiery feelings under my cool exterior?"

"No, my dear, you can't impose on an old friend so far as that. You
are a queer girl and not always easy to understand, but you care less
for the Baron de Bach than I do, and you know it. Now, what makes you
act so?" and she arraigns me with uplifted brush.

"Dear Mrs. Steele, I'm a student of human nature in a small way. If I
know anything about our Peruvian friend he will fall out of 'love,' as
you are pleased to call his chronic state of sentiment, as readily as
he fell in, and no bones broke, either. He would have forgotten all
about me before this and gone over to pretty Miss Rogers and the study
of photography except that I've been a bit obdurate--unusually so, he
is naïve enough to assure me, and his vanity is piqued."

Mrs. Steele lays down her brush and begins to coil up the long, soft
hair.

"My dear, you are very old for your years. When I was twenty I would
have made a hero out of that man instead of calmly picking out his
foibles--girls are not what they used to be."

I retire to my stateroom after breakfast to read. The Baron retaliates
by becoming aware of pretty Miss Rogers' existence. Pretty Miss
Rogers' mamma is conspicuously polite to him, and pretty Miss Rogers'
self offers to play the piano to his violin. It is Mrs. Steele who
brings me these tidings and assures me that Miss Rogers plays well,
and, as for the Baron de Bach, he is a master! I resolutely read my
book till luncheon time and, going up on deck afterwards, I am
surprised that the ever-watchful Baron has not hurried to meet me. He
seems utterly indifferent to the fact of my presence and leans beside
Miss Rogers at the ship's rail talking contentedly.

"H'm!" I muse, "music _hath_ charms! At all events he must not be
allowed to suppose that I notice, much less care for, his defection,"
and I turn to talk animatedly with Captain Ball about Mazatlan. His
wife comes up with an aggressive-looking Californian who has asked
several persons to present him, but I've successfully evaded his
acquaintance till now.

"It's not often we have the pleasure of a word with you," says Mrs.
Ball, after introducing her companion. "Baron de Bach is such a
monopolist. Just see how he is engrossing Miss Rogers now. What a
pretty girl she is, and how well she plays. Did you hear her and the
Baron this morning?"

"No," I say calmly, "I was so unfortunate as to miss that. Baron de
Bach has contracted a benevolent habit of reading French aloud to Mrs.
Steele and me every morning, and one doesn't _always_ yearn to listen
to French with a dreadful German accent, so I excused myself and
passed the forenoon in my room."

"You must be glad to hear the Baron has found some other congenial
occupation." Mrs. Ball laughs, and exchanges a look with the
Californian.

"It may have its advantages," I reply, determined not to be ruffled.

At that moment the Peruvian comes up to ask me if I will sit in a
group to be photographed.

"Oh, please don't ask me," I say pleasantly; "I hate sitting for my
picture."

"But I beg you. Madame Steele haf promise to help us. She ask me to
zay she will spik vidth you."

With a show of indolence I accompany him to where Mrs. Steele's chair
is stretched out under the awning, for the day is very sultry.

"I haf play vidth Mees Rogair," he whispers on the way, "and haf make
her promise to get out her camarah--I vould haf your photographie."

Mrs. Steele groups the party, and we succeed in getting several
unusually grotesque and dreadful pictures. If anything could cure one
person's sentimental regard for another, it would be the sight of just
such amateur caricatures as were turned out that afternoon. Mrs.
Steele looks a little like her handsome self in the proofs shown us
next day. Miss Rogers develops an unflattering likeness to a dutch
doll--I am as black as a Congo negro and wear the scowl of a brigand,
while Baron de Bach, after carefully brushing his hair and twirling
his moustache to the proper curve, comes out with a white blot
instead of a face; a suggestion of one eye peers shyly forth from the
moon-like mask, and the Peruvian is greatly disgusted. I shall ever
regard an amateur's camera as a great moral engine for the extirpation
of personal vanity.

On the evening of the eighth day we steam into the far-famed Bay of
Acapulco.

It is sunset, and from the Captain's bridge we watch the headlands
taking bolder shape against the brilliant sky, the lighthouse flushing
pink in the reflection. We see the long, low red-roofed Lazaretto set
peacefully among the hills, and away to the right the straggling town
of Acapulco, fringed with cocoa palms and guarded on the other side
by an old and primitive fort.

A wonderful land-locked harbour is Acapulco, and the bold hills
circling it seemed that night to shut it out from all the rest of the
world.

"That town is more like old Spain than Spain herself," I hear a
gentleman from Madrid say to Mrs. Steele. "It has remained since
Cortes' day, with no other land communication than an occasional mule
train affords; and the manners and customs and speech of Cortes'
followers are preserved there to-day."

"Can't we go ashore?" I ask the Captain, pleadingly.

"Well, you can't stay long," is the gruff answer. "We must get away
early to-morrow morning."

But Baron de Bach, overhearing, says:

"I tell Madame Steele ve can haf supper in dthe town. Vill you come,
Señorita?"

"Thanks, with pleasure, if Mrs. Steele agrees," and my spirits rise
high at the prospect.

The great red sun rests one splendid moment on the wooded heights and
dyes the waters of Acapulco's bay in dusky carmine, and it throws into
bolder silhouette the black hull of the disabled man-of-war _Alaska_,
anchored after many storms in this fair and quiet haven. The health
commissioners are long in coming, and it is late before Mrs. Steele,
the Baron and I are pushed off from the _San Miguel_ and headed
towards the town. It is dark when we reach the wharf, and Baron de
Bach gives us each an arm, saying:

"It ees not safe dthat you leaf me; stay close beside."

"Yes," observes Mrs. Steele encouragingly, "I've heard that these
wretches think nothing of murdering a stranger for a ring or a few
reales."

"Dthere ees no fear; I haf mine pistol."

But nevertheless I have a delightfully creepy sensation as we pass the
occasional groups of evil-looking natives, and I keep close beside the
muscular Peruvian, with a new sense of comfort in his presence. At
the little hotel not far from the wharf the Baron orders supper, and
then takes us into the market.

This interesting place is lit with smoky old lamps and flaring
torches, and the fitful light shows weird pictures to our unaccustomed
eyes. Each booth is in charge of one or more women, and here and there
is a man resplendent in overshadowing sombrero, with heavy silver
braid wound about the crown. The women have the scantiest of clothing,
arms and neck bare, dark eyes glittering, and dusky unkempt hair. The
atmosphere is stifling, but we must endure it long enough to get some
of the wares. The women chatter volubly, and even leave their booths
to come and take us by the dress and urge us to some dingy stall.
Vegetables and fruit are piled about in profusion, but we make our way
to the pottery tables. I am afraid to admire the curious designs and
archaic workmanship, for everything I notice approvingly the Peruvian
straightway buys, and we soon have a basket full.

"Ah! Figurines you must haf!" he exclaims as we approach a booth
populous with little clay figures, tiny men and women in native dress,
engaged in native avocations. These evidence no small cleverness in
the modeller, and the Baron insists on taking a dozen. Far on the
other side of the market some Indian women crouch in a semi-circle
over an open air fire.

"What are they doing?" asks Mrs. Steele.

"Dthey make tortillas," says the Baron.

"Oh, yes, I've heard about these meal cakes," says my friend, stopping
to look at the queer group. One old woman jumps up and offers her
something smoking in a pan. Mrs. Steele, bent upon discovery, bravely
tears off a bit and tastes it, throwing the woman a coin.

"Give me some," I say.

"No," interposes the Baron, with a fatherly decision; "you vill haf
supper soon, and I haf order tortillas. Mine vill be better. Vait
leedle."

Really, the Baron has quite taken me in hand, I think, half amused.
But he is a very necessary quantity in this pilgrimage ashore, and I
walk on obediently by his side, meditating how queer that one who
appeared so masterful and imperious at times could be at others so
weak and almost childish. It shed a new light on his character to see
him ashore. Here he knows the people and their tongue, all our wants
must pass through his interpretation, and he is master of the
situation. He seems, moreover, to fall naturally and simply into the
new office, and treats me quite as if I were a child. I want to stop
and get some plantains as we pass a fruit stall.

"No," says the Baron, "you must not eat dthem; dthey air--_unreif_."

"Ah, but really," I say, "I _must_ taste a plaintain; suppose you had
never seen one of that kind before."

"I vill not buy dthem; I vill not see you ill," he says.

"Very well, I'll buy one for myself." I drop his arm and run to the
booth, and, laying my finger on the greenest plantain I can find, I
say:

"_Quantos?_"

The old woman in charge gabbles away for dear life, and, not feeling
that I am progressing very rapidly, I lay down a media and take up
the plantain. The Baron comes to my rescue with a half-amused,
half-vexed smile.

"She haf cheat you," and he levels a volley of Spanish at the old
criminal. "See," he says, "she vill gif you all dthose limes if you
gif back dthat plantain, you vill be glad of limes _abord du San
Miguel_."

"Yes," I say. "I'll have the limes, too." And I put down another
media. He looks at me curiously.

"Ask her to send them to the hotel," I say. He gives the old woman
some rapid directions.

"Now ve vill haf supper," and we are soon sitting in a private room at
the hotel discussing soup, fish, tortillas and frejoles (the Mexican
black bean) and enchalades, which are only the coarse Indian meal
cakes, "tortillas," rolled up like a French pancake, with cheese and
cayenne pepper and a variety of disagreeable things inside, but
considered quite a delicacy among Mexicans. It is long before I
recover from my first mouthful, and the Baron stands over me with a
fan and a glass of wine, while Mrs. Steele laughs until the tears come
into her eyes.

"Water! water!" I gasp.

"No, _vino blanco_, Señorita," says the Baron, putting the glass to my
lips. I drain the last drop.

"Now some water, please."

"Yes, leedle more _vino blanco_," says the Peruvian, pouring out
another glass.

"Don't you understand?" I say hotly. "I want water--_Wasser_! _De
l'eau--Aqua!_"

The waiter starts at the last word and takes up a clay carafe.

The Baron shakes his head and gives some brief command in Spanish. The
servant looks sulky and puts down the bottle.

"What do you mean?" I say, with still smarting tongue. "Is it Spanish
etiquette to ask a lady to supper and then refuse her a glass of
water?"

"Madame," says the Peruvian quietly to Mrs. Steele, "no von here
drink vater; it makes always fery seeck," and he signs to the servant
to serve the next course.

"I despise _vino blanco_," I say; "I'd as soon drink weak vinegar."
Nevertheless I sip my second glass, as there is no prospect of
anything else.

A "moso" comes in with a big basket containing our purchases. I beckon
him to bring it to me, and look among the limes for my precious
plantain.

"Señorita," says the Peruvian, breaking off a conversation with Mrs.
Steele upon native dishes, "I haf here pineapple sairve vidth ice and
sugar and vine; it is dthe most delicieux of all fruit. Allow me to
raicommend you." And the waiter puts the tempting plate before me.

"Thank you," I say, "but I am looking for my plantain. Will you have
the boy find it, there are so many things in this basket?" A few words
between the "moso" and the Baron, the latter smiles a little.

"_Très curieux_, dthat old voman forget to put in dthat plantain!"

Mrs. Steele's amusement is most offensive.

"My dear, you are in the power of the interpreter; you will find our
friend less manageable on shore than on board the _San Miguel_."

The Baron looks innocence itself and creates a diversion by throwing
pieces of roll out over the lattice to the street children, whose
black eyes and black fingers appear through the slats. Each piece is
received with squeals, a grand rush and protracted squabbling, and
finally the more audacious appear at the door. They peep in, throw us
a flower and then scuttle away. One tiny beggar brings a small bouquet
and puts it in my lap. The Baron gives her a media and says something
about "vamos." She flies off, but only to tell the rest of the success
of her mission, and the whole horde troop in and pile the corner of
the table with more or less faded roses and appeal vociferously for
"Media! media!" The Baron, seeing that we are amused, tosses a coin
over their heads. It goes over the lattice and into the street, and
the black little troop tear out and fight and scuffle under the
window. They come in again and again, but finally, Peruvian patience
and Mexican medias being alike exhausted, the Baron rises in his seat
looking remarkably ferocious, and addresses them in stirring Spanish.
The whole crowd take to their heels, tumbling one over another in
excited haste.

"What in the world have you said?" asked Mrs. Steele, greatly amused.

"Oh, nodthing much," says the Baron in his usual low and gentle tone;
"I only zay if dthey effer come again I vill cut dthem up vidth a big
knife and haf dthem boil for breakfast."

"You barbarian!" laughs Mrs. Steele, rising. And then she looks about.
"We might have a glimpse of the church before we go if there's time."

"Sairtainly!" agrees the Baron, and we find our way through the now
quieter and dimmer thoroughfare to the Catholic Cathedral behind the
Plaza. The occasional candle gives out too dim a light for us to form
much of an idea of the interior, but it is cool and damp and
mysterious. Mrs. Steele, who is a thorough and highly intelligent
sightseer, explores the dim corners and finally goes back for a last
look at some detail she found specially interesting. I wait for her
in the dusk down by the door; the Baron has disappeared for the
moment. "I wish Mrs. Steele wouldn't be so particular about taking
notes," I say to myself. "I'm tired, and it's very uncanny and
grave-like here." A little sound beside me, and I turn with a start.
In the dim light I see a chimpanzee-like face looking up to mine. It
is horribly seared and wrinkled, one tooth sticks out from the wide,
shrivelled lips, and the beady animal-like eyes glare through grey elf
locks. I am speechless with fright, till the dreadful apparition
stretches out a skinny arm and with some strange words lays a
claw-like hand on my bare wrist. I shrink back, uttering a little
muffled cry of horror.

The big Peruvian comes hurriedly towards me from the other side of the
church.

"Vas dthat you, Señorita?" he says.

Faint with fatigue and fright, I put out a shaking hand to steady
myself self against the damp pillar.

"Señorita, you air so white!" he says hurriedly, and coming near he
draws me away from the clammy wall.

"You haf been frighten?" he asks softly, his face close to mine.

"Yes," I find breath to say; "a witch or a monkey is in the church,
and it touched me in the dark."

A shiver runs over me again at the remembrance, but I try to draw away
from the strong, close grasp.

"You vill faint, Señorita--I cannot let you go; dthere ees no seat
here." He takes off my hat and fans me. "Zome boy try to frighten
you," he says consolingly.

Mrs. Steele calls from the other side: "Where are you, Blanche?"

The Baron answers for me, holds me closer for an instant, and I think
he touches my hair lightly with his lips.

"Forgif me, Señorita. I vill find dthat boy vhat frighten you zo; I
vill gif him von hundred pesos for my sake, and I vill kill him
afterwards for yours."

I put on my hat a little unsteadily, still thinking more of that awful
brutish face than of the Baron. Mrs. Steele comes up with note-book
open in her hand.

"I've just seen the most dreadful little old crone," she says
cheerily; "she's like some grotesque dream--why, what's the
matter----?"

She breaks off, looking at me as we stand under the lamplight just
outside the door.

"It must be the same thing I saw," I say to the Baron; "what a goose I
am--but it looked like nothing human in the half light. I was so
scared," I confess, a little nervously.

"You look like a ghost, child; it was only a withered old beggar." And
Mrs. Steele puts her arm about me, and we go to inspect an ancient
well where the native women are filling clay jars and chatting merrily
as they file in and out of the gateway of the enclosure with their
picturesque burdens gracefully poised on head or shoulder.

"Let us go to dthe Plaza; Madame and Señorita can sit down for a
leedle."

It is only a step, and we are soon resting on one of the semi-circular
stone seats, listening to some primitive music and watching the
enjoyment of the people. Mrs. Steele draws my head down on her
shoulder and I shut my eyes. The Baron puts a coat over me and hums a
low accompaniment to the fantastic air. Suddenly I become aware of
someone touching me from behind the stone seat. I start up and turn
quickly, to find my apparition of the church chattering at my back.
Her restless eyes and the one white fang shine out from the shrivelled
monkey-face, and the skeleton arms with wrinkled, black skin drawn
loosely over the bones hold out long strings of shells. The strong
light shows her even uglier than I had thought, but it robs her of her
ghostliness, and I interrupt the Baron's probably impolite remarks by
saying:

"Don't drive her away. I'll buy some of her shells in remembrance of
the worst shock I've received in Mexico."

Soon I am decorated with chains of sea-treasures wound about waist and
neck and arms, and the old crone stands by gibbering and nodding
approval.

The Baron laughs at her last shot as she moves away with my media in
her hand and some unusually rich guerdon from him.

"What is she chattering about?" asks Mrs. Steele.

"She zay she know dthe Señorita vidth dthe pretty eyes would like dthe
shaills, and dthat vas vhy she follow her in dthe church, but Señorita
ees easy frighten. Señor must take gude care off her and nefer leaf
her."

Mrs. Steele smiles indulgently and draws out her watch.

"It's time we were going," she says. "The _San Miguel's_ lights will
be all out, I'm afraid."

The Baron's "cargodor" meets us at the wharf laden with our bizarre
purchases, and, after bestowing us and them in the boat, he dips his
oars and we glide out into the bay. The far-off steamer is wrapped in
darkness, the lamps are all extinguished in the staterooms, for it is
long past eleven, but the waves flash every attack of the oar, and the
Southern Cross shines aslant the sky.



CHAPTER IV

[Illustration: Chapter Four]

I DRINK COCOANUT MILK AND GO FISHING FOR PEARLS


I fancy I have just fallen asleep when I am roused by hearing someone
speaking at the port hole. I open my eyes to find it is the peep o'
day, and out of the dull, grey dawn a Mexican's face looks in at my
window.

"What do you want?" I demand, and in the same breath, "Go away! Mrs.
Steele! Mrs. Steele!" To my amazement Mrs. Steele appears in the
doorway all dressed.

"That's only the Baron's boatman, my dear, come to call you. I've had
a raging headache, and the place was so hot I dressed and went up on
deck, and there was the Baron de Bach pacing up and down--_he_
couldn't sleep, either. He suggests we take a boat and go out to catch
the early breeze and see the sun rise from the other side of the bay.
Will you come?"

"Of course I will," I say sleepily, and not in the best of tempers.
"There was no need to send that evil-looking brigand to wake me! My
nerves are in a continual tremor in this blessed place. Do you know,
Mrs. Steele," I say, fishing under the berth for a renegade stocking,
"I've a sort of presentiment I shan't leave the shores of the Pacific
without some kind of misfortune or hair-breadth escape."

"Nonsense!" says my practical friend, "you've eaten something that has
disagreed with you. Hurry as fast as you can; the Captain says we
weigh anchor at eight o'clock."

I finish a hasty toilet and follow Mrs. Steele on deck. The Baron is
waiting--he looks pale and rather graver than usual.

"Good-morning, Señorita," he says, and we shake hands. "Haf you
sleep?"

"Oh, yes," I say, accepting the coffee he has ordered. "I always
sleep."

The first faint flush of the coming splendour spreads above the hills
as we push off from the _San Miguel_. Deeper and deeper grow the
purple and the saffron till long shafts of golden light shoot up from
hilltop to high heaven, and the great red sun of the tropics peers an
instant over the mountain wall that shuts in Acapulco.

"This is a sunrise I think we shall never forget," says Mrs. Steele
with grave enjoyment.

The Baron and I say nothing.

The air blows cool and fresh, and we skirt the rugged beach, close to
the high-piled rocks at the water's edge, till we come to a cocoa
grove sheltering a few thatched cottages.

The Baron gives some direction to the boatman, and we are moored in
shallow water. The Mexican jumps out of the boat and disappears in the
grove. The water is so clear we have been able to see the bottom for a
long time, and now the Baron shows me how to use a boathook in
spearing the red starfish. We succeed in bringing up several, but they
turn brown when out of the water and are said to sting. So we throw
them back and turn to hear the Indian water-women singing and laughing
as they follow the winding, rugged path half way up the heights. The
red-brown feet and ankles must be as strong as they are shapely; the
arms holding aloft the water jars are well moulded and taper finely to
the wrist; splendid freedom is in every motion and a grace their
fairer sisters have forgotten. I see the admiration in Baron de Bach's
face.

"You like that type?" I ask.

"It ees part of dthe landscape," he answers; "ve like it in dthe
picture. Ve put more deeferent vomans in our hearts and homes."

"H'm!" coughs Mrs. Steele. "My dear, the boatman is coming back with a
huge bunch of cocoanuts."

"Yes," the Baron says, "I dthought you vould like to taste dthe
milk."

The Mexican rolls up his white trousers and wades back to the boat. He
pulls his naked knife out of his sash and begins to cut away the thick
green rind of the nut. That done, the Baron takes it from him and
shows us the three eyes at one end where the fibre is soft. When the
sharp point of the knife is inserted the liquid within spurts up into
the Baron's face.

"Oh!" he says, with a comical look of dismay, "ve haf no cup; ve must
drink like dthe natives," and he saws away an opening and hands the
cocoanut to Mrs. Steele. She puts her lips to the shell and tastes a
drop with dainty distrust.

"Oh, Madame, it ees fery gude--you vill like it if you drink more!"
But Mrs. Steele passes it on to me. The first sip is so cool and
refreshing I greedily tip the shell to take a long draught, and the
liquid runs down both sides of my mouth into my lap. The Baron insists
there is an art in cocoanut tippling.

"You must hold dthe mout' zo--" and he illustrates, "and dthe cocoa
zo." He puts it cautiously to his lips. "Now!" he says, after taking a
sip, "you try!"

With childish good faith I take the clumsy nut, but as I lift it to
drink I notice a covert gleam of satisfaction in the Peruvian's eyes,
and I realise in a flash that the cocoa shell is becoming a sort of a
loving-cup--for there was but one little place cut for drinking where
first I essayed the draught and then the Baron.

"My dear," remarks my quiet but observant chaperon, "I have never been
able before to account for the milk in the cocoanut. I know all about
it now!"

I throw the shell into the water with an impatient gesture.

"I know all I wish to. It's a great bother and very little gained."

The Baron looks disagreeably amused, and I feel hot.

"Capitan," he says to me, "vill you take dthe tiller again?"

I pick up the tiller ropes and steer out towards some small schooners
grouped to the left of the town near the entrance of the harbour.

"I do believe those are pearl fishers," says Mrs. Steele, who has been
looking through her glass. The Baron starts up and questions the
Mexican.

"_Si! Si!_" he answers, and with long, even strokes he brings us
within speaking distance of the nearest vessel. Baron de Bach stands
up and shouts out a series of inquiries in Spanish. I look over the
side of the boat, and at a vision in the water I start from my seat
with a shriek of delight and almost capsize the poor Peruvian. He
clutches wildly at the air and finally keels over backwards on the
astonished Mexican.

When they recover they find Mrs. Steele and me leaning over the side
of the boat following the uncertain motions of a bloated crab-like
monster crawling along the bottom of the deep.

"Why, that's the diver," explains Mrs. Steele. "You see that rubber
tube--one end is attached to the machine on the schooner, the other to
his helmet; he breathes through that. They are pumping air through it
every moment."

"Yes," says the Baron, having regained his equilibrium. "You cannot
zee, but he haf a basket tie vidth a cord to hees belt; he fill it
vidth shaills, and vhen he make a pull dthey draw it up and empty it.
Zee, now!"

He points to the steamer where, hand over hand, they haul in a cable.
At the end is the square wicker basket filled with great pearl shell
oysters. They turn them out and lower the receptacle for another load.
The Baron throws some money to a man in the schooner, and soon three
or four pearl oysters are tossed into our boat. The Mexican's knife is
again called into requisition and the shells are forced open. Nothing
in the first--nothing in the second--nothing in th----stop! the Baron
has found a pearl!

[Illustration: "THE BARON HAS FOUND A PEARL!"--_Page 112_]

"It ees von chance out of a dthousand!" he says, amazed. "I nefer
found von before--but it ees so leedle!"

"Never mind!" I say with enthusiasm. "We've been pearl-fishing and
we've found a pearl!"

Mrs. Steele is examining it minutely; the Baron leans over to me and
says low, in German:

"It shall be set for you in diamonds, Fräulein; it will remind you of
spilt cocoanut milk and pearl-fishing in Acapulco's shining bay--it
will mean to me a woman, Blanca, fine and fair, I found on the ocean.
As I think of all it signifies to me, I believe I must ask you to let
me keep my pearl," and he gazes into my eyes with such a world of
meaning in his own, I look away and trail my hand in the water. "What
say you, Fräulein?" he persists. "I have travelled so far to find it,
I have so nearly missed it, and here at last it lies in my
possession."

"Are you so sure it is in your possession?" I say, looking across to
Mrs. Steele, who is rolling the tiny treasure about in her palm.

"At least," he says, "it is within the reach of a strong arm, and if a
jewel begged is not generously given, it can be snatched out of a
capricious hand, if only for safer keeping----" and the Peruvian's
deep eyes look into my half-averted face.

"My friend does not speak German," I say; "she will think you very
rude." Then in English, "Please let me see the pearl again, Mrs.
Steele."

"It is absolutely flawless," she says, holding it out to me. The
Peruvian intercepts it. He draws out of an inner pocket a gold-mounted
letter-case and a book of cigarette paper. Deliberately he wraps the
pearl in one of the tissue leaves, and, looking steadily at me, pushes
the new treasure far into a corner of the crested case. There is more
significance than mirth in the laugh with which he says:

"I vill show all unbeliefers dthat I know how to value and to _keep_ a
pearl vhen I find von."

Mrs. Steele succumbs to one of her old headaches on our return to the
steamer, and I pass the greater part of the day in seclusion with her.
After luncheon, as I linger to superintend the arrangements of the
invalid's tea-tray, the Baron joins me.

"I am vairy sorry about Madame Steele's headache. Tell me, please,
vhat can I do?"

"Nothing, thank you," I say; "there is no remedy. She is accustomed to
these attacks."

"If nodthing does gude dthen vhy stay you efer in dthat room; you vill
be ill, too."

"Oh, no," I say, "no fear of that."

"But," he insists, "if you do nodthing only sit in dthat room, let me
stay vidth her and you come out in dthe air. Madame Steele ees not
like you; she like me vairy vell."

"She likes me better, and I can't leave her."

"Haf you no care for your healdth? You air not fit to take care of
yourself--dthat old voman in Acapulco vas right; you should nefer be
leaf alone."

"Doesn't it ever occur to you that I might be so accustomed to
managing my own affairs that interference from an outsider might seem
strange?"

"Outsidah!" he repeats. "I know not dthat word. I know only dthat you
American vomans haf yust one fault: you air--how you zay?--spoil vidth
too great power; you raispect no von's judgment, you need zome strong
man to rule."

"To rule!" I echo, scornfully; "that may do for Peruvians, but our
women are neither slaves nor imbeciles."

"No," he retorts, "but zome zay your men air a leedle of bodth!"

"It is not to the credit of 'some'"--I set down the salt cellar hard
on the tray--"that they fail to appreciate my countrymen. They have at
least encouraged our learning to take such good care of ourselves that
no Peruvian need trouble his head about us."

I beckon to the Chinese waiter.

"Take this tray up to 49," and I follow him with some show of
disdain. Señor Noma meets me at the foot of the dining-room stairs.

"I haf sent for a jar of chili-peppers for Mrs. Steele. Will you say
your friend I raicommend chili-peppers, and I advice you put a little
cayenne in the bif-tea. It makes vairy seeck without."

"Thank you, Señor Noma," I say; "Wah-Ching will bring up the peppers
and I will tell Mrs. Steele what you say." I glance back at the
Peruvian. He is sitting by the table just as I left him, his chin in
one hand, while with the other he strokes the wavy moustache and
regards me with lowering looks. "He's a handsome creature," I think,
as I go upstairs; "but he's been told it too often, and he has
abominably mediæval ideas about women."

All that hot afternoon I sit in the stuffy stateroom with Mrs. Steele.
The wind has veered to the other side and not a breath stirs the
curtains at our little window. About four o'clock the "Church of
England" knocks at the door. She is profuse in proffers of assistance,
and kindly tells me I am looking very badly. "You'd better go out for
a little air," she says; "you'll find my daughter and Baron de Bach
sitting in the breeze on the other side. He has teased Nellie to get
out her guitar; we've had quite a concert. What a charming, bright
companion he is!" she says, appealing to me.

"Very, very!" I assent, with a slight yawn.

"Do go out, Blanche, I don't need you here." Mrs. Steele looks a
little self-reproached.

"No, dear, I know you don't care about my staying," I answer, "but I'm
a little tired of the deck."

The "Church of England" drones on about Nellie, who is "such a child,
only seventeen; so unsophisticated and so unworldly."

"Just imagine, she quite snubs that handsome Peruvian nobleman, and he
is really _delightful_, you know."

We draw a simultaneous sigh of relief when the "Church of England"
leaves us to ourselves.

"Blanche," says Mrs. Steele, "you've been fighting again with the
Baron. Those Rogers people would be only too glad to attach him to
their party. I wouldn't let them do it if I were you. It would be too
much of a feather in their cap to have distracted him from us after
his very palpable devotion and our unusual friendliness."

"No, dear, I won't let our interpreter be wiled away from us. Leave
him to me. He's very exasperating at times, but I'll bear with him in
future; there's no denying it would be comparatively stupid without
him."

Mrs. Steele raises the bandage from her eyes and looks at me.

"It strikes me you are about to experience a change of heart. If it
were almost any other girl, I'd say beware!"

I laugh with confident unconcern.

"Oh, I don't deny I find him more interesting than I did at first. He
enrages me with his imperious self-confidence, and then charms me with
his curious, romantic ways. I look upon the Baron de Bach as a kind of
blessed invention for my entertainment on this trip, and that I've
grown to like him better than I expected makes the amusement keener,
of course. I'm tired to death of the commonplace, mild and
circumspect adorer. Baron de Bach is a continual surprise and an
occasional alarm! Nothing reprehensible!" I say, in answer to the
quick lifting of the bandage a second time. "Only he is so unlike all
the other men I have known I can't judge him by any previous standard.
I have the same interest in him Uncle John had in the new variety of
anthropoid ape in the Zoo at home. I study his possibilities, I starve
him, I feed him, I poke him, just to see what he'll do."

"You're a wicked girl," says Mrs. Steele, slowly, "and I'm afraid a
righteous judgment will overtake you. Do you remember telling me how
that same ape tore your Uncle John's hand one day?--and _he_ was
caged."

"Maybe the element of uncertainty accounts for some of the interest,"
I say, yawning. "I believe I'll have a nap before dinner." And soon
all is quiet in stateroom 49.

On Saturday morning, the day following, Mrs. Steele, the Baron and I
are sitting as usual under the deck awning. Baron de Bach is reading a
French story aloud to Mrs. Steele, and I, lying back in my steamer
chair, regard the reader with half-shut but attentive eyes.

"He's only a boy," I ruminate, "a romantic, absurd, but very nice boy.
There's no reason why I shouldn't like him very much; and if he must
be in love with someone, I'm a very safe person for him to select as
the victim." I smile as the last word comes across my mind, for I am
honest enough to doubt if I really mind it so much. The Baron turns a
page and sees the look.

"Vhy you laugh, Señorita?"

"Thinking about something funny."

"I'd think you laugh at me."

"Don't you suppose I may once in a while think of someone else besides
you?" The Baron looks puzzled and a little bit offended.

"Good-morning, Mrs. Steele," says the "Church of England," bustling up
to my friend with Mrs. Ball behind her. "How tired you look! Haven't
you had enough of that French? Baron de Bach has promised to come and
practise over the chants and hymns for to-morrow; can you spare him?
As for you," she says, turning to me, "we shall earn your eternal
gratitude if we carry off the Baron. You know her pet aversion is
having French read out loud"--she nods in a commiserating way to the
Peruvian.

"Certainly, don't let us keep you"--Mrs. Steele with her pleasant tact
ignores the reference to me--"we will finish that charming chapter
another time."

"Vhat means petta-vairsion?" says the Baron, looking undecided and not
exactly delighted.

"Oh, it means favourite pastime," says Mrs. Steele.

"Oh! oh!" giggles Mrs. Ball. "Miss Blanche said the reading made her
tired."

The Baron shuts up the book with a snap.

"Madame Rogair, I am at your sairvice!"

Without looking at me he raises his cap to Mrs. Steele and follows the
"Church of England."

"_Did_ you say the reading tired you?" asks Mrs. Steele.

"I believe I did, or something of the kind."

"Pity! Those people will make all they can out of it. The Baron told
me at breakfast that Mrs. Rogers had asked him to join their party at
the next port."

"But he won't"--I open my journal to write up the previous day.

The morning was rather dull, to tell the truth, and the sounds of
revelry that floated up from the scene of the practising below were
not too "sacred" to be irritatingly attractive. But even after
luncheon the Baron remains with the "Church of England."

"Gone over to the enemy. I told you so," Mrs. Steele observes, as we
sit alone in our corner of the deck, while over on the opposite side
Baron de Bach stands laughing and chatting with pretty Miss Rogers.

"Mrs. Steele," I whisper, "I believe he only does it for our
edification and because I said the reading tired me. Let us go to our
stateroom; the wind is on our side to-day." We read and sleep in
seclusion until evening.



CHAPTER V

[Illustration: Chapter Five]

THE BARON IS CRAZED WITH MADNESS


At dinner, refreshed with my long rest, I feel unusually light-hearted
and gay. I laugh and chat with Señor Noma and the rough old Captain,
till Mrs. Steele leans over and gives me a look of surprise. Not once
do the eyes of the Peruvian turn in my direction, and he leaves the
table before dessert. He is not visible on deck when we go up later
and, after talking a while to the others, I start off on a tour of
discovery.

Down at the further end of the steamer, to windward of the smokestack,
stands the Baron in a depressed attitude smoking a pipe and looking
out to sea.

"Oh, you're here!" I call out in friendly fashion. "I've been looking
for you. I'm sorry if I was rude about the reading"--I look as meek
and penitent as I know how.

The Baron takes out his pipe and walks to the vessel's side, where he
knocks out the ashes.

"Well!" I insist, "I've said I'm sorry, and in English the proper
reply to that is 'I forgive you.'"

A curious, lingering look out of those dark eyes of his.

"I forgif you," he says, as a child repeats a lesson.

"And we must be friends again, _nicht wahr_?" I hold out my hand.

"No, Señorita." He takes the hand, but shakes his head.

"No!" I echo; "why not?"

"Because I haf nefer been your friend. I haf always loaf you, I haf
forget vhat it vas like not to loaf you. It ees true you vere scarce
polite about dthe reading. I did not know I bore you. I feel it fery
deep. It might not matter to zome Nordthern zhentlemen, but I am dthe
most sensible man you ever know."

"Sensible!" I say, in a tone scarcely flattering, trying to keep my
lips from twitching.

"Yes, I am terrible sensible; a fery leedle dthing vill hurt me."

"Well, well, I'll be _your_ friend, anyhow, and I'll try to be very
considerate. I'll show you what a good friend a North American can
be."

"My gude friend haf make my head zo ache I dthink it vill burst."

He pushes back his cap, and carries my hand to his forehead; it is
very hot and the temples throb under my fingers.

"Poor fellow!" I say, hoping with might and main that no one sees.
"Shall I send you some _eau de Cologne_?"

"No! no! If you vould gif me your hand again."

"No," I say, "not here. Anyone who saw us would misunderstand. Come to
Mrs. Steele; she'll give you something."

"No!" says the Peruvian. "I vill stay here; you stay, too. Ah,
Señorita, how can you be so indifferent to my loaf?"

"I can't stay here if you talk nonsense."

"Mein Gott! Vhat more sense can a man haf dthan to loaf you?"

"Oh, see the porpoises!" I say abruptly. The great clumsy fish are
floundering about us in schools.

"Vhat heafen eyes you haf, Señorita!"

"I do believe that's 'San José Joe.'" I run to the rail. "You know!
the huge old shark all covered with barnacles the seamen tell about."

"You vill nefer listen," says the Peruvian, plunging his hands far
down in his yachtsman's jacket. "I dthink, Señorita, ven you die, and
St. Peter meet you at dthe gate and say, 'You haf lif gude life, come
into Heaven'--you vill fery like look over your shoulder and say, 'Oh,
Peter! vhere go all dthose nice leedle devils?'"

The Peruvian's last shot certainly diverts me from all finny
creatures, and we sit down on a pile of lumber, and the Baron shows me
his rings and seals--tells me where each came from and the story
attached. He finally pulls out of his pocket a rosary. "I haf carry
dthis efer since I was in Egypt."

This simple little string of olive stones and carved ebony beads quite
captivates my fancy, and the penalty for the expression of my liking
is that I must try it on. He winds it about my wrist and, having
forced open one of the silver links, he bends down and with those
sharp, white teeth bites the open link close again--the blond
moustache sweeps my wrist and the rosary is securely fastened.

"Now," I say, "see what you've done! How will you get it off?"

"It comes not off till you are zomething less dthan my friend or
zomething more."

"Oh, but I can't take your rosary; that's absurd!"

"You cannot take a few leedle pieces of vood from your friend? Vhy,
dthose leedle voods are only dthe--dthe--dthe--how you say?--bones off
dthe olive."

I laugh till I ache. "Bones of the olive!" I almost roll off the
lumber in a spasm of merriment. Mrs. Steele, who wonders at my long
absence, comes with Señor Noma to find me, and soon there are three
laughing at the poor Baron's expense.

"Hush, Blanche, it's really too bad--you must pardon her, Baron,"
says Mrs. Steele.

"I mind it not more," says the Peruvian, with new philosophy.
"Señorita vould laugh in dthe face of St. Peter."

When the gong sounds for service on the morning of the second Sunday
out, the Baron grumbles feelingly at the interruption. He is sketching
Mrs. Steele and me and says he "hates playing on a zo bad violin"--but
a promise is a promise, and we all go down "to church" in the close
dining-room. The Captain reads the beautiful Morning Prayers and
Litanies like a schoolboy, but the music is really admirable. Pretty
Miss Rogers appears to striking advantage. Dressed simply in white,
she plays the accompaniments and leads the singing in a sweet, true
voice. Mrs. Steele and I sit in the background, and I'm afraid I think
but little of the service. Now what perversity is in the mind of man,
I meditate, that blinds him to such real beauty and accomplishment as
Miss Rogers is blessed with? Of course, I'm not such a fool as not to
see that with all my sadly palpable defects of face and temper, the
big Peruvian finds me somehow interesting and "Miss Rogair a nice
girl, but, like a dthousand odthers I haf know, a leedle stupeed." Ah,
the "stupidity" is on the other side, I'm afraid! Miss Rogers is too
inexperienced, my thoughts run on, to disguise her liking for the
Baron, and instead of being pleased or flattered as he should be, he
will leave her at a look from me, only to get laughed at for his
pains. A strange world! I say to myself. "As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be!" sings the choir, and Miss Rogers' clear
voice lingers in the "Amen."

As I walk the deck with the Baron that evening he tells me about his
lovely sister, "Alvida," and about Peruvian customs.

"My sister ees dthe most beautiful voman in Peru; she haf many
suitors, but she ees nefer allow to see dthem except when dthe family
air vidth her. It ees not like your country; a man can nefer know
dthe voman he loaf till he marry her."

"Very stupid custom," I say. "I wouldn't give a fig for such love. You
could only care for the face or the fortune of a woman so hemmed
about. What could you know of the character, of the real individual,
that after all is the only safe thing to pin one's faith to."

"I like your customs better in zome dthings, but it makes you vomans
too clevair; you know men better dthan ve know you."

"You have the same opportunities. It's not our fault if you don't
profit by them."

"You tell me yourself," he goes on, unheeding, "you haf many gude
friends among your fadther's and brodthers' acquaintances; dthat make
you care so leedle for men."

"Not a bit of it!" I laugh. "On the contrary, it has so accustomed me
to their friendship I would find life utterly unendurable without it."

"I vill make you fery angry pairhaps, but I have deescovair you like
_me_ leedle more dthan a friend."

"I suppose it is often flattering to a man's vanity to have a fancy
like that," I say coolly, but I am conscious of a twinge; what if I do
like him more than I want to think?

"It ees not fancy, Señorita; you do not know yourself you care, but
you do."

"Nonsense; I know all about it. I'm not a sentimental person and I
don't mind telling you in plain English I _like_ you. I must like you
rather more than usual, or I wouldn't see so much of you." By this
time we are away from the rest of the passengers, down by the
smokestack. "I feel as if I'd known you _for years_!" I end with a
sense of having turned the tide of sentiment by a little frank
speaking, and feel rather proud of myself.

"Señorita," he clasps his hand over mine and speaks hurriedly, "I know
you loaf me; tell me so."

Oddly enough, I feel no indignation, but I open my lips for a denial.

"If you tell me not," he says excitedly, laying one hand on the rail
and looking greatly wrought-up, tragic and comical all at once, "if
you tell me not," he repeats, raising his voice, "I yump in dthe
vater."

I tighten my hold on his arm, trying not to let him see how much I
want to laugh.

"Of course, one loves one's friends; don't be silly."

A quick light leaps into the dark eyes. I am reproached and vaguely
uneasy at the sight of his gladness.

"I'm going back to Mrs. Steele; she doesn't like me to leave her so
long." I turn away and like a flash he is at my side. He draws my
hand through his arm, holding it against his heart. I can feel the
great leaps under the yachtman's gay jacket.

"Ah!" sighs the wearer, "I feel suffocate on dthis boat--it ees so
small, people eferywhere and you and I so leedle alone. Ah, ve vill
soon be at San José!"

"I don't see how that will mend matters." I am anxious to see what he
has in mind.

"Madame Steele vant to go to Guatemala."

"Yes, but so do most of the other passengers."

"From San José to Guatemala ees seventy mile, and dthe Paris of
Central America ees zomething more large dthan dthis _San Miguel_.
Much can happen before ve come back."

We join Mrs. Steele and talk over our plan.

The next day we arrive at Champerico, but no one goes ashore; we stay
so short a time.

The deck party breaks up early that night, everyone anxious to be
ready for the six o'clock breakfast call next morning.

"To-morrow ve air at San José de Guatemala, and much can happen before
ve see _San Miguel_ again." The Baron takes my hand at the saloon door
as I say good-night.

"That's the second time you've made that ominous remark, Baron de
Bach. What do you mean?"

"Baron de Bach!" he echoes. "My name ees 'Guillermo,' Blanca."

Somehow it doesn't seem so familiar or significant as if he said
"Blanche."

"What do you think will happen to us in Guatemala, Guillermo?"

"Blanca vill see;" he lifts the hand with the rosary falling about it
to his lips and kisses the crucifix.

"Good-night, Guillermo."

"Good-night, Blanca."

By half-past seven the next morning all who purpose going ashore are
standing on the lower deck of the _San Miguel_, wondering how they are
to get from the steamer to the clumsy "lighter" or freight boat that
the great breakers are tossing about below, and which is reported to
be our sole means of making the shore.

"The passengers are hauled up and down in a big barrel," says the
Captain, who has come from the bridge to receive some official from
the settlement. "You're not going ashore, Mrs. Steele!" He fixes a
look of astonishment on my friend in her travelling dress.

"Of course I am."

"Why, there's nothing to see but huts and sand-piles."

"Ve go to Guatemala," says the Baron, giving our wraps to the Chinese
porter.

"You do nothing of the kind." The brusque Captain is nothing if not
unceremonious. "We'll have this Hamburg cargo loaded in a day, and
you can't go and get back in time; and I won't wait--I won't wait a
second for anyone mad enough to go to Guatemala! You'll have to give
it up," he says to Mrs. Steele.

There is a chorus of disappointment from the assembled crowd, but Mrs.
Steele, with evident reluctance, says:

"Of course, it would never do to be left behind; there's yellow fever
in all these ports, I'm told."

"Place is full of it--stay on the ship like sensible people. There's
nothing worth seeing in Guatemala. I hate to be bothered with
passengers going off--" and the Captain walks to the railing to wave
his hand with stiff pomposity to a Mexican who sits in the lighter.

"You air meestake, Captain," says the Baron de Bach; "all dthose
vorkmen say it vill be two days loading dthis café."

The Captain, never very good-tempered at the best of times, is
especially peppery to-day.

"Are you runnin' this ship, young man, or am I?" He seems to think he
has made a forcible and irrefutable rejoinder and turns away like one
who has settled something forever.

"I vill spik vidth you inside." The Baron sets down his small valise
and follows the apparently unheeding Captain into the saloon. We
stand undecided, looking down at the lighter shifting about in the
breakers, and watching a stout Mexican get into a huge barrel that has
one side cut down and a seat fitted in--a rope with huge iron hook
attached is lowered from a pulley on the steamer, and the barrel full
of San José official is lifted into the air. The barrel twirls about,
the official puts his hand to his eyes, and in a moment he is landed
like a mammoth fish on the deck of the _San Miguel_.

We hear the voices in the saloon rising with anger. Mrs. Steele looks
apprehensive and makes a step towards the door. Out strides the Baron,
looking hot and excited.

"Ladies, ve vill go. I promise you ve vill be back in time."

Already the crowd is lessened and some have given up going even to San
José, and several have made the trip in the barrel and are safely
landed in the lighter.

"I think we won't run any risk," says Mrs. Steele gently, "though we
can go to San José, of course."

"Madame, I do assure you," and the Baron is most emphatic, "if you
vill trust to go vidth me I see dthat you come safe back before _San
Miguel_ sails."

The second mate comes up with an amused look.

"You ladies jest go 'long; th' Cap'n's alwus like that; nobuddy
minds. We can't get away under two days, and he knows it. We ain't
'lowed to leave under forty-eight hours on 'count o' passengers from
the coast."

That settles it, and each in turn we go spinning down in the barrel
and sit on piles of freight in the unsteady lighter. The Mexican
oarsmen stand up and propel the boat through the surf with long oars.
It is rougher than it looks, and I suffer my first touch of
sea-sickness. We understand why we are anchored so far away, and why
the huge iron pier running out from San José extends such a distance
seawards. I am quite faint and miserable when we reach the landing.
The Baron is still so consumed with rage at the Captain's
"interference," he has no eyes, happily, for my pitiable condition. I
look about disconsolately for the barrel elevator, for the pier is far
above our heads, and the great waves are dashing us against its iron
side. To Mrs. Steele's horror, we perceive a sort of iron cage is
employed in the process of elevation at this end of the journey, and
soon we three are swinging in mid-air between the angry waves and the
iron pier.

"Oh!" I say, breathlessly, clutching at Mrs. Steele, "what _would_
Uncle John say if he could see me now?"

"He would probably advise you to follow his example and make your
observations from the _outside_ of the cage."

I've observed that Mrs. Steele is sometimes lacking in sympathy at
trying moments.

At last we are landed, and at the end of the long pier we find a
narrow-gauge train--strange, primitive little cars and very dirty
withal. We make ourselves as comfortable as possible--opening the
windows and each one occupying a double seat, for the carriage is only
half full.

"It's not more than seventy miles, I believe," says Mrs. Steele, "but
it takes five hours to get there; it's an up-hill grade all the way."

"Five hours!" I repeat, dismayed. "Oh, why did no one tell me that
before? I had scarcely a mouthful of breakfast."

"We haf another breakfast at Escuintla, mees, a gude one," says Señor
Noma, passing through our coach to the smoking-car. I am consoled and
full of interest at the prospect, as the dingy little train moves off.
Mrs. Steele and I are facing each other, while the Baron sits behind
me and points out the most noteworthy features of this notable
expedition. We are in the tropics truly; the heat is overpowering, and
the Baron leans over the back of my seat with my rough Mazatlan fan,
and uses it with a generous devotion that tires him and does not cool
me.

"Do fan yourself a little," I say. "You've been the colour of a
lobster ever since your interview with the Captain."

The Peruvian's brows contract--he looks ferocious in the extreme--and
I am a little sorry I mentioned the Captain.

"Dthat Capitan ees von fool! He know not how to treat a zhentleman. I
tell him I make a procès to dthe company and get him reprimand for how
he spik to me."

"Why, what did he say?" asks Mrs. Steele.

"He tell me I act like _I_ vas Capitan, dthen he call me 'damn.' I
tell him he vas a coachman!"

The Baron looks surprised and a bit resentful at our laughter.

"What made you call him a coachman?" Mrs. Steele is the first, as
usual, to pull a straight face.

"Madame forget I know not all Eenglish vords. I could dthink of
nodthing more vorse--I vas zo crazy vidth madness."



CHAPTER VI

[Illustration: Chapter Six]

THE BARANCA


"See the banana plantations! Oh, those date-palms!" Mrs. Steele leans
out of her window, full of delight at the curious panorama moving
past.

"Mrs. Steele!" I bend over and take her hand. "I hope all this will
never grow dim. I want to remember it all my life."

"You will, dear." She turns away absorbed, eager to lose nothing of
this new phase of Nature.

"Haf no fear--you vill not forget--Blanca."

The low voice over my shoulder is an interruption; to enjoy the gift
of sight is all-sufficient for a time. With happy disregard of the man
at my back, I take in the changeful, fantastic vision.

The adobe houses standing in orange groves, the long stretches of
jungle, wild tangles of rank growth, cactus, giant ferns, brake and
netted vines; birds of gorgeous plumage and discordant note,
alligators basking on the sunny bank of a sluggish stream,
half-dressed natives at work in coffee fincas, sugar-cane and cotton
fields; nude children standing in the doorways of palm-thatched huts,
staring with still and stupid wonder at the train, and looking like
inanimate clay models of a fairer, finer race to come. It is all like
a curious dream from which we waken at Escuintla to take our eleven
o'clock breakfast. This place has been partially destroyed by
earthquake, and Mrs. Steele urges despatch with breakfast that we may
see what is left. A very tolerable meal is served in the wide, open
veranda of the station.

"What a nice little spoon!" Mrs. Steele remarks, as we sit down,
noticing one of tortoise shell quaintly carved.

"You like it?" is all the Baron says, and coolly puts it in his
pocket. Mrs. Steele is aghast. "I pay dthem," he says unconcernedly.
"Haf leedle salade?"

I have finished first and go out to the platform. Groups of natives
are gathered about, carrying on their heads round shallow baskets like
trays displaying fruit, eggs and _water_ for sale. These people seem
very different from the Mexican Indians. They are blacker, their faces
are more flat and stupid, and the women's dress is a straight piece of
gay cotton cloth wound round the lower half of the body and secured at
the waist with a scarf tied over. The only other encumbrance is a thin
white cotton sacque, short and loose. The women immediately attack me
with vociferous gibberish, offering me their wares. Mrs. Steele sends
the Baron out to look after me, and when he has bought a basket full
of pineapples, sappadillos, mangoes and grenadillas, he proposes a
little walk up the road. We have twenty minutes yet, he says, and Mrs.
Steele is stopping to buy some grass baskets and fans. We walk up the
dusty little highway, and the burning sun beats down strong and hot in
our unaccustomed faces.

"How can people endure it?" I marvel, wiping away great drops of
moisture.

"See dthat big house all come down? Dthat ees eardthquake," explains
my escort.

"How dreadful! Look at the thatch roofs of those queer little huts--it
makes me think of peaked Robinson Crusoe hats. Just see how they're
pulled far down over the sun-burnt wall as if to shade their eyes from
the scorching sun."

"Robeen Crusa?" The Baron looks puzzled. "I know not dthat kind of
hat. Ees it like vhat you tell me about vhen I first see you--dthat
'Robeen Hood'?"

I stand still in the quiet street and wake a far-off echo with my
laughter. The Peruvian gets red in the face and begins to look
offended.

"Please don't mind me; I think you've said something a little
'komisch'--but perhaps I've got a sunstroke and it acts like laughing
gas. Don't be cross, Guillermo." I take his arm and notice covertly
that he is mollified.

"Blanca," he says, with a half smile, "dthat adobe house vidth vines
look cool--suppose I buy dthat and ve stay here leedle vhile."

I follow his eyes.

"That mansion would hardly hold our party; it doesn't look as if it
boasted more than two rooms."

"Dthat vould be enough. Madame Steele vish much to see Guatemala; she
go on and ve miss dthat train."

"Brilliant scheme!" I admit, "but----" A shrill blast cuts through
the air. "Heavens and earth! that's the whistle!"

Like one possessed I tear down the road with never a glance behind--it
seems miles to the station, and as I come near I see the train is
moving. I make a rush for the rear platform. Voices behind scream
reproof and warning, but I never look back; I grasp the iron railing
and am whisked off my feet by the motion. With a desperate wrench I
pull myself up the steps and steady my trembling body against the door
of the baggage car. I look in. It's locked, and no one is there.
"Stupid idiot!" I mutter. "That mooning Baron hasn't the smallest
grain of sense--saying we had twenty minutes! Well, _he's_ left
anyhow--serves him right!" And then I cool down and reflect that going
to Guatemala without the Baron may not be so amusing. I shake the door
of the car, but no one hears, and I notice the train is slowing. "Mrs.
Steele thinks I'm left and has made them come back--well, I'm not
sorry, for now we'll get that stupid Baron again. Yes, just as I
thought----" as we begin to move back to Escuintla--"there's the
vine-covered hut that idiotic person proposed buying--here's the
station and ... who's that?" Before my astonished eyes stand Mrs.
Steele and the Baron de Bach, looking anxiously for the advancing
train. As it stops they run forward.

"My dear, don't you ever do such a foolhardy thing again," begins Mrs.
Steele, severely.

"If I had known vhat you vould do, I vould haf hold you till----"

"The train doesn't go for ten minutes," Mrs. Steele interrupts; "it
was only shifting to another track. You might have known the Baron
would watch the time."

Mrs. Steele looks weak with apprehension--it is only when she has been
alarmed that I realise how delicate she is.

"I'm so sorry you were frightened," I say, feeling too utterly reduced
to rebuff the Baron for lifting me down from the platform as he would
have taken a child.

"Come," says Mrs. Steele, "we will get our old places."

An Indian woman comes to the window after we are seated and offers a
paraquito for sale. The Baron buys it and shows me how to hold it on
my fan and let it take a piece of sappadilla from my teeth. This
performance somewhat restores my spirits, and the incident of catching
the wrong train at the risk of life and limb fades before the crowding
interests of an eventful day. It seems hotter and closer in the
cramped little car. Mrs. Steele grows faint.

"Come in dthe air." The Baron and I support her to the door. She
recovers a little and the Peruvian returns for his valise. He brings
out a silver travelling flask and sprinkles a white silk handkerchief
with delicious _eau de Cologne_ and gives it to Mrs. Steele. I can see
it refreshes her, and I throw the Peruvian a grateful glance for his
thoughtfulness. From the platform we have a far finer view of the
country. The rugged wilderness of the Cordilleras hems us in on every
side.

"Dthose air yust the zame mountains I look on from my home in Peru; it
ees von chain from Tierra del Fuego to Mexico," and a look of welcome
comes into the handsome face. "It ees four years since I zee dthose
Cordilleras. I am glad I am near dthem vonce more. _Ah!_" he exclaims,
as we break through the close circle of the mountains, and, coming out
on a wide plateau, a shining sheet of water bursts on our delighted
vision. "Lake Amatitlan!"

The world up here is wild and silent; one feels a breathless sense of
discovery and is vaguely glad there is no trace of man. No canoe rises
the waves save the grey feather-boat of the wild duck, and the
majestic circling hawk is the only fisherman.

"It was like this when Cortes saw it!" I say.

"It was like this when God made it!" says Mrs. Steele, under her
breath.

The train stops by the lake and we gather wild Lantana and many a new
flower during the few minutes' stay. I rush into a thicket after a red
lily, and come out a mass of thorns and Spanish needles. When the
train starts Mrs. Steele is tired, and goes inside to rest, but the
Baron and I still stay on the platform. He sits on the top step and
laboriously picks the needles off my dress.

"You zee dthat smoke, Blanca? Dthat ees a volcano."

"Oh, how delightful! but there's no fire!"

"No, not at present!"

"It's very disappointing," I say, "and the geography pictures are all
wrong. They show a great burst of smoke and flame, and huge rocks
shooting up out of the crater. I supposed a volcano was a sort of
perpetual 'Fourth of July.'"

"Fourdth of Yuly! how mean you?"

"Oh, fireworks and explosions! but that little white funnel of
steam--well, it's a disappointment!"

"You vill zee dthree volcano near Guatemala; dthey air dthe 'spirits'
of dthe place--call in Eenglish 'Air,' 'Fire' and 'Vater.' Zee on
dthis leedle coin dthey haf all dthree mountains on dthe back."

"Why, what's the matter with your hands?" I say, taking the coin.

"All dthose burrs on your dress make bleed," he says, looking a bit
ruefully at his finger-tips, sore and red, and one stained a little
where some obstinate briar or needle has drawn the blood.

"Oh! what a shame!" I take the shapely hand in mine and look
compassionately at the hurt fingers.

"I feel it not, Blanca, vhen you hold it so!"

I drop the hand, instinctively steeling myself against all show of
sympathy with this boyish sentimentalism.

"It should teach you a lesson. You take too much care of your hands;
they are whiter and softer than most women's--such hands are good for
nothing."

"I vill show you you can be meestake." His face is quite changed, and
there's something dimly threatening in the deep eyes.

"When will you show me?" I say, affecting a carelessness I do not
quite feel.

"Perhaps in Guatemala." I leave that side of the platform and lean out
over the other. "Come back, Blanca; it ees not zafe!"

His tone is entirely too dictatorial. I close my hand firmly round the
iron rail and lean out further still. At that instant, as ill-luck
would have it, the train encounters some obstruction on the track,
something is struck, and there is a jolt and concussion. Before I
have time to recover myself I feel my hand wrested from the iron, and
a powerful arm is closed around me, but instead of being drawn back, I
am held out in the very position I myself had taken. Bewildered and
frightened, I give one scream "on account" and turn my head with an
endeavour to grasp the horrible situation. The Peruvian is holding to
the rail with one hand and has me grasped under one arm as an
inconsiderate child holds a kitten.

"Let me go!"

"I ask you before dthat you lean not out--but if you vill, I must zee
dthat you fall not."

"I tell you I'll come back, let me go!" and I glance out
shudderingly. We have passed over the obstruction, whatever it was,
and are running along the side of a steep descent.

"I am sorry you dthink my hands zo weak, for if dthey fail ve bodth go
down."

"Oh, please, please!" I gasp.

"Now ve come to a baranca. I am curious to zee vill you like a
'baranca.'"

The wretch speaks as calmly as if we sat in a Pullman car. Through all
my fright and indignation I wonder what on earth's a "baranca"--and
forget to scream.

"Now, Señorita, if I hold you not zo far out as you like, tell me."

I look down, and under my very eyes the solid ground ends, my
horrified vision drops hundreds of feet to the bottom of a mighty gash
in Cordilleras' flank, and for one sick instant I shut my eyes.

"How like you a baranca?"

Is it the wind jeering after me as I drop down, down, down? With a
supreme effort I turn to see if that face is behind me, and behold!
the Peruvian calmly meets my eyes with actually a smile on his lips.
He is still holding me jauntily over the platform steps, and it was
only my giddy fancy that fell so far.

We have passed the gorge, and, looking back, I see the "narrow-gauge"
track lying across the chasm like a herring-bone over a hole.

"Ve haf more barancas if you like dthem."

"Oh, Guillermo," I say, "please let me go in!"

"Not for my sake! I can hold you here von hour vidth dthese
'gude-for-nodthing' hands."

"Oh, I don't doubt it; you're the strongest man I ever knew, but I
don't like barancas. Please, _please_, Guillermo!"

He draws me back on the platform, and without asking my pardon or
looking the least bit penitent, he opens the door for me to go inside.

Mrs. Steele looks away from her window as we take our former seats.

"How deliciously cool it's grown," she says. "What makes you so
white, Blanche?"

"Vas it not for dthat she ees call Blanca?"

"What is it, child? Are you faint?"

"Yes, a little," I answer, wondering whether I had better tell how
that Peruvian monster has been behaving.

"That's strange! It's quite unlike you to be faint. Baron, will you
mix a little of this brandy with some water? That will make her feel
better."

Again he takes out his traveller's cup of silver. Calling the negro
conductor, he tells him to bring some "agua."

"He's afraid to leave us," I think indignantly; "he doesn't want me to
tell Mrs. Steele."

"Did you notice that great cleft in the mountain we went over?" asks
the latter, fanning me gently.

"Yes, dthat ees call 'baranca.' Señorita seem not to like it."

"Neither would Mrs. Steele if she had----"

"She nefer vould! Madame Steele ees a too vise voman. Vhat you dthink,
Madame? Señorita inseest to lean out far ofer dthose steps; I beg her
not, but----" he ends with a modest gesture of incompetence.

"And you," I begin, with a sudden determination to unmask his
villainy, "you rushed over and----"

"And hold you zo dthat you fall not. Madame Steele, desairve I not
dthanks?"

"Ah! yes, Baron. You are certainly very kind and watchful; but,
Blanche, if you don't care for yourself, you ought to consider other
people. It's a terrible responsibility to travel with such a foolhardy
person. I can't say I'm sorry if you've been a little frightened. Take
the brandy, dear."

My good friend is never severe long. The Baron holds the silver cup to
my lips, and I shut out the sight of him--with closed eyes I drink the
mixture obediently.

I lean my head against the window, and the voices of my friend and the
Baron grow less and less distinct. The next thing I know Mrs. Steele
is saying, "Is that Guatemala?" I rouse myself and look out. A white
city on a wide plateau. Is this the "Paris of Central America," with
its 70,000 inhabitants? Mrs. Steele is met in the dépot by some
friends, Californians, who live here part of the year. We promise to
dine with them, and the Baron comes back from his search for a
carriage, saying one will be here presently.

"Vhile Madame Steele talks vidth her friends, vill you come zee dthe
Trocadero, vhere dthey haf bull-fights?"

"No, thank you."

"Oh, I dthought you vould like."

"Where is it?"

"Yust ofer dthere, dthree steps--dthat round house."

"I'd better see it perhaps while I have time," I think, and I walk
towards the circular building indicated. Baron de Bach keeps at my
side. He tries the door--shakes it--but it is evidently locked; he
leans down and looks through the keyhole.

"Oh, you can zee qvite vell dthrough here."

I put my eye to the little opening and can dimly descry an open arena
with seats in tiers opposite.

"Dthey zay dthey haf a bull-fight Dthursday"--the Baron is reading
the Spanish bill posted at the door. "Ve had better stay and let you
zee."

"There's the carriage!" I exclaim, and we hurry back, take leave of
Mrs. Steele's friends and drive over roughly cobbled streets to the
Gran Hotel. Our rooms are secured to us in three languages by the
Baron; he scolds the proprietor for delays in German, conciliates the
wife in French, and gives orders to the servant of this polyglot
establishment in Spanish. Finally we are stowed in rooms opening on
the wide veranda that encloses the patio. A hasty toilet and we meet
the Baron in the vestibule downstairs. We wander about the crooked
streets from shop to shop, getting at a jeweller's some ancient
coins, unalloyed gold and silver rudely stamped and cut out in
irregular shapes, the only currency when Central America was a Spanish
province. We are longest in the great market, buying curious pottery
from the Indians--calabash cups, brilliant serapes of native weaving
and lovely silk rebosas. We order a variety of fans--one kind is of
braided palm with clumsy handle ending in a rude brush. An Indian girl
shows me how the fan is used to make the fire burn more brightly, and
the brush to sweep the hearth. From market into the main Plaza, and
then to the cool shelter of the Cathedral, brings our short afternoon
to an end; we must hurry back to our dinner appointment. The Baron
grumbles vigorously when he discovers he was included in the
invitation, and that Mrs. Steele promised to bring him.

"Really, he hasn't seemed like himself all this afternoon," says Mrs.
Steele, when we are once more in our rooms, which conveniently adjoin.

"No, he can be conspicuously disagreeable when he likes." I have in
mind the "baranca" episode.

"What do you suppose makes him so absent-minded and constrained,
Blanche?"

"Simple perversity, very likely." I stand in the communicating
doorway, brushing a jacket. I am conscious that Mrs. Steele pauses in
her toilet and looks keenly in my direction.

"I still like the Baron extremely, but I'm glad to see you are not so
unsophisticated or so unpractical as to be captivated by a pair of
fine eyes and a melodious voice. I was once uncomplimentary enough to
be afraid of the effect of such close intercourse for both of you. You
two are cut out to make each other happy for a few weeks, and
miserable for a lifetime. You should both be thankful that your
acquaintance is to be counted by pleasant days and ended before the
regretful years begin."

"Really, I don't know what put all that in your head!"

"Observation, my dear! In spite of the velvet cloak of courtesy, our
Peruvian is a born tyrant, and you--forgive me--but you know you're
the very child of caprice. I am most thankful, however, that you are
not impressionable. Otherwise this experience might leave a bitter
taste in your mouth."

"You seem content with _my_ escape. You don't feel any concern that
the Baron may lack the valuable qualities you think are my safeguard?
Suppose, just for argument's sake, he should say I had----?"

"Broken his heart? Ah, my dear, he has probably said that to a dozen.
It's a tough article, the masculine heart, and the kind of women who
strain it most are----"

"Bewildering beauties, such as _you_ were at twenty! And I may rest in
my defects with an easy conscience. Thank you!"

"That was not what I was going to say."

In my heart I knew it was what she was thinking.



CHAPTER VII

[Illustration: Chapter Seven]

THE INCA EYE


Mr. and Mrs. Dalton give us a beautiful Spanish-French dinner in a
private room of the Gran Hotel where they live. Mrs. Dalton is
palpably delighted with the Baron de Bach. He is unusually reserved,
but gravity sits well on him, and, as I see him crossing swords with
this clever woman of the world, I find my admiration growing. He seems
not to see me all through dinner, and, like the stupid young person I
am, I fall to regretting that by the side of our brilliant, travelled
hostess I must seem provincial and dull. I am not sorry when, shortly
after dinner, Mrs. Steele, regretting we have to leave so early the
following day, remembers a friend she must see that night, and we take
our leave.

"Señorita look fery tire--she better stay in dthe hotel. I vill escort
you, Madame, vidth plaisir."

We stop a moment on the stairs.

"Oh, no! I especially want Blanche to see the interior of a handsome
native house. You're not too tired, are you, dear?"

"No," I say, "I'll go."

"She vould zay dthat if she die. You stay here, Señorita; Madame
Steele be not long."

The idea flits across my mind he has some reason of his own for not
wanting me to go; but I've no notion of being left alone.

"No, I'll go with you, Mrs. Steele."

"After I escort Madame, I go to dthe photographic gallery; I buy you
all dthose pictures ve haf not time to get dthis afternoon. I send
dthem to your room; you vill not be lonely."

"Oh, why can't we all go to the gallery? I do so want a collection of
views. I want nothing else so much!" I plead.

It ends by our driving to Casa 47, in a wide street opposite the
public gardens. The Baron dismisses the coachman, telling him to come
back in a couple of hours, and I drop the iron knocker on the massive
door. A native servant draws the bolts, and our interpreter asks for
"Señora Baldwin." We follow the picturesque little maid through a
tiled vestibule into a starlight patio. The usual ground veranda
encloses this fragrant court, the various rooms opening on it.

We are ushered into one brilliantly lit and luxuriously furnished, and
the hostess and her sister make us welcome. The French consul is there
with his secretary, and the conversation is mostly in their tongue.
Mrs. Baldwin shows us an album of enchanting views of Guatemala and
the abandoned city of Antigua, so beautifully situated and so
earthquake-cursed.

"More than ever," says Mrs. Steele, "I regret we did not omit
something else, and take time to get photographs."

"It's not too late," our hostess says.

"Oh, no," the Baron interposes. "I go now to get dthem. I vas
dthinking if Madame vould like Señorita to choose them."

"No; Blanche does seem a little tired. I couldn't let her go. I think
we must trust your taste, Baron; I can hardly spare the time and
strength for any more exploring tonight."

"No, indeed, you mustn't go," says Mrs. Baldwin. "I've some wonderful
antiquities from a buried Aztec city to show you. When you finish
those views"--she glances at me--"you'll find us in the next room. I
won't say good-bye to you, Baron; of course, you'll be back. Come,
Mrs. Steele"--and they go into an adjoining room.

"If you air not too tire, Señorita, you better come to dthe gallery
and choose dthe pictures. Dthe Consul say it ees near here."

"Oh, really? Yes, I'll go; I know just the ones Mrs. Steele wants. You
will tell her where we've gone, won't you?--we won't be long," I say
to Mrs. Baldwin's young sister, who is chattering French to the
consul.

"Yes," she answers. "It's my opinion you won't find the gallery open
so late as this; but, of course, you can try."

"Oh, I hope it won't be shut. Good-bye."

"Good-bye."

The small servant nodding on the veranda takes us past the palm-shaded
_patio_, and through the dark vestibule.

"_Gracias!_" I say to the dusky little servitor as the huge door
opens.

"_Si! Si!_ Dthousand thanks," mutters the Baron as the bolts fall
behind us, and we are out in the moonlit street. He draws my hand
through his arm.

"What makes your heart beat so?" I say.

"Come on the right side;" he changes me quickly to the other arm, and
I laugh at my acuteness, little dreaming what the Baron's
well-disguised excitement foreboded. We turn down a narrow,
ill-lighted street.

"What a lovely night! It makes one feel strangely, doesn't it, to be
out after dark in a foreign city that no one you know has ever
visited, and that seemed in geography days as far off as the moon?" I
get no answer to my small observations, and we walk on. "The gallery
isn't as near as I thought."

"It ees not far, Blanca; you air fery lofely in dthe moonlight."

"I'm glad to know what is required to make me lovely."

"You air alvays 'wonderschön' to me--but you look too clevair
zometimes in dthe day. In dthis moonlight you look so gentle--like a
leedle child. Blanca, zay again you loaf me."

He holds my hand close and bends down until I feel his hot breath on
my cheek.

"I can't say _again_ what I never said once."

I begin to walk faster.

"Ve air not _abord du San Miguel_; no von see, no von hear. I know in
my heart you loaf me; tell me so vonce! Blanca!" The music and
entreaty in the deep voice thrill me strangely. "Oh, Blanca darling,
keess me!" My puny resistance is nothing to those athlete's arms; he
holds me close one instant and I, breathless, struggle to free my
hands, and push his hot cheek away from mine.

"How dare you; you are no gentleman!"

"No, I am a loaver, Blanca, not von cold Nordthern zhentleman, who haf
so leedle heart it can be hush, and zo dthin, poor blood it nefer rush
fire at a voman's touch. Blanca, I haf been still for days, vaiting
for dthis hour. I loaf you, darling, till all my life is nodthing but
von longing--I loaf you till I haf no conscience, no _religion_ but my
loaf. No, you shall not spik now! Blanca, you must marry me, _here_ in
Guatemala. You and I go not back to _San Miguel_ unless you air my
vife."

"Baron!"

"Hush! Spik not so loud, and if you vill not make me mad call me not
Baron."

An awful sense of loneliness chokes me. The streets of that buried
Aztec city are not more silent than this one in Guatemala.

"Guillermo, listen! I have no friend here but you; you must take me
back to Mrs. Steele. Come!"

"How vell you know men! But not _me_, Blanca--not a Peruvian. I know
it ees better for you, as vell as for myself, dthat you marry me. You
haf nefer been so gentle and so gude as since I hold you near dthat
baranca. But you did not like it! You loaf me, but you air like a vild
deer; you air so easy startle, and so hard to hold. But I vill be zo
gude to Blanca, I vill make her glad I vas so strong not to let her
haf her own way. If you keess me and zay before God you marry me, I
take you back to Casa 47--if not, Madame Steele go alone to _San
Miguel_."

[Illustration: "YOU MUST TAKE ME BACK!"--_Page 210_]

"Baron de Bach, you're talking crazy nonsense. You don't frighten
me, but you _do_ disgust me. You think to get some Peruvian amusement
out of frightening a woman; well, you had better go to a bull-fight. I
detest you! Let me go or I'll cry out!"

He puts one hand over my mouth and holds me as in a vise.

"Dthank you, Blanca! You gif me courage. I haf tell you how a Peruvian
loaf; I vill tell you how he plan. In dthe bay off Panama ees my
yacht. I vill keep you in Guatemala vhile I send for her, and dthen ve
go to Peru, to Ceylon--anyvhere you like but America. I write Madame
Steele you air my vife, and she vill soon zee ve air not to be find;
she vill go back to New York. It ees no use dthat you cry out, no von
hear, or if von do, you spik no Spanish, and I haf my pistol if any
interfere. I tell you so much dthat you make no meestake. Ve air not
far from dthe house of two old friends of me. Dthey vill take care off
you, till my yacht come; you need not fear me, Señorita." He loosens
his grasp for an instant, and the dark street seems to whirl. I would
have fallen if he had not caught me. I hear, as one dreaming, the
caressing words of Spanish--I scarcely feel the hot kisses.

"I'm all alone," I think, looking down the silent street to a far-off
lamp, and then up to the brilliant sky, but even that seems strange,
for instead of my old friends in heaven, the Southern Cross shines
cold and far above me.

"Guillermo," I say, steadying myself against his arm, "you would make
a terrible mistake. You don't understand Northern women. You say you
love me, and in the next breath you plan to ruin my whole life. I
would make you more misery than ever a man endured, and I should hate
you bitterly and without end."

"It ees no use dthat you zay such dthings."

"Guillermo, don't let your love be such a curse to me."

"A curse----"

"Yes. If any other man had roughly treated me, had abused my
confidence, and, finding me defenceless, had forgotten what all brave
men owe to women--what would you do to such a man?"

The Peruvian puts his hand before his eyes.

"I listen not to anydthing you zay."

"Yes, you will. You know you would half kill the man who would strike
a woman. Some half-mad man has done worse than strike me, Guillermo,
and his name is Guillermo de Bach. You are so strong, and you say you
love me; will you take my part against this man?"

The moon comes out of a cloud, and shows me a white face above my
own, drawn tense with emotion. "It ees all settle, Blanca; I go not
back."

"Oh, God! what shall I do! What kind of man are you? You complain that
my countrymen are cold and deliberate; do you know why we love them?
They know how to keep faith, but _you_ not twenty-four hours."

"Vhat mean you?" His voice is husky and sounds strange.

"You promised in the _San Miguel_ this morning, if we trusted you
enough to come with you to Guatemala, you would see that the _San
Miguel_ did not sail without us. Guillermo!"--with an inspiration I
draw the white face down to mine--"forgive me for doubting you; you
will keep your word," and I kiss him between the pain-contracted
brows.

"Oh, Blanca, Blanca, you vill kill me!"

Is it a tear that drops on my face? I put my arm in his and draw him
up the dark street, whispering some incoherent prayer.

"Blanca, I _cannot_! I am not a man dthat I gif you up!"

We have turned into the broad avenue and an occasional pedestrian
passes by. The Baron seems to see nothing.

"You are not a man when you break your word. Come, Guillermo!"

We are back at last before the great door; I lift a hand trembling
with excitement to raise the iron knocker. The Baron stops me.

"I am von fool, Blanca! Like your countrymen, I let you rule. But vhen
you forget all else off me, remembair you haf find von Peruvian who
loaf you so he let you ruin hees life--you vill nefer see anodther
such Peruvian madman. If I haf trouble you, I haf not spare myself,
keess me gude-night, Blanca ... and good-bye."

A moment later the great knocker had fallen.

Mrs. Steele and Mrs. Baldwin are waiting for us in the star-lit
_patio_. My friend is evidently displeased at my having gone out
without consulting her. I feel with sharp self-condemnation that in
agreeing to go I was not only rash, but seemed even worse; it looked
as if I had courted a _tête-à-tête_ alone at night with the Baron. Ah,
why can't we see things in the present as we shall be obliged to see
them when the time is past and the mistake beyond recall!

"Well, I suppose you've ordered an album full of views," says Mrs.
Baldwin, pleasantly trying to cover up the awkwardness of our return.

"No," I answer, taken unawares, for by this time I have quite
forgotten the object of my errand. "We found the gallery farther away
than I expected, and----"

"Vhen ve get dthere it vas close," says the Baron in a calm,
well-controlled voice. The carriage is announced, and we bid Mrs.
Baldwin good-bye. The drive home is very quiet, and we say good-night
to the Baron in the vestibule.

Mrs. Steele oddly enough asks me no questions, and I know her
disapproval must be strong. I think little about that, however--I am
going over and over that sharp conflict in the dim, deserted street.
Did it really happen or did I dream it! This is the nineteenth century
and I am a plain American girl to whom nothing remarkable ever
happened before, and yet it _was_ true! How was I to blame for
it--what will the Baron do--how long will he remember? My last waking
sensation is a weary surprise to find my pillow wet with tears.

Mrs. Steele rouses me the next morning, holding an open letter in her
hand:

"Blanche! Blanche! Wake up! We've overslept and lost our train. Here's
a note the Baron's just sent up. The servant has neglected to call him
as well, and he thinks we could not by any exertion catch the train we
intended. He has ascertained that a 'special' leaving Guatemala two
hours after regular train time will reach San José an hour at least
before the steamer can possibly sail. He has engaged this 'special'
and will see us safely on board at ten o'clock. He begs I will excuse
his absence at breakfast, as he has already been served, and remains
with assurances of his profound regard, my obedient servant, Federico
Guillermo de Bach! So there's no time to be lost!"

My friend returns to her room to dress; I sit bolt upright in bed
staring straight before me at the great shaft of yellow sunlight that
lies across the floor. "You and I go not back to _San Miguel_ unless
you air my vife." Was it a curious dream or had he said those words?

"Are you hurrying, Blanche?" calls Mrs. Steele. "It won't do to miss
our last train unless you've decided you would like to stay in
Guatemala."

I fly out of bed and begin to rush into my clothes. Mrs. Steele's
voice has a touch of sarcasm in it that reminds me she may still be
dissatisfied and suspicious about last night. "She mustn't think
there's been any scene," I admonish myself; "she would say it was
entirely my fault, and she will lose all confidence in me. No! Mrs.
Steele must never know!"

As we enter the breakfast room an officious waiter bows and scrapes,
and seats us at a table giving full view of the sunny _patio_. We have
a quiet breakfast, boasting neither special cheer nor appetite, and it
is soon finished. We are beginning to wonder how we shall manage to
find our train if the Baron does not come for us, when the doorway is
darkened and a shadow falls across the table.

Without looking up, I am sure it is he.

"Gude-morning, Madame Steele. Gude-morning, Señorita. I hope you haf
slept well?"

"Good-morning," I say, observing how white and heavy-eyed he looks in
the sunlight.

"Yes, thank you, _we've_ slept well," says Mrs. Steele, "too well, I'm
afraid."

"Oh, no, belief me, dthis extra train ees better."

"You look ill, Baron; how did you sleep?"

"Dthank you, I sleep not at all till yust dthe time to
rise--dtherefore am I late. If your dthings air ready ve vill start at
once." He sends a servant upstairs after our various purchases and
wraps, etc., and we find them all stowed in the carriage waiting at
the entrance, when we come down a few minutes later. The Baron stands
by the landau, waiting to help us in. On our drive to the station he
points out this and that bit of interest, quite in his usual way.

"You zee dthat, Madame?" He points to a circular roof supported on
stone pillars sheltering water-tanks and primitive laundry essentials
"Dthat ees a 'pila,' a place vhere dthe vomans vash dthe garments." It
is surrounded by buxom young girls with dripping linen in their hands
which they seemed to be beating on stone slabs. "Dthat tree dthat grow
beside ees palma cristi."

"Why, it's only what we call the castor-bean, only this is larger," I
venture to say.

"Of course, my dear! 'A palma cristi by the pila' is the Baron's way
of saying a castor-oil bean by the wash-house."

My laugh is a little forced, I'm afraid, and the Baron seems not to
have heard.

"What is growing inside that fence?" I ask, with a stern
determination to keep up appearances.

"A kind off cactus," says the Baron, "vhat cochineal bugs lif
on--dthey--how you say it?--'raise' much cochineal bugs in Guatemala."

       *       *       *       *       *

The three volcanoes loom up mightily. The smoke is denser and darker
to-day, the "spirits" of Air, Fire and Water look down with menacing
aspect on the white city in the plain.

"You must notice after you leaf Acajulta dthe volcano 'Yzalco'; it ees
_acteef_, as you say; it ees all fire by dthe dark of dthe night. And
in dthose bay off La Libertad and Puenta Arenas you must look at
dthose devil-feesh--_ach schrecklich_; dthey haf terrible great vings
vhat dthey wrap around vhat dthey eat."

"You speak almost as if you would not be there to point them out on
the spot," says Mrs. Steele, smiling as we pass the Trocadero and draw
up at the station.

"Qvite right! I am advise by a friend to stay and zee dthe Dthursday
bull-fight--I dthink I must."

He helps us out of the carriage without noticing my unspoken amazement
or Mrs. Steele's incredulous, "What nonsense."

"I vill put you in dthe train and then come back to zee your dthings
come." He leads the way to the "special" standing with snorting
engine on the furthest track. He seats us and is gone again. A servant
brings in our effects and the Baron follows.

"Madame," he says, dropping into the seat behind Mrs. Steele, "I haf
arrange to haf dthis man zee you to the ship--he spik leedle English
and I am told gude off him as sairvant. I haf give him all
direction--he vill take gude care off you and you vill reach _San
Miguel_ in gude time, as I promeese."

"But when are you coming?" I say.

"I come not back to _San Miguel_." He speaks to Mrs. Steele and does
not meet my look. "I haf telegraph to Panama for my yacht. I vill
vait here till she come."

"But I don't understand, Baron; this is very sudden, isn't it?" Mrs.
Steele looks greatly astonished.

"Not so fery! Dthis train go soon; I must zay gude-bye. Here ees dthe
leedle carve spoon from Escuintla you zay you like. I haf had much
plaisir to know you, Madame. Gude-bye!" He holds out his shapely white
hand and Mrs. Steele takes it warmly.

"Indeed, Baron, I'm quite breathless with surprise, and really very
sorry to lose you. Blanche and I will miss you sorely. If you ever
come to New York you know where to find me and a warm welcome. Our
kindest thoughts will follow you. Thank you for the spoon, although at
any other time I might hesitate to become the receiver of stolen
goods. Good-bye!"

"Gude-bye, Madame--gude-bye, Señorita." He holds my hand the briefest
moment, and I feel a big lump come in my throat at the sight of his
face. My voice wavers a little as I say:

"I am so sorry to say good-bye to you."

"Dthank you, Señorita. I haf somedthing off yours I must not forget."
He puts a hand in his breast pocket and brings out the gold-crested
letter-book. He takes from it a tiny roll of cigarette paper. "Vidth
all my boast I haf not succeed to 'keep my pearl'; it ees yours,
Señorita."

"No, Baron----" I begin, with warm protest.

"If you vant me to haf it, Señorita, write me and I vill come from
dthe end of dthe vorld to get it. But you vill not, zo put dthis Inca
eye beside it. Dthey zay in my country it bring gude luck. But it look
like dthat sun ve haf ofer our heads in Acapulco Bay, dthink you not
zo, Madame?"

He shows her the curious jewel, like opaque amber sprinkled with gold
dust.

"It is very curious and interesting," says Mrs. Steele.

"Indeed it is," I agree; "thank you very much." But I scarcely see the
Inca eye; I am looking into his and trying to read his face.

"Zo, Señorita, dthough you go far nordthvard dthe Inca's eye from Peru
ees still upon you; I haf send him to take care off ... dthe _pearl_.
Gude-bye--Gude-bye, Madame!"

The tall figure turns away, and in a moment is gone.

"Why, Blanche, what is the matter?" Mrs. Steele's voice is sharp with
concern. I try to smile and instinctively my hand goes to my tightened
throat. "My poor child, do you care?"

"How absurd!" I say, with what scorn I can command. "Care about
_what_, anyhow?"

"Señorita!" The handsome face of the Peruvian looks in at an open
window near the far end of the car. A bell rings, the conductor shouts
some warning in Spanish. In the din I run to the window and the Baron
holds up a bunch of roses. "Dthink dthe best you can of me, Blanca; I
vill loaf you all my life."

The look of suffering in the wonderful dark eyes brings the lump again
to my throat. I take the roses and I know my eyes are misty.

"Thank you, Guillermo; it won't be hard to think good things of
you...."

I feel a warning hand on my shoulder. It is Mrs. Steele, and the
touch recalls all my resolutions.

"I shall always remember.... Good-bye!"

The train moves off, the Baron steps back with that same look in his
face, and lifts his hat. His courtesy shows at the last some flaw,
for, although Mrs. Steele is there, his lips and eyes say only:

"Gude-bye, Blanca!"





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